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.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.
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.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.
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.1 Samuel 7:3. Samuel spake to all the house of Israel — To all the rulers and people too, as he had occasion in his circuit, described below, mixing exhortations to repentance with his judicial administrations. If ye return unto the Lord — If you do indeed what you profess, if you be resolved to go on in that which you seem to have begun; with all your heart — Sincerely and in good earnest; put away the strange gods — Out of your houses, where some of you keep them; and out of your hearts, where they still have an interest in many of you; and Ashtaroth — Especially Ashtaroth, whom they, together with the neighbouring nations, did more eminently worship. Prepare your hearts — By purging them from all sin, and particularly from all inclinations to other gods.
Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.1 Samuel 7:4-5. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim, &c. — Samuel’s reproofs and instructions, and the representations he made of their sin and danger, touched their hearts, and induced them to break off their sins by repentance. Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you — He could have prayed for them himself alone in private, but he knew it would tend to perfect the repentance and reformation begun among them, and to establish them in God’s service, to engage them to unite with him in that duty; and it was well worth while for them to come from the most distant part of the country to join with Samuel in seeking God’s favour. Doubtless Samuel prayed both that they might, by the grace of God, be separated from their idols, and then, by the providence of God, delivered from the Philistines.
And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.
And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.1 Samuel 7:6. They drew water and poured it out — As an external sign, whereby they testified both their own filthiness and need of washing by the grace and Spirit of God, and the blood of the covenant, and their sincere desire to pour out their hearts before the Lord, in true repentance, and to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Before the Lord — That is, in the public assembly, where God is in a special manner present. Samuel judged — That is, governed them, reformed all abuses against God or man, took care that the laws of God should be observed, and wilfil transgressions punished.
And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.1 Samuel 7:7. The lords of the Philistines went up — With an army, suspecting the effects of their general convention, and intending to nip them in the bud. They were afraid — Being a company of unarmed persons, and unfit for battle. When sinners begin to repent and reform, they must expect Satan will muster all his forces against them, and set his instruments at work to the uttermost, to oppose and discourage them.
And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.1 Samuel 7:8. Cease not to cry unto the Lord, &c. — We are afraid to look God in the face, because of our great wickedness: do thou therefore intercede for us, as Moses did for his generation. They had reason to expect this, because he had promised to pray for them, had promised them deliverance from the Philistines, and they had been observant of him, in all that he had spoken to them from the Lord. Thus they who receive Christ as their lawgiver and judge, need not doubt of their interest in his intercession. O what a comfort it is to all believers, that he never ceaseth, is never silent, but always appears in the presence of God for us.
And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.1 Samuel 7:9. Samuel took a sucking lamb — For after a lamb was eight days old, it was fit to be sacrificed to God, Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 17:27. And offered it for a burnt-offering — For though he was not a priest, nor this place appointed for sacrifice, yet as a prophet he had authority from God to build an altar anywhere and offer sacrifices. Thus other holy men, Gideon and Manoah, were warranted to offer extraordinary sacrifices, in places which God had not before appointed. And thus we read of an altar he built in another place, 1 Samuel 7:17, as Elijah did in following times. And Samuel cried unto the Lord — He made intercession with the sacrifice. So Christ intercedes in virtue of his satisfaction. And in all our prayers we must have an eye to his great oblation, depending on him for audience and acceptance. And the Lord heard him — Probably God answered Samuel as he did Manoah, by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, in testimony of his acceptance of it.
And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.
And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.1 Samuel 7:11. The men of Israel pursued the Philistines, &c. — This victory was the more wonderful, since it does not appear that the Israelites came provided with any weapons to Mizpeh, but probably smote the Philistines with their own weapons, which they threw away when they fled, affrighted by this uncommon tempest, or which were found among those that were slain by the lightning.
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.1 Samuel 7:12. Then Samuel took a stone — A rude, unpolished stone, which was not prohibited by that law, Leviticus 26:1, there being no danger of worshipping such a stone, and this being set up only as a monument of the victory. Eben-ezer — That is, the stone of help. And this victory was gained in the very same place where the Israelites received their former fatal loss. Helped us — He hath begun to help us, though not completely to deliver us. By which wary expression, he excited both their thankfulness for the mercy received, and their holy fear and care to please and serve the Lord, that he might help and deliver them effectually.
So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.1 Samuel 7:13. Came no more — That is, with a great host, but only molested them with straggling parties, or garrisons. All the days of Samuel — That is, while Samuel was their sole judge, or ruler; for in Saul’s time they did come.
And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.1 Samuel 7:14. There was peace — An agreement for the cessation of all acts of hostility. Between Israel and the Amorites — That is, the Canaanites, often called Amorites, because these were formerly the most valiant of all those nations, and the first enemies which the Israelites met with, when they went to take possession of their land. They made this peace with the Canaanites, that they might be more at leisure to oppose the Philistines, now their most potent enemies.
And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.1 Samuel 7:15. Samuel judged Israel, &c. — For though Saul was king in Samuel’s last days, yet Samuel did not cease to be a judge, being so made by God’s extraordinary call, which Saul could not destroy; and therefore Samuel did sometimes, upon great occasions, though not ordinarily, exercise the office of judge after the beginning of Saul’s reign; and the years of the rule of Saul and Samuel are joined together, Acts 13:20-21.
And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.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.
And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.1 Samuel 7:17. Built an altar — That, by joining sacrifices with his prayers, he might the better obtain direction and assistance from God upon all emergencies. And this was done by prophetical inspiration, as appears by God’s acceptance of the sacrifices offered upon it. Indeed, Shiloh being now laid waste, and no other place yet appointed for them to bring their offerings to, the law which obliged them to one place was for the present suspended. Therefore, as the patriarchs did, he built an altar where he lived; and that not only for the use of his own family, but for the good of the country, who resorted to it.