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The Reformation of Israel by Samuel
1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.17
I. Israel’s Repentance and Conversion by Means of Samuel’s Prophetical Labors. 1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.6
2And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years. [And it came to pass, after the day when the ark rested in K., a long time, even twenty years, elapsed], and all the house of Israel 3lamented after the Lord [Jehovah]; And1 Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord [Jehovah] with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods [ins. from among you] and [ins. the] Ashtaroth2 from among you [om. from among you], and prepare [direct3] your hearts unto the Lord [Jehovah], and serve him only; and he will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines. 4Then the children of Israel did put away [ins. the] Baalim and [ins. the] Ashtaroth, 5and served the Lord [Jehovah] only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh 6[Mizpah], and I will pray for you unto the Lord [Jehovah]. And they gathered together to Mizpeh [Mizpah], and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord [Jehovah], and said there,4 We have sinned against the Lord [Jehovah]. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh [Mizpah].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.4. The penitential return of the people from idolatry to the sole service of the living God. First, as to the union and connection of these sentences, their close union is so distinctly marked by the five-times occurring Waw [“and”] that to suppose (with Thenius) a gap between 1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.3 is unwarranted. And also the connection of the individual statements is opposed to such a view. In 1 Samuel 7:2 the phrase “ after or from the day” [ מִיּוֹם Eng. A. V. “while”] marks a terminus a quo, on which follows the statement of a period of time, of a condition of things which lasted during5 this period, and of a definite fact which introduced a new era. The point of time, from which reckoning is made, is the day when the ark rested at Kirjathjearim, important enough, after its long absence, to form the beginning of a new development. The following period of twenty years is characterized as disproportionally long by the added words “and the days grew many.” [The sentence reads literally: “and it came to pass, from the resting of the ark in K., and the days were many, and they were twenty years”]. This is done to set forth more distinctly the condition of the people during this period, after the restoration of the ark. The condition of “all the people of Israel” is described by the words וַיִּנָּהוּ, etc. [Eng. A. V. “ lamented, etc.”] according to the inner side of their life in relation to God. The meaning assigned to this verb (וַיִּנָּהוּ) by Gesenius and others, “assembled,” rests merely on Buxturf’s “congregati sunt” (Lex. Chald., p. 1310), which is here and elsewhere an utterly incorrect translation of the Chald. Reflexive. Böttcher (Æhrenlese I., p. 111) translates: “the people of Israel quieted themselves, and (in quiet devotion) followed Jahveh,” and sees in this the contrast to the “great disquietude” mentioned in 1 Samuel 6:19 sq. But, in the first place, against this view is the phrase “after Jehovah,” which, in this translation, requires the arbitrary insertion of another verb “and followed,” without which insertion the expression “and quieted themselves after Jehovah” gives no sense. Further, the reference to 1 Samuel 6:19 sq. is irrelevant, because there it is only a local “disquietude” that is spoken of, not one that touched all the people. Rather, according to Böttcher’s own remark—that נחה, in the first place, expresses remarkable breathing in general, heavy respiration, with sighing and lamentation, and hence נָהָה is used of wailing—we must accept as well-grounded the translation: “And sighed or lamented after the Lord.” (So נָהָה is used in Micah 2:4; Ezekiel 32:18).6 The matter or the cause of the lamentation is determined by the connection between these words and the following, and by the external condition of Israel during this period. In respect to the latter, Böttcher asks: “Why should the Israelites still mourn after twenty years of immunity and quiet? And how could they have lamented ‘after Jahveh,’ unless it was that their sanctuary had to move again?” To which we reply by pointing to the uninterrupted oppression of the Philistine domination; for, though the Philistines had brought the ark humbly back (Then.), there is no conflict between this and 1 Samuel 7:3 “He will save you from the hand of the Philistines,” since according to the narrative, the restoration of the ark had a definite religious ground, and noways involved the abandonment of the dominion which had been gained anew over Israel by the victory recorded in chap, iv. Indeed, it is expressly assumed in 1 Samuel 7:3 that this dominion had continued. It is, therefore, incorrect to suppose that the Israelites could have had cause and occasion for lamentation only by a new loss of the ark. Their external condition under the weight of the Philistine rule was cause enough for sighing and lamenting.
The tone and content of the lamentation is more precisely stated by the context. The succeeding address of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:3) “if ye return” (properly, “ if ye are returning,” “are in a state of conversion”) and the mention of the sincere penitence of the people (1 Samuel 7:6), presuppose a very deep sorrow and suffering, in which the foreign Philistine rule was felt to be a judgment of God, there being throughout the whole people a tone of feeling, which led them to return humbly to God, and to sigh and long after Him, now that He had turned away from His people: a return back to the living God, on whom they had often turned their back,7 to whom, however, they now, in consequence of His continuing judgments, again turned, just as, in the period of the Judges, return so often alternated with apostasy. The “lamenting after the Lord” therefore expresses the penitent disposition and decided direction of the innermost life of the people to their God, in which, with sorrow and pain over the self-incurred national misfortune under the rule of the Philistines, they seek God’s mercy and saving help, He having hitherto turned His back on them, and forsaken them. The image is that of a child that goes weeping after its father or mother, that it may be relieved of what hurts it. An allusion to such a relation might perhaps be found in the expression “the whole house of Israel.” S. Schmid: “The phrase ‘lament after God’ is taken from human affairs, when one follows another, and entreats him with lamentations till he assents. An example of this is the Syrophenician woman, Matthew 15:0”—After the lapse of the twenty years occurred this decided return of the whole people to their God. As, besides the constant pressure of the Philistine rule, no special calamity is mentioned, we must suppose a gradual preparation for this penitential temper of the people, which now, after the lapse of twenty years from the return of the ark, was become universal. The preparation came from within. By what means? by the prophetic labors of Samuel, from the summary description of which, according to their intensive power, their extensive manifestation, and their results in the whole nation (1 Samuel 3:19-9.3.21), we may clearly see, that Samuel without ceasing proclaimed to the people the word of God. And as in 1 Samuel 3:19 it is said that “none of his words fell to the ground,” we shall have to recognize this penitential temper and this following after God with sighing and lamentation from the consciousness of being forsaken and needing help, as a fruit of Samuel’s prophetic labors, which were directed to the relation of the innermost life of the people to their God. So by his influence the way was secretly and gradually paved for a reformation of the religious-moral life from within outwards. Certainly the lamentation of the people after the Lord was already the turning-point to a better God-ward direction of the inner life (against Keil); the important thing was only that the people should maintain this following after God, should anew devote themselves in heart firmly and decidedly to the living God, and should give an outward confirmation of their resolution by completely breaking with idolatry. This it is to which Samuel will yet further lead the people; on this it depended whether the help of the Lord should be obtained, and the true covenant-relation restored; in this was first thoroughly completed the reformation of the innermost life of the people; therefore the narrator describes this in detail in 1 Samuel 7:3 sqq., while he sets forth that preparation for the reformation only in its last stage of development, and even then merely by hints.
In 1 Samuel 7:3 Samuel’s word of exhortation is in the first place described as addressed to the whole people (comp. 1 Samuel 3:20); we see him here in the performance of his prophetical work, which embraces all Israel. The content of this word is first a conditionally expressed preliminary: “ If ye return to the Lord with all your hearts.” Two things are here assumed and recognized as facts: 1) That a conversion to God had already taken place in the whole nation, and 2) that this conversion was a permanent condition, and that a permanent tendency towards God existed, as we may see from the Particip. “if ye are turning.” He thus points back to what is said before of Israel’s sighing and lamenting after the Lord. The phrase “with all the heart” involves an exhortation to what must be inseparably connected with conversion, if the latter is to be true and thorough, demands, that is, an internalizing and deepening of what is described in 1 Samuel 7:2 as lamenting after the Lord, in order that the right attitude of soul towards God may exist. Since the heart8 is the centre and source of all movements of the inner life, as the bodily heart is the centre of the bloodflow and the life thereon founded, to turn “with all the heart” is so to turn one’s self to God, from the central innermost kernel of the personal life, that is, of all thinking, feeling, desiring, willing, that the whole life shall be controlled by the fellowship with Him. To this deeply and thoroughly heartfelt turning, conversion of the whole inner life to the holy God, must now correspond the external confirmation of such a disposition. The demand is in conformity with the condition: “Put away the strange gods from among you,” which is exactly the same with the demand that Jacob (Genesis 35:2) once made of his house, and Joshua (Joshua 24:23, comp. 1 Samuel 14:0.) of his people. “After the return of the ark an earnest longing after the Lord arose among Israel. Samuel, availing himself of this, exhorted them to remove all idolatry from their midst” (Hengst., Beitr. [Contrib.] I. 153 sqq.). The strange gods here spoken of, and called Ashtaroth and Baalim9 (comp. 1 Samuel 7:4) are the gods of the Philistines, whose worship had gained entrance during the decline of the theocratic life and of the worship of the living God, as indeed during the whole Period of the Judges the idol-worship of the heathen nations was constantly forcing its way in, wherefore the Lord gave them again and again into the hand of the latter (Judges 2:11; Judges 2:13; Judges 10:6-7.10.7). The fellowship with the living God, to which conversion with all the heart leads, is incompatible with idol-worship, the putting away of which is therefore the sign of an upright and thorough conversion. As to the “from among you,” comp. Genesis 35:2; Joshua 24:23.—To this negative side of the renovation of the religious life is to be added the positive, which is stated in the following two-fold demand. “Fix your hearts towards or in trust in God.” The fix (וְהָבִינוּ) is opposed to the wavering, vacillating state of mind, which may always co-exist with sighing and lamenting, and sets forth, as an indispensable condition, the energy of religious-moral life, with which the man who turns heartily to God must put away everything opposed to God. The “to Jehovah” expresses the fact that movement and tendency towards God must be the aim, as it is the centre and source, of the whole inner life. In this tendency and movement it is required that there be stability, fixedness, steadfastness, proceeding from a heart which is immovably and unshakably fixed on Him alone. Thereby is the second requirement fulfilled: serve Him only; for the heart fixed firmly on Him excludes completely everything, consecration to which might bring it into opposition with God, and cause the surrender of the whole inner life; it attaches itself to God alone, and excludes all other gods.—The following words “and He will deliver you,” etc., suppose that the hand, that is, the might and power, of the Philistines was on Israel, and that the foreign rule continued; they contain the promise of deliverance from the Philistine power, holding it out as the consequence of the previously described conversion. The foundation-thought here is this: Re-establish your covenant-relation to God by honest and thorough conversion, manifested by the putting away of all idol-deities, and then God also will turn to you, so that you shall no longer have to lament after Him, and will again announce His relation to you as your covenant-God by saving you from your enemies.
1 Samuel 7:4 witnesses that, in these circumstances also, no word of Samuel fell to the ground. Two things are stated: the complete removal of the worship of the strange gods, and the restoration of the exclusive worship of the living God. On the one hand, the designation of the strange gods is here enlarged (see 1 Samuel 7:3) by the addition of Baalim to Ashtaroth; it is thus intimated that there was a complete and comprehensive purification of the religious life and service. On the other hand, the word “only” is repeated from 1 Samuel 7:3, and it is thus expressly said, that the covenant-God alone and exclusively became the object of worship, while it is at the same time involved that the general service of Jehovah had not ceased, but that the worship of strange gods had existed only along with Jehovah-worship.
According to the preceding explanation of the section, 1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.4, its particular parts stand in close connection with one another, and there is nothing at all which compels us to suppose either a gap in the narrative, or interpolations of foreign matter, in order to make a connection. The second supposition is adopted by Ewald, who conjectures that 1 Samuel 7:3-9.7.4 are interpolated, assuming without ground that they break the connection; the first is adopted by Thenius, who assumes a gap between 1 Samuel 7:2 and 1 Samuel 7:3, of which he himself, however, says, that it is possibly as old as our Book, since it is not filled up by any of the old translations. Since, now, he throws the alleged defect back on the original authorities which are here used, the question is, whether his grounds for its existence are tenable, apart from the fact that the context and the narrative exhibit no gap in any essential point. When the Philistines brought back the ark, their dominion over Israel, as Keil properly remarks, was not thereby given up; its continuance is assumed in the words “He will save you,” and did not need to be expressly mentioned. As little need was there for express mention of an apostasy to idolatry, when it is stated that Samuel exhorted them to give it up; for in this period, as in that of the Judges, it was a usual thing for idolatry to make its way into Israel, and besides, there had been no complete apostasy from the living God. On the incorrect presupposition that, in consequence of the unmentioned apostasy, Israel had again been given into the hand of the Philistines, Thenius supposes that Samuel, in this time of stress, had been chosen Judge, and that the account of this choice, which, however, is implied in the words: “And Samuel judged Israel in Mizpah,” has fallen out. Against which Keil remarks well: “The appearance of Samuel as Shophet [Judge] does not imply that the assumption of this office must have been before mentioned. In general there was no formal assumption of the office of Judge, least of all in the case of Samuel, who had already been recognized by all Israel as an authenticated prophet of Jehovah (1 Samuel 3:19 sqq.).” Bunsen: “There is no gap here, but a chronological statement.”
1 Samuel 7:5-9.7.6. The day of penitence and prayer in Mizpah exhibits the whole people there assembled as sincerely penitent, and Samuel as their representative with his petition in the presence of the Lord. The content of these verses is the carrying on further of what is related in 1 Samuel 7:3-9.7.5. After idolatry has been expelled, and the worship of God alone restored, Samuel takes another step forward: he calls at Mizpah an assembly of the whole people, through their elders and representatives, for an exclusively religious purpose; they are to declare and set forth as a body the sincere, hearty conversion of their individual members, while he, Samuel, as their head chosen by God, will perform the priestly function of prayer for them before the Lord. “His purpose in this,” as Keil well remarks, “could be only to bring the people back to the proper relation to their God, and so to pave the way for their deliverance from the bondage of the Philistines.” This assembly was, however, by no means intended, as Keil supposes, to make immediate preparation for the war of deliverance against the Philistines. That the people did not regard the assembly as a military one, and that Samuel therefore had not spoken of such a one, is clear from 1 Samuel 7:7, where it is said, that the children of Israel were afraid of the Philistines, when they heard that their lords had marched forth to fight with them. The Philistines, indeed, thought the assembly a military one, and opened hostilities in the opinion that the assembly was called to make an attack on them, so that Samuel was compelled to consecrate the people to battle against the Philistines, though they had been called together for a purely religious end (1 Samuel 7:8 sq.), and to go out with them to battle against the Philistines. The place of assembly is Mizpah (“watch-tower”) in the Tribe of Benjamin on its western border, north of Jerusalem, and to be distinguished from Mizpeh in the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:38). According to Robinson, Tobler, v. d. Velde, Furrer, it is the present Neby Samwil (“Prophet Samuel”), five hundred feet above the elevated table-land, two thousand, four hundred and eighty-four feet above the level of the sea, near Ramah and Geba (comp. 1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chronicles 16:6), visible from Jerusalem, 1Ma 3:46 (κατέναντι ’Ιερουσαλήμ, “over against Jerusalem,” comp. Jos. Ant. XI. 8, 5), affording an extensive prospect as far as the sea and the transjordanic mountains. The present place is, however, neither the ancient Shiloh, as some hold, nor Ramah of Samuel, as others suppose. The latter view, which Ewald also (Gesch. II. 583) is inclined to maintain, has been completely set aside by Robinson (II. 356–362 [Amer. ed. I. 458–460]).10 Samuel chose this place for the assembly of the people, not, as Keil supposes, because, “being on the western border of the mountains, it was the fittest place at which to begin the struggle against the Philistines,” but because it was one of the holy places of the land, and, being in the middle of the territory on an extensive plateau, and thus protected against the attacks of enemies, was specially suited for such assemblies. While Shiloh, from Joshua’s time on, was the permanent seat of the Sanctuary, the Tabernacle remaining there, even after the removal of the ark, till its transference to Nob (1 Samuel 21:6), there were, especially in the central part of the land, several other places, “which, for various reasons, from before or after the time of Moses, had a certain sanctity, and where smaller altars were found” (Ew. II. 583); thus, Shechem (Joshua 24:25-6.24.26), famous from the Patriarchal time on account of its conquest by Simeon and Levi, and as the resting-place of Joseph’s bones (Genesis 34:0; Genesis 47:1)—Gilgal, sacred as the first camping-place of the people after the passage of the Jordan, as the memorial-spot of God’s saving help, and as the place where the old covenant-fellowship with God was renewed by the circumcision and passover which were anew ordained by Joshua (Joshua 5:2-6.5.12—especially 15), and Bethel, consecrated as a holy place by Jacob, and temporarily the seat of the ark during the civil war between Benjamin and the other tribes (Judges 20:18; Judges 20:23; Judges 20:26; Judges 21:2). At that time Mizpah—which also was one of the holy places (Judges 11:11)—was the place where Israel assembled “unto the Lord” (Judges 20:1), to save the honor of the people against the outrage of the inhabitants of Gibeah, and resolved on the war against Benjamin. In this place, consecrated to the worship of God, called therefore in 1Ma 3:46 an ancient τόπος προσευχῆς [“place of prayer”] for Israel, remarkable by its historical antecedents (Judges 20:21), and favorably situated in the middle of the land, Samuel appointed an assembly of the people. “In the wearisome oppression of a trying time the people gathered at last, like frightened chickens around the hen, with more and more accord about Samuel, in whom they learned to trust; he calls an assembly of the people, which willingly allows itself to be guided, instructed, warned and directed by him” (Ew. II. 510).—The words “and I will pray,” etc., exhibit the highest end which Samuel had in calling this assembly: “I will pray for you to God.” That is, his purpose is to bring the people back to their God and renew the old covenant-fellowship with him by the intercession of prayer, by a priestly representation of the people before God by prayer and intercession. The object of the prayer is not mentioned, but, from the connection, can have been nothing else than the manifestation of the divine grace and mercy in the forgiveness of sins and the blotting out of the guilt of sin. Thenius: “For your sins up to this time, that they may be forgiven you.” That deliverance from the hand of the Philistines was not, at least not immediately, the object of the intercession, is clear not only from the phrase “for you” (בַּעַדְכֶם), since otherwise Samuel must have used another expression, so as to include himself, but also from the following words, which can be referred only to the deep consciousness of sin and of guilt which was awakened in the people.—In 1 Samuel 7:6 the symbolic act of drawing and pouring out water does not set forth the confirmation of an oath, as some have supposed: “as the poured out water cannot be gathered again, so our word shall not be taken back”—for this signification of the act must in that case have been somehow intimated in the narrative; nor does it appear from the context that an oath, and what sort of a one, was to be confirmed. The water, drawn and poured out, can no more indicate simply tears, as Grotius and others think. Others, again, referring to 1 Samuel 1:15, explain it of prayer (Clericus: “to pour out the heart before God, i.e., to pray to Him from the heart, and open the heart to Him”); but they overlook the fact that then it would have been necessary to annex a preciser statement of this meaning to the symbolic use of water. Nor can the pouring out of water be regarded as signifying purification from sin, or as the sign of their hope that their sins were now blotted out (so O. v. Gerlach), since the water is not here designated at all as a means of purification, and there is no mention of an act of purification. It is rather a symbolical act of penitence that is here described. Water, which is poured out and disappears, is a frequent image of the state of dissolution and melting away which characterizes human life, especially on its inner side, and is used sometimes of particular aspects of life, sometimes of the whole personality. It is thus used to set forth moral dissoluteness and ethical godlessness in Genesis 49:4; Genesis 11:0 comp. Jude 1 Samuel 7:13. It further denotes the destruction, the perishing of all the happiness and prosperity of the physical life, Psalms 58:8; 2 Samuel 14:14; and often also the complete dissolution and breaking up of the psychical-spiritual life in fear and spiritlessness, Joshua 7:5, in care, anxiety, deep misery, Psalms 22:15. The latter application of the image is the one here employed, and (since it is the act of pouring out water “before the Lord” that is described) in the sense that the people make confession and present themselves before the Lord in deepest consciousness of their wretchedness and in sadness for their sin and the misery that flowed from it. Comp. Lamentations 2:19.—That we have to regard the action as symbol of the heart and the whole inner life poured out “before the Lord,”—that is, completely carried away and dissolved by the feeling of guilt and consequent misery,—is clear from what follows. The fasting which was performed the same day is the sign of the repentant, humble soul, bowed down before God, the expression of grief in sincere penitence, designated in the Law as “afflicting the soul” (עִנָּה נַפְּשׁוֹ), and ordained, as symbol of the humiliation of the whole people in repentance and penitence, for the festival of the great Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 16:31; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 23:32; Numbers 29:7. The word צוּם[“fast”], which denotes the form of “wearying and chastening the soul,” is not found in the Law, comp. Isaiah 58:3 sqq. The bodily deprivation which the man imposes on himself expresses his prostration and humiliation of soul. To the twofold confession of sin and guilt, thus set forth in the symbolical act of pouring out water and fasting, answers, as indication of the contrition thus expressed, the verbal confession: “We have sinned against the Lord.” The “there” (שָׁם) is not to be understood of time, to which it never refers, but of the place, Mizpah. The person against whom the sin is committed is here introduced by the Prep. לְ [“to,” “against,”] as in 1 Samuel 2:25. While the two symbolical acts set forth their state of grief and suffering on account of the disturbance through sin of their relation to God, and their consequent misery, these words point not only to sin as the source and object of this prostrate and humbled feeling, but also to the proper essence of sin as opposition to the holy will of God as Lawgiver and Judge of His people. It is a grand and touching self-presentation of the whole people before their God in true, thorough penitence and conversion, which is here (1 Samuel 7:3-9.7.6) portrayed in its separate features. Samuel’s position in this picture exhibits him in his prophetic work, which takes deep hold on the whole people, and brings them back to the Lord; his words to the people, here reported, form the culmination of all preceding announcements of God’s word, and complete the work of the conversion of the people to the Lord, with which he had as faithful prophet hitherto occupied himself. The people, who repent before the Lord in this powerfully moving way, are the fruit of his previous prophetic work. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.—These words cannot, with Keil, be considered as embracing the whole work just before narrated; that is, as showing that Samuel’s judging consisted in “Samuel’s calling the people together to Mizpah for humiliation before Jehovah, effecting there by his intercession the forgiveness of their sins, bringing back the divine favor, and so restoring Israel’s true relation to their God.” All this belongs to Samuel’s work as Prophet of Israel, comp. 1 Samuel 4:1. Since the statement “Samuel judged Israel in Mizpah” follows immediately on the narration of the solemn act of repentance instituted by Samuel, and afterwards (1 Samuel 7:15) his judicial work is again mentioned in connection with all that precedes, we must here understand by this “judging” something else than those labors in connection with the religious relation of the people to their God. After Samuel had restored this last by his prophetic work, his succeeding labors were those not only of a prophet, but also of a judge. His judicial office is here named for the first time. The connection in which it occurs shows how it proceeded from and was founded on his prophetic office. It is not, however, the beginning or origin of this office that is here mentioned, as if the Verb (יִשְׁפֹּט) meant “he became judge,” but Samuel is here set before us in the exercise of his judicial position. It is too narrow a view of this to restrict it to judicial decisions proper, or (as Thenius does) to the punishment of individuals (R. David: “he punished every one according to his offence”). We must rather regard Samuel’s judging as a directing and ordering, in accordance with the above act of repentance, of the inner affairs of the people, who were by that religious act inwardly again purified. It consisted both in the administration of right and justice according to the law of the Lord, and in government proper, in the wise carrying out of measures that looked to the good of the people. In their history hitherto the deliverance of the people from the power of their enemies belonged also to the judicial office; with the Judges this, as a judicial function, generally came first, and then followed the direction of internal affairs. With Samuel it was the reverse. The deliverance of the people from the dominion of the Philistines began under his rule as Judge, after he had, as Prophet, brought them back into their right relation to God, and ordered and purified them in their inner life.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. The course of true penitence and conversion consists in mourning after God, in a sorrowful seeking after Him, in a complete devotion of the heart to the Lord, which attests itself by a decided breaking with the power of evil, in energetic putting away of everything opposed to God, and in humble subordination of the will to the sole authority of the Lord (1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.4).
2. After the ark had lost its significance as theocratic centre of the national life, and Shiloh had ceased to be the central seat of the national sanctuary, after, too, the priesthood, with the rejection of the sanctuary, had lost its prominent middle place between God and the people, then the prophetic office, in the person of Samuel filled with the Spirit of the Lord, took this position, in order to restore the true covenant-relation between God and the people. For this it was necessary that Israel, confessing and repenting of their sin against the Lord, should return in sincere penitence to their God, and put away the abomination of heathendom, which they had taken to them, that God should turn again to His people with grace and mercy, and that the whole national life should assume a completely new form in a righteous disposition and walk, whereby God’s holy will would be performed. The point of time to which we have now come is the great turning-point between the Period of the Judges which was just ending and the new era of the theocracy which was just beginning, when Samuel in a threefold point of view forms the centre of the people, and in his mediating position between them and their covenant-God, becomes the instrument and founder of a new life: 1) as Prophet, in the power of God’s Spirit, by which he was filled, he announces to the people the word of the law, in order to lead them to repentance and conversion, and to a life again devoted to the Lord in faithfulness and believing obedience; 2) he appears in the exercise of the priestly function, praying and sacrificing, between God and the people, in order to turn His grace and mercy to the people, that the return of God to His people in the manifestation of His help may correspond to the return of the people to God; 3) as Judge, he governs and directs the whole national life, which was inwardly united and bound fast together on the basis of a religious-moral elevation and renewal, in order that they might be consecrated to the Lord in all their members and in all the affairs of life, and serve Him in right and righteousness.—“ Samuel’s judicial work not only proceeded from the prophetical, but was constantly guided by it. For we may presume not only that he gave legal decisions with prophetical wisdom, but also that in general he conducted the affairs of the people as a man who had the Spirit of the Lord.—Samuel showed himself here (1 Samuel 7:12 sq.) a hero by the spiritual power of faith and prayer (Hebrews 11:32 sqq.). This latter may be called an inreaching of his priestly work into the judicial. For certainly it is especially the business of the priest to pray for the people.” (Nägelsbach, Herz. R.-E. XIII. 397.)
3. The reality of a thorough conversion to the Lord with all the heart must be shown by an earnest and decided breaking with everything that is opposed to God, especially with everything to which the heart clings as its idol. The heart must not desire to be divided between the service of idols and the service of God, and cannot be divided between two mutually exclusive powers. “No one can serve two masters,” Matthew 6:24. God the Master lays claim to the whole heart; He requires that its service be given to Him alone and exclusively in the obedience of faith. Exclusiveness in respect to the living God, who claims all honor exclusively for Himself, is of the essence of revealed religion; and in this exclusiveness is grounded its universality, everything must serve and be subject to Him alone.
4. The true welfare of a people’s life is based on its proper attitude towards the living God. As defection from Him brings calamity and destruction on all the inward and outward possessions of the national life, infringement or suppression of freedom by foreign power, disruption of unity by strife and discord, so only by return to Him can true inward freedom and elevation and true unity be secured. And, when the national life, in consequence of defection from God, is covered with moral abominations, purification from the defilement of sin must proceed from the innermost life by the complete and thorough conversion of the hearts of individuals to the Lord. Sanctification, purification, unification of the whole national life to a life consecrated to God, serving Him alone, happy under His rule in His kingdom, exists only so far as the individual life has its root in the right attitude of heart towards God, and there stands firm and immovable.
5. The fixed heart (“fixing [Eng. A. V. ‘preparing’] the heart unto the Lord ”) is, on the one hand, the attestation of the conversion and purification of the inner life, and, on the other hand, the condition, on which alone the whole life can remain permanently and exclusively in the Lord’s service, temptations to defection from Him be victoriously withstood, and idolatry in the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life be thoroughly put away. The exhortation “confirm, prepare your hearts,” does not exclude, but presupposes the truth “it is good that the heart be confirmed by grace” [Hebrews 13:9].
6. Samuel’s intercession for the whole people was a priestly act, whereby he, with the same right as Moses, who also was not officially a priest, could come into God’s presence as representative of the people. “He, too, who by His personal dignity stands near to God, the Prophet, may thus approach with intercession and expiatory acts for his people. So Moses, Exodus 32:10 sq., 32; Numbers 14:12 sqq. (Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 8:19; Leviticus 8:28). But it pertains, to the office of the priesthood, and may be done by them, therefore, in the whole body of their official acts.” (Schultz, Alttest. Theol., 189 sq.).
7. The confession “We have sinned against the Lord,” made by the whole people, presupposes the correct knowledge of the essence of sin as the transgression of His holy will, involves the admission that they were worthy of punishment before the Lord, to whom man is bound by his sin as a debtor, and is the condition of help and salvation from the living God. As the individual can regain his proper relation to the Lord only by such humble, sincere, penitent confession, so for the people in general there is no other way out of grievous sin-wrought corruption and self-incurred misery to a new national life in the fear of God but this way of a common abasement before the Lord, with reflection on their relation to the holy God, and the penitent confession “Against thee have I sinned.” Comp. Psalms 51:6 .
8. Fasting is one of those outward things which are an expression and therefore a symbol of the sorrowful spirit and humble disposition before the Lord, like rending the garments, strewing ashes on the head, and putting on a coarse garment (comp. Joel 2:12-29.2.13). Later this religious-morally significant fasting was expressed by a word (צוּם) which indicated its form, namely, bodily privation; but in the Law itself we find only a phrase which expresses its significance, namely, “afflict the soul” (Leviticus 16:24; Leviticus 16:31; Leviticus 23:27; Leviticus 23:32; Numbers 29:7; comp. Isaiah 58:3 sq.; Psalms 35:13 sq.).—Legal provision for fasting by the whole people was made only in the single case of the Day of Atonement, when they were as a body thus to manifest the penitent, humble disposition, without which they could not hope for forgiveness of their sin, Leviticus 16:29. Elsewhere fasting is merely allowed by Moses.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1 Samuel 7:3. Osiander: Those who wish to be shielded against misfortune or delivered from it, must begin, not with weapons of warfare, but with true repentance, Jeremiah 3:12.—Cramer: True repentance is the best reformation in religious matters, Ezra 9:6 sq.; 1 Samuel 10:1 sq.—Halle Bib.: Conversion that is not with all the heart, is only a hateful hypocrisy, Deuteronomy 4:29.—S. Schmid: Only that is a true conversion which does away with all ungodliness, and especially with idolatry, and thus prepares the heart to serve God alone, Hosea 7:16.—[Hall: How happily effectual is a word spoken in season! Samuel’s exhortation wrought upon the hearts of Israel, and fetched water out of their eyes, confessions and vows out of their lips, and their false gods out of their hands.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:4. “And served Jehovah only.” It is a mournfully common thing among those who have knowledge of the true God to be striving to combine His service with that of idols, or of the world. Not only is it seen here, but in Elijah’s exhortation: Either Jehovah or Baal, whichever is God, but not first one and then the other (1 Kings 18:21); in our Lord’s great word: “No man can serve two masters.……Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24); and in that of the last surviving apostle: “Love not the world..… If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Yet how many of us to-day are endeavoring, perhaps with painful earnestness, to love both the Father and the world, to serve both God and Mammon. The many cases of this sort do far more weaken our current Christianity than the few cases of gross vice.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 7:5-9.7.6. [Henry: Ministers should pray for those to whom they preach, that God by His grace would make the preaching effectual. And when we come together in religious assemblies, we must remember that it is as much our business there to join in public prayers, as it is to hear a sermon.—Tr.]—Starke: No intercession, not even that of Christ Himself, can stand a man in stead, if he is not truly penitent.—Legislatures and Congresses, if any thing good is to be done in them, should be opened with penitence and prayer.—S. Schmid: Then especially is it proper to pray for our neighbor, when he is so conducting himself as to afford hope that, according to the divine plan, the prayer may be heard.—If candid confession of sin is wanting, the repentance is not honest.
1 Samuel 7:2. The blessing of national mourning in a time of universal distress: 1) Penitent recognition of the national sin which has occasioned the distress; 2) Painful experience of the mighty hand of the Lord which has inflicted it; 3) Sorrowful, penitent seeking after the Lord’s consolation and help, which ends in finding.
1 Samuel 7:3. Samuel’s sermon on repentance to Israel when again seeking the Lord’s face: 1) The instruction as to what true repentance is (if ye return with all your hearts); 2) The demand for that by which this repentance shall be really and fruitfully shown: (a) put away the strange gods from among you, b) direct your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only); 3) The promise of deliverance and help (and He will deliver you).
1 Samuel 7:4. Proofs of genuine and hearty repentance by actions: 1) By doing away with all idolatry of worldly life; 2) By serving the Lord only in a life exclusively consecrated to him.
1 Samuel 7:5. Intercession to the Lord, for the salvation of others: 1) Its exercise unlimited, the individual as well as the whole people being its subject (comp. 1 Timothy 2:1-54.2.2); 2) Its answer conditioned by the need of salvation and the capacity for salvation of those for whom it is made.
1 Samuel 7:6. The penitent confession—“We have sinned against the Lord:” 1) Who has to make it (the individual, family, congregation, school and church, the whole people); 2) How it is to be made (with attestation of its truth and uprightness by deeds of repentance); 3) What are its consequences (forgiveness of sin, deliverance from the power of the wicked one, salvation).
II. Israel’s Victory over the Philistines under the Lead of Samuel. 1 Samuel 7:7-9.7.14
7And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh [Mizpah12], the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And 8when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord [Jehovah] our 9God for us,13 that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it14 for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord [Jehovah], and Samuel cried unto the Lord [Jehovah] for Israel, and the Lord 10[Jehovah] heard [answered] him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel; but [and] the Lord [Jehohovah] thundered with a great thunder [noise] on that day upon the Philistines, 11and discomfited15 them, and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh [Mizpah], and pursued the Philistines, and smote them 12until [as far as] they came [om. they came] under Bethcar.16 Then [And] Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh [Mizpah] and Shen,17 and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying [and said], Hitherto18 hath the Lord [Jehovah] helped us 13So [And] the Philistines were subdued,19 and they [om. they] came no more into the coast of Israel; and the hand of the Lord [Jehovah] was against the Philistines all 14the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even [om. even] unto Gath; and the coasts thereof20 did Israel deliver21 out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.22
III. Summary Statement of Samuel’s Judicial Work. 1 Samuel 7:15-9.7.17
15, 16And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year23 in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh [Mizpah], and judged Israel 17 in all those places.24 And his return was to Ramah,13 for there was his house; and there he built an altar unto the Lord [Jehovah].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Samuel 7:7-9.7.14. Israel’s victory over the Philistines under the lead of Samuel.—The last words in 1 Samuel 7:6 referred to Samuel’s judicial work in Mizpah, after the general assembly for repentance and prayer had been held with the whole people. The express mention of this judicial work at the end of the narrative in 1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.6 confirms the view (which is besides suggested from the whole connection) that this popular assembly was not concerned with military preparations for an attack on the Philistines, but only with arranging the internal affairs of the national life, the religious-moral and civil, according to the divine law. We have seen how Samuel there acted at the same time as prophet and judge, and how the function of priest connected itself immediately with that of prophet. It now falls to his lot, like the earlier judges, to fulfil his judicial mission against foreign enemies also, and show himself the leader of the people against their oppressors; this he does indeed in quite a different manner, not sword in hand, but wielding the weapons of prayer, and gaining for his people a victory, from which dates the history of Israel’s deliverance from the hands of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 7:7. The Philistines hear of the assembly of the children of Israel. Either they supposed it to be a military one, knowing nothing of its real end (Berl. Bib.), or they well knew this end, and wished to surprise the Israelites in their unarmed condition (Joseph.). Their princes went up, since the assembly was held on the high land, and on Mizpah, which was still higher than this.—The following description of the behaviour of the children of Israel and the conduct of Samuel, there being no hint of arming against the Philistines, or of an attempt by Israel to make a military movement against the advancing foe, shows clearly that the Israelites were not in readiness for such an attack, and had made no military preparations. Not the arms of Israel put the Philistines to flight, but the prayers of Samuel, and the thunders above their heads manifesting the might of the Lord, the terrors of which the Philistines had not forgotten since their experience with the ark.—When the Israelites heard of the advance of the Philistine princes with their hosts, they were afraid of them. This is inconceivable, if the assembly was held to equip themselves inwardly and outwardly for the war of freedom against the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 7:8 the people press Samuel to beseech God with unceasing and instant crying for their deliverance out of the hand of the Philistines. The solicitude corresponds with Samuel’s previous promise to pray to the Lord for the people in this assembly (1 Samuel 7:5). The object of the petition, salvation out of the hand of the Philistines, had already been promised by him on the condition of sincere return to the Lord (1 Samuel 7:3). Now the moment of fulfilment has come. The condition is complied with, the children of Israel beseech Samuel: “cease not to cry to the Lord, our God.” They have found their God again, after whom they had till now sighed and mourned. Samuel, having by his intercession first restored the covenant-communion between the penitent people and the pardoning God, now intercedes for the deliverance of the people, and thus performs the judicial act which, for the earlier judges, was coincident with their entrance into their office. Samuel had first, as prophet and judge, to lead the people to a thorough reformation of their inner life, before he could begin the work of external deliverance. He began it as judge and as priest at the same time, as is further related in 1 Samuel 7:9. Samuel represented the people in twofold priestly function before the Lord, with offering and prayer. The offering consisted of a young tender lamb, which was still nourished with milk; though, according to the Law, Leviticus 22:27, it must have been seven days “with its mother.” A burnt-offering (עוֹלַה) is offered as sign of the complete consecration of the whole man, here of the whole people, to the Lord in the consecration and devotion of the whole life to Him, as is set forth by the fact that the whole animal (הַכֹּל Leviticus 1:9) was burnt in the fire of the altar, and so ascended [the Heb. word means “that which ascends”], in distinction from the offerings which were only partially burnt on the altar. This is expressed by the addition of the word “wholly” (בָּלִיל) which is also used of the vegetable and meat-offerings which were to be wholly burned (Leviticus 6:15). In poetic language (Deuteronomy 33:10) it stands for עוֹלָה, burnt offering, while here, as in Ps. 51:21  (there connected by וְ “and”) it is an explanatory addition to indicate that the burnt-offering is a whole-offering, the offerers not receiving a part of it, as in the Shelamim [peace-offerings] or Zebachim [slain-offerings]. The idea of the whole-offering is thus specially again expressed, because the resolution to devote themselves to the Lord fully and undividedly, a devotion conditioned on the whole-hearted conversion and the purpose to serve the Lord alone (1 Samuel 7:3 sqq.) is expressed by the presentation of the burnt-offering. In accordance with the people’s demand (1 Samuel 7:8) Samuel combined with the offering earnest, instant prayer for them.—And the Lord answered him, is the declaration that the prayer for help and deliverance was heard, comp. Psalms 3:5; Psalms 4:2. [See also Psalms 9:6; Jeremiah 15:1, for the estimation in which Samuel’s power in prayer was held.—Tr.]. The answer of the Lord is given in the occurrence related in 1 Samuel 7:10 sqq. in the factual help of the Lord, not merely in the thunder (Keil), though the latter was the cause of the consternation and confusion of the Philistines. The vividness of the description is noticeable: Samuel is engaged in offering the sacrifice, during which the Philistines approach nearer and nearer, Israel is waiting on Samuel’s prayer for the Lord’s help, terrific peals of thunder follow one after another, thereby the Philistines are confused and confounded (comp. Joshua 10:10), they take to flight, their plan is frustrated.
1 Samuel 7:11. The men of Israel now advance from Mizpah, and pursue them as far as under Bethcar = “House of the lamb or of the meadow, the field.” Jos. Ant. VI., 2, 1 Samuel 2:0 : Corrœ. A place called Corrœ lay between Jericho and Bethshean; V. Raumer (4 ed., p. 178, R. 158 sq.) thinks that it could not be this place. It remains at least doubtful.—After this victory was won, a monument was set up in remembrance of the help of the Lord there experienced. Samuel set a memorial stone between Mizpah and Shen (“Tooth,” either a prominent rock-formation (comp. 1 Samuel 14:4) or a place situated on a crag near Mizpah). The name Ebenezer [“stone of help”], which he gives it, is at the same time explained: Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.—This was the thanksgiving in the name of the whole people as answer to the Lord’s answer, the accompanying explanation of the act of thanks. The “hitherto” points to the fact that this victory did not complete the deliverance from the yoke of the Philistines. [Wellhausen would explain Ebenezer as = “this be witness (עֵד) that Jahveh hath helped us.”—Tr.].
1 Samuel 7:13-9.7.14, state the happy results for Israel of this victory over the Philistines, gained without arms, the wonderful gift of God’s hand. First is mentioned the humiliation [Eng. A. V. “subdued”] of the enemy, in consequence of the manner in which this victory was gained.25 It is then declared that, in consequence of this victory, the Philistines made no more such incursions into the coasts of Israel. The following words: “and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel,” are improperly restricted to the period of his active judgeship (Lyra, Brent, Nägelsb., Herz. XIII. 403 sq.); since Samuel, according to 1 Samuel 7:15, judged Israel all the days of his life, they must be understood of his whole life-time. During this time the Philistines continued to occupy the land (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Samuel 13:13), though the occupation was territorially restricted. The continuance of the Philistine oppression is presupposed in these words themselves: “the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines,” comp. 1 Samuel 14:52. After the victory at Mizpah they could gain no more territory, and in Israel’s battles with them, however much of the land they still held, the hand of the Lord was mighty against them so long as Samuel lived, therefore during Saul’s reign also, since Samuel died only a short time before Saul; the help of the Lord against these mightiest foes of the land continued during Samuel’s life-time. See Introduction, p. 9 sq. Thus is intimated the mediating position which Samuel in this respect also assumed between God and the people of Israel as their representative and intercessor.
1 Samuel 7:14. A further consequence of the victory was the regaining of the cities which belonged to the land of Israel with the territories appertaining to them, lying on the Philistine frontier from Ekron to Gath. These two cities are not included, but indicate on the Philistine side the direction and limits of the space in which the Israelites regained the lost cities and territories. The sense is: “Israel recovered their cities which lay on the Philistine borders, reckoning those borders from Ekron to Gath” (Seb. Schmid). Finally, a consequence of the abasement of the Philistines was the peace between Israel and the Amorites. These “are mentioned here, because they were in the region in question next to the Philistines the mightiest enemies of Israel, comp. Joshua 10:0; Judges 1:34 sqq.” (Thenius). According to the latter passage (Judges 1:34) they “especially forced the Danites back out of the plain into the mountains” (Keil).26
1 Samuel 7:15-9.7.17. Summary view of Samuel’s judicial work. 1 Samuel 7:15 gives the duration of his office; that the latter dates from the day of Mizpah (Keil) is by no means certain; but its precise commencement is not stated. All the days of his life denotes the period up to his death. His sons were his assistants up to the establishment of the kingdom. During Saul’s government he kept unchanged the position of a prophet, who employed the authority of the divine will for the direction of the national life, the mediating priestly position between God and the people; but he also, as last Judge, held in his hands the highest control of the theocracy and the kingdom.
1 Samuel 7:16 sqq. The way in which he fulfilled the dnties of the office. He went round every year, holding court at three places: Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah. These were at the same time holy places, in which Jehovah was worshiped, where therefore the people could be more easily brought together in large assemblies, and those who desired legal decisions could more easily meet Samuel. Ewald’s supposition that Samuel visited one of these places at each of the great annual feasts is properly objected to by Thenius, with the remark “that at that time there was hardly a regular feast.” The question whether this Gilgal was the old place in the Jordan-valley between the Jordan and Jericho (Joshua 4:19), or the one southwest of Shiloh near the Jerusalem-road, now Jiljilia (Deut. 11:38; 1 Kings 2:1), must be decided in favor of the former, for the reason that Samuel would certainly choose for such assemblies the place which was consecrated by its historical association and its religious importance. The order of the names here does not warrant us in deciding (Keil) in favor of the other, the northern Gilgal.—אֵת כָּל־הַמְּ׳ [Eng. A. V.: “in all those place”] must be taken as local Accus., and אֵת as Acc. particle. It cannot here mean “near;” “it is used indeed to express the proximity of one place to another (Judges 4:11; 1 Kings 9:26), and still oftener of things or persons to persons, but not that things or persons are close by places, for which we find only עִם or בְּ (Joshua 24:26; Judges 18:3)” (Böttcher).
1 Samuel 7:17. From his circuits Samuel returned always to Ramah. Here was his permanent residence as householder. In respect to his work there, we have two brief statements: 1) he acted as judge, when he was not absent on his circuit. (On שָׁפָט, Ew., Gr., § 138 a: “the ă of the Perf. becomes â only in pause, except once in 1 Samuel 7:17.”) His judicial labors were therefore uninterrupted. 2) There he built an altar to the Lord.—The priesthood had declined, the central sanctuary was broken up; instead of the local and the institutional-personal uniting point in the high-priest, Samuel forms from now on for the religious life and service also of Israel the personal centre consecrated by God’s choice and guidance. His priestly work continues along with his judicial, both embraced and supported by the prophetical. Besides the already-existing holy places, where prayer and sacrifice were offered to God, he makes his residence a place of worship. The direction and furtherance of matters of religious life and worship is in his hands. Having effected a thorough reformation of the deep-sunken theocratic life on the basis of the renewed relation between God and the people, he now proceeds vigorously, as judge, priest and prophet, to build it up and finish it on this foundation.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. On the significance of the burnt-offering as a whole offering, see on 1 Samuel 7:8. It is the sacrificium latreuticum [latreutic sacrifice, or sacrifice of service], since, by the complete consecration of the animal, it denotes, for the individual and the nation, the complete consecration and devotion of the whole life to the Lord. The burnt-offering has a propitiatory significance for the offerer in a general way (not, however, in respect to particular offences which require special expiation), on which see Oehler in Herz., R. E. X. 635. The fresh, tender, sucking lamb, which was used in the offering at Mizpah, was intended, perhaps, to set forth how the people, new-born by their conversion, should, in the first freshness of their new life, dedicate themselves wholly and undividedly to the Lord, to be His property and serve Him. The conjunction of the burnt-offering with prayer is founded on the fact, that both express the same disposition of complete consecration of the heart to God.
2. The sacrificial service, together with prayer, was conducted for the whole people by Samuel (as formerly by Moses, Exodus 17:9; Exodus 32:25 sqq.), though he was simply a Levite, and not a priest; for he acted as mediator between God and His people by virtue of His prophetical character and work alone. He therefore filled the office of priest in an extraordinary way, sentence of rejection having been passed on its legal incumbents. On Samuel’s further priestly work in offering sacrifices at the holy places of the land, comp. 1Sa 9:12; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 13:8 sqq.; 1 Samuel 16:2 sqq. Samuel exercised the priestly function of prayer and intercession elsewhere, 1 Samuel 12:16 sqq.; 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35.
3. In the period of the Judges the prophetic work was completely (with the single exception of Deborah, Judges 4:4 sqq.) separate from the judicial, and the former was as good as absorbed in the latter; both are again united in the person of Samuel, in that he thus shows how the external guidance of the covenant-people can and ought to rest essentially only on an internal, religious-legal foundation. “As he is thus the founder of the Kingdom in its genuine theocratic form, so is his priestly work also the preparation for the flourishing condition to which the cultus attained in the Davidic-Solomonic period; it was necessary to break with the law-opposing priesthood of Eli and his race, in order that the establishment of a true priesthood, as it was new-formed under David and Solomon, might become possible” Hävern., Vorles. über bibl. Theol.). The basis for this was given in the Law itself by its teaching of the ideal priesthood, which was to find its realization in the whole people, comp. Exodus 19:6 : “Ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests.” Like Moses, who during the seven days of the consecration of the ordinary priests, acted as priest (Leviticus 8:0.), and with priestly petition interceded for the people with the Lord (Exodus 32:31-2.32.32; Psalms 106:23), so Samuel also, on the ground of this ideal priesthood, whose essential elements were sincere union and communion with God, the might of faith, and the gift of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer, had the divinely-given right, under existing circumstances, when the institution of the priesthood had sunk and left a terrible gap, to discharge the duties of the ordinary priesthood in sacrifice and prayer; and the first exercise of this priestly calling, to represent the people before God with intercession and prayer, was at the request of the people themselves who through him had been turned to God. See the two-fold testimony of the Scripture to Samuel’s power in prayer, Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1, and comp. Sir 46:19 sqq. As to his subsequent praying, see 1 Samuel 8:6; 1Sa 12:16-23; 1 Samuel 15:18.
4. The monument between Mizpah and Shen represents an important epoch in the history of Samuel. What he, and through him the Lord, had hitherto done for Israel stamped him as the great reformer of the Theocracy, and secured the restoration of a united national and theocratic life in its fundamental characteristics, and on the most essential foundations. The victory over the Philistines supplied the capstone. In all that happened up to this victory and the consequent freer position of the people over against the world without, he recognizes the Lord’s help, setting forth this recognition in the humble acknowledgment “hitherto,” etc., while he at the same time points to the future, and shows the need for further help from the Lord in respect to what is still to be done. The stone Ebenezer is a monument of those revelations of the might and the grace of the living God, occasioned by sin and penitence, wandering and return, which are the impelling power in the whole political history of the Old Covenant.
[Wordsworth: What a contrast between the event now recorded at Ebenezer, and that recorded as having occurred a few years before at the same place (1 Samuel 4:1)! At that time Israel had the ark with them, the visible sign of God’s presence; but the Lord Himself had forsaken them on account of their sins;.… the priests were slain, and the ark was taken. Now they have not the ark, but they have repented of their sins, and Samuel is with them, and the Lord hearkens to His prayers, and the Philistines are smitten..… Hence it appears that outward ordinances are of no avail without holiness, and that God can raise up Samuels, and endue them with extraordinary graces, and enable them to do great acts, and give comfort and victory to the Church of God by their means.—Tr.]
5. On the total significance of Samuel’s position and work at this epoch of the development of the Old Testament history, see the remarks in the preceding exegetical elucidations.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1 Samuel 7:7-9.7.14. Need teaches to pray: 1) Whom? Only him who (a) lets himself be drawn by need with penitent heart and believing mind unto God, in order to seek help from Him, and (b) despairs of helping himself by his own power, and relies only on God’s hand; 2) How? (a) heartily, (b) unceasingly; 3) With what result? (a) God hears, (b) God delivers from the need.
[1 Samuel 7:7. Henry: 1) How evil sometimes seems to come out of good. The religious meeting of the Israelites at Mizpah brought trouble upon them from the Philistines, which, perhaps, tempted them to wish they had staid at home.…So when sinners begin to repent and reform, they must expect that Satan will muster all his force against them. 2) How good is at length brought out of that evil. Israel could never be threatened more seasonably than at this time, when they were repenting and praying … bad policy for the Philistines to make war upon Israel at a time when they were making their peace with God.…Thus He makes man’s wrath to praise Him.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 7:8-9.7.10. The power of believing prayer in threatening peril: 1) As an earnest pressing to the heart of God in view of the greatness of the peril; 2) As a constant supplication for His help in view of the tardiness of help in the midst of peril; 3) As a perfect self-devotion to the Lord in view of the ever-increasing peril.
1 Samuel 7:7-9.7.12. The life of prayer in communion with God: 1) Calling on the Lord; 2) Answer from the Lord; 3) Thanksgiving to the Lord.
[1 Samuel 7:9. (“And Samuel cried… and the Lord answered him”). Samuel’s power in prayer. 1) Asking such great things; 2) Answered so promptly. Note that Samuel was himself the child of prayer. Also that “ the forty years’ domination of the Philistines over Israel (Judges 13:1) could not be overthrown by the supernatural strength of Samson, but was terminated by the prayers of Samuel” (Wordsworth). As Abraham was the great pattern of faith and Job of patience, so Samuel appears to have been always afterwards regarded as a grand example of power in prayer, Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 7:12. The cry, Ebenezer, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us, a cry 1) Of thankful recollection of past experiences of the Lord’s help (hitherto!); 2) Of humble testimony before the Lord, that nothing has been done by our power, and that His help alone has maintained and preserved our life; 3) Of confident hope, in view of further need of help to the same end.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.”
[These well-known lines are given as equivalent to a German hymn which Erdmann refers to but does not quote.—Tr.]
[Samuel a pattern to religious Reformers: (1) In early life, amid evils he could not cure, he yet gained the confidence of all (1 Samuel 3:19-9.3.21; 1 Samuel 4:1; 1 Samuel 12:2-9.12.4). (2) After long waiting he saw and seized the opportunity of effecting a reformation (1 Samuel 7:2-9.7.3). (3) He put the inward first, but insisted also on outward reform (1 Samuel 7:3-9.7.4). (4) He did not rely on preaching alone, but was much in prayer (1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 7:8-9.7.9). (5) He gave all the glory to God (1 Samuel 7:12). (6) He strove by wise and faithful administration to make the reformation permanent.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:3. Erdmann makes the whole of 1 Samuel 7:2 protasis, and begins the apodosis with 1 Samuel 7:3, in which the result is not materially different from the translation given above, where the apodosis is made to begin with “a long time, so as to preserve as far as possible the peculiar Heb. connection by the conjunction “and.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:3. Syr. “fanes.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:3. The Heb. word (הָקִין) means “fix,” “establish.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:6. Syr. “because,” as if the Heb. were אֲשֶׁר, which gives in some respects a preferable sense, but it is not externally supported.—Tr.]
[Or we may just as well understand the repentance to have occurred at the end of the period, the intermediate time representing Samuel’s labors in exhortation, the result of which was the repentance and conversion of the people.—Tr.]
[The word נהה is variously treated by the ancient versions and commentators. The Greek renders ἐπέβλεψε “looked to” (perhaps a loose rendering, or possibly they read נבט [Schleusner]), and ἐπέστρεψε “turned to” (general rendering, or perhaps from נחה), the Syr. has shedo “inclined to,” and the Arab, aqbala “approached,” both of which resemble the second Greek rendering. (It may be noted that Heb. נהנ, the Niph. of which would mean “were led” “turned,” is also used in the sense of “lamenting,” Nahum 2:8). The Lat. “requievit” and the Lat. transl. of Targ. “quieti fuerunt” (so Böttcher) suggest the stem נוּח As to the Chald. rendering (נהי) Böttcher’s remark (quoted and accepted by Thenius and Erdmann), that Buxtorf’s translation “assembled” is without foundation, seems somewhat rash, for the Ithp. of this verb is employed in Jeremiah 3:17 to render Niph. of קוה, and elsewhere (Jeremiah 30:21; Jeremiah 31:22) is to be so rendered. (Levy, Chald., Lex.). Rashi explains the Heb. נהה as = משך “to draw,” and so explains the Chald., but Abarbanel renders the former “lament.” It would seem therefore that the word was read sometimes with ה, sometimes with ח, and that there was a strong disposition to render it by “assembled” (so Philippson and Davies); yet altogether it appears better to say with Maurer “prior significatio (lament) certior est.”—Tr.]
[Germ.: rückkehr zu … Gott, dem man ... den rücken gekehrt hatte.—Tr.]
[In the Old Test. (as in the New) the word “heart” (לֵב) means not merely the seat or faculty of feeling, but the whole spiritual incorporeal nature, thinking, feeling, willing.–Tr.]
[Baalim and Ashtaroth are the plurals of Baal and Ashtoreth (the plu. form signifying different deities of the name, or gods in general, or statues of the gods), ancient deities of Babylon and Assyria, and thence adopted by the Canaanitish nations. Baal, Bil, Bel, is “lord” or supreme deity. Ashtoreth, Astarte, Istar, was the goddess of war, and probably also the Assyrian Venus; the origin of the name is uncertain (it is not ἀστήρ). See Rawlinson, “Ancient Monarchies,” I. 138, Schraer, “Die Keilinschriften u. das A. T.,” p. 79 sq., Bunsen, “Egypt’s Place in Univ. Hist.,” Eng. Tr., IV. 349 sq.—Tr.]
[Stanley (Sin. and Pal., Ch. 4) identifies Neby Samwil with the “high place of Gibeon” (1 Kings 3:4), and Mizpah with Scopus, which, he says, meets all the requirements of the notices of Mizpah, “the assemblies held there by Samuel—the fortification of it by Asa with the stones removed from ‘the Mount’ of Benjamin (1 Kings 11:22)—the seat of the Chaldean governor after the capture of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:6)—the wailing place of the Maccabees (1Ma 3:46).” Mr. Grove (Smith’s Bib. Dict., Art. Mizpah) also adopts this view, laying stress on the κατέναντι of 1Ma 3:46, for which, he thinks, Mizpah is too far from Jerusalem (five miles). Scopus is described by Josephus (B. J. 2,19, 4) as on the north quarter of the city, seven stadia therefrom, and is now generally held to be “the broad ridge which forms the continuation of the Mount of Olives to the north and east [west?], from which the traveler gains his first view of the Holy City.” This view seems probable. Dr. Hackett, however, remarks, in a note to Mr. Grove’s Art., that Neby Samwil “is so marked a feature of the landscape, that it may very justly be said to confront (κατέναντι) the observer as he looks towards it from Jerusalem.”–Tr.]
[In Genesis 49:4 the image is the boiling up of water—denoting rash and heedless passion.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:7. Mizpah is written always with the Art.=“the watch-tower”—the significance of the name continuing to be felt. It is every where Mizpah, except in Joshua 18:26. Mizpeh was a town in the plain of Judah.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:8. Literally: “keep not silence from us, from crying,” etc. Comp. Psalms 28:1.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:9. The Kethib has the shorter personal suffix, the Qeri the longer.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:10. ויהמם—Qal Imperf. of המם with pronom. suffix.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:11. For Beth-car Chald. has Beth-sharon, “house of the plain;” and Syr. Bethyashan, “house of age.” The second seems a corruption or clerical error; the first is apparently translation of Bethcar, “house of the plain.” Whether there is here a reference to the plain of Sharon is uncertain.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:12. Shen, always with the Art.—“the tooth;” that is, “the crag,”—whether name of a town or a rock is not clear. Syr. has Yashan, “ancient,” and Sept. τῆς παλαιᾶς, both apparently reading ישׁן in the Heb., “old,”—from which, however, we can hardly infer that Shen was an inhabited place (Wellhausen).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:12. Hitherto—that is, “up to this time,” not “up to this place.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:13. Literally: “humbled.” Erdmann: gedemüthigt.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:14. That is, of the cities; not (as Sept.) of Israel.—Tr.]
[Ver 14. Syr. wrongly: “the Lord delivered Israel,” etc. The reference here is to Israel’s military prowess.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:14. Erdmann has, by typographical error, Ammonites.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:16. מדי, from מִן, “from,” and דַּי, “sufficiency”—“as often as.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 7:17. Sept.: “sacred places”—an exegetical paraphrase; or, they read מקדשׁים instead of מקומות. For Ramah Sept. has ’Αρμαθαίμ. See on 1 Samuel 1:1.—Tr.]
[The word here employed (כנע), meaning originally “to humble,” is also frequently used in the sense of “subdue,” and it is better so to understand it here, and not, as Erdmann takes it, in the sense of a humiliation from their perception of the miraculous intervention of God.—In this sentence the words “of the enemy” are not in the German, probably from typographical error; the sense requires some such insertion.—Tr.].
[The name “Amorite” is given to various tribes on both sides of the Jordan, and either the race was a widely extended one, or the name is sometimes used in a general way for the inhabitants of Palestine. The word is now generally held to mean “mountaineers” (Numbers 13:29), and is by some supposed to be a local, rather than a tribal designation, but in Judges 1:34 the Amorites seem to be dwellers in the plain. Apparently they had been at war with the Israelites before Samuel’s victory.—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany