1 Samuel 7
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.
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.

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.
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.

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.
3. the strange gods and Ashtaroth] The strange gods and the Ashtaroth = “the Baalim and the Ashtaroth” of 1 Samuel 7:4. Baalim is the plural of Baal, Ashtaroth of Ashtoreth, and the plural denotes either (a) the numerous images of these deities, or (b) the different forms under which they were worshipped, as Baal-Peor, Baal-Berith, Baal-Zebub.

Baal (= lord) was the supreme male deity of the Phoenician and Canaanite nations, and probably is to be identified with the Babylonian Bel.

Ashtoreth (Gr. Astarte) was the corresponding female deity, worshipped in Babylonia under the name Ishtar as the goddess of battles and victories, in which character she also appears among the Philistines, war-spoils being dedicated to her (ch. 1 Samuel 31:10). Her symbol was the Ashçrah (rendered “grove” in the E. V., Jdg 3:7 and frequently), probably a wooden column or image resembling the sacred tree of the Assyrians, the worship of which is very commonly coupled with that of Baal.

The Baal-worship which began in the wilderness, when the Israelites “joined themselves to Baal-peor” the god of Moab, seems never to have been thoroughly eradicated during the period of the Judges. See Joshua 24:23; Jdg 2:11-13; Jdg 3:7; Jdg 8:33; Jdg 10:6.

prepare your hearts unto the Lord] Set your hearts steadfastly towards Jehovah.

serve him only] For He is a jealous God, who cannot endure a rival. His command is “Thou shalt have none other gods beside Me.”

Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.
And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.
5. to Mizpeh] Mizpah, (in Heb. always with the definite article, as retaining its meaning, “the watch-tower,”) was the meeting-place of the national assembly on two other important occasions in this period: (a) when war was declared against Benjamin (Judges 20); (b) when Saul was elected king (ch. 1 Samuel 10:17); and (c) once in later times, on an occasion not unlike the present, when Judas Maccabaeus mustered Israel to revolt against the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes (1Ma 3:42-46). It belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:26). Its site has not been identified, but is conjectured to be either (a) Neby Samwîl, a conspicuous hill rising to the height of 2935 ft., about 5 miles N.W. of Jerusalem: or (b) Scopus, the broad ridge immediately north of Jerusalem. In favour of the latter site are (a) the similarity of the name (σκόπος = watchman): (b) the description of the place in 1Ma 3:46 as “over against Jerusalem.”

It must be carefully distinguished from Mizpah in Gilead (Jdg 10:17; Jdg 11:11).

I will pray for you unto the Lord] Other instances of Samuel’s prayers are mentioned in 1 Samuel 8:6, 1 Samuel 12:17-19; 1 Samuel 12:23, 1 Samuel 15:11. He is quoted as the type of successful intercessors in Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1.

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.
6. and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord] A symbolical act which has no exact parallel in the O.T., but was probably significant of the outpouring of their hearts before Jehovah in penitence and supplication. Cp. ch. 1 Samuel 1:15; Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 2:19. The paraphrase of the Targum is, “And they poured out their heart in repentance before Jehovah.”

and fasted on that day] As on the great day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:9), in token of humiliation and contrition for their sin.

We have sinned against the Lord] They made a public confession. Cp. Jdg 10:10.

And Samuel judged, &c.] As prophet he effected the religions reformation, and then taking his place as the chief magistrate of the state, he provided for the civil and political reorganization of the people. That the assembly lasted some time is clear from 1 Samuel 7:7. The Philistines had time to muster their army before it dispersed.

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.
7–12. Total Rout of the Philistines at Ebenezer

7. when the Philistines heard, &c.] The lords naturally regarded a national assembly of their vassals as a preliminary step towards revolt, and mustering the army of the confederation, marched up towards Mizpah.

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.
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.
9. a sucking lamb] Which might not be less than seven days old, according to Leviticus 22:17.

for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord] The whole animal was burnt upon the altar to denote the entire consecration to Jehovah of those who were pleading for deliverance.

and the Lord heard him] Better, answered him. Cp. Psalm 99:6, and note on 1 Samuel 7:5.

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.
10. thundered with a great thunder] Lit., with a great voice. Thunder is the “voice of God” (Psalm 29:3-4). Cp. ch. 1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:14-15.

discomfited them] The Heb. word expresses the confusion of a sudden panic, and is especially used of supernatural defeats. Cp. Exodus 14:24 (E. V. troubled); Joshua 10:10; Jdg 4:15; 2 Samuel 22:15.

and they were smitten before Israel] The thunder which dismayed the Philistines gave courage to the Israelites. The verb “they were smitten” (different from the one similarly translated in the next verse) is specially spoken of God, e.g. ch. 1 Samuel 4:3.

And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.
11. until they came under Beth-car] Beth-car (= “house of a lamb,” or “house of pasture,”) was apparently on high ground overhanging the road back to Philistia.

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.
12. Eben-ezer] i.e. “The Stone of Help,” a memorial set up between Mizpah and Shen, (in Heb. with the definite article) = “The Tooth,” probably some conspicuous “tooth” or spire of rock. Cp. 1 Samuel 14:4. The exact place is unknown, but “exactly at the spot where twenty years before they had obtained their great victory, the Philistines were totally routed.” [See however Add. Note IX. p. 245.]

Hitherto, &c.] i.e. Up to this time. The deliverances of the past are a pledge of continued help for the future.

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.
13–17. Summary Account of Samuel’s Judgeship

13. So the Philistines were subdued] Cp. Jdg 3:30; Jdg 4:23-24. The word signifies “were brought low,” but does not imply complete subjugation. The forty years oppression (Jdg 13:1) now came to an end.

they came no more into the coast of Israel] The same phrase is used in 2 Kings 6:23, where the very next verse speaks of a fresh invasion. It is obvious therefore that the Hebrew historian could use the expression relatively and not absolutely, to describe a cessation of the Philistine inroads for the time being. How long it lasted we are not told, but

the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel] Yet we find the people groaning under the Philistine oppression (1 Samuel 9:16): a garrison or a tribute-collector stationed at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 13:3): a general disarmament of the nation by the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:19): Hebrew slaves in the Philistine camp (1 Samuel 14:21): and three invasions of the land (1 Samuel 13:5, 1 Samuel 17:1, 1 Samuel 23:27): all during Samuel’s lifetime. We must then understand the statement in the text as either (a) “a general expression allowable in such a brief survey as is here given:” or (b) as referring only to the period of Samuel’s active judgeship. In the latter case we may conjecture that the Philistines re-established their ascendancy in his old age, in consequence of the weak and corrupt government of his sons.

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.
14. from Ekron even unto Gath] The towns which lay on the Danite frontier between these places were restored to Israel, not however including Ekron and Gath themselves. There is no evidence that Gath had ever been occupied by the Israelites, and Ekron was only held for a short time (Jdg 1:18).

the coasts thereof] The territory belonging to these frontier towns. The Sept. reads “the border of Israel.”

there was peace between Israel and the Amorites] The Amorites are mentioned as the most powerful enemies of Israel next to the Philistines. “Amorite” is probably a local not a tribal name, meaning “highlander,” contrasted with “Canaanite,” which means “lowlander.” On the W. of Jordan they lived chiefly in the mountainous country of Judah and Ephraim (Numbers 13:29; Joshua 10:5): E. of Jordan they occupied the high plateau of rich pasture-land between the Jabbok and the Arnon, from which they had expelled the Moabites (Numbers 21:13; Numbers 21:26), and were in their turn dispossessed by the Israelites.

In the Egyptian inscriptions the Amorites give their name to the whole country of Canaan, and in several passages of the O.T. the name appears to be used loosely of the original inhabitants in general. Possibly this is the case here.

And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
15. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life] This, like the statement of 1 Samuel 7:13, must be understood with qualifications: for (a) Samuel in his old age made his sons judges (1 Samuel 8:1): (b) Saul was made king a considerable time before Samuel’s death. But it does not contradict the subsequent history. Clearly his sons supplemented but did not supersede their father’s judicial office; and Samuel retained a civil and religious authority even after Saul had become the military leader of the people.

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.

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.
17. to Ramah] See note on ch. 1 Samuel 1:1. Samuel chose his native place for his usual official residence, and made it a centre of religious worship by building an altar to Jehovah.

Here ends the first division of the book, which records Samuel’s life and work as the last of the Judges, in connexion with the old order of things. The next division opens by relating the steps which led to the establishment of a monarchy, and shews us Samuel as the Mediator between the old and the new régime, effecting a political change of the utmost importance in the history of Israel without the shock of revolution.

It has been conjectured (a) from the fact that this portion of the book ends with a summary account of Samuel’s whole life: (b) from the apparent (but not altogether inexplicable) contradiction between ch. 1 Samuel 7:13-15 and the subsequent narrative, that the compiler derived the history of Samuel and the history of Saul from different sources: but in the obscurity of the whole question of the compilation of the book, it must remain a hypothesis incapable of verification.

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