Samuel administers justice from Ramah
1 Sam 7:3-6 Following the defeat at Ebernezer in c.1024BC, all the elders of Israel meet with Samuel at Mizpah (see Map 51 and the feature on Mizpah). As the capture of the Ark of the Covenant is seen as a sign of God’s wrath, Samuel persuades the Israelites to destroy their idols of Baal and Ashtoreth and to confess their wrongdoings before the one true God.
1 Sam 7:7-11 The Philistines attack the Israelites again near Mizpah, but they are routed and flee in panic to Beth Car. The Philistines become less dominant during the remaining years of Samuel’s leadership.
Samuel's tomb at Mizpah (Tamarah)
1 Sam 7:12-14 Samuel commemorates this victory of a renewed and more godly people by setting up a standing stone at Ebenezer (meaning ‘stone of help’) saying “The LORD has helped us to this point” (1 Samuel 4:1) (see Map 53).
1 Sam 7:15-17 Samuel does a ‘judge’s circuit' of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah settling grievances and disputes, then returns to Ramah, where he sets up an altar (see Map 50 and the features on Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah).
Ramah (meaning ‘high’) was a hilltop city in ancient Israel, in the territory of Benjamin. It was a little to the east of Gibeon and Mizpah, west of Geba and just north of Gibeah. Today it is identified as the town of Al-Ram, 5 miles / 8 km north of Jerusalem.
It is first mentioned in the Bible when Joshua allocated teritory to the tribe of Benjamin after the conquest of Canaan (see Joshua 18:25), and it features as the town that the Levite and his concubine reached north of Jebus (Jerusalem) just before staying overnight at Gibeah (see Judges 19:13).
Al-Ram, the site of Ramah (Soman)
Samuel was born at Ramah in c.1094 BC (see 1 Samuel 19-20), and made his home here after spending his youth at the sanctuary at Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 7:15-17). When the Israelites decided they needed a king, they came to Ramah to put their request to Samuel (see1 Samuel 8:4). Later, when David escaped from King Saul’s court at Gibeah in c.1012BC, he sought refuge at Samuel’s home in Ramah (see 1 Samuel 19:18).
The city of Ramah was extended and fortified by King Baasha of Israel in 910 BC as part of his campaign against King Asa of Judah. But Asa, in retaliation, struck a treaty with Ben-Hadad, the King of Aram (Syria), who forced Baasha to retreat north to his capital at Tirzah. Asa then demolished the fortifications at Ramah and used the timber and stone to build up his own defences nearby at Geba and Mizpah (see 1 Kings 15:16-22).
When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC, the captives were assembled at Ramah before being deported to Babylon (see Jeremiah 40:1). The prophet Jeremiah, who was amongst those who had been captured, wrote about the mourning and weeping in Ramah and Rachel (the mother of Benjamin and his descendents, the Benjaminites) “crying for her children…because her children are no dead” (Jeremiah 31:15). The words also took on another meaning when King Herod the Great massacred the infants of Bethlehem in c.4BC (see Matthew 2:17-18).
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