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1 Samuel 7:2

ESV From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
NIV The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord.
NASB From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel mourned after the Lord.
CSB Time went by until twenty years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel longed for the Lord.
NLT The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time — twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.
KJV 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.
NKJV So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.

What does 1 Samuel 7:2 mean?

The ark of the Lord was back in Israel, but God's people were still unfaithful. They continued to worship and serve the idols of surrounding nations (1 Samuel 7:3). While they did so, the ark of the Lord remained silent and out of the way in the house of Abinadab in the city of Kiriath-jearim for twenty years.

During that time, the Philistines continued to oppress the Israelites and to rule over them. Eventually, the Israelites began to call out for the Lord, mourning their state and seeking God's salvation (1 Samuel 7:3–8).

This follows the pattern of the book of Judges: the people would be rescued by the Lord and serve Him for a time before going back to worshiping foreign gods. Then the Lord would cause them to be conquered by another nation and for His people to suffer until they finally repented of their sin and called out to Him for help once more. Then the Lord would raise up a judge to rescue them and lead them to freedom from their enemies. The final judge of that period was Samuel.
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