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Hannah Asks the Lord for a Child

Elkanah lived in Ramah,[a] a town in the hill country of Ephraim. His great-great-grandfather was Zuph, so Elkanah was a member of the Zuph clan of the Ephraim tribe. Elkanah’s father was Jeroham, his grandfather was Elihu, and his great-grandfather was Tohu.

Elkanah had two wives,[b] Hannah and Peninnah. Although Peninnah had children, Hannah did not have any.

Once a year Elkanah traveled from his hometown to Shiloh, where he worshiped the Lord All-Powerful and offered sacrifices. Eli was the Lord’s priest there, and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas served with him as priests.[c]

Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he gave some of the meat[d] to Peninnah and some to each of her sons and daughters. But he gave Hannah even more, because he loved Hannah very much, even though the Lord had kept her from having children of her own.

Peninnah liked to make Hannah feel miserable about not having any children, especially when the family went to the house of the Lord[e] each year.

One day, Elkanah was there offering a sacrifice, when Hannah began crying and refused to eat. So Elkanah asked, “Hannah, why are you crying? Why won’t you eat? Why do you feel so bad? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

When the sacrifice had been offered, and they had eaten the meal, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was sitting in his chair near the door to the place of worship. 10 Hannah was brokenhearted and was crying as she prayed, 11 Lord All-Powerful, I am your servant, but I am so miserable! Please let me have a son. I will give him to you for as long as he lives, and his hair will never be cut.”[f]

12-13 Hannah prayed silently to the Lord for a long time. But her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk. 14 “How long are you going to stay drunk?” he asked. “Sober up!”

15-16 “Sir, please don’t think I’m no good!” Hannah answered. “I’m not drunk, and I haven’t been drinking. But I do feel miserable and terribly upset. I’ve been praying all this time, telling the Lord about my problems.”

17 Eli replied, “You may go home now and stop worrying. I’m sure the God of Israel will answer your prayer.”

18 “Sir, thank you for being so kind to me,” Hannah said. Then she left, and after eating something, she felt much better.

Samuel Is Born

19 Elkanah and his family got up early the next morning and worshiped the Lord. Then they went back home to Ramah. Later the Lord blessed Elkanah and Hannah 20 with a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the Lord for him.[g]

Hannah Gives Samuel to the Lord

21 The next time Elkanah and his family went to offer their yearly sacrifice, he took along a gift that he had promised to give to the Lord. 22 But Hannah stayed home, because she had told Elkanah, “Samuel and I won’t go until he’s old enough for me to stop nursing him. Then I’ll give him to the Lord, and he can stay there at Shiloh for the rest of his life.”

23 “You know what’s best,” Elkanah said. “Stay here until it’s time to stop nursing him. I’m sure the Lord will help you do what you have promised.”[h] Hannah did not go to Shiloh until she stopped nursing Samuel.

24-25 When it was the time of year to go to Shiloh again, Hannah and Elkanah[i] took Samuel to the Lord’s house. They brought along a three-year-old bull,[j] a twenty-pound sack of flour, and a clay jar full of wine. Hannah and Elkanah offered the bull as a sacrifice, then brought the little boy to Eli.

26 “Sir,” Hannah said, “a few years ago I stood here beside you and asked the Lord 27 to give me a child. Here he is! The Lord gave me just what I asked for. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will be the Lord’s servant for as long as he lives.”

Hannah Prays

Elkanah[k] worshiped the Lord there at Shiloh, and Hannah prayed:

You make me strong
    and happy, Lord.
You rescued me.
Now I can be glad
    and laugh at my enemies.

No other god[l] is like you.
We’re safer with you
    than on a high mountain.[m]
I can tell those proud people,
    “Stop your boasting!
Nothing is hidden from the Lord,
    and he judges what we do.”

Our Lord, you break
    the bows of warriors,
but you give strength
    to everyone who stumbles.
People who once
    had plenty to eat
must now hire themselves out
    for only a piece of bread.
But you give the hungry more
    than enough to eat.
A woman did not have a child,
    and you gave her seven,
but a woman who had many
    was left with none.
You take away life,
    and you give life.
You send people down
to the world of the dead
    and bring them back again.

Our Lord, you are the one
    who makes us rich or poor.
You put some in high positions
    and bring disgrace on others.
You lift the poor and homeless
    out of the garbage dump
and give them places of honor
    in royal palaces.

You set the world on foundations,
    and they belong to you.
You protect your loyal people,
but everyone who is evil
    will die in darkness.

We cannot win a victory
    by our own strength.
10 Our Lord, those who attack you
    will be broken in pieces
when you fight back
    with thunder from heaven.
You will judge the whole earth
and give power and strength
    to your chosen king.

Samuel Stays with Eli

11 Elkanah and Hannah went back home to Ramah, but the boy Samuel stayed to help Eli serve the Lord.

Eli’s Sons

12-13 Eli’s sons were priests, but they were dishonest and refused to obey the Lord. So, while people were boiling the meat from their sacrifices, these priests would send over a servant with a large, three-pronged fork. 14 The servant would stick the fork into the cooking pot, and whatever meat came out on the fork was taken back to the priests. That is how these two priests treated every Israelite who came to offer sacrifices in Shiloh. 15 Sometimes, when people were offering sacrifices, the servant would come over, even before the fat had been cut off and sacrificed to the Lord.[n]

Then the servant would tell them, “The priest doesn’t want his meat boiled! Give him some raw meat that he can roast!”

16 Usually the people answered, “Take what you want. But first, let us sacrifice the fat to the Lord.”

“No,” the servant would reply. “If you don’t give it to me now, I’ll take it by force.”

17 Eli’s sons did not show any respect for the sacrifices that the people offered. This was a terrible sin, and it made the Lord very angry.

Hannah Visits Samuel

18 The boy Samuel served the Lord and wore a special linen garment[o] 19 and the clothes[p] his mother made for him. She would bring new clothes every year, when she and her husband came to offer sacrifices at Shiloh.

20 Eli would always bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “Samuel was born in answer to your prayers. Now you have given him to the Lord. I pray that the Lord will bless you with more children to take his place.” After Eli had blessed them, Elkanah and Hannah would return home.

21 The Lord was kind to Hannah, and she had three more sons and two daughters. But Samuel grew up at the Lord’s house in Shiloh.

Eli Warns His Sons

22 Eli was now very old, and he heard what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.[q] 23-24 “Why are you doing these awful things?” he asked them. “I’ve been hearing nothing but complaints about you from all of the Lord’s people. 25 If you harm another person, God can help make things right between the two of you. But if you commit a crime against the Lord, no one can help you!”

But the Lord had already decided to kill them. So he kept them from listening to their father.

A Prophet Speaks to Eli

26 Each day the Lord and his people liked Samuel more and more.

27 One day a prophet came to Eli and gave him this message from the Lord:

When your ancestors were slaves of the king of Egypt, I came and showed them who I am. 28-29 Out of all the tribes of Israel, I chose your family to be my priests. I wanted them to offer sacrifices and burn incense to me and to find out from me what I want my people to do. I commanded everyone to bring their sacrifices here where I live, and I allowed you and your family to keep those that were not offered to me on the altar.

But you honor your sons instead of me! You don’t respect[r] the sacrifices and offerings that are brought to me, and you’ve all gotten fat from eating the best parts.

30 I am the Lord, the God of Israel. I promised to always let your family serve me as priests, but now I tell you that I cannot do this any longer! I honor anyone who honors me, but I put a curse on anyone who hates me. 31 The time will come when I will kill you and everyone else in your family. Not one of you will live to an old age.

32 Your family[s] will have a lot of trouble. I will be kind to Israel,[t] but everyone in your family will die young. 33 If I let anyone from your family be a priest, his[u] life will be full of sadness and sorrow. But most of the men in your family will die a violent death![v] 34 To prove to you that I will do these things, your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will die on the same day.

35 I have chosen someone else to be my priest, someone who will be faithful and obey me. I will always let his family serve as priests and help my chosen king. 36 But if anyone is left from your family, he will come to my priest and beg for money or a little bread. He may even say to my priest, “Please let me be a priest, so I will at least have something to eat.”

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[w] 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,[x] 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.

Footnotes

  1. 1.1 Ramah: The Hebrew has “Ramathaim,” a longer form of “Ramah” (see verse 19).
  2. 1.2 two wives: Having more than one wife was allowed in those times.
  3. 1.3 Eli. . . priests: One ancient translation; Hebrew “Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, served the Lord as priests.”
  4. 1.4 meat: For some sacrifices, like this one, only part of the meat was burned. Some was given to the priest, and the rest was eaten by the family and guests of the worshiper (see Leviticus 3.1-17; 7.11-18).
  5. 1.7 house of the Lord: Another name for the place of worship at Shiloh, which still may have been the sacred tent at this time.
  6. 1.11 his hair. . . cut: Never cutting the child’s hair would be a sign that he would belong to the Lord (see Numbers 6.1,21, especially verse 5).
  7. 1.20 him: In Hebrew “Samuel” sounds something like “Someone from God” or “The name of God” or “His name is God.”
  8. 1.23 the Lord. . . promised: The Dead Sea Scrolls and two ancient translations; the Standard Hebrew Text “the Lord will do what he said.”
  9. 1.24,25 When it was the time of year to go to Shiloh again, Hannah and Elkanah: The Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation; the Standard Hebrew Text “she.”
  10. 1.24,25 a three-year-old bull: The Dead Sea Scrolls and two ancient translations; the Standard Hebrew Text “three bulls.”
  11. 1.28 Elkanah: Or “They” or “Samuel.”
  12. 2.2 god: The Hebrew text has “holy one,” a term for supernatural beings or gods.
  13. 2.2 mountain: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 2.
  14. 2.15 sacrificed to the Lord: The fat belonged to the Lord and was supposed to be burned as a sacrifice before the rest of the animal was cooked and eaten (see Leviticus 3.3,4,9,10,14,15).
  15. 2.18 a special linen garment: Either a loin cloth or a jacket or a vest worn only by priests.
  16. 2.19 clothes: The Hebrew word means a sleeveless coat or robe that was worn by priests. Samuel was a small child, but his mother made him clothes just like those worn by priests.
  17. 2.22 Israel: The Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation; the Standard Hebrew Text adds “He heard that his sons were even sleeping with the women who worked at the entrance to the sacred tent.”
  18. 2.28,29 don’t respect: The Standard Hebrew Text; the Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation “are greedy for.”
  19. 2.32 Your family: Or “My house of worship.”
  20. 2.31,32 Not one. . . to Israel: The Standard Hebrew Text; the Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation do not have these words.
  21. 2.33 his: The Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation; the Standard Hebrew Text “your.”
  22. 2.33 die a violent death: The Dead Sea Scrolls and one ancient translation; the Standard Hebrew Text “die.”
  23. 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.
  24. 3.13 refused. . . me: Or “were insulting everyone.”

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