1 Samuel 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Every imagination must be struck by the contrast between the old man and the child. The more so, that the natural order of things is reversed. Instead of admonition to the child coming through the lips of age, admonition to the aged came through the lips of childhood.


1. His good points. The Lord had ceased to speak to or by Eli; but when the old priest perceived that the Lord had spoken to the child, he showed no personal or official jealousy. On the contrary, he kindly encouraged Samuel, and directed him how to receive the heavenly message. He did not attempt to interpose on the ground that he, as the chief priest, was the official organ of Divine communications, but bade the child lie still and hearken to the voice. Nor did he claim any preference on the ground of his venerable age. It is not easy to look with complacency on one much younger than ourselves who is evidently on the way to excel us in our own special province. But Eli did so, and threw no hindrance whatever in the way of the young child. Let God use as his seer or prophet whom he would. Eli was anxious to know the truth, and the whole truth, from the mouth of the child. He had been previously warned by a man of God of the disaster which his own weakness and his sons' wickedness would bring on the priestly line (1 Samuel 2:27-36). But the evil of the time was too strong for him; and having effected no reform in consequence of that previous warning, the old man must have foreboded some message of reproof and judgment when the voice in the night came not to himself, but to the child. Yet he was not false to God, and would not shrink from hearing truth, however painful. "I pray thee hide it not from me." He meekly acquiesced in the condemnation of his house. Eli had no sufficient force of character or vigour of purpose to put away the evil which had grown to such enormity under his indulgent rule, but he was ready with a sort of plaintive surrender to Divine justice. It was not a high style of character, but at all events it was vastly better than a self-justifying, God-resisting mood of mind.

2. His faults. No meek language, no pious acquiescence in his sentence, can extenuate the grievous injury which, through indecision and infirmity, Eli had brought on Israel at large, and on the priestly order in particular. His virtues may almost be said to have sprung out of his faults. He was benevolent, submissive, and free from jealousy because he had no force, no intensity. He could lament and suffer well because he had no energy. So he commanded little respect because, instead of checking evil, he had connived at it for a quiet life. "There are persons who go through life sinning and sorrowing, sorrowing and sinning. No experience teaches them. Torrents of tears flow from their eyes. They are full of eloquent regrets. But all in vain. When they have done wrong once they do wrong again. What are such persons to be in the next life? Where will the Elis of this world be? God only knows "(Robertson).

II. THE CHILD CALLED TO BE A PROPHET. We may discern even in "little Samuel" the beginnings of a great character, prognostics of an illustrious career. The child was courageous, not afraid to sleep in one of the priest's chambers alone, no father or mother near. And he was dutiful to the aged Eli, hastening to him when he thought that he had called in the night; and considerate to his feelings, reluctant to tell him in the morning the heavy judgments of which God had spoken. From that night he began to be a prophet. Very soon were the hopes of Hannah for her son fulfilled, nay, surpassed. "Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground." The nature of the first communication made through Samuel gave some indication of the future strain of his prophetic life and testimony. He was not to be one of those, like Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah, whose prophecies and visions reached far forward into future times. His function was more like that of Moses, Elijah, or Jeremiah, as a teacher of private and public righteousness. He was destined to maintain the law and authority of God, to rebuke iniquity, to check and even sentence transgressors in high places, to withstand the current of national degeneracy, and insist on the separation of Israel from the heathen nations and their customs. The pith of his life ministry lay in his urgency for moral obedience.

III. LIGHT THROWN ON THE EARLY TRAINING OF GOD'S PUBLIC SERVANTS. It is acknowledged that some who have been eminently useful in Christian times have been converted in manhood, and their earlier life may seem to have been lost. Paul was so converted. So was Augustine. But these really form no exception to the rule that God directs the training of his servants from childhood. Paul had a good Jewish Rabbinical education, and, besides this, an acquaintance with Greek literature and forms of thought. Having been brought up a Pharisee, he was the more fitted after his conversion to estimate at its full force that Jewish resistance to Christianity on the ground of law righteousness which he above all men combatted. At the same time, knowing the world, and being from his youth up cultivated and intelligent according to the Greek standard, he was prepared to be, after his conversion, a most suitable apostle of Christ to the Gentiles. A similar process of preparation may be traced in Augustine. His early studies in logic and rhetoric prepared him, though he knew it not, to become a great Christian dialectician; and even the years in which he served his own youthful passions were not without yielding some profit, inasmuch as they intensified his knowledge of the power of sin, and ultimately of the sin vanquishing power of grace. By far the greater number of those who have served the Lord as prophets, preachers, or pastors of his flock, have been nourished up for such service from early years, though they knew it not. Some of them went first to other callings. John Chrysostom was at the bar; Ambrose in the civil service, rising to be prefect of Liguria; Cyprian was a teacher of rhetoric; Melancthon, a professor of Greek. Moses himself grew up a scholar and a soldier, and no one who saw him in the court of Egypt could have guessed his future career. But in such cases God guided his servants in youth through paths of knowledge and experience which were of utmost value to them when they found at last their real life work for his name. There is danger, however, in sudden transitions from one walk of life to another, and from one mould of character to another. It is the danger of extravagance. There is a proverb about the excessive zeal of sudden converts; and there is this measure of truth in it, that persons who rapidly change their views or their position need some lapse of time, and some inward discipline, before they learn calmness, religious self-possession, and meekness of wisdom. It is therefore worthy of our notice that God gave Moses a long pause in the land of Midian, and Paul also in Arabia. We return to the fact that the great majority of God's servants in the gospel have grown up with religious sentiments and desires from their very childhood. So it was with John the Baptist, with Timothy, with Basil, with Jerome, with Bernard of Clairvaux, with Columba, with Usher, with Zinzendorf, with Bengel, and many more. So it was with Samuel. His first lessons were from the devout and gifted Hannah in the quiet home at Ramah. From his earliest consciousness he knew that he was to be the Lord's, and a specially consecrated servant or Nazarite. Then he was taken to Shiloh, and his special training for a grand and difficult career began. Early in his life he had to see evil among those who ought to have shown the best example. He had to see what mischief is wrought by relaxation of morals among the rulers of what we should call Church and State, so that an abhorrence of such misconduct might be deeply engraved on his untainted soul. But at the same time Samuel grew up in daily contact with holy things. The sacred ritual, which was no more than a form to the wicked priests, had an elevating and purifying influence on the serious spirit of this child. And so it was that Samuel, conversant day by day with holy names and symbols, took a mould of character in harmony with these - took it gradually, firmly, unalterably. It gave steadiness to his future ministry; for he was to retrieve losses, assuage excitements, re-establish justice, reprove, rebuke, and exhort the people and their first king. Such a ministry needed a character of steady growth, and the personal influence which attends a consistent life. So the Lord called Samuel when a child, and he answered, "Speak; for thy servant heareth." May God raise up young children among us to quit themselves hereafter as men - to redress wrongs, establish truth and right, heal divisions, reform the Church, and pave the way for the coming King and the kingdom! - F.

1 Samuel 3:1-18. (SHILOH.)
The Lord called Samuel (ver. 4).

"In Israel's fane, by silent night,
The lamp of God was burning bright;
And there, by viewless angels kept,
Samuel, the child, securely slept.

A voice unknown the stillness broke,
Samuel!' it called, and thrice it spoke.
He rose - he asked whence came the word.
From Eli? No; it was the Lord.

Thus early called to serve his God,
In paths of righteousness he trod;
Prophetic visions fired his breast,
And all the chosen tribes were blessed"

(Cawood) Introductory. -

1. This call to the prophetic office took place at a time of great moral and spiritual darkness. "The word of the Lord" (the revelation of his mind and will to men) "was rare in those days; for" (therefore, as the effect; or because, as the evidence of the absence of such revelation) "there was no vision" (prophetic communication) "spread abroad" among the people (ver. 1; 2 Chronicles 31:5).

(1) The word of God is needed by man because of his ignorance of the highest truths, and his inability to attain the knowledge of them by his own efforts.

(2) Its possession is hindered by prevailing indifference and corruption.

(3) Its absence is worse than a famine of bread (Psalm 74:9; Amos 8:11), and most destructive (Proverbs 29:18).

2. It was the commencement of a fresh series of Divine communications, which culminated in the teaching of the great Prophet, "who spake as never man spake" (Acts 3:24; Hebrews 1:1). This is the chief general significance of the event. "The call of Samuel to be the prophet and judge of Israel formed a turning point in the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God."

3. It was given to one who was very young (twelve years old, according to Josephus, when childhood merges into youth; Luke 2:42), and who held the lowest place in the tabernacle, where Eli held the highest, but who was specially prepared for the work to which he was called. "Shadows of impenitent guilt were the dark background of the picture from which the beams of Divine love which guided that child of grace shone forth in brighter relief" (Anderson).

4. It came in a manner most adapted to convince Eli and Samuel that it was indeed from the Lord (ver. 8), and to answer its immediate purpose in regard to both. Notice -

I. THE VOICE of the Lord.

1. It was heard in the temple (vers. 2, 3), or palace of the invisible King of Israel, proceeding from his throne in the innermost sanctuary (Exodus 25:22; 1 Samuel 4:4; Hebrews 9:5); not now, however, addressing the high priest, but a child, as a more loyal subject, and more susceptible to Divine teaching (Matthew 11:25, 26).

2. It broke suddenly on the silence and slumbers of the night; "ere the lamp of God went out," i.e. toward the morning - a season suitable todeep and solemn impression. "Untroubled night, they say, gives counsel best." The light of Israel before God, represented by the golden candelabrum, with its "seven lamps of fire," was burning dimly, and the dawn of a new day was at hand.

3. It called Samuel by name, not merely as a means of arousing him, but as indicating the Lord's intimate knowledge of his history and character (John 10:3), and his claims upon his special service. The All-seeing has a perfect knowledge of each individual soul, and deals with it accordingly.

4. It was often relocated, with ever increasing impressiveness. Natural dulness in the discernment of spiritual things renders necessary the repetition of God's call to men, and his patience is wonderfully shown in such repetition.

5. It was in the last instance accompanied by an appearance. "Jehovah came, and stood, and called" (ver. 10). Probably in glorious human form, as in former days. "Allied to our nature by engagement and anticipation, the eternal Word occasionally assumed its prophetic semblance before he dwelt on earth in actual incarnate life." There could now be no doubt whence the voice proceeded; and even the delay which had occurred must have served to waken up all the faculties of the child into greater activity, and prepare him for the main communication he was about to receive.


1. He did not at first recognise the voice as God's, but thought it was Eli's (vers. 4-6). For "he did not yet know the Lord" by direct and conscious revelation, "neither was the Word of the Lord revealed to him" (literally, made bare, disclosed; as a secret told in the ear, which has been uncovered by turning back the hair - Genesis 25:7; 1 Samuel 9:15; Job 33:16) as it was afterwards (ver. 21). "We must not think that Samuel was then ignorant of the true God, but that he knew not the manner of that voice by which the prophetical spirit was wont to awaken the attention of the prophets" (John Smith's 'Sel. Discourses,' p. 208). "God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not" (Job 33:14). How often is his voice deemed to be only the voice of man!

2. He acted up to the light he had (vers. 7, 8). Three times his rest was broken by what he thought was the voice of Eli; three times he ran to him obediently, uncomplainingly, promptly; and three times he "went and lay down in his place" as he was bidden. The spirit which he thus displayed prepared him for higher instruction.

3. He obeyed the direction given him by the high priest (ver. 9). Although Eli could not himself hear the voice, yet he perceived that it was heard by another, showed no indignation or envy at the preference shown toward him, and taught him to listen to the Lord for himself, and what be should say in response. "He showed himself a better tutor than he was a parent" (Hall).

4. He responded in a spirit of reverence, humility, and obedience to the voice that now uttered his name twice (ver. 10). "Speak; for thy servant heareth." His omission of the name "Jehovah" was perhaps due to his overwhelming astonishment and reverence But be confessed himself to be his servant, virtually ratifying of his own accord his dedication to his service, and testified his readiness to "hear and obey." Oh, what an hour is that in which the presence of the Lord is first manifested in living force to the soul! and what a change does it produce in all the prospects and purposes of life! (Genesis 28:16, 17). "We were like them that sleep, them that dream, before we entered into communion with God."


1. It differed from the message of the "man of God," which had come some time previously, in that it was more brief, simple, and severe; and was given to Samuel alone, without any express direction to make it known to Eli, who seems to have paid no regard to the warning he previously received.

2. It was an announcement of judgment on the house of Eli which would be -

(1) Very startling and horrifying to men (ver. 11).

(2) The fulfilment of the word which had been already spoken (ver. 12).

(3) Complete. "When I begin, I will also make an end."

(4) Righteously deserved, inasmuch as his sons had grievously sinned, and he knew it as well as the approaching judgment, and restrained them not (ver. 13; James 4:17). "Sinners make themselves vile (literally, curse themselves), and those who do not reprove them make themselves accessaries" (M. Henry).

(5) Permanent and irrevocable. "Forever." "I have sworn," etc. (ver. 14).

3. It was very painful to Samuel because it was directed "against Eli" (ver. 12 - as well as his house), for whom he entertained a deep and tender affection. The "burden of the Lord" was heavy for a child to bear. It was his first experience of the prophet's cross, but it prepared him for his future work. "Woe to the man who receives a message from the gods."

4. It put his character to a severe test, by leaving to his discretion the use which he should make of so terrible a communication. Wisdom and grace are as much needed in using God's communications as in receiving and responding to his voice.

IV. THE DISCLOSURE by Samuel to Eli.

1. It was not made hastily or rashly (ver. 15). "He lay down till the morning," pondering the communication; he suffered it not to interfere with the duty that lay immediately before him, but rose and "opened the doors of the house" as usual, though with a heavy heart; and exhibited great calmness, self-control, discretion, and considerate reserve. He "feared to show Eli the vision" lest he should be grieved, or take it in a wrong manner.

2. It was only made under strong pressure (vers. 16, 17). "Samuel, my son" (B'ni), said Eli; and "how much is expressed by this one word!" (Thenius). He asked, he demanded, he adjured.

3. It was made truthfully, faithfully, and without any reserve (ver. 18).

4. It was followed by a beneficial effect. Not, indeed, in rousing the high priest to strenuous efforts for the reformation of his house, which he probably deemed impossible, but in leading him to acknowledge that it was the Lord who had spoken, and to resign himself to his will. No such effect followed the warning previously addressed to him. A similar spirit was shown by Aaron (Leviticus 10:3), by Job 1:21, by David (2 Samuel 18:14, 15, 32, 33), by Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:19), and, above all, by the great High Priest himself (Matthew 26:42). No other Divine message came apparently to Eli or his house. Henceforth there was only the silence that precedes the thunderstorm and the earthquake. - D.

Speak; for thy servant heareth. The wellknown picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds, representing the child Samuel in the attitude of prayer, aptly expresses the spirit of his whole life. His own language in response to the call of God does this still more perfectly, and "contains the secret of his strength." It also teaches us how we should respond to the Divine call which is addressed to us, and what is the spirit which we ought ever to possess. For God speaks to us as truly as he spoke to Samuel, though in a somewhat different manner. He speaks to us often, and calls each of us to special service for him; and there cannot be a nobler aim than that of possessing the mind, disposition, and character of a "faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21) here portrayed. This implies -


1. Peculiar; not merely a general belief in his omnipresence, such as most persons have, but a realisation of his presence here; not as in a dream, but in full waking thought; not as if he were at a distance from us, but "face to face." "Thou God seest me."

2. Intense; filling the soul with the light of his glory and with profound reverence (Job 42:6).

3. Habitual; abiding with us at all times, carried with us into every place, and pervading and influencing all our thoughts, words, and actions.

II. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE MASTER'S CLAIMS. "Thy servant." His claims are -

1. Just; because of -

(1) What he has done for us. He has given us our being, and all that makes it a blessing (1 Samuel 1:11). He has purchased us at a great price (1 Peter 1:18). "Ye are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

(2) Our consecration, to him (1 Samuel 1:28). "I am the Lord's" (Isaiah 44:5).

(3) Our acceptance by him.

2. Supreme. All other claims are inferior to his, and must be regarded as subordinate to them.

3. Universal; extending to all our faculties, possessions, etc.

"My gracious Lord, I own thy right
To every service I can pay,
And call it my supreme delight
To hear thy dictates and obey.

What is my being but for thee,
Its sure support, its noblest end
Thy ever-smiling face to see,
And serve the cause of such a Friend?"


III. LISTENING TO THE MASTER'S DIRECTIONS. "Speak." "I am waiting to hear thy commands, and desire to know thy will." "What saith my Lord unto his servant?" (Joshua 5:14). "What wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). His directions are given by -

1. His word, in the law and the gospel.

2. His providence, in the various events of life, affording fresh opportunities, bringing new responsibilities, indicating special methods of service. "New occasions teach new duties." "There are so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification" (1 Corinthians 14:10).

3. His Spirit; teaching the meaning and application of the word, suggesting thoughts and activities in accordance with his revealed will, filling the heart with holy and benevolent impulses. "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God" (John 6:45). "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters" (watching with the utmost attention forevery indication of their will), "so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God" (Psalm 85:8; Psalm 123:2; Habakkuk 2:1).

IV. READINESS FOR THE MASTER'S WORK. "Thy servant heareth;" stands ready to obey -

1. Whatever thou mayest direct.

2. With my utmost strength.

3. Promptly; without delay. When it pleased God to reveal his Son in me, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, but went (Galatians 1:15-17). When Ledyard (whose life was the first of many sacrificed to African discovery) closed with the proposal of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Inland Parts of Africa to undertake a journey in that region, and was asked how soon he would be ready to set out, he replied, "Tomorrow morning." The like promptitude should be exhibited by every "good and faithful servant." - D.

And he restrained them not. The parental relation was universally regarded in ancient times as one which involved a closer identity between parents and children, and a more absolute authority on the part of the former over the latter, than would now be deemed just. This fact explains many occurrences in the sacred history. It also makes more apparent the inexcusable conduct of Eli in omitting to restrain his sons from their evil way. To every head of a family, however, belongs a certain measure of authority, and he is responsible for its exercise in "commanding his children and his household" (Genesis 18:19) to do what is right, and restraining them from doing what is wrong. Concerning PARENTAL RESTRAINT, observe that -


1. Because of the strong tendency to evil which exists in children. However it may be accounted for or explained, there can be no doubt of the fact. If it be simply, as some say, a desire of self-gratification, and dislike of everything that hinders it - self-will, it is necessary that it should be checked; for those who are trained to deny themselves in very early life, and submit to the will of their parents, are far more likely than others to accept and submit to the will of God when they become conscious of it. "In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will and bring them to an obedient temper. This is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after wretc.hedness and irreligion; whatever checks and mortifies it promotes their future happiness and piety" (The mother of the Wesleys).

2. Because of the evil examples by which they are surrounded, and which act so powerfully on their susceptibility to impression and their propensity to imitation.

3. Because of the manifold temptations to which they are exposed. However guarded, they cannot be altogether kept from their influence.


1. It is obviously a part of parental duty.

2. It is often enjoined in the word of God (Deuteronomy 21:15-21; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 23:13, 14; Proverbs 29:15, 17).

3. It is clearly adapted to accomplish beneficial results (Proverbs 22:6). It is thus a duty which parents owe not only to their children, but also to the great Parent of all, who, by the manner in which he deals with his earthly children, has himself set them an example.


1. Timely; commenced at an early age (Proverbs 13:24).

2. Firm and just.

3. With consideration, kindness, and patience (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).

"O'er wayward childhood wouldst thou hold firm rule,
And sun thee in the light of happy faces,
Love, hope, and patience, these must be thy graces,
And in thine own heart let them first keep school

For as old Atlas on his broad neck places
Heaven's starry globe, and there sustains it; so
Do these bear up the little world below
Of education - patience, love, and hope"



1. To children (1 Samuel 4:11).

2. To parents (1 Samuel 4:18).

3. To the nation (1 Samuel 4:22). Indulgent parents are cruel to themselves and their posterity (Hall). How numerous are the facts which justify these statements! "As in inviduals, so in nations, unbridled indulgence of the passions must produce, and does produce, frivolity, effeminacy, slavery to the appetite of the moment; a brutalised and reckless temper, before which prudence, energy, national feeling, any and every feeling which is not centred in self, perishes utterly. The old French noblesse gave a proof of this law which will last as a warning beacon to the end of time. The Spanish population of America, I am told, gives now a fearful proof of this same terrible penalty. Has not Italy proved it likewise for centuries past? It must be so. For national life is grounded on, is the development of, the life of the family. And where the root is corrupt the tree must be corrupt likewise" (Kingsley, 'The Roman and the Teuton,' Lect. 2). Therefore

(1) let parents exercise due restraint over their children; and

(2) let children submit to the restraint of their parents (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Proverbs 30:17; Jeremiah 35:18, 19). - D.

It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good. The sentence which was pronounced on Eli and his house was almost as severe as can be conceived. But the manner in which it was received by him shows that, notwithstanding the defects of his character, he possessed the "spirit of faith," which shone like a spark of fire amidst the ashes and gloom of his closing days. He did not refuse to admit its Divine Author, did not question its justice, did not rebel against it and seek to reverse it, did not fret and murmur and give himself up to despair. His language expresses a spirit the exact opposite of all this. "When Samuel had told him every whit, Eli replied, It is the Lord. The highest religion could say no more. What more can there be than surrender to the will of God? In that one brave sentence you forget all Eli's vacillation. Free from envy, free from priestcraft, earnest, humbly submissive; that is the bright side of Eli's character, and the side least known or thought of" (F.W. Robertson).

I. HE RECOGNISES THE APPOINTMENT OF GOD. "It is the Lord," or "he is the Lord," who has spoken. He believed that the voice was really his, notwithstanding

(1) it came to him indirectly - through the agency of another;

(2) it came in an unexpected manner; and

(3) it announced what he naturally disliked to hear, and what was most grievous. These things sometimes dispose men to doubt "the word of the Lord," and are made excuses for rejecting it. It is not, in its mode of communication or in its contents, "according to their mind." But the spirit of faith ventures not to dictate to God how or what he shall say, and it perceives the Divine voice when those who are destitute of it perceive only what is purely natural and human.

II. HE JUSTIFIES THE RECTITUDE OF GOD. Such justification (Psalm 51:4) -

1. Is implied in the acknowledgment that it comes from Jehovah, who alone is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

2. Proceeds from the conviction that it is deserved on account of the iniquity of his sons, and his own sins of omission (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9). They who have a due sense of the evil of sin are not disposed to complain of the severity of the sentence pronounced against it.

3. Is not the less real because not fully expressed, for silence itself is often the most genuine testimony to the perfect equity of the Divine procedure. "Aaron held his peace" (Leviticus 10:3; Psalm 39:9, 11).

III. HE SUBMITS TO THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. "Let him do what seemeth him good."

1. Very reverently and humbly (1 Peter 5:6). It is vain to contend against him.

2. Freely and cheerfully; not because he cannot be effectually resisted, but because what he does is right and good; the spontaneous surrender and sacrifice of the will.

3. Entirely. "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14).

IV. HE CONFIDES IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD. "Good." "Good is the word of the Lord" (2 Kings 20:19). Eli could not have spoken as he did unless he believed that -

(1) God is merciful and gracious;

(2) in wrath remembers mercy, mitigating the force of the storm to all who seek shelter in his bosom; and

(3) "out of evil still educes good" (Romans 8:28). Let us be thankful for the surpassing motives and influences afforded to us under the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 12:10, 11; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 22:3). - D.

A prophet of the Lord (ver. 20). "A prophet was a man who drew aside the curtain from the secret counsels of Heaven. He declared or made public the previously hidden truths of God; and, because future events might chance to involve Divine truth, therefore a revealer of future events might happen to be a prophet. Yet, still, small was the part of a prophet's functions which contained the foreshadowing of events, and not necessarily any part of it" (De Quincey, 'Confessions,' p. 27). The greatest of prophets, and more than a prophet, was Moses (Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 34:9). After him a prophet arose at rare intervals. With Samuel, who was second only to Moses, a new prophetic era began. He was called to a permanent prophetic work; a type of the future line of the prophets which he virtually founded, and "set for all time the great example of the office of a prophet of the Lord." "In Samuel - Levite, Nazarite, at the sanctuary of Shiloh, prophet, and destined founder of a mightier prophetic power - were united from the first all spiritual gifts most potent for the welfare of the people, and under his powerful control stood the wheels on which the age revolved He was truly the father of all the great prophets who worked such wonders in the ensuing centuries" (Ewald. See 'Davison on Prophecy;' 'Fairbairn on Prophecy;' 'Prophecy a Preparation for Christ,' by the Dean of Canterbury). The summary of his prophetic activity here given leads us to consider -

I. HIS QUALIFICATION. "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him" (ver. 19). "And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh (ver. 10): for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord (ver. 21).

1. The possession of a holy character, which was the general condition of prophetic endowment. At the time of his call Samuel entered into a higher knowledge of God, and a closer fellowship with him than he had before; he gradually advanced therein, and his character became more and more perfect. "Equable progression from the beginning to the end was the special characteristic of his life." "The qualifications which the Jewish doctors suppose necessarily antecedent to render any one habilem ad prophetandum are truly probity and piety; and this was the constant sense and opinion of them all universally, not excluding the vulgar themselves" (John Smith, 'Sel. Disc.' p. 250).

2. The revelation to him of the Divine word - by voices, visions, insight, intuition, inspiration (ver. 7). "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved (borne along as a ship by the wind) by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). The communications of God to men have been made in many ways (by dreams, by Urim, by prophecy), and one communication faithfully received and used has prepared the way for another. How long after the Lord first appeared to Samuel he "apeared again" to him is not stated.

3. The conviction of its Divine origin, amounting to absolute certainty, and impelling him to speak and act in accordance with the revelation he received.

II. HIS VOCATION. "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel" (ch. 4:1). He had not only to receive the word from God, but also to utter it to men. He was a spokesman for God, a messenger or interpreter of the Divine will.

1. The nature and purpose of his vocation were -

(1) The communication of doctrine; the teaching of moral and spiritual truth; the declaration of the mind and will of the invisible and eternal King, with special reference to the requirements of the time in which he lived. He was a witness of the presence and government of Jehovah, his nature and character, his hatred of sin and love of righteousness, his dissatisfaction with merely formal and ceremonial services, his opposition to idolatry, his gifts, claims, and purposes with respect to his people. "The prophetic order in its highest signification was nothing else than a living witness for those eternal principles of righteous ness which previous revelation had implanted in the Hebrew race, and through them in the life of humanity" (Tulloch).

(2) The enforcement of practice, by urgent appeals to the conscience, and presenting powerful motives of gratitude for past benefits, hope of future good, and fear of future evil. "The prophets, beside their communication of doctrine, had another and a direct office to discharge as pastors and ministerial monitors of the people of God. Their work was to admonish and reprove, to arraign forevery ruling sin, to blow the trumpet of repentance, and shake the terrors of the Divine judgment over a guilty land. Often they bore the message of consolation or pardon; rarely, if ever, of public approbation or praise" (Davison).

(3) The prediction of things to come; not simply general results of good or evil con duct, but specific events that could not have been known except by Divine inspiration (1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 10:2; 1 Samuel 12:17; 1 Samuel 13:14); an element which became more prominent in subsequent times - the things to come having relation to the setting up of a kingdom of heaven on earth. We need not here dwell upon other matters connected with and growing out of the prophetic vocation of Samuel, viz.,

(4) his offering sacrifice;

(5) his civil magistracy;

(6) his presiding over the "school of the prophets;"

(7) his recording the events of his time (1 Chronicles 29:29).

2. The persons whom his vocation immediately concerned.

(1) The people and the elders of Israel - directing them what to do, exhorting them to forsake their sins, sometimes opposing and condemning their wishes. "His business was to keep all Israel true to the Divine purpose for which they had been made a nation" ('Expositor,' vol. 3. p. 344).

(2) The priesthood, as in the case of Eli and his sons.

(3) The king - teaching him that he was a servant of Jehovah, appointed by him, and bound to obey his laws, and when he departed from them denouncing his disobedience. "Under the protection generally, though not always effectual, of their sacred character the prophets were a power in the nation often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up in that little corner in the earth the antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress The remark of a distinguished Hebrew, that the prophets were in Church and State equivalent to the modern liberty of the press, gives a just but not an inadequate conception of the part fulfilled in national and universal history by this great element of Jewish life" (J.S. Mill, 'Representative Government,' p. 41).

3. The manner in which it was fulfilled: diligently (Jeremiah 23:28; Jeremiah 48:10 = negligently): faithfully (not according to his own natural wishes, but God's will); fearlessly; established = found trustworthy - Numbers 12:7; 1 Samuel 2:35), fully (not shunning to declare all the counsel of God - Deuteronomy 4:2; Acts 20:27).

III. HIS CONFIRMATION. "The Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground" (but made them stand firmly, or attain their aim like an arrow which hits the mark - ver. 19). He attested, sealed him as his messenger -

1. By bringing to pass the good or evil foretold by him (Numbers 22:6).

2. By providential and even miraculous occurrences, indicating his approval (1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 12:18).

3. By clothing his word with power, so that it was felt by those to whom it was addressed to be the word of the Lord; for there is something Divine within which responds to the Divine without, and every one who is truthful perceives and obeys the voice of eternal truth (John 18:37).

IV. HIS RECOGNITION. "And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord" (ver. 20). The Divine word was no more rare (1 Samuel 3:1).

1. His authority was universally admitted. It was familiarly known throughout the land that he had been appointed as a regular medium of communication between Jehovah and his people.

2. His utterances were widely disseminated, and regarded with reverence. "The word of Samuel came to all Israel."

3. His work thereby became highly effective. Its full effect appeared long afterwards. But even before the blow of judgment, which he predicted, fell (some ten years after his call), he doubtless laboured not in vain; and during the succeeding twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2) he "spent his time in a slow but resolute work of kindling the almost extinguished flame of a higher life in Israel." - D.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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