Samuel Becomes Last Judge of Israel; Philistines Defeated By God; Israel Wants A King

1 Samuel 7-8

After the ark of the covenant was returned by God’s direction from the Philistines, it is setup in Kiriath-jeraim and cared for by Abinadab and his sons. Samuel also begins his time of leadership as the last judge of Israel because as we will see in chapter 8 the people will ask for a king and God allows it. We will need to take particular note of God’s thoughts regarding this request in chapter 8.

There and Then


  • 7:1-2 – The Ark is cared for by Abinadab and his sons in Kiriath-jeraim
  • 7:3-6 – Samuel urges spiritual reforms, becomes the last judge
  • 7:7-11 – Philistines defeated with God’s help
  • 7:12-14 – Samuel erects a memorial to God’s help: Ebenezer
  • 7:15-17 – Samuel establishes his ministry circuit in tribal land of Benjamin: Bethel → Gilgal → Mizpah, with his home in Ramah.
  • 8:1-3 – Samuel’s corrupt sons
  • 8:4-9 – Elders of Israel ask for a king
  • 8:10-18 – Samuel explains what will happen if a king is appointed
  • 8:19-22 – The people still want a king


God, Samuel, Elders of Israel, Philistines, Abinadab

Samuel's Judging Circuit & Home
Samuel’s Judging Circuit & Home


Kiriath-jeraim (ch 7); Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah (ch 7); Ramah (ch 7 & 8); Beersheba (ch 8)


The ark had just been miraculously returned by God’s direction from the Philistines who could wait to get rid of it. It was then housed in Kiriath-jeraim for 20 years, during which time Samuel begins his time as the last judge of Israel.

Key Words:

Israel, Lord, Samuel, Philistines, King, Sons

Key Verse(s):

7:3 Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”

7:5-6 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.” 6 They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah.

7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

8:4-9 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”

Cross References1:

7:3 – “serve Him

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

Deuteronomy 10:20-21 “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 “He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.

Joshua 22:5 “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

7:5 – “I will pray

1 Samuel 12:23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.

Genesis 20:7 “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

Job 42:8-10  “Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job. 10 The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.

Jeremiah 42:4  Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to the LORD your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which the LORD will answer you. I will not keep back a word from you.”

Matthew 5:44-45  “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

John 17:9, 20-21  “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Ephesians 6:18-20  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Colossians 4:2-4  Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12  11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:1-4  First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

James 5:13-16  Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

1 John 5:14-16  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.

7:6 – “we have sinned

Leviticus 26:40  [this is a single verse which needs to be read in context to understand the full impact]  ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me

Judges 10:10  Then the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.”

1 Kings 8:46-52  [this is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple]  “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly’; 48 if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; 49 then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, 50 and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are Your people and Your inheritance which You have brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace), 52 that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and to the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You.

Ezra 9:6  [this is a single verse in a longer prayer by Ezra]  and I said, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.

Psalms 38:3-4, 18  There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. 4 For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. … 18 For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.

Daniel 9:3-5  So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.

Joel 2:12-13  “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.

Luke 15:18  ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;

8:11 – “He will take

Deuteronomy 17:14-20  “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. 16 “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17 “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. 18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 “It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.

1 Samuel 14:52  Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.

1 Kings 4:7 Solomon had twelve deputies over all Israel, who provided for the king and his household; each man had to provide for a month in the year.

1 Kings 4:22-23  Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors of fine flour and sixty kors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl.

1 Kings 9:22-23  But Solomon did not make slaves of the sons of Israel; for they were men of war, his servants, his princes, his captains, his chariot commanders, and his horsemen. 23 These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who ruled over the people doing the work.

1 Kings 12:4  “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

1 Kings 12:10  The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!

2 Chronicles 26:9-15  Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the corner buttress and fortified them. 10 He built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. He also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army ready for battle, which entered combat by divisions according to the number of their muster, prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the official, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officers. 12 The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600. 13 Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. 15 In Jerusalem he made engines of war invented by skillful men to be on the towers and on the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones. Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.

8:19 – “refused to listen

Psalms 81:11  “But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me.

Jeremiah 7:13-14  “And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer, 14 therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.

Jeremiah 44:15-16  Then all the men who were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods, along with all the women who were standing by, as a large assembly, including all the people who were living in Pathros in the land of Egypt, responded to Jeremiah, saying, 16 “As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not going to listen to you!

Ezekiel 33:31  “They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.


There are no particularly difficult to understand passages in these chapters.


  1. How can/do I celebrate God’s presence in my life?
  2. What sins do I need to confess to God, ask His forgiveness, and seek to follow Him wholly?
  3. (from Luke 11-12) How do I persistently ask God for things that would be beneficial to others and myself?
  4. What memorials have I setup in my life to remind me of God’s help in times past?
  5. How do I keep myself from rejecting God as Lord and King of my life and start serving “other gods” and letting anything else have “rule” over my life?
  6. How can I make sure that I always listen to God’s call and instructions so that I can serve Him wholly?

Notes & Commentaries:

IVP Bible Background Commentary2

1Sa 7:3. foreign gods and Ashtoreths. Here the Ashtoreths are distinguished from the foreign gods. Ashtoreth is the name of the goddess known in Canaan as Ashtar or Astarte, the consort of Baal (see comment on Jdg 2:13). The use of the plural here may suggest that all deities and their consorts should be disposed of.

1Sa 7:6. fasting in religious practice. Fasting is little attested in the ancient Near East outside of the Bible. It generally occurs in the context of mourning. In the Old Testament the religious use of fasting is often in connection with making a request before God. The principle is that the importance of the request causes an individual to be so concerned about his or her spiritual condition that physical necessities fade into the background. In this sense the act of fasting is designed as a process leading to purification and humbling oneself before God (Psa 69:10). In connection with their repentance the Israelites fasted in order to remove any sin or other obstacle that may have led to their subjection to the Philistines. For similar efforts related to military action, see Jdg 20:26 and 2Ch 20:1-4.

1Sa 7:16. Samuel’s territory. The Bethel-Gilgal-Mizpah circuit appears to be all in the territory of Benjamin. There are several towns named Gilgal, including one listed on the northern boundary of Judah. If this is the correct Gilgal, Samuel’s circuit would have started by traveling from his home in Ramathaim about fifteen miles southeast to Bethel. Two miles further south would get him to Mizpah, and from there Gilgal was nearly ten more miles. The return trip home would have been about twenty-five or thirty miles. There are sites named Gilgal closer to Bethel and Mizpah that may be intended here. In the Mari documents there is a diviner named Asqudum who regularly makes a circuit of four towns providing his services to the citizens.

Believer’s Bible Commentary3

Chapter 7 is a study in revival. God first raised up a man, Samuel, who called the people to repentance, confession, and cleansing. Intercession was made through the blood of a lamb (a type of Calvary’s Lamb), and then there was victory. These are the steps to individual as well as national revival.

8:6-18 It was God’s intention, of course, that He Himself should be the King of Israel. His people were to be holy, and not like any other nation on earth. But they didn’t want to be different; they wanted to conform to the world. Samuel was grieved by such a request, but the LORD told him to do as they said. After all, they had not rejected the prophet, but the LORD. In agreeing to their wishes, Samuel was to protest solemnly and to forewarn them as to the behavior of the king they would get. In brief, the king would enrich himself by impoverishing the people, would draft their young men and women for military and domestic duties, and would make virtual slaves of them. It was true that God had made provisions for the rule of kings in the law (Deu 17:14-20), but His perfect will was that He Himself should be their King (8:7; 1Sa 12:12). These laws in Deuteronomy were meant to curb the evil that was sure to follow.

Bible Knowledge Commentary4

7:2 The return of the ark to Kiriath Jearim seemed to be a tangible sign that God was once again among His people to bless them and deliver them from all their oppressors. The mere presence of the ark did not guarantee God’s favor, however, as Israel had learned at the battle of Aphek. Rather, it was submission to the God of the ark that was essential (1Sa 7:4).

Barnes Notes5

7:5 Will pray for you … – So Moses prayed for the people at Rephidim Exo 17:11-12; and for Miriam Num 12:13; so Elijah prayed at Carmel 1Ki 18:36, 1Ki 18:42; so Ezra prayed at the evening sacrifice Ezr 9:5; so the High Priest prayed for the house of Israel on the Day of Atonement; and so does our Lord Jesus Christ ever live at God’s right hand to make intercession for us.

7:9 Samuel’s preparation for intercessory prayer, namely, the offering up an atoning sacrifice, is most significant (compare Luk 1:9-10). The term here used for a “lamb” does not occur in the Pentateuch; indeed it is only found besides this place in Isa 65:25. The offering is in accordance with Lev 22:27.

7:9 The Lord heard him – Better as in margin. The “answer” was not simply the granting the asked-for deliverance, but the great thunder 1Sa 7:10, which was “the voice of the Lord,” the same voice with which the Lord answered Moses Exo 19:19; Psa 99:6.

7:17 And there he built an altar – Whether this altar was in connection with the tabernacle or not we have no means of deciding, since we are in complete ignorance as to where the tabernacle was at this time, or who was High Priest, or where he resided. It is quite possible that Samuel may have removed the tabernacle from Shiloh to some place near to Ramah; and indeed it is in itself improbable that, brought up as he was from infancy in the service of the tabernacle, he should have left it. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign we know it was at Gibeon, close to Raimah 1Ki 3:4; 2Ch 1:3, 2Ch 1:6. If the tabernacle had been at Shiloh at this time, it is likely that Shiloh would have been one of the places at which Samuel judged lsrael. But Shiloh was probably waste, and perhaps unsafe on account of the Philistines.

8:20 Fight our battles – It appears from 1Sa 12:12, that the warlike movements of Nahash had already begun to excite alarm.

8:22 A repetition for the third time 1Sa 8:7, 1Sa 8:9 of the expression of God’s will in the matter, marks Samuel’s great unwillingness to comply with the people’s request. Besides the natural aversion which he felt to being thrust aside after so many years of faithful and laborious service, and the natural prejudice which he would feel at his age against a new form of government, he doubtless saw how much of the evil heart of unbelief there was in the desire to have a visible king for their leader, instead of trusting to the invisible Lord who had hitherto led them. But God had His own purpose in setting up the kingdom which was to be typical of the kingdom of His only begotten Son.

Here and Now

Answer the questions below as you reflect on your own life and this study6: my LOG vs others SPECK

S — Are there sins to avoid or confess?

  • How do I keep from letting other gods take 1st place in my life?

P — Are there promises from God to claim?

  • God will fight our battles for us.

E — Are there examples to follow?

C — Are there commands to obey?

K — How can this passage increase my knowledge about God / Jesus Christ / Holy Spirit?

  • God is quick to act when we come with humble hearts and seek to live wholly to Him and His glory.

Other Application Questions

Are there principles to guide?

Are there warnings to heed?

Are there attitudes to adopt?

Are there actions to take?

An outline for 1 Samuel is available on the Downloads page in the Outlines/Old Testament folder.


Barnes, Albert. Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments. Public Domain; e-Sword, 1800s.

MacDonald, William, and Arthur Farstad. Believer’s Bible Commentary: An Exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers; e-Sword, 1995.

Smith, Jerome H. Nelson’s Cross-Reference Guide to the Bible: Illuminating God’s Word Verse-by-Verse. Thomas Nelson, 2007. Print.

The Navigators. The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1986. Print.

Walton, John H. et al. IVP Bible Background Commentary. InterVarsity Press; e-Sword, 2000.

Walvoord, John, and Roy Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old & New Testament. Victor Books; e-Sword, 1983.

1     (Smith 75–76) material in brackets [] added for clarification.
2     (Walton et al.) on 1 Samuel 7-8.
3     (MacDonald and Farstad) on 1 Samuel 7-8.
4     (Walvoord and Zuck) on 1 Samuel 7-8.
5     (Barnes) on 1 Samuel 7-8.
6     (The Navigators) [with additions] & Matthew 7:1-5.