Lesson: The Lord Rejects Eli and His Sons and Calls Samuel

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach students about the calling of Samuel and how God calls each of us.

Needed: Bibles, Don’t Say It! / Taboo cards (bought or homemade), a blindfold, drawing paper and crayons or colored pencils

Intro Game: Don’t Say It! 

Divide students into two teams. In this Taboo-like game, teammates take turns trying to get their teams to guess the main word on their card without using four obvious words listed on the card. For example, a team member might need to get their teammates to guess “cow,” but they can’t say “moo,” “milk,” “dairy,” or “steak.” You can purchase the Don’t Say It! game or write your own game cards.

If the team member does say one of the words they’re not allowed to say, they’re out of the game. If they get their teammates to guess the word, they get a point for their team and continue their turn until they’ve scored up to three points. If they say a word they shouldn’t or after they’ve earned three points for their turn, play passes to the second team.

Play until each student on each team has had a chance to be the clue giver. Then, tally up all the points minus how many team members got out. The winner is the team with the most points.

When the game is over, ask, Why did I make some of you sit out the rest of the game? (Listen to their answers and explain that it was because they broke the rule of the game. Even though the rule of a game isn’t a big deal, we have to learn that if we break the rules, there are consequences. If we break serious rules at home or in school, we get punished. If we break God’s rules, He can punish us. There are consequences to breaking the rules.)


Ask students, What do your parents do when you do something bad? What kind of punishments do you get? (As the teacher, share some ways that your parents used to punish you.)

Would you like it if your parents never punished you but just let you do whatever you wanted?

Last time, we learned about Hannah and about how she wanted to have a baby. She prayed and prayed to God, and she said, “God, if you will give me a baby, I will give that baby back to You.” And one day, God gave Hannah a little boy. Does anyone remember what that little boy’s name was? (Samuel.)

And when Samuel was old enough, Hannah took Samuel to the priest, Eli, so that Samuel could live at the Tabernacle church and learn how to serve God.

Today, we’re going to learn about what happened next to Eli and Samuel.

(Read 1 Samuel 2:12-4:1 with your students or read the following story as a summary.)

Summary Story

Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, were learning how to be priests, too, but they were very wicked men. When someone came to the Tabernacle church to sacrifice to God, Hophni and Phineas would take the best part of the person’s sacrifice even before the person had time to give it to God. They were basically stealing the offering from people, and stealing the offering from God.

The little boy Samuel was also learning how to be a priest. His parents, Hannah and Elkanah, would come to see him once a year, and Eli the priest would pray for Hannah to have more children since she had given Samuel to God. Then, Hannah and Elkanah would go home, and Samuel would keep living with Eli.

Eli heard about the wrong things his sons, Hophni and Phineas, were doing and he told them to stop, but they didn’t stop, and Eli didn’t do anything else to make them stop.

What do you think Eli should have done to make his sons stop doing the bad things they were doing? (He could have punished them. He could have not let them be priests anymore.)

Finally, a prophet from God came to Eli the priest, and said, “God says, ‘Eli, I chose Aaron to be My priest when Moses and Aaron brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He was your great-great-grandfather, and so now I have chosen you to be My priest. But now, you are disrespecting Me by not punishing your sons. You let them keep doing whatever they want. So now, you cannot be My priest anymore. I am going to choose a priest who will do the right things that I tell him to do. And I am going to kill your two sons, Hophni and Phineas, on the same day, and no one in your family will live long enough to be an old man.’”

Do you think God should kill Hophni and Phineas for the wrong things they’re doing and not let Eli be a priest anymore? (It’s a very serious problem when God’s servants don’t act in the right ways, and God has the right to punish them and even kill them because He’s God.)

A little while later, while Samuel was sleeping one night…

Everyone, pretend that you’re sleeping.

While Samuel was sleeping one night, God called to him. “Samuel.”

Samuel woke up…

Everyone, wake up!

Samuel woke up, but he didn’t know it was God talking to him because God had never talked to him before. Instead, he thought it was Eli calling him. So, he got up and ran to where Eli was sleeping and said, “Here I am. You called for me.”

But Eli woke up and said, “No, I didn’t. Go back to bed.”

Samuel went back to bed, but he heard God calling him again. “Samuel.”

Samuel got up and went to Eli again, thinking it was Eli who was calling him. “Here I am,” Samuel said. “You called for me.”

“No, I didn’t,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.” This all happened one more time. Then, Eli realized that God was trying to talk to Samuel. Eli said, “Samuel, go back to bed, and if you hear someone calling for you again, stay there and say, ‘I’m listening, Lord.’”

Samuel went back to bed, and this time, when God called him, Samuel said, “I’m listening, Lord.”

What do you think God is going to say to Samuel?

Do you think You would want God to speak to You? Why or why not? (Explain that we don’t have to be afraid of God speaking to us if we’re doing the right things that He wants us to. God loves us!)

Then, God told Samuel that he was going to punish Eli and Eli’s sons because of all the wrong things they were doing and because Eli hadn’t punished them for it.

The next morning, Samuel didn’t want to tell Eli what God told him, but Eli made Samuel tell him. After that, God continued speaking to Samuel, and Samuel became a great prophet of God for all the people.

Review Questions

Why did God say He was going to punish Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas? (Because they were doing wrong things.)

Why did God say He was going to punish Eli? (Because Eli was letting his sons do the bad things and wasn’t punishing them to make them stop.)

So, God said Eli and his sons couldn’t be priests anymore. Instead, God chose Samuel to be the priest. God started talking to Samuel and making him a prophet. Why do you think God let Samuel be a priest and a prophet when He wouldn’t let Eli and sons be priests anymore? (Because Samuel was willing to listen to God. Samuel was doing the right things that God wanted him to do.)

Are you willing to listen to God and to do the right things that God wants you to? (Yes.)

Then, God can use you to do big things for Him, just like He used Samuel!

But do you think God will speak to you like He did Samuel? (It’s possible, but most people don’t hear God’s voice like that.)

What are some other ways God can speak to you? (Suggestions include in our spirits, through the Bible, through other people, through a church service, etc.)

Game: Listening for God

Pick one student to be Samuel. They wear a blindfold. Everyone else calls their name along with the teacher. “Samuel’s” job is to listen for the teacher’s voice and walk toward the teacher, blocking out all of the other voices. When the student makes it to the teacher, remove the blindfold and choose the next student to be “Samuel.” The first student is now the “voice of God.” Play as long as time allows or until every student has had a chance to play both roles.

Remind students that Samuel thought it was Eli calling him, but it was really God.

Craft: It’s God Calling! 

Give students drawing paper and crayons or colored pencils. Ask them to write or draw some ways that God has spoken to them. It could be through reading the Bible, praying, being in church or Sunday School, singing a Christian song, etc. Ask them to depict how God spoke to them and what He said. The message could be in abstract terms, but help students think of some keywords or phrases to help them remember the experience.

Closing Prayer

God, we pray that You’ll help to always to You. We want to be like Samuel, not Hophni and Phineas. Help us to listen for the ways You’re speaking to us and to listen to You when You tell us something. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Samuel and David: Children Sunday School Lessons on the Boy Prophet and the Shepherd King.

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