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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 7

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

First Samuel - Chapter 7

Samuel Calls for Revival, vs. 1-8

Some commentators think that Kirjath jearim, which was only about ten straight-line miles from Beth-shemesh, may have been chosen as the abiding place for the ark over Beth-shemesh, because it lay in the central highlands in undisputed territory from the Philistines. Abinadab was a Levite, it is assumed, for his son, Eleazar, was sanc­tified to keep the ark. It is improbable that the Israelites would have set any but a Levite to keep the ark, nor would the Lord have permitted it.

Twenty years passed with the ark abiding in the house of Abinadab and the Israelites suffering in subjugation to the Philistines. Nothing is said of Samuel’s activity during this time, but he would surely have been actively preaching to the people and giving them messages from the Lord. During these long years the people chafed, until they finally became repentant and sought the Lord in earnest.

When Israel repented toward the Lord they were ready to listen to Samuel and to acknowledge him as their God-appointed judge. This is the first reference to Samuel’s judging of Israel (verse 6). Samuel called on the Israelites to prove their repentance, that they had returned to the Lord with the whole heart, by putting away their pagan gods and by serving the Lord in truth.

He promised them that when they had done this the Lord would hear them and deliver them from the Philistines. So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, the male and female deities of the Canaanites, which most of them had been serving instead of the Lord. The fickle Israelites called themselves serving the Lord, but at the same time they were looking to the Canaanite gods of the land for "good luck." This is little different from church people today who hypocritically go to church services regularly, but use the world to further their material welfare.

When the Israelites had truly proven their conversion Samuel called them to a revival service in Mizpeh, a town near his home, in the mountains of Benjamin. Their first act on assembling was to draw water, pour it out before the Lord, and begin a fast. The pouring out of the water symbolized their purification, by the putting away of their idols and rededication to the Lord.

The fasting showed their sincerity in seeking the Lord above all other things of life, even such necessities as food. Samuel had promised to pray for them; so they confessed their sin against the Lord, and Samuel judged them there on the lord’s behalf.

The Philistines heard of the gathering of Israel in Mizpeh, and their lords brought their armies to strike Israel before they could organize resistance. It was a considerable distance from Miipeh to the nearest Philistine city, Gath, so that the Israelites learned of their movement well before they arrived. They became very fearful, for they had nothing with which to oppose the enemy. It was shortly to be proved whether they would now rely on the Lord to intercede for them. They realized their helplessness without Him, however, and besought Samuel not to cease calling on the Lord to deliver them from the Philistines.

Verses 9-14

Ebenezer, vs. 9-14

Samuel had a good understanding of the symbolism in the offerings of Israel. Though the majority of the people may not have realized the necessity of atonement for sin, Samuel did. He knew that the whole burnt offering portrayed the absolute Sacrifice necessary of an innocent Lamb to take away sin. The young lamb, still nursing its mother, was perhaps the most innocent thing that could have been taken to represent what the Lord would do for sinners. On this basis Samuel made his offering, and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord heard and answered his prayer affirmatively.

The Philistines were about to learn another lesson about the God of Israel. When His people are relying in full faith on Him He will in no way forsake them. They interrupted the burnt offering service by coming to the attack while the Israelites were worshipping. But the Lord made the first move. The Scriptures say He thundered upon them with a great thunder and discomfited them. Whatever it was that the Lord did to the Philistines it threw them into a rout, and it was He who smote them before Israel. The men of Israel were encouraged and left their camp and pursued the Philistine fugitives, slaying many of them, all the way to Beth-car. The site of Beth-car is uncertain, but it appears to have been a prominent overhanging outcrop of the mountains, so the Israelites chased the Philistines all the way back to their own country.

Samuel took a stone and set it up on the route of the Philistines’ retreat, giving it the name of Ebenezer. Thus the place got the name from this battle, for "Ebenezer" is the transliteration of the Hebrew word, meaning "stone of help." Samuel also gave it a motto, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." This is a very significant event of Bible history and contains great lessons. Israel had repented and turned to the Lord. He had heeded their prayers through Samuel and given them the victory. The setting of the stone acknowledged that it was the Lord who gave it. To that point they had been brought by the Lord, said Samuel. The lesson inferred therefrom was that if Israel continued to go forward it must be by the help of the Lord. This is the lesson all the Lord’s people everywhere, in all ages, need to learn.

Remember the promise of the Lord to Manoah and his wife about their child, Samson? He would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5), and he did. But Samson did not succeed in overturning the Philistine domination, as particularly emphasized in the tragedy of Eli’s family. But with Samuel that promise made a significant step forward toward eventual fulfillment. They were never able to subjugate Israel, again in the lifetime of Samuel. During that time they never invaded the borders of Israel until Israel rejected Samuel and made Saul their king Daring Samuel’s judgeship there was no war with the Amorites (another term for "Canaanites") either. Samuel was a wonderful blessing to lsrael.

Verses 15-17

Samuel’s Circuit, vs. 15-17

It is interesting that the Scriptures say that Samuel judged Israel throughout his life, for he lived many years after Saul had been anointed king. There is no statement of the length of Samuel’s judgeship in years in the Old Testament, nor of Saul’s reign. However, the statement of Paul in his sermon at Antioch-pisidia (Acts 13:21) indicates that Saul reigned forty years. Samuel must have lived through about thirty of those years, for he did not die until after David became a fugitive from Saul (see 1 Samuel 19:18 ff). Therefore the Lord, and probably the devout of Israel, continued to look on Samuel as their leader under God until his death.

It is also interesting to note that at some time after he reached maturity Samuel left Shiloh and the tabernacle and went to live in his ancestral home at Ramah. Perhaps as the eldest son of Elkanah he received the land at his father’s death. Here at Ramah Samuel met and judged the people, and from here went round about in circuit to Bethel, some ten straight-line miles north of Ramah in Ephraim; to Gilgal, in the Jordan valley of Benjamin, where the Israelites under Joshua first camped after crossing the river dry-shod (Joshua 4:19); to Mizpeh, very nearby to Ramah, where he had gathered Israel before the defeat of the Philistines. Samuel had his altar at his home in Ramah, showing his devotion to the Lord and also the importance of a worshipful house, or home.

Some significant lessons are to be gleaned from chapter seven: 1) The Lord waits for His people to return to Him before giving them His richest blessings; 2) when the Lord’s people sincerely repent He readily and promptly supplies their needs; 3) when people are engaged in the Lord’s battles He will lead out before them in the fight; 4) the right approach to the Lord is through the blood of the atonement provided by the innocent Lamb; 5) it is the Lord who has brought His people to the present stage of victory, and it must be the Lord who brings them to the ultimate victory; 6) great men of God cannot outlive their usefulness and influence for and with His people.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-7.html. 1985.
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