1 Samuel 7 The Voice (VOICE)
7 The people of Kiriath-jearim did as they were asked. They collected the chest of the Eternal One and brought it up the hill to the house of Abinadab. They performed sacred rituals to set apart his son Eleazar to be in charge of caring for the chest of the Eternal.
This section about the chest of the covenant shows God’s power in the world when all the nations around Israel believe in their own gods. Hebrew literature often talks about the Lord as the greatest of all gods, and this passage shows Him using the covenant chest to declare His preeminence. He embarrasses another god in his own temple, brings death and destruction on those around Him (as He did with the plagues of Egypt), and inflicts something like the bubonic plague, which would devastate Europe in the Middle Ages, on the Philistines. God is powerful and must be treated with the greatest of reverence. Even the people of God are happy to see the chest of the covenant move on, because it is too powerful for sinful human beings to live close to with comfort.
2 Time passed, 20 years or so, from the time that the covenant chest was taken to Kiriath-jearim, and all the people of Israel began to grieve over their separation from the Eternal One.
Samuel (to the Israelites): 3 If you really want to totally devote yourselves and return to the Eternal One, then get rid of all the foreign gods and goddesses you have gathered. Devote yourselves to the Eternal, serve Him and Him alone, and He will save you from the oppression of the Philistines.
The Canaanites have a long history of worshiping idols or local gods. In this case, the god being worshiped is Astarte (Ashtoreth), a fertility goddess similar to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. In Canaanite mythology, she is the sister and wife of the high god Baal. She and similar goddesses are worshiped throughout the ancient Near East; and the children of Israel are constantly falling away from serving the Lord by worshiping Astarte, Baal, and other pagan gods. God commands His people not to raise up idols or bow down to any gods except Him. Along with the worship of these gods come many strange practices that pollute the people of the Lord.
4 So the people of Israel got rid of their gods and goddesses,[a] and they began to serve only the Eternal One.
Samuel: 5 Assemble all of Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Eternal on your behalf.
6 That day they gathered at Mizpah, drew water, poured it out ritually in front of the Eternal One, and fasted.
People: We have sinned. We have rebelled against the Eternal.
Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah, delivering the people from danger and establishing justice in the land.
7 When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines gathered an armed force and went to attack them. When the people of Israel heard that the Philistines were coming, they were filled with fear. They turned to God’s prophet.
People of Israel (to Samuel): 8 Don’t stop calling out to the Eternal our God for us. Ask Him to save us from the Philistine army that is coming.
9 Samuel took a young lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Eternal One. He called out to the Eternal on behalf of Israel, and the Eternal responded. Here is what happened: 10 As Samuel was performing the sacrifice, the voice of the Eternal rolled like thunder and confused the advancing Philistine army so that Israel easily struck them down. 11 From Mizpah, the Israelites chased them beyond Beth-car, striking them along the way.
12 That’s why Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Shen; and he called that stone Ebenezer, which means “rock of help,” for he said,
Samuel: The Eternal One has helped us so far.
13 So the Philistines were humbled and did not invade the lands of Israel again. The Eternal One held off the Philistines for as long as Samuel judged Israel. 14 The Israelite cities the Philistines had seized between Ekron and Gath were returned, and Israel took its territory back from Philistine rule. There was also peace with the Amorites.
15 Now Samuel was a prophet and judge over Israel for the rest of his life. 16 He traveled a 40-mile circuit just north of Jerusalem every year between Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, solving Israel’s problems in each of these places. 17 But he would always return to his home in Ramah, the base from which he judged Israel and where he built an altar to the Eternal.
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