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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 7

 

 

Verse 1

1. This verse belongs to the narrative of the sixth chapter, and should not have been separated from it.

Brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill — Why the ark was not taken back to Shiloh and placed in the tabernacle we are nowhere informed. Some have supposed that that place was destroyed by the Philistines after the capture of the ark, and others that it had been so profanely desecrated by the wickedness of Eli’s sons as to be no longer an appropriate place for it. Its location in the house of Abinadab, who was, perhaps, a Levite, and the consecration of Eleazar to keep it, were probably all done by the advice and direction of Samuel. Here the ark remained until David removed it to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 6.


Verse 2

THE GREAT DELIVERANCE AND REFORM UNDER SAMUEL, 1 Samuel 7:2-17.

2. Twenty years — A period of silence in the history of Israel. What notable events occurred and what Samuel did during these twenty years are largely matters of conjecture. Some suppose that this period was nearly simultaneous with the twenty years of Samson’s judgeship. Judges 15:20. This opinion claims no certain proof in the biblical record; only it is probable that the forty years of Philistine oppression (Judges 13:1) from which Samson began to deliver Israel is the same oppression which was completely removed by the instrumentality of Samuel, as recorded in this chapter. Samson’s authority as judge was confined to southwestern Israel, and probably never came in contact with that of either Eli or Samuel. There is nothing at war with the supposition that two or more judges in Israel were contemporary. In our Introduction to Judges we have shown that the officers of Israel bearing that title, and raised up of God from time to time to deliver the people from their oppressors, were not regular national governors, whose authority extended over all the land.

During these twenty years Samuel was not idle. He was known to be a prophet of Jehovah, and often acted as judge, but probably most of his time was spent in retirement and in founding the schools of the prophets. See on 1 Samuel 10:5. When Shiloh was made desolate he probably took care to preserve the precious records of the law, of which he doubtless made much use in teaching the younger prophets who gathered around him. Of Samuel’s marriage and domestic life we know nothing; but we know that his sons walked not after the pattern of their father’s piety. 1 Samuel 8:3. The worship of Baal and Ashtaroth crept in among the people, and the ark remained in obscurity at Kirjath-jearim.

Lamented after the Lord — This both Gesenius and Furst render, assembled themselves after Jehovah. But no sufficient reason is given for taking the Hebrew word נהה in this sense of assembling together. To be sure, the Niphal form occurs here only, but the Kal form, in Ezekiel 32:18, and Micah 2:4, means to wail, to lament, and, therefore, with Thenius and Keil, we adhere to the common translation. The people remembered how gloriously the Lord had manifested himself to Israel in former years, and therefore they lamented after the Lord, that is, longed for his glory to appear again.


Verse 3

3. Samuel spake — His words of warning and reproof had probably been instrumental in causing the lamentation after the Lord just referred to. Upon their showing proper signs of repentance and humiliation he comes forth to lead them in the great work of reform.


Verse 4

4. Baalim and Ashtaroth — Male and female deities of several of the neighbouring nations, especially of the Zidonians. See on Judges 2:11-13. Israel repeatedly fell into the worship of these idol gods.


Verse 5

5. Mizpeh — A city of Benjamin, (Joshua 18:26,) principally celebrated for the events recorded in this chapter, and for the inauguration of Saul. 1 Samuel 10:17. At this place, also, the tribes had once before assembled to counsel revenge on Gibeah for the abuse of the Levite and his concubine, (Judges 20:1,) and here Gedaliah briefly ruled as governor of the Jews left in the land after the Babylonian exile. 2 Kings 25:23. Its site is a point yet in dispute. Robinson and others place it at the modern Neby Samwil, five miles northwest of Jerusalem; but Thomson has doubts of his correctness, (“Land and Book,” vol. ii, p. 545,) and more recently Stanley has suggested Scopus, a height about a mile north of Jerusalem. This latter position is advocated by Dr. Bonar and George Grove, (in Smith’s Dictionary,) but Neby Samwil is best supported by all the evidence in the case.

I will pray for you — The penitence and obedience shown by their putting away the false gods (1 Samuel 7:4) encouraged the holy prophet to intercede for them, and the result showed that the inworking prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16.


Verse 6

6. Drew water, and poured it out before the Lord — Dr. Kitto thinks that this act was the confirmation of an oath — a solemn vow; and tells us that such is an oriental method of confirming an oath or a promise. But, in the absence of any analogous custom recorded in Scripture, (and we have there many forms for oaths,) we adhere to the more common interpretation, and understand this pouring out of water as a symbolical action indicating their humiliation and contrition before God. Thus the Targum paraphrases it: They poured out their heart like water in penitence before the Lord. In accordance with this imagery Hannah is said, in the sorrow of her spirit, to have poured out her soul before the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:15. Compare also Lamentations 2:19, and Psalms 22:14; Psalms 62:8.

Fasted — A further sign of their repentance and humiliation.

And Samuel judged… in Mizpeh — He declared to them the greatness of their sins, the necessity of their reformation, and the methods by which such reformation must be accomplished. He also, perhaps, gave judgment on individual cases of difficulty.


Verse 7

7. The Philistines went up against Israel — They suspected that the great gathering at Mizpeh was for purposes of war, and these lords were anxious to nip such rebellion in the bud.

Afraid — They felt their own weakness, and remembered how long the Philistines had oppressed them.


Verse 8

8. Cease not — The marginal reading is more accurate, Be not silent from us from crying. They now feel that if deliverance comes at all, it must come from Jehovah.


Verse 9

9. A sucking lamb שׂלה חלב, a lamb of milk, that is, young and tender, only seven or eight days old, (Leviticus 22:27,) such “being the most suitable to represent the nation that had wakened up to new life through its conversion to the Lord, and was, as it were, newborn.” — Keil.

A burnt offering wholly — Not cut up and divided, as sacrificial victims often were, but offered entire. We need not suppose that Samuel offered this burnt-offering with his own hand, and thus assumed a function of the priesthood. The co-operation of the priests on such occasions being generally understood, no particular reference to that fact was here necessary. Samuel stood by and blessed the sacrifice. Compare 1 Samuel 9:13, and note.


Verse 10

10. The Lord thundered with a great thunder — Rather, with a great voice. Thus in Samuel’s day was Hannah’s prophecy fulfilled. 1 Samuel 2:10. Compare also the marginal references. This amazing miracle was wrought in answer to Samuel’s prayer, and was a confirmation of his words to Israel as recorded in 1 Samuel 7:3. It showed, too, that the Jehovah of the exodus was still powerful to save his people and confound their enemies.


Verse 11

11. Israel… pursued the Philistines — The Israelites followed up this victory which the Lord had gained for them, and thus mightily profited by the Divine interposition.

Until… under Beth-car — The site of Beth-car is unknown, but must have been off to the west or southwest of Mizpeh, perhaps as far as the great plain of Philistia. Under Beth-car may imply that this place was situated on some eminence; or the meaning may be below, that is, beyond, Beth-car. We may reasonably suppose that the men of Israel continued their pursuit for several days, not giving it over until they had gained from the Philistines all that they had lost through them aforetime.


Verse 12

12. Shen — This word signifies a tooth, and seems to have been the name of some projecting eminence or rock having the form of a tooth. Its situation is now unknown.

Eben-ezer Stone of help; a monument to remind Israel that their victories were of the Lord. At this very spot the ark was captured twenty years before, and here it is notable that God now gives them such a wondrous triumph. The contrast between the two events is full of rich suggestions.


Verse 13

13. Came no more into the coast of Israel — They did not succeed in regaining what they had lost in Israel; they came no more as they had been wont to come, driving Israel before them and bringing them into subjection. The passage does not mean that the Philistines made no further attempt to enter the territory of Israel, for the contrary is implied in the words that immediately follow.

The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel — They made repeated attempts to regain their lost cause, and Saul kept up a constant war against them all his days, (1 Samuel 14:52,) but not until after the death of Samuel did they enter triumphantly the coasts of Israel. 1 Samuel 31:1. While the holy Samuel lived, all their efforts to conquer Israel resulted in defeat. He thus completed the deliverance which Samson began many years before. Judges 13:5.


Verse 14

14. From Ekron even unto Gath — That is, all the cities within a supposed boundary line running from one of these places to the other, but not including these places themselves, for it nowhere appears that Ekron and Gath had ever hitherto been in possession of the Israelites.

Peace between Israel and the Amorites — This signal fact is mentioned because the Amorites were the most powerful of the Canaanitish nations, and therefore the historical importance of such a peace between them and Israel. Some expositors understand that the word Amorites here designates all the Canaanitish nations besides the Philistines. They were overawed by the great victory of Israel, and thought it wise to make peace with them.


Verse 15

15. All the days of his life — Though Saul superseded him in the government, and was recognised as the anointed king of Israel, yet Samuel never lost his influence over the people; and for him Saul ever had the profoundest reverence. So he actually executed the office of judge to the day of his death. See note at the beginning of chap. 12.


Verse 16

16. Beth-el… Gilgal… Mizpeh — These places, with Ramah, he seems to have designated as places where he might be found at certain stated seasons of each year, and where the people from the neighbouring districts might resort unto him for counsel or judgment. On Beth-el, see Genesis 28:19, and Joshua 7:2. There were three places that bore the name of Gilgal: one, in the western part of Central Palestine, was a royal city of the Canaanites, whose king had been overthrown by Joshua, (Joshua 12:23;) another was at the site of the modern Jiljilia, about halfway between Jerusalem and Shechem; and the third was in the plains of Jericho. This last is the Gilgal mentioned in this verse, and was the most celebrated of the three. Here the Israelites first pitched their camp when they entered the Land of Promise, and here the tabernacle probably remained during the wars of the Conquest, and until it was set up at Shiloh. It was ever regarded by Israel as a sacred place. See on Joshua 4:19; Joshua 9:6. So Samuel, leaving his house at Ramah, would pass northwards to Beth-el, thence southeasterly to Gilgal, and thence westwards to Mizpeh, from which place it would be an easy return to Ramah. On Mizpeh, see 1 Samuel 7:5.


Verse 17

17. There was his house — See on 1 Samuel 1:1. He probably lived at Shiloh till the time of Eli’s death, and then, upon the desolation of the tabernacle, he returned to the home of his infancy, and made it his permanent residence.

There he built an altar — For the principal seat of his judicial ministry must not be without the holy service. The law required all sacrifices to be offered at the tabernacle. Deuteronomy 12:13-14; but after the ark and tabernacle had become separated, and Shiloh lay desolate, there seems to have been a feeling that now that law was not binding. See note on 1 Samuel 9:12. And doubtless the shameful conduct of many of the priests at Shiloh had driven not a few in Israel to sacrifice elsewhere, even before the ark was captured. It is possible, however, that Samuel had the tabernacle removed at this time from Shiloh to Ramah. At a later time it was at Nob, (1 Samuel 21:1-7,) and still later at Gibeon. 1 Kings 3:4.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-7.html. 1874-1909.

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