Where there is no vision, the people perish…
– Prov 29:18

1 Sam 3:1-3
And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep

For those unfamiliar, the book of Samuel takes place almost immediately after events in the book of Judges.  The final verse in the book of Judges says this:

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.  (Judges 21:25)

The kingdom, which was supposed to be ordered entirely by the Living God had forsaken the Lord, and digressed literally into a state of anarchy.  Due to this final verse in Judges, I have heard it speculated that God intended for the nation to be run as an anarchy.  This is entirely inaccurate.

God gave plain guidelines for this nation which He had called to Himself, they were supposed to be a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6).  Not only was the nation to be a kingdom of priests, but their king and ruler was to be God, alone (1 Sam 8:7; 12:12).

Yet how was the Lord to rule over the people?  If not via a king, what was God’s intended way to rule His nation of priests?  Actually, His desire from the beginning was  to have a personal relationship with each individual, and that they all might be led directly by Him.  However, when the Word of God spoke in an audible voice from the Mountain of fire the people feared, and with one accord they prayed that they would not hear the Word of the Lord, but that God would grant them an intermediary (Ex 20:18-22).

Because the people drew back from hearing the Lord for themselves, God declared that He would rule His kingdom of priests by the next best thing: the hand of a prophet (Deut. 18:15-18).  The prophet would act as intermediary between the people and God – as such, the office of prophet was a typological representation of the coming Messiah.

But even in his day, Moses, looking forward to the days of the coming Messiah declared this great restorative prophecy:

Num 11:29
…would God that ALL the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

This prophecy of Moses would later be fulfilled in Acts 2.

Yet now back to the narrative of Samuel the prophet.

The book of Judges concluded with God’s nation of priests digressing into a state of total political, and social anarchy.  From the outset of the book of Samuel we see that the one thing remaining of Israel’s great spiritual dynasty was the religious service of the tabernacle.  Yet this, too, was in a dreadful state!

The high priest in Israel was a man named Eli.  Eli was old, overweight (1 Sam 2:29; 4:18) and going blind (3:2).  In his physical state, Eli seemed to do very little of the temple service himself; almost every time we see him in scripture he is sitting, or lying down (1 Sam 1:9; 3:2; 4:13).  Eli’s two sons – Hophni, and Phinehas – who were carrying out the temple service were overtly corrupt, so much so that they would steal from congregants, and fornicate with women in the temple (2:22).  But the worst of their corruption was that they made the people to despise the sacrifice of the Lord (2:17; 2:29).  Thus, indeed, corruption had entered Israel at every level of its society – it was only a matter of time before the judgment of God would come, and even the priesthood of Israel would be cut off.

My, what a terrible state the nation was in!  The whole nation was corrupted with sin, even the very priesthood!  There was not a man in Israel to stand before the Lord, the entire realm had become – as the wife of one of the evil priest’s would later prophesy – ICHABOD meaning that God’s glory had entirely departed from the people, and the entire nation was left desolate.

Oh but hear this song of hope in the midst of the fallen priesthood:

1 Sam 2:18
But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.

What a great tragedy that there was no man in all the land of Israel to minister before the Lord!  But there was SOMEONE willing!  Even a little boy – a child wearing a priestly garment before God!

Now this is the stage set for the seed, the new hope of Israel – for the whole of the land was burned and charred with the corruption of sin, and in only a matter of a few years the very priesthood in Israel would be handed over to Satan.

Oh, but the child Samuel would soon carry that life which God had ever intended that the nation of Israel walk in – soon the light of the world would be imparted to a lonely little boy who had been given by his mother into a life of service to God.

1 Sam 3:1-3
And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep.

For those who have eyes to see, this passage fully defines the lack in Israel: that poverty for which the people would be handed over to the Philistines.  The WORD OF THE LORD was ‘precious,’ or ‘rare’ in those days.  What does this mean?  It goes on to give further clarification: ‘THERE WAS NO OPEN VISION.’

Specifically, this ‘vision’ speaks of PROPHECY.  The Hebrew word for ‘vision’ here is:

chazown (khaw-zone’); a sight (mentally), i.e. a dream, revelation, or oracle

Thus the ‘word of the Lord’ spoken of here, is not specifically the bible.  Bear in mind that they had the ‘Pentetuech’ that is the scriptures handed down from the pen of Moses (the first five books of the bible), as well as the book of Joshua.  (The book of Judges may still have been in the works for, as mentioned, 1 Samuel starts almost precisely at its tail-end.)

Some speculate that ‘open vision’ means a literal open-eyed vision as Ezekiel, and some of the other prophets had wherein they seemed to literally see heavenly beings and events with their physical eyes.  In this case that appears to be an inaccurate interpretation, for the word ‘open’ (King James) actually means something closer along the lines of ‘wide spread,’ or ‘given abroad.’

The trouble in Israel was that there was no widespread prophetic revelation.  The people of Israel were without the Spirit of God.  THERE WERE NO PROPHETS IN THE LAND.  Even the prophecy which was given to Eli, wherein God warned him of the coming wrath on his family was brought not by a ‘prophet,’ but simply by one called: ‘a man of God’ (1 Sam 2:27).

Bear in mind that God had promised to lead the nation by the hand of prophets.  Prophecy was intended to be widespread – the light of the kingdom.  But there was no open vision.


1 Sam 3:2
…it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

The high priest, himself, was losing his sight.  The correlation of his physically going blind is no coincidence; this is a prophetic parable of the state of the priesthood.  He who should be the most prophetic man in Israel was going blind.  He was not yet fully blind, as he would be the day of his death (4:15) yet at this time he had all but lost his perception of the things of God.

Israel had become a pagan nation which had not honored the Spirit of prophecy; of all those who knew the ways of the Kingdom that the LORD had instigated, only ONE priest who understood the ways of the Lord was left in the land – and he had compromised, and compromised until his complacency had caused his understanding to wax dim.

So it was that a nation designed to be filled with priests who communed with God, and walked in the Spirit of prophecy, had no widespread prophetic understanding.  Furthermore, even the high priest was going blind to the things of God – and the third and final horror is contained in the next verse:

And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD

The only remaining light was a dull flickering lamp in God’s temple.  The nation’s light was about to be entirely snuffed out.  If the light goes out entirely, there is nothing left in the whole world but darkness: death reigns with no hope of salvation.  Israel was like a man in some sort of a coma, barely breathing – at any moment the light could entirely flicker out and the nation of Israel would become just as the heathen kingdoms they had driven out of the land.

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5) – this is speaking of the work and testimony of Jesus in the earth.  There must be a prophetic witness in the world.  The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10).  God had to search out and find Himself a little boy who would regard the Word of the Lord.

Then in the dark of night, as a little boy faithfully executed the inept priest’s office, because he had made his heart right, for he alone set his face to worship, and honor the Lord – God spoke to that little boy.

Sadly, the nation was already too far gone – Eli the high priest was too complacent even to repent when warned of the wrath to come (1 Sam 3:18).  Judgment would come to Israel, the priesthood would die – the ark of God’s presence would be handed over to the devil.

But the light was not altogether diminished:

1 Sam 3:21
And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

And here is an interesting fact of scripture.  For Samuel’s first lesson was HOW TO HEAR GOD.  So learn carefully what this means, beloved children – from the perishing priest, his final flicker of illumination in the ancient ways; that which led Samuel fully into that blessed heavenly kingdom of light – hear carefully, and meditate on these words, until ye become prophets yourselves for God shall reveal it to you if you seek Him:

1 Sam 3:9
Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

And now for the application.  Why am I writing this?  Why take heed to the life of the great prophet Samuel?

There is a testimony of God in the world.  Many fear that it is diminished entirely, and that there is now no hope.  But Samuel ministered unto the Lord, being a child girded with a linen ephod.

How about you?