1 Samuel 3:3
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;
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(3, 4) Ere the lamp of God went out.—There is a Talmud comment here of singular interest and beauty: “On the day that Rabbi Akiva died, Rabbi (compiler of the Mishnah) was born; on the day when Rabbi died, Rav Yehudah was born; on the day when Rav Yehudah died, Rava was born; on the day when Rava died, Rav Ashi (one of the editors of Guemara) was born. It teaches thee, that no righteous man departs this life before another equally righteous is born; as it is said (Ecclesiastes 1:5): ‘The sun riser, and the sun goes down.’ The sun of Eli had not set before that of Samuel rose; as it is said (1Samuel 3:3): ‘Ere the lamp of God was out . . . and Samuel laid down.’”—Tract Kiddushin, fol. 72, Colossians 2.

“It was night in the sanctuary. The high priest slept in one of the adjacent chambers, and the attendant ministers in another. In the centre, on the left of the entrance, stood the seven-branched candlestick, now mentioned for the last time; superseded in the reign of Solomon by the ten separate candlesticks, but revived after the Captivity by the copy of the one candlestick with seven branches, as it is still seen on the Arch of Titus. It was the only light of the Tabernacle during the night, was solemnly lighted every evening, as in the devotions of the Eastern world, both Mussulman and Christian, and extinguished just before morning, when the doors were opened.

“ In the deep silence of that early morning, before the sun had risen, when the sacred light was still burning, came through the mouth of the innocent child the doom of the house of Ithamar.”—Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, Part I.

The Lord called Samuel.—It seems probable that the voice came from out of the “visible glory,” the Shekinah, which on that solemn night of the calling of the child-prophet no doubt rested on its chosen earthly throne—the mercy-seat of God—which formed the top of the Ark, and which was overshadowed by the outspread wings of the golden Cherubim.

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. 3. ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord—The "temple" seems to have become the established designation of the tabernacle, and the time indicated was towards the morning twilight, as the lamps were extinguished at sunrise (see Le 6:12, 13). Ere the lamp of God went out; before the lights of the golden candlestick were put out, i.e. in the night season, or before the morning, when they were put out, as they were lighted in the evening, Exodus 27:21 Leviticus 24:3 2 Chronicles 13:11.

In the temple, i.e. in the tabernacle, which is sometimes called the temple, as being of the same use and significancy.

Samuel was laid down to sleep; not that this happened when he first lay down, but whilst he was lying there. And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord,.... The tabernacle so called; lamp is put for the lamps in the candlestick in the tabernacle, which were lighted every evening, and burnt till morning; by which time some of them at least usually went out, only it is said the western lamp never went out. Now the reason why this is observed is to show that it was in the night, before morning, that the following transaction was: some by this lamp understand the lamp of prophecy, that before that was quite extinct in Eli, only began to depart, as his eyes are said to begin to wax dim, the spirit of prophecy came to Samuel; so that, as the Jews express it, before one sun was set another arose; thus before the sun of Moses set, the sun of Joshua arose; and before the sun of Eli set, the sun of Samuel arose:

where the ark of God was; that is, in the temple or tabernacle; not in that part of it where the lamps were burning in the candlestick, that was in the holy place; but the ark was in the holy of holies, where the Lord dwelt, and was the symbol of his presence; and which is observed to point out the place from whence the voice came, after mentioned; and which the Targum expresses here,"and a voice was heard out of the temple of the Lord, where the ark of the Lord was:''and Samuel was laid down to sleep; after Eli was in bed, and Samuel had done all his business, he laid himself down to sleep in his place; in the court of the Levites, as the Targum, with which the Jewish commentators in general agree: it must be somewhere near to Eli, so that he could quickly come at him, when he needed his assistance; though, according to the Misnah (p), the priests shut the doors of the court within, and the Levites slept without. It is highly probable that Samuel's apartment was near to Eli, or he could not have so readily come to him, as it is plain he did. This circumstance is also observed, to show that it was in the night, and before morning, that the following vision was; and, as Kimchi thinks, about cock crowing; and it may be from hence Strabo (q) had the notion, that Moses ordered such to sleep (in the temple) for themselves, and others, who were fit to receive good dreams, and who might expect from God a good gift, who lived soberly and righteously; and because the tabernacle was covered with skins, hence might spring the notion of others to sleep in temples, for the above reason, under the skins of the sacrifices; see Gill on , though they seem rather to have slept upon them, for the above purposes, namely, to converse with their deities, and get knowledge from them (r).

(p) Middot, c. 1. sect. 8. (q) Geograph. l. 16. p. 523. (r) Vid. Virgil. Aeneid. 7. "huc dona Sacerdos", &c. ver. 86-95.

And ere the {d} lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;

(d) That is, the lamps which burnt in the night.

"And I will not cut off every one to thee from mine altar, that thine eyes may languish, and thy soul consume away; and all the increase of thine house shall die as men." The two leading clauses of this verse correspond to the two principal thoughts of the previous verse, which are hereby more precisely defined and explained. Eli was to see the distress of the sanctuary; for to him, i.e., of his family, there would always be some one serving at the altar of God, that he might look upon the decay with his eyes, and pine away with grief in consequence. אישׁ signifies every one, or any one, and is not to be restricted, as Thenius supposes, to Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, the brother of Ichabod; for it cannot be shown from 1 Samuel 14:3 and 1 Samuel 22:20, that he was the only one that was left of the house of Eli. And secondly, there was to be no old man, no one advanced in life, in his house; but all the increase of the house was to die in the full bloom of manhood. אנשׁים, in contrast with זקן, is used to denote men in the prime of life.
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