Original Research

Hannah’s prayer for a male child: Interpreting 1 Samuel 1:11 in the Nigerian context

Solomon O. Ademiluka
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 1 | a2719 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i1.2719 | © 2021 Solomon O. Ademiluka | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 January 2021 | Published: 15 June 2021

About the author(s)

Solomon O. Ademiluka, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, Faculty of Human Resources, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria


Studies have shown that a preference for male children is prevalent in many parts of the world, including Africa. In Nigeria, with its patriarchal family structure, a preference for sons has become an institutionalised way of life. Hence, the Hannah narrative in 1 Samuel 1 is of high relevance in Nigeria. The story of Hannah’s barrenness has often been employed to encourage childless Christians to have faith in God for children, but not many have paid attention to her request specifically for a male child in verse 11. To this end, Hannah’s prayer for a male child is examined in this article against the context of the strong desire for male children in Nigeria. The article employed the historical-critical and descriptive methods. Apart from the exegesis of 1 Samuel 1:11, using the descriptive approach, the author interacted with and utilised relevant material on preference for male children in Nigeria. The research found that Hannah’s request for a son is consistent with the pattern of the narratives of barren mothers in the Old Testament in which all asked for male children. Hannah’s specific request for a male child is therefore a reflection of the preference for sons in ancient Israel, which derived principally from the fact that, in that society, male children were greatly desired for the purpose of the perpetuation of the husband’s lineage, as well as for land inheritance. Understanding Hannah’s prayer for a son in this way, makes 1 Samuel 1:11 relevant in Nigeria where people prefer male children for similar reasons. In view of the fact that the preference for sons has a fatal effect on female children, as well as their mothers, it amounts to women abuse, which makes it an issue of pastoral significance in Nigeria. 1 Samuel 1:11 is thus relevant in the context of marital conflicts among Nigerian Christian couples arising from male child preference. To this end, teaching to illuminate this preference for sons should form an integral part of the marriage theology of the church in Nigeria.

Contribution: The article is a contribution in the field of marriage theology, in that it identifies the preference for male children as a possible factor for marital disharmony among Nigerian Christian couples.


Hannah’s prayer; son preference; inheritance; Nigerian Christians; marriage theology.


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