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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 7

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).

This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.

This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.

B). The Ark As The Focal Point Of The Kingship Of YHWH (4:1b-7:14).

The emphasis in this subsection is on the Kingship of YHWH as revealed by the Ark which is the symbol of His Kingship. Because of His people’s disobedience and sinfulness as revealed through their priesthood YHWH refuses to act to deliver Israel, and allows the Ark to be taken. But when the Ark is brought to Ashdod the idol Dagon falls before YHWH and is smashed to pieces. Thus even in Ashdod YHWH is revealed as King. Then through plague, and a multiplying of vermin, YHWH brings His judgment on them because of the disrespect that they have shown to the Ark, so that in the end the Philistines recognise that they must return it to Israel along with suitable homage in the form of Gifts.

But those who receive it in Israel also treat it with disrespect, even though they are priests, demonstrating that their hearts are not right towards YHWH, and they too are therefore smitten and punished, and the Ark is then placed in a household where it is respected and honoured, and where it will remain for many years.

The King being therefore once again among His people they learn, after a twenty-year period of mourning during which He is silent, that if they will turn from their idols and seek Him, He will deliver them from the Philistines. And, as a result of the prayers of His prophet Samuel, the Philistines are then driven from the land.

We are not to see the Ark as forgotten. It is its very presence in Israel that evidences the fact that YHWH has not finally deserted His people, and the writer intends us to see its presence as indicating that YHWH is still there as Israel’s King, overseeing their future both for good and bad.

Analysis.

a The Philistines defeat Israel and capture the Ark of God (1 Samuel 4:1-22).

b The Ark of God is taken to Ashdod and the idol Dagon falls before YHWH and is smashed in pieces (1 Samuel 5:1-5).

c The Ark of God brings misery and plague on the Philistines who disrespect it (1 Samuel 5:6-12).

d The Ark of God is returned to Israel with reparations (1 Samuel 6:1-16).

c The Ark of God brings misery on the Israelites who disrespect it (1 Samuel 6:17 to 1 Samuel 7:2).

b The Ark of God is suitably re-established in Israel and they are promised that if they return to YHWH and put away their idolatry they will be delivered from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:3-4).

a The Ark having been restored, Israel defeat the Philistines through the prayers of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:5-14).

Note that in ‘a’ the Philistines defeat Israel and the Ark of God is defiled, while in the parallel the Ark of God is re-established and Israel defeat the Philistines. In ‘b’ the Ark is taken to Ashdod and the idol Dagon falls before it and is smashed in pieces, and in the parallel, on the restoration of the Ark Israel are called on to denounce their idols. In ‘c’ the Ark bring misery on the Philistines who disrespect it and in the parallel it brings misery on the people of Israel who disrespect it. In ‘d’ the Ark of God returns in triumph to Israel, being duly honoured by the Philistines.

Chapter 7.

Samuel Successfully Begins His Public Ministry And Establishes His Rule Over Israel Under YHWH, Finally Driving The Philistines Back To Their Own Territory And ‘Judging’ Israel From Then On (1 Samuel 7:3-17).

Once Samuel had grown to manhood he began his ministry and called on Israel to turn to YHWH from all their idolatry, something which met with great success. The people were tired of being subservient to the Philistines.

Eventually, satisfied with their genuineness he called an assembly at Mizpah, which means ‘the watchtower’, possibly because there was at this stage no Tabernacle to gather at, although it had been a gathering place in the past, see Judges 20, and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:26). And there he was appointed ‘judge’ of Israel. Whether it was his intention to proceed against the Philistines, or whether it was simply a gathering for the spiritual purposes which unfolded we are not told, but it was sufficient to alarm the Philistines whose five Tyrants took it as a declaration of war for the purposes of gaining their freedom. They gathered their army and advanced on Mizpah. In the face of this reality the Israelites were filled with fear. They pleaded with Samuel to intervene with YHWH on their behalf.

Samuel indicated to them that they should not be afraid by offering up a further burnt offering and calling on YHWH for His aid, and the result was that the advancing Philistine troops experienced the most appalling weather conditions, impeding their chariots and horsemen and demoralising their troops. Thus when Israel attacked the Philistines could do nothing but retreat, and were totally defeated. The consequence was that while Samuel was judge of Israel the Philistines no longer encroached on Israel (although they may have tried to), and the Israelite lands as far as Ekron and Gath were returned to them.

There are interesting parallels between Israel’s defeat in 1 Samuel 4, and their triumph here. Thus in 1 Samuel 4 it was Israel who were ‘smitten, struck down’ by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:2-3; 1 Samuel 4:10), here the Philistines are ‘smitten, struck down’ by Israel (1 Samuel 7:10). In 1 Samuel 4:3 Israel look in vain to the Ark to save them from their enemies, in 1 Samuel 7:8 they look to YHWH to save them from their enemies. In 1 Samuel 4:21 the result is the naming of Ichabod (for she said, ‘the glory has departed), in 1 Samuel 7:12 the result is the naming of Ebenezer (for Samuel said ‘YHWH has helped us’). 1 Samuel 7 is thus a reversal of the whole situation.

C). The Judgeship of Samuel At The End Of Which The People Seek And Are Granted A Human King (7:15-12:25).

In this subsection from 7:15-12:25 the writer describes the desire of the people for a king and the way in which that king is appointed. Such an appointment would inevitably be a tricky one in Israel, for Israel was comprised of a number of semi-independent tribes, each of which was jealous for its own position, with Judah and Ephraim, the two largest, being especially protective about their rights. And yet someone had to be found who once appointed would have the support of them all. Furthermore, on top of this, Samuel would want to ensure that whoever was appointed was YHWH’s choice.

Samuel clearly recognised the dangers and therefore waited on YHWH’s guidance, and it is the reconciling of these different problems that explains the slow process towards the appointment of the king, a process which in fact went as follows:

1). Samuel waits and prays for YHWH to indicate the right man for the position. When YHWH brings that man to him he must have been relieved to discover that the man was a Benjaminite. They were only a small tribe (which would serve to prevent tribal jealousy among the larger tribes) and were famed for their warlike ability. So he first interviews him, and then secretly anoints him with oil as YHWH’s chosen appointee. The man’s name is Saul. This satisfies Samuel that he has found the right man (1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:1).

2). He subsequently arranges for Saul to prophesy among the prophets indicating both to him and to others his suitability as a man of God, and that he is acceptable YHWH. This will serve to satisfy the righteous in Israel, and the prophets themselves, who seemingly had an important part to play in the running of affairs. They too are now satisfied that this is their man (1 Samuel 10:5-13).

3). The next step is to have him accepted in the eyes of popular opinion. So Samuel arranges for the assembly of the tribes of Israel to be called together and in view of the fact that there was no precedent for choosing a king, choice is then made by sacred lot in the sight of all. As expected by Samuel the lot falls on Saul. This method of choice by sacred lot was an accepted one in Israel and was seen as revealing the mind of YHWH. We can compare its use under different circumstances in Joshua 7:16-18. In view of the fact that the choice by sacred lot was seen as publicly revealing the mind of YHWH, was carried out before their eyes, and was accepted as a standard way of making such decisions in Israel, it would be enough to satisfy the people that Saul was their man. Thus this would satisfy the common people (1 Samuel 10:17-24).

However, there was inevitably some dissension, from some ‘worthless men’ who did not see how this upstart from a small tribe could ‘save Israel’. Nevertheless the vast majority were with Saul, and preparations would begin for having him officially enthroned and acclaimed in accordance with practise elsewhere.

4). Meanwhile an Ammonite invasion across the Jordan in Transjordan provides an opportunity for Saul to prove his suitability by gaining a victory over the invading Ammonites. This quells the dissension and makes him acceptable to all (1 Samuel 11:1-13).

5). Having been fully established as the right candidate Saul is then acclaimed as king at Gilgal before YHWH (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

6). Samuel resigns his judgeship and YHWH expresses His anger at the people’s decision with a storm at harvest time (1 Samuel 12:1-25).

By these means the acceptability of Saul as king was established, both among the prophets and throughout all the tribes. This would ensure that there would only be minimal dissension in the future, because Saul was now seen as ‘YHWH’s anointed’. All recognised that Samuel had selected him, that YHWH was pleased with him, that the lot had confirmed his acceptability to God, that he had proved himself a suitable war-leader (a most necessary qualification in those days), and that he had been finally and officially crowned and acclaimed.

The whole subsection may be analysed as follows:

a Samuel judges Israel faithfully and well (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

b Samuel’s sons prove unworthy and the people call for a King (1 Samuel 8:1-6).

c The manner of the King that they will receive (1 Samuel 8:7-22).

d Saul is brought to Samuel by God and is revealed and greeted by him as the new king (1 Samuel 9:1-21).

e Saul is feasted and then secretly anointed, and learns that the asses have been found (1 Samuel 9:22 to 1 Samuel 10:2).

f The signs of Saul’s acceptance and his coming enduing with the Spirit of YHWH (1 Samuel 10:3-7).

g Saul is to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come in order to offer offerings and sacrifices and to show him what he is to do (1 Samuel 10:8).

f The promised signs are fulfilled and the Spirit of YHWH comes on Saul (1 Samuel 10:9-13).

e Saul returns to his uncle and informs him that Samuel had told him that the asses had been found, but maintains the secret of the kingship (10:14-16).

d Saul is brought before the people, revealed as their king by lot and greeted by them as the king (1 Samuel 10:17-24).

c Samuel records ‘the manner of the kingship’ and writes it in a book (1 Samuel 10:25-27).

b YHWH delivers His people from the Ammonites through Saul and the kingship is finally confirmed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15).

a Samuel hands back the judgeship to the people and charges the people to be faithful to YHWH (1 Samuel 12:1-25).


Verses 2-4

Chapter 7.

Samuel Successfully Begins His Public Ministry And Establishes His Rule Over Israel Under YHWH, Finally Driving The Philistines Back To Their Own Territory And ‘Judging’ Israel From Then On (1 Samuel 7:3-17).

Once Samuel had grown to manhood he began his ministry and called on Israel to turn to YHWH from all their idolatry, something which met with great success. The people were tired of being subservient to the Philistines.

Eventually, satisfied with their genuineness he called an assembly at Mizpah, which means ‘the watchtower’, possibly because there was at this stage no Tabernacle to gather at, although it had been a gathering place in the past, see Judges 20, and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:26). And there he was appointed ‘judge’ of Israel. Whether it was his intention to proceed against the Philistines, or whether it was simply a gathering for the spiritual purposes which unfolded we are not told, but it was sufficient to alarm the Philistines whose five Tyrants took it as a declaration of war for the purposes of gaining their freedom. They gathered their army and advanced on Mizpah. In the face of this reality the Israelites were filled with fear. They pleaded with Samuel to intervene with YHWH on their behalf.

Samuel indicated to them that they should not be afraid by offering up a further burnt offering and calling on YHWH for His aid, and the result was that the advancing Philistine troops experienced the most appalling weather conditions, impeding their chariots and horsemen and demoralising their troops. Thus when Israel attacked the Philistines could do nothing but retreat, and were totally defeated. The consequence was that while Samuel was judge of Israel the Philistines no longer encroached on Israel (although they may have tried to), and the Israelite lands as far as Ekron and Gath were returned to them.

There are interesting parallels between Israel’s defeat in 1 Samuel 4, and their triumph here. Thus in 1 Samuel 4 it was Israel who were ‘smitten, struck down’ by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:2-3; 1 Samuel 4:10), here the Philistines are ‘smitten, struck down’ by Israel (1 Samuel 7:10). In 1 Samuel 4:3 Israel look in vain to the Ark to save them from their enemies, in 1 Samuel 7:8 they look to YHWH to save them from their enemies. In 1 Samuel 4:21 the result is the naming of Ichabod (for she said, ‘the glory has departed), in 1 Samuel 7:12 the result is the naming of Ebenezer (for Samuel said ‘YHWH has helped us’). 1 Samuel 7 is thus a reversal of the whole situation.

The Ark of God Having Been Suitably Re-established in Israel They Are Promised That If They Return to YHWH and Put Away Their Idolatry They Will Be Delivered from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:2-4).

Analysis.

a And Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to YHWH with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts to YHWH, and serve him only.”

“And he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Then the children of Israel did put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and served YHWH only (1 Samuel 7:3-4).

1 Samuel 7:3

And Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to YHWH with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts to YHWH, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’

We should here remind ourselves of the words in 1 Samuel 3:19 to 1 Samuel 4:1. Samuel has now grown to mature manhood and begins his ministry as a prophet of YHWH, calling on the house of Israel to put away their foreign gods and their Ashtaroth and to direct their hearts towards YHWH, and serve Him alone. Then, he assures them, He would deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines.

The foreign gods are defined in 1 Samuel 7:4 as the Baals. The plural may refer to the fact that Baal images were found everywhere, or it may indicate the differing Baals worshipped in different places (Baal-zebub, Baal Melchart, and so on). The Ashtaroth (-oth is a plural ending) were poles or Asherah images representing the consort of Baal which were placed alongside the Baals in the sanctuaries and high places. After the death of Joshua many Israelites succumbed to the appeal of the gods of Canaan, and Israel were never fully free of them during the whole period of the Judges. So the prophetic call now comes to finally put them away.

1 Samuel 7:4

Then the children of Israel did put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and served YHWH only.

So the children of Israel who were within the sphere of Samuel’s prophetic ministry obeyed him, and put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and served YHWH only.


Verses 5-14

The Ark Having Been Restored, Israel Defeat the Philistines Through The Prayers of Samuel, YHWH’s Representative (1 Samuel 7:5-14).

Analysis.

a And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray for you to YHWH. And they gathered together to Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before YHWH, and fasted on that day, and said there, “We have sinned against YHWH.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:5-6).

b And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:7).

c And the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Cease not to cry to YHWH our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8).

d And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt-offering to YHWH, and Samuel cried to YHWH for Israel, and YHWH answered him (1 Samuel 7:9).

c And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel, but YHWH thundered with a great thunder on that day on the Philistines, and discomfited them, and they were smitten down before Israel (1 Samuel 7:10).

b And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car (1 Samuel 7:11).

a Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, “Up to now has YHWH helped us”. So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more within the border of Israel, and the hand of YHWH was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and its border did Israel deliver out of the hand of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites (1 Samuel 7:12-17).

Note that in ‘a’ the people fast and pray and admit their sinfulness and Samuel act as their Judge in Mizpah, and in the parallel they are seen to be living in peace under Samuel’s judgeship with all their lands restored. In ‘b’ the Philistines invade Israel, and in the parallel the Israelites defeat the Philistines. In ‘c’ the children of Israel ask Samuel not to cease praying for them that YHWH will deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines, and in the parallel Samuel offers up a burnt offering and YHWH does deliver them. Centrally in ‘d’ Samuel offers up a burnt offering and cries to YHWH and YHWH answers him.

1 Samuel 7:5

And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray for you to YHWH.

Then Samuel gives the command that all Israel might be gathered to Mizpah, where he would pray for them. This was probably a call to all the tribes to provide warriors in order that they might defeat the Philistines. It was a requirement of the tribal league (the amphictyony) that all tribes who could would respond to such a call. If it was so then it was a clear act of war. The word of the newly arrived prophet, and his promise to pray for them was clearly sufficient to gain a reasonable response to the call. At last there was a recognised prophet who could intervene with YHWH on their behalf. Samuel is elsewhere constantly seen as a mighty man of prayer. See 1 Samuel 8:6; 1 Samuel 12:17-19; 1 Samuel 12:23; 1 Samuel 15:11. Compare also Psalms 99:6 and Jeremiah 15:1 where the power of Samuel’s intercession is emphasised.

1 Samuel 7:6

And they gathered together to Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before YHWH, and fasted on that day, and said there, “We have sinned against YHWH.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.’

So Israel gathered at Mizpah. And there they drew water and poured it out before YHWH, and fasted and declared how they had sinned before YHWH. The pouring of water may have been intended to denote a recognition of their dependence on YHWH (indicating that the very water on which their lives depended came from Him, and was being returned to Him in symbolic gratitude) or it may have symbolised the pouring out of their weeping hearts in repentance before YHWH (compare Psalms 22:15; Lamentations 2:19), or it may have indicated a cry for YHWH to open the heavens on the enemy, as He had on Sisera (Judges 4:15; Judges 5:20-21; compare Joshua 10:10-11) and subsequently did on the Philistines. We can compare with the example here how David poured out ‘to YHWH’ the water that brave men risked their lives for, because he would not ‘drink their blood’ (2 Samuel 23:16-17). It is clear from the example here that by this act David was not just getting rid of the water, even by giving it to YHWH, but was to be seen by all as making an actual offering to YHWH Who alone was worthy of such sacrifice. The Aramaic Targum paraphrases the verse here as, ‘and they poured out their heart in repentance before YHWH’. Whichever it was, it was a plea to YHWH to recognise their need. The fasting was an indication of their mourning for sin, along with which went their confession of sin (compare Judges 10:10), which would go well with a symbolic act of repentance.

“And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.” For the first time Samuel was appointed as their ‘judge’ and ‘war leader’, and acted in sorting out their differences and taking up the leadership role in readiness for what lay ahead. They would need a lot of guidance and a lot of encouragement, as well as organisation for the battle ahead. Perhaps they went through the ritual of Deuteronomy 20:1-9. He has become their general and their acknowledged spiritual and moral guide.

1 Samuel 7:7

And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.

When the Philistines heard that the call had gone out to the tribes of Israel to gather at Mizpah they naturally took alarm and the Philistine Tyrants gathered an army and set off for Mizpah. When scouts arrived at Mizpah warning of their approach, the children of Israel were terrified. It was one thing to plan a military operation, and another to face a Philistine fighting force. They had been hoping to take the Philistines by surprise, not to find them on their doorstep.

1 Samuel 7:8

And the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Cease not to cry to YHWH our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.” ’

In panic they came to Samuel and called on him to continually intercede for them before YHWH, asking YHWH their God to deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines. They seemingly had great faith in their new prophet and his God, even if they had little faith in themselves .

1 Samuel 7:9

And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt-offering to YHWH, and Samuel cried to YHWH for Israel, and YHWH answered him.’

Samuel’s response was to take a lamb of over seven days old, and offer it for a whole burnt offering before YHWH. This was an act of total consecration. Perhaps such a young lamb was chosen in order to symbolise that the nation had just been ‘reborn’. Then Samuel prayed to YHWH for Israel, and YHWH answered him.

1 Samuel 7:10

And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel, but YHWH thundered with a great thunder on that day on the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten down before Israel.’

As Samuel offered the burnt offering the Philistines approached Mizpah, arrayed for battle. But then to their great horror the heavens thundered with a great thunder. God had spoken. But the mention of the thunder would seem to indicate that it was accompanied by an equally great storm, with plenty of lightning, and the result was that the Philistines were discomfited and put into a panic (compare the use of the word in Exodus 14:24; Joshua 10:10; Judges 4:15; 2 Samuel 22:15). The awesome thunder may well have reminded them of previous experiences of YHWH, and the driving rains soaking the ground would clog up their chariot wheels and encumber their horsemen, whose horses may well also have been terrified at the continual thunder and difficult to control. Thus the Israelites, arriving on foot, were easily able to smite them down.

1 Samuel 7:11

And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car.’

The men of Israel then pursued the fleeing Philistines in their clogged chariots and on their encumbered horses and smote them all the way to Beth-car (‘the house of the lamb’, a name which would remind the reader of the sacrificed lamb).

1 Samuel 7:12

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, “Up to now has YHWH helped us.” ’

Victory assured Samuel set up a memorial stone between Mizpah and Shen (‘the tooth’). This latter may have been a conspicuous spire of rock (compare 1 Samuel 14:4). Thus at the very spot where the Philistines had previously humiliated them in 1 Samuel 4 (see 1 Samuel 5:1), the Israelites gained their revenge, and Samuel named the spot ‘Eben-ezer’ signifying ‘the stone of help’, acknowledging that ‘up to now YHWH has helped us’.

1 Samuel 7:13

So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more within the border of Israel, and the hand of YHWH was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.’

The victory was so final, and Samuel’s leadership from then on so effective, that all the while that he was the Judge of that part of Israel the Philistines did not again succeed in crossing the border. Whether actual attempts were made we do not know, but if so they were driven back because ‘the hand of YHWH was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel’. Against that hand they could do nothing.

1 Samuel 7:14

And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and its border did Israel deliver out of the hand of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.’

And not only that but Samuel was also able to free the cities which had been taken over by the Philistines and permanently held by them, right up to the borders of the districts of Ekron and Gath. Furthermore he was strong enough to be able to make peace with the Amorites who dwelt in the hill country and had no doubt taken advantage of Philistine oppression to constantly spoil Israel. Compare the problems that they had caused to Dan in Judges 1:34-35. Thus peace was maintained with all their enemies. All recognised that while Samuel ruled Israel they were invulnerable.


Verses 15-17

Samuel Judges Israel Faithfully And Successfully (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

Samuel’s judgeship after the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines is passed over very briefly, for the book is not a history of Samuel or of Saul but of the deliverances and kingship of YHWH. Note the twofold stress on justice and godliness, Samuel judged Israel and he built an altar to YHWH. This latter would be as a stand-in for the Tabernacle.

Analysis.

a And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life (1 Samuel 7:15).

b And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel and Gilgal, and Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:16 a).

c And he judged Israel in all those places (1 Samuel 7:16 b).

b And his return was to Ramah, for there was his house (1 Samuel 7:17 a).

a And there he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to YHWH (1 Samuel 7:17 b).

1 Samuel 7:15

And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.’

And Samuel’s judgeship then continued ‘all the days of his life’. This was firstly as sole Judge, then in association with his sons (1 Samuel 8:1) and then finally in his old age as prophetic guide to Saul, until Saul fell. Compare 1 Samuel 7:6. Here the emphasis is more on his activity as their spiritual and moral guide,

1 Samuel 7:16

And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel and Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all those places.’

In pursuance of his judgeship he performed a regular circuit to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah. Bethel was about 8 miles north of Jerusalem, Gilgal was in the Jordan Valley not far from Jericho, and was seemingly the place where for a while the Tabernacle was later erected when Philistine incursions had begun again under the reign of Samuel’s sons and of Saul, (see 10:8. This was probably because it was well out of reach of the Philistines who did not venture that far) and Mizpah was probably about 4 miles north west of Jerusalem. It will therefore be observed that while many of the tribes had responded to his call for arms, and saw him as their prophet, Samuel did not act overall as direct judge over them. He was there to guide and arbitrate if they needed it. His direct judgeship appears to have been over a fairly limited area, although, of course, being available to all if they wished (compare Deborah in Judges 4:4-5 where she judged ‘between Ramah and Bethel’ to ‘all Israel’, and called on Barak to act as war-leader for Zebulun and Naphtali, assisted by some of the other tribes).

1 Samuel 7:17

And his return was to Ramah, for there was his house, and there he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to YHWH.’

But his main base was in Ramah where he now lived. And it was there that he judged Israel when not on circuit, and it was there that he built an altar to YHWH. In the absence of the Tabernacle this was very necessary. (The Tabernacle had clearly ceased to operate at this time, for Samuel had been bound by a vow to serve it while it was still in existence). Indeed he may well have established a tent sanctuary around the altar to act as a substitute all the while that he was judge.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-samuel-7.html. 2013.

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