1 Samuel 7:2
And it came to pass, while the ark stayed in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years.—Literally, And it came to pass, from the day that the Ark rested at Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years. There is something very touching in this sad note of time. We think we read Samuel’s own words here. The unwearied toiler for God and His dear people found the twenty years a weary period of waiting. We must not, however, by any means suppose that the hungering of Israel after their God-Friend only began after the twenty years of sorrow were over.

It had been a stern trial time. The great victory of Aphek and the destruction of Shiloh had laid all Israel at the feet of their Philistine enemies, and they, we know, made their supremacy bitterly felt. The restoration of the Ark in no wise signified that they loosed their hold on the conquered people. This long time, when the hand of Philistia pressed so heavily on Israel, was the important period of Samuel’s life. For these twenty years he must have laboured incessantly to wake up the old worship of the Eternal and the pure life loved by God among the people. The early dreams of his boy days, the hopes excited by his burning enthusiasm, were scattered to the winds.

The fatal battle of Aphek, the capture of the holy Ark, the death of his old guardian, the great high priestly judge Eli, the sack and devastation of Shiloh, the loved sanctuary, the terrible and continued oppression of Philistia, had opened the eyes of the young inspired man of God. Taught by the bitter lessons of adversity, he saw it was by no bold stroke of a few gallant patriots that the nation could be saved; all such efforts Samuel the seer, after the crushing defeat of Aphek, saw would only sink the nation into still lower depths of degradation and misery. Other and different things were needed before the lion standard of Judah could be safely unfurled, or the war-cry of Ephraim raised on her mountains. “What means he used we are not told, or what was his mode of life during those twenty years of waiting and work; but probably the life of the young prophet-judge was that of a fugitive, going stealthily from place to place that he might teach and preach, hiding in the caverns in the limestone ranges of Judæa, emerging thence to visit now one quarter of the country and now another, ever in danger, but gradually stirring up, not merely those districts which were contiguous to the Philistines, but all Israel to a sense of the greatness of their sins, and to the necessity of renewed trust in and return of old love to their God. And so a fresh spiritual life by degrees sprang up among the people, and with it came the certainty of the future restoration of their national independence.”—Dean Payne Smith.

And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.—The English Version is singularly happy here. The Hebrew word Englished by “lamented after” has been variously rendered and paraphrased. The Syriac translates, “they all cast themselves down after Jehovah.” Gesenius and some would translate “were assembled together;” others, “the people of Israel quieted themselves, and in quiet devotion followed Jehovah,” but the English Version is best on all grounds. This “lamenting” or hungering after the Lord” was a gradual result of Samuel’s unwearied labours. The assertion of 1Samuel 3:19, that “none of his words fell to the ground,” especially belongs to this period of restless activity, when dangers and apparently insurmountable difficulties hemmed him in; slowly, but surely, the heart of the people, roused by his loving but passionate appeals, returned to their Eternal Friend; sick of crime and folly, gradually they began to hate their impurity and moral degradation; by degrees they began to loathe their idolatry; and when Samuel, after his twenty years of faithful restless work among them, summoned them boldly to declare their abhorrence of the strange Philistine gods, and the life taught and lived by the Philistine peoples, the heart of all Israel responded with intense gladness to the summons.

Then the wise and patriotic statesman-prophet saw the hour of deliverance and national restoration had struck. No longer solitary hamlets and scattered families mourned after the glorious Eternal and His pure holy worship and life; but the heart of a whole people mourned after the Lord, and hungered for His presence among them once more.

1 Samuel 7:2. For it was twenty years — It is not said that this space of twenty years was all the time of the ark’s abode there, for it continued there from Eli’s time till David’s reign, (2 Samuel 6:2,) which was forty-six years; but that it was so long there before the Israelites were sensible of their sin and misery. And all the house — Or rather, as Dr. Lightfoot translates the words, Then all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord — That is, followed after God with lamentations for his departure, and prayers for his return. Their idolatry had taken such deep root in them, that neither the loss of the ark, nor the slaughter of so many Israelites, wrought upon their hearts; but it was twenty years before they were brought to a proper sense of their sinfulness and guilt, and so humbled as to deplore their apostacy with genuine godly sorrow, and seek after the favour of God, and reconciliation with him. 7:1-4 God will find a resting-place for his ark; if some thrust it from them, the hearts of others shall be inclined to receive it. It is no new thing for God's ark to be in a private house. Christ and his apostles preached from house to house, when they could not have public places. Twenty years passed before the house of Israel cared for the want of the ark. During this time the prophet Samuel laboured to revive true religion. The few words used are very expressive; and this was one of the most effectual revivals of religion which ever took place in Israel.And all the house of Israel lamented ... - The occupation of the country about Shiloh by the Philistines 1 Samuel 7:3 was partly the reason for the ark being kept so long at Kirjath-jearim. But another reason seems to have been the fall of the Israelites into idolatry, which made them neglect the ark, and brought upon them this Philistine servitude; probably the last 20 years of the Philistine oppression described in Judges 13:1, which is there expressly connected with Israelite idolatry. Now, probably, through the exhortations of Samuel, coupled with the chastening of the Philistine yoke, the Israelites repented and turned again to the God of their fathers. 2. the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim … twenty years—It appears, in the subsequent history, that a much longer period elapsed before its final removal from Kirjath-jearim (2Sa 6:1-19; 1Ch 13:1-14). But that length of time had passed when the Israelites began to revive from their sad state of religious decline. The capture of the ark had produced a general indifference either as to its loss or its recovery.

all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord—They were then brought, doubtless by the influence of Samuel's exhortations, to renounce idolatry, and to return to the national worship of the true God.

The ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, and was not carried to Shiloh, its former place, either because that place was destroyed by the Philistines when the ark was taken, as may be gathered from this history, compared with Jeremiah 7:12,14 26:6,9; or because God would hereby punish the wickedness, either of that particular place of Shiloh, or of the people of Israel, by keeping it in a private and obscure place, and that near to the Philistines, whither the generality of the people neither durst nor could safely come. It was twenty years; he saith not that this twenty years was all the time of the ark’s abode there; for it continued there from Eli’s time till David’s reign, 2 Samuel 6:2, which was forty years, Acts 13:21; but that it was so long there ere the Israelites were sensible of their sin and misery, ere they lamented, &c., as it follows.

The house of Israel lamented after the Lord, i.e. they followed after God with lamentation for his departure and so long estrangement from them, and with prayers for his return and favour to them. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long,.... It could not be less than between forty and fifty years, for it remained here until the times of David, who removed it from hence after he was made king over all Israel, and when he had reigned over Judah seven years; and from the death of Eli to that time, which included the government of Samuel and Saul, it could not be less than what has been hinted:

for it was twenty years; not that this was all the time the ark was at Kirjathjearim, but it was so long there before it was much taken notice of, and sought unto, and the Lord by it; there was a great neglect of God, and his worship, which through the means of Samuel began to revive about this time, as it follows:

and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord; became sensible of their evil doings, and repented of them, and sought the Lord with fasting, and prayer, and tears; bewailed their backslidings and revoltings from him, and cried after a departing God.

And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented {b} after the LORD.

(b) Lamented for their sins, and followed the Lord.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2–6. The National Repentance and Reformation under Samuel

2. And it came to pass, &c.] Better, And it came to pass, from the day when the ark rested in Kirjath-jearim, that a long time elapsed, even twenty years. Twenty years was not, as the E. V. seems to imply, the whole duration of the Ark’s sojourn at Kirjath-jearim, but the time that elapsed before the reformation now to be recorded.

The period here passed over in silence was a dark page in Israel’s history, politically and religiously. They were vassals of the Philistines, reduced apparently to abject submission. The public worship of Jehovah was intermitted; for the Tabernacle seems to have been dismantled, and the Ark was in a private house. The people sank into gross idolatry. But meanwhile Samuel was growing in strength and influence, and when the right moment came and the desire for better things sprang up as the fruit of his prophetic labours, he was ready to take his place as the leader of the nation.

lamented after the Lord] As a child follows the father who has been forced to turn a way in anger, and with sighs and tears entreats for reconciliation.Verse 2. - While the ark, etc. The literal translation of this verse is, "And it came to pass, from the day that the ark rested at Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years." The words dwell wearily upon the length of this mournful period, during which. Israel was in a state of subjection to the Philistines, with its national life crushed to the ground, and its strength wasted by unjust exactions and misrule. For though the Philistines gave up the ark, there was no restoration of the national worship, nor did they abandon the political fruits of their victory at Eben-ezer. But quietly and calmly Samuel was labouring to put all things right. It was the principle of the theocracy that Jehovah punished his subjects for their sins by withdrawing his protection, and that on their repentance he took again his place at their head as their king, and delivered them. Samuel's whole effort, therefore, was directed to bringing the people to repentance. What means he used we are not told, nor what was his mode of life; but probably it was that of a fugitive, going stealthily from place to place that he might teach and preach, hiding in the caverns in the limestone range of Judaea, emerging thence to visit now one quarter of the country and now another, ever in danger, but gradually awakening, not merely those districts which were contiguous to the Philistines, but all Israel to a sense of the greatness of their sins, and the necessity of renewed trust and love to their God. And so a fresh spiritual life sprang up among the people, and with it came the certainty of the restoration of their national independence. All the house of Israel lamented after Jehovah. The word used here is rare, and the versions all differ in their translation of it. Really it is a happy one, embracing the two ideas of sorrow for sin, and also of re. turning to and gathering themselves round Jehovah. The Syriac alone retains this double meaning, by saying that "they all cast themselves down after Jehovah," i.e. that they sought him with deep humility. Gradually, then, a change of heart came over the people; but the removal of the ark to a more fit place, and the restoration of Divine service with ministering priests and Levites, could take place only after the Philistine yoke had been broken. From 1 Samuel 13:19 22 we learn how vigilant and oppressive that tyranny was; and the heart of the writer, in inditing this verse, was full of sorrow at the thought that the repentance of Israel was so slow and unready, and that therefore it had to wait twenty years before deliverance came. 1 Samuel 6:15 contains a supplementary remark, therefore הורידוּ is to be translated as a pluperfect. After sacrificing the cart, with the cows, as a burnt-offering to the Lord, the inhabitants of Bethshemesh gave a further practical expression to their joy at the return of the ark, by offering burnt-offerings and slain-offerings in praise of God. In the burnt-offerings they consecrated themselves afresh, with all their members, to the service of the Lord; and in the slain-offerings, which culminated in the sacrificial meals, they sealed anew their living fellowship with the Lord. The offering of these sacrifices at Bethshemesh was no offence against the commandment, to sacrifice to the Lord at the place of His sanctuary alone. The ark of the covenant was the throne of the gracious presence of God, before which the sacrifices were really offered at the tabernacle. The Lord had sanctified the ark afresh as the throne of His presence, by the miracle which He had wrought in bringing it back again. - In 1 Samuel 6:17 and 1 Samuel 6:18 the different atoning presents, which the Philistines sent to Jehovah as compensation, are enumerated once more: viz., five golden boils, one for each of their five principal towns (see at Joshua 13:3), and "golden mice, according to the number of all the Philistian towns of the five princes, from the fortified city to the village of the inhabitants of the level land" (perazi; see at Deuteronomy 3:5). The priests had only proposed that five golden mice should be sent as compensation, as well as five boils (1 Samuel 6:4). But the Philistines offered as many images of mice as there were towns and villages in their five states, no doubt because the plague of mice had spread over the whole land, whereas the plague of boils had only fallen upon the inhabitants of those towns to which the ark of the covenant had come. In this way the apparent discrepancy between 1 Samuel 6:4 and 1 Samuel 6:18 is very simply removed. The words which follow, viz., וגו עליה הגּיחוּ עשׁר, "upon which they had set down the ark," show unmistakeably, when compared with 1 Samuel 6:14 and 1 Samuel 6:15, that we are to understand by הגּדולה אבל the great stone upon which the ark was placed when it was taken off the cart. The conjecture of Kimchi, that this stone was called Abel (luctus), on account of the mourning which took place there (see 1 Samuel 6:19), is extremely unnatural. Consequently there is no other course left than to regard אבל as an error in writing for אבן, according to the reading, or at all events the rendering, adopted by the lxx and Targum. But ועד (even unto) is quite unsuitable here, as no further local definition is required after the foregoing הפּרי כּפר ועד, and it is impossible to suppose that the Philistines offered a golden mouse as a trespass-offering for the great stone upon which the ark was placed. We must therefore alter ועד into ועד: "And the great stone is witness (for ועד in this sense, see Genesis 31:52) to this day in the field of Joshua the Bethshemeshite," sc., of the fact just described.
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