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The Lord Speaks to Samuel

1-2 Samuel served the Lord by helping Eli the priest, who was by that time almost blind. In those days, the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. But one night, Eli was asleep in his room, and Samuel was sleeping on a mat near the sacred chest in the Lord’s house. They had not been asleep very long[a] when the Lord called out Samuel’s name.

“Here I am!” Samuel answered. Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to bed.”

Samuel went back.

Again the Lord called out Samuel’s name. Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “What do you want?”

Eli told him, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.”

The Lord had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice. When the Lord called out his name for the third time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”

Eli finally realized that it was the Lord who was speaking to Samuel. So he said, “Go back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, ‘I’m listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?’”

Once again Samuel went back and lay down.

10 The Lord then stood beside Samuel and called out as he had done before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

“I’m listening,” Samuel answered. “What do you want me to do?”

11 The Lord said:

Samuel, I am going to do something in Israel that will shock everyone who hears about it! 12 I will punish Eli and his family, just as I promised. 13 He knew that his sons refused to respect me,[b] and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever. 14 I warned Eli that sacrifices or offerings could never make things right! His family has done too many disgusting things.

15 The next morning, Samuel got up and opened the doors to the Lord’s house. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said. 16 But Eli told him, “Samuel, my boy, come here!”

“Here I am,” Samuel answered.

17 Eli said, “What did God say to you? Tell me everything. I pray that God will punish you terribly if you don’t tell me every word he said!”

18 Samuel told Eli everything. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord, and he will do what’s right.”

The Lord Helps Samuel

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord helped him and made everything Samuel said come true. 20 From the town of Dan in the north to the town of Beersheba in the south, everyone in the country knew that Samuel was truly the Lord’s prophet. 21 The Lord often appeared to Samuel at Shiloh and told him what to say. Then Samuel would speak to the whole nation of Israel.

The Philistines Capture the Sacred Chest

One day the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. They set up camp near Ebenezer, and the Philistines camped at Aphek. The Philistines made a fierce attack. They defeated the Israelites and killed about four thousand of them.

The Israelite army returned to their camp, and the leaders said, “Why did the Lord let us lose to the Philistines today? Let’s get the sacred chest where the Lord’s agreement with Israel is kept. Then the Lord[c] will help us and rescue us from our enemies.”

The army sent some soldiers to bring back the sacred chest from Shiloh, because the Lord All-Powerful has his throne on the winged creatures on top of the chest.

As Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, brought the chest into camp, the army cheered so loudly that the ground shook. The Philistines heard the noise and said, “What are those Hebrews shouting about?”

When the Philistines learned that the sacred chest had been brought into the camp, they were scared to death and said:

The gods have come into their camp. Now we’re in real trouble! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. We’re in big trouble! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They’re the same gods who made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians in the desert.

Philistines, be brave and fight hard! If you don’t, those Hebrews will rule us, just as we’ve been ruling them. Fight and don’t be afraid.

10 The Philistines did fight. They killed thirty thousand Israelite soldiers, and all the rest ran off to their homes. 11 Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the sacred chest was captured.

Eli Dies

12 That same day a soldier from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefront to Shiloh. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show his sorrow. 13 He went into town and told the news about the battle, and everyone started crying.

Eli was afraid that something might happen to the sacred chest. So he was sitting on his chair beside the road, just waiting. 14-15 He was ninety-eight years old and blind, but he could hear everyone crying, and he asked, “What’s all that noise?”

The soldier hurried over and told Eli, 16 “I escaped from the fighting today and ran here.”

“Young man, what happened?” Eli asked.

17 “Israel ran away from the Philistines,” the soldier answered. “Many of our people were killed, including your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. But worst of all, the sacred chest was captured.”

18 Eli was still sitting on a chair beside the wall of the town gate. And when the man said that the Philistines had taken the sacred chest, Eli fell backwards. He was a very heavy old man, and the fall broke his neck and killed him. He had been a leader[d] of Israel for forty years.

19 The wife of Phinehas was about to give birth. And soon after she heard that the sacred chest had been captured and that her husband and his father had died, her baby came. The birth was very hard, 20 and she was dying. But the women taking care of her said, “Don’t be afraid—it’s a boy!”

She didn’t pay any attention to them. 21-22 Instead she kept thinking about losing her husband and her father-in-law. So she said, “My son will be named Ichabod,[e] because the glory of Israel left our country when the sacred chest was captured.”


  1. 3.3 They. . . long: The Hebrew text has “The lamp was still burning.” An olive oil lamp would go out after a few hours if the wick was not adjusted.
  2. 3.13 refused. . . me: Or “were insulting everyone.”
  3. 4.3 Lord: Or “chest.”
  4. 4.18 leader: The Hebrew word means that Eli may have been an army commander, a judge, and a priest.
  5. 4.21,22 Ichabod: Ichabod means “where is the glory?” or “there is no glory.”