Biblical Date: 1100 – 1011BC
Samuel was the last Israelite Judge.
His father had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah, his first wife, was childless. She made a vow to the Lord at the temple saying, “O Lord of hosts, if you will look with compassion on the suffering of your female servant…, and give a male child to your servant, then I will dedicate him to the Lord all the days of his life”. Eli, a priest at the temple, seeing a deeply distressed Hannah giving sacrifice, said to her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request that you have asked of him”. (1 Samuel 3:11, 17)
Hannah conceived and bore a son whom she called Samual. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple and, having made the expected sacrifice, presented him to Eli at the Lord’s House of Shiloh. Hannah said to Eli, “I am the woman who previously stood here with you in order to pray to the Lord… for this boy…, now I dedicate him to the Lord”. (1 Samuel 1:26-28)
At around 12yrs old, Samuel, who was asleep in the temple with the Ark of the Covenant nearby, heard a voice calling, “Samuel”. Samuel got up and, thinking it was Eli who called, went to him saying, “Here I am”. Eli told him to return to sleep because he hadn’t called him. However, the same thing happened a second and then a third time! (1 Samuel 3:4)
Eli had begun to suspect that the calling was from God so, he told Samuel that if it happened again, reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”. (1 Samuel 3:9)
When Samuel returned to sleep, the voice called again. Samuel answered as Eli had advised. It was God and He revealed to Samuel the pending disaster that would befall Eli’s house, the house of Shiloh, and the Israeli people. Eli had two sons who were priests in the house but they were wicked men and did not recognize the Lord’s authority. In addition, Eli had not admonished them and allowed their misconduct to persist. (1 Samuel 2:12)
God said to Samuel, “The sin of the house of Eli can never be forgiven by sacrifice or by grain (food) offering”. (1 Samuel 3:14)
In the morning, Eli asked Samuel what the Lord had said and warned him not to keep anything secret. Samuel told all including the coming punishments promised by God. Eli responded, “He is the Lord, He will do what is good”. Eli knew that he had done wrong, foolishly not fulfilling his leadership duties and allowing the corruption of his sons to flourish. In his wisdom, he now accepted God’s rightful judgement.
During the declining years of Eli, now with little vision, the Philistines attacked Israel at Ebenezer and defeated them with nearly 4,000 people killed. The Israelites regrouped and decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant from the House of Shiloh to Ebenezer and into their next battle. Eli’s two sons followed the Ark and when it was brought into the camp, the people celebrated.
When the news reached the Philistines that the Ark had been brought into the camp, fear gripped them but they rallied their troops and a fierce battle ensued. Eli’s two sons were killed, as well as 30,000 Israeli soldiers and the Israelites defeat in battle. In addition, the Ark of the Covenant was stolen by the Philistines.
When the news reached Eli, he fell backwards from his chair, broke his neck and died.
Eli was 98 years old and had judged Israel for forty years. (1 Samuel 1:1-3:18, 4:1-7:14)
Leadership may appear attractive but it’s often easier to overlook challenging duties than face them!
Lord Jesus, guide and protect our leaders. Help them to recognise the needs of others and grant them the wisdom to follow the right path. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Prayer: Faith (St Benedict)
Gracious and Holy Father,
give us the wisdom to discover You,
the intelligence to understand You,
the diligence to seek after You,
the patience to wait for You,
eyes to behold You,
a heart to meditate upon You,
and a life to proclaim You,
through the power of the Spirit of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.