IT is evident that Samuel must have taken very kindly to the duties of the sanctuary. He was manifestly one of those who are sanctified from infancy, and whose hearts go from the first with sacred duties. There were no wayward impulses to subdue, no hankerings after worldly freedom and worldly enjoyment; there was no necessity for coercive measures, either to restrain him from outbursts of frivolity or to compel him to diligence and regularity in his calling. From the first he looked with solemn awe and holy interest on all that related to the worship of God; that, to him, was the duty above all other duties, the privilege above all other privileges. God to him was not a mere idea, an abstraction, representing merely the dogmas and services of religion. God was a reality, a personality, a Being who dealt very closely with men, and with whom they were called to deal very closely too. We can easily conceive how desirous little Samuel would be to know something of the meaning of the services at Shiloh; how scrupulous to perform every duty, how regular and real in his prayers, and how full of reverence and affection for God. He would go about all his duties with a grave, sweet, earnest face, conscious of their importance and solemnity; always thinking more of them than of anything else, thinking perhaps of the service of the angels in heaven, and trying to serve God as they served Him, to do God's will on earth as it was done in heaven.
At the opening of this chapter he seems to be the confidential servant of the high priest, sleeping near to him, and in the habit of receiving directions from him. He must be more than a child now, otherwise he would not be entrusted, as he was, with the opening of the doors of the house of the Lord.
The evil example of Hophni and Phinehas, so far from corrupting him, seems to have made him more resolute the other way. It was horrid and disgusting; and as gross drunkenness on the part of a father sometimes sets the children the more against it, so the profligacy of the young priests would make Samuel more vigilant in every matter of duty. That Eli bore as he did with the conduct of his sons must have been a great perplexity to him, and a great sorrow; but it did not become one at his time of life to argue the question with the aged high priest. This conduct of Eli's did not in any respect diminish the respectful bearing of Samuel towards him, or his readiness to comply with his every wish. For Eli was God's high priest; and in engaging to be God's servant in the tabernacle Samuel knew well that he took the high priest as his earthly master. (Expositor's Bible. Online Bible.)
While Eli's sons acted wickedly before the Lord, Samuel ministered unto the Lord. He was what Eli's sons should have been.
The Lord had been quiet for some time now, not having spoken through any prophet.
Eli probably was living in one of the side chambers beside the tabernacle, where the priests lived during their time of service. Samuel stayed close by, but not in the tabernacle itself.
The Lord called to Samuel, probably out of the Holy of Holies, and Samuel, not having this experience before, did not know what the call was. So he went to Eli. Eli though Samuel was hearing things, so he sent him back to bed. However, on the third time, Eli realized the Lord was calling, and instructed Samuel how to answer.
V. 7. Samuel was dedicated to serve the Lord, and did before he knew the Lord. Josephus says that Samuel is 12 here, the same age as Christ in the temple. 12 may be close to the age of accountability when a child can hear and understand the gospel and the call of the Lord. However, the Lord calls individuals, not groups, so he works differently in each person.
We were called to serve him before the foundation of the world.
V. 13. God judged Eli for not taking a firm hand with his children. He knew what they were doing, but did not try to stop them.
V. 18. How sad! Eli had become so hardened to what his children we doing that when he learned of the results, he did not even repent.
V. 19, Samuel watched his words, but later, he loses his own children.