3 Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you do return to Yahweh with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts to Yahweh, and serve him only; and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."
*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Compare the marginal references. Twenty years of Samuel's life had passed away since the last mention of him 1-Samuel 4:1. Now he appears in the threefold character of prophet, Judge, and the acknowledged leader of the whole people. His words were an answer to a profession of repentance on the part of Israel, the practical proof of which would be the putting away all their false gods. (Compare Judges 6:10 note.)
Will pray for you - So Moses prayed for the people at Rephidim Exodus 17:11-12; and for Miriam Numbers 12:13; so Elijah prayed at Carmel 1-Kings 18:36, 1-Kings 18:42; so Ezra prayed at the evening sacrifice Ezra 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.
And Samuel spake - We have heard nothing of this judge since he served in the tabernacle. He was now grown up, and established for a prophet in the land of Israel.
If ye do return - From your backsliding and idolatry.
With all your hearts - For outward services and professions will avail nothing.
Put away the strange gods - Destroy their images, altars, and groves: they are strange; you do not know them as helpers, saviours, or defenders.
Prepare your hearts - Let your hearts be straight and steady.
And serve him only - Have no other religious service but his, and obey his laws.
He will deliver you - Vain are your own exertions; he will deliver you in such a way as to show that the excellence of the power is of himself alone.
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel,.... When they assembled at one of their three yearly feasts, or as he went from place to place, exhorting them to repentance and reformation; and perceiving they began to be awakened to a sense of their sins, and seemed desirous of returning to God, and restoring his worship:
saying, if ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts; truly and sincerely; for he might fear there was hypocrisy and dissimulation at least in some of them:
then put away the strange gods; as all but the true God are; or the gods of another people, as the Philistines, Canaanites, &c. Baalim seem chiefly intended, as appears from the following verse:
and Ashtaroth from among you; female deities, such as with other nations went by the name of Juno, Venus, &c. so the Arabic version,"the idols of the women ye secretly worship.''Aquila renders it, "the images of Astarte"; so they call Venus as Procopius Gazaeus observes, from "aster", a star; but the word signifies flocks of sheep, and these deities are supposed by some to be in the form of them; but be they what they may, they were to be put away out of their houses, and out of their hearts:
and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only; that is, direct your hearts to him while in his service; let it proceed from the heart, and let it be done to him only, and not to another with him; or to him in and by another, as may be pretended, and commonly is by idolaters:
and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines; under whose dominion they had been for many years; for though their power over them was weakened by Samson, yet they were not completely delivered by him; so all the time of Eli they were not wholly free from them; and especially since their last defeat by them; when the ark was taken, they had been under oppression by them; now Samuel promises them deliverance from it, in case they relinquish their idols, and served the Lord solely and heartily.
THE ISRAELITES, THROUGH SAMUEL'S INFLUENCE, SOLEMNLY REPENT AT MIZPEH. (1-Samuel 7:3-6)
Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel--A great national reformation was effected through the influence of Samuel. Disgusted with their foreign servitude, and panting for the restoration of liberty and independence, they were open to salutary impressions; and convinced of their errors, they renounced idolatry. The re-establishment of the faith of their fathers was inaugurated at a great public meeting, held at Mizpeh in Judah, and hallowed by the observance of impressive religious solemnities. The drawing water, and pouring it out before the Lord, seems to have been a symbolical act by which, in the people's name, Samuel testified their sense of national corruption, their need of that moral purification of which water is the emblem, and their sincere desire to pour out their hearts in repentance before God.
Spake - To all the rulers and people too, as he had occasion in his circuit, described below, mixing exhortation to repentance, with his judicial administrations. If - If you do indeed what you profess, if you are resolved to go on in that which you seem to have begun. With all your heart - Sincerely and in good earnest. Put - Out of your houses, where some of you keep them; and out of your hearts, where they still have an interest in many of you. Ashtaroth - And especially, Ashtaroth, whom they, together with the neighbouring nations, did more eminently worship. Prepare your hearts - By purging them from all sin, and particularly from all inclinations to other gods.
*More commentary available at chapter level.