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Reformation in Israel
v. 1. And the men of Kirjath-jearim, to whom the Bethshemites had sent word of the return of the ark, 1 Samuel 6:21, came, and fetched up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, on an elevation near the city, and sanctified Eleazar, his son, to keep the ark of the Lord, for he was probably of Levitical descent, otherwise he would hardly have been entrusted with this office.
v. 2. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long, its length, on account of conditions in Israel and on account of the oppression of the Philistines, seemed unusually great; for it was twenty years, twenty years of servitude and disgrace; and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord, turning to Him again and entreating Him to deliver them
v. 3. And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, with reference to the apparent sincere sorrow of the people, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, if their lamenting was no mere sham and hypocrisy, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth, the male and female idols of the heathen nations of Canaan, from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, firmly established in faith and trust in Him, and serve Him only, for the service of the true God and of false deities of any kind does not agree together; and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines, announcing His relation as covenant God to them by saving them from their enemies and once more establishing them as an independent people.
v. 4. Then the children of Israel, heeding the earnest words of their great prophet and leader, did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, they completely did away with the worship of strange gods, and served the Lord only, they restored His exclusive worship. Here again the fact is brought out that idolatry had been practiced, but in such a manner that the Jehovah worship had outwardly been kept up. It was the same mixture of true and false religion which is now found in so many parts of Christendom, where antichristian religious societies are existing in the very midst of so-called Christian congregations.
v. 5. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, which was used as a place of assembly at other times also, Judges 20:1, and I will pray for you unto the Lord, principally with the object of restoring them to the covenant relation with Jehovah, now that their conversion had been shown to be sincere.
v. 6. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, a symbolic act of penitence as expressing their deep misery, care, and anxiety, Psalms 22:15, and fasted on that day, to express the deep humiliation of their souls, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. It was a frank, unequivocal confession of their guilt, accompanied by such outward acts of mourning and sorrow as showed the sincerity of their conversion to Jehovah. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh, exercising the functions of his judicial position in Israel, he administered right and justice, and proposed measures that looked to the good of the people.
v. 7. And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel, they mobilized an army to attack the children of Israel, for they considered the great assembly a hostile demonstration, if not an actual mustering for war. And when the children of Israel heard it, not being in readiness, evidently, for such an attack, they were afraid of the Philistines.
v. 8. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, the sincerity of their recent conversion showing also in the fact that they now relied entirely upon Jehovah, Cease not to cry unto the Lord, our God, for us, by keeping silence for so much as one moment, that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. That is genuine repentance, if a sinner is truly sorrowful over his sins, makes a frank confession of his transgressions, puts away from him everything that displeases God, and places his trust in the Lord alone.
The Philistines Overthrown
v. 9. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, one having been about seven days with its mother, Leviticus 22:27, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord, without having divided it according to the usual form of burnt offerings. And Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him, gave him an answer in the defeat of their enemies, as now related.
v. 10. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, while this act of worship was still going on, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel; but the Lord thundered with a great thunder, with terrific peals, which followed one after another, on that day upon the Philistines and discomfited them, so that they were terrified, confused, and confounded; and they were smitten before Israel, literally, "before the face of Israel," while the Israelites were looking on in wonder.
v. 11. And the men of Israel, while the enemies turned away in confusion, went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them until they came under Bethcar, below a city at some distance from the field of battle.
v. 12. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, at the place where the two former battles with the Philistines had also been fought, and called the name of it Ebenezer (stone of help), saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. Although the victory did not complete the deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines, yet it pointed to the fact that Jehovah was once more with the army of Israel, and therefore this token of thanksgiving in the name of the whole people properly expressed the sentiments which were stirring their hearts.
v. 13. So the Philistines were subdued, in consequence of this victory, and they came no more into the coast of Israel, all attempts made by them with this object in view were promptly frustrated; and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel; while he lived, they did not regain the supremacy over Israel which they once held.
v. 14. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath, these cities being on the Philistine frontier. These cities themselves were clearly not included in the territory which they yielded, the text merely stating that Israel recovered the land on the Philistine borders between Ekron and Gath, which had originally been subdued by the armies of Judah and Simeon, Judges 1:18. And the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites; the other Canaanitish nations, among whom the Amorites were the strongest, thought it the best policy not to undertake any campaigns against the children of Israel.
v. 15. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life, rendering decisions in difficult matters and proposing measures for the benefit of the people even when Saul had been made king.
v. 16. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, toward the north, and Gilgal, in the valley of Jordan near Jericho, and Mizpeh, toward the southwest, and judged Israel in all those places.
v. 17. And his return was to Ramah, to this city he always came back ; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel, when not absent on one of his circuit-court trips; and there he built an altar unto the Lord. Although the Tabernacle remained at Shiloh for the time being, public worship was, for a number of years, carried on in other places as well. Thus Samuel, as judge, prophet, and priest, performed the work of his office and taught Israel the ways of the Lord. Herein he is a type of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is Priest, Prophet, and King in one person, who sacrificed Himself for the sins of all men, gives knowledge of the salvation gained by Him through the Gospel, and lives and reigns throughout eternity.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent