My Nickel, My Nickel

Good morning. March is a moody lion, isn’t he? Yesterday was spring, and today is a gusty day that may knock out the power. I have the candles ready.

Reading in I Samuel today. I’m fascinated by Elkanah and his family. Elkanah sounds like a pious man, traveling to Shiloh to worship and make sacrifice. He had two wives – Penninah and Hannah. And Penninah tormented Hannah through the years because Hannah did not have children. Hannah would be anguished and could not even eat. When Elkanah found her this way, he told her not to be downhearted just because she had no children. “Aren’t I better than ten sons?” he asked.

My first question is how did Elkanah come to marry a bully like Penninah? Perhaps he didn’t take sufficient time to know her character; I doubt she will impart good values to those children she is having. Perhaps Elkanah didn’t care about her ethics; maybe Penninah was an Old Testament hottie and Elkanah just liked her body.

I also wonder how Elkanah didn’t know what was happening in his own household. The Bible says , “And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children.”  Why could Hannah not tell him of the taunting she endured, and why did Elkanah make a joke of Hannah’s longing to have children?

My family does these meetings called Nickel Meetings. We usually only have one or two a week, but anyone can start one at any time. My husband has a buffalo nickel that he found as a child, and whoever is holding the nickel gets to speak uninterrupted. We use Nickel Meetings to air concerns, to express feelings, resolve issues, and plan for activities and goals. My husband is very informed about my and our son’s needs, feelings, worries, strengths, and character deficiencies. And what he seems ignorant of, I tell him if I know it is important, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. He usually doesn’t want to hear about his own deficiencies, and he listens in silence when I share about being hurt by someone in his own or my family. I’m basically on my own if I have a problem with anyone, and he rarely will take a stand with his mother or sister; they are very free to blame me for any difficulties and to abuse me.

So Hannah does get a son. And he is dedicated to the Lord. Elkanah seems to let his son Samuel go easily, despite the Numbers 30:13 allowance for a husband to null any vow his wife makes. Elkanah reminds me of the vicar of Wakefield – all passive-aggressive unavailability covered over with a veneer of sweet, humorous charm and piety. Meanwhile, his household is one of betrayal, mistrust, suffering, and an abandoned son.

Samuel does grow up well. Like Harry Potter, he is exposed to the unsavory behavior of someone else’s offspring – Eli’s sinful and promiscuous sons. In the Tabernacle of the Lord, Eli’s sons are seducing the young women who assist at the entrance.  I don’t read of Eli taking any strong measures to stop his sons from defiling themselves, others, or the Tabernacle. Where is loving authority and discipline when it is needed? What about the laws applying to sexual immorality? What should have happened to Eli’s sons?

Indifferent fathering. Foolish marriage choices. Shallow understanding. Lack of accountability. Refusal to step up even in the face of disgusting sin.

So it continues today, as men continue to turn a blind eye to each other’s immorality. As they continue to use women as convenient scapegoats and to demand the power to go unquestioned, as though they themselves know better than God.

“The woman you gave to be with me gave me of the tree, and I did eat” is very different from “I have failed to keep Your commandment and I did not cry out to You when tempted.”

May Hannah’s legacy of honesty, prayer, and willingness to suffer live on in the lives of women everywhere who are married to passive aggressive men.


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