The Young Samuel
There was a man of Israel whose name was Elkanah, and the name of his wife was Hannah. Hannah was old and had no children and for that she was grieved, for she longed for a child of her own. In fact, the other women made sport of her and made her weep because it was a kind of disgrace in those days not to have children.
One time, when Elkanah went up to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to the Lord, Hannah went with him, and when the women made sport of her, Hannah wept and would not eat because she was childless. Elkanah was sorry for his wife and grieved to see her distressed. So he said to her: "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat? Am I not better than ten sons?"
But Hannah continued to weep in the bitterness of her soul and prayed unto the Lord to give her a child. She promised the Lord that if he would give her a man child that she would give him unto the Lord all the days of his life and that his hair should never be cut.
The Lord heard her prayer and after awhile she had a son and she named him Samuel. Thus Hannah's tears were changed to smiles and she was very happy because she had a little son whom she had promised to the Lord.
Eli was the priest at the temple at Shiloh and he had two wicked sons named Hophni and Phinehas. They did great evil in the sight of the Lord and distressed their father because they would not obey him nor the words of the Lord. These sons were also priests as their father was.
When any man came to the tabernacle to offer peace offerings it was the rule that some of the offering should be given to the priests to eat and some for the men themselves to eat. Hophni and Phinehas took more than their share and if the men who brought the offerings objected they took it from them by force. They did other things, also, that they should not have done as priests.
Little Samuel did what was right in the sight of the Lord always. His mother made him a coat, and every year when she went up with her husband to offer sacrifices she took Samuel with her. When he became old enough to leave his mother and father he went to live with Eli at the tabernacle. His mother was very glad that she had given up her son entirely to the service of the Lord.
Eli, the priest, was very old and had heard of all the evil things that his sons had done to the people of Israel. He reproached his sons, saying to them: "Why do you such things, for I have heard of all your doings to all the people and it is not a good report that I hear. You make the people break the laws and my head is bowed in sorrow on account of you." But the sons only laughed at the old Eli and continued in their wicked ways.
Eli should have sent his sons away from the tabernacle and punished them but he did not. One day there appeared a prophet to Eli and said to him: "You honor your sons above the Lord and because you let them do evil in His sight you also are guilty of sin; therefore, the time comes when you shall no longer be priest nor any of your household and your two wicked sons shall die the same day. Then the Lord will raise up a faithful priest who shall do according to His word, and the time shall come when everyone left of your household shall crouch before me and beg for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, for they shall be poor and in want."
The child Samuel continued to live in the tabernacle and waited on Eli, the priest. Eli grew older and his eyes began to fail him so that he could not see. One night Eli lay down to sleep in the tabernacle and Samuel lay down also. The Lord called Samuel and the child answered: "Here am I." Samuel thought Eli had spoken to him and he arose and ran to the old priest and said: "Here am I, for you called me."
"I called you not; go, lie down again," replied the old priest, and Samuel went and lay down.
But the Lord called again: "Samuel, Samuel," and again Samuel arose and went to Eli and said: "Here am I, you surely did call me."
"I called you not, my son, go lie down again," said the old priest to the child. Samuel went again and lay down for he did not know the voice of the Lord. So when the Lord called Samuel again the third time, he arose and went to Eli and said to him: "Here am I, for you surely did call me."
Then Eli knew that the Lord had called the child. He, therefore, said unto Samuel: "Go, my child, and lie down, and if you hear the voice again, you must say, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening." So Samuel went and lay down again in his place.
Again the voice came and spoke to the child and said as before: "Samuel, Samuel," and Samuel answered: "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
Then the Lord told Samuel what he was going to do in Israel at which both ears of every one that heard it would tingle. He said he was going to punish Eli and all his household for the sins they had committed and that when he began he would not stop until he had finished. And Samuel lay down upon his bed until the morning and then arose to open the doors of the house.
Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the things that the Lord had told him, but Eli called Samuel and said: "Samuel, my son, what is the thing that the Lord hath told unto you; do not hide it from me." Then Samuel told him all that the Lord had told him and hid nothing from him.