1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 3
1 How the word of the Lord was first revealed to Samuel. 11 God telleth Samuel the destruction of Eli’s house. 15 Samuel, though loth, telleth Eli the vision. 19 Samuel groweth in credit.
Verse 1 Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.
There was no widespread revelation. “There was no vision bursting forth.” The preceding statement, to the effect that the word of the Lord was “rare,” is descriptive of the contemporary situation — inspired messages seldom came to God’s people.
Now, more specifically, the narrator explains why this situation existed — God did not appear to men in vision as often as in other times. Emphasis is not so much on the manner of revelation as on its frequency.
This is the first use in Scripture of the word chazon, “vision,” and the only instance of its use in the two books of Samuel.
A comparison of chazon with mar’ah, also translated “vision,” clarifies God’s method of revealing His plans for the salvation of mankind.
The word chazon is from a verb meaning “to perceive with inner vision,” whereas mar’ah is derived from a verb meaning “to see visually.”
Both are used interchangeably with chalom, “dream.” The word mar’ah is commonly used in the earlier books of the Bible to describe messages from God to men, either in dreams or by the personal visit of heavenly messengers.
As Jacob started on his journey to Egypt (Gen. 46:2), God spoke to him “in the visions [mar’ah] of the night.”
Jacob felt himself in the divine presence, and the revelation was as real as that received by Abraham when the three angels visited him before the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 18:2–22).
This same kind of divine revelation is also called a dream, chalom, as when God warned Abimelech regarding Abraham’s wife (Gen. 20:3–13).
At the time of the sedition of Aaron and Miriam, God said, “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision [mar’ah], and will speak unto him in a dream [chalom].”
Daniel makes frequent use of all three words. When he relates the vision of the four beasts he uses chazon (Dan. 7:1, 2, 7, 13, 15) to describe the dream, chalom (7:1), in which future events were pictured symbolically.
He uses the same word, chazon, in 8:1 also. But when Daniel is troubled as to the meaning of the vision, he goes down by the riverside, where the angel Gabriel, who appears to him, is told to “make this man to understand the vision [mar’ah].”
But Gabriel, after strengthening the prophet, says, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision [chazon]” (Dan. 8:16, 17)
The impression made upon Samuel by his heavenly visitant was so real that he referred to it in 1 Sam. 3:15 as a mar’ah.
Therefore the statement in verse 1 does not imply that the Lord was unwilling to guide His people. The thought is stressed, however, that the spiritual and intellectual perceptions of Israel had now reached low ebb.
Verse 2 And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, 3 and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down.
Ere the lamp. The seven-branched golden candlestick, placed on the south side of the holy place, was never to go out (see on Ex. 27:20, 21).
The cups were filled with the best olive oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and the high priest adjusted the lamps morning and evening at the time of placing incense on the altar before the veil that separated the holy from the most holy place (see on Ex. 30:7, 8).
As the glow of these lamps illuminated the darkness of the night, so Christ is the light that illumines this dark world, ever shedding forth the glory of His love and sacrifice into the darkness of men’s hearts (see John 1:4, 5, 9).
As the candlestick illuminated the sanctuary of old, so the Holy Spirit provides spiritual illumination, by which men may have a clearer perception of the plan of salvation.
But without the inner light to illumine the soul, the literal light could have but little value.
The letter of the sanctuary ritual meant nothing if the spirit was not there (see Isa. 1:11, 13, 15, 16).
Although both leaders and people were following the ways of the idolatrous nations about them, there were, here and there, humble souls such as Elkanah and his household who preserved the spiritual vision so greatly needed.
Verses 4-8 that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” 5 So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. 6 Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!”
So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.)
8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy.
The Lord called. When Samuel came to Eli the third time the aged priest perceived that it was God who spoke.
That the Lord should pass him by to communicate with a mere youth might easily have created in his heart a spirit of professional jealousy.
Remembering the message of the man of God in past years, however, Eli may have concluded that the message was for him and could have reasoned that the Lord should have revealed it to him directly.
Eli’s honesty in dealing with Samuel under these conditions is greatly to be admired.
Realizing, perhaps for the first time, that God was preparing another to fill his office, he felt no grudge, but on the contrary did his utmost to prepare Samuel for his important post by giving the lad the best counsel he had.
Samuel was instructed to think of himself as the Lord’s servant, ready to hear His counsel and to do His bidding.
What a lesson in Eli’s experience for those who are fearful lest they do not receive the honor their office demands, and lest the hands of other men replace theirs at the tasks required of that office
Verses 9,10 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”
The Lord came. Since it was a new experience for young Samuel, the Lord graciously manifested His presence in some definite way not described in detail.
Ere a word was spoken, both the old priest and his young assistant had ample proof of the presence of a supernatural power, and like children instructed by their parents, both were brought by the Holy Spirit to the place where they were willing to listen and obey.
Such would not have been true had the word of the Lord come to such as Hophni.
For example, how different was the reception accorded the rebuke of God as it came to Saul on the one hand, and to David on the other Saul was full of criticism, alibis, and self-justification (ch. 15:16–31)
But David, because of many years of surrender to the Lord, offered no alibi for his sin and sought only for a clean heart and a right spirit (2 Sam. 12:1–14; compare Ps. 51:10; 103:12).
The question may well be asked: Why did the Lord not speak to Eli directly? Eli seems to have been a sincere, humble man, one who desired peace and righteousness above all else.
Why, therefore, bring Samuel into the case? But God no longer communicated with Eli and his sons (PP 581).
Verse 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.
I will do. Samuel lived for years in an evil environment, and could not help seeing the difference between the instructions given in the scrolls of the law and the lives of the young priests who had been his intimate associates.
Had he made inquiry of them, he would have received only angry rebuffs.
His parents were not present to advise him, and he was hesitant to approach Eli himself.
As he turned the matter over in his heart, the same question would come to him that comes to the mind of a godly youth today:
If the Word of God lays down certain principles for the conduct of His work, and the leaders not only fail to follow these instructions, but are guilty of gross misconduct, why does He allow them to continue ministering in holy office?
Maybe you are a young person experiencing what Samuel did.
Seed sowing is not followed immediately by the harvest, because time is needed for the fruit to reach maturity.
The process of character development requires time—probationary time.
Thus it was with Hophni and Phinehas; thus it is today. Eventually God brings to naught all who defy His statutes (Ps. 119:118).
As Christ permitted Judas to occupy a position where he would have the opportunity to succeed, so He allowed Hophni and his brother to be placed in a position where they could, by relying on Him, become acceptable ministers of the covenant.
But like Judas, the sons of Eli would not surrender to His guidance. By allowing self to reign supreme, they made it impossible for God to impart to them the necessary training.
God knew what would happen should they continue in their perverse course, and in love and long-suffering warned them what the result would be.
Yet, like Judas, they chose their own way, only to realize ultimately the truth expressed by Paul centuries later, “He that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8).
In his own experience, Samuel verified Paul’s admonition, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
Verses 12-15 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. 14 And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 So Samuel lay down until morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision.
Samuel was afraid. In this world of sin it is never easy to be the mouthpiece of the Lord.
Elijah took his life in his hands as he warned Ahab of the impending famine; but he was fearless in his obedience, and God made Himself responsible for the results.
Samuel was a mere youth! And he had to learn in his youth not to be afraid of men’s faces, even as Jesus feared not to face the leaders of His time, while He was, as yet, a child of only 12 summers!
Verses 16-19 Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son!” He answered, “Here I am.”
17 And he said, “What is the word that the Lord spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you.”
18 Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
19 So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
The Lord was with him. Eli’s sun was about to set, but that of Samuel was already rising.
Christ suffered the pangs of separation from the Father (see DA 685, 686, 753, 756), but God has never yet led His people through the total darkness of separation from Him.
To Christ on the cross it appeared that He trod the winepress alone, yet His Father was there suffering with Him.
To Samuel it might have seemed, after years of observing sin all about him, either that God winked at sin or that His plan for man had changed.
But Samuel was unaware of how long God had waited for a young man to whom He could truly impart His Spirit, and commit the leadership of His work on earth.
When Saul, for example, failed, he was not immediately replaced. For a number of years he still had the opportunity of changing his mind and surrendering to the guidance of a loving Father.
But bigotry and criticism soon gave way to rebellion against divine leadership, while pride and self-justification robbed him of spiritual virtue.
During the years of Saul’s testing, however, David was invited to sit at the feet of the King of kings, preparatory to taking over the responsibilities of the leadership of Israel.
None of his words. Samuel naturally had much to learn, but as a youth he was trained in the school of obedience to God’s call.
What a joy it must have been to the Lord to find a lad eager for the privilege of learning the ways of God and determined to obey Him whatever the cost Little wonder he was accepted by the people as a prophet when hardly more than a child!
Verses 20,21 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–21 PP 581-583
1–4 3T 472
1–6 PP 581
7 PP 582
8–14 PP 581
9 SL 12
11 TM 410
11–14 SR 185
13, 14 1T 119, 217; 2T 624
14 1T 190
15–18 PP 582
18 SR 185; 1T 119; 4T 200
19 CT 143
19, 20 PP 590