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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 3

 

 

Verses 1-21

ELI’S DEATH; THE LOSS OF THE ARK

GOD SPEAKS TO SAMUEL (1 Samuel 3)

“The word of the Lord was precious [or rare] in those days” (1 Samuel 3:1) is introductory to the record that it was now heard in the case of Samuel. It was Israel’s sin that hid God’s face from them and caused His voice to be silent so long only twice heard during the period of the Judges (Judges 4:4; Judges 6:8) but He was again to be gracious unto them in this respect, and a new epoch was to open in their history.

How God spake to Samuel we are not informed, but His voice in earlier times was heard in a literal sense, and there is no good reason to doubt that it was here. Of course, God is not a man with physical organs, but who shall say that He who made man’s voice is not able Himself to be heard and understood by man?

It is touching that the “man” to whom God chose to reveal Himself was a boy, and yet by this time perhaps quite a lad. How interesting that He is willing to reveal Himself to such an instrument! How it should encourage the ambition of a boy.

The revelation God gives to Samuel concerning Eli is a repetition of that of the “man of God” of the preceding lesson (1 Samuel 2:27). And the meekness with which the old priest takes it is an evidence that his personal character was good, notwithstanding his conduct as regards his sons.

A CRISIS IN ISRAEL (1 Samuel 4)

1 Samuel 4:5 furnishes another illustration of the low spiritual state of Israel at this time, and how little removed they were from their pagan neighbors. To trust in the ark of the covenant instead of the God it symbolized was scarcely different from the worship of the idols of the Philistines. It is significant that the elders and the priests were the leaders in this folly (1 Samuel 3:4).

Their fathers had carried the ark at Jericho, but there was a reason for it then, and God had commended it, but how different now.

What judgment fell on Israel for this! And surely as we read the chapter to the end, we can understand the prophecy, “Thou shalt behold the affliction of my habitation.”

But notice how the character of Samuel as a prophet is being established (1 Samuel 3:19-21). How sad that he had not been consulted in the case of the ark. If he had been, what a different story might have been written for Israel!

THE ARK AMONG THE PHILISTINES (1 Samuel 5-6)

This lesson will not be too long if we add the story of the ark among the Philistines, especially as there is little requiring explanation.

“Dagon” was a heathen god represented by a human but joined to the belly and tail of a fish. The details of 1 Samuel 6:3-4 show the manner in which God was pleased to demonstrate His superiority over this heathen god, so-called. “Unto this day” (1 Samuel 6:5) means the date when the story was recorded, probably the later years of Samuel’s life.

“Emerods” is vulgarly known as piles, which the Philistines regarded as a judgment upon them (1 Samuel 6:6-12). Thank offerings were made to heathen gods for recovery from illness in the form of metal images of the diseased parts of the body, (still true in some Roman Catholic countries and in India), which accounts for the advice of the priests and diviners (1 Samuel 6:1-6). Note 1 Samuel 6:6, and the witness it bears that written records or tradition had kept some knowledge of the true God before the minds of these nations contiguous to Israel in all these years.

The lowing of the cattle for their young, notwithstanding that they did not turn back to recover them, shows that God was controlling their steps in another direction (1 Samuel 6:10-12).

The judgment that fell on the Bethshemites (1 Samuel 6:19) was calculated to impress Israel anew with the sacredness attaching to the worship of Jehovah, but there seems to be an error in the translation here. Beth- shemesh was only a village, and it seems unlikely that 50,070 men could have been slain there; but there is no explanation of the difficulty of which we know.

QUESTIONS

1. Why was not God’s voice heard for so long in Israel?

2. What stimulus to the spiritual life of a boy does this lesson contain?

3. Give an illustration of Eli’s goodness of character.

4. What was the nature of Israel’s sin in carrying the ark into the battle?

5. Tell the story of the discomfiture of the Philistines because of the ark.

6. Describe the sacrilege of the Bethshemites.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 3:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/1-samuel-3.html. 1897-1910.

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