Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chasing Down Some Answers

I'm having an issue with Eli and Samuel.  I've heard this account since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.  However, for as long as I remember, I have been taught that when Samuel responded to the final summons, that which Eli had advised was the voice of Yaweh, he responded "exactly as Eli had instructed."  Read it:

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Exactly?  I don't think so.  Even commentaries state his response was verbatim.  I don't read that.  Semantics?  Maybe.  But is it possible there was more?

Scholars believe Samuel was about twelve at the time.  Now, obviously Samuel was not your typical twelve-year-old boy, but think about it.  Still a boy, but facing the impending demands of manhood; raised with the discipline and reverence of the priesthood, keenly aware of his responsibilities and the consequences of immaturity, but a youth, still visited and doted upon annually by his mother.  So I have to ask...

1.  Was it fear?  I've seen a lot more than Samuel had at that age, and I don't think I could keep my knees from knocking if I heard God's voice in the middle of the night.  Did Samuel not address God by name in hopes that maybe it was just his imagination?

2.  Had even a young boy, but one so highly favored, seen the chinks in Eli's armor? doubted Eli's insight? questioned the validity of Eli's faith?  We are told Samuel "did not yet know the Lord."  Was this all Samuel's immaturity, or due in part to observing Eli's waffling testimony.


3.  Was Samuel so assured it was Yaweh at that point, so overcome by the power and presence that is The One True God, that he had not the courage to address I AM by name?  Ancient Jewish law teaches the name of God is forbidden to be spoken by any other than the High Priest, and only on Yom Kippur; when translating sacred texts, before writing the name of God, scribes would take a bath, put on fresh clothes and make a new pen each time.  Was Samuel observing such a reverence?

4.  Could it be Samuel had been so absorbed by the familiarity of the very One who created and called him, now audibly speaking to him, he felt not the need to address Him by name?  My children know my voice on the phone or from another room.  I don't have to identify myself, nor do they call me by name when they answer.

Silly as it seems, I've prayed about this.  Not in a doubting-the-authenticity-of Scripture kind of way.  Nor am I making some sort of criticism of anything I've been taught or those that have taught me.  But it is our responsibility to read Scripture for ourselves, and prayerfully seek answers to these questions.  Is there a message in there for me?  Or is it a simple translation issue?  Looks like I will be launching a few emails to respected sources today.

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