The Bible Story About The Early Years Of The Respected Prophet Samuel, And The Defeat Of Israel By The Philistines



This article is part of a series of Bible passages, which together are mainly about how the Bible says the Jewish race developed and were given laws, how they settled in ancient Israel, and how it says God sometimes punished them for disobeying his commands, which led to them changing their ways.
This is Part 2 (of 8) in Section 7: "The First Centuries In The Promised Land".


Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.


In the First Book of Samuel in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

1 Samuel chapter 1 (NIV)

1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD . 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD , her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD . 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life. "

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD , Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."

15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

17 Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."

18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.


19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."

21 When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, "After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD , and he will live there always."

23 "Do what seems best to you," Elkanah her husband told her. "Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word."

So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.


24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. 25 When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, "As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD . 27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD . For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD ." And he worshiped the LORD there.

1 Samuel chapter 2 (NLT)

11 Then Elkanah and Hannah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy became the LORD's helper, for he assisted Eli the priest.

12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD 13 or for their duties as priests. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli's sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, 14 the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli's sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. 15 Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal's fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting. 16 The man offering the sacrifice might reply, "Take as much as you want, but the fat must first be burned." Then the servant would demand, "No, give it to me now, or I'll take it by force." 17 So the sin of these young men was very serious in the LORD's sight, for they treated the LORD's offerings with contempt.


18 Now Samuel, though only a boy, was the LORD's helper. He wore a linen tunic just like that of a priest. 19 Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice. 20 Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "May the LORD give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the LORD." 21 And the LORD gave Hannah three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.


22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 23 Eli said to them, "I have been hearing reports from the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? 24 You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the LORD's people are not good. 25 If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede?" But Eli's sons wouldn't listen to their father, for the LORD was already planning to put them to death.

26 Meanwhile, as young Samuel grew taller, he also continued to gain favor with the LORD and with the people.

27 One day a prophet came to Eli and gave him this message from the LORD: "Didn't I reveal myself to your ancestors when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt? 28 I chose your ancestor Aaron from among all his relatives to be my priest, to offer sacrifices on my altar, to burn incense, and to wear the priestly garments as he served me. And I assigned the sacrificial offerings to you priests. 29 So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you honor your sons more than me - for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people!

30 "Therefore, the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The terrible things you are doing cannot continue! I had promised that your branch of the tribe of Levi would always be my priests. But I will honor only those who honor me, and I will despise those who despise me. 31 I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will live to a ripe old age. 32 You will watch with envy as I pour out prosperity on the people of Israel. But no members of your family will ever live out their days. 33 Those who are left alive will live in sadness and grief, and their children will die a violent death. 34 And to prove that what I have said will come true, I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day!

35 "Then I will raise up a faithful priest who will serve me and do what I tell him to do. I will bless his descendants, and his family will be priests to my anointed kings forever. 36 Then all of your descendants will bow before his descendants, begging for money and food. 'Please,' they will say, 'give us jobs among the priests so we will have enough to eat.'"

1 Samuel chapter 3 (TEV)

1 In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under the direction of Eli, there were very few messages from the Lord, and visions from him were quite rare. 2 One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; 3 Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Covenant Box was. Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning, 4 the Lord called Samuel. He answered, "Yes, sir!" 5 and ran to Eli and said, "You called me, and here I am."

But Eli answered, "I didn't call you; go back to bed." So Samuel went back to bed.

6 The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, "You called me, and here I am."

But Eli answered, "My son, I didn't call you; go back to bed."

1 Samuel chapter 3 (NIV)

8 The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."

Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD , for your servant is listening.' "

So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

11 And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family-from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'"

15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD . He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, "Samuel, my son." Samuel answered, "Here I am." 17 "What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you."

18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him.

Then Eli said, "He is the LORD ; let him do what is good in his eyes."

1 Samuel chapter 3 (NLT)

19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him, and everything Samuel said was wise and helpful. 20 All the people of Israel from one end of the land to the other knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. 21 The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there.


In earlier books of the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Exodus Chapter 25 (TEV)

1 The Lord said to Moses,

8 The people must make a sacred Tent for me, so that I may live among them. 9 Make it and all its furnishings according to the plan that I will show you.

10 "Make a Box out of acacia wood, 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high. 11 Cover it with pure gold inside and out and put a gold border all around it. 16 Then put in the Box the two stone tablets that I will give you, on which the commandments are written.

17 "Make a lid of pure gold, 45 inches long and 27 inches wide.

Exodus chapter 26 (TEV)

31 "Make a curtain of fine linen woven with blue, purple, and red wool. Embroider it with figures of winged creatures. 32 Hang it on four posts of acacia wood covered with gold, fitted with hooks, and set in four silver bases. 33 Place the curtain under the row of hooks in the roof of the Tent, and put behind the curtain the Covenant Box containing the two stone tablets. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

Exodus chapter 30 (TEV)

1 "Make an altar out of acacia wood, for burning incense. 6 Put this altar outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box. That is the place where I will meet you.

Leviticus chapter 16 (TEV)

1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who were killed when they offered unholy fire to the Lord. 2 He said, "Tell your brother Aaron that only at the proper time is he to go behind the curtain into the Most Holy Place, because that is where I appear in a cloud above the lid on the Covenant Box. If he disobeys, he will be killed. 3 He may enter the Most Holy Place only after he has brought a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." 5 The community of Israel shall give Aaron two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 6 He shall offer a bull as a sacrifice to take away his own sins and those of his family. 14 He shall take some of the bull's blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the lid and then sprinkle some of it seven times in front of the Covenant Box.

15 After that, he shall kill the goat for the sin offering for the people, bring its blood into the Most Holy Place, and sprinkle it on the lid and then in front of the Covenant Box, as he did with the bull's blood. 16 In this way he will perform the ritual to purify the Most Holy Place from the uncleanness of the people of Israel and from all their sins.

Numbers chapter 10 (TEV)

33 When the people left Sinai, the holy mountain, they traveled three days. The Lord's Covenant Box always went ahead of them to find a place for them to camp. 34 As they moved on from each camp, the cloud of the Lord was over them by day. 35 Whenever the Covenant Box started out, Moses would say, "Arise, Lord; scatter your enemies and put to flight those who hate you!"


In the first Book of Samuel, the Bible says:

1 Samuel chapter 4 (TEV)

1 At that time the Philistines gathered to go to war against Israel, so the Israelites set out to fight them. The Israelites set up their camp at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines attacked, and after fierce fighting they defeated the Israelites and killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3 When the survivors came back to camp, the leaders of Israel said, "Why did the Lord let the Philistines defeat us today? Let's go and bring the Lord's Covenant Box from Shiloh, so that he will go with us and save us from our enemies." 4 So they sent messengers to Shiloh and got the Covenant Box of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned above the winged creatures. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, came along with the Covenant Box.

5 When the Covenant Box arrived, the Israelites gave such a loud shout of joy that the earth shook. 6 The Philistines heard the shouting and said, "Listen to all that shouting in the Hebrew camp! What does it mean?" When they found out that the Lord's Covenant Box had arrived in the Hebrew camp, 7 they were afraid, and said, "A god has come into their camp! We're lost! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before! 8 Who can save us from those powerful gods? They are the gods who slaughtered the Egyptians in the desert! 9 Be brave, Philistines! Fight like men, or we will become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they were our slaves. So fight like men!"

10 The Philistines fought hard and defeated the Israelites, who went running to their homes. There was a great slaughter: thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were killed. 11 God's Covenant Box was captured, and Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were both killed.

12 A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran all the way from the battlefield to Shiloh and arrived there the same day. To show his grief, he had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head. 13 Eli, who was very worried about the Covenant Box, was sitting in his seat beside the road, staring. The man spread the news throughout the town, and everyone cried out in fear. 14 Eli heard the noise and asked, "What is all this noise about?" The man hurried to Eli to tell him the news 15 (Eli was now ninety-eight years old and almost completely blind.) 16 The man said, "I have escaped from the battle and have run all the way here today."

Eli asked him, "What happened, my son?" 17 The messenger answered, "Israel ran away from the Philistines; it was a terrible defeat for us! Besides that, your sons Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and God's Covenant Box was captured!"

18 When the man mentioned the Covenant Box, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He was so old and fat that the fall broke his neck, and he died. He had been a leader in Israel for forty years.

19 Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, and it was almost time for her baby to be born. When she heard that God's Covenant Box had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she suddenly went into labor and gave birth. 20 As she was dying, the women helping her said to her, "Be brave! You have a son!" But she paid no attention and did not answer. 21 She named the boy Ichabod, explaining, "God's glory has left Israel"-referring to the capture of the Covenant Box and the death of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 "God's glory has left Israel," she said, "because God's Covenant Box has been captured."

1 Samuel chapter 5 (TEV)

1 After the Philistines captured the Covenant Box, they carried it from Ebenezer to their city of Ashdod, 2 took it into the temple of their god Dagon, and set it up beside his statue. 3 Early the next morning the people of Ashdod saw that the statue of Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground in front of the Lord's Covenant Box. So they lifted it up and put it back in its place. 4 Early the following morning they saw that the statue had again fallen down in front of the Covenant Box. This time its head and both its arms were broken off and were lying in the doorway; only the body was left. 5 (That is why even today the priests of Dagon and all his worshipers in Ashdod step over that place and do not walk on it.)

6 The Lord punished the people of Ashdod severely and terrified them. He punished them and the people in the surrounding territory by causing them to have tumors. 7 When they saw what was happening, they said, "The God of Israel is punishing us and our god Dagon. We can't let the Covenant Box stay here any longer." 8 So they sent messengers and called together all five of the Philistine kings and asked them, "What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the God of Israel?"

"Take it over to Gath," they answered; so they took it to Gath, another Philistine city. 9 But after it arrived there, the Lord punished that city too and caused a great panic. He punished them with tumors which developed in all the people of the city, young and old alike. 10 So they sent the Covenant Box to Ekron, another Philistine city; but when it arrived there, the people cried out, "They have brought the Covenant Box of the God of Israel here, in order to kill us all!" 11 So again they sent for all the Philistine kings and said, "Send the Covenant Box of Israel back to its own place, so that it won't kill us and our families." There was panic throughout the city because God was punishing them so severely. 12 Even those who did not die developed tumors and the people cried out to their gods for help.

1 Samuel chapter 6 (TEV)

1 After the Lord's Covenant Box had been in Philistia for seven months, 2 the people called the priests and the magicians and asked, "What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the Lord? If we send it back where it belongs, what shall we send with it?" 3 They answered, "If you return the Covenant Box of the God of Israel, you must, of course, send with it a gift to him to pay for your sin. The Covenant Box must not go back without a gift. In this way you will be healed, and you will find out why he has kept on punishing you."

4 "What gift shall we send him?" the people asked.

They answered, "Five gold models of tumors and five gold mice, one of each for each Philistine king. The same plague was sent on all of you and on the five kings. 5 You must make these models of the tumors and of the mice that are ravaging your country, and you must give honor to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will stop punishing you, your gods, and your land. 6 Why should you be stubborn, as the king of Egypt and the Egyptians were? Don't forget how God made fools of them until they let the Israelites leave Egypt. 7 So prepare a new wagon and two cows that have never been yoked; hitch them to the wagon and drive their calves back to the barn. 8 Take the Lord's Covenant Box, put it on the wagon, and place in a box beside it the gold models that you are sending to him as a gift to pay for your sins. Start the wagon on its way and let it go by itself. 9 Then watch it go; if it goes toward the town of Beth Shemesh, this means that it is the God of the Israelites who has sent this terrible disaster on us. But if it doesn't, then we will know that he did not send the plague; it was only a matter of chance."

10 They did what they were told: they took two cows and hitched them to the wagon, and shut the calves in the barn. 11 They put the Covenant Box in the wagon, together with the box containing the gold models of the mice and of the tumors. 12 The cows started off on the road to Beth Shemesh and headed straight toward it, without turning off the road. They were mooing as they went. The five Philistine kings followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people of Beth Shemesh were reaping wheat in the valley, when suddenly they looked up and saw the Covenant Box. They were overjoyed at the sight. 14 The wagon came to a field belonging to a man named Joshua, who lived in Beth Shemesh, and it stopped there near a large rock. The people chopped up the wooden wagon and killed the cows and burned them as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. 15 The Levites lifted off the Covenant Box of the Lord and the box with the gold models in it, and placed them on the large rock. Then the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt sacrifices and other sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five Philistine kings watched them do this and then went back to Ekron that same day. 17 The Philistines sent the five gold tumors to the Lord as a gift to pay for their sins, one each for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 They also sent gold mice, one for each of the cities ruled by the five Philistine kings, both the fortified towns and the villages without walls. The large rock in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, on which they placed the Lord's Covenant Box, is still there as a witness to what happened.

19 The Lord killed seventy of the men of Beth Shemesh because they looked inside the Covenant Box. And the people mourned because the Lord had caused such a great slaughter among them. 20 So the men of Beth Shemesh said, "Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Where can we send him to get him away from us?" 21 They sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim to say, "The Philistines have returned the Lord's Covenant Box. Come down and get it."

1 Samuel chapter 7 (TEV)

1 So the people of Kiriath Jearim got the Lord's Covenant Box and took it to the house of a man named Abinadab, who lived on a hill. They consecrated his son Eleazar to be in charge of it. 2 The Covenant Box of the Lord stayed in Kiriath Jearim a long time, some twenty years. During this time all the Israelites cried to the Lord for help.



The next file in this section (Part 3), is entitled: "Victory Over the Warring Philistines; the Israelites' Request for a King, and the Anointing of Saul, the First King".
Bible

If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.


The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials: