Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his two wives (Hannah, who has no children, and Peninnah, who does) visit Shiloh yearly. Hannah is given a double portion for an offering. Peninnah provokes her and makes her miserable. Hannah prays that if God gives her a son, she will dedicate it to Him as a Nazarite. Eli the priest thinks she is drunk as she moved her lips, but then blesses her when he discovers the truth. Hannah gives birth to Samuel, and gives him to God in Shiloh once he has been weaned.
Hannah praises God. Her poem warns the arrogant and proud, and talks of a God who humiliates the strong and exalts the weak. Samuel ministers for Eli. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, are corrupt, stealing for themselves meat offerings, and and sleeping with women who assembled at the tabernacle. Eli rebukes them, but in vain, because God wanted to kill them. An unknown man of God pronounces judgment to Eli: his family will be cut off from the office of High Priest, and his sons will both die on the same day.
Samuel ministers in temple of God. God calls Samuel three times. Samuel thinks it is Eli. The third time, Eli advises Samuel to reply, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant hears.’ God tells of judgment against the house of Eli. When told of this by Samuel, Eli takes the news stoically. Samuel is established as a prophet.
Israel fights with Philistines, and is defeated, losing 4000 men. The elders decide to take the ark from Shiloh to the scene of the battle. The Philistines fear the ark, and the Lord’s reputation. However, another defeat ensues, with time with 30,000 men, and Hophni and Phinehas die. When told the bad news, Eli falls backwards off his chair, breaks his neck and dies. Phinehas’ wife gives birth to a son and calls it Ichabod, meaning ‘the glory has departed from Israel’. She then dies.
Philistines take ark of God to the temple of Dagon in Ashdod. The statue of Dagon is broken, and repeatedly falls down before the ark. The ark is moved from place to place (Ashdod, Gath and Ekron), but the people in each place are struck down with tumours. The Ekronites petition for the ark to be returned to the Israelites.