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1 Samuel 3:1-20 – Samuel’s Prophetic Call


Samuel, though raised as a priest, is here called to be a prophet charged with announcing God's word to Israel. Ironically, his first prophetic act will be to announce the destruction of Eli and his house.


The charming story of God's call of a young boy into service ends with that young boy announcing judgment upon the priest who has raised him. The symmetrical arrangement of the text is obvious:

A    Introduction: God's word rare in Israel (vv. 1-3)
    B    Dialogue between Samuel and Eli (vv. 4-9)
        X    Vision and announcement of doom to Eli's house (vv. 10-14)
    B′    Dialogue between Samuel and Eli (vv. 15-18)
A′    Conclusion: God speaks through Samuel (vv. 19-4:1a)

Eli's age, blindness, location in his own room, and sleep contrast sharply with Samuel's youth, visions, location at the ark, and wakefulness. The lack of God's word in verse 1 similarly contrasts with Samuel as the designated spokesperson for God at Shiloh in 3:19-4:1a. In fact, this transition is the main point of the text. The transition is accomplished through God's use of the elderly priest's unwitting preparation of the youthful Samuel for the reception of God's vision. Eli was unaware of Hannah's predicament when Samuel's mother needed his advice, too; though there, as here, when the priest finally discerned the situation, he functioned appropriately. The vision found at the heart of the passage is a dire announcement of doom to Eli's house. Samuel's reluctance to share this message with his mentor is touching.

1 Samuel 3:1-20

Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity

3Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’* and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ 11Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God,* and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’

15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ 17Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’

19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

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