Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 7

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-2

CHAPTERS 6:1-7:2

1. The counsel of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:1-9 )

2. The ark at Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:10-20 )

3. The ark at Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 6:21 ; 1 Samuel 7:1-2 )

The ark had remained among the Philistines seven months. For them they were months of suffering and deadly destruction. Now they plot to get rid of the ark and of Him whose hand rested so heavily in judgment upon them. The advice of the heathen priests and diviners is that the ark should be sent away with votive offerings of gold, representing that which had plagued them. This was a heathen custom, which has also been adopted and is practiced by Roman Catholicism, the great Philistine system of Christendom. In Romish churches, especially at shrines, one can find hundreds of votive offerings to God by those who are suffering affliction to appease the wrath of God. It is heathenish and denies Him who shed His blood for our redemption. And as these Philistine priests had some knowledge of God’s judgment upon Egypt they added to their counsel a warning reminding them of Pharaoh and Egypt. Their unbelief and superstition are manifested by the way they returned the ark. But the power of the Creator is seen in the incident.

“In result it is proved conclusively that Jehovah is the God of Creation, supreme above all the natural instincts: the kine, though unaccustomed to a yoke, take the cart with its sacred burden directly away from where their calves are shut up, even while lowing after them, and take the straight road to Bethshemesh, a priestly city near the Israelite border. There, at the border, they stop, still under the eyes of the Philistine lords, at a great stone upon which the Levites place the ark, and where the kine are offered up a burnt offering to Jehovah.

“Thus the Philistines have Jehovah’s sovereignty demonstrated to them in the precise terms which they have themselves chosen,--the goodness of God thus meeting them with what should have turned them from idolatry forever and brought them to His feet. But they go back, after all, to worship instead the humbled Dagon” (Numerical Bible).

The ark reaches Beth-shemesh (house of the sun) the nearest point across the border. It is welcomed with much rejoicing, but they forgot the holiness of God and looked into the ark, and the people of Beth-shemesh were smitten. As Beth-shemesh was only a small town it is generally taken that the number of the slain as given in verse 19 was changed by the mistake of a copyist. Various readings give smaller numbers; but that is immaterial.

The ark is removed from Beth-shemesh to Kirjath-jearim, “the city of the woods.” It was an humble place where the ark abode for twenty years. It was brought into the house of Abinadab; his son Eleazar (my God is help) was set aside to keep it. David found it there (Psalms 132:6 ). The ark never returned to Shiloh again.

Verses 3-14

7. The Return Unto Jehovah and the Deliverance

CHAPTER 7:3-14

1. Samuel’s message and the response of the people (1 Samuel 7:3-4 )

2. Gathered at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:5-6 )

3. The deliverance (1 Samuel 7:7-14 )

Samuel now is seen beginning his great national ministry. The message he brings is the message of repentance and the assurance of faith. In simple words he addressed the people, who no doubt were prepared for it by their long period of humiliation. He demands that their true return to the Lord must be practical; the strange gods and Ashtaroth must be put away. If they serve the Lord only, deliverance out of the hands of the Philistines would come. The message was at once obeyed. Every true return to the Lord must manifest itself in the same way. True repentance without self-judgment and self-surrender is impossible. The earnest appeal and whole-hearted response by the people led to the great gathering at Mizpah (the watch tower). It was a day of humiliation and prayer. Samuel said “I will pray unto the Lord for you.” He was the child of prayer and the man of prayer (8:6; 12:19, 23). “Samuel among them that call upon His name; they called upon the LORD and He answered them” (Psalms 99:6 ). There was confession of sin and they drew water, and poured it out before Jehovah. It was a symbolical act showing the undone and helpless condition of Israel. “We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground” (2 Samuel 14:14 ). When the Philistines came up against them they were afraid and acknowledged prayer as their only refuge and help. “Cease not” they appealed to Samuel, “to cry for us unto the LORD our God.” And afterwards he offered a whole burnt offering unto the Lord. This offering represents Christ. Then Samuel cried unto the LORD and the LORD answered him. The elements of a true return unto the Lord and a true revival among God’s people are found in this great national movement. While Samuel offered the burnt offering and interceded for Israel the Philistines drew near. Then came the interference from the LORD. It was a supernatural thundering which discomfited the Philistines, and they were smitten. Israel gains a great victory. They pursue the enemy to Beth-car (house of the lamb). Between Mizpeh and Shen the stone called by Samuel “Ebenezer” is put up as a memorial. Ebenezer means “stone of help.” “Helped--but only ‘hitherto’! For all Jehovah’s help is only ‘hitherto’--from day to day, and from place to place--not unconditionally, nor wholly, nor once for all, irrespective of our bearing.” (A. Edersheim, Bible History.)

Verses 15-17

8. Samuel Exercising His Office and His Failure

CHAPTERS 7:15-8:3

1. Samuel the Prophet-Judge (1 Samuel 7:15-17 )

2. His failure (1 Samuel 8:1-3 )

Samuel’s activity as the great prophet-judge is now seen. He had a blessed circuit of ministry, which has its spiritual lessons for us. He first visited Bethel (the house of God). Judgment must begin there. When Jacob was obedient to the divine call “Arise and go up unto Bethel,” he buried the strange gods, the household gods under the oak of Shechem. So the evil things must be put away. Then came Gilgal (rolling). There the reproach of Egypt was rolled away (Joshua 5:0 ). This is what we need, to be freed from the world, dead to it and the world dead to us. Mizpeh (watch tower) was his third station. This is our constant need to be on our guard and watch against the foe, as well as look upward and forward from Mizpeh to that blessed home where He is and which we shall surely share with Him. This is represented in Ramah (heights) where Samuel had his home. But there is failure. Samuel makes the mistake in making his sons judges. Because he was a judge and prophet and had success in it, his sons are to follow him in the same capacity. God does not work by succession, nor does He transmit gift and power from father to son. The so-called “apostolic succession” and traditional authority is an invention and one of the greatest factors in the corruption of Christianity. The Lord alone can call to service and give gifts for the ministry. Joel and Abiah were judges in Beersheba, but walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. And this opened the way for the introduction of the monarchy in Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.