What does 1 Samuel 2:18 mean?
ESV: Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy clothed with a linen ephod.
NIV: But Samuel was ministering before the LORD--a boy wearing a linen ephod.
NASB: Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.
CSB: Samuel served in the Lord's presence--this mere boy was dressed in the linen ephod.
NLT: But Samuel, though he was only a boy, served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest.
KJV: But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
Verse Commentary:
First Samuel 2 moves the focus back and forth from Eli's worthless sons to Hannah's faithful son Samuel. Eli's sons were young priests guilty of evil behavior (1 Samuel 2:17). Samuel, on the other hand, is now described as ministering before the Lord. Time has passed since the boy was described as ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest (1 Samuel 2:11). The boy may be older and more directly involved in the temple duties by now.

Samuel is now wearing a linen ephod, along with the priests who work in the sanctuary. In that context, an ephod was a simple, hip-length sleeveless pullover that functioned as an apron and fit close to the body. It was a kind of uniform recognizable in Israel as a priestly garment. David wore an ephod when he danced before the Lord while bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14–15).
Verse Context:
First Samuel 2:12–21 contrasts Eli's sons with Hannah's son Samuel. Eli's sons are worthless men who don't know the Lord. They abuse their power as priests to take the best cuts of animals offered for themselves, treating the sacrifice to the Lord with contempt. Samuel, just a boy, ministers to the Lord at the sanctuary. Hannah brings him a new robe each year and Eli blesses her with a prayer for more children. She has three more sons and two daughters with her husband Elkanah. Samuel grows up in God's presence at the sanctuary.
Chapter Summary:
After delivering Samuel to the Lord, Hannah offers a poetic prayer of praise. The sons of Eli the priest are evil, depraved men who abuse their power as priests. They coerce worshippers to give them additional meat. They sleep with women who serve at the sanctuary. In contrast, Samuel grows in favor with God and others as he grows up physically. Hannah and Elkanah continue to go to Shiloh yearly; they also have more children. Eli rebukes his sons, but they don't repent. The Lord tells Eli that all his descendants will die young and his two rebellious sons will die on the same day. The Lord will raise up a faithful priest to do His will.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter explained how Hannah cried out to God for a son, and that her request was granted. First Samuel 2 begins with Hannah's praise to the Lord in response. Samuel remains in Shiloh where he ministers and matures. By contrast, Eli's sons are wicked and abuse their power as priests. A prophet reveals that God will cause all Eli's descendants to die young and his two sons to die on the same day. The Lord will raise up a faithful priest from another part of the family line. This provides background for Samuel's call from God in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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