The ark returns (5:1-7:1)
Although God used the Philistines to judge Israel, he would not allow them to dishonour him. He showed that the capture of the ark did not mean that he was inferior to the Philistine god Dagon (5:1-5). Wherever the ark went it brought trouble to the Philistine people. A plague of mice seems to have spread a painful and deadly disease throughout the country, bringing widespread suffering and death (6-12; cf. 6:5).
The Philistines felt fairly certain that the ark was the cause of their troubles. So they decided to send it back to Israel, along with gifts to Israel's God to pay for their sin in capturing his ark (6:1-6). To test whether their theory was correct, they planned to put the ark on a new cart to be drawn by two milking cows that had never pulled a cart and had only recently calved. The cows were to be left alone to see if Israel's God directed them to take his ark back to Israel. Normally the cows would want to break loose and return to their calves (7-9).
God restored his honour by bringing his ark back without the Israelites' doing anything at all (10-12). The Israelites accepted the Philistines' gifts and offered sacrifices to God, but God killed those Israelites who looked into the ark. He wanted to impress upon the people that the ark was sacred. They were not to treat it as an object of curiosity or superstition (13-19; cf. Numbers 4:20). The people then took the ark and placed it in a private house in the nearby town of Kiriath-jearim (20-7:1).
Samuel's leadership (7:2-17)
During the years of Philistine oppression, Samuel's position as chief ruler in Israel became firmly established. As a religious leader he commanded the people to turn from idols and worship the Lord only, and the people responded (2-6a). As a civil leader he settled disputes among them (6b). In response to the people's repentance and Samuel's prayers for them, God gave Israel a great victory over the Philistines (7-11). The Israelites continued to fight against the Philistines till they had driven them from Israel's territory completely. From this time on, as long as Samuel remained in control of Israel, the Philistines were of no great trouble to Israel (12-14).
With the destruction of Israel's tabernacle at Shiloh, the nation's religious life centred on Samuel, who set up an altar for sacrifice in his home town of Ramah. The civil administration also centred on Samuel, as he moved in an annual circuit around four major towns where he held district courts to settle disputes (15-17).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany