Yeah we read this story 6 months ago. But with the Holiday on Monday throwing off my week I am re-posting my comments on this text from January.
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Now 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; the 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. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and 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. The 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.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The 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. Therefore 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.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then 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. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.For 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. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.’
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. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ Eli 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.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’
As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
I always feel bad for poor old, half blind Eli, the priest of the Lord at Shiloh who Samuel is about to replace. Eli was of the priestly tribe of Levi and he tended the temple of the Lord where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Note that this is not yet the temple in Jerusalem which will not be built until the reign of King Solomon (David’s son) some 50 years later south of Shiloh.
Eli seems to be trying to be a faithful servant of the Lord and a good mentor to Samuel whose parents have committed him to service in the temple from birth to fulfill a vow. But Eli just kind of sucked at his job. He totally blows the interpretation of Hannah’s magnificent prayer thinking she is drunk. His blindness is a sign of his inability to discern God’s activity. And he has another problem, Actually he has two other problems, his sons Hophni and Phinehas, are major buttheads.
Hophni and Phinehas are two goons who also served as priests in the temple at Shiloh. They are like the kids that steal your lunch money. They stick their pokey forks into the boiled offerings and grab the meat for themselves. They also sexually assault women who come to the temple. They are a big problem.
Eli knows his sons are jerks but he can’t bring himself to take decisive action against them. It is the worst possible situation for a parent and Eli is judged harshly for his failure. When Samuel is “called” by God he is told what will be the fate of the house of Eli and he will be the messenger announcing the punishment of that house. It’s a lousy job but Eli, who must have known something was coming, demands that Samuel deliver all the news God has entrusted to Samuel and he does.