1 Samuel 7:1
And the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) The ark of the Lord.—Kirjath-jearim, the home of the Ark for nearly fifty years, was probably selected as the resting-place of the sacred emblem as being the nearest large city to Beth-shemesh then in the hands of the Israelites. It was neither a priestly nor a Levitical city, but it no doubt had preserved something of its ancient character of sanctity even among the children of Israel. In old days before the Hebrew invasion, it was a notable “high place,” and a seat of worship of Baal. This was also, no doubt, taken into account when it was resolved to locate the Ark there. The words “in the hill” remind us that the old “high place” was still marked, and was from its sacred associations looked on as a fitting temporary resting-place for the sacred treasure of Israel.

Eleazar—It is most likely that this Abinadab was a Levite. The names Eleazar and Uzzah, and Ahio of the same family (2Samuel 6:3), are Levitical appellations. Samuel—who, though he is not named in this transaction, was, no doubt, the director—would, of course, have endeavoured to find a man of the tribe of Levi for the sacred trust. “This Eleazar was constituted not priest, but watchman at the grave of the Ark by its corpse, till the future joyful resurrection.”—Hengstenberg, quoted in Lange. Here the Ark remained until King David brought it from “the house on the hill,” in the city of woods, first to the home of Obed-edom, and then to his own royal Zion. (2 Samuel 6. See too Psalm 132:6.)

1 Samuel

REPENTANCE AND VICTORY

1 Samuel 7:1 - 1 Samuel 7:12
.

The ark had spread disaster in Philistia and Beth-shemesh, and the willingness of the men of Kirjath-jearim to receive it was a token of their devotion. They must have been in some measure free from idolatry and penetrated with reverence. The name of the city {City of the Woods, like our Woodville} suggests the situation of the little town, ‘bosomed high in tufted trees,’ where the ark lay for so long, apparently without sacrifices, and simply watched over by Eleazar, who was probably of the house of Aaron. Eli’s family was exterminated; Shiloh seems to have been destroyed, or, at all events, forsaken; and for twenty years internal disorganisation and foreign oppression, relieved only by Samuel’s growing influence, prevailed. But during these dark days a better mind was slowly appearing among the people. ‘All . . . Israel lamented after the Lord.’ Lost blessings are precious. God was more prized when withdrawn. Happy they to whom darkness brightens that Light which brightens all darkness! Our text gives us three main points,-the preparation for victory in repentance and return {1 Samuel 7:3 - 1 Samuel 7:9}; the victory {1 Samuel 7:10 - 1 Samuel 7:11}; the thankful commemoration of victory {1 Samuel 7:12}.

I. We have first the preparation for victory in repentance and return. At the time of the first fight at Eben-ezer, Israel was full of idolatry and immorality. Then their preparation for battle was the mere bringing the ark into the camp, as if it were a fetish or magic charm. That was pure heathenism, and they were idolaters in such worship of Jehovah, just as much as if they had been bowing to Baal. Many of us rely on our baptism or on churchgoing precisely in the same spirit, and are as truly pagans. Not the name of the Deity, but the spirit of the worshipper, makes the ‘idolater.’

How different this second preparation! Samuel, who had never been named in the narrative of defeat, now reappears as the acknowledged prophet and, in a sense, dictator. The first requirement is to come back to the Lord ‘with the whole heart,’ and that return is to be practically exhibited in the complete forsaking of Baal and the Ashtoreths. ‘Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ It must be ‘Him only,’ if it is Him at all. Real religion is exclusive, as real love is. In its very nature it is indivisible, and if given to two is accepted by neither. So there was some kind of general and perhaps public giving up of the idols, and some, though probably not the fully appointed, public service of Jehovah. If we are to have His strength infused for victory, we must cast away our idols, and come back to Him with all our hearts. The hands that would clasp Him, and be upheld by the clasp, must be emptied of trifles. To yield ourselves wholly to God is the secret of strength.

The next step was a solemn national assembly at Samuel’s town of Mizpeh, situated on a conspicuous hill, north-west of Jerusalem, which still is called ‘the prophet Samuel.’ Sacrifices were offered, which are no part of the Mosaic ritual. A significant part of these consisted in the pouring out of water ‘before the Lord,’ probably as emblematic of the pouring out of soul in penitence; for it was accompanied by fasting and confession of sin. The surest way to the true victory, which is the conquest of our sins, is confessing them to God. When once we have seen any sin in its true character clearly enough to speak to Him about it, we have gone far to emancipate ourselves from it, and have quickened our consciences towards more complete intolerance of its hideousness. Confession breaks the entail of sin, and substitutes for the dreary expectation of its continuance the glad conviction of forgiveness and cleansing. It does not make a stiff fight unnecessary; for assured freedom from sin is not the easy prize of confession, but the hard-won issue of sturdy effort in God’s strength. But it is like blowing the trumpet of revolt,-it gives the signal for, and itself begins, the conflict. The night before the battle should be spent, not in feasting, but in prayer and lowly shriving of our souls before the great Confessor.

The watchful Philistines seem to have had their attention attracted by the unusual stir among their turbulent subjects, and especially by this suspicious gathering at Mizpeh, and they come suddenly up the passes from their low-lying territory to disperse it. A whiff of the old terror blows across the spirits of the people, not unwholesomely; for it sets them, not to desire the outward presence of the ark, not to run from their post, but to beseech Samuel’s intercession. They are afraid, but they mean to fight all the same, and, because they are afraid, they long for God’s help. That is the right temper, which, if a man cherish, he will not be defeated, however many Philistines rush at him. Twenty years of slavery had naturally bred fear in them, but it is a wise fear which breeds reliance on God. Our enemy is strong, and no fault is more fatal than an underestimate of his power. If we go into battle singing, we shall probably come out of it weeping, or never come out at all. If we begin bragging, we shall end bleeding. It is only he who looks on the advancing foe, and feels ‘They are too strong for me,’ who will have to say, as he watches them retreating, ‘He delivered me from my strong enemy.’ We should think much of our foes and little of ourselves. Such a temper will lead to caution, watchfulness, wise suspicion, vigorous strain of all our little power, and, above all, it will send us to our knees to plead with our great Captain and Advocate.

Samuel acts as priest and intercessor, offering a burnt-offering, which, like the pouring out of water, is no part of the Mosaic sacrifices. The fact is plain, but it is neither unaccountable nor large enough to warrant the sweeping inferences which have been drawn from it and its like, as to the non-existence at this period of the developed ceremonial in Leviticus. We need only remember Samuel’s special office, and the seclusion in which the ark lay, to have a sufficient explanation of the cessation of the appointed worship and the substitution of such ‘irregular’ sacrifices. We are on surer ground when we see here the incident to which Psalm 99:6 refers {‘Samuel among them that call upon His name. They called upon the Lord, and He answered them’}, and when we learn the lesson that there is a power in intercession which we can use for one another, and which reaches its perfection in the prevailing prayer of our great High-priest, who, like Samuel and Moses, is on the mountain praying, while we fight in the plain.

II. We have next the victory on the field of the former defeat. The battle is joined on the old ground. Strategic considerations probably determined the choice as they did in the case of the many battles on the plain of Esdraelon, for instance, or on the fields of the Netherlands. Probably the armies met on some piece of level ground in one of the wadies, up which the Philistines marched to the attack. At all events, there they were, face to face once more on the old spot. On both sides might be men who had been in the former engagement. Depressing remembrances or burning eagerness to wipe out the shame would stir in those on the one side; contemptuous remembrance of the ease with which the last victory had been won would animate the other. God Himself helped them by the thunderstorm, the solemn roll of which was ‘the voice of the Lord’ answering Samuel’s prayer. The ark had brought only defeat to the impure host; the sacrifice brings victory to the penitent army. Observe that the defeat is accomplished before ‘the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh.’ God scattered the enemy, and Israel had only to pursue flying foes, as they hurried in wild confusion down the pass, with the lightning flashing behind them. The same pregnant expression is used for the rout of the Philistines as for the previous one of Israel. ‘They were smitten before,’ not by, the victors. The true victor was God.

The story gives boundless hope of victory, even on the fields of our former defeats. We can master rooted faults of character, and overcome temptations which have often conquered us. Let no man say: ‘Ah! I have been beaten so often that I may as well give up the fight altogether. Years and years I have been a slave, and everywhere I tread on old battlefields, where I have come off second-best. It will never be different. I may as well cease struggling.’ However obstinate the fault, however often it has re-established its dominion and dragged us back to slavery, when we thought that we had made good our escape,- that is no reason to ‘bate one jot of heart or hope.’ We have every reason to hope bravely and boundlessly in the possibility of victory. True, we should rightly despair if we had only our own powers to depend on. But the grounds of our confidence lie in the inexhaustible fulness of God’s Spirit, and the certain purpose of His will that we should be purified from all iniquity, as well as in the proved tendency of the principles and motives of the gospel to produce characters of perfect goodness, and, above all, in the sacrifice and intercession of our Captain on high. Since we have Christ to dwell in us, and be the seed of a new life, which will unfold into the likeness of that life from which it has sprung; since we have a perfect Example in Him who became like us in lowliness of flesh, that we might become like Him in purity of spirit; since we have a gospel which enjoins and supplies the mightiest motives for complete obedience; and since the most rooted and inveterate evils are no part of ourselves, but ‘vipers’ which may be ‘shaken from the hand’ into which they have struck their fangs, we commit faithless treason against God, His message, and ourselves, when we doubt that we shall overcome all our sins. We should not, then, go into the fight downhearted, with our banners drooping, as if defeat sat on them. The belief that we shall conquer has much to do with victory. That is true in all sorts of conflicts. So, though the whole field may be strewed with relics, eloquent of former disgrace, we may renew the struggle with confidence that the future will not always copy the past. We ‘are saved by hope’; by hope we are made strong. It is the very helmet on our heads. The warfare with our own evils should be waged in the assurance that every field of our defeat shall one day see set up on it the trophy of, not our victory, but God’s in us.

III. We have here the grateful commemoration of victory. Where that gray stone stands no man knows to-day, but its name lives for ever. This trophy bore no vaunts of leader’s skill or soldier’s bravery. One name only is associated with it. It is ‘the stone of help,’ and its message to succeeding generations is: ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’ That Hitherto’ is the word of a mighty faith. It includes as parts of one whole the disaster no less than the victory. The Lord was helping Israel no less by sorrow and oppression than by joy and deliverance. The defeat which guided them back to Him was tender kindness and precious help. He helps us by griefs and losses, by disappointments and defeats; for whatever brings us closer to Him, and makes us feel that all our bliss and wellbeing lie in knowing and loving Him, is helpful beyond all other aid, and strength-giving above all other gifts.

Such remembrance has in it a half-uttered prayer and hope for the future. ‘Hitherto’ means more than it says. It looks forward as well as backward, and sees the future in the past. Memory passes into hope, and the radiance in the sky behind throws light on to our forward path. God’s ‘hitherto’ carries ‘henceforward’ wrapped up in it. His past reveals the eternal principles which will mould His future acts. He has helped, therefore he will help, is no good argument concerning men; but it is valid concerning God.

The devout man’s ‘gratitude’ is, and ought to be, ‘a lively sense of favours to come.’ We should never doubt but that, as good John Newton puts it, in words which bid fair to last longer than Samuel’s gray stone:-

‘Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review

Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.’

We may write that on every field of our life’s conflicts, and have it engraved at last on our gravestones, where we rest in hope.

The best use of memory is to mark more plainly than it could be seen at the moment the divine help which has filled our lives. Like some track on a mountain side, it is less discernible to us, when treading it, than when we look at it from the other side of the glen. Many parts of our lives, that seemed unmarked by any consciousness of God’s help while they were present, flash up into clearness when seen through the revealing light of memory, and gleam purple in it, while they looked but bare rocks as long as we were stumbling among them. It is blessed to remember, and to see everywhere God’s help. We do not remember aright unless we do. The stone that commemorates our lives should bear no name but one, and this should be all that is read upon it: ‘Now unto Him that kept us from falling, unto Him be glory!’

1 Samuel 7:1. The men of Kirjath-jearim fetched up the ark — That is, by the priests appointed to that work. Into the house of Abinadab — As the care of the ark belonged to the Levites, doubtless Abinadab was of that tribe, otherwise, indeed, he could not have consecrated, that is, set apart, or solemnly appointed his son to keep, or to attend it, and see that no rudeness was offered to it; to keep the place, where it was, clean, and to guard it that none might touch it but such as God had allowed so to do. In the hill — This place they chose, both because it was a strong place, where it would be most safe; and a high place, and therefore visible at some distance, which was convenient for them, who were at that time to direct their prayers and faces toward the ark. And for the same reason David afterward placed it on the hill of Sion. If it be inquired why they did not carry the ark to Shiloh, its ancient seat; the answer is, that the Philistines had destroyed that place; and the tabernacle, upon the death of Eli, was removed from thence unto Nob; where it remained till the death of Samuel.

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.This verse belongs more properly to 1 Samuel 6. Abinadab and his sons were probably of the house of Levi. The catastrophe at Bethshemesh must inevitably have made the Israelites very careful to pay due honor to the ark in accordance with the Law: but to give the care of the ark to those who were not of the house of Levi would be a gross violation of the Law. CHAPTER 7

1Sa 7:1, 2. The Ark at Kirjath-jearim.

1. the men of Kirjath-jearim—"the city of woods," also Kirjath-baal (Jos 15:60; 18:14; 1Ch 13:5, 6). It was the nearest town to Beth-shemesh and stood on a hill. This was the reason of the message (1Sa 6:21), and why this was chosen for the convenience of people turning their faces to the ark (1Ki 8:29-35; Ps 28:2; Da 6:10).

brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill—Why it was not transported at once to Shiloh where the tabernacle and sacred vessels were remaining, is difficult to conjecture.

sanctified … his son—He was not a Levite, and was therefore only set apart or appointed to be keeper of the place.The ark is placed in Kirjath-jearim; Eleazar’s son is sanctified to keep it, 1 Samuel 7:1,2. Samuel exhorts them to repent, and put away their idols; they obey him. A fast at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7:3-6. The Philistines intend to set upon the Israelites, who are afraid, 1 Samuel 7:7. Samuel offereth and prayeth for Israel: God heareth; terrifieth the Philistines with thunder, and they are smitten; are subdued; and the cities which they had taken from the Israelites are recovered, 1 Samuel 7:8-14. Samuel visiteth all the cities of Israel, and returns to Ramah; there builds an altar to the Lord, 1 Samuel 7:15-17.

The men of Kirjath-jearim gladly embraced the motion, as wisely considering that their great calamity was not to be charged upon the ark, but upon themselves, and their own carelessness, irreverence, and presumption, in looking into the ark. This place is elsewhere called Baalah, and Kirjath-baal, as is evident from Joshua 15:9,60 18:14 1 Chronicles 13:6,7.

Fetched up the ark, i.e. caused it to be brought up, to wit, by the priests appointed to that work, whom they could easily procure, and undoubtedly would do it, especially having been so lately warned of the great danger of violating God’s commands in those matters. In Scripture use, men are commonly said to do that which they order or cause others to do. They chose

the house of Abinadab in the hill,

because it was both a strong place, where it would be most safe; and a high place, and therefore visible at some distance, and to many persons, which was convenient for them, who were at that time to direct their prayers and faces towards the ark, 1 Kings 8:29,30,35 Psa 28:2 138:2 Daniel 6:10. And for the same reason David afterwards placed it in the hill of Zion. Some translate the word in Gibeah. But that was in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:28 Judges 19:14, whereas this Kirjath-jearim was in the tribe of Judah, 1 Chronicles 13:6,7.

Sanctified Eleazar; not that they made him either Levite or priest, as some would have it; for in Israel persons were not made, but born such; and since the institution of Levites and priests, none were made such that were born of other tribes or families: but that they devoted or set him apart (as this verb sometimes signifies) wholly to attend upon this work. They chose the son rather than his father, because he was younger and stronger, and probably freed from domestic cares, which might divert him from or disturb him in his work; or because he was more eminent for prudence or piety. To keep the ark of the Lord; to keep the place where it was clean and neat, and to guard it, that none might approach or touch it but such as God required or allowed to do so.

And the men of Kirjathjearim came and fetched up the ark of the Lord,.... From Bethshemesh, which was near unto them, as Josephus (g) says; they made no difficulty of fetching it, but gladly received it; for if they knew of what happened to the men of Bethshemesh, they knew it was not owing to the presence of the ark among them, but to their irreverent behaviour to it; and though Kirjathjearim was not a Levite city, and so the men of it could not bear the ark themselves, yet they might have proper persons from Bethshemesh to do this service:

and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill; which; hill was within the city of Kirjathjearim, and is mentioned either to distinguish this Abinadab that dwelt on it from another of the same name in the city, as Kimchi observes; or else to remark the propriety of the place, and the reason of the choice of it for the ark to be placed in; hills and high places being in those times accounted fittest for sacred services to be performed in, as well as places of safety; who this man was is not certain. Josephus (h) says he was a Levite, but if so he could only be a sojourner in this place; however he might be, as he suggests he was, a man of great esteem for religion and righteousness:

and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord; not only to watch it that it might not be taken away, but to keep persons from it, from touching it, or using it irreverently; and such as were not allowed to come nigh it; as well as to keep the place clean where it was put; and for this he was appointed by the priests, or the elders of the city; and was set apart for this service, and prepared for it by washings and sacrifices; and the rather he and not his father was invested with this office, because he was a young man, and his father might be old and decrepit; and this his son also a holy goodman, wise and prudent, and active and zealous for God, and true religion; and on all accounts a fit person for this post.

(g) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 1. sect. 4. (h) Ibid.

And the men of {a} Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.

(a) A city in the tribe of Judah, called also Kirjathbaal, in Jos 15:60.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ch. 1 Samuel 7:1. into the house of Abinadab in the hill] On the hill, some eminence in or near the town. In 2 Samuel 6:4-5, the E. V. wrongly takes the same word as a proper name, “in Gibeah.”

Abinadab was probably (as Josephus says) a Levite: for the Israelites would scarcely have ventured to violate the law by entrusting the Ark to a layman after the late judgment.

sanctified Eleazar] Consecrated him and set him apart for the special duty. “Nothing is said of Eleazar’s consecration as priest … He was constituted not priest, bat watchman at the grave of the Ark, by its corpse, until its future joyful resurrection.”

The words of Psalm 132:6, “We found it in the fields of the wood,” refer to this sojourn of the Ark at Kirjath-jearim. The word translated “wood” is jaar, which is the singular of jearim.

Verse 1. - At Kirjath-jearim the people reverently undertook the charge of the ark, and carried out their arrangements so carefully that no further calamity occurred. On its arrival they placed it in the house of Abinadab in the hill. More probably at Gibeah, as it is translated in 2 Samuel 6:3, 4. In Joshua 15:57 a village of this name is mentioned in the tribe of Judah not far from Kirjath-jearim (ibid. ver. 60), and probably Abinadab, who lived there, was a Levite, and so his house was chosen, and his son Eleazar sanctified to keep the ark. The names of both father and son are common in the Levitical genealogies, and none but a member of this tribe would have been selected for so holy a duty. If, however, the translation in the hill be preferred, we may suppose that it was because lofty heights were still considered fit places for Jehovah's worship, or there may even have been a "high place" there, of which Abinadab was the keeper. What exactly were the duties of Eleazar we cannot tell, as the word to keep is very indefinite; but probably, after the fearful ruin at Shiloh, all regular services and sacrifices were in abeyance until the return of happier times. Even here it was the men of the city who sanctified Eleazar, and not a priest. THE REFORMATION OF ISRAEL (vers. 2-6). 1 Samuel 7:1The inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim complied with this request, and brought the ark into the house of Abinadab upon the height, and sanctified Abinadab's son Eleazar to be the keeper of the ark. Kirjath-jearim, the present Kuryet el Enab (see at Joshua 9:17), was neither a priestly nor a Levitical city. The reason why the ark was taken there, is to be sought for, therefore, in the situation of the town, i.e., in the fact that Kirjath-jearim was the nearest large town on the road from Bethshemesh to Shiloh. We have no definite information, however, as to the reason why it was not taken on to Shiloh, to be placed in the tabernacle, but was allowed to remain in the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, where a keeper was expressly appointed to take charge of it; so that we can only confine ourselves to conjectures. Ewald's opinion (Gesch. ii. 540), that the Philistines had conquered Shiloh after the victory described in 1 Samuel 4, and had destroyed the ancient sanctuary there, i.e., the tabernacle, is at variance with the accounts given in 1 Samuel 21:6; 1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chronicles 1:3, respecting the continuance of worship in the tabernacle at Nob and Gibeon. There is much more to be said in support of the conjecture, that the carrying away of the ark by the Philistines was regarded as a judgment upon the sanctuary, which had been desecrated by the reckless conduct of the sons of Eli, and consequently, that even when the ark itself was recovered, they would not take it back without an express declaration of the will of God, but were satisfied, as a temporary arrangement, to leave the ark in Kirjath-jearim, which was farther removed from the cities of the Philistines. And there it remained, because no declaration of the divine will followed respecting its removal into the tabernacle, and the tabernacle itself had to be removed from Shiloh to Nob, and eventually to Gibeon, until David had effected the conquest of the citadel of Zion, and chosen Jerusalem as his capital, when it was removed from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It is not stated that Abinadab was a Levites; but this is very probable, because otherwise they would hardly have consecrated his son to be the keeper of the ark, but would have chosen a Levite for the office.
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