THE LITTLE BOY WITH A LINEN COAT
I Samuel 1:1 to 3:21
SAMSON the strong man ruled Israel as the thirteenth of the judges; and after him came Eli as the fourteenth judge. Eli was also the high-priest of the Lord in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
While Eli was the priest and the judge, a man was living at Ramah in the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He had two wives, as did many men in that time. One of these wives had children, but the other wife, whose name was Hannah, had no child.
Every year Elkanah and his family went up to worship at the house of the Lord in Shiloh, which was about fifteen miles from his home. And at one of these visits Hannah prayed to the Lord, saying:
"O Lord, if thou wilt look upon me, and give me a son, he shall be given to the Lord as long as he lives."
The Lord heard Hannah's prayer, and gave her a little boy; and she called his name Samuel, which means "Asked of God," because he had been given in answer to her prayer. While he was still a little child she brought him to Eli, the priest, and said to him:
"My Lord, I am the woman who stood here praying. I asked God for this child; and now I have promised that he shall be the Lord's as long as he lives. Let him stay here with you and grow up in God's house."
So the child Samuel stayed at Shiloh and lived with Eli the priest in one of the tents beside the Tabernacle. As he grew up he helped Eli in the work of the Lord's house. He lit the lamps, and opened the doors, and prepared the incense, and waited on Eli, who was now growing old and was almost blind.
Samuel was all the more a help and a comfort to Eli because his own sons, who were priests, were very wicked young men. Eli had not trained them to do right, nor punished them when they did wrong, when they were children; so they grew up to become evil, to disobey God's law, and to be careless in God's worship. Eli's heart was very sad over the sins of his sons; but now that he was old he could do nothing to control them.
It had been a long time since God had spoken to men, as in other days God had spoken to Moses, to Joshua, and to Gideon. The men of Israel were longing for the time to come when God would speak again to his people as of old.
One night Samuel, while yet a child, was lying down upon his bed in a tent beside the Tabernacle; he heard a voice calling him by name. It was the Lord's voice, but Samuel did not know it.
He answered, "Here I am!" and then he ran to Eli, saying, "Here I am. You called me; what do you wish me to do?"
And Eli said, "My child, I did not call you. Go and lie down again."
Samuel lay down, but soon again heard the voice calling to him, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Again he rose up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am; for I am sure that you called me."
"No," said Eli, "I did not call you. Lie down again."
A third time the voice was heard; and a third time the boy rose up from his bed and went to Eli, sure that Eli had called him. Eli now saw that this was the Lord's voice that had spoken to Samuel. He said:
"Go, lie down once more; and if the voice speaks to you again, say 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.' "
Samuel went and lay down, and waited for the voice. It spoke as if some one unseen were standing by his bed, and saying, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said to the Lord, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
And the Lord said to Samuel:
"Listen to what I say. I have seen the wickedness of Eli's sons. And I have seen that their father did not punish them when they were doing evil. I am going to give to them such a punishment that the story shall make every one's ears tingle who hears it."
Samuel lay in his room until the morning. Then he arose and went about his work as usual, preparing for the daily worship and opening the doors. He said nothing of God's voice until Eli asked him. Eli said to him:
"Samuel, my son, tell me what the Lord said to you last night. Hide nothing from me."
And Samuel told Eli all that God had said, though it was a sad message to Eli. And Eli said, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him."
And then the news went through all the land that God had spoken once more to his people. And Hannah, the lonely mother in the mountains of Ephraim, heard that her son was the prophet to whom God spoke as his messenger to all Israel.
From that time God spoke to Samuel, and Samuel gave God's word to the twelve tribes.