What does 1 Samuel 1:5 mean?Elkanah is handing out portions of the meat to his family members. These come from the peace offering to God (1 Samuel 1:1–4). He has given a portion each to his second wife Peninnah and her sons and daughters (1 Samuel 1:4). Now he turns to his first wife Hannah and—most likely—gives her twice as much as he gave to his other wife or any of her children.
Commentators are divided on how to translate this phrase. The Hebrew might be an idiom: a figure of speech whose meaning is something nonliteral. One crucial word can mean "anger," "nostrils," or "face," the other "portion" or "part." Scholars have offered a wide range of explanations. Some suggest Elkanah gave in anger, since his wife produced no children, but this doesn't make sense of the reference to his love. Others believe he is grieved that he can only give her a single portion. Still others think this means he gave her choice parts of the animal.
Ultimately, most interpreters settle on "a double portion" as presenting the best balance of meaning and intent. The exact nature of what Elkanah gives to Hannah is not important. What matters is why he gives, and the statement about her childless state.
Elkanah gave to Hannah because he loved her. Modern readers typically connect marriage to emotional love, but this was not necessarily the case in the ancient world. It certainly was not always true in cases of infertility. Some believed barrenness was a curse from God, though Scripture does not say so. Both Elkanah and Hannah recognized that, in some sense, the Lord had prevented her from conceiving. Elkanah did not see God's refusal to grant Hannah children as a reason not to love her. In fact, these references suggest he loved her more, either because of or despite her infertility.