1 Samuel Chapter 3: God Speaks to Samuel

Nov 7th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 3: God Speaks to Samuel

1 Sam. 3:1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

“There was no open vision” in those days because “the word of the LORD was precious [scarce].” Because of a carelessness in connection with the practices of the priesthood, every man did what seemed right in his own eyes (Judg. 17:6). As a result, neither the people nor the priesthood had clarity of vision on the things of the Lord. As the people got out of touch with the Lord by their negligent practices and were departing from Him, He did not communicate as closely. Eli was reprimanded for not properly fulfilling his responsibility.

Comment: A Reprint article suggests that the Urim and Thummim could not be used at this point and that possibly the last direct, open vision was in the days of Samson.

Reply: Yes, that explanation would be a part of the picture.

1 Sam. 3:2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

1 Sam. 3:3 And 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;

1 Sam. 3:4 That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.

Eli and Samuel had retired for the night in proximity to the Tabernacle when suddenly Samuel heard the voice of the Lord God calling him. Samuel answered, “Here am I” (or “Here I am,” as we would say).

In the Tabernacle arrangement, a responsibility of the priesthood was to keep the lamps on the Candlestick constantly lit, so that they burned 24 hours a day. (Similarly, the coals of fire were not allowed to burn out or be extinguished.) However, when the Tabernacle was up in Shiloh, it was not set up quite the same way as in the wilderness. During those 40 years, the Levites were distributed immediately around the Tabernacle, and the rest of the nation of Israel encamped beyond them. When the Tabernacle was brought to Shiloh, the tribes were no longer around the structure but were scattered throughout Israel in lots as apportioned by Joshua. Thus the physical setup was different.

Also, while the Tabernacle still had boards and sockets and was set up as in the wilderness, there were some changes because the structure was boxed in with a protective exterior framework. During the 40 years in the wilderness, no storm came on the Tabernacle, and it was shielded from the sun by the cloud (Isa. 4:5,6). The Lord miraculously protected the Israelites, so that no sandstorm, wadi flood, sirocco, or monsoon of any kind occurred.

Following the 40 years in the wilderness and the six years of dividing the land under Joshua, there came the 450-year Period of the Judges. Samuel and Eli lived at the end of those 450 years. Since the Tabernacle had now been in existence for about 500 years and the cloud had ceased at the end of the 40 years, some aging had taken place. Without the cloud protection it once had, the wood and the skins of the Tabernacle had aged and storms came. Evidently, some repairs had been made, and a protective barrier was built to fence in the structure and protect it. In addition, because of disobedience during the Period of the Judges, the Israelites were under periods of distress, and God periodically raised up a judge to rescue them following a period of captivity.

“Ere [before] the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD.” At nighttime, the oil in the lamps of the Candlestick was replenished so that the light would last until the next morning, at which time the oil was again replenished to last for the day. Apparently, instead of at 3 p.m., the proper time for replenishing the oil, the priesthood took some liberality or laxity and waited until later, probably using the degree of outside light as the determining factor. In fact, several infractions occurred in both the Law and the Tabernacle services. Once Moses died, the whole setup in the desert of Sinai—the idealistic picture—ceased in that it was no longer followed exactly. For many centuries, a lot of things happened without the strict enforcement of prior years. These centuries were a trial period to see what the people would do. For example, the Israelites were slack in capital punishment, and at night they moved the stakes of land boundaries with impunity, whereas under Moses, the Law was strictly enforced. Thus the desert wilderness experience was an idealistic picture of what God intended His people to do.

Then, later on, when they were in the land, came the test as to how well they would live up to that idealistic picture.

Spiritually speaking, we have the same test today in the Gospel Age. Jesus gave a pure gospel message at his First Advent, and the early Church was relatively pure, especially in the days of the apostles. But in the early Church was a little seed of the mystery of iniquity. Subsequently, down through the Gospel Age, a great deflection occurred from the original institution of what the Church should do—just as with natural Israel, there was a great deflection from what had happened in the days of Moses. As a test and a development, God permitted the evil that followed in Israel as well as in the Church during the Christian Age. Meanwhile, time has not been wasted, for He has been selecting the spiritual ministers, the kings and priests of the next age, and also the earthly ministers, the Ancient Worthies.

Back to the thought of “ere the lamp of God went out in the temple,” the point is that at the time this regular action took place on that particular night, Samuel had visions in which God called his name. The term “before the lamp of God went out” was being used like “cockcrow” in the New Testament. The rooster did not literally crow at such and such a time. Rather, a certain hour of the day was known as “cockcrow.” And the lamp of God was not literally flickering, ready to go out. Verse 3 is saying that it was time for the replenishing of the oil to take place. At that juncture, after the oil was added, the priest retired for the night.

Eli’s “eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see.” Eli was not completely blind, but his eyesight was poor, so he needed Samuel’s help. As darkness came, Eli had even more problems with his eyesight. Being obedient, Samuel retired at the same time as Eli, who went to bed a little early because his weak eyesight handicapped him. However, he still performed the duties of high priest.

Q: Why was the word “temple” used when the construction of the Temple would not occur until Solomon’s reign?

A: The Tabernacle was now housed in a temporary building at Shiloh. The word “temple” was not used in the sense of measurements being given by God, for the temporary building, or outer framework, was man-made. As the Tabernacle aged, the Israelites felt it was propitious to provide protection. Samuel had a duty to perform in regard to this outer structure, in which the Tabernacle was housed; that is, he was the keeper of the doors (1 Sam. 3:15). These were actual doors, not curtains of the Court, the Holy, or the Most Holy.

1 Sam. 3:5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.

1 Sam. 3:6 And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.

1 Sam. 3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.

1 Sam. 3:8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child.

Up to the time of this incident, Samuel had had no prior miraculous communication with God in any fashion. Samuel was sure he had heard a voice, but Eli was equally sure he had not called Samuel. Then God called Samuel the second time, and the boy went to Eli again. But Eli told him to go back to sleep. When God called Samuel the third time, Eli perceived it was the Lord.

1 Sam. 3:9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

1 Sam. 3:10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samue l, Samuel.Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

The first time that God called and Samuel went to Eli, the boy said, “Here am I; for thou calledst me.” Eli replied, “I called not; lie down again.” The second time God called, Samuel told Eli with a little more emphasis, “Here am I; for thou didst call me.” Eli answered, “I called not, my son; lie down again.” The third time God called, Samuel said even more emphatically, “Here am I; for thou didst call me.” This time Eli got the point. In other words, Samuel got more insistent each time he was called, and no longer could Eli doubt the veracity. Now he told Samuel, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee [the fourth time], that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth.”

Comment: No doubt Eli felt set aside. He would have sensed that a message damaging to him was forthcoming.

Reply: Yes, especially since Eli had never had that experience himself.

“The LORD came, and stood, and called as at [the] other [three] times.” However, on this fourth occasion, there was a materialization because God knew Samuel would hearken. As his name was called, Samuel obediently responded, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”

1 Sam. 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.

God said to Samuel, “Behold, I will do a thing in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears it tingle.” This was a reference to the taking of the Ark of the Covenant into captivity by the Philistines. The capture of the Ark would startle everyone in Israel. The scandal about Eli’s sons was bad enough, but now God’s Ark would be in the camp of the enemy.

1 Sam. 3:12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.

When the retribution started, it would be completed quickly. In the same day that the Ark would be taken, Hophni, Phinehas, and Eli would die. Therefore, the retribution would begin and end in the same day.

1 Sam. 3:13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

The punishment would come because Eli did not remove his two sons from the priesthood. A tongue-lashing was not enough.

1 Sam. 3:14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.

Since the iniquity of Eli’s house could not be purged with sacrifice, the sins had to be expiated.

The punishment, or expiation, was Eli’s removal from office. He could not just say, “I am sorry,” and have the sins forgiven so that he could start fresh, for he had gone beyond the  point of no return as far as the restoration of the priesthood was concerned. (His personal judgment in the future is a separate subject.)

Earlier we suggested that Samuel represents the Little Flock, Eli pictures the Great Company, and Hophni and Phinehas, who were directly involved in the grievous sins, represent two Second Death classes. As the parent, Eli was demoted for his involvement in the sins in a secondhand fashion. He was removed from the priesthood, which in antitype will be filled only by the Little Flock. Thus the destinies of all the consecrated of the Gospel Age are shown in this picture.

1 Sam. 3:15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.

1 Sam. 3:16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.

1 Sam. 3:17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.

Samuel was in a sensitive situation. As a little boy, he had started under the tutelage of Eli, and he respected and obeyed Eli as God’s representative on earth. The bond of affection between the old man and young Samuel is shown in Eli’s expression “my son.” Earlier the man of God had prophesied the cutting off of Eli and his house, and now Eli would surmise that Samuel was the one to replace him (1 Sam. 2:27-36).

Samuel lay in bed until morning and then performed his duty of opening the “doors of the house of the LORD,” the man-made protective shelter, or framework, that housed the Tabernacle. Being sensitive and not wanting to hurt Eli’s feelings, he “feared to show Eli the vision.” Then Eli called Samuel and asked, “What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee?” and ordered him to tell the whole message. In fact, Eli threatened Samuel if any of the message was withheld.

1 Sam. 3:18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.

Samuel then told Eli the entire message. He told “every whit, and hid nothing from him.” Eli responded, “It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.” Of course this was the proper spirit, but because Eli had failed to act earlier, he was not redeemed in God’s eyes. In fact, God had said that sacrifice would not take away Eli’s sin (verse 14). Therefore, since Eli did give the right answer here, his response shows that if the Great Company class, who sin, have Eli’s tender attitude of remorse, there is hope of salvation. Had Eli hardened himself, there would be no hope as regards the class he typifies.

Comment: Reprint No. 5615, “The Voice of the Lord,” is a good article. A spiritual lesson is that Samuel represents the Lord’s people, and sometimes duty necessitates the telling of a matter that we might prefer to hide, but it has to be told.

Reply: Yes, if such a matter was not told, then Samuel would have incurred responsibility.

Q: How old was Samuel at this time?

A: There is no clue as to his age, but he was probably around 18, for time had been passing.

1 Sam. 3:19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

Samuel grew physically in stature and matured in character, responsibility, and wisdom. From the time of the night appearance and personal message to Samuel, God began to deal with him. If word of that materialization and message had initially gotten out, the people would have marveled and said, “This type of thing has not happened for ages,” and they would have studied Samuel very astutely and come to him. But Eli was still alive, so it was not as if Samuel were taking over. The message was merely a prediction of what would come to pass.

Normally speaking, the age at which one succeeded to the priesthood was 30, and the age of maturity for battle was 20. In other words, more maturity was needed to be a priest than to go to war. However, when Eli and his sons died, it was logical that Samuel would take over whether or not he was 30 years old, for God had already recognized him.

Samuel “did let none of his [God’s] words fall to the ground.” He diligently did God’s will, and any advice he gave was sound. Samuel spoke with wisdom and was later known as a seer who mechanically prophesied events with almost infallible accuracy.

1 Sam. 3:20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.

In time all Israel knew that God was dealing with Samuel. They knew that God had spoken to him, and they saw his faithful behavior. When news got out and spread like wildfire about the prophecy of Eli’s being cut off, the people knew it was just a matter of time until Samuel was fully established in the role of priest.

“From Dan even to Beer-sheba” was like saying, “From north to south.” In other words, to the minority of righteous individuals of the nation who were longing for a closer communion with the Lord as in the days of old, the news about Eli and Samuel was electrifying.

1 Sam. 3:21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

God appeared again to Samuel in Shiloh, but no details of the vision are provided. In both experiences, God “appeared” through the materialized Logos.

Q: Were the duties of the high priest at this time the same as they were in the wilderness?

Were there underpriests?

A: When Samuel later became the priest, the people reviewed the record of his forbears to see which Levites in his branch could fulfill and replace the responsibilities of the underpriests.

Q: Were there continual burnt offerings every day, for example?

A: The account does not necessarily say that there were burnt offerings. Another problem was that Samuel journeyed throughout Israel. The Tabernacle arrangement was temporary, and the Israelites were confined to that arrangement in the wilderness as they moved from place to place. Now, many years later, the people were spread out, so the situation was different. They probably came to the Tabernacle for the main festivals, and underpriests accommodated them. In the wilderness, the people were only 500 or 1,000 feet away from the Tabernacle, so it was convenient for the people to bring their offerings. But now, if someone lived down in Beersheba, for example, he had to think twice because of the great distance. Under those circumstances, it was understood that the Lord would make allowances along certain lines.

Nominally, therefore, some services were being performed all the time by the underpriests.

Comment: When the Tabernacle was set up in the wilderness, the people had to go there to sacrifice.

Reply: That is correct, but some changes were made when they entered the land, as recorded by Moses in the Pentateuch. The people did have to go to the Tabernacle for the special feasts, but in this new circumstance, allowances were made so that their daily offerings could be made wherever they were.

Q: Where is Shiloh?

A: Shiloh is north of Jerusalem about halfway to Nablus (Shechem).

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