What does 1 Samuel 3:20 mean?
ESV: And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD.
NIV: And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD.
NASB: And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
CSB: All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord.
NLT: And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
KJV: And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.
Verse Commentary:
Samuel became known through the land of Israel as a prophet of the Lord. The phrase "from Dan to Beersheba" had come to mean from border to border, with the traditional territory of Dan in the north and the town of Beersheba in the south. Similarly, modern phrases might say someone is known "from London to the Mediterranean Sea," to mean throughout all of Europe.

This trust wasn't merely about accurate predictions. The citizens of Israel understood that he had been established as a prophet by the Lord Himself. Samuel had been chosen as a boy to become God's official prophet to Israel. His predictions were not trivial; they were clearly statements from the Lord. The Hebrew word for prophet, nābî', can mean "spokesman." In truth, God's prophets were men and women called to speak to others on His behalf, including Abraham, Moses, Elisha, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many more.
Verse Context:
First Samuel 3:15–21 indicates Samuel was reluctant to share his first prophetic word from God. The Lord's message was dire: that Eli, the current priest, would suffer consequences for his sin. His sons and family were abusing their power and profaning God. With some prompting, Samuel delivers this message to Eli, who accepts it. Samuel continues to grow and is recognized by all of Israel as a prophet of the Lord.
Chapter Summary:
Samuel is just a boy when the Lord calls Him to serve as a prophet in Israel. Sleeping in the temple, Samuel hears his name and thinks Eli the priest is calling him. Eli finally tells Samuel it is the Lord. The Lord tells Samuel that He is going to fulfill His judgment against Eli and his household for the sins of Eli's sons and for Eli's failure to restrain them. Samuel delivers the entire message to Eli and begins his lifelong career as an official prophet of the Lord.
Chapter Context:
First Samuel 3 follows the prophecy of judgment against Eli and his household at the end of the previous chapter (1 Samuel 2:27–36) with a repeat of the prophecy through the words of young Samuel. Eli helps the boy to understand the Lord is speaking to him, and Samuel delivers the Lord's harsh message. Eli accepts Samuel's word, passively accepting whatever God will do. The next chapters explain Eli's death and Israel's renewed conflict with the Philistines.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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