1 Samuel 3
In the foregoing chapter we had Samuel a young priest, though by birth
a Levite only, for he ministered before the Lord in a linen ephod; in
this chapter we have him a young prophet, which was more, God in an
extraordinary manner revealing himself to him, and in him reviving, if
not commencing, prophecy in Israel. Here is,
I. God's first manifestation of himself in an extraordinary manner to
1 Samuel 3:1-10.
II. The message he sent by him to Eli,
1 Samuel 3:11-14.
III. The faithful delivery of that message to Eli, and his submission
to the righteousness of God in it,
1 Samuel 3:15-18.
IV. The establishment of Samuel to be a prophet in Israel,
1 Samuel 3:19-21.
|The Call of Samuel.
||B. C. 1128.|
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
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
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;
4 That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
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
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.
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of
the LORD yet revealed unto him.
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.
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.
10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times,
Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant
To make way for the account of God's revealing himself first to Samuel,
we are here told,
1. How industrious Samuel was in serving God, according as his place
and capacity were
(1 Samuel 3:1):
The child Samuel, though but a child, ministered unto the
Lord before Eli. It was an aggravation of the wickedness of Eli's
sons that the child Samuel shamed them. They rebelled against the Lord,
but Samuel ministered to him; they slighted their father's admonitions,
but Samuel was observant of them; he ministered before Eli, under his
eye and direction. It was the praise of Samuel that he was so far from
being influenced by their bad example that he did not in the least fall
off, but improved and went on. And it was a preparative for the honours
God intended him; he that was thus faithful in a little was soon after
entrusted with much more. Let those that are young be humble and
diligent, which they will find the surest way to preferment. Those are
fittest to rule who have learnt to obey.
2. How scarce a thing prophecy then was, which made the call of Samuel
to be the greater surprise to himself and the greater favour to Israel:
The word of the Lord was precious in those days. Now and then a
man of God was employed as a messenger upon an extraordinary occasion
1 Samuel 2:27),
but there were no settled prophets, to whom the people might have
recourse for counsel, nor from whom they might expect the discoveries
of the divine will. And the rarity of prophecy made it the more
precious in the account of all those that knew how to put a right value
upon it. It was precious, for what there was (it seems) was private:
There was no open vision, that is, there were none that were
publicly known to have visions. Perhaps the impiety and impurity that
prevailed in the tabernacle, and no doubt corrupted the whole nation,
had provoked God, as a token of his displeasure, to withdraw the Spirit
of prophecy, till the decree had gone forth for the raising up of a
more faithful priest, and then, as an earnest of that, this faithful
prophet was raised up.
The manner of God's revealing himself to Samuel is here related very
particularly, for it was uncommon.
I. Eli had retired. Samuel had waited on him to his bed, and the rest
that attended the service of the sanctuary had gone, we may suppose, to
their several apartments
(1 Samuel 3:2):
Eli had laid down in his place; he went to bed betimes, being
unfit for business and soon weary of it, and perhaps loving his ease
too well. Probably he kept his chamber much, which gave his sons the
greater liberty. And he sought retirement the more because his eyes
began to wax dim, an affliction which came justly upon him for winking
at his sons' faults.
II. Samuel had laid down to sleep, in some closet near to Eli's room,
as his page of the back-stairs, ready within call if the old man should
want any thing in the night, perhaps to read to him if he could not
sleep. He chose to take Samuel into this office rather than any of his
own family, because of the towardly disposition he observed in him.
When his own sons were a grief to him, his little servitor was his joy.
Let those that are afflicted in their children thank God if they have
any about them in whom they are comforted. Samuel had laid down ere
the lamp of God went out,
1 Samuel 3:3.
It should seem he lay somewhere so near the holy place that he went to
bed by that light, before any of the lamps in the branches of the
candlestick went out (for the main lamp never went out), which probably
was towards midnight. Till that time Samuel had been employing himself
in some good exercise or other, reading and prayer, or perhaps cleaning
or making ready the holy place; and then went softly to his bed. Then
we may expect God's gracious visits, when we are constant and diligent
in our duty.
III. God called him by name, and he took it for Eli's call, and ran to
1 Samuel 3:4,5.
Samuel lay awake in his bed, his thoughts, no doubt, well employed (as
when the Lord called to him, bishop Patrick thinks out of the most holy
place, and so the Chaldee paraphrase reads it, A voice was heard out
of the temple of the Lord; but Eli, though it is likely he lay
nearer, heard it not; yet possibly it might come some other way.
Hereupon we have an instance,
1. Of Samuel's industry, and readiness to wait on Eli; supposing it
was he that called him, he hastened out of his warm bed and ran to him,
to see if he wanted any thing, and perhaps fearing he was not well.
"Here am I," said he--a good example to servants, to come when they are
called; and to the younger, not only to submit to the elder, but to be
careful and tender of them.
2. Of his infirmity, and unacquaintedness with the visions of the
Almighty, that he took that to be only Eli's call which was really the
call of God. Such mistakes as these we make oftener than we think of.
God calls to us by his word, and we take it to be only the call of the
minister, and answer it accordingly; he calls to us by his providences,
and we look only at the instruments. His voice cries, and it is but
here and there a man of wisdom that understands it to be his voice. Eli
assured him he did not call him, yet did not chide him for disturbing
him with being over-officious, did not call him a fool, and tell
him he dreamed, but mildly bade him lie down again, he had nothing for
him to do. If servants must be ready at their masters' call, masters
also must be tender of their servants' comfort: that thy man-servant
and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. So Samuel
went and lay down. God calls many by the ministry of the word, and
they say, as Samuel did, "Here am I;" but not looking at God, nor
discerning his voice in the call, the impressions of it are soon lost;
they lie down again, and their convictions come to nothing.
IV. The same call was repeated, and the same mistake made, a second and
1 Samuel 3:6-9.
1. God continued to call the child yet again
(1 Samuel 3:6),
and again the third time,
1 Samuel 3:8.
Note, The call which divine grace designs to make effectual shall be
repeated till it is so, that is, till we come at the call; for the
purpose of God, according to which we are called, shall certainly
2. Samuel was still ignorant that it was the Lord that called him
(1 Samuel 3:7):
Samuel did not yet know the Lord. He knew the written word, and
was acquainted with the mind of God in that, but he did not yet
apprehend the way in which God reveals himself to his servants the
prophets, especially by a still small voice; this was altogether
new and strange to him. Perhaps he would have been sooner aware of a
divine revelation had it come in a dream or a vision; but this was a
way he had not only not known himself, but not heard of. Those that
have the greatest knowledge of divine things must remember the time
when they were as babes, unskilful in the word of righteousness.
When I was a child I understood as a child. Yet let us not
despise the day of small things. Thus did Samuel (so the margin
reads it) before he knew the Lord, and before the word of the Lord
was revealed unto him; thus he blundered one time after another,
but afterwards he understood his duty better. The witness of the Spirit
in the hearts of the faithful is often thus mistaken, by which means
they lose the comfort of it; and the strivings of the Spirit with the
consciences of sinners are likewise often mistaken, and so the benefit
of their convictions is lost. God speaketh once, yea, twice, but man
perceiveth it not,
3. Samuel went to Eli this second and third time, the voice perhaps
resembling his, and the child being very near to him; and he tells Eli,
with great assurance, "Thou didst call me
(1 Samuel 3:6-8),
it could be no one else." Samuel's disposition to come when he was
called, though but by Eli, proving him dutiful and active, qualified
him for the favour now to be shown him; God chooses to employ such. But
there was a special providence in it, that he should go thus often to
Eli; for hereby, at length, Eli perceived that the Lord had called
1 Samuel 3:8.
(1.) This would be a mortification to him, and he would apprehend it to
be a step towards his family's being degraded, that when God had
something to say he should choose to say it to the child Samuel, his
servant that waited on him, and not to him. And it would humble him
the more when afterwards he found it was a message to himself, and yet
sent to him by a child. He had reason to look upon this as a further
token of God's displeasure.
(2.) This would put him upon enquiring what it was that God said to
Samuel, and would abundantly satisfy him of the truth and certainty of
what should be delivered, and no room would be left for him to suggest
that it was but a fancy of Samuel's; for before the message was
delivered he himself perceived that God was about to speak to him, and
yet must not know what it was till he had it from Samuel himself. Thus
even the infirmities and mistakes of those whom God employs are
overruled by infinite Wisdom, and made serviceable to his purposes.
V. At length Samuel was put into a posture to receive a message from
God, not to be lodged with himself and go no further, but, that he
might be a complete prophet, to be published and made an open vision.
1. Eli, perceiving that it was the voice of God that Samuel heard, gave
him instructions what to say,
1 Samuel 3:9.
This was honestly done, that though it was a disgrace to him for God's
call to pass him by, and be directed to Samuel, yet he put him in the
way how to entertain it. Had he been envious of this honour done to
Samuel, he would have done what he could to deprive him of it, and,
since he did not perceive it himself, would have bidden him lie down
and sleep, and never heed it, it was but a dream; but he was of a
better spirit than to act so; he gave him the best advice he could, for
the forwarding of his advancement. Thus the elder should, without
grudging, do their utmost to assist and improve the younger that are
rising up, though they see themselves likely to be darkened and
eclipsed by them. Let us never be wanting to inform and instruct those
that are coming after us, even such as will soon be preferred before
The instruction Eli gave him was, when God called the next time, to
say, Speak, Lord, for they servant heareth. He must call himself
God's servant, must desire to know the mind of God. "Speak,
Lord, speak to me, speak now:" and he must prepare to hear, and
promise to attend: Thy servant heareth. Note, Then we may expect
that God will speak to us, when we set ourselves to hearken to what he
When we come to read the word of God, and to attend on the preaching of
it, we should come thus disposed, submitting ourselves to the
commanding light and power of it: Speak, Lord, for thy servant
2. It should seem that God spoke the fourth time in a way somewhat
different from the other; though the call was, as at other times, a
call to him by name, yet now he stood and called, which
intimates that there was now some visible appearance of the divine
glory to Samuel, a vision that stood before him, like that before
Eliphaz, though he could not discern the form thereof,
This satisfied him that it was not Eli that called; for he now saw
the voice that spoke with him, as it is expressed,
Now also the call was doubled--Samuel, Samuel, as if God
delighted in the mention of his name, or to intimate that now he should
be made to understand who spoke to him. God hath spoken once, twice
have I heard this,
It was an honour to him that God was pleased to know him by name
and then his call was powerful and effectual when he called him by
name, and so brought it particularly to him, as Saul, Saul. Thus
God called to Abraham by name,
3. Samuel said, as he was taught, Speak, for thy servant
heareth. Note, Good words should be put into children's mouths
betimes, and apt expressions of pious and devout affections, by which
they may be prepared for a better acquaintance with divine things, and
trained up to a holy converse with them. Teach young people what they
shall say, for they cannot order their speech by reason of
darkness. Samuel did not now rise and run as before when he thought
Eli called, but lay still and listened. The more sedate and composed
our spirits are the better prepared they are for divine discoveries.
Let all tumultuous thoughts and passions be kept under, and every thing
be quiet and serene in the soul, and then we are fit to hear from God.
All must be silent when he speaks. But observe, Samuel left out one
word; he did not say, Speak, Lord, but only, Speak, for thy
servant heareth, way was made for the message he was now to
receive, and Samuel was brought acquainted with the words of God and
visions of the Almighty, and this ere the lamp of God went out
(1 Samuel 3:3)
in the temple of the Lord, which some of the Jewish writers put
a mystical sense upon; before the fall of Eli, and the eclipsing of the
Urim and Thummim for some time thereby, God called Samuel, and made him
an oracle, whence they have an observation among their doctors, That
the sun riseth, and the sun goeth down
that is, say they, Ere God maketh the sun of one righteous man to set,
he makes the sun of another righteous man to rise. Smith ex
|Eli and His House Threatened.
||B. C. 1128.|
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
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
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.
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.
15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of
the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.
16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he
answered, Here am I.
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.
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.
I. The message which, after all this introduction, God delivered to
Samuel concerning Eli's house. God did not come to him now to tell him
how great a man he should be in his day, what a figure he should make,
and what a blessing he should be in Israel. Young people have commonly
a great curiosity to be told their fortune, but God came to Samuel, not
to gratify his curiosity, but to employ him in his service and send him
on an errand to another person, which was much better; and yet the
matter of this first message, which no doubt made a very great
impression upon him, might be of good use to him afterwards, when his
own sons proved, though not so bad as Eli's, yet not so good as they
should have been,
1 Samuel 8:3.
The message is short, not nearly so long as that which the man of God
1 Samuel 2:27.
For, Samuel being a child, it could not be expected that he should
remember a long message, and God considered his frame. The memories of
children must not be overcharged, no, not with divine things. But it is
a sad message, a message of wrath, to ratify the message in the former
chapter, and to bind on the sentence there pronounced, because perhaps
Eli did not give so much regard to that as he ought to have done.
Divine threatenings, the less they are heeded, the surer they will come
and the heavier they will fall. Reference is here had to what was there
said concerning both the sin and the punishment.
1. Concerning the sin: it is the iniquity that he knoweth,
1 Samuel 3:13.
The man of God told him of it, and many a time his own conscience had
told him of it. O what a great deal of guilt and corruption is there in
us concerning which we may say, "It is the iniquity which our own
heart knoweth, we are conscious to ourselves of it!" In short, the
iniquity was this: His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained
them not. Or, as it is in the Hebrew, he frowned not upon
them. If he did show his dislike of their wicked courses, yet not
to that degree that he ought to have done: he did reprove them, but he
did not punish them, for the mischief they did, nor deprive them of
their power to do mischief, which as a father, high priest, and judge,
he might have done. Note,
(1.) Sinners do by their own wickedness make themselves vile. They
debauch themselves (for every man is tempted when he is drawn aside
of his own lusts,
and thereby they debase themselves, and make themselves not only mean,
but odious to the holy God and holy men and angels. Sin is a vile
thing, and degrades men more than any thing,
Eli's sons made light of God, and made his offerings vile in the
people's eyes; but the shame returned into their own bosom: they
made themselves vile.
(2.) Those that do not restrain the sins of others, when it is in the
power of their hand to do it, make themselves partakers of the guilt,
and will be charged as accessaries: Those in authority will have a
great deal to answer for if they make not the sword they bear a
terror to evil workers.
2. Concerning the punishment: it is that which I have spoken
concerning his house,
1 Samuel 3:12,13.
I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, that is,
that a curse should be entailed upon his family from generation to
generation. The particulars of this curse we had before; they are not
here repeated, but it is added,
(1.) That when that sentence began to be executed it would be very
dreadful and amazing to all Israel
(1 Samuel 3:11):
Both the ears of every one that hears it shall tingle. Every
Israelite would be struck with terror and astonishment to hear of the
slaying of Eli's sons, the breaking of Eli's neck, and the dispersion
of Eli's family. Lord, how terrible art thou in thy judgments! If this
be done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Note, God's
judgments upon others should affect us with a holy fear,
(2.) That these direful first-fruits of the execution would be certain
earnests of the progress and full accomplishment of it: When I begin
I will proceed and make an end of all that I have
1 Samuel 3:12.
It is intimated that it might possibly be some time before he would
begin, but let them not call that forbearance an acquittance, nor that
reprieve a pardon; for when at length he does begin he will make
thorough work of it, and, though he stay long, he will strike home.
(3.) That no room should be left for hope that this sentence might be
reversed and the execution stayed or mitigated,
1 Samuel 3:14.
[1.] God would not revoke the sentence, for he backed it with an oath:
I have sworn to the house of Eli; and God will not go back from
what he has sworn either in mercy or judgment.
[2.] He would never come to a composition for the forfeiture: "The
iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor
offering for ever. No atonement shall be made for the sin, nor any
abatement of the punishment." This was the imperfection of the legal
sacrifices, that there were iniquities which they did not reach, which
they would not purge; but the blood of Christ cleanseth from all
sin, and secures all those that by faith are interested in it from
that eternal death which is the wages of sin.
II. The delivery of this message to Eli. Observe,
1. Samuel's modest concealment of it,
1 Samuel 3:15.
(1.) He lay till the morning, and we may well suppose he lay
awake pondering on what he had heard, repeating it to himself, and
considering what use he must make of it. After we have received the
spiritual food of God's word, it is good to compose ourselves, and give
it time to digest.
(2.) He opened the doors of the house of the Lord, in the
morning, as he used to do, being up first in the tabernacle. That he
should do so at other times was an instance of extraordinary
towardliness in a child, but that he should do so this morning was an
instance of great humility. God had highly honoured him above all the
children of his people, yet he was not proud of the honour, nor puffed
up with it, did not think himself too great and too good to be employed
in these mean and servile offices, but, as cheerfully as ever, went and
opened the doors of the tabernacle. Note, Those to whom God manifests
himself he makes and keeps low in their own eyes, and willing to stoop
to any thing by which they may be serviceable to his glory, though but
as door-keepers in his house. One would have expected that Samuel would
be so full of his vision as to forget his ordinary service, that he
would go among his companions, as one in an ecstasy, to tell them what
converse he had had with God this night; but he modestly keeps it to
himself, tells the vision to no man, but silently goes on in his
business. Our secret communion with God is not to be proclaimed upon
(3.) He feared to show Eli the vision. If he was afraid Eli
would be angry with him and chide him, then we have cause to suspect
that Eli used to be as severe with this towardly child as he was
indulgent to his own wicked sons, and this will bear hard upon him.
But we will suppose it was rather because he was afraid to grieve and
trouble the good old man that he was so shy. If he had run immediately
with the tidings to Eli, this would have looked as if he desired the
woeful day and hoped to build his own family upon the ruin of Eli's;
therefore it became him not to be forward to declare the vision. No
good man can take pleasure in bringing evil tidings, especially not
Samuel to Eli, the pupil to the tutor whom he loves and honours.
2. Eli's careful enquiry into it,
1 Samuel 3:16,17.
As soon as ever he heard Samuel stirring he called for him, probably to
his bed-side; and, having before perceived that God had spoken to him,
he obliged him, not only by importunity (I pray thee, hide it not
from me), but, finding him timorous and backward, by an adjuration
likewise--God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing
from me! He had reason enough to fear that the message prophesied
no good concerning him, but evil; and yet, because it was a message
from God, he could not contentedly be ignorant of it. A good man
desires to be acquainted with all the will of God, whether it make for
him or against him. His adjuration--God do so to thee, if thou hide
any thing from me--may intimate the fearful doom of unfaithful
watchmen; if they warn not sinners, they bring upon themselves that
wrath and curse which they should have denounced, in God's name,
against those that go on still in their trespasses.
3. Samuel's faithful delivery of his message at last
(1 Samuel 3:18):
He told him every whit. When he saw that he must tell him he
never minced the matter, nor offered to make it better than it was, to
blunt that which was sharp, or to gild the bitter pill, but delivered
the message as plainly and fully as he received it, not shunning to
declare the whole counsel of God. Christ's ministers must deal thus
4. Eli's pious acquiescence in it. He did not question Samuel's
integrity, was not cross with him, nor had he any thing to object
against the equity of the sentence. He did not complain of the
punishment, as Cain did, that it was greater than he either deserved or
could bear, but patiently submitted, and accepted the punishment of his
iniquity. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. He
understood the sentence to intend only a temporal punishment, and the
entail of disgrace and poverty upon his posterity, and not a final
separation of them from the favour of God, and therefore he cheerfully
submitted, did not repine, because he knew the demerits of his family;
nor did he now intercede for the reversing of the sentence, because God
had ratified it with a solemn oath, of which he would not repent. He
therefore composes himself into a humble resignation to God's will, as
Aaron, in a case not much unlike.
He held his peace. In a few words,
(1.) He lays down this satisfying truth, "It is the Lord; it is
he that pronounces the judgment, from whose bar there lies no appeal
and against whose sentence there lies no exception. It is he that will
execute the judgment, whose power cannot be resisted, his justice
arraigned, nor his sovereignty contested. It is the Lord, who
will thus sanctify and glorify himself, and it is highly fit he should.
It is the Lord, with whom there is no unrighteousness, who never
did nor ever will do any wrong to any of his creatures, nor exact more
than their iniquity deserves."
(2.) He infers from it this satisfying conclusion: "Let him do what
seemeth him good. I have nothing to say against his proceedings. He
is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works, and therefore
his will be done. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I
have sinned against him." Thus we ought to quiet ourselves under
God's rebuke, and never to strive with our Maker.
|Samuel Honoured as a Prophet.
||B. C. 1128.|
19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none
of his words fall to the ground.
20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel
was established to be a prophet of the LORD.
21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed
himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
Samuel being thus brought acquainted with the visions of God, we have
here an account of the further honour done him as a prophet.
I. God did him honour. Having begun to favour him, he carried on and
crowned his own work in him: Samuel grew, for the Lord was with
1 Samuel 3:19.
All our increase in wisdom and grace is owing to the presence of God
with us; this is all in all to our growth. God honoured Samuel,
1. By further manifestations of himself to him. Samuel had faithfully
delivered the message he was entrusted with, and therefore God employed
him again in his service: The Lord revealed himself again to Samuel
1 Samuel 3:21.
Note, God will graciously repeat his visits to those that receive them
2. By fulfilling what he spoke by him: God did let none of his words
fall to the ground,
1 Samuel 3:19.
Whatever Samuel said, as a prophet, it proved true, and was
accomplished in its season. Probably there were some remarkable
instances of the truth of Samuel's predictions that happened soon
after, which confirmed those that were afterwards to be fulfilled, and
gave general satisfaction as to his mission. God will confirm the
word of his servants, and perform the counsel of his
and will do what he hath said.
II. Israel did him honour. They all knew and owned that Samuel was
established to be a prophet,
1 Samuel 3:20.
1. He grew famous; all that came up to Shiloh to worship took notice of
him, and admired him, and talked of him when they returned home. Early
piety will be the greatest honour of young people, and bring them, as
much as any thing, and as soon, into reputation. Those that honour God
he will honour.
2. He grew useful and very serviceable to his generation. He that
began betimes to be good soon came to do good. His
established commission from God, and established reputation with the
people, gave him a great opportunity of shining as a light in Israel.
When old Eli was rejected, young Samuel was established; for God will
never leave himself without a witness nor his church without a