The Little Boy with a Linen Coat
I Samuel i: 1, to
the strong man ruled Israel as the thirteenth of the
judges; and after him came Eli as the fourteenth
judge. Eli was also the high-priest of the Lord in
the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
While Eli was the priest and the judge, a man was
living at Ramah in the mountains of Ephraim, whose
name was Elkanah. He had two wives, as did many men
in that time. One of these wives had children, but
the other wife, whose name was Hannah, had no child.
Every year Elkanah and his family went up to worship
at the house of the Lord in Shiloh, which was about
fifteen miles from his home. And at one of these
visits Hannah prayed to the Lord, saying:
"O Lord, if thou wilt look upon me, and give me a
son, he shall be given to the Lord as long as he
The Lord heard Hannah's prayer, and gave her a
little boy; and she called his name Samuel, which
means "Asked of God," because he had been given in
answer to her prayer. While he was still a little
child she brought him to Eli, the priest, and said
"My Lord, I am the woman who stood here praying. I
asked God for this child; and now I have promised
that he shall be the Lord's as long as he lives. Let
him stay here with you and grow up in God's house."
So the child Samuel stayed at Shiloh and lived with
Eli the priest in one of the tents beside the
Tabernacle. As he grew up he helped Eli in the work
of the Lord's house. He lit the lamps, and opened
the doors, and prepared the incense, and waited on
Eli, who was now growing old and was almost blind.
Samuel was all the more a help and a comfort to Eli
because his own sons, who were priests, were very
wicked young men. Eli had not trained them to do
right, nor punished them when they did wrong, when
they were children; so they grew up to become evil,
to disobey God's law, and to be careless in God's
worship. Eli's heart was very sad over the sins of
his sons; but now that he was old he could do
nothing to control them.
It had been a long time since God had spoken to men,
as in other days God had spoken to Moses, to Joshua,
and to Gideon. The men of Israel were longing for
the time to come when God would speak again to his
people as of old.
One night Samuel, while yet a child, was lying down
upon his bed in a tent beside the Tabernacle; he
heard a voice calling him by name. It was the Lord's
voice, but Samuel did not know it.
He answered, "Here I am!" and then he ran to Eli,
saying, "Here I am. You called me; what do you wish
me to do?"
And Eli said, "My child, I did not call you. Go and
lie down again."
Samuel lay down, but soon again heard the voice
calling to him, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Again he rose up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I
am; for I am sure that you called me."
"No," said Eli, "I did not call you. Lie down
A third time the voice was heard; and a third time
the boy rose up from his bed and went to Eli, sure
that Eli had called him. Eli now saw that this was
the Lord's voice that had spoken to Samuel. He said:
"Go, lie down once more; and if the voice speaks to
you again, say 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.'
Samuel went and lay down, and waited for the voice.
It spoke as if some one unseen were standing by his
bed, and saying, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said to the Lord, "Speak, Lord, for thy
And the Lord said to Samuel:
"Listen to what I say. I have seen the wickedness of
Eli's sons. And I have seen that their father did
not punish them when they were doing evil. I am
going to give to them such a punishment that the
story shall make every one's ears tingle who hears
Samuel lay in his room until the morning. Then he
arose and went about his work as usual, preparing
for the daily worship and opening the doors. He said
nothing of God's voice until Eli asked him. Eli said
"Samuel, my son, tell me what the Lord said to you
last night. Hide nothing from me."
And Samuel told Eli all that God had said, though it
was a sad message to Eli. And Eli said, "It is the
Lord; let him do what seems good to him."
And then the news went through all the land that God
had spoken once more to his people. And Hannah, the
lonely mother in the mountains of Ephraim, heard
that her son was the prophet to whom God spoke as
his messenger to all Israel.
From that time God spoke to Samuel, and Samuel gave
God's word to the twelve tribes.