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Book Review

A Passionate Hope: Hannah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in the “Daughters of the Promised Land” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Hannah is a joyful, godly young woman. She looks forward to the future as she prepares to marry a kind and loving man named Elkanah. But all is not well in their land, as corrupt priests Hophni and Phinehas repeatedly fail to honor God. The brothers leer at and take advantage of women serving in the temple.

Hannah's friend is found dead in the woods, and she is covered in blood. The men who investigate say she might have died in childbirth, but someone took her body into the woods. This mystery is not solved, but people suspect it was Hophni or Phinehas because the girl had told her mother that one of the priests had fathered the child. The mother doesn't know which one.

Hannah’s faith begins to waiver. It is replaced with fear. She shares her concerns with Elkanah and asks how a powerful and loving God could allow such pain and sorrow. Elkanah agrees that God can be difficult to understand, but they must remain faithful.

Once the two are married, they face the new challenge of living in a crowded home with Elkanah’s extended family. Elkanah’s mother, Galia, is particularly unkind to Hannah, criticizing everything she does. For this reason, Elkanah decides Hannah will accompany him to Shiloh, where he will spend a month serving in the temple.

Both feel nervous after hearing all the stories of the priests’ cruelty. Elkanah puts Hannah to work under the watchful eye of one of the priests’ wives. Raziela despises her husband but bonds quickly with Hannah, putting Elkanah’s mind at ease.

Hannah and Elkanah make one of many sacrifices to God on that trip. They intreat Him for a child, but don’t receive the answer they desire. Galia has a friend with a young daughter named Peninnah. She pressures Elkanah for years to take a second wife and bear children with her.

Elkanah loves Hannah, but eventually succumbs to the pressure. Peninnah is a spoiled girl who is frustrated to discover Elkanah does not love her as he loves Hannah. Peninnah’s mother urges her to do whatever she can to embitter the upbeat Hannah and make her look bad before their husband.

As the years pass, Peninnah gives birth to children. Hannah still cannot conceive, despite her frequent prayers and petitions to God. Peninnah is bitter about Elkanah’s seeming indifference toward her, and she continues to behave cruelly toward Hannah. She repeatedly mocks Hannah for her barrenness.

Hannah tries to rise above the criticism. She takes comfort in Elkanah’s love for her as well as her friendship with her sister-in-law and her maidservant, Nava. The temple priests continue to make a mockery of their position by impregnating numerous young women serving at the temple. Although their father, Eli, is a godly priest, the people agree he hasn’t done enough to rein in his sons and stop the corruption.

At one of the feasts in Shiloh, Peninnah’s barbs overwhelm Hannah. In despair, Hannah goes to the temple, where she weeps and prays. She vows if God will allow her to have a son, she will place him under Eli’s care as a temple servant. Eli sees her praying. At first, he thinks she’s drunk. When he realizes the depth of passion in her prayer, he says he hopes the Lord will answer her.

The Lord does answer Hannah’s prayer. She gives birth to Samuel. Despite the incredible pain she and Elkanah feel about leaving their son at the temple, they trust the Lord will use him. When Samuel is a young man in his late teens, Eli and his sons die.

Samuel becomes the godly man his people have been seeking to restore the holiness of the temple. Despite Peninnah’s cruelty over the years, Hannah helps her though some difficult times. The Lord also blesses Hannah with more children.

Christian Beliefs

This fictionalized account is based on the story of Hannah found in the book of 1 Samuel.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Temple priests Hophni and Phinehas are corrupt, using sacrifices and women in the temple for their own selfish purposes. Elkanah’s mother is frequently unkind to Hannah. Peninnah’s mother urges Peninnah to torture Hannah emotionally.


Hannah's friend is found covered in blood as she lay dead in the woods. People think she died in childbirth, but someone took her body into the woods.


Elkanah kisses Hannah. Elkanah leaves the bridal tent after being intimate with Peninnah for the first time. Eli’s sons leer at and force themselves on the women serving in the temple. Nothing is depicted in detail.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

16 and up


Jill Eileen Smith






Record Label



Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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