Poole on 1 Samuel 3:2: The High Priest's Lethargy and Blindness

[circa 1141 BC] Verse 2:[1] And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, (Gen. 27:1; 48:10; 1 Sam. 2:22; 4:15) and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see…


[On a certain day[2]] On that day, that is, at that time (Vatablus, Drusius). For these things happened at night. Thus, on which day He led us out of Egypt,[3] that is, at which time; for He led them out at night. On that day, on that night, while the day before He had sent that Prophet treated of in 1 Samuel 2 (Drusius). I prefer, at that time: namely, when the word of Jehovah was rare (Piscator).



[He was lying, שֹׁכֵב] Reclining (Jonathan, Syriac, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius); lying (Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus); he was sleeping (Pagnine, Septuagint). He says this to show his negligence, remissness of spirit; who, terrified with such grave thunderings of threats from heaven, was not vigilant (Mendoza).


[In his place (thus all interpreters)] That is, in the interior or inner part of the court, which was closer to the Tabernacle (Vatablus, similarly Lapide, Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). Or rather, not within, but near the Tabernacle (Mendoza). In a recess/bay near the Tabernacle (Lyra). After the Temple was built, there were some places reserved for the Priests, in which they might lodge, adjacent to the temple: it is certainly possible that there was something similar before the construction of the temple; especially after the Tabernacle had a fixed seat in a certain place. Therefore, he (Eli) had a chamber and a bed in a certain place not far removed from the Tabernacle (Menochius out of Sanchez). The Priests were sleeping in an interior part of the court; the Levites, in an outer, which was farther from the Tabernacle (Vatablus, Malvenda).


In his place; in the court of the tabernacle.


[He was not able to see] That is, well, or accurately (Vatablus), or clearly; for his eyes had only begun to wax dim (Malvenda, Piscator). The Hebrews understand this blindness mystically, concerning the blindness of Eli’s mind in discerning the manners of his sons, and in contemplating the divine oracles. See the opposite in Isaiah 32:3, the eyes of them that see shall not be dim. But he speaks of proper blindness, as it shall be evident below (Mendoza). This is said; either, 1. So that it might signify that Samuel slept before the ark, and kept it; which Eli, because of his age, was not able to do (Tostatus in Mendoza). Or, 2. So that it might indicate the age of Eli, in which he is despised by God; with him not called into conversation, but the lad Samuel; and it might plainly be, that God has regard, not so much to age, as to holiness (Mendoza out of Tostatus). Or, 3. To commend the diligence of Samuel, whereby he was yet dutifully attending upon Eli, who at that time was requiring the assistance of another (Vatablus).


He could not see, to wit, clearly and distinctly. This is added as an evidence of his old age, partly to show God’s contempt of him, notwithstanding his venerable age, and his preferring the child Samuel before him in this vision; and partly as the reason why Samuel so readily ran to him upon the first call, because his great age made him more to need his servants’ help.

[1] Hebrew: וַֽיְהִי֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא וְעֵלִ֖י שֹׁכֵ֣ב בִּמְקֹמ֑וֹ וְעֵינָו֙ הֵחֵ֣לּוּ כֵה֔וֹת לֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִרְאֽוֹת׃ [2] Hebrew: בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא. [3] See Exodus 12:17.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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