[1Sam 1 - 1Kings11]
Samuel’s birth, dedication and calling
Hannah, one of Elkanah’s two wives, is loved by Elkanah but is barren. Because of this, she is jibed by Elkanah’s other
wife. During their annual visit to worship and sacrifice at Shiloh, Hannah prays to God in her distress, and vows that if she
has a son, he will be given to the Lord for service all the days of his life. Eli, the priest, sees her praying with her lips
moving, but no sound coming from them, and assumes she has been drinking. When Hannah tells him that she is praying
because of her considerable grief, Eli says to her, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has
asked of him. She no longer feels sad, and soon after returning home conceives and has a son she names Samuel. After he
is weaned, she takes him to Shiloh and presents him to Eli for service to God.
Each year, when they go to Shiloh to offer their sacrifice, Hannah takes a new coat she has made for the growing lad. Eli
blesses Elkanah and Hannah and intercedes for them, asking that they should have more children. Hannah conceives and
has three more sons and two daughters.
During this time Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, abuse their position when taking the priests’ share of offerings.
Despite serving at the temple, they do not know the Lord as Eli does and their actions cause men to resent making their
offerings. They also have sex with women who come to the tabernacle. In his later years, Eli rebukes his sons for their
behaviour, but they take no notice of him, nor does Eli take any action against them. Consequently, he is confronted by a
man of God who gives him a message from God, telling him that his family’s duty as priests will come to an end, no
offspring will survive beyond the age at which they might become a priest, and that He would raise a faithful priest. A sign
of this coming about will be the death of his two sons in the same day.
Eli is now old and his sight failing. One evening, when Samuel has finished his duties and has laid down to sleep, God calls
him. Thinking it was Eli calling, Samuel goes to him, only for Eli to deny having called and to be sent back to bed. This
happens three times before Eli realises God is calling Samuel, and now instructs him on how to respond if he is called
again. God does call Samuel again and tells him that Eli’s house will be judged. Next morning, Samuel does not want to tell
Eli the message given by God, but does so when pressed. From this time on, God is with Samuel, and as Samuel grows, all
Israel comes to know he is established as a prophet to the Lord.
The Philistines capture the ark
The Israelites go to battle against the Philistines but are defeated with the loss of about four thousand men. In an effort to
gain God’s support, they ask that the ark be brought from Shiloh. The request is granted and the ark arrives at camp with
Hophni and Phinehas. This strikes great fear into the Philistines, but they encourage one another and go to battle. Victory
is again theirs, but with the loss of thirty thousand Israelites. The ark is captured by the Philistines and Hophni and
Phinehas are killed in the process. When Eli hears of the death of his sons and that the ark is captured, he remembers the
angel’s message and falls from his seat breaking his neck, for he is now ninety-eight years old and a heavy man. When the
news reaches his daughter-in-law she goes into labour, but dies giving birth.
The ark is returned to Israel
The Philistines take the ark to Ashdod and place it beside their idol Dagon. Two mornings in succession Dagon is found
fallen on his face before the ark. Consequently, the priests and people will no longer enter the place. The people of Ashdod
are then smitten with haemorrhoids and they decide to move the ark to Gath, but the same happens at Gath and at other
places the ark is taken.
The ark has now been with the Philistines seven months and the priests are summoned for advice. The decision is made to
return the ark with a trespass offering of five golden mice and five golden haemorrhoids, one each for Ashdod, Gaza,
Askelon, Gath and Ekron. All are to be placed on a new cart pulled by two heifers that had not previously been yoked, and
delivered to the borders of Bethshemesh.
At Bethshemesh, the Israelites celebrate the return of the ark and make offerings and sacrifices to God. However, during
the celebrations some of them look into the ark, which is forbidden, and many are smitten by God because of it. The ark is
then taken by men from Kirjathjearim to Abinidab’s house where his son Eleazor is sanctified to look after it. The ark
remains there for twenty years.
Samuel subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Samuel now exhorts the people of Israel to reform from idolatry, which they agree to do. He gathers them at Mizpah, prays
for them and makes offerings on their behalf. Meanwhile, the Philistines, having heard the Israelites are at Mizpah, set out
to do battle with them, but God hampers them with a great storm and the Israelites are able to defeat them.
Now subdued, the Philistines do not move against Israel during the rest of Samuel’s life, and the cities taken by the
Philistines are restored to them.
There is now also peace between Israel and the Amorites, the Amorites having seen the more powerful Philistines have
been dealt with.
Each year, Samuel judges Israel whilst doing a circuit of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeth, returning to his home at Ramah.