As the dark years of Israel’s history, recounted for us in the book of Judges, draw to a close and we see the transition of national identity from cowering fugitives into a great kingdom – a remarkable leader is used by God to bring Israel back to Himself. That leader is the prophet and judge of Israel, Samuel. Given the cultural, social and religious milieu at the time of his birth and early childhood it is even more remarkable that he became the man that he did. In a previous article we looked at the influence of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, on her son’s development into a highly respected leader. It was her faith, prayer, nurture, perseverance, integrity and care that deeply influenced this little boy and encouraged him to become the man he did.
But there is another person who, I believe, also had a profound influence on Samuel’s growing up years. That person is his father Elkanah. Here is what I observe about this man from 1 Samuel 1-3.
1. He was an ordinary man, husband, father in the context of his society and culture. But he was also a man who stood tall above the cultural anarchy and religious apathy of the day. (c.f. Judges 21:25)
2. He was not a national or religious figure. He was not a tribal head or clan elder but he was an upstanding leader in his own home and family. (1 Samuel 1-3)
3. He, personally, was a faithful, God-fearing, deeply religious man as evidenced by his regular pilgrimages to the tabernacle in Shiloh to offer up sacrifices to the Lord (1:3).
4. He did not keep his religion to himself but faithfully led his family in the worship of the One True God – encouraging their individual participation. It is noteworthy that the writer of 1 Samuel took the time to detail how Elkanah gave portions to each member of his family – adults and children. He was doing his best to ensure that his family knew God and followed in His ways (1:4).
5. In his conversation with Hannah in 1:8 we get the sense that he is a devoted, loving and tender husband. This one factor alone would be significant in Samuel’s healthy emotional and social development.
6. Elkanah fully supported Hannah in the fulfillment of her commitment to the Lord regarding Samuel (1:23). Penninah, the rival, aside – one gets the sense of a family unit that are in one in heart to follow God.
In an age of religious turmoil, waywardness and spiritual ignorance, Elkanah stands tall as a godly man, loving husband and competent father. Samuel, his son, could not have been anything other than indelibly influenced by his father’s example.
Dads! The challenge is there for us. Let’s never underestimate the power of the example of a godly, faithful and committed father to influence the next generation. Some will even go on to become great leaders.