1 Samuel 3

Samuel Called by God in the Tabernacle


And the boy Samuel was ministering to Yahweh in the presence of Eli (3:1).

Shiloh was the home of the tabernacle in these days (circa 1080 BC). The tabernacle appears to have been located at Shiloh already for some three centuries, ever since it was installed there in the days of Joshua (Josh 18:1). The location of Shiloh has been established based on both geographical clues and on later (mostly Byzantine) inscriptions found at the site. This photo was taken in 2006, before the most recent excavations.

Ancient Beds

At that time Eli was lying down in his own place (3:2).

It becomes clear in the course of this narrative that both Samuel and Eli were sleeping somewhere within the confines of the tabernacle. There are repeated references to both of them lying down to sleep. It is not stated whether they slept on the ground or had some kind of bed to sleep on. Wood-framed beds had been used for many centuries prior to this time, so could have been used by Eli and Samuel as well. The bed shown here comes from a rare non-royal tomb in Egypt, KV 46 in the Valley of the Kings.

The Lampstand

The lamp of God had not yet gone out (3:3).

This model of the lampstand (menorah) in the tabernacle is based on the description given in Exodus 25:31-40. A lamp was kept burning continually, “from evening to morning” (Lev 24:2), but it was apparently allowed to go out during the daytime. The reference to the lamp having “not yet gone out,” then, is an indication that this event took place during the dark hours. This lampstand was photographed at the tabernacle model in Timna Park.

Yahweh's Call

Then Yahweh called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am” (3:4).

“Yahweh” is the personal name of Israel’s God. Although the divine name has not been written or pronounced by observant Jews since the Hellenistic period, it was used with some frequency prior to that, both in personal names and in daily conversation and correspondence. An example is this ostracon from the 6th century BC. This ostracon is now badly faded. More of it was visible at the time of its discovery in 1935. The first line begins, “May Yahweh cause my lord to hear, this very day, tidings of good.” This ostracon was photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Doors of Yahweh's House

And Samuel lay until the morning; then he opened the doors of the house of Yahweh (3:15).

Both the word “doors” (Heb. deleth, דֶּלֶת) and the word “house” (Heb. bayith, בַּיִת) here are suggestive of a more permanent structure at Shiloh. It is not difficult to imagine that such a structure would have been built in the centuries during which the tabernacle was at Shiloh. The Mishnah says that “When they came to Shiloh, high places were forbidden. There was no [fixed] roof, but a structure of stones beneath and curtains above them” (Zevachim 14:6). This photo shows the view from the outer entrance of the tabernacle toward the sacrificial altar and the tabernacle itself. This was photographed at the tabernacle model located in Timna Park in southern Israel.

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