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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 3

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-18

Judgment on the family of Eli (2:12-3:18)

Eli the priest had become the judge, or chief administrator, in Israel. He sat at the door of the house of God where people could freely meet him to seek his advice or ask for directions in disputes (see 1:9; 4:18). His sons, it seems, carried out the routine work in connection with the sacrifices and ceremonies.

According to the Levitical law, the portion of the sacrifice that was for God had to be burnt on the altar first, after which the priest and the offerer took their portions. Eli’s sons were not satisfied with this. First, they took more of the boiled meat than they should have, thus robbing the offerer of what rightly belonged to his own sacrificial meal. Second, and much worse, they took the best part of the meat before it was boiled, so that they could roast and eat it at their leisure. This showed their disrespect for God, because it meant that they took their portions before God received his (12-17; cf. Leviticus 3:1-5; Leviticus 7:15; Leviticus 7:29-33).

While Samuel’s parents experienced increasing divine blessing because of their unselfish devotion to God (18-21), Eli’s sons were warned of the coming punishment because of their greed and immorality (22-25). The corruption of Eli’s sons contrasted sharply with the godly development in the life of the young Samuel. God was preparing Samuel to be Eli’s successor (26).

God then sent a prophet to Eli to announce a divine judgment upon the ungodly family (27-29). Eli’s descendants, instead of enjoying lasting service in the priesthood, would be punished with shame, poverty and early death. Even though God might allow a descendant of Eli to continue functioning for a time as a priest, he would eventually remove the person from office. He would take the priesthood away from the family of Eli, and give it to a man more worthy of it (30-36; cf. 4:11; 14:3; 22:11-20; 1 Kings 2:26-27).

Some time later, when Samuel was probably twelve or thirteen years of age, God revealed to Samuel what previously he had made known to Eli through the prophet (3:1-14). In spite of his many weaknesses, Eli was humble enough to accept God’s announced judgment as a just punishment (15-18).

Verses 19-21

Samuel - prophet, judge, priest (3:19-21)

Years passed and Samuel developed into a religious and civil leader known and respected throughout the land, from Dan in the far north to Beersheba in the far south (19-21). He was a prophet who made known God’s will to the people (see 3:20-21) and a judge who ruled over the civil affairs of the people (see 7:15). In addition he was appointed by God to carry out priestly duties even though he was not a descendant of Aaron (see 7:9; 1 Chronicles 6:33-38).

The priesthood was by now so corrupt that it was of little spiritual help to the people. The various ceremonies and sacrifices were meaningless rituals. Consequently, God was increasingly using prophets, rather than priests, to speak to his people.

As the Spirit revealed God’s message to the prophets, they passed it on to the people. Sometimes the prophets became over-excited because of the activity of the Spirit of God upon them, and their uncontrolled behaviour gave them a bad reputation (see 10:9-12; 19:20-24). In an effort to develop this religious enthusiasm for the benefit of the nation, Samuel established a school of prophets at Ramah. Others were later established in Bethel, Jericho and Gilgal (see 19:18-20; 2 Kings 2:3,2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 4:38).

Emotionalism did not feature in all prophetic preaching, nor was it essential to the prophet’s ministry. The important characteristic of the prophet was that he spoke as the representative of God in announcing God’s will to the people (see 22:5). The prophet’s messages were therefore concerned chiefly with the people’s daily affairs. Nevertheless, as the prophet urged the people to turn from their sins to God, he may also have foretold events that would follow their obedience or disobedience.

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/1-samuel-3.html. 2005.
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