The birth of Samuel signaled that the Lord was going to act in a new way to save His people Israel. Just as God opened the womb of the barren Sarah in order to fulfill His promise to Abraham to provide a line of descendants to bless the world, the Lord opened the womb of the barren Hannah, who gave her son Samuel to serve before God at Shiloh (Gen. 18:1–15; 21:1–7; 1 Sam. 1). But if there were any doubt that the arrival of Samuel heralded a new day for God’s people, today’s passage puts it to rest.
After Samuel’s birth and dedication at Shiloh, Hannah sang a remarkable song of praise to God. In this prayer, Hannah celebrated the Lord’s special care for the weak and needy, contrasting it with our Creator’s disdain for the arrogant and for those who think they are strong in themselves (1 Sam. 2:1–8). Clearly, Hannah knew of God’s pleasure to work through ordinary people such as her and Abraham to do great things. Indeed, the Lord saves the poor in spirit, those who do not trust in themselves but humbly rely on Him for salvation (Matt. 5:2–3).
Samuel’s significance is also seen in Hannah’s reference to God’s chosen king (1 Sam. 2:9–10). The era of the judges had proven that a righteous king was needed to keep the Lord’s people from doing only what was right in their own eyes (21:25). (And not only God’s people, of course, for all mankind, apart from grace, approves of evil; see Rom. 1:18–32.) But Samuel’s birth signified that the Lord would finally give the promised monarchy to Israel. After all, the same chapter that reports Hannah’s song also records the promise that God was raising up a priest to go in and out before His anointed one—His king—which is a clear reference to Samuel (2:27–35).
The Lord would raise up Samuel as a new priest because of the failures of Eli, the priest at Shiloh, and his sons. These sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were supposed to lead Israel in the correct worship of God, but they profaned the sacrifices, taking from them the fat and other portions that were to be burned up to the Lord (1:3; 2:12–17; see Lev. 1:10–13; 13:17). Eli tried to get his sons to stop corrupting Israel’s worship, but to no avail, for he used words only and did not act to remove them from the priesthood (1 Sam. 2:22–25). Samuel, on the other hand, grew up before the Lord as a righteous young man, ministering in the tabernacle and receiving the favor of God (vv. 18–21, 26). The Lord was preparing him for kingdom service.