1 Samuel 3:1–9
Now the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the LORD where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the LORD called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!” So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.
Then the LORD called yet again, “Samuel!”
So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him.)
And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.”
Then Eli perceived that the LORD had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Here, the word that’s translated as “the boy” (הַנַּ֧עַר, ha-narr) is the same word that was translated as young men in 1 Samuel 2:17 (except singular, without the “eem” plural ending). Samuel is now old enough to minister to the LORD, but not yet full grown. Ha-narr is translated as “the boy” because Samuel is living as a child with Eli.
Eli is keeping Samuel close—within earshot. Might it be that he’s trying to not make the same mistakes he made raising Hophni and Phinehas?
It sure looks like it.
In the previous passage (1 Samuel 2:27–36) the man of God made specific reference to Eli’s treatment of his sons. “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?”
It isn’t clear what is meant by “honor” there. Thus, we don’t know exactly what Eli did wrong in raising his sons. However, tomorrow’s passage will add that Eli “did not restrain them.”
In any case, “the boy” seems to have virtually no freedom at this point.
In today’s passage, Samuel’s response to hearing his name called indicates a totally subservient existence.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.