|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-10 The call which Divine grace designs shall be made effectual; will be repeated till it is so, till we come to the call. Eli, perceiving that it was the voice of God that Samuel heard, instructed him what to say. Though it was a disgrace to Eli, for God's call to be directed to Samuel, yet he told him how to meet it. Thus the elder should do their utmost to assist and improve the younger that are rising up. Let us never fail to teach those who are coming after us, even such as will soon be preferred before us, Joh 1:30. Good words should be put into children's mouths betimes, by which they may be prepared to learn Divine things, and be trained up to regard them.
Verse 2. - Eli... could not see. I.e. clearly. His sight was fast failing him, and Samuel, still called a child, na'ar, but probably, as Josephus states ('Antiq.,' 5:10, 4), now fully twelve years old, was in constant attendance upon him because of his increasing infirmities. Both were sleeping in the temple; for literally the words are, And Samuel was sleeeping in the temple of Jehovah, where the ark of God was. Of course neither Eli nor Samuel were in the holy place; but, as in 1 Samuel 1:9, the word temple is used in its proper sense of the whole palace of Israel's spiritual King, in which were chambers provided for the use of the high priest and those in attendance upon him. In ver. 3 the lamp is mentioned as fixing the exact time. Though it is said that the seven-branched candelabrum was "to burn always" (Exodus 27:20), yet this apparently was to be by perpetually relighting it (ibid. 30:7, 8); and as Aaron was commanded to dress and light it every morning and evening, and supply it with oil, the night would be far advanced and morning near before it went out. In the stillness then of the late night Samuel, sunk in heavy sleep, hears a voice calling him, and springing up, naturally hurries to Eli, supposing that he needed his services. Eli had not heard the voice, and concluding that it was a mistake, bids Samuel return to his bed. Again the voice rings upon his ear, and again he hastens to Eli, only to be told to lie down again. In ver. 7 the reason is given why Samuel was thus thrice mistaken. Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah yet revealed unto him. Doubtless he knew Jehovah in the way in which the sons of Eli did not know him (1 Samuel 2:12), i.e. in his conscience and spiritual life, but he did not know him as one who reveals his will unto men. Prophecy had long been a rare thing, and though Samuel had often heard God's voice in the recesses of his heart, speaking to him of right and wrong, he knew nothing of God as a living Person, giving commands for men to obey, and bestowing knowledge to guide them in doing his will.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass at that time,.... When the word of the Lord was scarce and precious, and there was no open vision; or, as Ben Gersom, the same day the man of God came to Eli at night, the following affair happened:
when Eli was laid down in his place; on his bed to sleep, in one of the chambers or apartments of the tabernacle; for as there were such in the temple for the priests, so in that:
and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; to help himself to anything he might want when in bed; which seems to be the reason Samuel lay near him, and why, when he heard his voice, he immediately ran to him, supposing he needed his assistance. Some, as Kimchi and others, understand this not of the eyes of his body, but of his mind; and that the Holy Spirit, as a spirit of prophecy, was departing from him, because of his connivance at the sins of his sons; and so the following prophecy came not to him, but to Samuel.
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