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1 Samuel 3:1

ESV Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
NIV The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.
NASB Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days; visions were infrequent.
CSB The boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli's presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.
NLT Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.
KJV 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.

What does 1 Samuel 3:1 mean?

As chapter 3 opens, both Samuel and Eli have grown older, though it's not stated how much time has passed. Some commentators suggest Samuel was around 12, near the traditional age when a boy would begin to do the work of an apprentice. Eli had already been described as "very old" in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 2:22). Now his eyesight is said to be growing dim (1 Samuel 3:2).

Samuel continues to work in ministry functions under Eli the priest. He was also described this way in the previous chapter when he was presumably a younger boy still (1 Samuel 2:11, 18, 21, 26). Samuel's entire childhood was marked by doing whatever Eli, as a kind of foster father and mentor, directed him to do in service to Yahweh.

Scripture notes that God rarely spoke directly to His people during this time. There were no frequent visions being given by the Lord to His people through a prophet. During this era, speaking to His people through visions given to prophets was one of God's main forms of communication. The Lord would have much to say to Israel through Samuel and through later prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. The Lord's near silence was about to be broken.
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