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We spent the evening discussing the impending battle with Boaz and Ruth. They too were concerned, not only with the idolatry that still persisted among the Israelites, but also with the fact that the timing was still too early for deliverance.
We determined, however, that we ought to go to Shiloh to speak with Eli himself. He was, after all, the only one at the time who was in a position to root out the idols in Israel. We did not know if he would dare to demand this, given his connection through his wife to the idolatrous priests in the city of Dan. However, it seemed good to us that we should at least attempt to make him see the light.
“I cannot go with you myself,” Boaz said, “for it is too far, and I am too old for such a journey. But I will send Obed with you, for he carries my staff and my ring of authority. When you get to Ramah, give my greetings to Samuel, if you see him.”
So the following day, we set out for Shiloh to talk to the aging High Priest. No doubt he was waiting uneasily and anxiously for news of the battle, for he had long been the guardian of the Ark.
Along the way, we discussed the situation in Shiloh and the long-forgotten prophecies given to Eli many years earlier. We wondered if the years had finally convinced Eli that the prophecies of disaster had been avoided. Yet we knew that Eli himself was conflicted. Though he was weak-willed and unable, by political considerations, to obey the will of God, nonetheless, he knew God’s will.
Eli had just enough discernment to make him uneasy in life. We could feel his alarm at the thought of the Ark being taken from its safe place in Shiloh to a place of uncertainty on the battlefield. As Obed put it, “If I were in his place, I would be very worried that the prophecies might now be fulfilled.”
It was an easy day’s journey to Ramah, which lay just north of the Jebusite city that was originally called Jerusalem, that is, the City of Salem. When we came to Ramah, Obed led us to Samuel’s house, for he had gone there a few times over the years. We ourselves knew where the house of Elkanah was, but Samuel had built a house for himself not far away on the family estate given to them in the days of Joshua. As we arrived, Sippore flew into a nearby tree. As we approached the door of the house, we dismounted and were welcomed by Samuel and his wife, Leah. Others in the household led Pegasus and Pleiades away to care for them.
“It has been too long since we saw you,” I said. “It is indeed good to see you again after so many years.”
“These are my sons, Joel and Abijah,” 127 Samuel said, pointing to the two teenage boys, who looked to be about 15 and 17 years old.
“We are pleased to meet you,” I said to them.
“Now come and sit down,” Samuel said. “Rest your feet.”
Servants came to wash the dust from our feet after our journey. It is remarkable how refreshed one can feel with clean feet! Sipporah left the room to talk with Leah. Bread and wine were brought out, and we were soon fully engaged in deep conversation about the times in which the Israelites lived. Of course, the main news that was on everyone’s mind was the great battle that was taking shape in the Valley of Sorek.
“Tell me, my friend,” I said, “how it is that you have returned to your father’s house in Ramah? Is that not unusual?”
“I was released from my mother’s vow a few years ago,” Samuel explained. Hophni and Phinehas were increasingly jealous of my calling as a prophet and wanted to get rid of me. However, they could not exile me altogether, so they sent me home to judge the people in this area. I make trips north every few months to judge disputes in Bethel and even farther north in Shechem. But for the most part, my days are quiet.”
“Your quiet days,” I said, “are about to end. You know that you are the one called to deliver Israel. You must complete what Samson started. Samson’s role in the divine plan is now finished, and yours is about to begin.”
“Yes, I am aware of that,” Samuel said. “Samson succeeded in bringing Israel into the present crisis. He inadvertently excited many young men of Israel into doing battle with the Philistines, a battle which they cannot win until idolatry is rooted out of Shiloh. Yahweh has shown me that Israel will lose this battle in the Valley of Sorek, and that the Ark will be taken by the Philistines.”
“What??” Obed said with a shocked look. “How could God allow such a thing to happen? Surely His presence will not be removed from Israel and go to idolatrous Philistines!”
“The Philistines will regret having the presence of Yahweh in their midst,” Samuel said. “Do not worry. The Ark will return to Israel—but only after the prophecies to Eli have been fulfilled and only when Israel is ready to repent of its idolatry.”
“We are on our way to Shiloh to talk to Eli. We hope to give him one final opportunity to submit to the will of God, which he rejected so many years ago.”
“God is indeed merciful,” Samuel said. “He never ceases to give opportunities to those who are in rebellion against Him. However, I have yet to see anyone repent after so long. It seems to me that the time of judgment has finally come upon him, and that if he repents, he will be the first man in history to do so after so many warnings. Long years of refusing to heed the voice of God has made him blind.”
“Even so, we must try, for God has purpose in this,” I said. “I do not think that we will find any warm welcome in Shiloh, for Eli was suspicious of me from the beginning. It has been 40 years since I first met him at the Tribal Council. In those days I was older than he was. He will probably wonder what sort of dark magic I possess that now makes him far older than I.”
We talked well into the evening before the waning moon reminded us that it was time to rest up for the next day’s journey.