Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 7:1
The inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim complied with this request, and brought the ark into the house of Abinadab upon the height, and sanctified Abinadab's son Eleazar to be the keeper of the ark. Kirjath-jearim, the present Kuryet el Enab (see at Jos 9:17), was neither a priestly nor a Levitical city. The reason why the ark was taken there, is to be sought for, therefore, in the situation of the town, i.e., in the fact that Kirjath-jearim was the nearest large town on the road from Bethshemesh to Shiloh. We have no definite information, however, as to the reason why it was not taken on to Shiloh, to be placed in the tabernacle, but was allowed to remain in the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, where a keeper was expressly appointed to take charge of it; so that we can only confine ourselves to conjectures. Ewald's opinion (Gesch. ii. 540), that the Philistines had conquered Shiloh after the victory described in 1 Samuel 4, and had destroyed the ancient sanctuary there, i.e., the tabernacle, is at variance with the accounts given in Sa1 21:6; Kg1 3:4; Ch2 1:3, respecting the continuance of worship in the tabernacle at Nob and Gibeon. There is much more to be said in support of the conjecture, that the carrying away of the ark by the Philistines was regarded as a judgment upon the sanctuary, which had been desecrated by the reckless conduct of the sons of Eli, and consequently, that even when the ark itself was recovered, they would not take it back without an express declaration of the will of God, but were satisfied, as a temporary arrangement, to leave the ark in Kirjath-jearim, which was farther removed from the cities of the Philistines. And there it remained, because no declaration of the divine will followed respecting its removal into the tabernacle, and the tabernacle itself had to be removed from Shiloh to Nob, and eventually to Gibeon, until David had effected the conquest of the citadel of Zion, and chosen Jerusalem as his capital, when it was removed from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It is not stated that Abinadab was a Levites; but this is very probable, because otherwise they would hardly have consecrated his son to be the keeper of the ark, but would have chosen a Levite for the office.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 7:2
Purification of Israel from idolatry. - Twenty years passed away from that time forward, while the ark remained at Kirjath-jearim, and all Israel mourned after Jehovah. Then Samuel said to them, "If ye turn to the Lord with all your heart, put away the strange gods from the midst of you, and the Astartes, and direct your heart firmly upon the Lord, and serve Him only, that He may save you out of the hand of the Philistines." And the Israelites listened to this appeal. The single clauses of Sa1 7:2 and Sa1 7:3 are connected together by vav consec., and are not to be separated from one another. There is no gap between these verses; but they contain the same closely and logically connected thought,
(Note: There is no force at all in the proofs which Thenius has adduced of a gap between Sa1 7:2 and Sa1 7:3. It by no means follows, that because the Philistines had brought back the ark, their rule over the Israelites had ceased, so as to make the words "he will deliver you," etc., incomprehensible. Moreover, the appearance of Samuel as judge does not presuppose that his assumption of this office must necessarily have been mentioned before. As a general rule, there was no such formal assumption of the office, and this would be least of all the case with Samuel, who had been recognised as an accredited prophet of Jehovah (Sa1 3:19.). And lastly, the reference to idols, and to their being put away in consequence of Samuel's appeal, is intelligible enough, without any express account of their falling into idolatry, if we bear in mind, on the one hand, the constant inclination of the people to serve other gods, and if we observe, on the other hand, that Samuel called upon the people to turn to the Lord with all their heart and serve Him alone, which not only does not preclude, but actually implies, the outward continuance of the worship of Jehovah.)
which may be arranged in one period in the following manner: "And it came to pass, when the days multiplied from the time that the ark remained at Kirjath-jearim, and grew to twenty years, and the whole house of Israel mourned after Jehovah, that Samuel said," etc. The verbs ויּרבּוּ, ויּהיוּ, and ויּנּהוּ, are merely continuations of the infinitive שׁבת, and the main sentence is resumed in the words שׁמוּאל ויּאמר. The contents of the verses require that the clauses should be combined in this manner. The statement that twenty years had passed can only be understood on the supposition that some kind of turning-point ensued at the close of that time. The complaining of the people after Jehovah was no such turning-point, but became one simply from the fact that this complaining was followed by some result. This result is described in Sa1 7:3. It consisted in the fact that Samuel exhorted the people to put away the strange gods (Sa1 7:3); and that when the people listened to his exhortation (Sa1 7:4), he helped them to gain a victory over the Philistines (Sa1 7:5.). ינּהוּ, from נהה, to lament or complain (Mic 2:4; Eze 32:18). "The phrase, to lament after God, is taken from human affairs, when one person follows another with earnest solicitations and complaints, until he at length assents. We have an example of this in the Syrophenician woman in Matt 15." (Seb. Schmidt). The meaning "to assemble together," which is the one adopted by Gesenius, is forced upon the word from the Chaldee אתנהי, and it cannot be shown that the word was ever used in this sense in Hebrew. Samuel's appeal in Sa1 7:3 recalls to mind Jos 24:14, and Gen 35:2; but the words, "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts," assume that the turning of the people to the Lord their God had already inwardly commenced, and indeed, as the participle שׁבים expresses duration, had commenced as a permanent thing, and simply demand that the inward turning of the heart to God should be manifested outwardly as well, by the putting away of all their idols, and should thus be carried out to completion. The "strange gods" (see Gen 35:2) are described in Sa1 7:4 as "Baalim." On Baalim and Ashtaroth, see at Jdg 2:11, Jdg 2:13. לב הכין, to direct the heart firmly: see Psa 78:8; Ch2 30:19.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 7:5
Victory obtained over the Philistines through Samuel's prayer. - Sa1 7:5, Sa1 7:6. When Israel had turned to the Lord with all its heart, and had put away all its idols, Samuel gathered together all the people at Mizpeh, to prepare them for fighting against the Philistines by a solemn day for penitence and prayer. For it is very evident that the object of calling all the people to Mizpeh was that the religious act performed there might serve as a consecration for battle, not only from the circumstance that, according to Sa1 7:7, when the Philistines heard of the meeting, they drew near to make war upon Israel, but also from the contents of Sa1 7:5 : "Samuel said (sc., to the heads or representatives of the nation), Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord." His intention could not possibly have been any other than to put the people into the right relation to their God, and thus to prepare the way for their deliverance out of the bondage of the Philistines. Samuel appointed Mizpeh, i.e., Nebi Samwil, on the western boundary of the tribe of Benjamin (see at Jos 18:26), as the place of meeting, partly no doubt on historical grounds, viz., because it was there that the tribes had formerly held their consultations respecting the wickedness of the inhabitants of Gibeah, and had resolved to make war upon Benjamin (Jdg 20:1.), but still more no doubt, because Mizpeh, on the western border of the mountains, was the most suitable place for commencing the conflict with the Philistines.
When they had assembled together here, "they drew water and poured it out before Jehovah, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord." Drawing water and pouring it out before Jehovah was a symbolical act, which has been thus correctly explained by the Chaldee, on the whole: "They poured out their heart like water in penitence before the Lord." This is evident from the figurative expressions, "poured out like water," in Psa 22:15, and "pour out thy heart like water," in Lam 2:19, which are used to denote inward dissolution through pain, misery, and distress (see Sa2 14:14). Hence the pouring out of water before God was a symbolical representation of the temporal and spiritual distress in which they were at the time, - a practical confession before God, "Behold, we are before Thee like water that has been poured out;" and as it was their own sin and rebellion against God that had brought this distress upon them, it was at the same time a confession of their misery, and an act of the deepest humiliation before the Lord. They gave a still further practical expression to this humiliation by fasting (צוּם), as a sign of their inward distress of mind on account of their sin, and an oral confession of their sin against the Lord. By the word שׁם, which is added to ויּאמרוּ, "they said "there," i.e., at Mizpeh, the oral confession of their sin is formally separated from the two symbolical acts of humiliation before God, though by this very separation it is practically placed on a par with them. What they did symbolically by the pouring out of water and fasting, they explained and confirmed by their verbal confession. שׁם is never an adverb of time signifying "then;" neither in Psa 14:5; Psa 132:17, nor Jdg 5:11. "And thus Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpeh." ויּשׁפּט does not mean "he became judge" (Mich. and others), any more than "he punished every one according to his iniquity" (Thenius, after David Kimchi). Judging the people neither consisted in a censure pronounced by Samuel afterwards, nor in absolution granted to the penitent after they had made a confession of their sin, but in the fact that Samuel summoned the nation to Mizpeh to humble itself before Jehovah, and there secured for it, through his intercession, the forgiveness of its sin, and a renewal of the favour of its God, and thus restored the proper relation between Israel and its God, so that the Lord could proceed to vindicate His people's rights against their foes.
When the Philistines heard of the gathering of the Israelites at Mizpeh (Sa1 7:7, Sa1 7:8), their princes went up against Israel to make war upon it; and the Israelites, in their fear of the Philistines, entreated Samuel, "Do not cease to cry for us to the Lord our God, that He may save us out of the hand of the Philistines." Sa1 7:9. "And Samuel took a milk-lamb (a lamb that was still sucking, probably, according to Lev 22:27, a lamb seven days old), and offered it whole as a burnt-offering to the Lord." כּליל is used adverbially, according to its original meaning as an adverb, "whole." The Chaldee has not given the word at all, probably because the translators regarded it as pleonastic, since every burnt-offering was consumed upon the altar whole, and consequently the word כּליל was sometimes used in a substantive sense, as synonymous with עולה (Deu 33:10; Ps. 51:21). But in the passage before us, כּליל is not synonymous with עולה, but simply affirms that the lamb was offered upon the altar without being cut up or divided. Samuel selected a young lamb for the burnt-offering, not "as being the purest and most innocent kind of sacrificial animal," - for it cannot possibly be shown that very young animals were regarded as purer than those that were full-grown, - but as 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, new-born. For the burnt-offering represented the man, who consecrated therein his life and labour to the Lord. The sacrifice was the substratum for prayer. When Samuel offered it, he cried to the Lord for the children of Israel; and the Lord "answered," i.e., granted, his prayer.
When the Philistines advanced during the offering of the sacrifice to fight against Israel, "Jehovah thundered with a great noise," i.e., with loud peals, against the Philistines, and threw them into confusion, so that they were smitten before Israel. The thunder, which alarmed the Philistines and threw them into confusion (יהמּם, as in Jos 10:10), was the answer of God to Samuel's crying to the Lord.
As soon as they took to flight, the Israelites advanced from Mizpeh, and pursued and smote them to below Beth-car. The situation of this town or locality, which is only mentioned here, has not yet been discovered. Josephus (Ant. vi. 2, 2) has μέχρι Κοῤῥαίων.
As a memorial of this victory, Samuel placed a stone between Mizpeh and Shen, to which he gave the name of Eben-ha-ezer, i.e., stone of help, as a standing memorial that the Lord had thus far helped His people. The situation of Shen is also not known. The name Shen (i.e., tooth) seems to indicate a projecting point of rock (see Sa1 14:4), but may also signify a place situated upon such a point.
Through this victory which was obtained by the miraculous help of God, the Philistines were so humbled, that they no more invaded the territory of Israel, i.e., with lasting success, as they had done before. This limitation of the words "they came no more" (lit. "they did not add again to come into the border of Israel"), is implied in the context; for the words which immediately follow, "and the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel," show that they made attempts to recover their lost supremacy, but that so long as Samuel lived they were unable to effect anything against Israel. This is also manifest from the successful battles fought by Saul (1 Samuel 13 and 14), when the Philistines had made fresh attempts to subjugate Israel during his reign. The defeats inflicted upon them by Saul also belong to the days of Samuel, who died but a very few years before Saul himself. Because of these battles which Saul fought with the Philistines, Lyra and Brentius understand the expression "all the days of Samuel" as referring not to the lifetime of Samuel, but simply to the duration of his official life as judge, viz., till the commencement of Saul's reign. But this is at variance with Sa1 7:15, where Samuel is said to have judged Israel all the days of his life. Seb. Schmidt has given, on the whole, the correct explanation of Sa1 7:13 : "They came no more so as to obtain a victory and subdue the Israelites as before; yet they did return, so that the hand of the Lord was against them, i.e., so that they were repulsed with great slaughter, although they were not actually expelled, or the Israelites delivered from tribute and the presence of military garrisons, and that all the days that the judicial life of Samuel lasted, in fact all his life, since they were also smitten by Saul."
In consequence of the defeat at Ebenezer, the Philistines were obliged to restore to the Israelites the cities which they had taken from them, "from Ekron to Gath." This definition of the limits is probably to be understood as exclusive, i.e., as signifying that the Israelites received back their cities up to the very borders of the Philistines, measuring these borders from Ekron to Gath, and not that the Israelites received Ekron and Gath also. For although these chief cities of the Philistines had been allotted to the tribes of Judah and Dan in the time of Joshua (Jos 13:3-4; Jos 15:45-46), yet, notwithstanding the fact that Judah and Simeon conquered Ekron, together with Gaza and Askelon, after the death of Joshua (Jdg 1:18), the Israelites did not obtain any permanent possession. "And their territory" (coasts), i.e., the territory of the towns that were given back to Israel, not that of Ekron and Gath, "did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites;" i.e., the Canaanitish tribes also kept peace with Israel after this victory of the Israelites over the Philistines, and during the time of Samuel. The Amorites are mentioned, as in Jos 10:6, as being the most powerful of the Canaanitish tribes, who had forced the Danites out of the plain into the mountains (Jdg 1:34-35).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 7:15
Samuel's judicial labours. - With the calling of the people to Mizpeh, and the victory at Ebenezer that had been obtained through his prayer, Samuel had assumed the government of the whole nation; so that his office as judge dates from his period, although he had laboured as prophet among the people from the death of Eli, and had thereby prepared the way for the conversion of Israel to the Lord. As his prophetic labours were described in general terms in Sa1 3:19-21, so are his labours as judge in the verses before us: viz., in Sa1 3:15 their duration, - "all the days of his life," as his activity during Saul's reign and the anointing of David (1 Samuel 15-16) sufficiently prove; and then in Sa1 3:16, Sa1 3:17 their general character, - "he went round from year to year" (וסבב serves as a more precise definition of והלך, he went and travelled round) to Bethel, i.e., Beitin (see at Jos 7:2), Gilgal, and Mizpeh (see at. Sa1 3:5), and judged Israel at all these places. Which Gilgal is meant, whether the one situated in the valley of the Jordan (Jos 4:19), or the Jiljilia on the higher ground to the south-west of Shiloh (see at Jos 8:35), cannot be determined with perfect certainty. The latter is favoured partly by the order in which the three places visited by Samuel on his circuits occur, since according to this he probably went first of all from Ramah to Bethel, which was to the north-east, then farther north or north-west to Jiljilia, and then turning back went towards the south-east to Mizpeh, and returning thence to Ramah performed a complete circuit; whereas, if the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan had been the place referred to, we should expect him to go there first of all from Ramah, and then towards the north-east to Bethel, and from that to the south-west to Mizpeh; and partly also by the circumstance that, according to Kg2 2:1 and Kg2 4:38, there was a school of the prophets at Jiljilia in the time of Elijah and Elisha, the founding of which probably dated as far back as the days of Samuel. If this conjecture were really a well-founded one, it would furnish a strong proof that it was in this place, and not in the Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, that Samuel judged the people. But as this conjecture cannot be raised into a certainty, the evidence in favour of Jiljilia is not so conclusive as I myself formerly supposed (see also the remarks on Sa1 9:14). כּל־המּקומות את is grammatically considered an accusative, and is in apposition to את־ישׂראל, lit., Israel, viz., all the places named, i.e., Israel which inhabited all these places, and was to be found there. "And this return was to Ramah;" i.e., after finishing the annual circuit he returned to Ramah, where he had his house. There he judged Israel, and also built an altar to conduct the religious affairs of the nation. Up to the death of Eli, Samuel lived and laboured at Shiloh (Sa1 3:21). But when the ark was carried away by the Philistines, and consequently the tabernacle at Shiloh lost what was most essential to it as a sanctuary, and ceased at once to be the scene of the gracious presence of God, Samuel went to his native town Ramah, and there built an altar as the place of sacrifice for Jehovah, who had manifested himself to him. The building of the altar at Ramah would naturally be suggested to the prophet by these extraordinary circumstances, even if it had not been expressly commanded by Jehovah.