The Last of the Judges
I Samuel vii: 2 to
ark of God was taken and the Tabernacle fell into
ruins, Samuel was still a boy. He went to his
father's house at Ramah, which was in the mountains,
about four miles north of Jerusalem. Ramah was the
home of Samuel after this as long as he lived.
For some years, while Samuel was growing up, there
was no judge in Israel, and no head of the tribes.
The Philistines ruled the people and took from them
a large part of their harvests, their sheep, and
their oxen. Often in their need they thought of the
ark of the Lord, standing alone in the house at
Kirjath-jearim. And the eyes of all the people
turned to the young Samuel growing up at Ramah. For
Samuel walked with God, and God spoke to Samuel, as
God had spoken to Abraham, and to Moses, and to
As soon as Samuel had grown up to be a man, he began
to go among the tribes and to give to the people
everywhere God's word to them. And this was what
"If you will really come back with all your heart to
the Lord God of Israel, put away the false gods, the
images of Baal, and of Asherah, and seek the Lord
alone and serve him, then God will set you free from
After Samuel's words the people began to throw down
the idols and to pray to the God of Israel. And
Samuel called the people from all the land to gather
in one place, as many as could come. They met at a
place called Mizpah, in the mountains of Benjamin,
not far from Jerusalem.
There Samuel prayed for the people, and asked God to
forgive their sin in turning away from God to idols.
They confessed their wrong-doings, and made a solemn
promise to serve the Lord, and to serve the Lord
The Philistines upon the plain beside the Great Sea
heard of this meeting. They feared that the
Israelites were about to break away from their rule,
and they came up with an army to drive the
Israelites away to their homes and keep them under
the rule of the Philistines.
When the Israelites saw the Philistines coming
against them they were greatly alarmed. The
Philistines were men of war, with swords, and
shields, and spears, and they were trained in
fighting; while the men of Israel had not seen war.
It was more than twenty years since their fathers
had fought the Philistines and twice had been beaten
by them. They had neither weapons nor training, and
they felt themselves helpless against their enemies.
They looked to Samuel, just as children would look
to a father, and they said to him, "Do not cease
praying and crying to the Lord for us, that he may
save us from the Philistines."
Then Samuel took a lamb and offered it up to the
Lord as a burnt-offering for the people, and he
prayed mightily that God would help Israel; and God
heard his prayer.
Just as the Philistines were rushing upon the
helpless men of Israel there came a great storm with
rolling thunder and flashing lightning. Such storms
do not come often in that land, and this was so
heavy that it frightened the Philistines. They threw
down their spears and swords in sudden terror and
The men of Israel picked up these arms and gathered
such other weapons as they could find, and they
followed the Philistines and killed many of them,
and won a great victory over them. By this one
stroke the power of the Philistines was broken, and
they lost their rule over Israel. And it so happened
that the place where Samuel won this great victory
was the very place where the Israelites had been
beaten twice before, the place where the ark of God
had been taken. On the battlefield Samuel set up a
great stone to mark the place, and he gave it the
name Eben-ezer, which means "The Stone of Help."
"For," said Samuel, "this was the place where the
Lord helped us."
After this defeat the Philistines came no more into
the land of Israel in the years while Samuel ruled
as judge over the tribes. He was the fifteenth of
the judges, and the last. He went throughout the
land, and people everywhere brought to him their
questions and their differences for Samuel to
decide, for they knew that he was a good man and
would do justly between man and man. From each
journey he came back to Ramah. There was his home,
and there he built an altar to the Lord.
Samuel lived many years, and ruled the people
wisely, so that all trusted in him. He taught the
Israelites to worship the Lord God, and to put away
the idols, which so many of them had served. While
Samuel ruled there was peace in all the tribes, and
no enemies came from the lands around to do harm to
the Israelites. But the Philistines were still very
strong, and held rule over some parts of Israel near
their own land, although there was no war. Samuel
was not a man of war, like Gideon or Jephthah, but a
man of peace, and his rule was quiet, though it was