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1 Samuel 1:1-7:17 – Samuel the “Segue”

Summary

First Samuel begins with the rise of Samuel the prophet and the fall of the house of Eli the priest. Sandwiched between these narratives is a rollicking account of the journeys of the ark of the covenant as it is captured by the Philistines and eventually makes its way back to the Israelites.

Analysis

A first reading of these chapters leaves the impression that one is still reading the book of Judges. Chronologically speaking, of course, this is true. First Samuel continues the story begun in Judges (the delightful short story of Ruth that separates Judges from Samuel in our English Bibles appears at another place in the Hebrew Bible). The Philistines are still a threat, Israel still has no centralized government, and Samuel appears as a charismatic leader like the so-called "judges" who deliver Israel from their Philistine oppressors.

But there is change in the air as well. Though it appears here, the crushing pattern of disobedience followed by oppression, repentance, and deliverance, only to return to disobedience again--so familiar in the book of Judges--is not as rigidly presented.

  • Samuel is introduced as a gift of God both to Hannah, his barren mother, and to Israel, at peace for now; a gift that keeps on giving through his early childhood where his sensitivity and openness to God's calling is deftly contrasted with the priestly shenanigans of Eli's sons (chapters 1-3).
  • That it was about time for God to raise up a mediator like Samuel is clarified in the tale of the ark's adventures where the hostilities between Israel and the neighboring Philistines provide an informative background. Though Samuel is hardly mentioned in this section, the wicked sons of Eli are done away with (chapters 4-6).
  • This sets the scene for the reintroduction of Samuel as the last (and greatest) of the "judges," who calls the people to repentance and delivers them from the Philistines (chapter 7).

As such, Samuel functions as a transitional figure between the judges and the monarchy.

1 Samuel 1:1-7:17

1 Samuel

Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

1There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite* from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5but to Hannah he gave a double portion,* because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7So it went on year after year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’

9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord.* Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite* until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants,* and no razor shall touch his head.’

12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ 15But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ 17Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ 18And she said, ‘Let your servant find favour in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters,* ate and drank with her husband,* and her countenance was sad no longer.*

19 They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’

21 The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there for ever; I will offer him as a nazirite* for all time.’* 23Her husband Elkanah said to her, ‘Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.’* So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull,* an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26And she said, ‘Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.’

She left him there for* the Lord.

Hannah’s Prayer

2Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the Lord;
   my strength is exalted in my God.*
My mouth derides my enemies,
   because I rejoice in my* victory.


2 ‘There is no Holy One like the Lord,
   no one besides you;
   there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
   let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
   and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
   but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
   but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
   but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
   he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
   he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
   he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
   and inherit a seat of honour.*
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
   and on them he has set the world.


9 ‘He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
   but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
   for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
   the Most High* will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
   he will give strength to his king,
   and exalt the power of his anointed.’

Eli’s Wicked Sons

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, while the boy remained to minister to the Lord, in the presence of the priest Eli.

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord 13or for the duties of the priests to the people. When anyone offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself.* This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the one who was sacrificing, ‘Give meat for the priest to roast; for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.’ 16And if the man said to him, ‘Let them burn the fat first, and then take whatever you wish’, he would say, ‘No, you must give it now; if not, I will take it by force.’ 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.

The Child Samuel at Shiloh

18 Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, ‘May the Lord repay* you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to* the Lord’; and then they would return to their home.

21 And* the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

Prophecy against Eli’s Household

22 Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23He said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord;* but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them.

26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favour with the Lord and with the people.

27 A man of God came to Eli and said to him, ‘Thus the Lord has said, “I revealed* myself to the family of your ancestor in Egypt when they were slaves* to the house of Pharaoh. 28I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to offer incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the family of your ancestor all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29Why then look with greedy eye* at my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honour your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?” 30Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: “I promised that your family and the family of your ancestor should go in and out before me for ever”; but now the Lord declares: “Far be it from me; for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt. 31See, a time is coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestor’s family, so that no one in your family will live to old age. 32Then in distress you will look with greedy eye* on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed upon Israel; and no one in your family shall ever live to old age. 33The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his* eyes and grieve his* heart; all the members of your household shall die by the sword.* 34The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you—both of them shall die on the same day. 35I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one for ever. 36Everyone who is left in your family shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, Please put me in one of the priest’s places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”

Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity

3Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’* and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ 11Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God,* and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’

15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ 17Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. 21The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. 41And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.

The Ark of God Captured

In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel,* and Israel went out to battle against them;* they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined,* Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.’ 4So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid; for they said, ‘Gods have* come into the camp.’ They also said, ‘Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.’

10 So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot-soldiers. 11The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Death of Eli

12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with earth upon his head. 13When he arrived, Eli was sitting upon his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. When the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, ‘What is this uproar?’ Then the man came quickly and told Eli. 15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set, so that he could not see. 16The man said to Eli, ‘I have just come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.’ He said, ‘How did it go, my son?’ 17The messenger replied, ‘Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.’ 18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli* fell over backwards from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. When she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth; for her labour pains overwhelmed her. 20As she was about to die, the women attending her said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.’ But she did not answer or give heed. 21She named the child Ichabod, meaning, ‘The glory has departed from Israel’, because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22She said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’

The Philistines and the Ark

5When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; 2then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. 3When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of* Dagon was left to him. 5This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

6 The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and struck them with tumours, both in Ashdod and in its territory. 7And when the inhabitants of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy on us and on our god Dagon.’ 8So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ The inhabitants of Gath replied, ‘Let the ark of God be moved on to us.’* So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath.* 9But after they had brought it to Gath,* the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic; he struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumours broke out on them. 10So they sent the ark of the God of Israel* to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, ‘Why* have they brought across to us* the ark of the God of Israel to kill us* and our* people?’ 11They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.’ For there was a deathly panic* throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there; 12those who did not die were stricken with tumours, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

The Ark Returned to Israel

6The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines for seven months. 2Then the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us what we should send with it to its place.’ 3They said, ‘If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt-offering. Then you will be healed and will be ransomed;* will not his hand then turn from you?’ 4And they said, ‘What is the guilt-offering that we should return to him?’ They answered, ‘Five gold tumours and five gold mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for the same plague was upon all of you and upon your lords. 5So you must make images of your tumours and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps he will lighten his hand on you and your gods and your land. 6Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had made fools of them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? 7Now then, get ready a new cart and two milch-cows that have never borne a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. 8Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart, and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt-offering. Then send it off, and let it go on its way. 9And watch; if it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.’

10 The men did so; they took two milch-cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumours. 12The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.

13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it.* 14The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there. A large stone was there; so they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt-offering to the Lord. 15The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the gold objects, and set them upon the large stone. Then the people of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and presented sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.

17 These are the gold tumours, which the Philistines returned as a guilt-offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18also the gold mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone, beside which they set down the ark of the Lord, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.

The Ark at Kiriath-jearim

19 The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-shemesh when they greeted* the ark of the Lord; and he killed seventy men of them.* The people mourned because the Lord had made a great slaughter among the people. 20Then the people of Beth-shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? To whom shall he go so that we may be rid of him?’ 21So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, ‘The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.’ 71And the people of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They consecrated his son, Eleazar, to have charge of the ark of the Lord.

2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented* after the Lord.

Samuel as Judge

3 Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ 4So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.

5 Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ 6So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord. They fasted that day, and said, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

7 When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. 8The people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’ 9So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt-offering to the Lord; Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10As Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. 11And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah,* and named it Ebenezer;* for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ 13So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. 17Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the Lord.

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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