The day started out with one of Eli’s playful tricks. Samuel got up early, knowing Eli had already been up. He folded his beddings and went to the wash basin. Eyes still half opened he reached for the pitcher of water and poured it over the wash basin’s usual position.
“Ka plop, ka plop, ka plop” was the sound of water hitting the stone pillar. Samuel really woke up now. His eyes wide open he looked down at the stone pillar the basin usually sat on. The basin was gone and in its place a puddle of water where it should have been and the puddle was about to drip down on the floor and make more of a mess. Reaching for the towels, his hands grabbed hold of rough vine leaves. Eli must have put them there, instead of the soft towels.
“Eli!” Samuel screamed in his head. He ran outside to get more towels and as he reached for one, an arm shot out from the corner, scaring him and handing him a clean towel.
“Eli, sir, it’s too early for this!”
Eli, the great priest of the Lord was giggling with glee over his prodigy’s mishap.
“That stone pillar must have been wanting his face washed too” he burst out laughing.
Samuel grabbed for the towel and missed it as Eli yanked it out of his reach. They kept this up, while Samuel could hear the water hitting the floor inside, until it was so absurd to him that he burst out laughing with the priest.
Later, everything cleaned up and sitting down to breakfast, Samuel started smiling to himself. “Eli was such a prankster” he shook his head, “how could someone be in such a high holy place and be so funny and love making others laugh too.” Samuel couldn’t remember ever reading where God laughed. You see David hadn’t been born yet, so the Psalms hadn’t been written, so Samuel only had the testimony in the Ark of the Covenant. God didn’t seem like a funny guy. But based on what he saw from Eli, God must have had a sense of humor.
One day Eli almost tripped himself up, trying to play a prank on someone. He told a worshipper that a spirit or angel was in a chamber asking for him. The man was a particularly scared man, scared of everything and especially nervous about offending the Lord God. This man went into the chamber and Eli stood by to have a good laugh but when the man came out he truly had been visited by an angel. He whispered a message for Eli into Eli’s ear. It must not have been good because Eli wasn’t laughing.
Eli usually got the last laugh though. There was the time Eli put oil in the container that should have had water for the priests to wash their hands. The temple walls rang with the noise of pots slipping and sliding out of hands. Everyone in the temple hearing the crashing of clay pots hitting the ground knew it must be Eli up to his tricks again. The priests found they had to wash twice to get the olive oil off of their hands.
Besides his pranks, Eli had jokes and riddles. Oh boy, did he. Some were funny, some were only funny to Eli. One riddle he loved was “What happened when God told Israel to get out of their comfort zone and leave Egypt?” The answer, always given with roaring laughter was, “the Comfort Zone followed them. They looked up and it was upon them!”
Well one night something happened that the whole world knows about today, but Samuel thought it was just another one of Eli’s jokes. Eli had gone almost blind in those days. Old age, Samuel thought, and it was sad, even though Eli never stopped joking and pulling pranks if he could.
One joke he always had for Samuel was, “Your dad was smart he married Hannah and then Peninnah, but no Banana!” and he would roar with laughter.
Sometimes he made Samuel help him set up booby traps for people so he could have fun. On this night the whole Temple was asleep and Samuel also, when he heard a voice saying “Samuel!” He woke up. Of course he went to Eli’s room, because who else could it be?
“It’s not me Samuel” Eli said sleepily.
Samuel was too sleepy to argue, so he went back to bed. After he got sound asleep again he heard the voice saying “Samuel!” Samuel automatically got up and went to Eli’s room, “Yes, Eli.”
Eli woke up, “It wasn’t me I tell you Sammie, old boy.” Samuel stumbled back into his bed and went back to sleep.
The third time, the voice called out “Samuel!” Samuel was more awake now and he marched into Eli’s room,
“Yes” he said in an inappropriate impatient tone. Eli woke up and this time sat up and said “It wasn’t me, but I think you might be having an open vision.”
“Yeah, Right” Samuel said, knowing now that for sure it was one of Eli’s tricks.
“No really Sammie. The next time you hear that voice, say ‘Speak Lord, for your servant hears’”.
Samuel returned to his bed, wondering when this joke would be over, but soon he was fast asleep again. Then God came and stood by his bed (verse 10) and called again, “Samuel, Samuel”. Samuel opened his eyes and slowly remembered what Eli had said and he answered loudly, still believing it was Eli, the comedian and he wanted him to hear, since hopefully this would be the end of the joke for the night. “SPEAK FOR YOUR SERVANT HEARS!” Poor Samuel, it is so hard to shout when you’ve just woken up, but he hoped Eli could hear him. Eli did and he knew it was serious, since no one had had an open vision in those days and here God was forced to use a child.
Then Samuel turned towards the door to see what Eli would do, and that’s when he saw the Lord. Wow! He was big and He was bright and Samuel was not afraid.
The next morning, Eli tried a prank on Samuel. He jumped out at him at the breakfast table, with a sword dripping blood, only it was not really blood but red gel dripping from its blade.
“Funny, eh, Sammie old boy? Eh?”
“Yeah, funny, Eli” Samuel tried to laugh.
Eli sobered up. “So did the Lord come to you last night?” Eli knew it was Him. He had seen the bright light in Samuel’s room, like it was the middle of the afternoon.
“Yeah! He did. It was amazing.”
“What did you see?”
“The Lord, like you said. He was standing right in my room.”
“What did he say? Tell me Sammie. Tell me all. I know it’s going to be bad. I know all He could find to talk to was you. Don’t keep it from me. I know He wants me to know.”
So with a heavy heart, Samuel told Eli everything. How God said He was about to do an amazing thing that no one would be able to believe. That He was going to punish Eli and Eli knew why. That He, the Lord God, was going to punish him because of the way his sons behaved and the way Eli did nothing to stop them. And that there was no saying sorry, or offering a sacrifice or trying to make it better, that Eli and his family were going to be punished, no matter what.
There were no jokes that day, no riddles, no pranks. Eli walked around doing whatever duties he could do and was quiet. A few days later, however, he seemed to snap out of it and the fun began. But he never corrected his sons, or did anything about what was going on, so God did what He said He would do.
Sammie was sad though. Even though Eli seemed able to go on knowing that there was nothing he could do about God being unhappy with him or the coming punishment, Samuel never really got over the sadness that his beloved Eli, the funny, happy, laughing Eli was thought of badly by God. Samuel grew in the Lord however, and heard from the Lord God often during his life. He got to anoint the first earthly king of Israel, Saul and the great King David. Eli had many more years of laughter and jokes and pranks and Samuel loved him very much, all the way to the end.
©December 2008 Carroll Ayo Durodola