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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Samuel 3

Verse 1

Word From the Lord Is Rare

The priesthood is under judgment. God has pronounced judgment. This opens the way to bring forward the prophet of God. In this way God prevents a void from arising in the relationship with His people. He will always give a connection between His people and Himself, no matter how great the failure of His people may be. Before the judgment on Eli and his house is carried out, God makes clear to His people the way in which he comes to them now to reveal His will, and that is through a prophet.

In those days, the Word of God has little place among God’s people. It is the same today. There is hardly any reading in the Bible anymore or it should be an easily readable translation. It is often not a question of getting to know God’s thoughts, but of satisfying the religious feelings that are characteristic to each person.

The fact that there is no vision coming into the public domain means that there are no public announcements of God’s will concerning His people. That means that there is darkness over the people. Yet even in the darkest times God has a testimony for His Name. Whoever is truly for God will not rejoice long without a message from God. Such a person is the young Samuel.

He serves the LORD, but still under Eli’s supervision. He serves the LORD, despite the corrupt way of life of the sons of Eli. Both the supervision of the weak Eli and the company of the wicked sons is determined by the LORD as the climate in which Samuel’s education must take place. In this dark environment the light of Samuel’s faithfulness to the LORD will shine even more.

Verses 2-10

The LORD Calls Samuel

At the time appointed by Him the LORD reveals Himself to Samuel. That happens at night. Eli and Samuel went to bed. However, there is a fine distinction in the way that is said of each of them. We read of Eli that he was “was lying down in his place”, while we read of Samuel that he “had laid himself [to sleep]”, as it also can be translated. With what we know about Eli it is conceivable that he loves his bed and spends a lot of time there. In him, the sleeping high priest, we see a picture of the spiritual state of the people in those days. This idea is reinforced by the statement that he can no longer see. Eli is not only physically, but also mentally blind.

We read from Samuel that he has laid himself to sleep. This indicates an activity after a day’s work. He longs for it. When he goes to bed, God’s lamp must almost be extinguished. The lamp of God is the candlestick in the tabernacle. It is night and the lamp is still burning weakly. But just when the night is darkest, there may be hope for the dawn of the day. A new day is about to start, to give new and bright light in this young Samuel, who is almost grown up and sleeps near the ark.

When people sleep, the Holy One of Israel does not sleep. The LORD appears to Samuel, not to Eli. He cannot address Eli. When the LORD calls Samuel, he hears a voice as if Eli were calling him. It must have sounded like a human voice. Although Samuel does not know that the LORD calls him, he obeys directly. Obedience is the starting point for all spiritual growth and for all increases in service.

Eli has no idea that the LORD could have called Samuel. He is blind and deaf for that. The only thing he can say is that the boy just must lie down again and try to sleep. We can see the picture of soothing the conscience with an eye on the condition in which we live. We do not want to be disturbed and if there is anything that disturbs us in our rest, we do not ask any further. We would like to rest as soon as possible.

There is always a great danger that we will get into a spiritual state of drowsiness and stay in it because we feel comfortable in it (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Then we need to be shaken awake. The Lord must say to us: “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). If we are sleepy ourselves, we will encourage others who are awake to sleepiness. Let us be careful not to say to anyone ‘lie down again and go to sleep again’ when God speaks to him!

When Samuel is called a second time, Eli replies again that he has not called him, and that Samuel should lie down again. Samuel must have done so. Yet it does not say so, but we read a kind of explanation of the fact that Samuel has laid himself down again. For he knows not yet the LORD. This does not mean that he does not believe in Him. Samuel certainly believes in the LORD, but all his contact with the LORD has so far gone through Eli. Eli did not teach Samuel to listen to the voice of the LORD. He cannot do that either because he doesn’t know the voice of the LORD himself. Now the time has come for the LORD to make Himself known to Samuel.

As an application we can say that Samuel has so far only heard about the LORD from others, like so many young people today. Many young people know about the Lord Jesus through their parents. This may be normal for some time, but at some point, there must be a personal meeting with Him. Children cannot continue to rely on the faith of their parents or elders, otherwise they will not grow up to maturity. To become spiritually mature, the spiritual eyes must begin to see the glory of the Lord Jesus.

The LORD calls patiently for the third time. He knows it is ignorance and not unwillingness. We must be patient with each other and, above all, with those whom we consider slow in understanding. When Samuel goes to Eli for the third time, Eli finally understands that the LORD has called Samuel. That must have told him something. It must have dawned on him that God did not call him, but the boy. We see here that in every new generation there are young people who have received from the Lord something that He has not given or has not been able to give to the elderly. In this case He cannot give it because Eli is spiritually unable to understand His voice.

There is no jealousy in Eli that the LORD passes him and reveals Himself to Samuel. When he realizes that the LORD calls Samuel, he gives a good advice. Samuel must, as soon as the LORD calls him again, place himself before Him as a willing listener and stand up as a servant. Samuel does the same. By mentioning his name twice, the LORD calls Samuel for the fourth time. Mentioning the name twice is special. It happens a few more times in the Scriptures that the LORD or the Lord Jesus calls someone’s name twice when He addresses Him, for example “Abraham, Abraham” (Genesis 22:11) and “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9:4).

In response to the voice of the LORD, Samuel does not say “speak, LORD”, as Eli has said to him. He did so not out of disobedience to Eli, but probably out of awe, because he does not feel worthy calling that Name. This is in stark contrast to the great familiarity with which the name of the Lord Jesus is often mentioned today. Many sermons and so-called worship services often lack respect for that Name. Respectless His Name – Jesus, without calling Him Lord – is called.

It is also important that we have respect for all who God has placed above us, such as parents, elders, and rulers. This is prescribed by God in His Word (Ephesians 6:1-Leviticus :; Leviticus 19:32; Romans 13:7). That too is not found much anymore nowadays. When respect for God disappears, it also disappears from society.

Verses 11-14

The Judgement on Eli and His House

God reveals His thoughts to those who have an obedient mind and do not think highly of themselves. He reveals them to “infants” (Matthew 11:25). The revelation Samuel receives comes at a time when Israel is at a low point in its history. God must let the judgment over the priesthood come. At the same time with Samuel a new period for Israel starts. Judgment not only comes over the sons, but also over Eli and his house. The judgment is final. They have sinned consciously and willingly and there is no sacrifice for that.

The message the LORD has concerning Eli and his house will deeply root and resonate for a long time. Eli is blamed for not having done anything about evil, even though he has seen it. Seeing and knowing evil and not acting against it, when the responsibility lies there, is as bad as committing it yourself. This can be applied to believers who remain part of a church where sin is not judged. One can raise the voice, but if nothing happens, one is guilty of maintaining evil if one stays there. If evil is not judged, one must leave.

Verses 15-18

What the LORD Has Said

In general, God does not call a prophet to preach a happy message. The first message Samuel must deliver is one of judgment. He will no longer have slept, aware of the seriousness of the vision. His message did not make him proud. He is not happy that he must tell Eli judgment must come. He is introduced for the first time to the burden of a prophetic message to pass on an unpleasant message to someone he loves, appreciates, and honors.

The LORD does not command Samuel to tell the vision to Eli, but he feels that he must. Eli helps Samuel to tell what he has heard from the LORD. Although God has not spoken to him, the high priest, he wants to hear what God has said. He understands that it is about him. Now comes the moment when Samuel becomes a prophet. This is the moment when he speaks the words of God to Eli.

Prophecy service is often difficult. It is speaking of admonition at the right time. Jeremiah is also young when he is instructed to prophesy, and is encouraged by the LORD: “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth”” (Jeremiah 1:7-1 Samuel :). The weakest is like the strongest when he has the words of God on his lips.

Eli accepts the judgment of God. He does not argue but acknowledges the greatness and righteousness of the LORD. With this he also acknowledges the prophecy service of Samuel. Yet he does not come to repentance and condemnation of his sons. He bows under the judgment of God, that is all he can do.

Verses 19-21

The LORD Is With Samuel

Samuel grows. He not only grows physically, but also spiritually. Because he lives with the LORD, the LORD is with him. The LORD rejoices that He can connect himself with Samuel. He shows to all Israel, from the extreme north, where Dan lies, to the extreme south, where Beersheba lies, that Samuel is His prophet by fulfilling all His words, which Samuel speaks.

It is as if we hear the joy of Holy Spirit when He says that the LORD continues to appear in Shiloh. The LORD rejoices that there is one to whom He can reveal himself, one who knows Him and lives for Him. Here we have the opposite of 1 Samuel 3:7. Now Samuel knows the LORD, and the LORD reveals Himself to him. He does so through His Word. That is still the way in which God reveals Himself to us.

All revelations to Samuel prove to the people that there is a new connection between them and the LORD. He reveals Himself to His people through the prophet, no longer through the high priest. Samuel has a willing ear. God can make His will known to such people, and He can use such people in His service to His people.

In a way Samuel is also a priest and king. In times of decay, God often concentrates several characteristics in one person. God calls prophets when the people are in decay. Samuel is the first of them (Acts 3:24). He is also the last judge; he closes as it were the period in which God was in connection with His people through judges (Acts 13:20).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.