Matthew Poole's 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.The ark is placed in Kirjath-jearim; Eleazar’s son is sanctified to keep it, 1 Samuel 7:1,2. Samuel exhorts them to repent, and put away their idols; they obey him. A fast at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7:3-6. The Philistines intend to set upon the Israelites, who are afraid, 1 Samuel 7:7. Samuel offereth and prayeth for Israel: God heareth; terrifieth the Philistines with thunder, and they are smitten; are subdued; and the cities which they had taken from the Israelites are recovered, 1 Samuel 7:8-14. Samuel visiteth all the cities of Israel, and returns to Ramah; there builds an altar to the Lord, 1 Samuel 7:15-17.
The men of Kirjath-jearim gladly embraced the motion, as wisely considering that their great calamity was not to be charged upon the ark, but upon themselves, and their own carelessness, irreverence, and presumption, in looking into the ark. This place is elsewhere called Baalah, and Kirjath-baal, as is evident from Joshua 15:9,60 18:14 1 Chronicles 13:6,7.
Fetched up the ark, i.e. caused it to be brought up, to wit, by the priests appointed to that work, whom they could easily procure, and undoubtedly would do it, especially having been so lately warned of the great danger of violating God’s commands in those matters. In Scripture use, men are commonly said to do that which they order or cause others to do. They chose
the house of Abinadab in the hill,
because it was both a strong place, where it would be most safe; and a high place, and therefore visible at some distance, and to many persons, which was convenient for them, who were at that time to direct their prayers and faces towards the ark, 1 Kings 8:29,30,35 Psa 28:2 138:2 Daniel 6:10. And for the same reason David afterwards placed it in the hill of Zion. Some translate the word in Gibeah. But that was in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:28 Judges 19:14, whereas this Kirjath-jearim was in the tribe of Judah, 1 Chronicles 13:6,7.
Sanctified Eleazar; not that they made him either Levite or priest, as some would have it; for in Israel persons were not made, but born such; and since the institution of Levites and priests, none were made such that were born of other tribes or families: but that they devoted or set him apart (as this verb sometimes signifies) wholly to attend upon this work. They chose the son rather than his father, because he was younger and stronger, and probably freed from domestic cares, which might divert him from or disturb him in his work; or because he was more eminent for prudence or piety. To keep the ark of the Lord; to keep the place where it was clean and neat, and to guard it, that none might approach or touch it but such as God required or allowed to do so.
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.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 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.Unto all the house of Israel; to all the rulers and people too, as he had occasion in his circuit, described below, 1 Samuel 7:16, mixing exhortations to repentance with his judicial administrations.
If ye do return unto the Lord; if you do indeed what you profess, if you are 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 and worship them; and out of your hearts and affections, where they still have an interest in many of you.
And Ashtaroth; and particularly or especially Ashtaroth, which he mentions as a god, whom they, together with the neighbouring nations, did more eminently worship. See Judges 2:13.
Prepare your hearts, by purging them from all sin, and particularly from all inclinations to other gods. Or, direct your hearts; having alienated your hearts from your idols, turn them to God, and not to other idols or vanities.
And he will deliver you; or, then; upon these conditions you may confidently expect it.
Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.To Mizpeh; not that beyond Jordan, of which Judges 11:11,29; but another in Canaan, where the Israelites used to assemble, Judges 20:1 1 Samuel 10:17.
Drew water, and poured it out; which they did either,
1. Figuratively; they drew tears out of their hearts, and poured out of their eyes as it were rivers of water; such descriptions of penitential sorrow being not unusual. See Psalm 6:7 119:136 Jeremiah 19:1 Lamentations 3:48,49. Or rather,
2. Properly, because they are said first to draw it, and then to pour it out. And this agrees well with the state of those times, wherein such rites as this were very customary. Now this course they seem to have used, either,
1. As a mean or instrument of their purification. So they washed themselves in this water, thereby acknowledging their filthiness, and cleansing themselves as the law prescribed. But this seems not probable,
1. Because here is only mention of drawing and pouring forth this water before the Lord, but not of any washing themselves with it.
2. Because this was not a fit time and place to purify themselves in this great and general assembly. Or,
2. As an external sign, whereby they testified and professed both their own great filthiness and need of washing by the grace and Spirit of God, and blood of the covenant, which are oft signified by water, and their sincere desire to pour out their very hearts before the Lord in true repentance, and to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
Before the Lord, i.e. in the public assembly, where God is in a special manner present, as hath been noted before.
Samuel judged the children of Israel, i.e. governed them, reformed all abuses against God or man, took care that the laws of God should be observed and executed, and wilful transgressors 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.The lords of the Philistines went up, to wit, with all army, 1 Samuel 7:10, 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.
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.We are ashamed and afraid to look God in the face, because of our great wickedness this day remembered and acknowledged; do thou therefore intercede for us, as Moses did for his generation.
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.It might be a sucking lamb, though it was more than eight days old, and so that law, Exodus 23:19, was not violated.
Offered it; either himself by Divine instinct, which was a sufficient warrant; or rather by a priest, as Saul is afterwards said to have offered, 1 Samuel 13:9.
A burnt-offering wholly; burning all the parts of it, according to the law of the burnt-offerings; whereas in other offerings some parts were reserved.
The Lord heard him, as appears by the effects, the following thunder, and the overthrow of the Philistines’ host.
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.Either by the lightnings, or thunderbolts, or other things which accompanied the cracks of thunder; or by the Israelites, who perceiving them to be affrighted and flee away, pursued and smote them, as the next verse mentions.
And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.Quest. Whence had they weapons wherewith to smite them?
Answ. Divers of them probably brought them to the assembly; others borrowed them at Mizpeh, or the neighbouring places; and the rest might be the arms of the Philistines, which they threw away to hasten their flight, as is usual in such cases.
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.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; by which, compared with 1 Samuel 4:1, it appears that this victory was gained in or near the very same place where the Israelites received their former fatal loss.
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us; He hath begun to help us in some measure, though not completely to deliver us; by which wary expression he exciteth both their thankfulness for their mercy received, and their holy fear and care to please and serve the Lord, that he might proceed to help and deliver them more 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.They came no more into the coast of Israel, i.e. they came not with a great host, as now they did, but only molested them with straggling parties, or garrisons; as 1 Samuel 10:5; and they came not, to wit,
all the days of Samuel, as it follows, i.e. while Samuel was their sole judge, or ruler; for in Saul’s time they did come, 1 Samuel 13:5,17 1 Samuel 14:52 17:1, &c.
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.The cities were restored to Israel by the Philistines, who, it seems, were frightened into this restitution by their dread of Samuel, and of the Divine vengeance.
Object. The Philistines had cities and garrisons in Israel’s land after this time; as 1 Samuel 10:5 13:3. Answ. Either therefore those places were not any of these here mentioned; for it is not said that all their cities were restored, but only indefinitely the cities, and those limited to a certain compass, from
Ekron to Gath; or some of the cities now restored by the Philistines, were afterwards retaken by them.
There was peace; an agreement for the cessation of all acts of hostility.
The Amorites, i.e. the Canaanites, oft called Amorites, because these were formerly the most valiant and terrible 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.For though Saul was king in Samuel’s last days, yet Samuel did not then quite 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 a judge after the beginning of Saul’s reign; as 1 Samuel 11:7 15:32,33. And the years of the rule of Saul and Samuel are joined together, Acts 13:20,21.
Quest. How doth the office of a judge agree with Hannah’s vow, whereby she devoted him to a perpetual attendance upon the Lord’s service?
Answ. This was not inconsistent with her vow, which consisted of two branches; the one more general, that he should be given or lent to the Lord all his days, 1 Samuel 1:11,28, which she faithfully executed, leaving him wholly to the service and disposal of the Lord, who thought fit to employ him in this way; and if any thing therein was contrary to that vow, could undoubtedly dispense with it, as being his own right only: the other more particular, that
no razor should come upon his head; nor doth it appear that this part was violated; or if it was, it was done by Divine dispensation.
And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.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 his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.That by joining sacrifices with his prayers he might the better obtain direction and assistance from God upon all emergencies.
Object. It was unlawful to build another altar for sacrifice besides that before the tabernacle, Deu 12:5,13.
Answ. This was in part excused by the confusion of those times, wherein the tabernacle and its altar were destroyed, as is most probable; but most fully, because this was done by prophetical inspiration, and Divine dispensation, as appears by God’s approbation and acceptance of the sacrifices offered upon it.