Victory over the Philistines

The return of the Ark marked a change in the religious life of the Jewish people. Many now really yearned for the study of the Torah and a return to G‑d.

However, many Jews saw no inconsistency in having in their possession various idols. Their belief in G‑d, they felt, was not affected by having these harmless images in their homes. But Samuel, who was now the acknowledged prophet and the judge of Israel, traveled from city to city, enlightening the people as to the true meaning of the Torah and the belief in one G‑d. His home was Ramah, his birthplace; but he went yearly round to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, to judge and instruct the people.

Samuel longed to restore unity, peace, and safety to his nation; but he felt that this was impossible as long as idolatry prevailed. Therefore he called the people of Israel together and exhorted them to put away their strange gods and to return to G‑d with their whole heart. The multitude listened to his earnest appeal, and in response to it, they removed the images of Baal and Ashtarte and served the L-rd alone. Then Samuel summoned them to Mizpah for a great public sacrifice and a day of prayer. The Philistines, hearing of this peaceful assembly, resolved to attack them at once, and the affrighted Israelites bade Samuel pray for them.

The Jews saw the Philistines approaching and cried out to Samuel to pray to G‑d to save them. The prophet offered up a burnt sacrifice to the L-rd and invoked His aid for the people. As the smoke was rising from the altar, the Philistines approached in battle array; but a terrific storm burst over their heads and discomfited their army. They were put to flight, and the Israelites pursued them to the southern frontier of the land and utterly routed them. The Hebrews now easily reconquered all the towns which the Philistines had previously taken. Indeed, the Philistines were thoroughly subdued and weakened and did not dare to attack the Hebrews again during the lifetime of Samuel.

"Set a King Over Us"

Samuel was growing old. He had appointed his two sons as judges. However, like the two sons of Eli, they did not follow in their father's foot-steps. The people had no confidence in them and feared that Samuel's death would again leave them without a leader. The elders, therefore, came to Samuel and confronted him with the request, "Set a king over us." Samuel was greatly disturbed by this request. He attempted to dissuade them by pointing out that the neighboring kings were despots. The heathen king was cruel and avaricious. He robbed the poor and weak to enrich himself and his courtiers. He was indifferent to the plight of the masses. He recruited the cream of the youth for his army to seek personal glory in conquest. He levied heavy taxes and flagrantly infringed upon the freedom of his subjects. But no argument could convince the Elders that they should give up their urgent request, as they hoped that a king could unite them into one nation, strong enough to defend its borders against any enemy. When Samuel saw that the Elders were persisting in their purpose, he inquired of G‑d whether or not Israel should have a king. Receiving a reply in the affirmative, Samuel dismissed the Elders of Israel with the promise that their request would be granted.