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1 Samuel 7:2. That the time was long—twenty years— Houbigant renders this verse much more intelligibly: but after many days had passed from the time that the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, and when the twentieth year was passed, the whole house of Israel sought after the Lord with tears. Samuel was now grown up, and by his instrumentality the Israelites, after this period of rebellion against their God, were recovered to a right sense of themselves and their duty.
1 Samuel 7:3. Put away the strange gods, and Ashtaroth— Put away the strange gods, Baalim and Ashtaroth. Houb.
1 Samuel 7:6. They gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out— The reason why they drew water and poured it out, says Houbigant, is expressed in the next words; for they fasted that day. So David poured on the ground the water which some of his soldiers brought him at the hazard of their lives through the midst of the enemy; for this was a part of the ceremonial of fasting. The Chaldee, however, renders the words, they poured out their souls in penitence, like waters before the Lord; and Grotius expressly asserts, that the waters poured out signify tears. There are a variety of other conjectures on this passage. L'Empereur refers the words to those in Isa 12:3 compared with John 7:37-38; supposing that the water was poured out in token of joy, after they had fasted and confessed their sins, (for he translates the words after they had fasted on that day,) as they always did on the feast of tabernacles: libations of water were anciently very common. We learn from Porphyry, that at the beginning libations were usually made with water; honey was afterwards employed, and then wine. See Porphyry de Abstinent. lib. ii. p. 156. We have proofs of this in Homer too, Od. lib. xiv. ver. 350. and Virg. AEn. iv. ver. 512. Though the law ordains nothing respecting libations of water, it nowhere forbids them, especially upon extraordinary occasions. See Calmet on the place.
1 Samuel 7:10. The Lord thundered with a great thunder— Baldwin the Second, with other princes, marching to Damascus, fully resolved to take it by surrender or storm, met with a check in foraging, which enraged the army so much, that they immediately flew to their arms to chastise the affront; when suddenly God, against whose will men can do nothing, sent such violent showers, such darkness in the sky, such difficulty in the roads by means of the vast quantities of water, that scarcely any one could hope for life; which darkness of the air, and thickness of the clouds, the irregular blowing of the winds, the thunders, and continual lightnings, signified before hand. But as the human mind is ignorant of futurity, they did not attend to the divine patience calling to them to refrain, but strove to proceed in an impossible attempt. The intemperateness of the weather, however, obliged them to desist; and made those who had been at first such a terror to their enemies that they thought they had no means of escaping, look upon it as a great thing to be able to get back again. This account, says the author of the Observations, I cite as no improper comment on the present passage. See Observations, p. 352.
REFLECTIONS.—Satan will begin to roar when sinners begin to pray.
1. No sooner was Israel assembled at Mizpeh to repent, than the Philistines took the alarm, and assembled to crush them, suspecting (as the suspicious are very ready to do) that their designs were evil, and construing their repentance towards God into rebellion against them. Note; The first struggles for glory are often the hardest.
2. The news terrifies the people; broken with their long servitude, though they had never less reason to fear than when thus found on their knees before God, they cry to Samuel to help them with his prayers, more dependent now on the arm of God for their safety than on the arm of flesh. Note; Weak as we are to encounter the numerous hosts of our spiritual enemies, we have a prevailing advocate with the Father; and if he pray for us, while we trust in him it is impossible that we should fail.
3. Samuel, deeply interested in Israel's safety, is as ready to pray as they to desire him. A sucking lamb he offers for a burnt-offering, and with the blood of atonement to plead, in faith and prayer approaches the throne of grace. Note; (1.) Jesus Christ is the slain lamb, offered up to God for us sinners. (2.) Through the efficacy of his sacrifice, we may come before God; assured that whatsoever we ask, believing, we shall receive.
4. God hears, and answers his request. The Philistines drew near while the sacrifice was offering; and never was an attack so ill-timed for them, so critical for Israel. Armed with hot thunder bolts, in wrath the God of Israel arose; and who can stand before the blasting breath of his displeasure? The flashing lightnings glare around, the terrible thunders roll above them, terror and amaze seize their affrighted hosts, they turn, they fly; while the men of Israel, shouting, pursue their defenceless foes, and smite them down like sheep appointed for the slaughter. Note; (1.) When God arises his enemies must be scattered. (2.) Glorious and instant are the answers that God often gives to the prayer of faith.
5. Samuel commemorates the victory, by setting up a great stone on the spot, and calling it Ebenezer, The Stone of help. And it is remarkable, that this was the very place where Israel, chap. 1Sa 4:1 were defeated by the Philistines; in which passage this name is given it by anticipation. Note; (1.) Answers of prayer deserve memorials of gratitude. (2.) Every christian may, by experience, set up his Ebenezer, and, whilst he acknowledges past help, confidently depend on the continuance of the same protection.
1 Samuel 7:11. Under Beth-car— Beth-shan, says Houbigant, after the Syriac and Arabic.
1 Samuel 7:14. There was peace between Israel and the Amorites— The misfortunes which befel the Philistines influenced the conduct of all the other Canaanites. The Amorites, who, on account of their superiority, sometimes gave name to all the rest, continued in a respectful peace, without attempting any thing to disturb the tranquillity which God gave to his people.
1 Samuel 7:15, &c. And Samuel judged Israel— "According to Le Clerc," says Mr. Locke, "these words could not have been written by Samuel. But surely the objection is very weak; for all that the text says comes only to this, that Samuel discharged his office with the greatest exactness, and that he employed himself in it every day of his life. What is there in this which could lead one to think that he did not write these words, and thus do justice to his own fidelity? And even supposing that the hand of Esdras, or of any other person, might have inserted these verses in the text, would it follow from thence, that the body of the work was not from the pen of Samuel, as Hobbes and his followers would infer?"
REFLECTIONS.—Great were the blessings which followed this victory under Samuel's wise and spirited administration.
1. The Philistines were so broken and intimidated, that they gave Israel no more disturbance while Samuel presided, but quitted peaceably to them all the cities which they had taken between Ekron and Gaza. And the Amorites, now struck with terror, were glad to be left quiet; so that peace was perfectly restored within their borders. Note; (1.) When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him. (2.) Prayer and penitence can do more for a nation than the sword.
2. The internal peace of the people was secured to them by the regular administration of justice. Samuel went his yearly circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, where he heard and determined the causes which were brought before him; and at his residence in Ramah, judged Israel, who brought their complaints thither, and abode by his decisions; and perhaps came thither to worship and offer sacrifices, to hear his preaching, and partake of his prayers: for Samuel had built an altar at Ramah, as no other place was yet fixed for stated offerings to God. As a prophet raised up of God, he might be authorised to offer his own and the people's sacrifices there, till the ark and tabernacle-worship should be again set up. Note: (1.) The administration of impartial justice is among the greatest blessings that any land can enjoy. (2.) They will be upright in their decisions among men, who, like Samuel, keep God always before them, and walk in his fear and worship. An irreligious judge cannot be truly impartial.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany