I Samuel 7
1 “And the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the
LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and
sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.”
At Kirjath-jearim the people reverently undertook the charge of
the ark, and carried out their arrangements so carefully that no further
calamity occurred. On its arrival they placed it in the house of Abinadab
in the hill. More probably at Gibeah, as it is translated in II Samuel 6:3-4.
In Joshua 15:57 a village of this name is mentioned in the tribe
Abinadab, who lived there, was a Levite, and so his house was chosen, and
his son Eleazar sanctified to keep the ark. The names of both father and
son are common in the Levitical genealogies, and none but a member of
this tribe would have been selected for so holy a duty. If, however, the
translation in the hill be preferred, we may suppose that it was because
lofty heights were still considered fit places for Jehovah’s worship, or there
may even have been a “high place” there, of which Abinadab was the
keeper. What exactly were the duties of Eleazar we cannot tell, as the
word to keep is very indefinite; but probably, after the fearful ruin at
of happier times. Even here it was the men of the city who sanctified
Eleazar, and not a priest.
THE REFORMATION OF
2 “And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the
time was long; for it was twenty years: and
all the house of
lamented after the LORD.” The literal translation of this verse is, “And
it came to pass, from the day that the ark rested at Kirjath-jearim, that the
time was long; for it was twenty years.” The words dwell wearily upon the
length of this mournful period, during which.
subjection to the Philistines, with its national life crushed to the ground,
and its strength wasted by unjust exactions and misrule. For though the
Philistines gave up the ark, there was no restoration of the national
worship, nor did they abandon the political fruits of their victory at Ebenezer.
But quietly and calmly Samuel was laboring to put all things right. It
was the principle of the theocracy that Jehovah punished His subjects for
their sins by withdrawing His protection, and that on their repentance He
took again His place at their head as their king, and delivered them.
(This statement is worthy of notice by the
no doubt that God works on the same principle in the 21st century! – CY –
2016) Samuel’s whole effort, therefore, was directed to bringing the people to
repentance. What means he used we are not told, nor what was his mode
of life; but probably it was that of a fugitive, going stealthily from place to
place that he might teach and preach, hiding in the caverns in the limestone
and now another, ever in danger, but gradually awakening, not merely
those districts which were contiguous to the Philistines,
sense of the greatness of their sins, and the necessity of renewed trust and
love to their God. And so a fresh spiritual life sprang up among the people,
and with it came the certainty of the restoration of their national
the house of
used here is rare, and the versions all differ in their translation of it. Really
it is a happy one, embracing the two ideas of sorrow for sin, and also of
returning to and gathering themselves round Jehovah. The Syriac alone
retains this double meaning, by saying that “they all cast themselves down
after Jehovah,” i.e. that they sought Him with deep humility. Gradually,
then, a change of heart came over the people; but the removal of the ark to
a more fit place, and the restoration of Divine service with ministering
priests and Levites, could take place only after the Philistine yoke had been
broken. From ch.13:19- 22 we learn how vigilant and oppressive
that tyranny was; and the heart of the writer, in inditing this verse, was full
of sorrow at the thought that the
unready, and that therefore it had to wait twenty years before deliverance
Fitness for Service (vs. 1-2)
The facts are:
1. At the request of the terrified men of Beth-shemesh the men of Kirjathjearim
bring the ark to their high place.
2. Arrangements are made in the house of Abinadab for the due care of the ark.
3. The time of the sojourn of the ark in this place, up to the date of Samuel’s test
of repentance, was twenty years.
4. Towards the close of this period the people long for the full restoration
of the Divine favor. A new stage was being entered on in the process of
restoration to full privileges, and God must have men fitted to the
occasion. The ark
could not go to
Divine will could be gathered from the controlled action of the kine,
Bethshemesh was the place for it in which to rest. But the profane conduct of
the officials proved that the privilege must be forfeited, and the unmitigated
terror of the survivors indicated that they possessed not the spiritual
for the respectful, loving guardianship of
some reason the men of Kirjath-jearim had a reputation which justified the
belief that they dared and could safely convey and keep what their
neighbors dare not touch. Their actions justified this belief.
UNFOLDING OF GOD’S PURPOSES. There was once a need of
workmen to build the ark, of men to bear it, of kine to bring it back, and
now of men to carry and keep it in all decency and order. Emergencies are
inherent in the outworking of the Church’s mission. Ages bring their
demands. Education, national affairs, assaults on truth, openings for the
gospel in foreign lands, and many other things, call for new lines of action
or modifications of old. And thus it will be till the world is brought to Christ.
THE WORK GOD HAS TO RE DONE. If Beth-shemesh cannot supply
the men who know how to behave properly towards the sacred symbol,
there are others elsewhere. The qualities are being acquired parallel with
the providential processes that evolve the new demand. God takes care of
all sides of His holy cause. Those disqualified must yield the privilege of
new and important service to the qualified, and God knows where these
are. In every age He has His chosen, secret methods of laying hold of ability,
learning, strength of purpose, and whatsoever else may be required to do
NEW OCCASIONS IS TRUE REVERENCE AND INTEREST. Many
minor qualities were requisite to the bringing and caring for the ark, but the
primary was that of proper reverence for the ark of God and due interest in
its sanctity and use The men of Beth-shemesh lacked this; for they lost true
reverence in terror and dread, and they were distrustful of their ability to
keep the ark with due honor to it and benefit to themselves. Here we have
in incidental contrast:
o a religion characterized by dread, and
o a religion of true reverence.
Ø The religion of dread is a sense of infinite holiness and power unrelieved
by a recognition of other Divine attributes. The men of Beth-shemesh had
been struck with the awful holiness of Jehovah, and of His mighty power
expressing holiness in acts of swift judgment. Thus, generally, when
religion consists mainly in this there is a shrinking from God’s presence;
attention to ordinances under the sheer force of conscience. In so far as
Christian men — so called — know only such a religion they approximate
Ø The religion of true reverence is a sense of infinite holiness and power
toned by a trustful love. The men of Kirjath-jearim were not perfect, but
they had as correct views as their neighbors of the holiness and power of
Jehovah; and yet it is obvious, from the quiet, interested manner in which
they received and provided for the ark, that they in some degree loved and
trusted their God. In true reverence the awe created by ineffable holiness
and almighty power is mitigated by the remembrance that God is merciful
and gracious, and cares for His people, even in their self-brought sorrows.
When this reverence is perfected in Christian life by a due appreciation of
the august majesty and love seen in THE SACRIFICAL WORK OF
CHRIST the heart rests IN GOD with all the reverential love of a child.
Duty and privilege then are coincident.
The return of the ark was an outward sign of the returning favor of God,
and was so understood by the men of Beth-shemesh. But the full service of
the tabernacle, with the ark as its center and glory, was not established.
Nor were the Philistines deprived of their hold on
was held in reserve. The set time to favor
arrived. The reasons for this are clear. The people were too degraded to
enjoy the full benefit of the services and festivals. A degenerate priesthood,
steeped in vice, cannot at once pass on to the holy duties of Jehovah’s
worship. A regenerative process requires time, and twenty years was not
too long for the old generation of priests to die off and give way to men
brought up under better influences. The general truth here set forth is, that
it is in the heart of God to do great things for His people, but that for good
reasons He holds Himself, so to speak, in reserve — veiling His glory,
bestowing His blessing sparsely. Indeed, there is even a wider application of
the truth than in relation to the Church. Take a few illustrations.
power and wisdom of God. But vast and intricate as it is, no one can
suppose that it is coextensive with all that is in His nature.. There are not
two infinites. The power and wisdom of God are in excess of what are
traceable in the works He has formed. There is A VAST RESERVE which for
aught we know may some time come out in an order of things not now
conceived or deemed possible. It is a crude philosophy which teaches that
God has done all He intends to do in the way of positive creation. Every
new spirit that comes into being is an evidence of the Divine reserve.
may be said that, supposing we have learned all they teach, we “know only
in part” (I Corinthians 13:12). For as there is more in God than in His
works and word, there is a reserve of truth which may yet be drawn upon.
In the gradual bestowment of revelation we see how God keeps back from
one age what He gives to another. Christ had many things to say once which
His disciples could not then bear to hear. (John 16:12) There must be deep
and far reaching principles of the Divine government which underlie the at
present revealed facts of:
Ø human responsibility, and
Ø future punishment;
and these are kept out of full view till, perhaps, we become free from the flesh.
should think that this would greatly humiliate modern secularists. CY – 2016)
If it comes not to men, it is because He withholds the blessings desired. The
absence of prosperity has a practical side; it means that God reserves good
because conduct and motive are not what He approves. There was nigh at
hand all the power and wisdom
Philistines for axes and coulters,
but it came not forth. Had
or later times been more true to God, he would have “fed them also with
the finest of the wheat” (Psalm 81:13-16).
to be the envy of the world. Her “feet” are to be “beautiful;” her garments
“white;” her influence as the “light” and “salt.” And all this not by virtue of
what may be in the Church of herself, but because of the power and grace of
God within her. If she is “in the dust,” we ask the cause; the first answer is,
because God stays His hand, keeps the residue of the Spirit, holds Himself in
reserve. The second answer is, that this Divine reserve is in consequence of
the Church having backslidden from her God and disqualified herself from
being a vehicle for the full flow of the blessing that is to ENRICH
MANKIND! The Divine light is to shine from “golden candlesticks.”
sense, the passing into and dwelling within the soul of the power and love
of God — by the Holy Spirit. It is the proper heritage of a believer to enjoy
a sense of the Divine favor not known to the unbelieving. A vision of God
sweet and blessed comes to the pure in heart. Christ manifests Himself as He
does not to the world. But the backsliding soul does not share in the full
bliss. “Why art thou cast down?” is often asked (Psalm 42:5,11). The answer
is, there is not the spiritual fitness for perfect fellowship. Some “idols” have
been cherished. Divine reserve is a discipline to cause the heart to lament
Ø There is ample ground for believing that all things shall be subdued unto
Christ. (I Corinthians 15:24-28) His great power is yet to be put forth.
Ø Inquiry should be made as to the existence of anything in motive,
conduct, or spirit which keeps the Church from enjoying the full exercise
of the power of God.
Ø We may profitably reflect on what might be ours in private life if by our
devotedness to God we secured more of the “residue of the Spirit.”
Samuel spake unto all the house of
return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the
strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your
hearts unto the LORD, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you
out of the hand of the Philistines.” At length everything was ripe for a change,
and the reformation wrought privately in their hearts was followed by
public action. Samuel’s secret addresses had no doubt been watched with
anger by the Philistines, but he now ventures upon open resistance; for this
public summons to
summons also to an uprise against foreign domination. We must suppose
that the people had often assured Samuel in his wanderings of the reality of
their repentance, and of their readiness to stake everything upon the issue
of war. As a statesman, he now judges that the time has come, and
convenes a national assembly. But everything would depend upon their
earnestness. They were virtually unarmed; they would have to deal with an
enemy long victorious, and who held the most important posts in their
country with garrisons. Terrible suffering would follow upon defeat. Was
their faith strong enough, their courage desperate enough, for so fearful a
risk? Especially as Samuel is never described to us as a warrior or military
hero. He could inspire no confidence as a general. He himself makes
everything depend upon their faith, and all he can promise is, “I will pray
for you unto Jehovah” (v. 5).
the children of
served the LORD only.”
Then the children of
[the] Ashtaroth. This must have been done by a public act, by which at
some time previously arranged the images of their Baals and Astartes were
torn from their shrines, thrown down, and broken in pieces. Of course this
was an overt act of rebellion, for these deities were especially Phoenician
idols, and subsequently it was the Phoenician Jezebel who tried so
fanatically to introduce their worship into
the Philistine deities was equivalent to a rebellion generally against
Philistine supremacy. Baal and Astarte, the husband and the wife,
represented the reproductive powers of nature, and under various names
were worshipped throughout the East, and usually with lewd and wanton
Samuel said, Gather all
be spelt, means a watch tower (Genesis 31:49), and so is a not
uncommon name for spots among the hills commanding an extensive
outlook. This was probably the Mizpah in the tribe of Benjamin, distant
about five miles from
though Samuel may have partly chosen it as a holy place (Judges 11:11;
20:1), yet the chief reason was probably its lofty situation, 500 feet above
the neighboring tableau, which itself was 2000 feet above the sea level. It
was thus difficult to surprise, and admirably adapted for warlike purposes.
The gathering of the people at Mizpah was the necessary result of the
public insult offered to the Philistine gods, and virtually a declaration of
war, as being an assertion of national independence.
6 “And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured
it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We
have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of
While the drawing of water was a joyful act (Isaiah 12:3; John 7:37-38),
as symbolizing the winning from the depths below of the source of life
and health, the pouring it out before Jehovah expressed sorrow for sin, and
so it is explained by the Chaldee Paraphrast: “They poured out their heart
in penitence like water before the Lord” (compare Psalm 22:14). It might
here also signify weakness and powerlessness, the being “as water spilt
upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (II Samuel
14:14). They further expressed their sorrow by fasting, enjoined “for the
afflicting of their souls” upon the great day of atonement (Leviticus
16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Numbers 29:7). And to these symbolical acts they
joined the confession of the mouth, acknowledging that “they had sinned
against Jehovah.” And
Samuel judged the children of
he now became the acknowledged ruler of
and military, as he had previously been in things spiritual by virtue of his office
as prophet. This was, of course, the result of the decisive action he had
taken in summoning this national convention; but the words strongly
suggest that there was some direct appointment, or at the very least a
national acknowledgment of Samuel’s authority, especially as they precede
the history of the defeat of the Philistines. He had summoned the people
together as Nabi, prophet, and when he said, “I will pray for you unto
Jehovah,” there was the implied meaning that he would be with them only
in that capacity. But when the time came to appoint a general, who would
act under him as Barak had acted under Deborah, the great chiefs,
probably, who saw in him the prime mover of all that was being done,
urged him also to take the command, and upon his consent he became also
Shophet or judge.
A National Revival (vs. 2-6)
The history of religion in the world is largely a history of a series of
declensions and revivals:
Ø the former being due to the downward tendency of human nature,
Ø the latter to the gracious interposition of God.
Of this fact the period of the judges affords an illustration. The revival which took
place at its commencement (Judges 2:1-5) is specially worthy of notice;
another, and more important, occurring toward its close, is here described.
1. Needed on account of the condition of the people of
defeat which they suffered twenty years before (v. 2; ch. 4:1-2; 6:1)
checked their prevailing sin, especially as manifested in:
Ø superstition, and
but it by no means cured it. Superstitious veneration for sacred objects passed
rapidly, as commonly happens, into unbelieving irreverence (ch. 6:19) and
spiritual indifference; whilst participation in the false worship and corrupt
practices of the heathen continued, and even increased (v. 4). The law of God
was made void and His presence withdrawn.
2. Effected, under God, by the influence of one man — Samuel. Nothing is
expressly said concerning him during these twenty years; but he appears to
have retired from
he remained there altogether inactive for so long a time. The statement of
ch. 3:20-21; 4:1, must be considered as, to some extent, in the future.
The oppression of the Philistines was not such as to interfere
with him, nor was his activity of such a kind as to cause them much
concern. His holy example and quiet labors doubtless contributed greatly
to the keeping alive of true piety in the hearts of a faithful few; and when
the time came for more public effort he stood ready — in the full maturity
of his powers, above forty years of age — to utter the word of the Lord,
and to take the leadership of the nation. “During the long oppression of a
stormy time the nation at last gathered more and more unanimously around
Samuel, like terrified chickens around the parent hen” (Ewald).
3. Marked by features of a peculiar nature. Every great religious revival
that has been recorded in sacred history or has occurred in the Christian
Church has had a character of its own, determined by the wants of the age.
And this revival was characterized by the restoration of the moral law to
commanding influence on the conscience of the people by means of the
prophetic ministry. The office of hereditary priest became secondary to that
of inspired prophet, and was even absorbed in it for a while; for Samuel,
although not a priest, acted constantly as such in offering sacrifice; and the
Levitical law lay in abeyance, or was modified in practice under his
direction. “As Moses established the theocracy, Samuel restored its
fundamental principles to the supreme place in the national life, and thus in
a true and noble sense was its second founder.” The revival he was the
chief instrument in effecting:
Ø involved a more complete separation from idolatry,
Ø laid the basis of higher internal unity, and
Ø was followed by prosperity and independence.
In the description of it we observe:
“And all the house
Ø Occasioned by the experience of the long and bitter effects of transgression.
Ø Implying a sense of misery in the absence of God. The idols to which
men give their affections cannot satisfy the heart (Hosea 2:7-8; 5:15,
6:1). “It is well to feel worn and fatigued with the fruitless search after
happiness, that we may welcome our Deliverer” (Pascal).
Ø Consisting of an intense longing after His favor and fellowship. The
phrase, “lamented after the Lord,” is taken from human affairs, when one
follows after another and entreats Him with lamentations until He assents.
An example of this is the Syrophenician woman” Matthew 15:22-28).
(S. Schmid). The sorrow thus felt was a “godly sorrow;” a sorrow which
comes from God, is felt for God, and tends to God, and which works genuine
repentance, effectual deliverance, and lasting satisfaction (II Corinthians
Ø Felt by the nation as a whole. “All
the house of
such concern is felt it is a sure sign of God’s returning favor. “They
inclined after the Lord; they groaned, complained, bemoaned themselves in
their following the Lord, as a child followeth his departing parent; they
called, cried, and lifted up their voice after the Lord by earnest prayer and
o Because God is infinitely more worthy than all ordinances;
His presence is valuable in itself.
o God purposely withdraws, that men may lament after Him;
as when a mother steps out of a child’s sight, and when she
seems to be gone the child raises a cry after her.
o Because sincere lamenting after the Lord may occasion His
return” (O. Heywood, 3:419).
The word was:
Ø Revealed in former days, and included in the law of Moses
(Deuteronomy 6:14). There is not generally so much need of new truth
as that the old should be vitalized. (Jeremiah 6:16) How much of dead
truth lies in the mind of every man!
Ø Spoken with new power; opportunely, faithfully, and with holy zeal, by
the prophet who had been commissioned to utter it. THE PREACHING
OF THE WORD IS NECESSARY and important in every genuine revival
of religion. That word is a fire, a hammer, and a two-edged sword
Ø Adapted to the condition of the people.
o To test the sincerity of their desires and purposes. “If,” etc.
o To instruct them in their duty. “Put away the strange gods”, ...
prepare your hearts = “Fix your hearts towards, or in trust in,
God” (Hebrews 13:9).
o To encourage them to hope for deliverance. “And He will deliver
you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
o Listened to in a right spirit; with fresh interest, reverence, self-
application, and a determination to put it into practice. When
the heart is prepared the truth is invested with new meaning
and power; as words written on paper with invisible ink are
clearly perceived when held to the fire. “Faith cometh by
hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
(v. 4), which was:
Ø A proof of their genuine repentance; “a heart broken for sin, and from
Ø Shown with respect to the transgressions to which they were specially
addicted — the worship of Baalim (images or modifications of Baal, the
principal male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations — the sun
god) and Ashtaroth (images of their supreme female divinity, “the queen of
heaven,” the Syrian Venus — Astarte), and the corrupt practices connected
therewith (Judges 2:11, 13).
Ø Combined with positive acts of obedience and piety. They not only
ceased to worship false gods, but also “served the Lord alone”
(Matthew 6:24). Sin is most effectually broken off “by righteousness”
(Daniel 4:27); an old affection most effectually expelled by a new one.
The heart cannot rest without some object of love and trust. And if, “when
the unclean spirit is gone out of a man,” it be not immediately replaced by a
pure spirit, it is sure to return “with seven other spirits more wicked than
himself” (Matthew 12:43-45).
Ø Made by men individually and in private; whereby they become
prepared to make a national profession, and to receive the Divine blessing.
God can bless men only by “turning every one of them from his iniquities”
(vs. 5-6). At the word of Samuel a national assembly was gathered
together at Mizpah for the purpose of openly expressing and confirming
the general feeling; and there under the open sky they “yielded themselves
to the Lord” (II Chronicles 30:8) with:
Ø Solemn vows of obedience to the law of their God. “They drew water
and poured it out before the Lord.” “We take this act to have been a sign
and symbol, or rather confirmation of an oath — a solemn vow. To pour
out water on the ground is in the East an ancient way of taking a solemn
oath — the words and promises that had gone forth from their mouth
being as water spilt upon the ground that cannot be gathered up again”
Ø Sincere humiliation on account of former disobedience. The symbol just
mentioned is interpreted by some as denoting the pouring out of their
hearts in penitence. They also “fasted on that day, and said there, We have
sinned against the Lord.”
Ø Prayers and supplications for Divine mercy and help. “I will pray for
you.” “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us,” implying that
Samuel had already prayed for them. He gave expression to their desires,
and made intercession on their behalf. “So Moses prayed for the people at
and for Miriam, so Elijah prayed at
sacrifice, so the high priest prayed for the house of
the day of atonement, and so does our Lord Jesus Christ ever live at God’s
right hand to make intercession for us” (‘Speakers Commentary).
Ø Devout acknowledgment of the prophet of the Lord as their leader and
judge. “And Samuel judged the children of
he commenced his public labors as judge, and a great moral and spiritual
reformation was inaugurated. It was a day long remembered (II Chronicles
was no passover like to that kept in
the days of Samuel the prophet”), and such a day as every godly man
desires to see in this land (Psalm 85:6; Hosea 14:1-3; Habakkuk 3:2).
Confession of Sin (v. 6)
“We have sinned against the Lord.” When any one has done wrong to
another he ought to make acknowledgment and reparation to him
(Matthew 5:23-24). We are directed to “confess our faults one to
another” (James 5:16); and there are cases in which we may derive
benefit from confessing our sins against the Lord to a godly man. The
passage just referred to, however, affords no ground for “auricular
confession” (confession to a human priest); nor does the commission
given to the apostles (John 20:23), since (in addition to other reasons)
it simply conferred authority to declare the ordinances of the kingdom
of heaven, and especially the terms or conditions according to which
sins are remitted or retained; and the practice of such confession is most
injurious. But we ought all to confess our sins to God. Every wrong done
to men is a sin against God, and there are multitudes of sins against Him
that do not directly affect our fellow men. “In many things we all offend.”
(James 3:2) And the word of God often enjoins the confession of all our
offences before Him, and declares it to be the necessary condition of
obtaining forgiveness. Consider:
Ø That we see the essential evil of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law”
(I John 3:4). More generally, it is whatever is contrary to the character
and will of God. As He is the only perfect Being, and deserves and claims
the supreme love of men, so the root of sin consists in the absence of such
love, and the departure of the heart from its true rest; and whenever man
departs from God he falls into:
o vanity, and
Sin is aversion to God and devotion to self (see Tulloch, ‘Christian Doctrine
of Sin’). “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” etc. (Psalm 51:4).
Ø That we are convinced of the just desert of sin. “Howbeit, thou art just
in all that is brought upon us, for thou hast done right, but we have
done wickedly.” (Nehemiah 9:33).
Ø That we are resolved upon an entire renunciation of sin. This
determination springs from a real hatred towards it, and is associated with
“hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matthew 5:6) Confession is of
the nature of a solemn oath of abjuration. “Whoso confesseth and
forsaketh his sins shall find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Ø Under a due impression of the greatness of our sin.
o In order to this we must contemplate the holy love of God, His just
requirements, His merciful blessings and boundless claims; above all,
we must stand before the cross and behold that great sight (Luke 23:48).
There is no better way to obtain the gift of tears for having offended
God than meditation on the greatness of God’s goodness and of His
love which He has shown to man.
o We must, in the light that shines upon us, consider the particular
transgressions we have committed in:
§ word, and
§ deed against:
ü our neighbor, and
ü ourselves, sins of:
* omission and
* commission, and
the sinful disposition revealed by them and pervading our whole life
(Luke 18:13). General confessions of sin without personal and
particular application are of little worth. “Usually, the more particular
we are in the confession of sin, the more comfort we have in the sense
of pardon” (Matthew Henry).
o In this manner we shall, by Divine grace, be filled with self-abasement,
godly sorrow, and true repentance. “That which makes manifest is
light;” and in proportion to the brightness with which the light of truth
shines upon us will it manifest our sin (I John 1:8); just as a sunbeam
darting across a room shows us the floating dust that was not seen
before (Job 42:5-6).
Ø In sincere, frank, and unreserved acknowledgment of our sin; without
any attempt to cover, excuse, or palliate it. “Pardon my iniquity, for it is
great” (Psalm 25:11; 32:3-5).
Ø With a turning of the heart to God in faith and prayer and acts of
obedience. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous
in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).
“Repentance is heart’s sorrow
And a clear life ensuing”
Ø Each individual (Luke 15:21). “God be merciful to me a sinner”
Ø Each family. “Every family apart” (Zechariah 12:14).
Ø The whole people. Those who have united in sinning must unite in
confessing their sin (ch. 12:19; Ezra 9:6-15; Daniel 9:4-19).
“We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Ø That we may give glory to God. By it we act in accordance with His will,
justify Him in His dealings with us, and give to Him the honor which is His
due. “Give glory to God, and make confession unto him” (Joshua 7:19).
Ø That we may be prepared to receive pardon, peace, and salvation. Until
we open our hearts to God He will not open His heart to us. We must cease
to have fellowship with idols in order that we may have fellowship with the
holy One, and become the habitation of His Spirit (II Corinthians 6:16).
Ø That we may have confidence in the fulfillment of His promises. This is
conditioned by our fulfillment of His requirements, without which our
confidence is vain. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just
to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(I John 1:9). “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).
THE TYRANNY OF THE PHILISTINES
when the Philistines heard that the children of
gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up
afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the
Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that He will save us
out of the hand of the Philistines.” When the children of
they were afraid of the Philistines. This was perfectly natural, and implied
no intention on the part of the Israelites not to fight it out. No dominant nation
would permit a subject race to hold such a meeting as Samuel’s at Mizpah without
having recourse to arms; but the Philistines acted with such promptness and
vigor as brought home to the assembled Israelites not merely the
conviction that they would have to fight, but that they must do it at once,
and with the combined forces of the enemy. In spite, nevertheless, of their
fears, they determine to await the attack, and that this decision was taken
in faith their own words prove. For they say, Cease not to cry unto
Jehovah our God for us, that He will save us out of the hand of the
Philistines. The words literally are, “Be not silent from crying,” etc. Let
him mediate for them with God, and they will await the onslaught of the foe.
9 “And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly
unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the
heard him.” And Samuel took a sucking lamb. Samuel now appears as
priest, and makes intercession and atonement for them. The lamb was at
least seven days old, for so the law required (Leviticus 22:27), but
probably not much older; for the word, a rare one, occurring elsewhere
only in Isaiah 65:25, means something small and tender: this then he
offered for a burnt offering wholly unto Jehovah. The Authorized Version
translates in this way because chalil, “whole,” is masculine, while ‘olah,
“a burnt offering,” is feminine; but chalil had in course of time come to be
used as a substantive (Leviticus 6:23; Deuteronomy 13:16; 33:10), and is
really here in opposition to ‘olah, and so the two together signify “a whole
burnt offering,” and clearly indicate that the lamb was entirely consumed by
fire. ‘Olah means that which ascends, and symbolized devotion and
consecration to God. Chalil intensified this signification, and showed that
all was God’s, and no part whatsoever reserved for the priest or the
offerer. And thus then Samuel’s burnt offering implied that the people gave
themselves unreservedly to Jehovah. And Jehovah heard him. Really,
“Jehovah answered him,” by the thunder mentioned in v. 10. For thunder
was regarded as God’s voice (ch. 2:10), and in Psalm 29. we have a poetic
description of its majesty and power. Express mention is also made in
Psalm 99:6 of Jehovah having thus answered the prayers of Moses
(Exodus 19:19), and of Samuel.
10 “And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines
drew near to battle against
great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited
them; and they were smitten before
11 And the
Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.”
As Samuel was offering, etc. We have here a detailed and lively
description of the whole event. The lamb is still burning upon the
altar, and Samuel still kneeling before it, when the Philistine hosts appear
upon the lofty plateau just below the hill of Mizpah, and marshal
themselves for battle. It seemed as if
a heart, no doubt, was bravely straggling against its fears, and scarcely
could keep them down. But as the enemy drew near the electric cloud
formed in the heavens, and Jehovah thundered with a great voice (so the
Hebrew) on that day upon the Philistines. Alarmed at so unusual a
phenomenon, the Philistines hesitate in their advance, and Samuel, seeing
their consternation, gives the signal for the charge, and
the voice of Jehovah, rushes down the hill upon the foe. Full of enthusiasm,
they forget the poorness of their weapons, and the weight of their
impetuous rush breaks through the opposing line. And now a panic seizes
the Philistines; they attempt no further resistance, but flee in dismay from
the pursuing Israelites. Their course would lead them down a huge valley
1000 feet deep, at the bottom of which was a torrent rushing over a rocky
bed; nor was their flight stayed until they came under Beth-car. Of this
place we know nothing, but probably it was a fastness where the Philistines
could protect themselves from further attack.
12 “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and
called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”
We saw on ch. 4. I that the place
now received a more happy name, was an open plain, over which the people
now chased their then victorious enemies. Here, then, Samuel set up a memorial,
according to Jewish custom, and called its name Help stone. In giving his reason
for it, hitherto hath Jehovah helped us, there is a plain indication of the need
of further assistance. There was a long struggle before them, and Jehovah,
who had aided them so mightily at its beginning, would also help them unto
the end. The memorial stood halfway between Mizpeh and Shen, both which
names have the article in Hebrew, because one signifies the watchtower,
the other the tooth. It was a steep, pointed rock, but is not mentioned elsewhere.
Dent, the French for
tooth, is a common name for mountains in the
Steps of Return to God (vs. 1-12)
The whole interest of this passage is moral. No stress is laid on the forms,
or even the authorized appurtenances, of religion. The ark, of which we
have heard so much, and which had been treated with a singular mixture of
superstition and profanity, plays no part in the history. It is left for years in
a quiet retreat.
return have a meaning and a moral lesson for all generations.
“The house of
had been withdrawn, and under the yoke of the Philistines the spirit of
held himself in reserve till a time should arrive more favorable for the
moral suasion and admonition of a prophet. And heathen worship crept
over the land. But at last conscience began to stir, the soul of the people
was weary, and there rose a wistful, sorrowful cry after the God of their
fathers. This surely is always the beginning of a backslider’s restoration, he
wearies, and is ashamed of his own ways; feels his folly and wickedness,
and then sighs after a forfeited blessedness — laments after the Lord.
came for the people to hear him with an awakened conscience, Samuel
addressed all the tribes with a voice of moral authority that recalls the
admonitions of Moses and the last words of Joshua (v. 3). And the
people obeyed his word, showing their repentance in the most thorough
and practical way by “putting away Baalim and Ashtaroth.” So must every
true prophet or preacher of righteousness summon men to repentance, and
testify to them that God will not take their part while their hearts are
disloyal to Him. It is useless to lament after the Lord and still retain false
gods. Our God is not mocked, nor can his favor be gained by mere words
and empty sighs. (Galatians 6:7-8)
of sin against Jehovah, “Samuel
judged the people of
opportunity to institute a more authoritative and vigorous administration of
public affairs. He knew well the need of establishing order and discipline
under the sacred law. And the people consented. So when there is sincere
repentance a new order begins. The authority of the law of the Lord over
conscience and life is acknowledged, and there is evinced a new obedience.
the Israelite worship of Baal and Astarte; but so soon as they heard of their
return to the service of Jehovah and of the increased authority of Samuel,
they mustered their forces to attack them. (Thus today, in the world anything
goes EXCEPT JESUS! – CY – 2016) And the faith of the penitent
tribes was not yet sufficiently established or assured to prevent their being
“afraid of the Philistines.” They stood their ground, however, and asked
Samuel to pray for them to the Lord. So they got the victory. When a
backslider returns to God, endeavoring to regain his self-respect, and to
resume his place as a well doer, he finds that evil rises up within him and
fights hard for the mastery. As Pharaoh would not let the people go and
the Philistines would not let them restore religion or regain national
independence without a struggle to keep them down, so does sin strive to
retain under its yoke the sinner who is escaping through repentance. But let
faith appeal to God along with the burnt offering of entire consecration to
Him. He gives the victory to the weak.
Samuel knew the value to a nation of inspiriting recollections, and
therefore set up a stone or pillar to commemorate the great victory. But he
was careful to make it a
witness not to
timely help. It was Ebenezer, the stone of help. It said “Te Deum
Landamus.” (God, we praise you!) The spiritual life has its Ebenezers, —
many of them. Nations are ready enough to raise proud pillars and triumphal
arches to celebrate their feats
squares, and boulevards, and bridges named after battles. Let us remember:
Ø the battles of principle,
Ø the fights with temptation through which we have passed.
When we have failed, ours is the shame. When we have overcome,
TO GOD BE THE GLORY! We recommend not remembrance only, but
some stone of remembrance.
(Recently, at the
a Confederate statue has been removed because of “political correctness”,
a form of denial of the past. Much of American culture today is
based on show and falsehood, and double standards. – CY – 2016)
It is a true and wise impulse which has often led Christians to commemorate
a great deliverance or consolation vouchsafed to themselves by:
Ø building a church,
Ø an hospital,
Ø an almshouse,
Ø founding a mission, or
Ø some institution of learning or benevolence.
Such a stone of remembrance helps him who rears it to resist the tendency
to let religious impressions and memories fade from the mind, and it
proclaims to others that some men, at all events, have proved God as
the Hearer of prayer and the Helper of the needy.
Ebenezer (vs. 3-12)
The facts are:
1. Samuel calls on the people to prove their desire to return to God by
putting away idols and preparing their hearts for a blessing.
2. A response to the call is followed by a summons to Mizpah for prayer
3. A rumored approach of the Philistines excites fear, and an urgent
request for Samuel’s intercession with God.
4. While Samuel is engaged in worship God discomfits the assailing
Philistines by thunder.
5. The victory is commemorated by raising the stone Ebenezer.
This paragraph is to be considered in relation to
to fulfill the Messianic purposes of their existence as a chosen people.
Associated with this ulterior object, and subservient to it, was the full
favor and blessing of God. This, again, was to be indicated by the
restoration in developed form of the holy services and festivals connected
with the ark and the sanctuary. The turning point in THE DEGENERACY
had come in a sense of desolation and misery consequent on the recent
defeat and the capture of the ark. The return of the ark gently fanned the
flickering flame of hope, but as yet the goal was far distant, and the
conditions of attaining to it were very unsatisfactory. The narrative
sketches, in the instance of
goal of life, and the encouragements to persevere in the effort. The
Christian Church and the individual soul have each an issue of life to
attain to. It is also true of them that they start from a relatively low and
unsatisfactory position, and will succeed in their endeavor only as they
observe conditions inseparable from their position.
Confining attention to those involved in this portion of history,
we find them to be:
Ø A hearty renunciation of all that is alien to the mind of God. Idols had
to be put aside. Man is attached to idols. They may be:
o feelings entertained,
o passions gratified,
o favorite motives cherished,
o customs cultivated,
o aims kept in view,
o objects unduly loved.
The “covetousness” which clings to forbidden things is “idolatry.” In so
far as these things absorb our feeling and receive our attention after that
God has indicated that they ought not, so far do we set them up as deserving
regard and love in preference to Himself. The Church and the individual
must search and cast aside all that is alien to the mind of God.
Ø Confession of sin and humiliation of spirit. No soul can attain to its
goal, no Church can do its work and acquire purity and freedom, apart
sincere confession and deep humiliation for what is past.
gathering at Mizpah to acknowledge their guilt and bow before God, as
though they were “like water spilt on the ground” (v. 6; compare
II Samuel 14:14), was a great step towards recovery of strength and joy.
Seasons may arise when special services shall alone give due expression
to the sense of shame and sorrow for the past; but daily sin needs to be
confessed and the spirit to be chastened before the holy One whom we
serve. Power for holy deeds grows out of true penitence.
Ø Adaptation of the mind to a better course in the future. The “preparing”
of “the heart” unto the Lord implies a self-control, a searching of the seat
of feeling, a cleansing process by such spiritual helps as God may give, a
fitting one’s self internally for a higher mode of life than yet has been
known. (Instead of being a “knave” which I ran across recently. No
offense but we should beware we are not living as what people might
call as a synonym of a knave, namely: a dishonest or unscrupulous man.
jack in cards – I got this from Bing and Oxford Dictionaries – CY – 2016))
Internal, carefully sought reformation is a guarantee of improved
external acts. Most of us are not in a mood adapted to THE GRAND
FUTURE WHICH GOD HAS IN RESERVE! WE ARE TO SEEK IT!
Fellowship with God more pure, and close, and constant is not the result
of accident, but is the issue of an earnest endeavor. (Our attitude should
be “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth
for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no
water is; To see thy power and thy glory, as I have seen thee in the
sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips
shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my
hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied.....” – Psalm 63:1-5 – CY –
Ø Special prayer for power to live a better life. The cry of
was a prayer for more than human aid to help them to perfect the
renunciation of false gods and the contrition due for sin. And the aid of
the prophet’s powerful intercession was to give more effect to their own cry.
(Thus we are taught to pray for one another! – CY – 2016) Life, to be blessed
in issue, must be one of prayer — an incessant cry for help to live. And, also,
recourse must be had to the true Intercessor, who is “touched with the feeling
of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:15) The Church has not duly appreciated
this means of accomplishing its purpose in the world. In so far as the individual
Christian is a man of prayer, and looks daily to the Intercessor, will he press on
till he attains to “the mark and prize of His high calling.” (Philippians 3:14)
Ø A due recognition of THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST. Not without reason
was the “sucking
lamb” offered when
God” was clearly recognized. And the life of man will be right and will
press on to a safe and blessed issue only so far as the Lamb of God is
recognized as “THE WAY!” The Church can fulfill her mission in the world
only by faithfully exhibiting the cross of Christ to the guilty and desponding.
Ø Determined conflict with the natural enemies of God and man.
had to fight Philistines. Only on condition of supplementary acts of
confession and worship, by earnest conflict with the foe, could they secure
peace in their borders, and finally answer their Messianic purpose of
existence. In like manner the Church and the individual must “war a good
warfare.” (I Timothy 1:18) The militant character should be maintained as
long as there is an enemy to Christ in the heart as in the world.
raising of the stone “Ebenezer” was an act retrospective and prospective.
The hopes inspired in the mind of Samuel when first he undertook the
work of reformation were being justified by events, and he desired the
people to share in his expectations. In so far as fidelity has been shown by
the Christian Church or by the individual in complying with the
requirements of life’s true issue, so far is there in every instance a ground
of confident expectation. For consider:
Ø The primary basis of confidence. In
within their borders was a pledge of mercy for the penitent. They were not
lost without remedy. And in the more glorious manifestation of God in
Christ we have the pledge that there is MERCY FOR ALL, and that all
energy spent conformably to the object of His presence among men will
be crowned with success.
Ø The consciousness of being on the side of right. There is in even the
fallen a remnant of the original sense of right which furnishes a ground of
assures of responsibility. The guiltiest man in
to forsake Jehovah was wrong. In turning unto the Lord and seeking His
favor the people were sustained by the deep conviction of right in hope of
attaining the desired good. The moral support of such a consciousness is
great to every one. The soul that seeks holiness and eternal life may look
on with hope. A voice within declares that, being on the side of eternal
right, we must,
so far, win. The struggling
force of the same conviction which gives the foretaste of victory.
(I must say
that in the last fifty years,
in their degeneracy, the proponents of this perverted change use the
argument about “being on the right side of history” when in reality, they
are neither on the right side of history, but are in a much greater danger of
being on the wrong side of ETERNITY! - CY – 2016)
Ø The manifest improvement in one’s condition proportionate to desire
and effort. In so far as
through, to that degree did the personal, domestic, and national life rise
above the baneful circumstances resulting from former sins. Every good
feeling, every tear of penitence, every casting away of idols, left its mark
on the surface of society, and indicated what might be expected if only the
reformation be carried through. God gives according to our work.
Likewise all Christian desire and effort succeed so far as they are genuine.
The acquired results of fidelity to God confirm the truth that everything
promised shall in due time be realized. Each step in the ascent heavenwards
is to a clearer view of the summit of our ambition.
Ø The assured sympathy of the Great Intercessor. Perhaps nothing gave
its ulterior consequences, as the effort of Samuel, the chosen prophet, to
assure them of his full sympathy. He was their friend, and in him they found
solace and hope. As a prefigurement of the one true Intercessor, we see
here what reason we have for boldness. The pains which Christ has taken
to assure every earnest soul personally, and the Church collectively, of His
deep sympathy are most extraordinary. By word, deed, tears, sorrow,
death, yes, by resumed life and outpouring of the Spirit, He would have us
know that we are not alone. The past may be black and full of sadness, but
with him as Helper and Friend who may not hope on?
Ø The cooperation of
adapted to their mental and spiritual condition. Whether the thunder which
discomfited the Philistines was a special exertion of Divine power out of
the ordinary course of atmospheric changes, or a coincidence brought
about by Him who, in the primary settlement of nature, foresees His own
relations to His people, and harmonizes physical and moral lines, the result
fights for those who fight for righteousness.
not always favor the search after wealth, or pleasure, or ease, but it does
always favour the Christian in his conflict with sin. A “besom (a broom
made of twigs tied around a stick) of destruction” is being formed for use
against the forces of evil. (Compare “.....He that cometh after me...whose
fan is in His hand,......will throughly purge His floor, and gather His
wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable
fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12 – CY – 2016) ) Never in the history of the world
has a case arisen in which defeat has come on any soul that has sincerely
trusted in God and conformed to His requirements. They that “trust in the
Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.” (Psalm 125:1) The
battle is not to the strong, but to those who are under the cover of the
BROUGHT BEFORE THE MIND, OPERATE IN
Ø Retrospectively. The retrospective survey, which brings the mind in view
of facts bearing on the future, also awakens gratitude for what has been
already accomplished. It was with no formal thankfulness that Samuel
inscribed “Ebenezer;’’ and the poor wayward people, whose sins had borne
such bitter fruit, caught his spirit as they reflected on the mercy that was
proved, by recent events, not to be clean gone forever. Sinful hearts, when
penitent, love to look back on even the slightest sign of God’s love and
care. The development of gratitude itself is the introduction of a new and
helpful power in the sore conflict with sin and sorrow. If only men would
consider, by careful retrospection, WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM!
Men too often dwell on their own deeds and failings, and so nourish
despondency. “Be ye thankful” is apostolic exhortation. And, despite all
defections, blunders, and disasters of the Church, how tenderly and wisely
He has led, chastened, and worked with the people called after His holy
name. Powerful reasons still exist for the contending hosts to raise their
cheerful, grateful “Ebenezer.”
Ø Prospectively. “Hitherto” is relative. There is a future term in the
thought; and its use, as the result of a survey of grounds of encouragement,
means that the heart is bracing itself for new exertions. Samuel would
work on, devising in cheerful spirit new means of further raising the
people, while they would avail themselves of his assistance to regain lost
joys and honors. A higher tone, a more vigorous effort, would mark the
o We should study more carefully the formative power of a
frequent consideration of the mercies of God and what
He has done for us!
o If we honor God to the extent of our spiritual attainments,
POWER WILL COME for doing Him still greater honor.
The Stone of Help (v. 12)
The setting up of memorial stones was one of the earliest methods adopted
for the purpose of recording interesting and important events. These
memorials consisted of a single block or of a heap of stones; they generally
received some significant name, or were marked with a brief inscription,
and they sometimes became centers around which the people gathered, and
were replaced by more imposing structures. The earliest instance
mentioned in the Bible was at
Genesis 31:45; Exodus 17:15; Joshua 4:9, 21-24; 24:26-27. This
memorial was set up:
backward on the past, let us remember:
Ø How much that help has been needed by us — in sorrow, labor,
conflict, danger, which our own strength was wholly inadequate to meet.
Ø How often it has been afforded when we were at the point of despair.
But why, it may be asked, should God have allowed us to arrive at such a
o To teach us the very truth concerning ourselves, and deliver us from a
vain confidence in ourselves. “This unfortunate self-reliance forms
within us a little favorite sanctuary, which our jealous pride keeps
closed against God, whom we receive as our last resource. But
when we become really weak and despair of ourselves, the power
of God expands itself through all our inner man, even to the most
secret recesses, filling us with all the fullness of God” (A. Monod).
o To produce in us humility and submission, to excite us to fervent
prayer, and to strengthen and perfect our faith.
o To afford occasion for a more impressive manifestation of His
power and grace.
Ø How completely it has been adapted to our need and accomplished our
deliverance. Here we are this day, after the trouble and conflict, ourselves
monuments of His mercy! “We went through fire and through water: but
thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Deuteronomy 8:2;
Psalm 66:12; 77:10; Acts 26:22).
upward to heaven, let us reflect:
Ø How plainly the Source of our deliverance now appears. “Hitherto hath
the Lord helped us.” “Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow” (Joshua
24:12). His arm alone has brought salvation nigh. We see it now more
clearly than we did before, and as we meditate upon it our hearts overflow
with thankfulness. We have not always recognized the Source of our
mercies, and therefore often omitted to be thankful; but who can fail to see
these signal tokens of His power? “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake!”
Ø How much we owe to the God of our salvation. EVERYTHING!
Ø How we can best testify the gratitude of our hearts. “What shall I render
unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?” (Psalm 116:12).
o Loud songs of praise.
o Renewed vows of consecration.
o Earnest written or spoken words for God.
o Large gifts of what He has given.
o Fresh acts of piety and beneficence.
These shall be the memorial we now set up.
forward to the future, let us consider:
Ø How helpful the record may be to ourselves in times of conflict and trial.
For such times will come; we are liable to forget what has occurred; and
it will remind us of Him who changes not, and incite us to faith and prayer.
Ø How useful it may be to others in similar circumstances. What He has
done for us He can do for them, and seeing it they “may take heart again.”
Ø How conducive it may be to the glory of God. As often as we behold it
we shall be stirred to fresh thanksgiving. When we are gone it will still
endure. Others will gather around it, and ask the meaning of the “great
stone which remaineth unto this day” (ch. 6:18), and, on being
told, WILL GIVE GLORY TO GOD! So his praise shall be perpetuated
from generation to generation, until it merge into THE ANTHEM OF
Ø Let us be thankful for the memorials of Divine help which others have
left for our benefit. They are among the greatest treasures the earth
contains, and meet our view wherever we turn.
Ø Let us do something to add to these treasures, and further enrich the
Ø Above all, let us seek to be ourselves the everlasting monuments of
THE DIVINE POWER AND GRACE!
13 “So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the
all the days of Samuel.” So the Philistines were subdued. Not completely,
for we find that they had garrisons in
was a thorough victory for the time, and was followed up, moreover, by an
Moreover, the enemy came
no more into the coast of
invasions ceased. And the hand of Jehovah was against the philistines
all the days of Samuel. This, of course, includes the reign of Saul, till
within four years of his death; for Samuel continued to be prophet, and to a
certain extent shophet, even when Saul was king. The words, moreover,
imply a struggle, during which there was a gradual growth in strength on
David completely vanquished them, though they appear again as powerful
enemies in the days of King Jehoram (II Chronicles 21:16). It is certain,
however, that fifteen or twenty years after this battle the Philistines were
again in the ascendant (ch. 13:19-23), and it was this which made
the Israelites demand a king (ch. 9:16). But it is the method of
the Divine historians to include the ultimate results, however distant, in
their account of an event (see on ch.
16:21; 17:55-58); and
and the final subjugation of the Philistines were both contained in Samuel’s
victory at Mizpah.
the cities which the Philistines had taken from
there was peace between
From Ekron even unto
two towns, but they mark the limits upon the borders, within which the
Philistines had previously seized towns and villages
which Samuel now recovered. There was peace between
Canaanitish stock had probably made many a marauding expedition into
the land, and carried off cattle and other plunder; now they sue for peace,
The Victory of Ebenezer (vs. 7-14)
Whenever a people is set right in its relation to God and purified from its
sin, it is certain to obtain victory over its enemies and enjoy prosperity and
where it experienced an overwhelming defeat twenty years before it gained
a signal triumph. We have here:
Ø So long as the yoke of the ungodly is patiently borne they remain quiet,
and do not deem it needful to harass the victims of their oppression.
Ø The revival of piety and activity seldom fails to call forth the fierce
opposition of evil men. The spirit of good and the spirit of evil are contrary
the one to the other, and the more intense the former becomes, the more
intense also becomes the latter. The “prince of this world” dislikes to be
deprived of his captives, and therefore seeks to prevent sinners from
coming to the Lord (Luke 9:42), and hinders saints from working for
Him (I Thessalonians 2:18).
Ø The purpose for which the pious assemble is not always understood by
their enemies; their meeting for prayer is sometimes mistaken for an
organizing of a political or military attack upon them; and their union for
any purpose whatever is instinctively felt to bode them no good, and
regarded as a sufficient ground for their dispersion. “Now we see here:
o How evil sometimes seems to come out of good.
o How good is sometimes brought out of that evil.
they were repenting and praying; nor could the Philistines have acted more
for themselves than to make war upon
they were making their peace with God” (Matthew Henry).
Ø Mistrust of self. “They were afraid of the Philistines.” Their experience
of defeat and oppression had taught them their own weakness and cured
their presumption. The consciousness of human weakness is the condition
of receiving Divine strength (II Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 11:34).
Ø Trust in God. “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us,” etc.
(v. 8). Their need impelled them to look to God, whom they called their
God, with reference to His covenant, and from whom they expected
deliverance according to the promise previously given to them (v. 3).
“They have found their God again, after whom they had till now sighed and
mourned” (Erdmann). Their urgent request of Samuel was an evidence of
their reliance on Jehovah and the proper way of seeking His aid, for Samuel
was not only a spokesman for God to men, but also a spokesman for men
to God, and he proceeded to exercise the priestly function of mediation by
offering sacrifice and making intercession.
Ø Self-dedication, of which the whole burnt offering was the expression
and appointed means, the sign of complete consecration of the whole man,
and here of the whole people; the sucking lamb being a symbol of their
new life now freely devoted to God. Samuel acted as priest at Mizpah and
elsewhere by Divine commission under peculiar circumstances; the regular
being in abeyance, the ark separated from the tabernacle,
desolate, and no other place chosen by God “to put His name there;” and as
preparatory to the time “when in every place incense shall be offered to my
name, and a pure offering” (Malachi 1:11). “A most important part of
the prophetic office was to maintain the spiritual character of the Hebrew
worship, and to prevent the degeneracy of the people into such ritualism as
they had fallen into at the time our Lord appeared” (Kitto). “Let, then, thy
oblation be without earthly affection or self-will of any kind. Look neither
to earthly nor heavenly blessings, but only to the will and order of God, to
which thou shouldst submit and sacrifice thyself wholly as a perpetual
burnt offering, and, forgetting all created things, say, ‘Behold, my Lord and
Creator, each and all of my desires I give into the hand of thy will and thine
eternal providence. Do with me as seemeth good to thee in life and death,
and after death; as in time, so in eternity’” (Scupoli).
Ø Prayer. “And
Samuel cried unto the Lord for
prolonged cry. And with his prayer their own rose up to heaven. “By
prayer (if thou use it well) thou wilt put a sword into the hand of God, that
He may fight and conquer for thee.” A praying army is irresistible. What
victories have been achieved by prayer! “The forty years’ domination of the
supernatural strength of Samson, but was terminated by the prayers of
(Wordsworth). Samson only began to deliver
13:5); Samuel completed the work.
Ø It came in answer to prayer. “And the Lord answered him.”
Ø It came at the moment of their greatest extremity. “And as Samuel was
offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against
Ø It came in an extraordinary manner. “The Lord thundered with a great
thunder on that day.” It was, as it were, His voice in answer to prayer. The
ordinary forces of nature operated in such a manner as to make it plainly
appear that they were directed by His hand (ch. 2:10).
Ø It was most effectual. “They were discomfited and smitten before
(Job 40:9; Psalm 77:18).
Ø The sense of the presence of God inspires His people with fresh
confidence and courage, and without it they can do nothing.
Ø The help of God does not render their cooperation unnecessary. It
rather calls for the putting forth of their strength. He gives them strength
that it may be employed against the enemy, and in the faithful and zealous
use of it He gives them more strength, and crowns their efforts with success.
Ø Victory over the enemy should be followed up to the utmost (Judges 8:4).
“They smote them until they came to Beth-car.” How often from not
following up a victory are its advantages lost!
Ø The help which is derived from God should be gratefully ascribed to Him.
Ø Thanksgiving to God should be expressed in a definite and permanent form.
Ø One deliverance is an earnest (pledge; down payment) of another.
Ø The memorial of past deliverance should incite to future confidence, and
the continued use of the means in connection with which it was achieved.
“Hitherto”; for all Jehovah’s help is only hitherto — from day to day, and
from place to place; not unconditionally, not wholly, not once for all,
irrespective of our bearing” (Edersheim). More conflicts have to be waged,
and it is only in:
o mistrust of self,
o trust in God,
o self-dedication, and
that they can be waged successfully. “The life of man is nothing else but a
continual warfare with temptation. And this is a battle from which, as it
ends only with life, there is no escape; and he who fights not in it is of
necessity either taken captive or slain. Because of this warfare thou must
watch always, and keep a guard upon thy heart, so that it be ever peaceful
and quiet” (Scupoli).
is always followed by beneficial and lasting effects.
Ø The power of the enemy is broken. “The Philistines were subdued, and
came no more into the coasts of
Ø A sure defense is afforded against every attempt they may make to
regain their dominion. “The hand of the Lord was against them all the days
Ø Lost territory is restored (v. 14). Along the whole line, extending
south, from Ekron to
Ø Far reaching peace is established. “And there was peace between
and the Amorites.” “When a man’s ways please the Lord He maketh even
his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). The battle of
Ebenezer may be considered one of the decisive battles of the world,
as it introduced a new order of things in
in an eminent degree to its subsequent prosperity and power. “The revival
of religion has ever had a most important bearing on social and moral
improvement. The return of man to God restores him to his brother.
Restoration to the earnest and hearty performance of religious duties
towards God leads to a corresponding reformation in relative and political
duties. Those countries in the world which have had the greatest religious
reforms have advanced most in liberty, civilization, and commerce. They
are not trodden by the iron heel of despotism, and they possess the greatest
amount of domestic quiet. It was the revival of religion which secured the
enjoy. It was the revival of religion that gave such a martyr roll to the
Scottish Covenanters, and led to the revolution settlement of 1688. In
political independence” (R. Steel). (I must say that, in turning our back
on God as a nation, that we are losing liberty, trade, and becoming more
uncivilized! CY – 2016)
SAMUEL’S CONDUCT AS JUDGE
year to year in circuit to
in all those places.” And Samuel judged
long as Samuel lived there was no clear limitation of his powers as shophet
compared with those of Saul as king. In putting Agag to death (ch. 15:33)
he even claimed a higher authority, and though he voluntarily left as a rule all
civil and military matters to the king, yet he never actually resigned the supreme
control, and on fitting occasions even exercised it. It was, however, practically
within narrow limits that he personally exercised his functions as judge in settling
the causes of the people; for
the tribe of Benjamin. Both
probably, was Gilgal; and therefore we may conclude that it was the famous
sanctuary of that name (see ch. 11:14), and not the Gilgal mentioned, in
II Kings 2:1; 4:38. For this latter, situated to the
attract so many people to it as one that was frequented for sacrifice. Probably,
too, it was upon the occasion of religious solemnities that Samuel visited these
places, and heard the people’s suits.
17 “And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he
His return was to Ramah. We have seen that Elkanah was a
large landholder there, and Samuel had now apparently succeeded to his
father’s place. And there he built an altar unto Jehovah. This old
patriarchal custom (Genesis 12:7) long continued, and it was only
gradually that local shrines and worship on high places were superseded by
attendance upon the temple services at
especial need for such altars. The established worship at
swept away, the town destroyed, the priests put to the sword, and the ark,
though restored, was resting in a private dwelling. Probably Samuel had
saved the sacred vessels, and much even of the tabernacle, but no mention
of them is here made. We see, however, both in the erection of this altar
and all through Samuel’s life, that the Aaronic priesthood was in abeyance,
and that he was not only prophet and judge, but also priest. In thus
restoring the priesthood in his own person he was justified not merely by
his powers as prophet, but by necessity. Gradually, with more prosperous
times, matters returned to their regular channel; but even when Ahiah, the
grandson of Eli, was with Saul (ch. 14:3), he was employed not
for the offering of sacrifice, but for divining with the Urim and Thummim.
On a most important occasion the offering of sacrifice is spoken of as
undoubtedly Samuel’s right, and when he delayed his coming no mention is
made of a priest, but Saul is said to have offered the victim himself (ch. 13:9).
It is plain, therefore, that we must not tie down the priesthood too tightly to
the house of Aaron; for throughout there lies in the background the idea of
a higher priesthood, and with this Samuel was invested, as being a type of
Him who is a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedek (compare ch. 2:35).
First Fruits of Repentance (vs. 13-17)
The facts are:
2. Their restless ancestral enemy the Amorite is quiet.
3. Samuel quietly and happily attends to his civil functions.
4. Ramah, the home of Samuel, is blessed with an altar to Jehovah.
The mention of these suggestive facts immediately after the reference to the call
to repentance and its response exhibit the natural results of the efforts of
prophet and people. A fruitful theme is given.
IMPORTANT; just such as a nation might well prize. An active, powerful
foe was held in restraint. Territory and cities were restored to the
government and general influence of a true man of God. Their fathers’ foe,
who disputed the march of Joshua, and ever lay as a savage beast by their
side, was controlled by an unseen hand. (“When a man’s ways please the
Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” - Proverbs
16:7) An orderly and beneficent civil administration, diligently maintained
on religious principles, was enjoyed by the various districts, and the
residence of the ruler of the people was conspicuously a center of religious
influence. Blessed fruits of national repentance! When will nations learn the
clear lessons of this precious book of God?
THESE FACTS ARE FULL OF SIGNIFICANCE. It is not wise to seek
out spiritual meanings from every simple historic fact in the Old Testament.
Plain history is not given as a religious enigma to be solved by some
transcendental insight. Yet there are analogies between national and
individual life, and principles of holiness and righteousness work in the
same directions in both. As
there is a
so there is the Philistine and Amorite of our great warfare. As treasures
change hands in
which may be dominated by opposing powers. Thus, then, we may
consider some of the firstfruits of repentance in Christian life.
Ø The great world power is largely subdued and cast off. The man who in
his life has
passed through what
that the evil influences of the world around have less hold on him. They are
repressed. Their force has been weakened, if not annihilated.
Ø Faculties once governed by unhallowed tendencies are restored to the
rightful ruler. There are, so to speak, cities — seats of power and resource
— in every man’s nature. While in a sinful course of life these are
dominated largely by principles alien to God, and adverse to true
self-interest: true repentance brings every faculty, thought, and desire into a
willing subordination to Him whose right it is to reign. (Ezekiel 21:27)
The soul is a “holy land” in which Christ is King.
Ø Deep seated, corrupt passions are quieted. There are ancient, very
corrupt passions of a fleshly character embedded in human nature. These
Amorites of our experience are unusually powerful during a life of sinful
indulgence. They grow fat and flourish. One of the first consequences of
the new life is to tone them down. The causes of their extreme activity and
restlessness are partially removed. A strong hand holds them down in
quietude. Their destiny, like that of
utterly destroyed; but even now, compared with former almost irresistible
aggressions, there is peace with them.
Ø A considerable degree of prosperity and order is maintained. The
reformed soul has law administered within itself. Every interest, every
claim of striving powers and tendencies, is considered and decided in
harmony with the law of Christ. (“But I keep under my body, and
bring it into subjection...” - I Corinthians 9:27) The intellect does not
absorb the time and energy due to the culture of the emotions, and vice versa.
To some degree the inner man is in an orderly, prosperous condition. He is
an improved being.
Ø The holy, elevating power of devotion is cherished at the center of
influence. Samuel’s home was the center of influence
made by express arrangement conspicuously devout. There is in our nature
a seat of supreme influence. The faculties and tendencies of the soul act in
subordination to the commanding affection of life. True repentance issues
in the heart becoming the seat of a powerful influence dominating all else.
There is an altar there on which the inextinguishable fire burns, filling with
its heavenly, glory the entire man. “Old things have passed away; all things
are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) Are these fruits found in all lives
called Christian? They ought to be, and are, if “Christian” is more than a
Samuel the Judge (vs. 15-17)
The “judges” of
perpetual dictators in national affairs, and supreme arbiters in judicial
matters. “All that was greatest in those times was certainly due to them,
and some of their names shine eternally like bright stars in the long night of
a troubled age” (Ewald, ‘History’). Of these judges Samuel was the last
and greatest. His superiority appears in:
1. The character he possessed. He was free from the vices into which some
of the most distinguished amongst them fell, and surpassed them in the
virtues they exhibited. He had higher conceptions of God and His law, held
more intimate communion with Him, and was altogether of a nobler type of
human excellence. His constant aim was to do the will of God; he was
upright in heart and life, humble, patient, generous, and full of disinterested
zeal and holy energy in seeking the true welfare of men. In these respects
he approached as nearly, perhaps, as any of the servants of God under the
old covenant the perfection of Jesus Christ who was “without sin.”
2. The method he pursued. As he effected the deliverance of
the sword, but by “the word of God and prayer,” so he continued to make
use of the same means as the most effective in preserving their liberty and
increasing their strength and happiness. His method was moral rather than
physical. He taught them “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with
their God” (Micah 6:8). His policy was one of peace, and he relied on
God to restrain the aggression of surrounding nations, and afford
protection against their attacks. Nor was his trust misplaced.
3. The work he accomplished. Idolatry, which was rebellion against the
Divine King, was banished. The principles of the theocracy were
confirmed. Order, justice, and peace were established; and closer unity
prevailed among the tribes, based upon their common loyalty to their King.
“This was the great achievement and crowning point of his
and the God of Israel; the scattered and disunited tribes became again a
nation. The rival tribes Ephraim and Judah make common cause against the
common enemy, and the more distant tribes do not seem to withhold their
allegiance” (Milman). The labors of Samuel as judge are here summed up
in a few sentences, suggestive of some things wherein he was an instructive
example to rulers, statesmen, magistrates, and “all that are in authority.”
(I Timothy 2:1-2) Notice:
prophet, then a “faithful priest,” finally a ruler and judge. “His judicial
work not only proceeded from the prophetical, but was constantly guided
by it. For we may presume not only that he gave legal decisions with
prophetical wisdom, but also that, in general, he conducted the affairs of
the people as a man who had THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD! (Nagelsbach).
At the different places to which “he went from year to year in circuit:”
o Gilgal, and
he probably taught the word of God and offered sacrifice, combining his
prophetic and priestly with his judicial work. At Ramah he built an altar
to the Lord, “testifying thereby the power from which alone he could
receive either the authority or wisdom to judge.” The position of Samuel
was peculiar, and his work unusually comprehensive; but it may be observed
of every good civil magistrate that:
Ø He is qualified for his office by his possession of reverence for God. “He
that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (II Samuel
23:3). He feels his responsibility to the supreme King and Judge, by whose
providence he has been placed in authority, and has constant regard to His
Ø His personal piety pervades his public activity. The one is not separated
from the other, but is its animating spirit, and thereby he seeks to afford in
his judgments a reflection of THE PERFECT JUDGMENT OF GOD!
Ø His highest desire, knowing that “righteousness exalteth a nation”
(Proverbs 14:34), is to see the people all righteous. That end, he is
persuaded, cannot be attained by force; but, as a godly man, he ever
seeks it by moral means; and, in his public capacity, he endeavors to
do something towards it by restraining the violence of the wicked and
the good in their labors “unto the
the laws were already given, and Samuel’s judicial work consisted in
arranging for their proper administration, in which he doubtless availed
himself of the method formerly appointed (Deuteronomy 16:18-20),
reserving to himself the proper interpretation and application of them in
more difficult and important cases. For this purpose he went to different
centers of the land at stated times, and “judged
He has been not inappropriately called the Hebrew Aristides. Like him,
the faithful magistrate:
Ø Strives to bring justice within easy reach of every man.
Ø Administers it wisely, impartially, fearlessly, without respect of persons
(Exodus 18:21-22; II Chronicles 19:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3).
Ø Devotes himself disinterestedly and diligently to the common weal (ch.
12:3). “The Hebrew judges were not only simple in their manners,
moderate in their desires, and free from avarice and ambition, but they
were noble and magnanimous men, who felt that whatever they did for
their country was above all reward, and could not be recompensed; who
desired merely to be public benefactors, and chose rather to deserve well
of their country than to be enriched by its wealth” (Jahn, ‘Hebrews Com.,’
his judgeship Samuel appears to have established one or more “schools of
the prophets,” in which he taught young men sacred knowledge, and, in
connection with it, reading, writing, and music, thus preparing them to give
instruction to the people, which the Levites had failed to do (ch. 10:10; 19:20).
So a wise statesman, seeing that “for the soul to be without knowledge is not
good” (Proverbs 19:2), and that “the people are destroyed for lack of
knowledge” (Hosea 4:6,14), adopts proper means for:
Ø the education of the young,
Ø the diffusion of knowledge, and
Ø the advancement of the race (Psalm 78:5-8).
“Education is the debt which one generation owes to another” (J.S. Mill).
The schools of the prophets
“were hearths of spiritual life to
Their aim was not to encourage a contemplative life (like the cloisters), but
to arouse the nation to activity. Every prophetic disciple was a missionary”
Ramah; for there was his house; and there he built an altar unto the Lord”
(v. 17). There, also, he continued his judicial labors. The faithful
magistrate, whilst he does not allow his public duty to interfere with proper
attention to his duty to his own household, seeks to make the latter helpful
to the former. He exemplifies in his private life the conduct he openly
commends to others, and “walks in his house with a perfect heart”
(Psalm 101:2). Though he be not a Nazarite, he is simple, self-denying,
and unostentatious in his habits; and though he be not wealthy, he is kind
to the poor, hospitable to friends (ch. 9:24), and liberal towards
the Lord (I Chronicles 26:28: “all that Samuel the seer had
dedicated”). He recognizes the presence and claims of God in his home,
sanctifies it by prayer (Job 1:5), endeavors to make it a center whence
holy influences emanate to all, and does all things to the glory of God
(I Corinthians 10:31). “The indispensable basis afforded by the home
and its eternal sanctity no superior religion and legislation should seek to
destroy, or even to disturb; and, on a comprehensive survey, we cannot fail
to recognize that there is no other ancient nation in which, during the days
of external power, domestic life remained for a long period so vigorous;
and, secondly, during the gradual decline of the external power, became so
little weakened and corrupted as was the case with
all the days of his life” (v. 15). “Simple words, but what a volume of tried
faithfulness is unrolled by them!” He pursued his course till he was “old
and gray headed” (ch. 12:2) — nearly twenty years from the
victory of Ebenezer. The appointment of a king relieved him of a portion of
the burden; but he still continued to exercise his prophetic office, and, “as
last judge, he held in his hands the highest control of the theocracy and the
kingdom.” He devoted his last years to the training of youthful disciples for
future service; and when at length he died, “all the Israelites were gathered
together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah.”
(ch. 25:1) His protracted labor was an evidence of his public spirit,
indomitable energy, and efficient service, and the principal means of raising
the nation to its subsequent power and glory.
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