Understanding the Old Testament

Victory Over the Philistines

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Samuel promised the Israelites that if they would quit worshiping idols, return to the Lord, and worship Him alone, then God would deliver them from the Philistines. Surprisingly, the Israelites did exactly that. (1 Samuel 7:3-4)

Then Samuel called the people of Israel to gather at Mizpah to fast, pray, and confess that “We have sinned against the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:5-6) Mizpah had been the Israelites’ assembly point when Jephthah led them against the Ammonites (Judges 10:17), and again when the Israelites went to war against the Benjamites. (Judges 20:1)

Although this was a religious assembly, the Philistines regarded it as a step toward rebellion, so they prepared for war. (1 Samuel 7:7) At the urging of the people, who were terrified, Samuel offered a burnt offering to the Lord and prayed for Him to protect His people. The Lord delivered.

When the Philistine army came against the Israelites, God “thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:10) This sounds like God sent a severe thunderstorm or hailstorm, which may have frightened the Philistines—especially after the incident with the Ark. Large hailstones could have injured or killed some of the enemy soldiers, and muddy ground may have negated many of the Philistine's military advantages. In any event, Israel achieved a great victory. She regained all of the territory which the Philistines had taken and they did not bother the Israelites again until after Saul became king.

Samuel commemorated the victory by setting up a stone monument and naming it Ebenezer—perhaps in an effort remove the emotional stench of Israel’s earlier defeat.

Samuel would go on to judge Israel “all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 7:15), although he may have shared this responsibility with Saul after he became king (depending on exactly what the Israelites considered to be the duties of a "judge").

Questions to ponder or discuss: Why do we construct monuments and statues? What, if anything, do they have to do with our desire for immortality?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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