The Birth of Samuel
1 1 There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) 2 He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not. 3 Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. 4 When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, 5 but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. 6 But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. 7 This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite. 8 Her husband Elkanah said, "Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren't you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?"
9 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God's Temple in the customary seat. 10 Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried - inconsolably. 11 Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you'll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you'll quit neglecting me and go into action for me By giving me a son, I'll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I'll set him apart for a life of holy discipline. 12 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. 14 He approached her and said, "You're drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!" 15 Hannah said, "Oh no, sir - please! I'm a woman hard used. I haven't been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I've been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. 16 Don't for a minute think I'm a bad woman. It's because I'm so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I've stayed here so long." 17 Eli answered her, "Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him." 18 "Think well of me - and pray for me!" she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.
19 Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked. Dedicating the Child to God 20 Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, "I asked God for him." 21 When Elkanah next took his family on their annual trip to Shiloh to worship God, offering sacrifices and keeping his vow, 22 Hannah didn't go. She told her husband, "After the child is weaned, I'll bring him myself and present him before God - and that's where he'll stay, for good." 23 Elkanah said to his wife, "Do what you think is best. Stay home until you have weaned him. Yes! Let God complete what he has begun!" 24 Then she took him up to Shiloh, bringing also the makings of a generous sacrificial meal - a prize bull, flour, and wine. The child was so young to be sent off! 25 They first butchered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. 26 Hannah said, "Excuse me, sir. Would you believe that I'm the very woman who was standing before you at this very spot, praying to God? 27 I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. 28 And now I have dedicated him to God. He's dedicated to God for life." Then and there, they worshiped God.
The Song of Hannah
2 1 Hannah prayed: I'm bursting with God-news! I'm walking on air. I'm laughing at my rivals. I'm dancing my salvation. 2 Nothing and no one is holy like God, no rock mountain like our God. 3 Don't dare talk pretentiously - not a word of boasting, ever! For God knows what's going on. He takes the measure of everything that happens. 4 The weapons of the strong are smashed to pieces, while the weak are infused with fresh strength. 5 The well-fed are out begging in the streets for crusts, while the hungry are getting second helpings. The barren woman has a houseful of children, while the mother of many is bereft. 6 God brings death and God brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 God brings poverty and God brings wealth; he lowers, he also lifts up. 8 He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives - a place in the sun! For the very structures of earth are God's; he has laid out his operations on a firm foundation. 9 He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! 10 God's enemies will be blasted out of the sky, crashed in a heap and burned. God will set things right all over the earth, he'll give strength to his king, he'll set his anointed on top of the world!
11 Elkanah went home to Ramah. The boy stayed and served God in the company of Eli the priest. Samuel Serves God
The Sins of Eli's Sons
12 Eli's own sons were a bad lot. They didn't know God and could not have cared less 13 about the customs of priests among the people. Ordinarily, when someone offered a sacrifice, the priest's servant was supposed to come up and, while the meat was boiling, 14 stab a three-pronged fork into the cooking pot. The priest then got whatever came up on the fork. But this is how Eli's sons treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to God. 15 Before they had even burned the fat to God, the priest's servant would interrupt whoever was sacrificing and say, "Hand over some of that meat for the priest to roast. He doesn't like boiled meat; he likes his rare." 16 If the man objected, "First let the fat be burned - God's portion! - then take all you want," the servant would demand, "No, I want it now. If you won't give it, I'll take it." 17 It was a horrible sin these young servants were committing - and right in the presence of God! - desecrating the holy offerings to God. 18 In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God. 19 Additionally, every year his mother would make him a little robe cut to his size and bring it to him when she and her husband came for the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God." Then they would go home. 21 God was most especially kind to Hannah. She had three more sons and two daughters! The boy Samuel stayed at the sanctuary and grew up with God. A Hard Life with Many Tears 22 By this time Eli was very old. He kept getting reports on how his sons were ripping off the people and sleeping with the women who helped out at the sanctuary. 23 Eli took them to task: "What's going on here? Why are you doing these things? I hear story after story of your corrupt and evil carrying on. 24 Oh, my sons, this is not right! These are terrible reports I'm getting, stories spreading right and left among God's people! 25 If you sin against another person, there's help - God's help. But if you sin against God, who is around to help?" 26 But the boy Samuel was very much alive, growing up, blessed by God and popular with the people.
27 A holy man came to Eli and said: "This is God's message: I revealed myself openly to your ancestors when they were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. 28 Out of all the tribes of Israel, I chose your family to be my priests: to preside at the altar, to burn incense, to wear the priestly robes in my presence. I put your ancestral family in charge of all the sacrificial offerings of Israel. 29 So why do you now treat as mere loot these very sacrificial offerings that I commanded for my worship? Why do you treat your sons better than me, turning them loose to get fat on these offerings, and ignoring me? 30 Therefore - this is God's word, the God of Israel speaking - I once said that you and your ancestral family would be my priests indefinitely, but now - God's word, remember! - there is no way this can continue. I honor those who honor me; those who scorn me I demean. 31 "Be well warned: It won't be long before I wipe out both your family and your future family. No one in your family will make it to old age! 32 You'll see good things that I'm doing in Israel, but you'll see it and weep, for no one in your family will live to enjoy it. 33 I will leave one person to serve at my altar, but it will be a hard life, with many tears. Everyone else in your family will die before their time. 34 What happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be the proof: Both will die the same day. 35 Then I'll establish for myself a true priest. He'll do what I want him to do, be what I want him to be. I'll make his position secure and he'll do his work freely in the service of my anointed one. 36 Survivors from your family will come to him begging for handouts, saying, 'Please, give me some priest work, just enough to put some food on the table.'" "Speak, God. I'm Ready to Listen"
The LORD Calls Samuel
3 1 The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli's direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. 2 One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad - he could hardly see). 3 It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested. 4 Then God called out, "Samuel, Samuel!" 5 Then he ran to Eli saying, "I heard you call. Here I am." Eli said, "I didn't call you. Go back to bed." And so he did. 6 God called again, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, "I heard you call. Here I am." 7 (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.) 8 God called again, "Samuel!" - the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, "Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am." 9 So Eli directed Samuel, "Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, 'Speak, God. I'm your servant, ready to listen.'" Samuel returned to his bed. 10 Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, "Samuel! Samuel!" Samuel answered, "Speak. I'm your servant, ready to listen."
11 God said to Samuel, "Listen carefully. I'm getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. 12 The time has come for me to bring down on Eli's family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. 13 I'm letting him know that the time's up. I'm bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God's name and God's place, and he did nothing to stop them. 14 This is my sentence on the family of Eli: The evil of Eli's family can never be wiped out by sacrifice or offering." 15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then rose early and went about his duties, opening the doors of the sanctuary, but he dreaded having to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But then Eli summoned Samuel: "Samuel, my son!" Samuel came running: "Yes? What can I do for you?" 17 "What did he say? Tell it to me, all of it. Don't suppress or soften one word, as God is your judge! I want it all, word for word as he said it to you." 18 So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing. Eli said, "He is God. Let him do whatever he thinks best."
19 Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel's prophetic record was flawless. 20 Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing - a true prophet of God. 21 God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh.