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. [1] 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 of Jesus.

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).

  • Second, as 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 Deborah.

  • 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 Holy Spirit. [2]    

Hymn in 1 Samuel 2:2-10

Magnificat in Luke

"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in Lord, my mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in thy salvation (2:1a)

"My soul 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 name” (1:49b)

“Talk no more so very proudly … for the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed"

“he had showed strength in his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts" (1:52)

“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” (1:52)

“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)

Detailed structural analysis, while fascinating here, will be bypassed because of the objective of this paper.

In addition, 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.[3] However, the similar endings of the respective sections are noteworthy: 

1 Samuel 2:21b

Luke 1:80

Luke 2:52

“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"

"And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" 

 

This overall similarity in the structure that extends to the sons implies the typology that  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.

Further 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.

Having noted 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) [4] ; 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.

 Father Charles Anang  


[1] Ignace de la Potterie. Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant. New York - Alba House, c1992.
[2] Texts here are taken from the RSV and no commentary was employed.
[3] The similarities to Samuel’s birth include the advanced age also of Elizabeth and Zechariah, and all three involve a period of preparation in seclusion (Samuel in the temple, John in the desert, Jesus at Nazareth).
[4] S. Lyonnet’s translation of “keritochomene.”


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