1 Samuel 7:16
And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.
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(16) To Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel.—These centres, it is observable, were all situated in the southern part of the land, in the tribe of Benjamin. This leads us to the conclusion that the power of Samuel, if not exclusively, was chiefly exercised among the southern tribes. The whole subsequent story of the chosen people seems to tell us that the religion of the Eternal at an early date became corrupted m the north of the Promised Land, and that the restoration of faith and purification of life—the result of the great work of Samuel—was so much less marked in the northern than in the southern tribes, that when the strong hand of Solomon was removed, a formal secession from the southern league at once took place. This was followed by a rapid deterioration both in faith and practice in the northern kingdom of Israel.

The places mentioned as the centres where Samuel “judged” were all holy sites, and at different periods of the year, no doubt, were crowded with pilgrims from distant parts of the land.

1 Samuel 7:16. Judged Israel in all those places — He went to those several places, in compliance with the people’s desire, whose convenience he was willing to purchase with his own trouble, as an itinerant judge and preacher; and by his presence in several parts, he could the better observe and rectify all sorts of miscarriages and abuses.

7:13-17 In this great revival of true religion, the ark was neither removed to Shiloh, nor placed with the tabernacle any where else. This disregard to the Levitical institutions showed that their typical meaning formed their chief use; and when that was overlooked, they became a lifeless service, not to be compared with repentance, faith, and the love of God and man.Gilgal - It is uncertain whether Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, or the modern Jiljulieh, the Gilgal of 2 Kings 2:1; 2 Kings 4:38, be meant; but far more probably the former (see 1 Samuel 11:14 and note). 12. Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen—on an open spot between the town and "the crag" (some well-known rock in the neighborhood). A huge stone pillar was erected as a monument of their victory (Le 26:1). The name—Eben-ezer—is thought to have been written on the face of it. Beth-el; either a place known by that name, or the house of God, to wit, Kirjath-jearim, where the ark was. Gilgal; in the eastern border.

Mizpeh; towards the west.

Judged Israel in all those places; he went to those several places, partly in compliance with the people, whose convenience and benefit he was willing to purchase with his own trouble, making himself an itinerant judge and preacher for their sakes; and partly that by his presence in several parts, he might the better observe and rectify all sorts of miscarriages against God or men.

And he went from year to year in circuit,.... As judges do; or "from the year in the year" (r) from the time of the year in the year, as the Targum, from the middle of it, that is, every half year; and so Josephus says (s), that he went twice a year in circuit: and the places he went to, and where he held his courts of judicature, were

Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh; by Bethel is not meant Shiloh, as Abarbinel, for that was now destroyed; nor Kirjathjearim, where the ark was, for it would have been called by its name; but the same Bethel that was near to Ai, and not far from Shiloh, and was in the tribe of Benjamin, as all those places were. Gilgal was where the tabernacle, ark, and camp of Israel were first pitched, when they came over Jordan, and Mizpeh where the people used to be assembled on occasion, see 1 Samuel 7:5,

and judged Israel in all those places; who came from all parts hither with their causes, and for advice and counsel in all cases, at the returning periods.

(r) "ex anno in anno". (s) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 3. sect. 1.

And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.
16. to Beth-el] About 8 miles N. of Jerusalem the ruins of Beitîn mark the site of the ancient city of Beth-el, formerly the royal Canaanite city Luz (Genesis 28:19), at the head of the pass of Michmash and Ai. (a) Near it Abraham built an altar (Genesis 12:8). (b) There Jacob saw the Vision of the Ladder set up to heaven (Genesis 28:11 ff.), and received the confirmation of his new name Israel (Genesis 35:10), and from these revelations called the place Beth-el or “The House of God.” (c) There in the days of the Judges the Ark rested for a time and an altar was set up (Jdg 20:18; Jdg 20:26-28, where “the house of God” in the E. V. should be “Beth-el:” cp. 1 Samuel 10:3). (d) There after the Disruption of the Kingdoms Jeroboam set up his idolatrous parody of the worship of Jehovah (1 Kings 12:32-33), and Beth-el “the house of God” became in the language of the prophet Beth-aven “the house of naught,” i.e. of idols (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5).

The name Beth-el appears to have been applied originally to the sanctuary in the neighbourhood of Luz, and not to have been given to the city till after its conquest by the tribe of Ephraim.

For a graphic description of Beth-el see Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, pp. 217–333.

and Gilgal] Gilgal (= “the Rolling,” Joshua 5:9) was the first station of the Israelites after the passage of the Jordan, where (a) the men born in the wilderness were circumcised (Joshua 5:2); (b) the First Passover was celebrated (Joshua 5:10); (c) in all probability the Ark rested during the conquest of the land. Now it appears as the chief religious and political centre of the nation, where (1) sacrifices are offered (ch. 1 Samuel 10:8); (2) assizes held; (3) the national assembly convened (1 Samuel 11:14-15); (4) the army mustered (1 Samuel 13:4; 1 Samuel 13:7). It was probably selected for these purposes on account of its historical associations and its remoteness from the Philistines, whose invasions had pushed the centre of gravity of the kingdom back to the banks of the Jordan.

Lieut. Conder has fixed the site of Gilgal by the discovery of the name Jiljûlieh a mile and a half E. of the village of Erîha, between the ancient Jericho and the Jordan. Tent Work, 11. p. 7.

and Mizpeh] See note on 1 Samuel 7:5.

in all places] The Sept. has “in all these sanctuaries.” This reading whether original or not expresses the fact that all these places were, like Ramah, places for sacrifice and worship. Even before the captivity of the Ark, Shiloh was not the sole religious centre; for instance there was a sanctuary at Shechem in Joshua’s time (Joshua 24:6); and now that the Ark and Tabernacle had disappeared from view, no effort seems to have been made to preserve the religious unity of the nation.

1 Samuel 7:16Samuel's judicial labours. - With the calling of the people to Mizpeh, and the victory at Ebenezer that had been obtained through his prayer, Samuel had assumed the government of the whole nation; so that his office as judge dates from his period, although he had laboured as prophet among the people from the death of Eli, and had thereby prepared the way for the conversion of Israel to the Lord. As his prophetic labours were described in general terms in 1 Samuel 3:19-21, so are his labours as judge in the verses before us: viz., in 1 Samuel 3:15 their duration, - "all the days of his life," as his activity during Saul's reign and the anointing of David (1 Samuel 15-16) sufficiently prove; and then in 1 Samuel 3:16, 1 Samuel 3:17 their general character, - "he went round from year to year" (וסבב serves as a more precise definition of והלך, he went and travelled round) to Bethel, i.e., Beitin (see at Joshua 7:2), Gilgal, and Mizpeh (see at. 1 Samuel 3:5), and judged Israel at all these places. Which Gilgal is meant, whether the one situated in the valley of the Jordan (Joshua 4:19), or the Jiljilia on the higher ground to the south-west of Shiloh (see at Joshua 8:35), cannot be determined with perfect certainty. The latter is favoured partly by the order in which the three places visited by Samuel on his circuits occur, since according to this he probably went first of all from Ramah to Bethel, which was to the north-east, then farther north or north-west to Jiljilia, and then turning back went towards the south-east to Mizpeh, and returning thence to Ramah performed a complete circuit; whereas, if the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan had been the place referred to, we should expect him to go there first of all from Ramah, and then towards the north-east to Bethel, and from that to the south-west to Mizpeh; and partly also by the circumstance that, according to 2 Kings 2:1 and 2 Kings 4:38, there was a school of the prophets at Jiljilia in the time of Elijah and Elisha, the founding of which probably dated as far back as the days of Samuel. If this conjecture were really a well-founded one, it would furnish a strong proof that it was in this place, and not in the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, that Samuel judged the people. But as this conjecture cannot be raised into a certainty, the evidence in favour of Jiljilia is not so conclusive as I myself formerly supposed (see also the remarks on 1 Samuel 9:14). כּל־המּקומות את is grammatically considered an accusative, and is in apposition to את־ישׂראל, lit., Israel, viz., all the places named, i.e., Israel which inhabited all these places, and was to be found there. "And this return was to Ramah;" i.e., after finishing the annual circuit he returned to Ramah, where he had his house. There he judged Israel, and also built an altar to conduct the religious affairs of the nation. Up to the death of Eli, Samuel lived and laboured at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21). But when the ark was carried away by the Philistines, and consequently the tabernacle at Shiloh lost what was most essential to it as a sanctuary, and ceased at once to be the scene of the gracious presence of God, Samuel went to his native town Ramah, and there built an altar as the place of sacrifice for Jehovah, who had manifested himself to him. The building of the altar at Ramah would naturally be suggested to the prophet by these extraordinary circumstances, even if it had not been expressly commanded by Jehovah.
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