Here are some of my notes for Sunday, September 21, 2008 based on the Lifeway Explore the Bible curriculum
Reference works cited include:
1)IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
2) 1, 2 Samuel New American Commentary by Robert D. Bergen
3)The David Story by Robert Alter
4) Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands by Howard F. Vos
5) Peoples of the Old Testament World by Hoerth, Mattingly, and Yamauchi
1 Sam 7:2
Twenty years- There are various opinions as to what the twenty years are counted from:
1. Symbolic round figure, half of Samuel’s time of leadership.
2. Time from the return of the Ark to the Israelites at Beth Shamesh until David moved it to Jerusalem. Unlikely because it creates all sorts of dating problems.
3. Time from Ark’s return until the gathering at Mizpah.(Bergen)
lamented after, seek after: The Hebrew yinahu, “to weep”, seems wrong here. Medieval Jewish scholar Rashi speculated that the meaning was “were drawn after”, since that Hebrew, yinharu, might be an original misspelled yinahu in the Hebrew manuscripts. (Alter)
1 Sam 7:3
foreign gods and Ashtoreth- Samuel is calling for spiritual cleansing like Jacob (Gen 35:2) and Joshua. The separation of the gods and Ashtoreth might imply:
1. Israel to cleanse themselves of all gods but Yahweh, both male and female
2. Give up both foreign gods and purify Yahweh worship, which had at least among some been defiled by the addition of a female consort to Yahweh.(Bergen)
Ashtoreth- Ashtar or Astarte, the goddess consort of Baal. She was a fertility war goddess combo. There are hints throughout the Old Testament that she was also added as a consort to Yahweh at times, found in talk of the Queen of Heaven and sacred trees. (BBCOT)
1 Sam 7:5
Mizpah- There were several places of this name, which means “outpost” or garrison”. Most scholars assume it refers to the place about eight miles North of Jerusalem, alongside the chief road leading from Jerusalem North to Shechem and Samaria. The earliest archaeological remains show a small town surrounded by a three foot thick wall made of rubble. A hundred or more years after the events in our lesson, about 900 BC, a much larger city of eight acres was on the site, surrounded by walls fifteen to twenty feet thick. (BBCOT, Vos)
1 Sam 7:6
water poured out- This is a ritual that puzzles scholars, as there is no evidence of water rituals in Judaism outside much later Rabbinic sources speaking of a ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles/ Sukkot, presumably part of prayers for rain. Primary Jewish scholars Rashi again comes to the rescue with the suggestion the poured out water symbolized Israel’s repentance and sense of worthlessness before God.(BBCOT, Alter)
Fasting- Usually a ritual of mourning, also related to purification and humbling the self before making a request of God. (BBCOT)
1 Sam 7:7
Philistines- A people both known and unknown. Their settlements, their archaeological remains, even much of their culture were can examine and surmise. But their origins are shrouded in mystery. The earliest Egyptian records for them appear about 1200-1153 BC, while the Bible speaks of them much earlier in the time of the Patriarchs, anywhere from 2100-1800 BC. A simple explanation is that the term “Philistine” may relate to two different peoples with basic similarities, such as originating in Crete or the Grecian islands, settling in Southwest Canaan, and worshipping variants of the typical Canaanite gods. Archaeology bears out their control of iron mentioned in the Bible while demolishing the stereotype of the uncultured, boorish Philistine. Their arts and crafts are some of the finest found in ancient Palestine. (Hoerth, Mattingly, Yamauchi)
The Philistines reason for marching on the Israelite may be found in the typical ANE culture: religious rituals routinely preceded military actions, to say nothing of the suspicion aroused by a large gathering of men in one place at a time not part of a normal religious festival. The Philistines may also have felt the gathering provided an excellent opportunity to cow Israel by slaughtering a large number of them at “random”. (BBCOT)
1 Sam 7:8
The people asked Samuel to intercede for them because he was universally held a prophet, the first great one since Moses, who also often interceded for Israel.(Bergen)
1 Sam 7:9
The young, sucking lamb would have been about one year old, and a prime offering because it had such tender meat due to its youth.
Did Samuel sacrifice the lamb himself, thus uniting the roles of prophet, priest, and judge?(BBCOT, Bergen)
1 Sam 7:10
Samuel was still conducting rituals when the Philistine force appeared. Because ancients felt battles were fought in both Heaven as well as Earth, any unusual weather conditions were considered omens of divine intervention. Thunder and lightning in particular were considered announcements of a deity’s presence. God smiting the enemy and they scatter is a pattern that re- occurs in 1 Samuel. Here the Israelite soldiers essentially “mop up” after God defeats the Philistines.(Bergen, BBCOT, Alter)
1 Sam 7:11
Beth-car is an unknown site, presumably somewhere West of Mizpah.
1 Sam 7:12
Stones, often inscribed columns, were often used in the ANE as boundary markers.
Shen- Hebrew “tooth, crag, cliff”, is an unknown place, presumably a reference to a local rock outcropping, not a city or region.
Ebenezer , from Hebrew eben ha-ezer, “Stone of the Help” or “The Helper is a Stone” presumably marked the area where the Philistines were pushed back to. “To this point” or “Hitherto” might mean either “to this location” or “until this time”.(Bergen, BBCOT)
1 Sam 7:13
“all the days of Samuel”- The statement presumably means all the time of Samuel’s leadership, for the Philistines are a major problem again in the days of Saul and a power even in David’s reign. (Alter)
1 Sam 7:14
Ekron, Gath- The two most Eastern cities of the Philistines.
Amorites- A native Canaanite people, also dominated by the Philistines. Was there peace between them and Israel because Israel was so strong, or was Israel able to fight the Philistines better because they had a peace treaty with the Amorites that allowed them to concentrate forces against Philistia? (Alter)
1 Sam 7:15-17
Samuel’s role as judge is hard to pin down. It is possible if not definitely stated that he merged prophet, priest, and judge in one person, the national leader. He definitely built an altar at Ramah, but it might have been a memorial altar rather than an active sacrificial one to replace the one lost in the almost certain destruction of Shiloh (presumably during the Philistine domination before this time). He seemed to have acted as a circuit judge, judging by the traveling route he took. How large an area he actually covered is difficult to judge, based on the problematic identification of Ramah (uncertain location) and Gilgal (there were at least three places named “Gilgal”). It might have been as little as ten miles one way, or as much as thirty miles.(Alter, BBCOT, Vos)