1 Sam 3.1-21 gives us the story of how God called Samuel to be a prophet (Hebrew “Navi”). The word of the Lord was rare in those days, just like it was when Yochanon Ha Matvil was called. And it is rare today because there are no true prophets of God today, but there will be. For more information on this, go to our teaching called “Do True Prophets of God Exist Today” on this website. The hardness of the heart of Israel and a corrupt priesthood who were the teachers contributed to this, as it does today.
Eli was lying down and his eyesight wasn’t very good. This alludes to the “eyesight” of the leaders in the first century, who were nearly blind also (John 9.41). The lamp of God had not yet gone out, meaning that some of the lamps were still burning in the Menorah, so this was just before daylight. Samuel was sleeping “in the Temple of the Lord” where the Levites slept who were on duty. Then Yehovah called out to Samuel, and Samuel said, “Hineni” (“here I am”), which was a common reply to the Lord (Gen 22.11, 46.2; Exo 3.4; Isa 6.8), but Samuel thought it was Eli so he went to see what he wanted. But Eli did not call him, so Samuel went to lie down. And Yehovah called out to Samuel for the third time, so Samuel went to Eli again, and was told the same thing. Then Yehovah called to Samuel again, and then Eli realized it was Yehovah.
Samuel did not know (“yada”) Yehovah by experience yet, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. So, Eli told him to go lie down, and if the Lord calls him again to say, “Speak, Lord, for they servant is listening.” When it happened again, it says the the Lord “stood” and called his name twice. The Lord probably appeared to Samuel but Samuel could not discern the form (Job 4.12-16) in this vision (3.15).
Yehovah said that he was doing a new thing in Israel “at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” Tingling ears is a sign of severe judgment (1 Kings 21.12; Jer 19.3). This speaks of a “piercing word” to Israel. There would be a contrast between the lack of vision in those days and the fresh activity of the word of the Lord that would be coming through Samuel.
The Lord told Samuel about the coming judgment on the house of Eli for not rebuking his sons (1 Sam 2.27). Their sins will not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever (meaning “as long as they live”). After this, Samuel went to lie down until morning when the doors of the house of the Lord were opened, but he was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. Then Eli asked about what the Lord had said, so Samuel told him everything, which is what a prophet does. Eli responded by saying, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
So Samuel grew and the Lord was with him, like Yochanon Ha Matvil in Luke 1.80. None of the words God spoke failed (literally “fell to the ground”) and 1 Sam 3.20 is a very important verse where it says that all Israel knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. This is important if one thinks they are a prophet. That is why there are no true prophets today.
There are four basic things to look for in a true prophet. First, does what they say come true (Deut 18.21-22; Isa 8.20). Second, does it line up with Scripture (Deut 13.1-5). Third, as in the case of Samuel, everyone knew who the true prophets were because the Lord made sure the people knew who they were because they were confirmed by signs, like Samuel was (3.20). Moses was confirmed as a prophet before Pharaoh and Elijah was confirmed before the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel.
Moses, Elijah and every other prophet was confirmed through various signs. That’s why there were consequences for not listening to them. If the people did not know that a person was a true prophet of the Lord, that prophet could prove it. Fourth, true prophets had a specific word for the people before an event happened (Amos 3.7). He told them exactly what they had to do to avoid judgment. Sometimes, a judgment could not be avoided, but the people knew what was going to happen. Today’s “prophets” do not measure up to the biblical requirements. Most, if not all, of them don’t even believe in keeping the Torah, yet they are prophets? True prophets do not teach false doctrine (Deut 13.1-5). Most of what passes for a “prophecy” today is in error. But this was not the case with Samuel, and the Lord will confirm his word through Samuel over and over again.
1 Sam 3.21 is a very important verse because it says, “The Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” The Lord appeared as the word of the Lord is a concept that can be seen throughout the Tanak and it is expressed in John 1.1. Jewish concepts often spoke of the Messiah as the “word.” Prov 30.4 says, “who has ascended and descended, and gathered the wind in his fists (John 3.5,8)? Who has wrapped the waters in his garment (John 3.5)? Who has established all the ends of the earth (John 3.16-17)? What is his name or his son’s name? Surely you know!” Then Prov 30.5-6 says, “Every word of God is tested (Torah); He (the word is a “He”-Psa 84.9, 119.114)) is a shield (Psa 91.4-the protective quality of the Torah) to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words (the word is a he) lest he reprove you and you be proved a liar.” Yeshua is the “son” and the divine expression of God and the Lord reveals himself (appears) through his word.
The Torah protects the nation so they can enjoy their inheritance, and it protects the individual people in the nation to enjoy their inheritance. It also protects the unsaved until the time God reveals his salvation to them through the Messiah at the appointed time. The word is symbolized in Jewish thought as the “Aleph and Tav” or the first and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There is a Jewish concept that speaks of the Messiah as the Davar, or “word of God.” In Psa 33.6 it says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth (word) all their host” (the Davar is the divine expression).
In Part 4 we will pick up in 1 Sam 4.1-22.