Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-21

1 Samuel 3:1 . No open vision; that is, no distinguished prophets in all the land; one of the great calamities which Amos denounced against Israel: 1 Samuel 8:12.

1 Samuel 3:3 . Ere the lamp of God went out in the temple. Of the seven lamps in the great candlestick, six, it is said, were extinguished when the priests retired to sleep.

1 Samuel 3:13 . He restrained them not. Had he expelled them from the sanctuary, the awful course of crimes had been stayed, and the punishment had rested on the culprits only. By neglecting this, Eli became a partaker of the sins, and of the punishment of his sons. The canon laws of many councils expel and suspend a minister for three years, when found guilty of the crimes of Eli’s sons. These are “sins not to be purged with sacrifices.”

1 Samuel 3:20 . From Dan even to Beer-sheba. See on Judges 18:7.

1 Samuel 3:21 . By the word of the Lord; not by dream, nor vision, but by the Baith kol, or daughter of the voice, as it is afterwards called. The Lord spake to Samuel as he spake to Moses, and as the man of God came to Bethel by the word of the Lord. 1 Kings 13:1. Here is an instance of divine revelation, without suspicion or doubt.


Eli, having no comfort in his own sons, here finds a hopeful son and a servant in Samuel, a devoted and an accepted gift from his earliest years. This lovely child was tutored to the sacred service by Eli, and the pupil was obedient and attentive to his lord by day and by night. What a choice and tender plant of grace: how blooming the hopes and prospects of future years! What may we not augur from genius, talents and piety, when the morning of life is devoted to God, and all its rising years preserved unspotted from the world.

Samuel was called to the high duties of a national prophet, not only while a child, but also when the word of the Lord was precious. The Holy Spirit, who is sparing of his richer gifts, sought the most holy organs to convey his light. He passed by the aged and the less faithful, and glorified a child in the eyes of all his people. The Lord make us humble, holy and simple as little children, that our souls may be favoured with larger endowments of his comfort and love.

He was called not by dreams, in which God has often spoken to unregenerate men; nor was he addressed in vision while awake; but the Lord conferred upon him Abraham’s honour, in calling him by name. So some favourite youths are made able ministers almost from the first; they enter on their ministry in full course, like Samuel and Paul. They are followed by the crowd; and honoured because of the honour they have received of the Lord. Old ministers are thankful to sit at their feet, and die with joy, seeing the cause of God in good hands. But let those youths be humble, faithful and diligent, like Samuel, to the end of their course. Let them beware, for flattery and applause will spread a thousand snares for their feet.

This infant prophet, in all the hopeful charms of grace, knew not the Lord; or rather, knew not the way in which he gave a revelation of his will: 1 Samuel 3:21. Thrice he thought the voice which spake had been Eli’s; for God designed to excite Eli’s attention. Happy, happy indeed, that Samuel was under the care of an old man. Eli, unable to reform his sons by reproof, and irresolute in expelling them from the altar, wished to keep this gift of heaven under his own eye, that he might not be corrupted by those who obtruded their crimes into the house of God. Happy also, happy indeed are those young christians, who have aged people to instruct them in the way and work of the Lord. That child who feels a desire to be good, to love God and all mankind, knows not at first that this is the inward voice of heaven calling him to piety. That youth who weeps when he reads the scriptures and books of piety, or when he hears affecting sermons; and that youth who sometimes feels in devotion a holy warmth inspiring his bosom, and elevating his soul; knows not that these drawings of the Father are the beginning of the witness of the Holy Spirit. He wants an Eli to bid him say, speak Lord; thy servant heareth. Teach me thy way, take full possession of my heart, and grant me the satisfying token that I am wholly thine. Give me, Lord, the full witness that I am born of thee.

The first communication of God to Samuel was of a nature which tended to awe and sanctify his soul. It related to the almost total extirpation of Eli’s house; and Samuel lived to see it fully accomplished. Israel was twice defeated; the two priests were slain, and the ark captured. Eli died at the tidings; and eighty five priests of his house were slain by Saul in the city of Nob. Surely, though vengeance was long delayed, when God began, he made an end. Oh that the sinners in the sanctuary may read this and fear: oh that they may either be converted to the Lord, or totally abandon so sacred a profession.

From Eli’s submission, let us learn when a calamity cannot be averted, to say, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” He is wise and cannot err: in all the strokes of his rod he has invariably some good in view. He designs either to sanctify the afflicted, to defend the church, or to cut off the wicked, lest they should corrupt the rising age. Let us adore the hand that bears this avenging rod, and cry with angels, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts. Isaiah 6:3.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-3.html. 1835.
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