We have just witnessed the passing away of Samson in 1101 BC, whose job as Israel’s Judge was to “begin” to deliver his people from the hands of the Philistines (chapter 13:5). So what happened next? Samson’s effectual destruction of the Philistine lords and 3,000+ people was sure to evoke some kind of retaliation – and it did! 1 Samuel 7:3 chronologically picks up where Judges 16:31 left off. Immediately after Samson died, Samuel assembled the Israelites at Mizpeh and led them in a national repentance from idolatry. This was the perfect opportunity for the Philistines to rally their forces and attack the Israelites while they were assembled at Mizpeh, as a retribution for Samson’s recent destruction of their idol’s temple and worshipers. Samuel prayed to God for the Israelites, and the Lord gave them ultimate victory over the Philistine tyrants who had oppressed them for the last 40 years (1141-1101 BC). Thus the Philistines were subdued, and the Lord’s people threw off the yoke of oppression. Samson had indeed begun to deliver his countrymen out of the hands of the Philistines who exercised dominion over them, but it was under Samuel’s leadership that this deliverance that Samson began was actually finished. And as a memorial of this wonderful deliverance, Samuel set up the monument-stone at Ebenezer, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” (1 Sam. 7:12)
So with this chronological understanding of the sequence of events after Samson’s death, it is important to realize that the five remaining chapters of the Book of Judges are not placed in their chronological order. We must not understand them as things that occurred after Samson’s death. Rather, these five chapters contain the record of two separate events that transpired after the death of Joshua (around 1424 BC; chapter 2:7-9) and the elders who outlived him, but before the beginning of the first foreign oppression of Israel under Chushan-rishathaim (beginning in 1400 BC; chapter 3:8).
These five chapters are placed after the narrative of Samson, as a kind of parenthetical element, in order to show that it was not Samson alone who was tainted with corrupt morals; indeed, as these chapters will show us, the whole nation of Israel was filled with grievous abominations against the Lord. Hence we see His justice in bringing all the oppressions upon them that we have read about in the Book of Judges, but we may also stand in awe of His amazing grace and mercy in repeatedly bringing deliverance and restoration to such an undeserving people. Truly, our God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth!” (Exodus 34:6)
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