The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the first book of the prophet Samuel. The text is I Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20) and lays out the Call of Samuel to be a prophet of the LORD. It is one of the most detailed of the various Call accounts in the Old Testament. In the Gospel reading for Epiphany 2, John 1:43-51, we read the Call narrative of Philip and Nathaniel. Both the OT and the Gospel lessons have a strong “epiphany” flavor as the Word of the LORD is revealed to Samuel, and Philip and Nathaniel recognize Jesus as Messiah—the Word Incarnate.

It is helpful to remember who Samuel was and what role he played in the biblical narrative. It is not insignificant that Samuel is born from the “barren womb” of Hannah after the LORD God remembers her and gives her a child. Although Hannah and her husband Elkanah are not from the tribe of Judah, and therefore Samuel is not in the Messianic line, Samuel plays a very important role in preserving the line of Judah by anointing and instructing the first kings of the united monarchy—especially King David. Barren wombs among the faithful people in Scripture are either in the Messianic Line (Sara, Rebekah, etc.), or the children are instrumental in preserving that line so the Messiah will come (Rachel, Hannah, etc.). All these barren wombs find their fulfillment in the ultimate barren womb, the Virgin Mary whose womb is opened by God and the Messiah is delivered to us in the flesh.

All these barren wombs find their fulfillment in the ultimate barren womb, the Virgin Mary whose womb is opened by God and the Messiah is delivered to us in the flesh.

Samuel also serves as a bridge figure between the era of the Judges and the beginning of the untied monarchy. Samuel is generally considered to have three main roles in Scripture: Judge, Prophet, and Priest.

Contextually, the Call of Samuel follows his birth narrative and a strong description and condemnation of the unfaithfulness of the sons of Eli. Our text sets up a contrast and comparison between the unfaithfulness of Eli’s sons and the faithfulness and dedication of Samuel himself. It may even give us some insight into the level of faithfulness of Eli. Following our text, we have the account of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines, its subsequent return to Israel, and the demands of the people to have a king “like the other nations.” A lot of important history and times of transition take place in a few short chapters. Generally, we date these occurrences from approx. 1075 BC and following.

A special thanks to Andrew Steinmann for his helpful 1 Samuel Commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series.

3:1 וְהַנַּעַר (ve-han-Na-ar) “and the boy/young man” In this context I would lean toward the alternate use of נער(nah-ar) meaning “apprentice”. Another example would be Genesis 37:2 where Joseph is serving as an apprentice with his brothers learning how to shepherd.

מְשָׁרֵת (me-sha-Ret) root: שׁרת (shaw-rath) Piel: “to serve; minister”

וּדְבַר־יְהוָה (u-de-var Yah-weh) “the Word of the LORD/Yahweh”

יָקָר (ya-Kar) “valuable; rare; scarce”

חָזוֹן (cha-Zon) “vision” As in a divine revelation by means of a prophetic vision (Steinmann)

נִפְרָץ (nif-Ratz) root: פרץ (paw-rats) Niphal: “to spread; spread abroad”

3:2 The Qere and Kethib (what is said and what is written) differ in number: Qere “his eyes” and Kethib “his eye.”

כֵהוֹת (che-Hot) from: כֵּהֶה (kay-heh) “dim”

לֹא יוּכַל לִרְאוֹת (lo yu-Chal lir-ot) “he was not able to see” Infinitive construct. Steinmann makes an interesting observation on this point. Generally, this “dimming of eyes” is regarding physical sight. However, perhaps Eli may have become dull to perceive divine revelation. This could be supported by the “rareness” of the Word of the LORD and Eli’s slow response to Samuel’s visits.

3:3 וְנֵר (ve-Ner) “light; lamp”

יִכְבֶּה (yich-Beh) root: כבה (kaw-baw) Qal: “to go out; to be extinguished”

בְּהֵיכַל (be-hei-Chal) “in the temple” Obviously, this cannot be the Jerusalem Temple as it has not yet been constructed. Therefore, it is best to regard this as a reference to the Tabernacle. Samuel does this three times (1 Samuel 1:9; 2 Samuel 22:7). Samuel is apparently helping Eli by keeping the lamb burning. Eli’s health does not allow him to carry out this duty. However, Samuel is NOT in the Holy of Holies. Rather, he is in the Holy Place where the eternal lamp is located.

3:4 “Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, ‘Here am I.’”

3:6 וַיֹּסֶף (vai-Yo-sef) root: יסף (yaw-saf) Hiphil: “to add; repeat; increase; do again”

קְרֹא (ke-Ro) Qal: Infinitive construct: “to call”

3:7 טֶרֶם (Te-rem) (2x’s) “not yet” It should not be thought Samuel was still an unbeliever or was ignorant. Rather, the text indicates the LORD had not yet revealed His Word to Samuel—he was not yet called into the prophetic office.

3:10 וַיִּתְיַצַּב (vai-yit-yatz-Tzav) root: יצב (yaw-tsab) Hithpael: “to take one’s stand; station oneself; stand” Samuel, with his words, “Speak for your servant hears/is listening,” indicates an attitude and posture of humility.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20).

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20).