James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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 7:1-10:16
PASSING OF THE JUDGESHIP
A NATIONAL REVIVAL AND ITS RESULTS (1 Samuel 7)
In our last we left the ark in care of the men of Kirjath-jearim, which means “the city of woods,” and is located near Bethshemesh and northwest of Jerusalem. Why the ark was not brought to Shiloh is not stated, but only that it remained in the city before-named twenty years. It would appear from 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 that it remained there longer, but that period had elapsed when the event of this chapter began.
That event was a revival. “Israel lamented after the Lord” (1 Samuel 7:2), because they were suffering the consequences of His averted face, which included the oppression of the Philistines.
Samuel tells them how to find relief (1 Samuel 7:3). Ashtaroth was a goddess of the Sidonians, whose worship was popular in other lands, and which the Greeks and Romans knew by the name Astarte. The worship was licentiousness under the guise of religion. Baal and Ashtaroth are named together, and taken by some to represent the sun and the moon, and by others the male and female powers of reproduction. Asherah, translated in the King James Version “grove,” was really an idol-symbol of the goddess.
The people listened to Samuel and gathered to Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:6). This refers to a public meeting for the observance of religious ceremonies, including fasting and the pouring out of water before the Lord as a token of their need for purification. Samuel seems to begin his duties as a judge or civil magistrate at this time, having only exercised the office of prophet/teacher before.
The enemy is quick to discern danger, for a return of Israel to God means a return to power, and hence they spring upon them while unprepared (1 Samuel 7:7). But Samuel’s intercession is effective (1 Samuel 7:8-10), and Israel so follows up the advantage gained by the supernatural interposition that the Philistines never fully recover the blow all the days of Samuel’s judgeship.
Observe in 1 Samuel 7:16 that Samuel was a “circuit” judge. As later we read of “schools of the prophets” in the places named in that verse, some think that Samuel was the founder of them at this time.
THE DEMAND FOR A KING (1 Samuel 8)
This chapter presents no difficulties. Observe how history repeats itself in the case of Samuel and his sons as compared with his predecessor (1 Samuel 8:1-5). Samuel’s displeasure may have been in part personal, but chiefly because of the dishonor done to God and the injury that would be wrought by such a revolution to the people themselves (1 Samuel 8:6). God will grant them a king in His anger (1 Samuel 8:7-9, compare Hosea 13:10-11), and tells them what kind of a ruler they will have (1 Samuel 8:9-18).