1 Samuel 7:2
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 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 7:2Purification of Israel from idolatry. - Twenty years passed away from that time forward, while the ark remained at Kirjath-jearim, and all Israel mourned after Jehovah. Then Samuel said to them, "If ye turn to the Lord with all your heart, put away the strange gods from the midst of you, and the Astartes, and direct your heart firmly upon the Lord, and serve Him only, that He may save you out of the hand of the Philistines." And the Israelites listened to this appeal. The single clauses of 1 Samuel 7:2 and 1 Samuel 7:3 are connected together by vav consec., and are not to be separated from one another. There is no gap between these verses; but they contain the same closely and logically connected thought,

(Note: There is no force at all in the proofs which Thenius has adduced of a gap between 1 Samuel 7:2 and 1 Samuel 7:3. It by no means follows, that because the Philistines had brought back the ark, their rule over the Israelites had ceased, so as to make the words "he will deliver you," etc., incomprehensible. Moreover, the appearance of Samuel as judge does not presuppose that his assumption of this office must necessarily have been mentioned before. As a general rule, there was no such formal assumption of the office, and this would be least of all the case with Samuel, who had been recognised as an accredited prophet of Jehovah (1 Samuel 3:19.). And lastly, the reference to idols, and to their being put away in consequence of Samuel's appeal, is intelligible enough, without any express account of their falling into idolatry, if we bear in mind, on the one hand, the constant inclination of the people to serve other gods, and if we observe, on the other hand, that Samuel called upon the people to turn to the Lord with all their heart and serve Him alone, which not only does not preclude, but actually implies, the outward continuance of the worship of Jehovah.)

which may be arranged in one period in the following manner: "And it came to pass, when the days multiplied from the time that the ark remained at Kirjath-jearim, and grew to twenty years, and the whole house of Israel mourned after Jehovah, that Samuel said," etc. The verbs ויּרבּוּ, ויּהיוּ, and ויּנּהוּ, are merely continuations of the infinitive שׁבת, and the main sentence is resumed in the words שׁמוּאל ויּאמר. The contents of the verses require that the clauses should be combined in this manner. The statement that twenty years had passed can only be understood on the supposition that some kind of turning-point ensued at the close of that time. The complaining of the people after Jehovah was no such turning-point, but became one simply from the fact that this complaining was followed by some result. This result is described in 1 Samuel 7:3. It consisted in the fact that Samuel exhorted the people to put away the strange gods (1 Samuel 7:3); and that when the people listened to his exhortation (1 Samuel 7:4), he helped them to gain a victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:5.). ינּהוּ, from נהה, to lament or complain (Micah 2:4; Ezekiel 32:18). "The phrase, to lament after God, is taken from human affairs, when one person follows another with earnest solicitations and complaints, until he at length assents. We have an example of this in the Syrophenician woman in Matthew 15." (Seb. Schmidt). The meaning "to assemble together," which is the one adopted by Gesenius, is forced upon the word from the Chaldee אתנהי, and it cannot be shown that the word was ever used in this sense in Hebrew. Samuel's appeal in 1 Samuel 7:3 recalls to mind Joshua 24:14, and Genesis 35:2; but the words, "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts," assume that the turning of the people to the Lord their God had already inwardly commenced, and indeed, as the participle שׁבים expresses duration, had commenced as a permanent thing, and simply demand that the inward turning of the heart to God should be manifested outwardly as well, by the putting away of all their idols, and should thus be carried out to completion. The "strange gods" (see Genesis 35:2) are described in 1 Samuel 7:4 as "Baalim." On Baalim and Ashtaroth, see at Judges 2:11, Judges 2:13. לב הכין, to direct the heart firmly: see Psalm 78:8; 2 Chronicles 30:19.

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