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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 3

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-21

The Prophet Samuel

1 Samuel 3:1-21


The story of Samuel is one of the outstanding messages of the Bible. His father's name was Elkanah. His mother's name was Hannah. Elkanah went up, from year to year, to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of Hosts in Shiloh. Hannah went also, but she went with a heavy heart. She was in bitterness of soul, and she prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. Then she vowed a vow and said, "O Lord of Hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget Thine handmaid, but wilt give unto Thine handmaid a man child, then will I give him unto the Lord all the days of his life."

Thus it was that Hannah found grace in the sight of the Lord, for Eli answered and said unto her, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him."

Then Hannah rose up and worshiped and her countenance was no more sad. From this we learn several important things.

1. Samuel was a son of prayer. So many children are brought into this world without prayer and without seeking the will of the Lord. With Hannah it was altogether different. She prayed for a son, that she might bring him to God, and dedicate him to His service.

2. Samuel was the son of a pledge. Hannah promised the Lord that if He would give her a son, she would bring her son to Him as an offering for service. How many noble and great men there have been, through the ages, who were born in answer to prayer, and who were promised to God before they were born. We believe that the influence of noble parents, devout and prayerful, holy and righteous, is the greatest possible heritage which can be given a child.

3. Samuel was a son dedicated unto God. In fulfillment of her pledge, Hannah brought her son as soon as he was old enough, and said unto Eli, "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore, also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord."

We believe that every parent should dedicate their little ones to God and then bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

4. Samuel was a son of exultant praise. When Hannah had dedicated her son to God, she did not return to her home groaning and complaining. She rather praised God.

Her magnificat, which is recorded in I Samuel chapter 2, is a thing of beauty and of glory. Hannah said, "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside Thee, neither is there any rock like our God."

With many other words did Hannah praise and bless God, and then with her husband she departed, leaving the child Samuel to minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest.

5. Samuel was a son who early ministered before the Lord. He began his service as a little lad, girded with a linen ephod. Once more we have a model before us, which childhood would do well to follow. Let not the child think that he must grow up to years of maturity before he enters into service for his Lord. Many of God's greatest men are those who began in the days of their youth.

"Thus the child Samuel grew before the Lord."

"For He is our childhood's pattern,

Day by day like us He grew:

He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us He knew

And He feeleth for our sadness,

And He shareth in our gladness."

I. SAMUEL, THE PROPHET WITH HEARING EARS (1 Samuel 3:4 ; 1 Samuel 3:10 )

When Samuel was still a youth, the eyes of Eli began to wax dim, that he could not see. Thus it was that ere the lamp of God went out in the Temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; that the Lord called Samuel, and he answered, "Here am I."

Samuel ran to Eli saying, "Here am I." Eli told him, "I called not." The second time the Lord called, and the second time Samuel said to Eli, "Here am I." The second time Samuel lay down, and the third time he heard the voice calling and he went to Eli saying, "Here am I, for thou didst call me"; and Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Then, under instruction of Eli, when the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel, Samuel"; "Samuel answered, Speak; for Thy servant heareth." Then the Lord told Samuel that He was going to make an end of Eli's house because his two sons had made themselves vile and EH had restrained them not.

1. The hearing ear. How vital in each life is the hearing ear! Habakkuk said, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me." The Psalmist said, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak."

However, it is not hearing alone, but it is hearing and doing. Christ said, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them."

We can almost hear the voice of God as He says, "Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me"; I would have "fed them also with the finest of the wheat."

2. The consecrated life. In line with "hearing and doing," we go back to Samuel. When he said, "Speak, for Thy servant heareth," he meant, I stand ready to obey Thy service; I will gladly do Thy will. Let us listen to God's voice, and read God's Word, that we may observe to do according to all that He commands.

"Every sin forsaking from my inmost soul;

Every thought surrendered to Thy grand control.

Teach me by Thy Spirit, and Thy Holy Word,

How I best may suffer, and obey Thee, Lord;

And however painful to obey may be,

Love can make it gladsome, aye to follow Thee."


Our verse says, "And all Israel from Dan even unto Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord."

There was something about Samuel, even as a youth, that showed that the hand of God was upon him. He may have been a lad as other boys; he may have loved fun and frolic as they loved it, but his chums realized that there was something different about Samuel.

Samuel carried the marks of spiritual life with him. The people knew that he was not ashamed of God and that he was faithful to God. There are a few things to emphasize.

1. The Divine call. Samuel was established, a Prophet of the Lord. The dedication by his mother was good. His own dedication, when he said, "Speak; for Thy servant heareth," was better, but the definite calling from Heaven was best. We read of John the Baptist that he was a man sent from God. Isaiah heard God's call and knew that the Lord had separated him. It was the Word of the Lord which came unto Jeremiah. Jeremiah sought at first to draw back, but God said, "I have put My Words into thy, mouth." "Therefore, gird up thy loins and arise and speak unto them all that I command thee." All of the Prophets went under a special call from Heaven.

In the church, the Apostles were called of God and separated unto His ministry.

2. The Divine call recognized. This is not a small matter that the people knew that Samuel was called of God. What we call ordination in the church is no more than the recognition of men that some one has been called to preach the Gospel. If there is no mark of the Divine hand upon the preacher the people will not accept his message. When the people realize that a man is truly called of God, those who love the Lord will give attention to his testimony.

III. SAMUEL CALLED IN AN HOUR OF NEED (1 Samuel 4:11 ; 1 Samuel 4:18 )

As the time drew near for God to remove Eli and his sons from the office of the. priesthood, God was preparing another, to take Eli's place. Thus it was, that, when the ark of God was taken, and Eli's sons were slain; and, when Eli fell from his seat and his neck brake that he died, Samuel was ready to take their place. After that, the Word of the Lord came to all Israel through the lips of Samuel.

When the time came that God would take Elijah by a whirlwind into Heaven, God had already spoken to Elisha, and he stood ready to catch the mantle of his master as it fell from the ascending Prophet.

When God rejected Saul from being king over Israel; God had another, a young man of ruddy countenance, named David, prepared to take Saul's place.

It has always been so. New leaders are prepared of God to take up the mantle which other leaders lay down.

Sometimes the younger generation, as they behold some great one passing on to his reward, tremble as they hear the call of God to fill in the ranks. They need not fear, because the God of Elijah will prove to be the God of Elisha.

Let no one, among the stalwart sons who have long led the battle, imagine that the work of God will fail, when they pass from the scene.

On the other hand, let the young men, the Samuels of today, stand ready to be established as the Prophets of the Lord when the old stalwarts do pass. With all humility, and yet, with absolute trust in the Living God, let them be ready to don the garments of their predecessors.

"O Jesus, I have promised

To serve Thee to the end;

Be Thou for ever near me,

My Master and my Friend!

I shall not fear the battle,

If Thou art by my side;

Nor wander from Thy pathway,

If Thou wilt be my Guide.

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking,

In accents clear and still,

Above the storms of passion,

The murmurs of self-will.

Oh, speak, to reassure me,

To hasten or control;

Oh, speak, and make me listen,

Thou Guardian of my soul!"


After Eli's death, when Samuel was established as Prophet, the burden of the charge which he spoke unto all the house of Israel, was, "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."

1. The path which Samuel chose is not the easy path. It would have been far easier if Samuel had allowed the people to follow their own pleasure and walk in their own way. It takes courage to go against the tide of public sinning and to call people back to God.

When John the Baptist stood and cried unto Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife," he was doing the right thing but not the easy thing. What he did, cost him his life, but he was faithful.

When Peter stood at Pentecost and charged Israel with the death of Christ, he was not doing the easy thing, but he was doing the right thing. What he did, cost him imprisonment, but he was true.

We need men who will pay the price of fidelity to God at any cost.

2. The path which Samuel chose, is the God-commanded path. The message of separation is God's message. The call of people to repent, and to turn from their evil ways, is God's call.

O preachers of today, let us call upon our flocks to turn from their evil ways, and to prepare their hearts to serve the Lord only!

O young people, come out and be ye separate; serve the Lord only! So will He deliver you from the hand of the enemy, and so will He establish you in your word, and work, and way.

"Thou sweet beloved will of God,

My anchor ground, my fortress hill,

My spirit's silent, fair abode,

In Thee I hide me, and am still.

O will, that wiliest good alone,

Lead Thou the way, thou guidest best:

A little child, I follow on,

And trusting, lean upon Thy breast.

Thy beautiful sweet will, my God,

Holds fast in its sublime embrace

My captive will, a gladsome bird,

Prisoned in such a realm of grace.

Within this place of certain good

Love evermore expands her wings,

Or nestling in Thy perfect choice,

Abides content with what it brings."

V. SAMUEL'S EBENEZER (1 Samuel 7:12 )

It was after the Children of Israel had heard Samuel's warning, and had obediently obeyed his voice, and had put away Baalam and Ashtaroth, and had served the Lord only, that Samuel gathered them to Mizpeh saying, "I will pray for you unto the Lord."

1. Satan's attempt to break Israel's covenant with God. No sooner had this dedication been made known unto the Philistines than they went up against Israel. It is always so. When a child of God dedicates himself to follow the Lord fully, then Satan will get hot on his trail.

When the Children of Israel, in obedience to God, left Egypt, the Egyptians pursued them.

It was when Christ had left the dedicatory waters of the Jordan, that He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

We can be sure Satan will allow no individual life, and no people, to go through with God, without making them the object of his attacks.

2. The people's cry unto God. Israel said to Samuel, "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God, for us, that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines."

Israel's consecration to God had brought the Philistines' attack; the Philistines' attack had brought Israel to her knees in prayer to God.

How often does God use our troubles, and struggles, as the avenue by which He approaches, in a more vital way, into our lives. Upon the waves of the stormy sea, Jesus walked to the struggling disciples in the boat.

3. Ebenezer, the stone of blessing. When Samuel cried, the men of Israel went out and pursued the Philistines and smote them. "Then Samuel took a stone,... and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

"Here I'll raise my Ebenezer,

Hither by Thy help I'm come;

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure.

Safely to arrive at home."


When Samuel was old, and his sons were made judges over Israel, his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel said unto Samuel, "Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."

1. Let us observe Israel's failure to seek God's will. Perhaps, the elders of Israel were right in seeking to refuse Samuel's sons, but they were wrong in not seeking from God His will in this matter. They desired to take matters into their own hands. They desired a king like all the nations. They chose rather to pattern after the godless peoples around them, than to pattern after God.

It is a dangerous thing when we turn from God's ways to our ways; when we turn from God's leader to our leader; when we seek to pattern our walk after the walk of the men of this world.

In all of this, Israel was not rejecting Samuel, but God, and God so said, "They have not rejected thee * * but Me, that I should not reign over them."

To Saul, the persecutor of the saints, God spoke saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

Christians today need to beware how they turn against God's anointed, lest they turn against God.

2. Let us observe the Lord's willingness to grant the people their own way. The Lord said unto Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the people, in all that they say unto thee." God will not force His people to walk with Him. At the first, God told Balaam, "Thou shalt not go with them," but when Balaam received the second envoys from Balak, God said, "Go with them." Even then the angel of the Lord withstood Balaam in the way, but when Balaam still wanted to go, God said, "Go."


When the people demanded a king, God granted them their request. With what grief did the Lord say unto Samuel, "According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee"!

1. Then Samuel solemnly protested unto them. He showed them what it would mean unto them if they had a king. He told them the manner of a king that should reign over them. How he would take their sons and make them his horsemen to run before his chariots. How he would appoint captains over thousands and over fifties; and set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make them instruments of war. How he would take their daughters to be his cooks, and bakers. How he would take their fields and vineyards and give them to his servants. How he would take their men-servants and maid-servants to make them do his work. How he would demand a tenth of their sheep. Thus did God warn the people.

2. Nevertheless, the people refused Samuel and desired a king. There was no refraining them from their purpose. They wanted a king like all the nations. A king, instead of the Lord, to judge them. A king, instead of the Lord, to go out and fight their battles. So Samuel told the Lord what the people said, and the Lord said, "Hearken, to their voice." God gave them a king. Saul was duly crowned. At the first, all things went well. Samuel still moved among the people, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul. God was willing to do for His people all that could be done, even after the people had rejected Him.

We all know, however, the great final fiasco; and how Saul was left dead on the battlefield, having thrust a sword through his own heart.

Let us beware, lest we walk after the same example of unbelief. The Lord may give us the desires of our heart but send leanness to our souls.



Not slothful in business. Mr. Wanamaker was asked, "How do you get time to run a great Sunday school like this, with the business of your stores, your Postmaster Generalship, and all the other tremendous obligations of your life?" He replied, "Why, the Sunday school is my business. All those other things are just things. Fifty-five years ago I decided that God's promise was sure, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.'" A man cannot fail to make a success of his Christian service if he simply takes God at His word and makes it the first business of his life. S. S. Times.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Samuel 3". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/1-samuel-3.html.
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