Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 7-8
“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” (7.1).
Remembering Eli and his sons were dead (4:11, 17-18), the decision to carry the Ark of the LORD from Beth-shemesh “into the house of Abinadab” may have been a temporary plan for sheltering the Ark, but it extended into “twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord” (7:2). Though the Philistines had claimed the victory over Israel, it was the LORD who brought their enemies to the decision to return the Ark, and then the people cried out to the LORD.
With the deaths of Eli, and his sons, the stage was set for Samuel to judge Israel as the prophet of the LORD.
Samuel called upon Israel to turn to the LORD, and put away their strange gods, “and prepare [their] hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he [would] deliver [them] out of the hand of the Philistines” (7:3). Israel obeyed, and the nation gathered at Mizpeh (a military outpost). There, water was poured out in a symbolic act of repentance and purification, and the people fasted, and confessed their sins against the LORD (7:6).
When the Philistines heard how Israel was gathered at Mizpeh, they determined to war against them (7:7). Fearing the Philistines, the people called on Samuel to intercede for them, and “cease not to cry unto the Lordour God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines” (7:8).
Samuel offered a burnt offering, and “cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him” (7:9). As the Philistines came near, “the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines” (7:9), so that their soldiers were thrown into confusion, and Israel “pursued the Philistines, and smote them” (7:11). As a memorial to the victory, Samuel raised up a great stone and named it “Ebenezer,” meaning “stone of the help” (7:12).
Samuel judged Israel “all the days of his life” (7:13), and the LORD gave the nation peace from war with the Philistines throughout his reign (7:13-17). With the Ark no longer at Shiloh, Samuel returned to Ramah, his childhood home, “and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the Lord” (7:17).
Sadly, the closing years of Samuel’s life were filled with sorrow and disappointment. In his old age, he had made his sons judge in civil matters (8:1-2); however, they “walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (8:3). Samuel’s heart must have been breaking, when the elders of Israel came to him, and observed, “thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (8:5).
Samuel prayed, and the LORD consoled him saying, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (8:7). The LORD reminded Samuel how Israel had rejected Him since He delivered them out of Egypt, unto that day (8:8). He counseled Samuel to heed the demands, but reminded the people all they would suffer under the reign of a king (8:9-18).
Their sons would be taken from their homes, and serve at the king’s pleasure (8:11-12). Their daughters would labor in the king’s kitchens, and serve his tables (8:13). The king would take their fields, vineyards, and olive gardens for his officers (8:14). They would pay tithes of their possessions to support the king’s palace, and his armies (8:15), and he would require their servants, and put them to work at his bidding (8:16).
Samuel warned, “18And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (8:18). Nevertheless, the people were obstinate, and refused to heed Samuel’s warnings.
In spite of the LORD’S desire to be a benevolent King, and rule Israel through His Law and Commandments, the people rejected Him. They demanded, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (8:19-20).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith