The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim for a long time. It was there for a full 20 years. All of the people of Israel were filled with sorrow. They looked to the LORD for help.
Samuel spoke to the whole community of Israel. He said, "Do you really want to return to the LORD with all your hearts? If you do, get rid of your strange gods. Get rid of your statues of goddesses that are named after Ashtoreth. Commit yourselves to the Lord. Serve him only. Then he will save you from the powerful hand of the Philistines."
So the people of Israel put away their statues of gods that were named after Baal. They put away their statues of goddesses named after Ashtoreth. They served the LORD only.
Then Samuel said, "Gather all of the people of Israel together at Mizpah. I will pray to the LORD for you."
When the people had come together at Mizpah, they went to the well and got water. They poured it out in the sight of the Lord. On that day they didn't eat any food. They admitted they had sinned. They said, "We've sinned against the Lord." Samuel was the leader of Israel at Mizpah.
The Philistines heard that Israel had gathered together at Mizpah. So the Philistine rulers came up to attack them. When the people of Israel heard about it, they were afraid.
They said to Samuel, "Don't stop crying out to the LORD our God to help us. Keep praying that he'll save us from the powerful hand of the Philistines."
Then Samuel got a very young lamb. He sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the LORD to help Israel. And the LORD answered his prayer.
The Philistines came near to attack Israel. At that time Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering. But that day the LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines. He threw them into such a panic that the Israelites were able to chase them away.
The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah. They chased the Philistines all the way to a point below Beth Car. They killed them all along the way.
Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, "The LORD has helped us every step of the way."
So Samuel brought the Philistines under Israel's control. The Philistines didn't attack their territory again. The LORD used his powerful hand against the Philistines as long as Samuel lived.
The Philistines had captured many towns between Ekron and Gath. But they had to give all of them back. Israel took back the territories near those towns from the powerful hand of the Philistines. During that time Israel and the Amorites were friendly toward each other.
Samuel continued to lead Israel all the days of his life.
From year to year he traveled from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He served Israel as judge in all of those places.
But he always went back to Ramah. That's where his home was. He served Israel as judge there too. And he built an altar there to honor the Lord.