What does 1 Samuel chapter 7 mean?The first two verses of 1 Samuel 7 bring the episode of the capture and return of the ark of the Lord to an anti-climax. The ark has been returned to Israel by the Philistines, but the people of Israel are not ready to serve the Lord. They continue in their sinful worship of foreign gods.
The men of Kiriath-jearim pick up the ark from Beth-shemesh, where the Lord killed seventy of their men for treating it improperly (1 Samuel 6:19). The ark is delivered to the house of a man named Abinadab, likely a Levite and a priest. Abinadab's son Eleazar is consecrated to take charge of the ark. It sits in silence in Kiriath-jearim for the next twenty years (1 Samuel 7:1–2).
Samuel returns to the narrative. After twenty years, the people of Israel are ready to repent and cry out to the Lord to save them from the oppression of the Philistines. Samuel tells them if they really mean it, they must throw away all the foreign gods and goddesses—"Baals" and "Ashtaroth"—they have been worshiping. They must set their hearts on the Lord and serve Him only (1 Samuel 7:3).
Once the people do as Samuel has said, he calls the nation to gather at Mizpah, where he will pray to the Lord for them. They gather and fast from food and perhaps even water. They pour out water before the Lord apparently as a sign of repentance or cleansing or need. The people confess they have sinned against God and submit to Samuel as judge or deliverer (1 Samuel 7:4–6).
When the Philistines hear that the Israelites have amassed at Mizpah, they assume Israel is getting ready to revolt against their rule. The five lords of the Philistines send an army to Mizpah to quash the rebellion before it can start. Learning of this, the Israelites urge Samuel to keep praying to God for their deliverance (1 Samuel 7:7–8).
As the Philistine forces are approaching, Samuel offers the sacrifice of a young lamb as a whole burnt offering and cries out to God for Israel. The Lord responds by thundering an ear-splitting sound against the Philistines and throwing them into such confusion that the men of Israel can chase and defeat them (1 Samuel 7:9–11).
Samuel sets up a stone nearby and calls it "Ebenezer," which means "stone of help." The prophet wants people to remember that the Lord has been helping His people all along to this very day (1 Samuel 7:12).
The Philistines are driven from Israelite territory and even out of the eastern part of the territory they have been occupying. God's hand remains against the Philistines while Samuel lives, and the Israelites even make peace with the Amorites, the ancient occupants of Canaan. A season of rest and peace falls on the land (1 Samuel 7:13–14).
Samuel spends his life as judge of Israel. In carrying out his leadership duties, he travels a circuit that includes Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, along with his hometown of Ramah, where he builds an altar to the Lord (1 Samuel 7:15–17).