Elkanah, was a Levite, who dwelt at Ramah, in Mount Ephraim. He was a person of wealth and influence, a kind husband, and a man who feared and reverenced God. He was the father of Samuel. Due to irregularities in the Sanctuary services at Shiloh, his services were not required at the sanctuary, yet, like many another Levite during the period of the Judges (Judges 17:8, 9), Elkanah went up as a common Israelite with his own sacrifices to encourage his neighbors and set them a good example. Although he lived in the midst of an evil environment, his spirituality was evidently at a high level. Elkanah was faithful in his worship and in the offering of his sacrifices (The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 455).
Hannah was Elkanah's first wife. Elkanah's love for Hannah was deep and unchanging, yet a cloud shadowed their domestic happiness. The home was not made joyful by the voice of childhood. At length the strong desire to perpetuate his name led the husband, as it had led many others, to adopt a course which God did not sanction--that of introducing into the family a second wife, to be subordinate to the first. In short, when she didn't produce offspring, he took another wife. This move did not bring happiness expected. This act was prompted by a lack of faith in God, and was attended with evil results. The peace of the hitherto united and harmonious family was broken. Sons and daughters were added to the household; but the joy and beauty of God's sacred institution had been marred and the peace of the family was broken. Peninnah, the new wife, was jealous and narrow-minded, and she bore herself with pride and insolence. Upon Hannah the blow fell with crushing weight, and hope seemed crushed and life a weary burden. All happiness seemed forever swept away from her life. She bore her trials uncomplainingly, yet her grief was none the less keen and bitter (ST, October 27, 1881 par. 2; Ellen G. White, Daughters of God, p. 39).
Just because something is common or accepted it does not make it right. Bigamy was a common practice in Elkana’s time. However, it was a practice that God forbade (Genesis 2:18 – 24; Mal 2:14, 15). Something Elkanah should have known. While God did not strike Elkanah with a lightning when he took Penninah as wife, He did allow Elkanah to suffer the consequences of His Sin, and see how it also affected others in His circle. Elkanah’s bigamy tarnished his record and blighted the happiness of everyone in his household.
Bigamy – or polygamy – is not commonly accepted in Western society. In fact, in many Western countries it is against the Law. But that has not stopped men – and women – from pursuing illicit relations outside of marriage. Many of these are professed Christians who, as Elkanah, go to church every Sabbath (or Sunday). They are faithful in their tithes and offerings. And, they participate faithfully in the church programs. Their reasons may vary, but normally they are selfishly satisfying sinful desires that their spouse cannot or will not satisfy. The consequences are disastrous. Trusts are betrayed, relationships broken, families split apart; friends and associates are forced to take sides. This in turn weakens our institutions. Most importantly, this practice – as all Sin - drives those who practice it and those who are affected by it from God.
Faithfulness in some aspects of life does not atone for departure from God’s instruction in other particulars. Christianity is not a point system. It is not about a tally of your deeds at the end of your life, and if the good outweighs the bad then you are saved. Christ said it Himself, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Paul said it in these words, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christianity is a daily moment by moment walk with Christ. Christianity is a constant and increasing yielded walk with the indwelling Spirit of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” John 14:16. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). While true Christianity is enmity with the world, compromising does not bring the peace temptation promises. Christianity requires letting go of my will, and upholding God’s. And, we do this not to please God, but out of gratitude for all He has done for us. We can only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit.