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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 3
“the word of Yahweh.” In this context, “the word of Yahweh” refers to direct revelation.
“visions were not frequent.” This refers to revelation, which was often given as a vision, but as we see in the context, audible revelation from God was also recognized, even by Eli, who likely had not gotten any in a while (1 Sam. 3:4, 6, 8). At this time in Israel’s history, due to the sin in the priesthood and among the people, revelation from God was rare and thus not frequent. However, there were still some prophets around (cp. 1 Sam. 2:27). We should also note that the Hebrew can be “not widespread” as well as “not frequent,” and both meanings are likely correct.
We should notice however that the reason that revelation was rare was due to the sin and disobedience of the people. God always wants to speak to His people and guide and bless them, yet sin separates people from God: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he does not listen” (Isa. 59:2). Loving God involves working diligently to obey Him, and that will yield the wonderful benefit of being in greater communication with God.(top)
“at that time.” The Hebrew is literally, “on that day,” so the meaning could be “on that day that Eli was lying down,” but the word “that” (on that day) seems to refer to the time when visions were rare.(top)
“and the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” So it was very late in the night but not yet the morning, as we might say, “in the wee hours of the morning.” The menorah lamp in the Tent of Meeting (the “Tabernacle”) was lit every night and gave light until the olive oil ran out about morning (Exod. 27:21; 30:8; Lev. 24:2-3; 2 Chron. 13:11). So this tells us that God appeared to Samuel some time before dawn.
Since Eli’s eyes were growing dim (1 Sam. 3:2), it makes sense that Eli could not see at night and would call Samuel for assistance if he needed help, and old men often wake up at night for various reasons. So when Samuel heard his name being called, and never before having heard the direct voice of Yahweh, it makes perfect sense that he would assume that Eli was calling him (1 Sam. 3:4-8). Since it was fairly close to dawn it also makes sense that after Yahweh appeared to Samuel, he could not get back to sleep and lay awake until the dawn (1 Sam. 3:15).
“Yahweh’s temple.” Here, and in a few other places, the Tabernacle is referred to as a temple.(top)
|1Sa 3:4||- (top)|
|1Sa 3:5||- (top)|
|1Sa 3:6||- (top)|
|1Sa 3:7||- (top)|
|1Sa 3:8||- (top)|
|1Sa 3:9||- (top)|
“Yahweh came and stood.” This scripture only causes confusion because people are taught that no one can see God, but that is not the case. God loves people and occasionally comes into concretion in human form to relate to His creation just as angels, who are normally invisible to us, sometimes make themselves visible. Just like we see God described as a person in Daniel 7:9-14, he comes into human form in other places as well. Here he came to Samuel in human form.
[For more on God appearing to people, see commentary on Acts 7:55.](top)
“I am about to do a thing in Israel.” God’s message is spoken to Samuel but is about Eli. Much of the time a message for a person is spoken to that person, but there are times when others will bring a message from God to the person.(top)
|1Sa 3:12||- (top)|
“cursing God.” The sons of Eli, by their actions, were cursing God. However, the idea that God could be cursed was onerous to the early scribes, who changed the text to the current reading of the Masoretic Hebrew text. The text note in the NET explains what happened: “The MT seems to mean ‘they were bringing a curse on themselves’ (cf. ASV, NASB). But this meaning is problematic in part because the verb qll means ‘to curse,’ not ‘to bring a curse on,’ and in part because it takes an accusative object rather than the equivalent of a dative. This is one of the so-called tiqqune sopherim, or ‘emendations of the scribes.’ Why would the ancient copyists alter the original statement about Eli's sons cursing God to the less objectionable statement that they brought a curse on themselves? Some argue that the scribes were concerned that such a direct and blasphemous affront against God could occur without an immediate response of judgment from God. Therefore they changed the text by deleting two letters א and י (alef and yod) from the word for ‘God,’ with the result that the text then read ‘to them.’ If this ancient scribal claim is accepted as accurate, it implies that the MT here is secondary. The present translation [the NET] follows the LXX (κακολογοῦντες θεόν, kakologountes theon) and a few MSS of the Old Latin in reading ‘God’ rather than the MT ‘to them.’”
“restrain them.” The Hebrew can be “rebuke.”(top)
“forever.” The word is used hyperbolically. Sometimes olam has a time limit.(top)
“and opened the doors of the house of Yahweh.” It seems that by this time in Israel’s history, there were more permanent buildings around the Tabernacle, and they would have had doors.(top)
|1Sa 3:16||- (top)|
“word.” The Hebrew dabar can mean “word, message, thing.”
“God do so to you, and more also.” This is a form of a curse. The fact that Eli would call a curse over Samuel at this time only further reveals his weak character which tended to be evil, as this curse was. Eli knew Yahweh had spoken with Samuel, but he also knew that what God spoke to people could be a private message.(top)
“And he said.” That is, Eli said.
“He is Yahweh.” Eli is at least honest enough to admit that Yahweh spoke to Samuel. He did not try to explain away what Samuel heard as a dream or delusion. And Eli was well aware that Yahweh can and does speak audibly to people. Eli says, “He is Yahweh,” in essence, “He is God, so He can do whatever He wants.
“whatever is good in his eyes.” That is, whatever seems good to Him.(top)
“he let none of his words.” That is, God let none of Samuel’s words “fall to the ground,” that is, fail to come to pass. God called Samuel as a prophet, and a hallmark of a genuine prophet was that what he said comes to pass. So God supported Samuel by backing up what he said and making sure his words came to pass. This interpretation is also supported by 1 Sam. 3:20, because all of Israel knew that Samuel was a prophet. How? Because his words came to pass.
“fall to the ground.” An idiom for “go unfulfilled.” 1 Samuel 9:6 makes the point that Samuel’s words come to pass.(top)
“established.” The fact that Samuel’s words came to pass showed that he was established as a prophet. Interestingly, the word “established” can also mean “trustworthy,” and although that is likely not the primary meaning here, the fact that Samuel was trustworthy when the rest of the priests were not certainly set Samuel apart.(top)
“by the word of Yahweh.” Yahweh revealed Himself to Samuel “by the word of Yahweh,” so Yahweh revealed Himself by speaking His word. The words we speak reveal who we are, and God’s words reveal who He is, which is why it is so important to try to translate them as accurately as possible.(top)