Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 7

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Verses 1-2

The Ark at Kiriath-jearim

Fear of the ark is not necessary if one does not look into the ark. The truth of the Lord Jesus is not to analyze, but to worship. Although the people are not ready to ask for the ark, the ark can go to some who appreciate it.

Why didn’t Samuel pick up the ark? He sees how the people are doing. He understands that he lives in a transitional period. He knows that God in His time will bring the ark to the place He has chosen. Samuel is waiting for God’s time, for David. David is, forty years later, the first one to look for and find the ark (Psalms 132:6).

God Himself has delivered the ark from the power and land of the Philistines. He can only deliver His people from the power of the Philistines when they have taken their right place before Him. Before that time, twenty years elapse. After twenty years the people go to the LORD, not to complain, but to confess their condition. The absence of God often makes one feel the value of Him Whose presence one has not appreciated. All this time Samuel also waited. He has waited for the time when the Spirit of God can work among the people.

The first thing the Spirit does is to discover the people to themselves. Waiting time is not lost time. This work of God’s Spirit will be the result of Samuel’s constant intercession. Samuel remains in the shadows in the years of his life which, seen from his age, are for others, even today, the most ambitious.

The people do not ask for the ark as a symbol, but for the LORD Himself. With this they are the mass of modern Christianity with their longing for and trust in images of saints and other follies far ahead.

Verses 3-4

The Israelites Serve the LORD Alone

When the work of God’s Spirit reveals itself, Samuel comes. Now it is time for action. Samuel speaks the word of the prophet. He points to the wrong things, which are the cause of the Philistines ruling over them. The Philistines are a rod of discipline in the hand of God for His people.

In what Samuel says to the people, we see that conversion has three characteristics:
1. the removing of the foreign gods, that is separation from evil,
2. direct the heart to the LORD to be taught by Him about the cause of evil and to come to the right mind of a broken heart and a defeated spirit and
3. to serve Him alone, that is, to dedicate oneself completely to Him.

If these characteristics are present, we can count on deliverance from the yoke of the enemies.

What happens here under the last judge, did not happen during the whole time of the judges. In Christianity something has been done away with that which is wrong, but by no means everything. This only happens in the case of such a complete self-judgment as Israel here. The people give up their wrong connections, break them and become free to do the work of the LORD, or better, to let this work be done first with themselves. We also see such an attitude in the beginning of the church.

Verses 5-9

Samuel Prays for the People

Now comes the next step. The people are called to “Mizpa”, not to Shiloh. Here something new begins. Mizpa means ‘watchtower’. The people will be focused on the new, what lies in the future, but of which they do not yet know what it means. The new begins with prayer. So it is always with a revival. The origin always lies in fervent prayer. Moses and Samuel are the great intercessors for God’s people in the Old Testament (Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1).

The man who speaks to the people on behalf of God is also the man who goes to God on behalf of the people. The man in whom the Word of God dwells and who uses it faithfully also knows how to use the privilege of priestly intercession. What he did first personally and in secret, he now wants to do in public with the whole. General need, general danger and above all a general turning to God brings the people together. All other meetings in this case are useless.

The drawing and pouring out of water are also something that has not happened before. That does not mean that it is wrong. It is not a sin offering, but the spirit of the sin offering is present in this act. We must be able to judge that, not whether something fits our idea of what is right. God’s Spirit is free in His work (cf. John 3:8), and we should not want to impose our insights upon Him in doing so.

In 2 Samuel 14 the meaning appears: “For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Samuel 14:14; cf. 1 Samuel 1:15; Psalms 62:9; Lamentations 2:19). The poured-out water represents what man is naturally in his weakness. Once water is poured out, it cannot be gathered. In Psalm 22 it is applied to the Lord Jesus as He pours out His life in death (Psalms 22:14). It then seems to be over with Him. But God has, as it were, gathered this water and raised Him up from the dead. By this we can now “joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

The confession “we have sinned against the LORD” is a general confession and therefore vague. Under that general confession, forms of specific evil may be hidden that have not yet been uncovered and have yet to be judged according to God’s holy Word. This is what Samuel then does when he leads them. He leads by declaring the Word of God to them. The praying Samuel is also the teacher. His teaching is supported by his prayer.

The Philistines misjudge totally what is happening in Israel. They think that the people gather to fight against them. But Israel is afraid of the Philistines. Although the enemy judges it wrong and cannot do anything else, they are also right. Humbling before God is also a declaration of war to the enemy. Humility impresses the enemy; he has no control over it. Humility cannot be overcome, for in it the Lord is on the side of His people.

The enemy becomes active when the people of God connect with God. The enemy does not tolerate any action that puts the people of God in a position that acknowledges God. In their need, the Israelites call upon the prophet of God and the intercessor with God to pray for them. They have a strong faith in Samuel’s intercession because they know that he is a holy man of God. They appeal to an intercessor because they understand that intercession will be more useful to them than the largest army.

Samuel has already prayed, but the people want him to continue. They know and recognize the power of the “prayer of a righteous man”, for it “can accomplish much” (James 5:16). They know that their salvation must come from the LORD, that He alone can save them and that He must be sought for it. They recognize the connection of Samuel with the LORD.

This is a much better attitude than when in their pride they thought they could fight and use the ark for that (1 Samuel 4:1-Leviticus :). Now they see their own powerlessness and resort to prayer. Similarly, a praying Josaphat, surrounded by women and children (2 Chronicles 20:3-Deuteronomy :; 2 Chronicles 20:13) and a praying Hezekiah, dressed in a sackcloth (Isaiah 37:1) are more dangerous to the enemy than when they are surrounded by soldiers dressed in war costume.

Samuel brings a burnt offering. It is a suckling lamb, a newborn lamb that still drinks from its mother, a picture of extreme weakness. The only other place where it is still found is in a scene describing the kingdom of peace (Isaiah 65:25). Because of this suckling lamb Samuel approaches God to intercede for the people. The lamb is also offered to restore the people and bring them back into the favor of God.

The Lord Jesus is “crucified in weakness” (2 Corinthians 13:4). We needed Someone so insignificant because we were so insignificant. God does not despise the weakness of faith but descends in grace to our level of weakness. The Lord Jesus lived in complete dependence on God, completely dedicated to Him, and as a Baby He was dependent on His mother’s care. This is the way by which God has prepared salvation for man.

Verses 10-14

The Philistines Subdued

The enemy attacks when the offering is brought. At the same time, for this very reason, God intervenes and acts for the benefit of His people, who do not have to do anything themselves. The enemy does not know God’s thoughts about His Son. God appears in majesty when, in the picture of the burnt offering, the glory of the Lord Jesus is presented to Him and He sees His people in His Son.

The people may be quiet and see the salvation of the LORD, just as with the passage through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13-2 Chronicles :). The LORD acts with a mighty thunder for His people, an action of which Hannah prophesied (1 Samuel 2:10). His voice confuses the enemy. The victory is that of the LORD. He is to be honored for this, and not to the people.

The people may receive the results of the work God has done for them. “Beth-car” means “house of the lamb”. Until that place the enemy is defeated. It shows in the picture that victory extends as far as the power of the sacrifice of the lamb goes. In practical terms, this means that the enemy will be kept more and more at a distance if we learn to know Christ, from Whom this lamb speaks, better and better. There the peace of the house is found for which the lamb laid the foundation. In that house the lamb is the basis and in that house the lamb is central.

“Ebenezer” means “stone of help”. With this name Samuel indicates that they have experienced God’s help with every step they have taken in God’s way. This stone becomes a remembrance of the help of the LORD. The erection of the stone is like the testimony Paul gives for Agrippa: “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day” (Acts 26:22). This may also be our testimony every time we realize that with God’s help, we have again overcome difficulties on the way of faith.

The place where first the ark was captured by the Philistines and they defeated Israel (1 Samuel 5:1), is now the place of testimony for the LORD because He defeated the Philistines for them. The Philistines might think that a man in prayer is the same as a people who superstitiously bring the ark into the army. But Samuel is not Hophni and Pinehas. The faith of the man of God in the offering represents the people to God in the value of that offering. It is not an outward sign, but inner faith. With this God connects Himself and by virtue of this He delivers His people from their enemies.

There is probably no victory by Israel as special as this one. The LORD had humiliated them, nearly exterminated them. All trust in their own strength was gone. And now, through a wonderful intercession of Samuel, He exalts them, and humiliates the proud oppressors in the dust. God brings peoples and individuals to the extreme humiliation to show them His grace and mercy. He does so by a sudden release from their destruction when all human help has clearly failed.

As long as Samuel is in power, the hand of the LORD is against the enemy. In picture this shows us that if we submit to God’s Word, the Lord will fight for us against the enemy, so that he will have no chance to harm us. And not only that. We also receive back certain spiritual blessings that we have lost through our unfaithfulness. That is what we see here in Israel. Israel is getting back lost territory.

That they make peace with the Amorites, however, is not a matter of faith. They have returned to God, but their works are unfortunately not perfect. An excuse that times have changed does not apply if God has determined a matter to be wrong (Deuteronomy 7:1-Exodus :).

Verses 15-17

Samuel Judges Israel

Samuel is not characterized by sitting on a chair, as we read from Eli (1 Samuel 4:13). He works diligently and has no time to become fat like Eli. Like a father to his people, he visits his children in different places. He teaches them for the good of their souls.

The four cities mentioned here are, as it were, the four stations in the life of the people of God. Our life also take place between these ‘stations’.

1. Bethel” means “house of God”. In this we recognize “the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15), in which we find ourselves. It is the house where God lives and where we may live with Him (Ephesians 2:19). The awareness of His presence will sanctify our lives. His house is characterized by holiness. In Bethel Jacob met God (Genesis 28:10-Psalms :; Genesis 35:1-Ezra :). Do we know this truth and is it always in our minds? It is a truth which concerns all believers, all saints.

2. Gilgal” means “rolled away” (Joshua 5:9). Every year Samuel comes and preaches there. This shows us in picture that the people are told that they must constantly live in self-judgment. We must remain aware that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18). We put the meaning of ‘Gilgal’ into practice by rolling away the reproach of the world, which means that we give up every connection with it. It is our realizing that we have been judged in the judgment that has come over Christ: “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). That is also where the judgment of the world was carried out. This should be expressed in the prophetic service.

3. “Mizpa” means “watchtower” and suggests that after each decay God is gracious to make a new beginning. We must not stand by what has been removed, the flesh, otherwise we will slide back into its power. That is why Mizpa follows Gilgal. We must remain vigilant and sober, so that the enemy does not take us by surprise again. God offers a view – the function of a watchtower is to look forward – to a new beginning, a wonderful future. Mizpa teaches the believer to look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus and to organize their lives accordingly.

4. “Rama” means ‘height’. Samuel does not travel there, but lives there. It shows that it is about living on the spiritual heights we have in the letter to the Ephesians. In practice, it means that we keep seeking “the things above” (Colossians 3:1). To this place of residence, we must come after our journey along the previous places. It leads to a separated heavenly walk on earth, “for our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).

In the place where he lives, he builds an altar. Samuel is also a real priest. He is not so busy with his service that he forgets his personal fellowship with God in worship and prayer and intercession. This spirit that works in the people of God can only be a blessing.

Service is important and necessary but is only fruitful if it comes from personal fellowship with God. Otherwise service in an activity of the flesh. In that case success is followed by pride and if success fails discouragement and abandonment will follow. It is to be desired that every servant of Christ has his ‘altar’ in connection with his work for God and His people.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.