4:1 the word of Samuel came to all Israel. The episode that began with a notice of the rarity of the word of the Lord (3:1) concludes with a notice of the change brought by the selection of Samuel to be “a prophet of the Lord” (3:20 and note).
Philistines. The Philistines are one of the “Sea Peoples” named in Egyptian texts from the time of Rameses III. By the time of the judges (Judg. 3:31; 13–16), the Philistines had settled along the coastlands of southern Canaan in a league of five cities: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza (6:17; Judg. 3:3). The Philistines often tried to expand their territory, and in the time of Samuel and the early monarchy they were in direct conflict with the Israelites to the north and east.
Ebenezer. This may be an archaeological site about two miles east of Aphek (cf. v. 6). Ebenezer (meaning “stone of help”) is mentioned again in 5:1. The Ebenezer of 7:12 recalls these earlier references (7:12 note), but it is a different place, near Mizpah.
Aphek. Aphek was at the southern end of the plain of Sharon, about five miles inland from the Mediterranean, near the source of the Yarkon River (29:1). It was among the cities conquered by Joshua (Josh. 12:18).