Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
SAMUEL IN A
1. the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli--His ministry
consisted, of course, of such duties in or about the sanctuary as were
suited to his age, which is supposed now to have been about twelve
years. Whether the office had been specially assigned him, or it arose
from the interest inspired by the story of his birth, Eli kept him as
his immediate attendant; and he resided not in the sanctuary, but in
one of the tents or apartments around it, assigned for the
accommodation of the priests and Levites, his being near to that of
the high priest.
the word of the Lord was precious in those days--It was very rarely
known to the Israelites; and in point of fact only two prophets are
mentioned as having appeared during the whole administration of the
(Jud 4:4; 6:8).
there was no open vision--no publicly recognized prophet whom the
people could consult, and from whom they might learn the will of God.
There must have been certain indubitable evidences by which a
communication from heaven could be distinguished. Eli knew them, for he
may have received them, though not so frequently as is implied in the
idea of an "open vision."
3. ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord--The "temple"
seems to have become the established designation of the tabernacle, and
the time indicated was towards the morning twilight, as the lamps were
extinguished at sunrise (see
Le 6:12, 13).
5-18. he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me--It is
evident that his sleeping chamber was close to that of the aged high
priest and that he was accustomed to be called during the night. The three
successive calls addressed to the boy convinced Eli of the divine
character of the speaker, and he therefore exhorted the child to give a
reverential attention to the message. The burden of [the Lord's
message] was an extraordinary premonition of the judgments that
impended over Eli's house; and the aged priest, having drawn the
painful secret from the child, exclaimed, "It is the Lord; let him do
what seemeth him good." Such is the spirit of meek and unmurmuring
submission in which we ought to receive the dispensations of God,
however severe and afflictive. But, in order to form a right estimate
of Eli's language and conduct on this occasion, we must consider the
overwhelming accumulation of judgments denounced against his person,
his sons, his descendants--his altar, and nation. With such a
threatening prospect before him, his piety and meekness were wonderful.
In his personal character he seems to have been a good man, but his
sons' conduct was flagrantly bad; and though his misfortunes claim our
sympathy, it is impossible to approve or defend the weak and unfaithful
course which, in the retributive justice of God, brought these
adversities upon him.