Women in the Bible: Peninnah
Peninnah is an unfamiliar Bible character. Hare you ever heard of her? She’s a co-wife with Hannah (the mother of Samuel). Their husband is Elkanah. Having two wives is never a good idea. Conflict ensues.
In a tale reminiscent of Jacob and his two wives, Rebecca and Leah, we have the story of Elkanah and his two wives. Just as Jacob loves Rebecca more than Leah, Elkanah loves Hannah more than Peninnah. Likewise, as Rebecca, the favored wife, is childless, so too is Hannah, the favored wife.
Another parallel biblical account is of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Hagar, the wife with a child, harasses Sarah, the wife without a child. So to, Peninnah harasses Hannah. This is the extent of what the Bible says about Peninnah.
All we know then about her is that despite her producing children for Elkanah, he loves Hannah more—and Peninnah lashes out at her rival in the only way possible, by verbally tormenting her.
While we can’t condone her actions, we can understand them.
What we learn from this story (as well as from Leah and Hagar) is that having two wives (or girlfriends) is never a good idea.
[Read more about Peninnah in 1 Samuel 1-2.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.