The Ark found its resting place temporarily at Gibeah, in the house of Abinadab. A dark period of twenty years is passed over without detailed record. It would seem that during all that time Israel was under Philistine rule, without any definite center of worship; for while the Ark was resting in the house of an individual, the Tabernacle was in all probability dismantled.
During this period Samuel was advancing from youth to manhood and approaching the hour of his leadership. This period was ushered in by the people's lamentation after God. Of this Samuel took advantage, calling them to return to Him and put away all strange gods.
They obeyed, and then were summoned to Mizpah. Here, by a direct divine intervention, the power of Philistia was broken, and her cities restored to Israel. Here Samuel erected an altar and called it Ebenezer.
This was a great word uttered in the hearing of the people, "Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us." The "hitherto" included all through which they had passed, not the victories only, but the discipline and the suffering also. This man of clear vision recognized both the fact of the divine government and its beneficent method. Jehovah had helped them through chastisement to sorrow for sin, and through such lamentation to freedom from oppression.
the Second Week after Epiphany