1 Samuel 7
7:1-2 Israel’s Lament
7:1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
At the request of the men of Beth-Shemesh, the men of Kiriath-jearim came and got the ark and took it to the house of Abinadab, which was on a hill. They set aside, or consecrated, his son Eleazar to take care of the ark. The reference to 20 years in verse 2 is probably not referring to how long the ark was there, because it was apparently much longer (40 years), but it was there about 20 years before the events of this chapter happen under Samuel. It’s not clear to me if they lamented for 20 years or if they only started to lament after the end of 20 years. (Kiriath-jearim was also known as Baalah, in Joshua 9, and kiriath-baal in Joshua 15). It is in the tribal allotment of Judah (Joshua 18:14), but was then apportioned out of Judah for the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). It was one of the Gibeonite cities that was not destroyed because Israel was tricked into making a treaty with them. Psalm 132:6 refers to David retrieving the ark from this city.
Israel lamented after the Lord during this time. “Lament” means to feel or express sorrow or regret for something, or to mourn for or over. I take this to mean that Israel regretted their loss of the Lord’s favor, signified by the loss of the ark. From what happens next, it appears there was still conflict and oppression from the Philistines. The Geneva Study Bible says they lamented for their sins, and followed the Lord. It was a time of conviction and repentance.
Interestingly, no reference is made to Shiloh or to the reason the ark was not returned there.
7:3-4 Samuel Calls Israel To Abandon Idol Worship
3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
In response to this time of sorrow and repentance, Samuel gave instruction to Israel on how to proceed. He began to preach that they must put away their idols. (He may have been preaching this the whole 20 years and they just now responded.) They had absorbed the worship of the Canaanite deities into their practice, building idols to Baal and Ashtaroth. They were violating the law of the covenant in two ways, first, having other gods besides the LORD, and making images. In Deuteronomy 4:23-24, Moses told the Israelites “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
Samuel told the Israelites to serve the Lord only and to direct their hearts to him. In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses had told them “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” We see continually that the prophets preached the law and urged God’s people to return to obedience to him and his covenant and to love him totally. Jesus said the same thing. He said this was the most important commandment, in Mark 12:30. He said to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Jesus also put it this way: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV).
Samuel said, when you love him totally and serve him, when you demonstrate this by putting away all false gods and idols, then the Lord would deliver them from the Philistines. So, the Israelites did this. They put away all their idols and they served the Lord fully and completely. This was a great revival. Repentance requires sorrow. Jesus even said “blessed are those who mourn”. (Matthew 5:4)
But, repentance also requires more than sorrow. It requires turning away from your sin. Israel did this by turning from their idols.
7:5-6 The Outdoor Revival Service
5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah 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 people of Israel at Mizpah.
In light of the repentance of the Israelites, Samuel gathered them together to intercede for them with the Lord. This has to remind you of Moses, who often interceded for Israel with the Lord.
The people gathered. They fasted, they acknowledged their sin and showed their repentance by pouring out water before the Lord. This passage seems to be the only place this was done.
Samuel judged them there. He has acted as prophet, preaching the word of the Lord. He has acted as priest, interceding for them with the Lord. Now he acts as judge, or king, in judging them. He is a type of the three-fold office of Christ, who is prophet, priest and king.
7:7-8 The Saints Under Attack
7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”
While this great outdoor revival was taking place, the Philistines heard about it. They assumed the Israelites had massed for an attack, so they went up to fight. The Israelites were not prepared for battle and were afraid. They called out to Samuel to ask the Lord to save them. This is a great improvement from their previous actions. They are afraid, but they are calling out to the Lord for protection, not using the ark as a talisman.
7:9-11 The Lord Responds
9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
Samuel prayed for the protection of the Israelites. He offered a sacrifice to the Lord. He cried out to him. The Lord answered.
There is great drama here. The Philistines drew up to attack even while Samuel offered the burnt offering. The Lord thundered out a loud sound and threw them into confusion. They ran from Israel, and the Israelites went after them and struck them as they ran. It was their first victory of the Philistines in decades. You might remember that, in Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:10, she said the Lord would thunder against his adversaries.
This is also similar to the book of Judges, where there was this continual cycle of rebellion or apostasy, oppression, repentance and deliverance.
7:12-14 Raising the Ebenezer
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen  and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
To commemorate the victory, Samuel set up a stone as a monument. Ebenezer means stone of help. It was a monument to the help the Lord gave the Israelites.
This is where the words to the hymn “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson come from, when it says in the second verse:
here I raise my Ebenezer,
hither by thy help I’m come.
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home”.
Not only did God give them the protection they asked for, he gave much more, bringing them dominance over the Philistines during the life of Samuel, even restoring cities and territory they had lost to them. They also had peace with the Amorites. When Israel lived in obedience to the covenant, God gave them peace and safety in the land.
7:15-17 Samuel the Judge
15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
Samuel was a circuit rider, judging Israel in four different towns. We are not told what this judging was. But, it must have entailed preaching God’s word and reproving those who did not keep it. He also built an altar in the town in which he lived and offered sacrifices there to the Lord.