5.2 1 Samuel -- Upbringing of Samuel
We are not given the historical context of the birth of Samuel -- we do not know which judge was ruling. Like so many Bible events, the starting point was a family problem, as when Abraham had no son, or Moses' mother needed to hide her son from the Egyptians. Elkanah was a man with two wives, one of whom, Hannah, was barren. We would consider this an unfortunate but natural condition. But not so the Israelites -- even here, God was involved:
The Lord had closed her womb (1 Sam 1:6).
Later, in 2 Sam 6, Saul's daughter Michal was left barren as a punishment for her mockery of David's dancing. But no sin of Hannah was mentioned. Rather than a prayer of repentance, she made a vow before the Lord, offering to dedicate to Him her firstborn son (1 Sam 1:11). This was a risky vow, considering that the most recent public Nazirite was that wild man, Samson.
In any case, Samuel was born, and was "loaned" to God to serve Him in the temple with Eli the priest. Hannah's "Magnificat" contained a reference to foreign lands:
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth (1 Sam 2:10).
Eli was an ineffective high priest, a placeholder with no reverence for the Lord. He let his sons abuse their position. Twice he was warned by God -- once through a nameless prophet, once through the boy Samuel. Yet neither warning moved Eli to repentance or to restrain his sons. He was passive in the face of impending doom.
This was not a good environment for Samuel to grow up in. Yet he must have learned well, by counter-example. At the end of his life, he asked Israel,
"Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right." "You have not cheated or oppressed us," they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand" (1 Sam 12:3-4).
All of these negative behaviors he must have witnessed firsthand as a child, watching the conduct of Eli's sons.