There was a man of Israel who went up each year from the town of Ramah to a place called Shiloh to pay his vows to the Lord of hosts. And his wife, whose name was Hannah, went with him. The man’s name was Elkanah.
Eli was the highpriest at that time, and as he sat in the Lord’s house he saw Hannah on her knees with her eyes full of tears.
And he spoke to her in a kind voice, and said: May God grant thee what thou dost ask of him. And Hannah was glad at the highpriest’s words, for she had asked God to give her a son.
And the Lord gave Hannah a son, and she called his name Samuel, which means “Asked of the Lord.”
Samuel was quite young when Hannah took him up to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And when they brought the child to Eli, Hannah said, I am the woman that stood by thee here and prayed to the Lord. For this child did I pray, and the Lord heard me and gave me what I asked for. So I have brought him to the Lord; so long as he lives shall he be the child of God. For this was the vow she made if God would give her a son.
And Samuel was left to stay with Eli in the Lord’s house.
Now Eli had two sons, and they were priests in the Lord’s house. But they were not fit for the place, for they were bad men, and broke God’s laws. And by their sins they kept men from the house of the Lord.
But Samuel, though a young child, did what was right and pleased the Lord. And his mother made him a coat, and brought it to him each year when she and her husband went up to Shiloh. And Eli spoke kind words to them, and asked the Lord to bless them for the sake of the child whom they gave to him.
Now Eli was an old man, and when he heard of all the things his sons had done, he did not drive them out of the Lord’s house as he should have done, but let them go on in their sins. He cared more to please his sons than he did to please the Lord.
One night when Eli and Samuel lay down to sleep, the child heard a voice speak his name. And he said, Here am I. And he got up and ran to Eli, for he thought it was his voice, and he said, Here am I, for thou did’st call me.
Eli said, I did not call thee, my son. Go back, and lie down. And the lad did so.
In a short time he heard the same voice say, Samuel—Samuel.
And he rose at once and went to Eli, and said to him, Here am I, for thou did’st call me. But Eli said, I did not call thee, and sent the lad back to his bed once more.
Then Samuel heard the voice a third time, and went to Eli and said, Here am I, for thou did’st call me.
And Eli knew it was the Lord who spoke to Samuel. And he said to the lad, Go, lie down, and if he call thee, say, Speak, Lord, for I hear thee.
And Samuel went and lay down. And the Lord came for the fourth time, and called, Samuel—Samuel!
And Samuel said, Speak, Lord, for I hear thee.
And the Lord told Samuel all that he meant to do to the house of Eli. He had let his sons go on in their sins, and they were to be put to death in a way that would make men fear God.
Samuel lay still till daylight. Then he rose, but did not dare to tell Eli what God had told him.
But Eli called him and said, What did the Lord say to thee? I pray thee hide it not from me.
So Samuel told Eli all that the Lord had said. When Eli heard it, he said, It is the Lord, let him do what he thinks is best.
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and blest him, and it was known to all that he was one of God’s saints, who could foretell things that were to take place. Such wise men were sometimes called seers.
The words which God spoke to Samuel came true; for the children of Israel went out to fight the Philistines, and a host of them were slain.
Those who came back said, Let us take the ark out with us to save us from our foes.
Now God had not told them to take the ark, and it was a sin for them to touch it. They should have put their trust in the Lord, and looked to him for help.
But they sent to Shiloh for the ark, and Eli’s two sons came with it. When it was brought to the camp the Jews gave such a shout that the earth shook with the noise.
And when the Philistines heard it, they said, What does it mean? And they were told that the ark of the Lord had been brought to the camp of Israel.
And they were in great fear; for they said, God is come to the camp! Woe unto us, for this is the first time such a thing has been done!
And they said, Let us be strong and fight like men, that we may not be slaves to these Jews!
So they fought once more with the Jews, and slew a host of them, and the rest fled to their tents. And the ark of the Lord fell into the hands of the foe, and Eli’s two sons were slain.
And the same day a man ran down to Shiloh, with his clothes rent, and bits of earth on his head to show his grief.
Eli sat on a seat by the wayside, where he kept watch, for he was in great fear lest harm should come to the ark of God. And when the man came through the crowd and told that the ark was lost, all cried out with great fear. And when Eli heard the noise, he said, What is it? What do those sounds mean? For his eyes were dim with age, and he could not see.
And the man ran up to Eli and said, I am he that came out of the fight, and I fled from there today.
And Eli said, What word hast thou, my son?
And he said that Israel had been put to flight with great loss, his two sons were dead, and the ark of God in the hands of the Philistines.
When the man spoke of the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat by the side of the gate, and broke his neck, and died there. And he had been a high priest and a judge in Israel for twoscore years.
And the ark of God was with the Philistines for more than half the year, and to each place where it was sent it brought great grief.
So at last they sent for their wise men, and said to them, What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? To what place shall we send it?
And the wise men told them to make a new cart, and tie two cows to it, but to bring the calves home with them. Then they should put the ark on the cart, and let the cows draw it where they would.
If the cows should leave their calves and go down to the land of Israel, it would be a sign that the Lord was their guide, and that he had sent these ills on the Philistines for their great sins.
But if the cows did not take the ark, it would show that the Lord did not want it back, and that all these ills they had to bear had come by chance, and were not sent from the Lord.
So the Philistines did as their wise men said. They took the two cows and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they laid the ark on the cart, and let the cows go where they chose.
And the cows took the straight road to the land of Israel till they came to a place called Bethshemesh.
The Jews who dwelt there were out in the wheat fields. And the cows brought the cart to the fields of a man named Joshua, and stood there by a great stone.
Then some of the men of Levi came and took the ark and set it on the stone. And they broke up the cart, and burnt the cows as a gift of praise to the Lord.