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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 7:7

Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Intercession;   Philistines;   Samuel;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Philistines, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ebenezer;   Mizpah or Mizpeh;   Philistines;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Mizpah;   Philistia, philistines;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Covenant;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Eben-Ezer;   Mizpah;   Prayer;   Samuel;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Judges, the Book of;   Samson;   Samuel;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Mizpah, Mizpeh;   Philistines, the;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Lords of the Philistines;   Samuel, Books of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Mizpah, Mizpeh ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Ebenezer;   Mizpeh;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Mizpah;   Samuel;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Sam'uel;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Samuel the Prophet;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Deuteronomy;   Judges, Period of;   Mediation;   Prayer;   Samuel;   Samuel, Books of;   Sorek, Valley of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Philistines;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 1 Samuel 7:7. The Philistines went up against Israel — They went to give them battle before that, by continual accessions of numbers, they should become too powerful.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Samuel’s leadership (7:2-17)

During the years of Philistine oppression, Samuel’s position as chief ruler in Israel became firmly established. As a religious leader he commanded the people to turn from idols and worship the Lord only, and the people responded (2-6a). As a civil leader he settled disputes among them (6b). In response to the people’s repentance and Samuel’s prayers for them, God gave Israel a great victory over the Philistines (7-11). The Israelites continued to fight against the Philistines till they had driven them from Israel’s territory completely. From this time on, as long as Samuel remained in control of Israel, the Philistines were of no great trouble to Israel (12-14).
With the destruction of Israel’s tabernacle at Shiloh, the nation’s religious life centred on Samuel, who set up an altar for sacrifice in his home town of Ramah. The civil administration also centred on Samuel, as he moved in an annual circuit around four major towns where he held district courts to settle disputes (15-17).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This implies a united invasion by the whole Philistine force. Hence, the terror of the Israelites. (Compare Judges 15:11.)

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 7

And so the men of Kirjathjearim came, and they took the ark of the Lord; and they brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill, and sanctified Eleazar the son to keep the ark of the Lord. And it came to pass, while the ark was there at Kirjathjearim, it was there for a long time; for twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. And Samuel spake to all the house of Israel, saying, If you do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth [Now Ashtaroth was the goddess of sexual love, and the fertility goddess, and they were, the children of Israel worshiping Ashtaroth, and he said, "Put away the gods and Ashtaroth,"] from among you, and prepare your hearts to the Lord, serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. So the children of Israel put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord. And so they gathered together at Mizpeh, and they drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and he fasted on that day, and said, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. Now when the Philistines heard that they had gathered to Mizpeh, they set up the army against them. And the children of Israel were afraid of the Philistines. And they said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a suckling lamb, and offered it as a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him. [Now Samuel beginning to exercise his ministry of intercessory prayer.] And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day on the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came to Bethcar. And then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us ( 1 Samuel 7:1-12 ).

The Ebenezer stone. The word means "the stone of help". Now we sing the song, "Come the fount of every blessing to my heart to sing thy praise. Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise." Second verse, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer", and you've probably been singing that all your life. What in the world are you raising? "Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help that comes." Actually, it's a stone of memorial, it's a memory kind of a stone. Here I set the stone. God has helped me thus far. God has brought me this far along.

Now actually that's something we can set up every day. You set up Ebenezer, "Well, God brought me this far." Now in that there is always encouragement and hope. For God brought me this far not to dump me. If He wanted to dump me, He would've dumped me a long time ago. Hitherto hath the Lord helped me. The help of the Lord in the past is a prophecy of the help of the Lord in the future. The fact that God has helped me up to this point, gives me assurance He's gonna see me all the way. For the Lord will complete that which concerns you, having begun a good work in your life, He is going to finish it, He's going to complete it. So it is healthy sometimes to set up that memorial "Well God has brought me this far, surely He's not gonna leave me now. He's not gonna forsake me now. Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

So this was the beginning of the turn of the tide against the Philistines. Up to this point the Philistines had been beating them at every turn, every battle. Now this is the first turn of the tide against the Philistines, and as they came out he set up that stone, he said, "All right the Lord has helped us this far." The first of the beginning of God's work in bringing them victory over their enemies.

So as God brings victories in your lives, set up your Ebenezer stone, "Well, praise the Lord He helped me this far." Stones that mark the places of victory and God's work in my life.

So the Philistines were subdued, they came no more into the coast of Israel: during all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored, from Ekron even to Gath; there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged all the days of his life, judged Israel. And then he went from year to year in a circuit [So he was sort of a circuit prophet.] and he would go from Bethel, to Gilgal, to Mizpeh, and then return to his home in Ramah ( 1 Samuel 7:13-17 );

Which is the modern city of Ram Allah just north of Israel.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

A. Samuel’s Ministry as Israel’s Judges 7:2-17

As a totally dedicated Nazarite who followed the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant as best he could, Samuel became a source of deliverance for Israel. The writer recorded two deliverances in this chapter.

This section sounds more like the Book of Judges than does any other in 1 or 2 Samuel. The cycle of religious experience repeated six times in that book occurs here as well. That cycle consists of blessing, apostasy, discipline, repentance, deliverance, rededication, and blessing. Samuel exercised the same function as the judges whose experiences appear on the pages of Judges.

"In the books of Samuel there are three chapters which stand out as markers, characterized by their interpretation of historical changes taking place in Israel’s leadership structure. They are 1 Samuel 7, 1 Samuel 12 and 2 Samuel 7. Not that the remainder of these books is ’non-theological,’ for theological presuppositions undergird the whole, but in these chapters a prophet expounds the divine word for each stage of the crisis through which the people of God are passing." [Note: Baldwin, p. 33.]

Note the continuation of the key word "hand" in this chapter (1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 7:13-14). It reflects the writer’s continuing interest in the source of true power.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. National repentance and deliverance 7:5-14

Mizpah (lit. watchtower, indicating an elevated site) was about two miles northwest of Samuel’s hometown, Ramah, on the central Benjamin plateau. [Note: On the significance of the six-fold repetition of Mizpah in this story, see John A. Beck, "The Narrative-Geographical Shaping of 1 Samuel 7:5-13," Bibliotheca Sacra 162:647 (July-September 2005):299-309.] Pouring out water symbolized the people’s feeling of total inability to make an effective resistance against their enemy (cf. Psalms 62:8; et al.). The people showed that they felt a greater need to spend their time praying to strengthen themselves spiritually than eating to strengthen themselves physically. They did this by fasting (skipping a meal or meals). [Note: On the practice of fasting, see Kent D. Berghuis, "A Biblical Perspective on Fasting," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January-March 2001):86-103.] They admitted that what they had been doing was a sin against God (cf. 1 John 1:9). The writer described Samuel as one of Israel’s judges similar in function to Gideon, Samson, and others, at this time (cf. Judges 6:25-27).

The Israelites sensed their continuing need for God’s help and appealed to Samuel to continue to intercede for them (1 Samuel 7:8). Samuel gave intercession priority in his ministry because he realized how essential it was to Israel’s welfare (cf. 1 Samuel 12:23). All spiritual leaders should realize this need and should give prayer priority in their ministries. The suckling young lamb he sacrificed for the people represented the nation as it had recently begun to experience new life because of its repentance (1 Samuel 7:9). The burnt offering was an offering of dedication, but it also served to make atonement for God’s people (cf. 1 Samuel 24:25; Leviticus 1:4; Job 1:5; Job 42:8).

After the tabernacle left Shiloh, the Israelites may have pitched it at Mizpah. Since Samuel offered a burnt offering there (1 Samuel 7:9), perhaps that is where the tabernacle stood. Nevertheless at this time the Israelites made offerings to God at other places too (cf. 1 Samuel 7:17).

God’s deliverance was apparently entirely supernatural (1 Samuel 7:10), probably to impress the people with His ability to save them in a hopeless condition and to strengthen their faith in Him. Baal was supposedly the god of storms, but Yahweh humiliated him here. [Note: See Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "The Polemic against Baalism in Israel’s Early History and Literature," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:603 (July-September 1994):277; and idem, "Yahweh versus the Canaanite Gods: Polemic in Judges and 1 Samuel 1-7," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):165-80.] The location of Bethcar is still uncertain, but most scholars believe it was near Lower Beth-horon, about 8 miles west of Mizpah toward the Philistine plain.

Scholars also dispute the site of Shen (1 Samuel 7:12). The Israelites memorialized God’s help with a stone monument that they named Ebenezer (lit. stone of help). This Ebenezer is quite certainly not the same as the one the writer mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:1 and 1 Samuel 5:1. It was another memorial stone that marked God’s action for His people (cf. Genesis 35:14; Joshua 4:9; Joshua 24:26). [Note: See Carl F. Graesser, "Standing Stones in Ancient Palestine," Biblical Archaeologist 35:2 (1972):34-63.] It announced the reversal of previous indignities and was a symbol of reintegration. [Note: Gordon, pp. 107-8.] This victory ended the 40-year oppression of the Philistines (1124-1084 B.C.; cf. Judges 3:30; Judges 8:28). However, the Philistines again became a problem for Israel later (cf. 1 Samuel 9:16).

The memorial stone bore witness to the effectiveness of trusting the Lord and His designated judge. If the Lord had helped the people thus far, what need was there for a king? This incident shows that the people should have continued following the leadership of the judges that God had been raising up for them. This was not the right time for a king.

The concluding reference to peace with the Amorites may imply that this victory began a period of peace with the Amorites as well as with the Philistines. The Amorites had controlled the hill country of Canaan, and the Philistines had dominated the coastal plain. The native Canaanites, here referred to as Amorites, would have profited from Israel’s superiority over the Philistines since the Philistines were more of a threat to the Canaanites than were the Israelites. [Note: Norman K. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, a Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E., p. 418. ] Often in the Old Testament "Amorites" (Westerners) designates the original inhabitants of Canaan in general.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh,.... Not knowing it was upon a religious account; but supposing they met to form schemes and measures to cast off their yoke, and deliver themselves out of their hands; and were preparing to take up arms, and fall upon them:

the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel; with forces out of their several principalities united to fight with them; judging it advisable to lose no time, but attack them before they were well prepared and provided to defend themselves:

and when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines; because they were unarmed, and not at all prepared for war, and having no expectation of it.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Israelites Attacked by the Philistines; Samuel's Intercession for Israel. B. C. 1099.

      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. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.   8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.   9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.   10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.   11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car.   12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

      Here, I. The Philistines invade Israel (1 Samuel 7:7; 1 Samuel 7:7), taking umbrage from that general meeting for repentance and prayer as if it had been a rendezvous for war, and, if so, they thought it prudent to keep the war out of their own country. They had no just cause for this suspicion; but those that seek to do mischief to others will be forward to imagine that others design mischief to them. Now see here, 1. How evil sometimes seems to come out of good. The religious meeting of the Israelites at Mizpeh brought trouble upon them from the Philistines, which perhaps tempted them to wish they had staid at home and to blame Samuel for calling them together. But we may be in God's way and yet meet with distress; nay, when sinners begin to repent and reform, they must expect that Satan will muster all his force against them, and set his instruments on work to the utmost to oppose and discourage them. But, 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, nor could they have been better prepared to receive the enemy; nor could the Philistines have acted more impolitely for themselves than to make war upon Israel at this time, when they were making their peace with God. But God permitted them to do it, that he might have an opportunity immediately of crowning his people's reformation with tokens of his favour, and of confirming the words of his messenger, who had assured them that if they repented God would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines. Thus he makes man's wrath to praise him, and serves the purposes of his grace to his people even by the malicious designs of their enemies against them, Micah 4:11; Micah 4:12.

      II. Israel cleaves closely to Samuel, as their best friend, under God, in this distress; though he was no military man, nor ever celebrated as a mighty man of valour, yet, being afraid of the Philistines, for whom they thought themselves an unequal match, they engaged Samuel's prayers for them: Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us,1 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 7:8. They were here unarmed, unprepared for war, come together to fast and pray, not to fight; prayers and tears therefore being all the weapons many of them are now furnished with, to these they have recourse. And, knowing Samuel to have a great interest in heaven, they earnestly beg of him to improve it for them. They had reason to expect it, because he had promised to pray for them (1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 7:5), had promised them deliverance from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Samuel 7:3), and they had been observant of him in all that which he had spoken to them from the Lord. Thus those who sincerely submit to Christ, as their lawgiver and judge, need not doubt of their interest in his intercession. They were very solicitous that Samuel should not cease to pray for them: what military preparations were to be made they would undertake them, but let him continue instant in prayer, perhaps remembering that when Moses did but let down his hand ever so little Amalek prevailed. O what a comfort is it to all believers that our great intercessor above never ceases, is never silent, for he always appears in the presence of God for us!

      III. Samuel intercedes with God for them, and does it by sacrifice,1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 7:9. He took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering, a whole burnt-offering, to the Lord, and, while the sacrifice was in burning, with the smoke of it his prayers ascended up to heaven for Israel. Observe, 1. He made intercession with a sacrifice. Christ intercedes in the virtue of his satisfaction, and in all our prayers we must have an eye to his great oblation, depending upon that for audience and acceptance. Samuel's sacrifice without his prayer would have been an empty shadow, his prayer without the sacrifice would not have been so prevalent, but both together teach us what great things we may expect from God in answer to those prayers which are made with faith in Christ's sacrifice. 2. It was a burnt-offering, which was offered purely for the glory of God, so intimating that the great plea he relied on in his prayer was taken from the honour of God. "Lord, help thy people now for thy name's sake." When we endeavour to give glory to God we may hope he will, in answer to our prayers, work for his own glory. 3. It was but one sucking lamb that he offered; for it is the integrity and intention of the heart that God looks at, more than the bulk or number of the offerings. This one lamb (typifying the Lamb of God) was more acceptable than thousands of rams or bullocks would have been without faith and prayer. Samuel was no priest, but he was a Levite and a prophet; the case was extraordinary, and what he did was by special direction, and therefore was accepted of God. And justly was this reproach put upon the priests because they had corrupted themselves.

      IV. God gave a gracious answer to Samuel's prayer (1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 7:9): The Lord heard him. He was himself a Samuel, asked of God, and many a Samuel, many a mercy in answer to prayer, God gave him. Sons of prayer should be famous for praying, as Samuel was among those that call upon his name,Psalms 99:6. The answer was a real answer: the Philistines were discomfited (1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 7:11), totally routed, and that in such a manner as highly magnified the prayer of Samuel, the power of God, and the valour of Israel. 1. The prayer of Samuel was honoured; for at the very time when he was offering up his sacrifice, and his prayer with it, the battle began, and turned immediately against the Philistines. Thus while he was yet speaking God heard, and answered in thunder, Isaiah 65:24. God showed that it was Samuel's prayer and sacrifice that he had respect to, and hereby let Israel know that as in a former engagement with the Philistines he had justly chastised their presumptuous confidence in the presence of the ark, on the shoulders of two profane priests, so now he graciously accepted their humble dependence upon the prayer of faith from the mouth and heart of a pious prophet. 2. The power of God was greatly honoured; for he took the work into his own hand, and discomfited them, not with great hail-stones, which would kill them (as Joshua 10:11), but with a great thunder, which frightened them and put them into such terror and consternation that they fainted away, and became a very easy prey to the sword of Israel, before whom, being thus confounded, they were smitten. Josephus adds that the earth quaked under them when first they made the onset and in many places opened and swallowed them up, and that, besides the terror of the thunder, their faces and hands were burnt with lightning, which obliged them to shift for themselves by flight. And, being thus driven to their heels by the immediate hand of God (whom they feared not so much as they had feared his ark, 1 Samuel 4:7; 1 Samuel 4:7), then, 3. Honour was put upon the hosts of Israel; they were made use of for the completing of the victory, and had the pleasure of triumphing over their oppressors: They pursued the Philistines, and smote them. How soon did they find the benefit of their repentance, and reformation, and return to God! Now that they have thus engaged him for them none of their enemies can stand before them.

      V. Samuel erected a thankful memorial of this victory, to the glory of God and for the encouragement of Israel, 1 Samuel 7:12; 1 Samuel 7:12. He set up an Eben-ezer, the stone of help. If ever the people's hard hearts should lose the impressions of this providence, this stone would either revive the remembrance of it, and make them thankful, or remain a standing witness against them for their unthankfulness. 1. The place where this memorial was set up was the same where, twenty years before, the Israelites were smitten before the Philistines, for that was beside Eben-ezer, 1 Samuel 4:1; 1 Samuel 4:1. The sin which procured that defeat formerly being pardoned upon their repentance, the pardon was sealed by this glorious victory in the very same place where they then suffered loss; see Hosea 1:10. 2. Samuel himself took care to set up this monument. He had been instrumental by prayer to obtain the mercy, and therefore he thought himself in a special manner obliged to make this grateful acknowledgement of it. 3. The reason he gives for the name is, Hitherto the Lord hath helped us, in which he speaks thankfully of what was past, giving the glory of the victory to God only, who had added this to all his former favours; and yet he speaks somewhat doubtfully for the future: "Hitherto things have done well, but what God may yet do with us we know not, that we refer to him; but let us praise him for what he has done." Note, The beginnings of mercy and deliverance are to be acknowledged by us with thankfulness so far as they go, though they be not completely finished, nay, though the issue seem uncertain. Having obtained help from God, I continue hitherto, says blessed Paul, Acts 26:22.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:7". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.