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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And 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.
See the margin reference note. Josephus says that Samuel's call to the prophetic office happened when he had just completed his twelfth year (compare Luke 2:42).
Was precious - (or rare) The song of Hannah, and the prophecy of the "man of God" (1 Samuel 2:27 note), are the only instances of prophecy since Deborah. Samuel is mentioned as the first of the series of prophets Acts 3:24.
No open vision - Better rendered, "There was no vision promulgated or published." (Compare 2 Chronicles 31:5.)
2And 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;
The passage should be rendered thus: "And it came to pass at that time that Eli was sleeping in his place; and his eyes had begun to grow dim; he could not see. And the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was; and the Lord called Samuel, etc." Eli's old age and dimness of sight is probably mentioned as the reason why Samuel thought Eli had called him. Being a blind and feeble old man, he was likely to do so if he wanted anything, either for himself, or for the service of the temple.
3And 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;
4That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
5And 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.
6And 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.
7Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.
Did not yet know the Lord - i. e. in His supernatural communication, as follows at the end of the verse. The text rendering of this verse is better than that of the margin.
8And 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.
9Therefore 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.
10And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
A personal presence, not a mere voice, or impression upon Samuel's mind, is here distinctly indicated. (Compare Genesis 12:7 note; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:16.)
11And 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.
More accurately, "the which whosoever heareth both his ears shall tingle." This expressive phrase occurs again twice (marginal references) with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. It is remarkable that Jeremiah repeatedly compares the destruction of Jerusalem with the destruction of Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:12, Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 26:6, Jeremiah 26:9; Compare Psalm 78:60-64).
12In 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 I begin ... - literally, as in the margin: meaning, I will go through with the performance from first to last.
13For 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.
Made themselves vile - Rather, "have cursed themselves," i. e. brought curses upon themselves.
He restrained them not - In the sense of punishing. He did not remove them from their office, which he ought to have done.
14And 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.
See the marginal references. The sin of the sons of Eli could not be purged by the appointed sacrifices of the Law. In blessed contrast with this declaration is the assurance of the New Testament 1 John 1:7; Acts 13:39.
15And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.
Opened the doors - We learn thus incidentally the nature of some of Samuel's duties. This duty was quite Levitical in its character. In the interval between Josh and David, when the tabernacle was stationary for the most part, it may have lost something of its "tent" character, and among other changes have had doors instead of the hanging.
Samuel feared to show Eli the vision - Here was Samuel's first experience of the prophet's cross: the having unwelcome truth to divulge to those he loved, honored, and feared. Compare the case of Jeremiah Jer 15:10; Jeremiah 17:15-18; Jeremiah 20:7-18.
16Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.
17And 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.
18And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good.
It is the Lord ... - Compare the devout submission of Aaron Leviticus 10:3, and of Hezekiah 2 Kings 20:19. And, for the highest conceivable submission to the will of God, compare Luke 22:42.
19And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.
20And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.
From Dan ... - See Judges 20:1 note.
21And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
The state described in 1 Samuel 3:7 was henceforth reversed. Samuel now knew the Lord, and the Word of the Lord was revealed unto him.