1 Samuel 1 - 3


The entire book of Samuel is a study in contrasts.  We will see the God of Israel contrasted to the god of the Philistines.  We will see Saul contrasted to David.  The first such contrast which we shall see shall be Samuel and Eli.


As the book opens, Samuel is not yet born.  Eli is the high priest over the nation.  There is no king.  Neither is there mention of any judge, although this was the period when the judges judged over Israel.  And yet, the book opens, not with kings or judges or national occurrences, but with a family.  In this, it is similar to the book of Ruth.


We are reminded in this of the importance of the family.  We worship a God who delights in working His will through the simple and the mundane.





This story is set in the days of the judges.  It was a troubled time and this is a troubled family.  We could even call it a dysfunctional family.


1.         The Cast of Characters.


            Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.

            And he had two wives: the name of the one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (1 Samuel 1:1-2).


This story begins with a family.  They live in the hill country of Ephraim, the land that would later be known as Samaria.  Ramathaim means “two heights” (dual).  Its singular form is “Ramah.”  1 Chronicles 6 lists Samuel’s ancestors as coming from the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi, though not from the priestly line of Aaron.  Thus, when his father is called an “Ephraimite” it is an indication of WHERE he lived, not his tribal origins.


The Levites had no tribal inheritance of their own.  The Lord was their inheritance.  And so, they could be found residing in the lands of all 12 tribes.  There is an interesting parallel in this opening description of this man with the opening of the Samson account in the book of Judges.


Judges 13:2

1 Samuel 1:1-2

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites

Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim

whose name was Manoah...

 and his name was Elkanah

...and his wife was barren and had borne no children.

...but Hannah had no children.


In both cases, a child is given to the barren wife and this child is dedicated to the Lord for a special purpose.  In both cases, the sign of this vow would be that the hair of the child would not be cut.


Barrenness was the ultimate tragedy to a woman in the ancient world.  It was both a reflection on her worth as a woman as well as a practical problem in an era when one’s “social security” was dependant upon one’s children.


In verse 6 we read that Hannah’s barrenness was a source of contention between the two wives.  Actually, it was probably the fact that there were two wives that brought about this contention.  And Hannah’s barrenness was regularly used to demean her.


2.         Worship in Shiloh.


            Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.  And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were priests to the Lord there. (1 Samuel 1:3).

This is the first usage in the Bible of the phrase “Lord of hosts.”


Shiloh was a city in the hill country of Ephraim to the north of Bethel (20 miles north of Jerusalem).  Shiloh had been the place of worship in Canaan since the days of Joshua (Joshua 18:1).  The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were located here.  It was here that the regular sacrifices were made.  And it was Elkanah’s regular practice to come here once a year to lead his family in worship.


Unfortunately, the attitudes within his family were anything but worshipful.  Instead, there was friction in the family.  Contention on the way to church.  Nagging in the narthex.  The very thing that was supposed to reflect the unity of God’s people became instead a source of bickering, frustration and tears.


Elkanah would give a double portion to Hannah which would make Peninnah jealous and then Peninnah would provoke Hannah about her barrenness and Hannah would cry to Elkanah.


When Hannah goes to Elkanah with her tears, he tries to comfort her, asking, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1:8 — note that he echoes the blessing given to Naomi in Ruth 4:15).


3.         Hannah’s Prayer.


Hannah comes to the tabernacle (described here as the “temple of the Lord”) with her prayer and her tears.


Her Request

Give Thy maidservant a son

Her Vow

I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life


The sign of this vow would be that of the Nazarite:   “...a razor shall never come on his head.”


As she was praying silently (verse 13 says, “she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard”), Eli, the high priest, saw her and concluded that she was drunk.  You see, silent prayer was not the norm in that day.  And so, she explains what she is doing.  He accepts her explanation and blesses her.


4.         The Birth of Samuel.


            Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned again to their house in Ramah.  And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.

            And it came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).


The name “Samuel” can either mean “name of God” or “God who hears.”  In view of the reason which Hannah gives in verse 20, the latter meaning seems to be in view here.  It can also mean “one who hears God.”  Perhaps there is a double meaning.


He was given this name because she had asked of the Lord and He had heard her prayer.  But when we come to chapter 3, we shall see Samuel hearing the voice of God.


There is an interesting contrast and comparison to be seen between Samuel and Jesus.




He was bron to take away his mother’s shame.

He was born to take our shame upon Himself.

Though he was from the tribe of Ephraim, he served as a priest.

Though he was from the tribe of Judah, he served as our great high priest.

He was a prophet.

He was the ultimate prophet.

He was a king maker.

He is the King of kings.


5.         Dedicated to the Lord.


            Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young. (1 Samuel 1:24).


It was common in Biblical times for breast-feeding to take place until the child was two or three years of age (2 Maccabees 7:27 describes a mother who had nursed her son until the age of three).


Though the child was still very young, Hannah brings him to the place of worship in Shiloh to dedicate him to the service of the Lord.


6.         Hannah’s Song.


1 Samuel 2:1-10 gives a song of thanksgiving and worship which is sung before the Lord.



Exultation of the Lord

Holiness (2:2).

A Rock (2:2).


The Abasement of Men

A God of knowledge (2:3).


The Actions of the Lord

Kills and makes alive (2:6).

Makes poor and rich (2:7).

Godly versus the wicked (2:9).


The Abasement of Men

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give strength to His king.


Notice the mention of the Lord’s KING in verse 10.  There was as yet no king in Israel.  But there would be.  He would be both KING and ANOINTED ONE.





T. J. Campo calls this section a cautionary tale ― a story of someone who made such a great mistake that their name became a byword for misdeeds.

            Benadict Arnold

            Judas Iscariot

            Lot’s wife


Each of these are symbols of misdeeds.  They are warnings that give us lessons of what not to do.  This passage is also a cautionary tale.  It is a story of someone who neglected to discipline his sons.


1.         Eli’s Sons in Contrast with Samuel.


There is a continuing contrast between the person of Samuel versus the sons of Eli.  In chapter 1 (1:16), Eli had accused Hannah of being “a worthless woman” (literally, “a daughter of belial”).  1 Samuel 2:12 says that “the sons of Eli were worthless men” (literally, “sons of belial”).  The term “belial” is a compound which seems to indicate “without profit, worthless.”


The second chapter of 1 Samuel sets up a contrast.  It is a contrast between the sinful sons of Eli versus young Samuel who was “growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men” (2:26).


The Sons of Eli


Bullied the worshipers, despising the offering of the Lord (2:12-17).

Ministering to the Lord wearing a linen Ephod supplied annually by his mother (2:18-19).

Seducing female worshipers who had come to the tabernacle (2:22).

Elkanah and Hannah blessed and given more children (2:20-21).

Reproved by Eli for their sinful activities (2:22-25).

Growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men (2:26).


The story of Eli’s two sons points out a common pitfall among pastors and preachers.  Such spiritual leaders often give themselves so much to ministry that they neglect the ministry that they are to have to their own families.


            Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men. (1 Samuel 2:26).


Literally, this reads that Samuel was growing “great (   ) and good (   ) with Yahweh and also with men.”  This is somewhat remenicent of the words describing the growth of Jesus who “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).


2.         Prophecy against the Sons of Eli.


            Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, `Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house?

            “`And did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel?

            “`Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?

            “Therefore the Lord God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever;’ but now the Lord declares, `Far be it from Me - for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.

            “`Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house.’” (1 Samuel 2:27-31).


The man bringing this message to Eli is described as a “man of God.”  Perhaps the implication is that Eli could no longer be described in this way.  He was still the high priest, but he was no longer a man of God.


This man was a prophet.  He came with a message from the Lord.  The message is one of judgment.  Both Eli and his sons will be judged.  His sons will be judged for their sins.  And Eli will be judged for participating in the fruits of their sins.  He had “grown fat” on the offerings which should have gone to the Lord.  And he had done so without rebuking them (3:13).





“This will be the SIGN to you... Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them shall die.”

And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died (1 Samuel 4:11).


“I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest... I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always”

Samuel & his Descendants (1 Chronicles 6:23; 6:33).  Zadok & his Descendants (1 Chronicles 29:22).  Ultimate fulfillment is Christ who became our High Priest.


Notice the contrast.  It is the same contrast which always divides humanity.  It is the contrast between those who are faithful to the Lord and between those who reject the word of the Lord.

The last descendant of Phinehas will be the priest Abiathar who will seek to crown Adonijah as king instead of Solomon (1 Kings 1:7).


Even though Hophni and Phinehas are physical descendants of Aaron, their priesthood becomes a false and a rejected priesthood.  And even though Samuel is not of the right pedigree to be a proper priest, HE is the one whom God will choose.


The theme begun in Genesis 3:15 continues.  Hophni and Phinehas have shown themselves to be followers of the Serpent.  And they shall be replaced by Samuel, the promised seed of the woman.  The lesson of this passage applies to more than priests and prophets and Bible teachers.  The New Testament teaches that all believers are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  The question is to what priesthood YOU belong.






Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3


Penniah sinks to obscurity

Eli & Sons condemned

Eli’s line is to end


Hannah has Samuel

Samuel grows great before the Lord before men

Replaced by an enduring house


1.         A Voice in the Night.


The first thing that we must notice is that “word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (1 Samuel 3:1).  The Old Testament was NOT an era when God was constantly speaking through His prophets.  Knowing this will help us to understand that there are periods of history when prophecy is not to be found.  The experience of Samuel was unusual.  And because it was unusual, it was not expected.


These were the days of the Judges when every man did what was right in his own eyes.  The same had been true for the sons of Eli.  For a long time, their sin had been met by silence from heaven.  But now God is going to break the silence.  Now He is going to speak.


We read in verse 3 that the lamp of God had not yet gone out.  This took place in the early hours of the morning and the lamp within the Tabernacle was still spreading its soft light.  It was also true that the spiritual lamp of Israel had not yet been extinguished.  It was casting its soft light in the person of Samuel.


As Eli and Samuel lay sleeping, the Lord called to Samuel (3:4).  Samuel had never before heard the voice of the Lord.  And so, it is only natural that he assumed that Eli was calling to him.  This happened three times.  After the third time, Eli realized that there was no one else in the Tabernacle at that the Lord was calling Samuel.


This is a wonderful picture of God coming quietly to His Tabernacle.  He came to where the ark was.  He did this ultimately in the person of Jesus.  The incarnation took place when God “tabernacled” with men.

2.         The Message of God.


            And the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.

            “In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.” (1 Samuel 3:11-12).


The message was that the judgment which had been prophesied against Eli would soon come to pass.  This must have been a difficult thing.  Samuel is called to minister truty to his teacher.  Up to now, Eli has been the teacher and Samuel has been the student.  But that changed.  Samuel will now teach his teacher.  And it is a tough subject.  He must proclaim Eli’s fall.


3.         Report to Eli.


Though Samuel was afraid to deliver this message to Eli, the old priest insisted and accepted the word of the Lord:  “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18).


4.         The Beginning of Samuel’s Ministry.


            Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail.

            And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 3:19-20).


Samuel will be ultimately seen as prophet, priest and king-maker.  His ministry was recognized the entire length of the land.


Do you remember how this chapter started?  It started with the stated fact that “word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent” (3:1).  This chapter ends with the recognition by all the people of Israel that the Lord had revealed Himself to Samuel.


God has spoken.  The good news of the gospel is that He has broken the silence of history.  He has spoken in many ways and at many times.  And ultimately, He spoke in the most personal way possible.  He spoke through His own Son.

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