Hannah was barren (1 Samuel 1:2) but prayed that God would give her a child and vowed to fully dedicate him to the service of the Lord if she was blessed with her own child (1 Samuel 1:8-18). The Lord eventually blessed Hannah and her husband Elkanah with a son named Samuel whom she then took to Eli, the High-Priest in Shiloh, so that Samuel could serve the Lord in the tabernacle (1 Samuel 1:19-28). Eli already had two sons (1 Samuel 1:3) who served with him in the tabernacle (Hophni and Phinehas), but they were wicked (1 Samuel 2:12-17) and God threatened judgment upon them if Eli did not discipline his sons for their disobedience (1 Samuel 2:22-30). Eli’s sons refused to change and God removed the priesthood from the house of Eli and also sentencing his two sons to die on the same day (1 Samuel 2:31-36).
The story shifts from Eli’s sons and the author begins to develop the early life of Samuel, who was growing socially and spiritually (1 Samuel 2:26). Samuel was faithfully ministering to the Lord before Eli but during that point in Israel’s history, hearing from the Lord was rare and there was very little divine revelation (3:1). In the midst of this time of limited revelation, the Lord spoke to Samuel in the middle of the night but Samuel thought that it was the voice of Eli (3:2-4). When Samuel asked Eli what he needed, Eli responded that it was not him who spoke and sent him back to bed (3:5). The Lord called for Samuel two more times and then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling Samuel so he told Samuel to respond to the voice by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (3:6-9). When the voice of the Lord called to Samuel again, Samuel responded as Eli had commanded him and the Lord revealed to Samuel that He was getting ready to remove the house of Eli from the priesthood (3:10-14). Upon hearing this news, Samuel laid back down in his bed and was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had announced to him (3:15); however, Eli forced Samuel to tell him about the message the Lord had given to him (3:16-17). Samuel told him everything and Eli accepted the pending judgment of God upon his family (3:18). After this proclamation of destruction on Eli’s house, Samuel continued to grow and the Lord was with him until all people in Israel knew that Samuel was being established as the Lord’s prophet (3:19-4:1a).
It came to pass that Israel went into battle against the Philistines, but the Israelites were defeated and 4,000 of their men were killed in battle (4:1b-2). Israel’s loss caused them to question why the Lord had allowed them to be defeated and they decided that they would take the ark of the covenant with them into the next battle against the Philistines (4:3). The ark of the covenant had become a symbol of the power and presence of the Lord to Israel, but they were more concerned with the presence of the ark than they were with the presence of the Lord. Israel brought the ark into the camp of Israel and they celebrated loudly but they were defeated once again and 30,000 soldiers were killed in battle (4:4-10); furthermore, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and Eli’s two sons were also killed during Israel’s defeat (4:11). When Eli heard that his two sons had been killed and the ark of the covenant had been captured he fell backwards, broke his neck, and died (4:12-18). Eli was 98 years old when he died and had ruled Israel as a judge for 40 years. After hearing about the deaths of her family and capture of the ark, Phinehas’ pregnant wife went into labor and died after giving birth (4:19). Before dying, she named the child Ichabod which means “the glory has departed from Israel” (4:20-22). Ultimately, she believed that the presence of the Lord had departed from Israel and He had left them alone in their time of judgment. Although Israel had strayed away from God, He had not left them and they will soon discover that He was still fighting for them.
Dear God, during times of discipline help me to remember that You are still present with me.