SynopsisTechnically, since I base my posts on the NIV section titles, this post should also cover Chapter 4 verse 1, and the next post should start with 4:2. However, it’s just one verse, so I’m not bothering.
Samuel is now ministering before the LORD, under the priest Eli. Verse 1 tells us that it’s a quiet time for Israel, in terms of the LORD’s Word; visions are rare. And Verse 7 tells us that Samuel himself doesn’t even know the LORD, because His word has not yet been revealed to Samuel.
One night Samuel is lying down in the temple, and Eli is also lying down, in his usual place. The LORD calls Samuel, but Samuel doesn’t realize it’s the LORD, he thinks it’s Eli. He goes to Eli, and says, “Here I am.” But Eli tells Samuel that he didn’t call him, so Samuel goes and lies back down. The LORD calls him again, and again he goes to Eli to find out what he wants, only for Eli to tell him that he didn’t call him. So Samuel goes and lies down again.
A third time, the LORD calls Samuel, and Samuel goes to Eli. And this time, Eli clues in as to what is happening. He tells Samuel to go and lie down again, and the next time the LORD calls him, he is to say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” (verse 9).
So this is what happens. Samuel goes and lies down, and the LORD calls him a fourth time. Samuel says what Eli had told him to say, and so the LORD speaks:
And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” (verses 11–14)After this, Samuel lies down until morning, and then tries to go about his business as usual. He is afraid to tell Eli what the LORD has told him, but Eli gets him to tell anyway, and Samuel tells him the whole thing. Eli’s response is that He is the LORD, and can do what is good in His eyes.
But the LORD doesn’t yet carry out His word in this passage. He is with Samuel, as he grows up, and the entire nation begins to recognize that Samuel is a prophet. God continues to reveal His Word to Samuel at Shiloh (where they are currently ministering before Him), and His word reaches all of Israel through Samuel.
ThoughtsI’m not sure exactly what verse 7 means, when it says that the Word of the LORD has not been “revealed” to Samuel. Does it mean that Eli hasn’t been teaching Samuel anything? If so, I’d be surprised, but not shocked. (I don’t know how you could have someone ministering before the LORD and not teach him something about the God whom he’s serving—although we’ve also seen that Eli hasn’t been controlling his sons, so maybe this is another area where he’s lacking.) Or is this more of a New Testament-style statement, that Samuel has not come to a “saving faith” in the LORD, or that type of thing?
Eli’s response to the LORD’s prophecy is interesting. He seems to be simply resigned to his fate. The LORD’s message is clearly holding Eli to blame for his sons’ actions, and I guess Eli agrees, since he’s not trying to fight it. (Or maybe he just knows that it would be futile to fight the LORD?)