Twilight hangs over the land of Israel. YHWH’s ark is housed in the temple at Shiloh, where the sons of Eli, members of the priesthood, abuse their ministerial duties before it. Years of embezzling from the deity itself and sleeping with female servants in the tabernacle is cause for the termination of their priestly election, and contact with YHWH in word or vision has become exceedingly rare.
But the deity has not completely cut off relations with Israel. For even as the light slowly fades from the temple and its environs, a single lamp illuminates the boy Samuel lying dutifully beside the ark. YHWH calls out to the boy three times and three times Samuel mistakenly presents himself to Eli, the high priest. At the third interruption, Eli instructs the boy in his response to YHWH, ironically initiating his successor’s rise. Samuel’s first priestly task is to pronounce the judgement of the deity against Eli and his progeny. The devastating verdict establishes the boy as Israel’s true spiritual leader, a divine spokesman the like of whom had not been known since the days of Moses. YHWH opens the lines of communication afresh.
Keywords: twilight, God calls a child, holy vs unholy, prophecy