1 Samuel Chapter 7: Ark is Brought to Abinadab’s House, Israel Repents

Dec 30th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 7: Ark is Brought to Abinadab’s House, Israel Repents

1 Sam. 7:1 And the men of Kirjath-jearim 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.

1 Sam. 7:2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

Verses 1 and 2 cover a period of 20 years. When the Philistines returned the Ark to the border town of Beth-shemesh, the inhabitants of the town were in a quandary as to what to do with it, for a total of 50,070 people died when they looked into the Ark. The men of Kirjath-jearim came and took the Ark to the private home of Abinadab, where it rested for 20 years. His son, Eleazar, was sanctified to keep the Ark.

Q: Can we assume that this Eleazar and his father were Levites?

A: Yes.

“All the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” for 20 years. After Eli and his two sons died, conditions were in a state of flux, and the people lamented because there was not a proper priesthood. We believe Samuel was a Levite, although most Bibles do not so state. At any rate, Samuel was very different from an ordinary Levite, for he had other duties and journeyed throughout the land, judging the nation of Israel, whereas the normal practice was to abide by the Tabernacle.

1 Sam. 7:3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do 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.

Samuel promised that if the people truly repented, they would be delivered out of the hands of the Philistines, and the mournful conditions would change. The Israelites’ experience had started with the capture of the Ark, followed by the death of many people when it was returned. Then for 20 years, it was housed in Kirjath-jearim instead of in Shiloh, and all this time Samuel was the recognized leader of Israel. Meanwhile, the worship of the male god Baal, represented in the plural, and the female goddess Ashtoreth had proliferated. These two false deities, which pertained to sexuality as the statuary shows, had an attraction for the Israelites.

1 Sam. 7:4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.

1 Sam. 7:5 And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.

The name Mizpeh means “watchtower.” There are many “mizpehs” in the Bible. This Mizpeh would have been a significant isolated watch point, one that provided a far-reaching view.

1 Sam. 7:6 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 Israel in Mizpeh.

When the Israelites gathered together at Mizpeh for a day of mourning and fasting, water was drawn and poured out before Jehovah to demonstrate the sincerity of their repentance, the water being symbolic of their tears, collectively speaking. In addition, repentance signified a condition in which the people desired purification.

Comment: A Reprint article suggests that the water, which came from deep within the earth, was analogous to their repentance, which came from deep within their hearts.

Reply: The Jewish people had customs that were taught in the Law. Thus by nature and by their training, they were given to demonstrations such as wearing sackcloth and ashes.

Pouring out the water was another type of demonstration. Sackcloth and ashes more or less showed self-infliction, self-punishment, self-demotion, and self-degradation, whereas pouring out the water was a collective demonstration.

Normally a drink offering, as recorded in the Book of Leviticus as a statutory custom, accompanied other offerings such as a burnt offering or a peace offering; that is, it was a supplementary offering. The pouring out of water here was not a drink offering, for no other offerings are mentioned.

The people said, “We have sinned against the LORD,” but how would these words have been spoken? This historical account in 1 Samuel took what the people were saying and boiled the words down to a statement where they collectively admitted they had sinned as a people.

Their words suggest that the Israelites did not blame their leadership. As terrible as the leadership of Eli and his two sons had been, adversely affecting reverence for Jehovah, the people were admitting personal responsibility for their actions in tolerating the situation. The fallen human instinct is to blame others, so the admission that they themselves had gone astray was a good lesson. The people probably made this statement in a repetitive, singsong fashion accompanied with movement, for when the Jews prayed, they bobbed back and forth.

1 Sam. 7:7 And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.

Incidentally, verses 1 and 2 of chapter 7 were inserted later, for Samuel’s narration in this first book went from 6:21 to 7:2. Therefore, this experience about the Philistines occurred during the 20 years, not at the termination.

The Philistines were opportunists. When they heard that the Israelites were fasting, they prepared to attack them. Similarly, in more recent times, Syria and Egypt took advantage of Yom Kippur to spring a surprise attack on the nation of Israel.

Q: Were the Philistines in the area of the Gaza Strip?

A: The Philistines occupied territory along the coast and to a considerable depth inland. At this time, there was not a hard-and-fast boundary line with regard to the 12 tribes, for in many cases, the Israelites occupied mountains and hills. They were on the spine of the mountain range running north and south, and the Philistines were nearby, down in many of the valleys, occupying the lowlands for the most part. Thus there was a mixture of Israelites and Philistines in much of the land. The Philistines were thorns to the Israelites, keeping them from the fertile plains that were conducive to agriculture.

1 Sam. 7:8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.

1 Sam. 7:9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.

1 Sam. 7:10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.

Samuel petitioned God on behalf of Israel and offered as a burnt offering a young lamb that was still nursing. In addition, he rendered an anguished prayer for Jehovah to lead the Israelites to victory. God answered the prayer in the affirmative but brought victory in His own way. He “thundered with a great thunder … upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten.” How would this probably have taken place?

Comment: A Reprint article suggests that the storm in front of the Philistines was so severe that they turned their backs. Then the Israelites pursued and killed them.

Reply: The tremendous thunderstorm disrupted the Philistines’ battle plans, adversely affecting their reasoning and drowning out the commands of their captains. Lack of communication and complete disarray were the result. The Philistines knew the Israelites had been fasting to their God in a religious service of mourning. Now it seemed to the Philistines that the God of the heavens and the mountains was thundering down upon them, answering and helping the Israelites. Thus they experienced moral trepidations, as well as physical disorientation.

Q: Was Samuel’s offering the suckling lamb part of his plea to the Lord for help?

A: Yes. The very fact that he offered the lamb and that the burnt offering was a simple offering suggests the urgency of the matter. The attack was nearby, and Samuel did not have time to prepare an elaborate offering.

Q: Under the Law, a kid was not to be boiled in his mother’s milk. Therefore, was a nursing lamb a proper offering (Exod. 23:19)?

A: That was true for a period of seven days (Exod. 22:30). Although the account does not state how old the lamb was, Samuel took what was at hand, and the sacrifice was offered hastily, urgently, and simply, along with a hurried prayer. Similarly, as Christians, we are sometimes confronted with serious, sudden decision making, so that a prayer to the Lord has to be done in one or two seconds. The intent of the prayer is given quickly as we ask God what to do.

1 Sam. 7:11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car.

The term “under Beth-car” suggests that the town was elevated. The Israelites would have been down on a plain or in a valley or ravine that was below a high place known as Beth-car.

1 Sam. 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

Samuel set a stone between Mizpeh and Shen and called it “Eben-ezer,” meaning “the stone of help.” “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”

1 Sam. 7:13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.

1 Sam. 7:14 And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

Q: Why does verse 14 state that there was peace between Israel and the Amorites when the Israelites were fighting the Philistines?

A: Apparently, the victory over the Philistines was known by the Amorites, who realized the thunderstorm was the answer of Jehovah to Samuel’s prayer. From their perspective, the God of heaven had manifested His wrath against the enemy. Hence the Amorites, as well as the Philistines, were afraid to attack Israel for years. The thunderstorm was an encouragement to Israel and a discouragement to the Philistines and the Amorites. The principle was somewhat the same with the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea. The miraculous cloud that came between the pursuing Egyptians and the fleeing Israelites was a curtain of darkness to the Egyptians and a light to the Israelites.

The Amorites were one of the traditional enemies that the Israelites greatly feared. The Amalekites were even more treacherous. However, the Lord spoke about the iniquity of the Amorites coming to the full (Gen. 15:16). In other words, Israel would not occupy the Promised Land until the iniquity of the Amorites had reached a full term from the divine standpoint.

When that point came, they would be expelled. People who settle uncontested in an area for a long period of time have what is inherently recognized by many as “squatter’s rights.” That very possession gives them a certain legality of occupation. Therefore, it was as though God recognized that principle, but a greater principle was that when the iniquity of the Amorites reached such a particular condition, a higher law took over—the law of indignation and justice.

From that time forward, the Amorites were unable to confront the Israelites with their former ardor and success in warfare.

Israel got back the Philistine cities of Ekron and Gath, two of the five major cities presided over by Philistine lords (Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 5:8,10; 6:4,12,16). As a result, the Philistines no longer had complete domination of the coastline, and Israel now had an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea. We will recall that earlier the Philistines had taken the Ark to Ekron and Gath, and their inhabitants were afflicted with emerods.

“So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” The Israelites should have increasingly appreciated Samuel’s role in connection with their experience, for they were now getting blessings and the restoration of properties previously lost. Also, they were at peace with two of their worst enemies.

1 Sam. 7:15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.

1 Sam. 7:16 And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places.

1 Sam. 7:17 And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.

Samuel judged Israel by making a circuit of four places that were close to each other: Beth-el, Gilgal, Mizpeh, and Ramah, his hometown. Evidently, Ramah was recognized as the chief of the four places because there the altar to the Lord was built. Samuel “went from year to year in circuit,” that is, in sequential order. He did not excessively backtrack but proceeded in an orderly fashion.

The situation was unusual, for the Ark of the Covenant, the chief object of worship, was in Abinadab’s house, a private home, in Kirjath-jearim, but the altar was in Ramah, Samuel’s hometown. Thus the people were sort of discombobulated in connection with the Ark having been taken and now being housed at a temporary location apart from the Tabernacle for want of knowing what to do with it.

Q: Since another altar was built, is the implication that the people did not use the Brazen Altar of the Tabernacle at this time?

A: Since Samuel judged in Beth-el, Gilgal, Mizpeh, and Ramah, he was not judging where the Ark was, and he used the altar at Ramah, not the Brazen Altar. Inferentially, the account is telling of the strange situation that existed in Israel at this time. The Tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, but there was disarray in the nation with the Ark in one place, the altar at another, and no high priest. Divine Providence seemed to be thwarting a unity that the people felt was necessary, but they did not know what to do about the situation. In fact, Israel was in such constant flux at this time that accurate maps cannot be drawn of the nation during that period of history. Cities were being lost, gained, and added.

Q: With Samuel offering sacrifices at the altar in Ramah, he was acting as a priest. Was he both a priest and a judge?

A: He was a Levite, but there is no indication he was directly of Aaron. For another example, consider what happened during the 70-year Babylonian captivity. The Jews had no Temple, so on the Day of Atonement, they did the best they could. In many periods of Israel’s history, the people were in such a quandary. When the feast days came, the devout of the nation tried to do the best they could under the circumstances. In the days before the conquest of Jerusalem, they took the place where it was recognized that God was dealing with them—Shiloh, Ramah, or some other place—and accommodated themselves accordingly. Similarly, the Lord’s truest, staunchest, most fearless Christians were in mystic Babylon during the Dark Ages, but they were not responsible for the problem. They tried to do their best, having fellowship on an individual basis. The same principle applies to us today. As we read, we try to get the spirit of the Lord’s Word, and then we follow it as much as we are able according to the flesh. Responsibilities are proportionate to what we are able to do.

(1985-1987 Study)

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