Read the Passage (NRSV)    Find more resources related to this passage  Print

1 Samuel 7:5-14 – Samuel’s Unique Form of Judgeship


Samuel leads the people in repentance at Mizpah. God delivers them from the hands of the Philistines, and the memorial "Ebenezer" is set up.


Samuel has been variously depicted as a priest (2:18-19), as a prophet (3:20), and as a judge (7:2-4). But Samuel's judgeship is unique. Previous judges had functioned, essentially, as military deliverers. Samuel's judgeship differs in that he more fully integrates the three aspects of his vocation as prophet, priest, and judge. This is well illustrated in the text at hand where Samuel leads the people in a service of confession and repentance at Mizpah. Although the significance of the ritual pouring out of water before the Lord with fasting is obscure, appearing only here, it probably signifies an act of contrition in connection with the people's confession of their sin (v. 6).

The following verses are clearer. Samuel has replaced the wicked priests Hophni and Phinehas. While Israel had been ineffective against the pervasive Philistine threat under their ministry, now the people have put away their false gods and returned to the Lord under the direction of Samuel, whose prayer and sacrifice results in God's utter defeat of the enemy (vv. 7-11). Israel's deliverance is brought about through Samuel's religious activity, not his leadership as a warrior.

The brief snippet concerning the memorial stone set up as a commemoration of God's victory over the Philistines in verses 12-14 is significant. Earlier, during their period of apostasy under Phinehas and Hophni, Israel had experienced a crushing defeat at the hand of the Philistines at Ebenezer (4:1) that led to the loss of the ark. Now, the erection of another "Ebenezer" ("stone of [God's] help") signifies the reversal in Israel's situation: apostasy replaced by faithfulness, and defeat replaced by victory.

1 Samuel 7:5-14

Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ 6So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord. They fasted that day, and said, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. 8The people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’ 9So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt-offering to the Lord; Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10As Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. 11And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah,* and named it Ebenezer;* for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ 13So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

Related Passages