1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 7
1 They of Kirjath-jearim bring the ark into the house of Abinadab, and sanctify Eleazar his son to keep it. 2 After twenty years 3 the Israelites, by Samuel’s means, solemnly repent at Mizpeh. 7 While Samuel prayeth and sacrificeth, the Lord discomfiteth the Philistines by thunder at Eben-ezer. 13 The Philistines are subdued. 15 Samuel peaceably and religiously judgeth Israel.
Verse 1 Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord.
Abinadab. The word Abinadab means “my father is noble,” or “my father is generous.”
The verb from which it comes is nadab, “to incite,” “to impel,” always in a good sense, and therefore “to be willing,” “to volunteer.”
His genealogy is not known, but he must have been a Levite closely akin to Aaron in order to appoint his son Eleazar as keeper of the ark.
Aaron’s eldest son was named Nadab (Num. 3:2), and it would be expected that one of his direct descendants should bear the name Abinadab.
On the hill. baggibe‘ah. Translated, “in Gibeah,” in 2 Sam. 6:3, and “at Gibeah” in verse 4.
The context must determine whether the word is used as the name of a place or whether the word simply refers to a “hill,” as it is uniformly translated elsewhere in the Old Testament.
There was, as well, a Gibeah of Benjamin (1 Sam. 13:16), or “Gibeah of Saul” (chapter 11:4). There was also a hill, literally, “Gibeah” of Phinehas, in the mountain of Ephraim (Joshua 24:33).
The Gibeonites were, literally, “hill dwellers,” and inasmuch as Kirjath Jearim was one of the four cities as belonging to them (Joshua 9:17), the “Gibeah” where Abinadab dwelt would best be described as a hill at, or near, Kirjath Jearim.
Judging from the action of the cows, one would conclude that Beth Shemesh was the logical place for the ark to rest, but that the unholy curiosity of the people and the fright of those who survived the retribution, indicate that its people were not qualified for the reverent guardianship of the sacred symbol of God’s presence.
Less than 10 miles away were the men of Kirjath-jearim, whose reputation justified the belief that they could convey and safely keep that which their neighbors did not want.
How many times Israel hindered God in the accomplishment of His purpose by refusing to respect His counsel and to fit into His plan!
Christ loved Judas and would have liked to make him one of the leaders of the apostles, but Judas refused (see DA 295).
Christ also loved the rich young man who inquired of the way to the kingdom, but in spite of the invitation to follow Christ the youth went away sorrowful.
Verse 2 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
A long time. It took 20 years for Israel to recognize that it was not God who had deserted them but that they, by sowing seeds of selfishness and rebellion, had deserted Him and thus reaped a bitter harvest of suffering.
There once had been the need of workmen to build the ark of God, and men were found ready for the task when God outlined the plan.
There were men needed to bear the ark on its various journeys, and the willingness of the Levites to assist Moses at Sinai provided such bearers.
When Israel failed in their responsibilities, and the ark fell into the hands of idolaters, help was needed to bring it back.
Men failed, yet the beasts of the field were obedient to God’s direction. Near at hand were those to carry and keep it in all reverence and order.
Why were they not ready for the responsibility? No hint of their background or genealogy is given upon which to base conclusions.
All that is recorded is that it took 20 years before Israel learned that idolatry did not pay, and turned to Samuel in repentance.
The ark remained in the house of Abinadab for the period of Samuel’s judgeship during the reign of Saul, and for the early part of David’s reign, while a place was made ready for it at Jerusalem. How patiently God waits.
Verse 3 Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”
Wat ‘n pragtige ernstige oproep!
The foreign gods and Ashtareths. A phrase used to represent the various gods and goddesses that the Israelites served when they forsook the Lord.
Ashtoreth was associated with the Phoenician, or Canaanite, Baals; for she was the chief female deity of the Canaanites (see Judges 2:13).
She was believed to represent the reproductive powers of nature.
Her worship usually consisted of lewd orgies, fostered many times by leading women who became her devotees and were known as “sacred women,” or temple prostitutes.
Figurines of Canaanite gods and goddesses were doubtless in many Israelite homes.
Gradually the people of Israel had fallen under the sway and control of the people of the plain, for they had both business (1 Sam. 13:19) and social intercourse (Judges 14) with them.
The fact that Israel left the ark in Kirjath-jearim for many years, and made no attempt to restore the temple service or to provide a proper resting place for the ark, shows how far they had departed from the Lord.
History records no deportation of Israelites to the coastal plains similar to the later deportations to Assyria and Babylon.
Yet Israel must have associated with the Philistines in almost every phase of living, serving them (1 Sam. 4:9), paying yearly tribute with various kinds of produce, and delighting themselves in the orgies of the high places so common throughout the land.
The restoration of the ark in nowise signified that the Philistines relinquished their hold on the conquered Israelites.
Samuel now appears in the narrative for the first time since the battle at Aphek, in the role of a reformer attempting to turn a selfish and idolatrous people back to God.
Only the imagination can picture what these years had meant to him as he wandered from place to place.
Not only did he visit the districts adjoining Philistia; all Israel heard his pleadings, warnings, and prayers, until slowly but surely a sense of their sin and of the need of renewed trust in God took possession of the entire nation.
He graphically portrayed their present condition in comparison with what God had planned for them, and promised deliverance from the Philistines if they would only become true Israelites—literally, “governed by God.”
Samuel knew that if the people forsook their idolatry and refused to serve the Philistine gods, this would be interpreted as equivalent to rebellion against Philistine supremacy, and of course meant war.
But Samuel had confidence in God’s promises and went forward to inspire a forlorn people with hope.
Verse 4 So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
Served the Lord only. Israel had been in bondage to the Philistines for 40 years during the days of Samson and Eli, and now after Eli’s death they halted between two opinions for another 20 years.
The repentant people hardly knew what step to take next, so long had they been under the sway of idolatry.
The ark was gone from the tabernacle, and the tabernacle service itself had been discontinued (see PP 609).
There were no yearly festivals at which the worshipers might receive instruction.
Practically a new generation had appeared since the ark was taken. The people of Israel were like sheep lost on the mountainside.
They realized they were lost, but how to get back to the fold they knew not.
In anticipation of the time when His people would wish to turn from their evil ways, God prepared a faithful undershepherd to hunt for the lost and bring them back home.
As God had planned, in their anxiety Israel now turned to Samuel.
One of the greatest encouragements the Christian has is the assurance that God is never caught unprepared, whatever the circumstances may be.
To Him who knows the end from the beginning there is neither haste nor delay. What would have happened to Israel at this time had there been no Samuel?
What would have happened to Israel in Egypt had there been no Moses? How would Nebuchadnezzar have been instructed in the ways of God had there been no Daniel?
Throughout history, whenever a crisis has arisen demanding action, a leader has been at hand, well trained for the task. This does not necessarily mean that the leader was always all that the Lord might desire.
Many are called but few are chosen, because, like Samson, many refuse to heed the instructions God sends them.
Jeremiah was certainly trained for a special work, and fulfilled his role well, yet Israel suffered fearfully because Jehoiakim, the king, refused to heed the counsel Jeremiah gave him.
For both nations and individuals the great question in the day of judgment will be, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” (Isa. 5:4).
Verse 5 And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”
Mizpeh. Or, Mizpah. The word means “lookout point.” In Hebrew a mizpeh was a “watch-tower,” and is so translated in Isa. 21:8.
The two spellings are used in interchangeably even when referring to the same site.
Samuel’s Mizpah was for years thought (and is still thought by some) to be the modern Nebī Samwîl, 5 mi. (8 kilometers) northwest of Jerusalem.
But excavation at that site has not been possible because a tomb there is sacred to the Arabs as the traditional burial place of Samuel.
However, excavations tend to support the identification of Mizpah with the modern Tell en–Naṣbeh, 7 1/2 mi. (12.2 km.) north of Jerusalem on the main road to Samaria.
Verse 6 So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah.
Drew water, and poured it. Commentators are not agreed as to the meaning of this text.
Some think it has reference to Israel’s sorrow for their sin upon recognizing that except for the power of God they would be like water spilled on the ground (2 Sam. 14:14).
Others suggest that these words refer to the water and wine poured out by the priest on the high day of the Feast of Tabernacles, representing the joy with which they drew water out of the wells of salvation (Isa. 12:2,3.)
The Feast of Tabernacles was a memorial of God’s protecting care over Israel during the Exodus, when from the smitten rock there flowed an abundance of water.
Referring later to this incident in the wilderness, Christ declared, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).
Perhaps the true meaning is found in a combination of the two ideas. Christ was certainly “poured out like water” (Ps. 22:14), that salvation might be made possible.
In pouring out this libation at Mizpah, Israel expressed recognition of their own unworthiness and solemnly rejoiced in their new-found trust in a heavenly Father, who, in spite of their spiritual wandering, was willing to receive them with open arms.
Judged the children. This was the beginning of Samuel’s long judgeship.
Verse 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
The Philistines went up. Once they had determined on a definite break with idolatry, the people gathered at Mizpah.
The lords of the Philistines recognized this to be tantamount to a declaration of independence, and hastened to forestall any attempt on the part of the Israelites to act accordingly.
The Philistines attacked with such speed that the Israelites, assembled from various parts of the country with peaceful intentions, were compelled to meet them, unprepared for warfare.
The only way out was through prayer.
Verse 8 So the children 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.”
Do not cease. Literally, “Do thou not be silent from calling.” There come moments of testing to all men, each in his own sphere of activity.
To Samuel it was a test, first as to whether he would wait for the Lord to lead, and second, whether the people would trust in the Lord rather than run in terror from the advancing hosts.
To the people it was as severe a test, for, having given up their idols whom they had served all these years, they wondered whether this prophet, who had visited them time after time, would vouchsafe victory to them.
Theirs was to be a practical demonstration of Jehoshaphat’s statement: “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20).
Verse 9 And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
Answered him. On God’s part it often involves a visible answer, as in ch. 28:15, when Saul complained to the spirit brought up by the witch at Endor that God would no longer hear or answer him.
Verse 10 Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel.
The Lord thundered. In this case God’s answer (see Ps. 99:6) came as a thunderstorm.
For other instances of God’s miraculous use of the forces of nature, see on 1 Sam. 14:15.
Having renounced their idols and confessed their departure from the Lord, in humiliation of spirit, they were to witness how readily God took them back under His protection, and demonstrated a heavenly Father’s love for the returning prodigal.
God neither expressed bitterness nor held aloof until His people, through years of sacrificial humility, had demonstrated their change of attitude.
Immediately He spread over them His protecting arm. Well could they afford to make this place a memorial of God’s everlasting devotion and loving watch care and of His power to protect and deliver.
Verse 11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car.
Beth Car. The location is uncertain, but it is thought by some to be the modern ‘Ain Kārim, about 4 1/4 mi. (6.7 km.) west of Jerusalem.
This has been the general opinion, but more recently it has been identified with Ramath–Rahel, 2.9 mi. (4.6 km.) south of Jerusalem.
It may be that the thunderstorm came from the north, and inasmuch as Baal was considered a storm god, the Philistines would superstitiously flee from a god whose dwelling was supposed to be in the mountains of the north.
Fleeing southward, the Philistines probably took the easiest road back to the plain country, which would lead them through Beth-shemesh to Ekron.
Along the way they were harassed by the assembled Israelites. And there, as Isaiah declared centuries later, God graciously gave them at once “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning” (Isa. 61:3).
Verse 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Ebenezer. Literally, ’eben ha‘ezer, “the stone of the help,” referring definitely to the providential deliverance just mentioned.
As the help had been specific, so the memorial was to be of a definite and permanent form. The fact that God upon this occasion delivered them from the enemy was only an earnest of future providences.
Samuel wished Israel to understand that the Lord’s help was theirs only as from day to day they obeyed Him, and not once for all, irrespective of their attitude.
It is well for the Christian to go back constantly to the Ebenezers of life, where providential deliverances came to crown distrust of self, a full surrender, and trust in God.
Waar hulle die ark verloor het, daar het hulle ‘n heerlike oorwinning behaal.
Verse 13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel
The hand of the Lord. The same providential incident may bring both favor and disfavor; favor to those who surrender to the guiding hand of the Lord and disfavor to those who choose to serve self.
The same storm brought victory to the helpless Israelites and defeat to the Philistines, who trusted in the strength of false gods and the prowess of their own arms.
The same pillar of God’s presence that shed light to the armies of the Lord wrapped the Egyptian hosts in darkness.
Perhaps the Philistines concluded that Baal, the storm god (see page 40), was now fighting against them and for the armies of Israel.
But the Israelites, because of their renewed relation to God, could take advantage of the traditional heathen viewpoint and follow up to the utmost the victory over the enemy.
So it was then; so it is today. Man comes to the place where he recognizes that his life is most unsatisfactory.
He finds himself attached to his idols, whatever they may be. He senses the uselessness of past habits cultivated, past motives cherished, past desires gratified.
He is attracted to the fellowship he sees others enjoying with God, such as Israel saw in Samuel during those 20 years.
He renounces his past life, and confesses his inability to transform himself by his own efforts.
He then surrenders to the Holy Spirit and finds created within himself a self-control, an acceptance of such spiritual helps as God wisely gives to fit him for a higher life than he has yet known.
Past failures thus become steppingstones. Valleys of Achor become doors of hope (Hosea 2:15).
Verses 14,15 Then the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered its territory from the hands of the Philistines. Also there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. 15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
Samuel judged Israel. More talents were given to the man who had already traded successfully with those allotted to him.
Little did Samuel dream of the responsibility to be placed on his shoulders when first he came to Shiloh.
Nor did Peter dream, when he left Bethsaida to visit John at Bethabara, that he would one day become a fisher of men. How much less did he dream that one day he would sit with Christ on the throne of the universe!
Wat van jou en my?
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–17 PP 589-591; SR 191
1, 2 PP 589, 593
3 4T 517
5–10 PP 590
6, 8 4T 517
10 4T 518
11, 12 PP 591
12 SC 130; 2T 274
15 PP 663
17 PP 593