VISIONS: A technical term for "divine revelation
mediated through a seer" ('hozeh' = one of the two Heb words for 'seer', has the
same root as that for 'vision,' 'hazon'; 'mar'ah' -- the other word for "vision"
-- in this ch (v 15), also is used in the sense of "vision as a means of divine
revelation" and has the same root as 'ro'eh' the other word for "seer")
We are told of the background of these days that "the word of
the Lord was precious (AV; 'rare': NIV); there was no open vision" (v 1). The
word "yakar" (precious) literally means "heavy", and is used of precious stones
(1Ki 10:2,10,11). It is also used of the most desirable building stones, such as
the "costly stones" of Solomon (1Ki 5:17) and the foundation stone of the Temple
mount -- the "precious corner stone" (Isa 28:16) which typifies Jesus Christ
(1Pe 2:6; Rom 10:11). The word of the Lord was precious or "rare" (RSV, NIV)
because there were "not many visions" (NIV).
The earlier pages of Bible history are filled with references
to open visions. In the beginning communion between God and man was quite
direct: "the Elohim walked in the garden." In the days of Abraham and Jacob,
angels appeared relatively often to men, bringing special messages. Angels
appeared frequently to Moses also, and the Angel of the Lord's presence led the
tribes of Israel in the pillar of fire and cloud. Even in the days of Joshua and
the Judges there are references to angels who brought God's word to men. But
when we come to the later history -- of Samuel and Kings and Chronicles -- such
incidents are few indeed. The times of Samuel are a period of transition.
Indeed, God is continuing to speak to His people, but now more so through
special human messengers -- the prophets, of which the child Samuel was destined
to be one of the greatest.
Is God's word "precious" to us today, who have no open vision
whatsoever? Surely it should be esteemed as, if anything, more precious to us
than it was to those of Samuel's day -- because we can expect no other means of
direct revelation from God than what we may find in the pages of our Bibles. And
again, God's word should be precious to us when we realize that today, in many
parts of the world, the supply of Bibles is severely limited, and some people
desperately seek for even a hand-copied fragment. And all the time our shelves
and tables are loaded down with Bibles in half a dozen different versions, each
one easier to read and understand than the one before -- if we can find the time
to read any of them properly!
Where God's word is rare, so is His presence.
We may learn valuable lessons by contemplating what things are
considered "precious" by the inspired writers, who knew the mind of God. In
addition to His word, the "precious" things of God include: (a) wisdom and
understanding -- "more precious than rubies" (Pro 3:13-18; cp Pro 8:11); (b) the
lips that speak knowledge (Pro 20:15) (for knowledge must not only be possessed;
it must be disseminated!); (c) the thoughts of God (Psa 139:17); (d) the
redemption of our lives (Psa 49:8); and (e) the blood, or the deaths, of God's
saints (Psa 72:14; 116:15). It may be just as instructive also, with this list
in mind, to reflect on the unnamed things -- so many different things! -- that
apparently are not nearly so "precious" in the eyes of God.
ELI, WHOSE EYES WERE BECOMING SO WEAK...: Eli would esp
need young Samuel more and more as he grew more blind. Thus Samuel would expect
that the calls of v 4 would have come from Eli.
THE LAMP OF GOD HAD NOT YET GONE OUT: At night, but
just before dawn, when light might go out. The lampstand should not be allowed
to go out (Lev 24:2).
For the first time, the angel of Yahweh came and STOOD there!
See Lesson, Samuel, and Jesus in temple. Thus so gently was the child prepared to
receive the message from God, as if the reassuring hand of the beloved Eli was
upon his shoulder. So patient was the Father that He called four times, until
finally the answer which He sought was forthcoming, and His servant, young as he
was, stood ready to listen.
Vv 11-14: So fearful was the Divine message that it would
affect the ears of every hearer like a sharp, piercing sound (2Ki 21:12; Jer
19:3). Judgment was about to begin at the house of Eli, for the house of the
high priest was "the house of God" (cp 1Pe 4:17) -- it bore greater
responsibility than all others because of its privileged position. But judgment
would only begin there! Its effects would be felt throughout the nation: vv
17,18. As all the nation, to some degree, had looked the other way when Eli's
sons blasphemed -- so all the nation would now bear the consequences. But Eli's
house would be judged forever -- no sacrifice could purge their sins -- because
his sons had made themselves "contemptible" (NIV): and Eli, though he rebuked
them, had not restrained them. Eli had not done the work of an "elder": he had
not ruled well his own house -- his children had not been trained in subjection
(1Ti 3:4,5; cp Tit 1:6).
Eli makes no attempt to justify himself, either to Samuel or
to God. It has been well said that God can forgive any sin, but He can forgive
no excuse! From Eli there is no excuse: "It is of the Lord." Many an old man in
the same position (and not a few younger ones!) would have behaved much
differently. But in Eli, despite his weaknesses, there was grace sufficient to
humble himself and repent and (so we would expect) find forgiveness. The
judgment of his house, however, was irrevocable.
LET HIM DO WHAT IS GOOD IN HIS EYES: Samuel begins to
discharge the duties of priest, prophet, and judge.
1Sa 3:19--1Sa 4:1a: The Lord was finally beginning to "bring
low" Eli and his sons, and to "lift up" Samuel, even as Hannah had foreseen
years earlier in her vision (1Sa 2:7). Now all Israel, from the far north to the
extreme south, knew that the child Samuel was established to be a prophet, and
that not one of his words would prove ineffective or false. Once again, after a
long silence, the Lord was revealing Himself by His word in Shiloh. He was
placing His seal upon Samuel: 'This is My servant; as he heard Me when I spoke,
so you must hear him when he speaks.'
Thus "all Israel recognized that Samuel was a prophet" (v
Or, less likely but possible, does v 19 mean: "SAMUEL let none
of YAHWEH's words fall to the ground", and this is what made him a true
HE LET NONE OF HIS WORDS FALL TO THE GROUND: "An
allusion either to water that falls to the ground, and becomes useless, or to an
arrow falling out of the bow, and to the ground, before it reaches the mark, and
so unsuccessful; or to any weapon of war, sword or spear, falling out of the
hand of the soldier, whereby he is disarmed and rendered unserviceable"
SAMUEL WAS ATTESTED AS A PROPHET OF THE LORD: How? By
the LORD not letting Samuel's words "fall to the ground" (v 19) -- ie, by seeing
that Samuel's prophetic words would come to pass: this would confirm Samuel's
status (Deu 18:15-22).
Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David
(1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah
(Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4);
Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9);
Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5);
Antipas (Rev 2:13).