1 Samuel 7 ends the seven-chapter arc of the focus on Samuel’s story in comparison to the house of Eli, the house of the Dagon, the house of the Philistines. The chapter opens with the same message at the end of chapter 6 – that the Israelites are called to retrieve the ark. However, it was placed in Kiriath-jearim, the city of woods, where it was brought into the house of Abinadab, a Levite, on the hill. The lamenting after the LORD (v.2) is out of the Israelites’ character; why would they not go to retrieve the ark? It was in the safe hands of the Levitical priesthood, and yet it lodged there for some twenty years, and would amount to seventy years (under the relevant biblical scholarship over chronology) until the ark was properly brought from the border of Judah and Benjamin (c.f. Joshua 18:14), from this city of woods, to the city of peace – Jerusalem! It is not until David’s reign in 2 Samuel that the ark is retrieved and placed in Jerusalem; the return of the Father to the rightful place of new Jerusalem. So also is the nature of John’s vision in Revelation 11:19 that to see the ark of the covenant is an act accomplished through the work of the cross; and here, David is the agent through whom this act is accomplished as he typifies for us the amazing work of the Son who walks the path in and out of the Holy of Holies with freedom:
1Ch 13:1-6 David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. (2) And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us. (3) Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” (4) All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. (5) So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. (6) And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim.
This is the ark of God, called by the name of the LORD – the Name of God being Christ Jesus by which we are called into the Trinitarian fellowship (Acts 4:7, 4:10). This emphasises the preparatory nature of Samuel; he is in the tri-office of prophet, priest and judge, paving the path for the true king David in the House of Israel. It is important we remember that Israel was given the law after the exodus, after their salvation, and here the chosen Church of the Old Testament is to be ready for the time when the King comes to be her true ruler where they can fellowship truly with the LORD by the ark in Jerusalem. It is this ark in Jerusalem which enables the Israelites to meditate the relational truth of the Unseen Father; and the symbolic meaning of the restoration of the ark in the Promised Land as a promise of us seeing the Unseen Father face to face clothed in the righteous robe of His Son (Isaiah 61; 1 John 3:2). Where the veil to the Holy of Holies is literally ripped apart and we can stand before Him as the Son stands before Him.
However, like the book of Numbers, the Israelites are in the wilderness worshipping Ashtaroth and the Baals (v.4), and at the watchtower (Mizpah) they gathered to pour their hearts out in repentance to the LORD genuinely. Thus, true circumcision and birth by water is shown here through the pouring of the water before the LORD (v.6) – and this happens before the symbolic death of the nursing lamb as offered as a burnt offering (v.9). Such is the same picture offered in the chronology of Old Testament Scripture: that the LORD had favoured people’s repentance in Christ Jesus long before the introduction of the systematic Levitical framework of sacrifices; yet Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jethro, amongst the other pre-Moses saints, were already providing burnt offerings (c.f. Genesis 4:4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22; Exodus 18:12) not because the blood inherently was the source of salvation. Rather, it was their circumcised hearts by the Spirit which led them to Christ in Whom they met the Unseen Father; and the burnt offering is but a visible sacrament of this spiritual truth. Just as Noah and his family was saved through the raging waters in the coffin (the literal Hebrew of the ark) where they stepped onto dry new land as indicative of new creation and only offered the burnt offering then and received the sacrament of communion, the eating of flesh, then – so also the Israelites look to their Redeemer and Mediator where the truth is symbolically manifested in the death of the nursing lamb.
Yet, we should not forget the second layer of truth which 1 Samuel 7 is teaching us: namely that Samuel is still a type of Christ, that he is now the only High Priest available to represent the nation against the Philistines for the household of Eli has been removed, in favour of the spiritual household of Samuel. He has offered to pray on behalf of Israel (v.5), and continually by his prayers has the LORD looked on Israel with favour (v.8). This is a pure imitation of the High Priestly prayer of the Son to the Father (John 17) so that the Son may be one with the Bride as we are one with Him.
And during this beautiful two-fold Christocentricity firstly of Samuel as Christ, and secondly the sacrament of the burnt offering as symbolic of the Christian faith which the Israelites now exercise, we see the juxtaposition of the death of the nursing lamb with the wrath of the LORD upon the Philistines just as the punishment of the Father on the Son is a simultaneous judgment of wrath upon all those who are not shielded in the Son. What we see here is an echo of the Passover in Exodus, that the Israelites may pursue and destroy the Philistines from the watchtower to the House of the Lamb (Beth-car); from the woods where the ark was hidden to the House of Peace where the ark will soon reside; from the present time of engagement with the enemy to the House of Christ under the name of David where the Israelites will finally overcome them.
Thus, it is in this path in between – the one path between the watchtower and Jeshanah (or Shen in certain translations), that Samuel places the stone of help (Ebenezer), stumbling those who consider it a rock to be neglected but a cornerstone for many (Psalm 118; Acts 4). It is here that he emphasises that the saints of Old (Jeshanah) look to (Mizpah) the true Rock of Ages (Ebenezer), by whom the Israelites had fallen for not clinging to Him (chapter 4:1), but now are victorious by the covenant made with blood. It is only upon the victory entering Beth-car, the victory of the return of the ark to Jerusalem, that this victory is fully realised under David typifying Christ Jesus as opposed to Samuel who is the testimony to Christ that the Philistines’ cities were displaced from the enemy’s hands and the earth inherited by all those who are meek (Psalm 82:8; Matthew 5:5) (v.14). It is a restoration, the Irenaeus-esque recapitulation, for these lands were always promised to the Israelites (Deut 27:3) by the blood of the lamb and not by the false golden offerings which the Philistines had offered in chapter 6 and instead culminated in their demise as in chapter 7 though they witnessed the necessity of blood to enact a covenant (chapter 6:15-16).
Therefore, Samuel ends his life as judge by symbolically passes through three landmarks of Israel – Bethel, where Jacob received the dream confirming the covenant with Abraham, this “House of God” established by the nursing lamb; Gilgal, where the Israelites had their first Passover in Canaan (Joshua 5:10); and Mizpah, the watchtower. This circuit displays the gospel in the Old Testament – the covenant which the Father offered to the Israelites in the Son seen in Bethel, firstly explicitly spoken through Abraham and confirmed in Jacob’s dream as he is the father of all Israelites; secondly, the Passover which is first tasted in the Promised Land at Gilgal; yet, thirdly, these are all but shadows of the true covenant as Samuel built his own altar to the LORD (v.17) waiting for the true King to bring the brazen altar of the tabernacle, the only appointed place of sacrificial offerings, back from Kiriath-jearim and into Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13). What Samuel looked forward to (Mizpah), as all the other Old Testament saints did (Matthew 13:17) was the fulfilment of the covenant in both Jews and Gentiles as Christ is banner of Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:27); of the Passover by which we enter into New Creation; and no longer shall we then reside in Mizpah as there is no longer anything to look forward to, except to reside in our true Ramah, our true home at the end of the true ascension hill (Psalm 24:3) which Samuel returned to every year to judge, displaying to himself and to us the home we are to enter a new creation home which is redeemed by the One who will be our Judge, face to face, in communal love.