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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 3

 

 

Verse 1

SAMUEL’S CALL, 1 Samuel 3:1-21.

1. Samuel ministered — See note on 1 Samuel 2:11. According to Josephus, Samuel was now about twelve years old.

The word of the Lord was precious in those days יקר, precious, costly; an epithet applied frequently to very rare and costly stones. 2 Samuel 12:30 ; 1 Kings 10:2; 1 Chronicles 20:2; Ezekiel 27:22. The meaning is that direct revelations from God had become exceedingly rare, and this fact was owing to the lamentable sinfulness of the priesthood and the people. As sinfulness in the individual heart drives away the Holy Spirit, so in the Hebrew nation it drove away the spirit of prophecy. A direct communication from God at such a time would truly be a precious thing. Unless we reckon Deborah, who is called a prophetess, (Judges 4:4,) so far as we know only two prophets had appeared in Israel (see Judges 6:8, and 1 Samuel 2:27) during the period that intervened between the time of Moses and this call of Samuel.

No open vision — Literally, No divine communication was spread; that is, published abroad, made known. If, perchance, God revealed himself to pious individuals here and there, he gave them private revelations; but the persons thus honoured were not thereby constituted public prophets, nor sent to publish their communications to the people. In the midst of such spiritual darkness Samuel arose as a new luminary in Israel.


Verse 2

2. It came to pass at that time — Not the night following the day on which the man of God appeared to Eli, (1 Samuel 2:27,) as Drusius, Patrick, and others suppose, for, as a part of this call of God to Samuel contained a prophecy against Eli, it is probable that some considerable time had elapsed since the man of God delivered his message; but the words at that time (Hebrews, in that day) refer more naturally to the period designated by those days in the first verse, when the word of God was rare, than to any particular day or part of a day.

In his place — In his sleeping apartment, either in the court of the tabernacle or near by it.

His eyes began to wax dim — By reason of old age. This statement seems to be introduced here to explain why Samuel ran so hastily to Eli when he heard his name called, as though he supposed the high priest, being partially blind, needed his assistance.


Verse 3

3. Ere the lamp of God went out — Before the dawning of the day. Compare Exodus 27:21.


Verse 4

4. The Lord called Samuel — In an audible voice, by pronouncing his name. Compare Genesis 22:1; Exodus 3:4.


Verse 7

7. Samuel did not yet know the Lord — The first part of this verse is explained by the second. Samuel knew not the Lord in the way of receiving divine communications from him, for, as already stated, such communications were at that time rare.


Verse 10

10. The Lord came, and stood — From 1 Samuel 3:15 we learn that Samuel beheld a vision as well as heard a voice, and, therefore, it is most natural to understand the words came and stood as designating a visible appearance. God was not only personally but visibly there, either in human form (Genesis 18:2; Genesis 18:33; Joshua 5:13-15) or in some angelic or surprising manifestation. Exodus 3:2-6. Hitherto Samuel had seen nothing, but had only heard the voice. Thrice the voice had called, and thrice the child had gone to Eli, supposing he had called. All this served as preparation for the vision, not only rousing Eli from his thoughtlessness, and putting his mind in a state of anxious expectation, but also impressing Samuel with a feeling that something remarkable was pending. Having thus prepared the way, the Lord not merely called as at other times, but he also came and stood, that is, revealed himself by some visible manifestation; and this, perhaps, so awed and surprised the child that he omitted the name of the LORD from the answer which Eli had directed him to make in case he heard the voice again.


Verse 11

11. Shall tingle — With horror and alarm. As a loud, sharp, discordant note thrills one’s ears with pain, so the bitter tidings of Israel’s woe in the judgment about to fall on Eli’s house would shock all Israel. Compare the similar use of this proverbial saying in 2 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 19:3.


Verse 12

12. All… I have spoken — In the message recorded 1 Samuel 2:27-36.

Begin… make an end — That is, commencing and finishing all. I will execute what I have spoken against Eli’s house completely — from beginning to end.


Verse 15

15. Doors of the house — “Originally, when the tabernacle was simply a tent, travelling with the people from place to place, it had only curtains at the entrance to the holy place and court. But when Israel had become possessed of fixed houses in the land of Canaan, and the dwelling-place of God was permanently erected at Shiloh, instead of the tents that were pitched for the priests and Levites, who encamped round about during the journey through the desert, there were erected fixed houses, which were built against or inside the court, and not only served as dwellings for the priests and Levites who were officiating, but were also used for the reception and custody of the gifts that were brought as offerings to the sanctuary. These buildings, in all probability, supplanted the original tent-like enclosure around the court; so that, instead of the curtains at the entrance, there were folding doors, which were shut in the evening and opened in the morning.” — Keil.

Samuel feared to show Eli the vision — His fear arose from the sad and dreadful nature of what the Lord had told him. The word vision implies something more than a mental process. It was an external appearance. See note on 1 Samuel 3:10.


Verse 17-18

17, 18. What is the thing that… said unto thee — It will be observed that the English version supplies the words the LORD, but in his question Eli seems to have intentionally omitted the subject of the verb said. His words imply that he himself was uncertain who had called Samuel. He was doubtless strongly persuaded that it was Jehovah, for this had been his conviction when the child came to him the third time, (1 Samuel 3:8,) but not until Samuel had told him every whit, (1 Samuel 3:18כל הדברים, all the words, that is, the entire communication of 1 Samuel 3:11-14,) was he absolutely sure; then he said, It is the Lord, and bowed in humble submissiveness before the sad and solemn prophecy. If he had entertained any doubts respecting the message of 1 Samuel 2:27-36, all doubt must have vanished now, as that message received confirmation through the child Samuel, whose word he could not doubt.


Verse 19

19. Let none of his words fall to the ground — Let none of his prophecies fail of fulfilment, so that it soon became known, far and near, that he was a divinely accredited prophet, and all his sayings surely came to pass. Compare 1 Samuel 9:6.


Verse 20

20. From Dan even to Beer-sheba — Dan, elsewhere called also Laish, (Judges 18:29,) was situated about twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee, and Beer-sheba in the south of Palestine, toward the borders of Arabia. These places served to designate the two extremities of the land of Israel. Compare Judges 20:1; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 17:11; 2 Samuel 24:2; 2 Samuel 24:15; 1 Kings 4:25.


Verse 21

21. The Lord appeared again — Rather, continued to appear; that is, from time to time.

Revealed himself — Discovered himself, or was unveiled. “The Lord uncovered the ear — such is the literal expression; a touching and significant figure, taken from the manner in which the possessor of a secret moves back the long hair of his friend, and whispers into the ear thus laid bare the word that no one else may hear. It is a figure which precisely expresses the most universal and philosophical idea conveyed by the term Revelation, thence appropriated in the theological language both of East and West.” — Stanley.

By the word of the Lord — By communications like the one just related. Literally, the expression is, In the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord was the very element in which he lived. Thus was Samuel caused to ask of Jehovah, that is, caused to be in continued intercourse with him, as he himself might ever be reminded by his very name. See note on 1 Samuel 1:28. Accordingly, the word of the Lord was no longer so costly and rare as it had previously been in Israel, (1 Samuel 3:1,) for throughout the land Samuel was known to habitually receive communications from Jehovah. “He is, also, the first instance of a prophet gradually raised for his office from the earliest dawn of reason. His work and his life are the counterparts of each other. With all the recollections of the ancient sanctuary impressed upon his mind, with the voice of God sounding in his ears, not, as in the case of the elder leaders and teachers of his people, amidst the roar of thunder and the clash of war, but in the still silence of the tabernacle, ere the lamp of God went out, he was the more fitted to meet the coming crisis, to become himself the centre of new institutions which should themselves become venerable as those in which he had been himself brought up.” — Stanley.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-3.html. 1874-1909.

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