|Reading The Text: Samuel I, Chapter 3|
|Written by Michael Linetsky|
Now that the account of God’s rebuke of Eli has been brought to an end, we are refocused on Samuel. We are returned to the Temple where Samuel’s continual faithfulness to the Lord is reconfirmed with a final iteration of the type-phrase ‘and the boy ministered the Lord’. Samuel is still dependent on Eli as he ministers “under Eli” (v. 1) . But everything is about to change! Samuel continues his ascent and from here on he is never called ‘boy’ again. He is known only by his name, his substance and specific character.
In contrast, Eli is stripped of his appellation of ‘priest’ (cf. 2:11) to symbolize his impending loss of priesthood. As far as we are concerned this is already a done deal! The Rabbis have already noted the contemporaneousness of Samuel and Eli : “Eli’s sun did not set until Samuel’s sun rose” (Genesis Rabba 58:2).
We can nevertheless discern a certain favorable attitude towards Eli in the words of the Rabbis. Indeed, the narrative itself appears to attribute Eli’s ineptness to his old age. It is his sons, not he which receive names of derision such as “scoundrel” and characterizations of “did not know the Lord”. In the end (Sam. I 14:3) the narrative remembers Eli as a Priest of the Lord.