1 Samuel 3:2
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 see;
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1 Samuel 3:2-4. At that time — After the man of God, mentioned in the foregoing chapter, (1 Samuel 2:27,) had been with Eli; perhaps the very night after he had delivered his message: when Eli was laid down in his place — In the court of the tabernacle, where there were divers rooms for several uses of the priests, as there were afterward at the temple. That he could not see — Clearly to do his duty, after it became duskish. This, it is likely, made him go to bed betimes, and leave directions with Samuel what to do, till it was time for him also to repose himself. Ere the lamp of God went out — Before the lights of the gold en candlestick were put out in the morning. It has been inferred by some, from Exodus 27:20-21, that the lamp in the great shaft of this candlestick, which bent toward the most holy place, never went out. Some others of them, however, did go out, or were put out when it was morning. The meaning, therefore, here is, that ere it was day the Lord called Samuel, which, it appears, he did, out of the most holy place. So the Targum, A voice was heard out of the temple of the Lord. He answered, Here am I — It is likely Eli lay nearer the tabernacle than Samuel did. It appears, however, he heard nothing, the voice passing by him to Samuel, to whom it was directed, and who alone heard it.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.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. CHAPTER 3

1Sa 3:1-10. The Lord Appears to Samuel in a Vision.

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 judges (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."

In his place; in the court of the tabernacle.

He could not see, to wit, clearly and distinctly. This is added as an evidence of his old age, partly to show God’s contempt of him, notwithstanding his venerable age, and his preferring the child Samuel before him in this vision; and partly as the reason why Samuel so readily ran to him upon the first call, because his great age made him more to need his servants’ help. 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.

And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his {c} place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

(c) In the court next to the tabernacle.

2. at that time] This rendering is possible, but the Heb. literally means on that day, the memorable day which left such a deep mark upon Samuel’s life. So the LXX. and Vulg.

The words from ‘when Eli’ to ‘was laid down to sleep’ form a parenthesis, describing the circumstances under which Samuel’s call took place. (1) Eli was lying down in his place. (2) His eyes had begun to grow dim so that he could not see. These clauses serve to explain why Samuel ran to Eli when he heard the Voice. He would naturally suppose that the infirm and half-blind old man required some assistance. (3) The lamp of God was not yet extinguished. This marks the time of night as shortly before daybreak, when the sacred light in the Sanctuary would burn dim or be put out. (4) Samuel was lying down in the temple of Jehovah, where the ark of God was. The order of the Hebrew requires this translation. The term ‘temple’ includes the buildings round the Tabernacle (see note on 1 Samuel 1:9), in some of the chambers of which Eli and Samuel were sleeping, not of course in the Tabernacle itself. The Ark is expressly mentioned because it was the visible symbol of the Presence of Him from whom the Voice proceeded.

to wax] i.e. to grow, from A. S. weaxan, Germ. wachsen. The word has passed out of general use in modern English. Wiclif has ‘Biholde ye the lilies of the feeld hou thei wexen.’

the lamp of God] The seven-branched golden candlestick, now mentioned for the last time, stood on the south side of the Holy Place, opposite the Table of Shewbread (Exodus 25:31-37). It was lighted every evening (Exodus 27:20-21; Exodus 30:7-8), and was extinguished in the morning. In Solomon’s temple it was superseded by ten separate candlesticks, but in the second temple the single candlestick was restored. It was carried to Rome by Titus after the capture of Jerusalem, and figures conspicuously among the trophies sculptured on his triumphal arch, from which the familiar representation of it is derived.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. "And thou wilt see oppression of the dwelling in all that He has shown of good to Israel." The meaning of these words, which have been explained in very different ways, appears to be the following: In all the benefits which the lord would confer upon His people, Eli would see only distress for the dwelling of God, inasmuch as the tabernacle would fall more and more into decay. In the person of Eli, the high priest at that time, the high priest generally is addressed as the custodian of the sanctuary; so that what is said is not to be limited to him personally, but applies to all the high priests of his house. מעון is not Eli's dwelling-place, but the dwelling-place of God, i.e., the tabernacle, as in 1 Samuel 2:29, and is a genitive dependent upon צר. היטיב, in the sense of benefiting a person, doing him good, is construed with the accusative of the person, as in Deuteronomy 28:63; Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 30:5. The subject to the verb ייטיב is Jehovah, and is not expressly mentioned, simply because it is so clearly implied in the words themselves. This threat began to be fulfilled even in Eli's own days. The distress or tribulation for the tabernacle began with the capture of the ark by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:11), and continued during the time that the Lord was sending help and deliverance to His people through the medium of Samuel, in their spiritual and physical oppression. The ark of the covenant - the heart of the sanctuary - was not restored to the tabernacle in the time of Samuel; and the tabernacle itself was removed from Shiloh to Nob, probably in the time of war; and when Saul had had all the priests put to death (1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Samuel 22:11.), it was removed to Gibeon, which necessarily caused it to fall more and more into neglect. Among the different explanations, the rendering given by Aquila (καὶ ἐπιβλέψει [? ἐπιβλέψης] ἀντίζηλον κατοικητηρίου) has met with the greatest approval, and has been followed by Jerome (et videbis aemulum tuum), Luther, and many others, including De Wette. According to this rendering, the words are either supposed to refer to the attitude of Samuel towards Eli, or to the deposition of Abiathar, and the institution of Zadok by Solomon in his place (1 Kings 2:27). But צר does not mean the antagonist or rival, but simply the oppressor or enemy; and Samuel was not an enemy of Eli any more than Zadok was of Abiathar. Moreover, if this be adopted as the rendering of צר, it is impossible to find any suitable meaning for the following clause. In the second half of the verse the threat of 1 Samuel 2:31 is repeated with still greater emphasis. כּל־היּמים, all the time, i.e., so long as thine house shall exist.
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