The ark removed to Kirjath-jearim. (1-4) The Israelites solemnly repent. (5,6) The Lord discomfits the Philistines. (7-12) They are subdued, Samuel judges Israel. (13-17)
Verses 1-4 God will find a resting-place for his ark; if some thrust it from them, the hearts of others shall be inclined to receive it. It is no new thing for God's ark to be in a private house. Christ and his apostles preached from house to house, when they could not have public places. Twenty years passed before the house of Israel cared for the want of the ark. During this time the prophet Samuel laboured to revive true religion. The few words used are very expressive; and this was one of the most effectual revivals of religion which ever took place in Israel.
Verses 5-6 Israel drew water and poured it out before the Lord; signifying their humiliation and sorrow for sin. They pour out their hearts in repentance before the Lord. They were free and full in their confession, and fixed in their resolution to cast away from them all their wrong doings. They made a public confession, We have sinned against the Lord; thus giving glory to God, and taking shame to themselves. And if we thus confess our sins, we shall find our God faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
Verses 7-12 The Philistines invaded Israel. When sinners begin to repent and reform, they must expect that Satan will muster all his force against them, and set his instruments at work to the utmost, to oppose and discourage them. The Israelites earnestly beg Samuel to pray for them. Oh what a comfort it is to all believers, that our great Intercessor above never ceases, is never silent! for he always appears in the presence of God for us. Samuel's sacrifice, without his prayer, had been an empty shadow. God gave a gracious answer. And Samuel erected a memorial of this victory, to the glory of God, and to encourage Israel. Through successive generations, the church of God has had cause to set up Eben-ezers for renewed deliverances; neither outward persecutions nor inward corruptions have prevailed against her, because "hitherto the Lord hath helped her:" and he will help, even to the end of the world.
Verses 13-17 In this great revival of true religion, the ark was neither removed to Shiloh, nor placed with the tabernacle any where else. This disregard to the Levitical institutions showed that their typical meaning formed their chief use; and when that was overlooked, they became a lifeless service, not to be compared with repentance, faith, and the love of God and man.
1 Samuel 7:1 1 Samuel 7:2 . THE ARK AT KIRJATH-JEARIM.
1. the men of Kirjath-jearim--"the city of woods," also Kirjath-baal ( Joshua 15:60 , 18:14 , 1 Chronicles 13:5 1 Chronicles 13:6 ). It was the nearest town to Beth-shemesh and stood on a hill. This was the reason of the message ( 1 Samuel 6:21 ), and why this was chosen for the convenience of people turning their faces to the ark ( 1 Kings 8:29-35 , Psalms 28:2 , Daniel 6:10 ).
brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill--Why it was not transported at once to Shiloh where the tabernacle and sacred vessels were remaining, is difficult to conjecture.
sanctified . . . his son--He was not a Levite, and was therefore only set apart or appointed to be keeper of the place.
2. the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim . . . twenty years--It appears, in the subsequent history, that a much longer period elapsed before its final removal from Kirjath-jearim ( 2 Samuel 6:1-19 , 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 ). But that length of time had passed when the Israelites began to revive from their sad state of religious decline. The capture of the ark had produced a general indifference either as to its loss or its recovery.
all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord--They were then brought, doubtless by the influence of Samuel's exhortations, to renounce idolatry, and to return to the national worship of the true God.
1 Samuel 7:3-6 . THE ISRAELITES, THROUGH SAMUEL'S INFLUENCE, SOLEMNLY REPENT AT MIZPEH.
3-6. Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel--A great national reformation was effected through the influence of Samuel. Disgusted with their foreign servitude, and panting for the restoration of liberty and independence, they were open to salutary impressions; and convinced of their errors, they renounced idolatry. The re-establishment of the faith of their fathers was inaugurated at a great public meeting, held at Mizpeh in Judah, and hallowed by the observance of impressive religious solemnities. The drawing water, and pouring it out before the Lord, seems to have been a symbolical act by which, in the people's name, Samuel testified their sense of national corruption, their need of that moral purification of which water is the emblem, and their sincere desire to pour out their hearts in repentance before God.
6. Samuel judged . . . Israel in Mizpeh--At the time of Eli's death he could not have much exceeded twenty years of age; and although his character and position must have given him great influence, it does not appear that hitherto he had done more than prophets were wont to do. Now he entered on the duties of a civil magistrate.
1 Samuel 7:7-14 . WHILE SAMUEL PRAYS, THE PHILISTINES ARE DISCOMFITED.
7-11. when the Philistines heard, &c.--The character and importance of the national convention at Mizpeh were fully appreciated by the Philistines. They discerned in it the rising spirit of religious patriotism among the Israelites that was prepared to throw off the yoke of their domination. Anxious to crush it at the first, they made a sudden incursion while the Israelites were in the midst of their solemn celebration. Unprepared for resistance, they besought Samuel to supplicate the divine interposition to save them from their enemies. The prophet's prayers and sacrifice were answered by such a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning that the assailants, panic-struck, were disordered and fled. The Israelites, recognizing the hand of God, rushed courageously on the foe they had so much dreaded and committed such immense havoc, that the Philistines did not for long recover from this disastrous blow. This brilliant victory secured peace and independence to Israel for twenty years, as well as the restitution of the usurped territory.
12. Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen--on an open spot between the town and "the crag" (some well-known rock in the neighborhood). A huge stone pillar was erected as a monument of their victory ( Leviticus 26:1 ). The name--Eben-ezer--is thought to have been written on the face of it.