What does it mean Samuel did not yet know the Lord? 1 Samuel 3:7.
Most commentators say it didn’t mean he wasn’t a believer, but only that he had not yet known the Lord through divine messages.
“So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” Jn 8:19
On the topic of Samuel not yet knowing the Lord, one such commentator said, “Samuel had no thought of anything extraordinary, and the explanation of his slowness of apprehension is given in the statement that he “did not yet know the Lord,” which can only mean that he had not received any Divine communications; for absolute ignorance cannot be supposed in one who had ministered to the Lord all
his life. Youth should be slow to believe that its impressions are divine messages.”
To the suggestion that Samuel was either in a state of “absolute ignorance” or that the saying meant he didn’t yet know God through revelation is a false dilemma since there is a third option for the meaning.
The third option. We know that the sons of Eli “did not know the Lord” but they were not in a state of absolute ignorance. So “not knowing the Lord” doesn’t imply “absolute ignorance”. Samuel it says three times in the lead up to this verse that he was ministering to the Lord. A particular weakness of the Old Covenant, according to Jeremiah, is that many did not know the LORD but that with the New Covenant everyone would. Under the Old Covenant into which one was born, coming “to know the Lord” takes a time for maturing into it.
To know the Lord comes not with learning the rudiments of the Faith as a young child might do. But knowing the Lord refers to a third option which is the coming to the commonly experienced place of personal Faith. Yada, to know, is the word for intimate relationship between a husband and wife, and metaphorically for the people of God to know Him. Even a young child who is raised in the church will come to his or her own moment of faith and conviction to choose to believe in the Lord. Until that time, because he does not yet have saving faith, he does not know the Lord.
In other words, I believe, “he knew not the Lord” indicates Samuel had not yet come to the place of personal Faith. This comes at an age of personal accountability which takes time for Samuel to come to.
For Jews the coming of age was at 12 years old. It was at this age that Jesus comes to the temple and impresses the people with his knowledge and wisdom. When his parents find him at the temple, Jesus said, “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s house?” This is recorded in Luke 2. This was the age of coming to maturity, manhood, where personal faith begins to rise up in the young person. Later in Luke 2 it describes Jesus, saying, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” That’s Jesus at twelve years of age when the boy is considered to be becoming a man with his own faith.
Here’s an interesting thing about Samuel the boy. He’s very much like Jesus. Jesus was to be a prophet, priest and king. Samuel would be a prophet, priest, and judge. And it says of Samuel the boy who is ministering in the tabernacle, “Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.” The comparison between Christ and Samuel is unmistakable. And how old was Jesus? He was twelve which is the age of manhood and faith. For this reason I think it’s very likely that when it says Samuel did not yet know the Lord, I think it meant he was only now ready to cross that threshold of faith.
Many Jews would never cross that threshold moment. The sons of Eli wouldn’t ever come to know the Lord, 1 Sam. 2:12. Jeremiah laments that it is a problem that would be fixed with the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-34. But Samuel if at the age of 12 or thereabout hasn’t yet come to know the Lord, it’s expected as a natural part of the maturing process.
Our young people who grow up in the church may very well pray, give, sing and talk about the Lord. But we know, and we pray for the moment in their growing up for the time that they confess their own faith, are baptized, and continue to follow Jesus. Only then will they really “know the Lord” in the full sense of that word.
If it appears I have erred by suggesting that Samuel wasn’t yet in the saved condition that occurs at different times in different people, then let me know. Most commentators believe Samuel most definitely was already having a saving faith and that this statement “did not yet know the Lord” means something narrow that He didn’t know God through revelation.
I was talking to a man who believes children are born with sin and that at an early age of four he came to believe and was baptized. So he took issue with my suggestion that this salvation isn’t necessary for a small child who is innocent and that only a young man who reaches a certain age of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual maturity can be needful of and ready for being saved by God. This young man took issue with my point here because it dismissed his own need to identify with a very small child being saved.
So comment and correct me if I need it. Thank you.

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