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In the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:5), she seems to sing that she has seven children:

She who was barren has borne seven children,
     but she who has had many sons pines away.

But just a little later, in 1 Samuel 2:21, she seems to have only six:

And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

Is this a contradiction? How many children did Hannah have?

  • Inspired by this answer. – Soldarnal Jun 14 '15 at 18:52
  • Would miscarriages or stillbirths have been counted? Not a happy solution... – Joshua May 8 '16 at 2:29
  • I still need more explanation on this question – JAMES GODSTIME Aug 7 '19 at 19:27
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The phrase "seven children" in the poem is almost certainly poetic and not intended to indicate that Hannah actually bore seven children. The number seven was a number of completion in the ancient Near East. It is readily seen elsewhere:

Ruth 4:15 — He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.
Jeremiah 15:9 — She who bore seven has grown feeble; she has fainted away;

A similar effect can be seen earlier in the book of Samuel with the number ten:

1 Samuel 1:8 — Her husband Elkanah would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

The point of the line in 2:5 is not that Hannah has had seven children, but that God has blessed the barren woman by giving her satisfaction in an ideal number of children, while the woman who has many sons is not satisfied. This develops the major theme of the poem: the great reversal.

Thus Hannah seems to have had five other children - three sons and two daughters - besides Samuel.

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I have difficulty isolating this as a contradiction that needs to be explained away by figurative vs literal accounts of Hannah's child bearing. It is interesting to consider dissecting the number mentioned in prayer to symbolism and there certainly is other wording in her prayer that seems to be looking forward (1 Samuel 2:10). The number seven indicated at the time Samuel was being delivered to Eli (1 Samuel 2:5) and then account of 5 [more] (1 Samuel 2:21) is not a far fetched possibility for total number of children.

1 Samuel 2:21 does not word itself as an accounting for a total count. Since the context refers to Eli's continued yearly blessing upon Elkanah and Hannah it is easy to assume this as children born under the continuation of blessing.

  1. Is it possible that Hannah had a total of 5 children and the prayer is using 7 (significant number : perfection) as symbolic? Yes.
  2. Is it possible that Hannah had a total of 12 (significant number : totality/completeness) children? Yes.

In the absence of 2 or 3 scripture witnesses to completely express any absolutes either way in this account I am personally inclined to accept that Hannah had a total of 12 children as would be reached by adding the two numbers together.

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According to the Midrash, Hannah had 5 children in total and Peninnah had 10. Now, the tradition states that every time Hannah gave birth to 1 child, 2 of Peninnah's children died. Remember; Hannah got a double portion of meat while being taunted by her rival and it seems her rival was paid double in sorrow.

  • How does the midrash arrive at these numbers? Is there something in the text that hints at 5 and 10? How does the midrash deal with the contradiction with 7 as written in the text? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Apr 23 '17 at 2:39
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When Hannah began bearing children, for every child she birthed -- 2 of Peninnah's died. When Peninnah had but 2 children and saw that Hannah was pregnant again, she knew God would take her last to children; so Peninnah went to Hannah and begged for forgiveness for all the pain she had caused her then asked that she would pray that the children would live.

God wanted to punish Peninnah but because Hannah prayed for them they lived. Hannah's song saying she had 7 children was based on the fact that by saving the children she had claimed them as her own.

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    Hi Donna and welcome to the site. When you have a minute, please take the site tour: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour – Ruminator Dec 5 '18 at 17:21
  • I echo Ruminator in welcoming you to this site! While I think your answer is interesting and a solution to the question, I hope that you would cite more evidence (be that Bible verses, commentaries, other sources, etc.) as support. Thanks for answering! – phil-al-sophy Dec 6 '18 at 16:07
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Hannah means 'Grace'. In chapter one we see that the womb of Grace was shut up. When the womb of Grace was shut up Hannah prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. She then made a vow unto the Lord that if he would give her a man child she would give him back to the Lord. Samuel was born. Hannah then had five more children (vs 2:21) which makes a total of six children which is the number of man. So there was six children born of man but the seventh was Samuel's second birth (born again), the number of completion. It's Grace that provides us the second birth and we are completed with that second birth. So they way I see it is all of us that have been born again are that seventh child and I thank my God for that birth every day.

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The seven child was for peninnah as she started to lost her children and 1 child she had so she ask hannah to pray to God and ask him to save her one and only child that leave so hanna ask God and God answered hannah and say because you asked me I will save this child but it shall class as yours. So that is how the 7 child comes.

  • Hi Pauline, welcome to BHSE! Please take the Site Tour when you get a chance. This is a good first answer, but could be improved by expanding it slightly and showing more of your references for how you reached this conclusion. Please consider editing the answer to provide a little more detail. Have a great week. – Steve Taylor 2 days ago
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The first two verses of 1 Samuel 2 set the theme, exclaiming in joy the salvation supplied by GOD almighty through his rock, the strong's number h344 salvation yeshuw 'ah.

All of this complicated speculation and conjecture, double counting, retribution and Jewish scholars intellectual minutia over Hannah's prophecy in 1 Samuel 2: 5, about a childless woman who would bear 7 children.

What they disregard,in addition to rejecting the miraculous, is the childless Mary who according to Mat 13:55 bore Christ, then four sons, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas,(in Mark 6:3 Juda), 4 half brothers to Jesus, and two daughters, (at least), half sisters to Jesus. That makes at least 7 children for Mary.

Jesus was known in the community as the son of Joseph. That He was the first born is implied by there being nothing indicating he was subject to the authority of any of his brothers, meaning he was the eldest, so the kids could not have been Joseph's by a previous wife.

Also, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple when He was 12, and temporarily lost Him there when they left for home without Him in the group. Apparently they had no elder children to be watching over Him then. That He was the eldest is also confirmed at the cross when He assigned the care of his mother to the Apostle John instead of one of His half brothers, who would have challenged the usurping of a superior position in the family if there had been an elder man.

There are 463 mentions of the word seven in the KJV. Only 2 are found mentioning a child count of 7. Job had seven sons and three daughters, but he had them twice for fourteen and six. Jer, 15:9 mentions judgment coming to Israel and even if a woman had seven sons, she would lose them all in the coming destruction. Not likely saviors.

So Hanna speaks of a coming savior, yeshuaw 'ah in 1 Sam 2: 1 and a childless woman having seven children in vs 5 in the middle of making all things right.

Mary had five sons, and at least two daughters.

When Hanna gave over her boy Samuel to God, and besides giving glory to God for His gift of her son, it seems she was, unknowingly also prophesying of Christ through Mary.

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