Thoughts for the Day

Wednesday, 10th July 2024: Samuel: 8

1 Samuel 7 Judge Philistines Samuel Ark of the Covenant

Reading : Verses from 1 Samuel, Chapter 7

Ark returned

And the people of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They consecrated his son, Eleazar, to have charge of the ark of the Lord. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.

Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only. Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ So 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. The 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.’ So 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. As 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. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.

So 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. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, and there was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


The Ark of the Covenant has returned to Hebrew lands and the Philistines have withdrawn, but Beth Shemesh is a little too close to the five city states of their enemies, and it's considered wise to move it. The presence of the Ark is also fraught with danger, so an approach is made to Kiriath-jearim as a base for it to rest. A high place noted for worship long before the arrival of the Israelites, it was 15 miles (24 km) east-north-east of Beth Shemesh on the borders of Judah, Dan and Benjamin tribes. We don't know if Abinadab and his son Eleazar were consecrated as priests, but the family continued to serve the ark until David took the Ark to Jerusalem.

The Ark now rests in Kiriath-jearim for twenty years but things are not right between Yahweh and His people. So Samuel gathers all the tribes together to deal with the 'elephant in the room', that is, the people are resorting to local Canaanite gods, notably Astarte (the goddess of fertility, love and war) and Baal the corresponding male deity, with their loathsome customs. Samuel's standing is such that he calls all the nation to repentance, and to demand their renunciation of this foreign worship. Yahweh has called, appointed, and equipped him, and the people accept his authority, so we read that they now 'served the Lord only'.

The day of repentance at Mizpah (it means 'watchtower') in the heights of Benjamin's territory is one of fasting, the symbolic washing away of sin, and sacrifice. When the Philistines attack, the Israelites instead of faith in a symbol now have genuine, if somewhat timid faith, in God - that He will protect them according to Samuel their strong Judge and Prophet.


Lord Jesus Christ,
when we are worried or concerned,
when we wake in the night and cannot sleep,
when life seems one long battle,
and we cannot see a way out of our troubles,
may we too turn to You.
Strengthen our faltering steps
and increase our faith,
that we may confidently move forward into the future.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might like to see a map of the whole journey of the Ark of the Covenant until it reaches Kiriath-jearim. Mizpah is north east of this.

Or this, especially notice the last paragraph:

Return to index