Hannah as a Type of
Mary: 1 Samuel 1-2
To set this
event in context, we note first that it is of one of the two genres in the
Old Testament, "the Miraculous Birth" form.
While the miraculous birth of Samuel to Hannah falls into this general
genre, there are notable deviations or "substitutions": in place of an
angel, it is Eli who speaks to Hannah; there is no reaction of fear, but
continuing distress; the message is God's blessing through Eli, and not a
representative of God from heaven; there is no difficulty after the
announcement; and there is the sign of God's intervention in the miraculous
birth of a sterile woman. What in a particular way links Hannah to Mary as
type is her motherhood of a future prophet, Samuel, who can be seen as type
Hannah is not
one of the more immediately recognizable types of Mary, as compared to
Judith or Esther. However, the foundation of Mary's mission and greatness
lies in her divine maternity, or the birth of the Son of God, the promised
Messiah, to a virgin. In this, Hannah is very much a type or prefiguration
of Mary. Regarding methodology, since the assignment asks for the
application of our imagination, no commentary will be consulted.
Having set this
episode within the basic context of a "miraculous birth," let us now examine
aspects of Hannah as type of Mary.
First, in both events, it is the sons who are central to the respective
biblical books (Samuel and Luke), while the mother's role in bringing to the
world is critical (Hannah's cry for help, and Mary's prayers and her "yes"
to the Incarnation in her womb).
a consequence, a common feature is that the roles of both women are
centered on their motherhood (especially in the case of Mary, whose
divine maternity is foundation for her spiritual maternity and her other
titles), and not directly the salvation of a people, as with Esther or
Third, both glorify God with hymns of praise. In fact, there is such great
similarity between the two that it appears likely that Mary knew this hymn
when she spontaneously praised God in the Magnificat with the help of the
Hymn in 1
exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in Lord, my mouth derides my
enemies because I rejoice in thy salvation (2:1a)
magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has
regarded the low estate of his handmaiden (1:46-48)
“There is no
one holy like the Lord” (2:2a)
“holy is his
“Talk no more
so very proudly … for the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions
“he had showed
strength in his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of
“The bows of
the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength”
"He has put
down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree”
“Those who were
full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have
ceased to hunger” (2:5a)
"He has filled
the hung things" (1:53a)
"He will guard
the feet of his faithful ones;... (2:9)
"and his mercy
is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (1:50)
structural analysis, while fascinating here, will be bypassed because of the
objective of this paper.
the similarity in structure between the two "hymns" of praise to God extends
to the structure of Samuel's birth (1 Sam 1-2) with the births of John the
Baptist and Jesus. John's birth too is a "miraculous birth," and shares many
of the characteristics of Jesus' birth, including a hymn of praise sung by
Zechariah as well as the announcement of birth in a temple, as with Samue,
but this is not the place to examine their relationship.
However, the similar endings of the respective sections are noteworthy:
1 Samuel 2:21b
“And the boy
Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.”
"And the child
grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the
day of his manifestation to Israel"
increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man"
similarity in the structure that extends to the sons implies the typology
extends to the sons and their missions, in particular. This commonality of
the sons' mission and destiny further strengthens the thesis of Hannah as a
type of Mary, since, as noted, the focus of both are not on the mothers, but
on the sons and their missions.
indicators of their common missions include: the dedication of Samuel to
service in the temple and Mary's offering of Jesus in the temple, which is
significant based on the prophecies of the future work of Jesus; both were
prophets of the Lord.
the similarities of Hannah's event with those of Mary as type, we should
also note the enormous differences. Where Hannah prayed for a son and asked that
her shame be removed, Mary, like Simeon and Anna, must have looked for the
consolation of and the coming of messiah Israel (Luke 2:22; 2:38), that is,
she sought not her own interests but those of her people; where Hannah was
marked by her sterility and shame, Mary was marked by her virginity and
total consecration to God ("Rejoice, O favored one," Luke 1 :30a)
where Hannah gave birth to one of a long line of prophets, Mary gave birth
to "Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32a). In fact, the salutations of the
angel Gabriel and the
words of Simeon and Anna, not to mention the abundance of signs, indicate
that this is the promised messiah.
In sum, Hannah
serves as type or figure of Mary, primarily in her motherhood, but there are
also considerable differences that set Mary apart from Hannah. As type, we
note the incredible gratitude and selflessness of Hannah in giving up or
consecrating her son to God, and her love for him, as evidenced by her
making his garments. As type, Hannah will highlight Mary's unsurpassable
correspondence to God's will, as reflected in her fiat, the Magnificat, and
events of her life, like her standing at the foot of the Cross.