In the first book of Samuel we are told of a man called Elkanah who had two wives.One wife(Hannah) wss said to be barren whilst the other(Penninah) had children.

1 Samuel 1:2 NIV

He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

There is no mention of who was the first wife.

Can one apply the principle of first mention to deduced from the above text that Hannah was the first wife since she is mentioned ahead of Penninah

  • I have always assumed that Elkanah took Peninnah because his first wife (Hannah) was barren. Which would agree with Hannah being named first. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


We are not explicitly told who was the first wife of Elkanah, so we cannot be certain. However, I note the following facts:

  • polygamy in ancient Israel was relatively rare among the common folk, except for the very wealthy and the kings
  • among the common folk, second marriages were usually made only out of some necessity rather than anything else
  • Hannah is listed first, ie, before Peniniah

Based on all this, is quite probable (though we are not told!!) that Elkanah contracted a second marriage because his first wife was barren. However, this conclusion should be regarded as tentative in the absence of explicit data.

Gill appears to agree:

Very likely Hannah was his first wife, and having no children by her, he took Peninnah, who proved to be a rough diamond:

Matthew Poole reaches a similar conclusion:

He had two wives; as divers other good men had in those ages. And it is probable that he took a second wife, to wit, Peninnah, because Hannah, who being first named seems to have been his first wife, was barren.

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