Friday, December 27, 2013

Bible Commentary - 1 Samuel 7

In this chapter Israel defeats the Philistines in battle. Israel has recovered the ark, by no action of their own. To them, it must have been pretty strange seeing an undriven cart riding into Beth Shemesh containing their nation’s most holy relic and a symbol of the LORD’s presence. For whatever reason, they did not take it back to the tabernacle at Shiloh, but left it for 20 years in a man’s house in Kiriath Jearim. And after all of the defeats and embarassment that they had suffered, Israel did once more what they had done so many times before, and they repented. This really is another “Judges cycle” like from the book of Judges. After suffering a staggering defeat and living in bondage to the Philistines for 20 years, they “mourned and sought after the LORD”. Samuel calls the people to gather at Mizpah, in a sort of religious convocation. Incidentally, their gathering could also be interpreted as a military act because they are essentially mustering an army at the same time. What’s funny is that Mizpah is actually the same place where the Israelites gathered in Judges 10 when they wanted to fight against the Ammonites, after “they got rid of the foreign gods among them”. It’s hilarious how similar all these events are to the episodes from the book of Judges. The Philistines, as I said, interpreted the Israelites’ gathering as an act of rebellion. The Israelites were gathering together so that they could fight against the Philistines, who were oppressing them at the time, and the Philistines were not willing to let them go. The Philistines also gather to fight, but the LORD intercedes on behalf of Israel, bringing “loud thunder” to disrupt the Philistines and give Israel victory. The Philistines are defeated for the rest of Samuel’s lifetime, and Samuel judges Israel from his hometown of Ramah. This is not where he was raised, since he grew up near the tabernacle in Shiloh. But what we read in chapter 1 of this book is that Samuel’s parents were from Ramah of Ephraim, so it appears that Samuel moved back to the town of his birth and his family. So far, everything is the same as prior Judges cycles. Now we will see if Israel dives back into sin, like earlier generations, or if they will maintain their devotion to the LORD. What we will read in later chapters is that while the Philistines are defeated, they are not crushed, and they return to attack Israel towards the end of Samuel's lifetime.

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