Each night young Samuel slept inside the tabernacle at Shiloh. An oil lamp was supposed to burn all night long in the tabernacle. Eli, the priest, was old and his eyesight was too poor to make sure the lamp was always burning. It was Samuel’s job to make sure the lamp never went out.
Samuel had lived at the tabernacle since he was very young. He saw his parents just once a year when they came to the tabernacle to offer sacrifices and to bring him a new set of clothes. Samuel’s parents had promised the Lord that they would have Samuel serve Him in the tabernacle. The old priest Eli taught Samuel to love and serve Jehovah.
One night Samuel was fast asleep. Then he heard a soft voice call his name: “Samuel, Samuel.”
Samuel thought Eli must need something. He went to Eli’s room. “Here am I,” Samuel said. Eli stirred from his sleep, surprised to see Samuel. He had not called the boy. Eli sent Samuel back to his bed.
Samuel returned to his bed and laid his head down to sleep. Everything in the tabernacle was quiet. Suddenly, a voice again called, “Samuel.”
The boy jumped from his bed and ran back to Eli’s room. He was certain he had heard someone call his name. Samuel asked Eli what he wanted. Puzzled, Eli said he had not called Samuel. Once again, he told the boy to lie back down and go to sleep.
Samuel obeyed. Then he heard a voice call his name a third time. When Samuel went back to the priest, Eli finally realized who had been calling the boy. Eli told Samuel it was Jehovah calling his name. He said Samuel should go back to his bed. When Jehovah called again, Samuel should say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.”
Samuel did as Eli told him. He went back to his bed to lie down and listen.
The voice spoke again, “Samuel, Samuel.”
This time Samuel answered, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.”
Then Jehovah spoke to Samuel.
Jehovah explained that Eli’s sons were not worthy priests. Samuel would be called to become a prophet. Even though Samuel was just a boy, Jehovah knew his name and had a plan for him.
As Samuel grew, Jehovah continued to teach him, and Samuel continued to listen. When Eli died, Samuel became the prophet. He was a great leader, priest, and judge in Israel for many years.