"But that day the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines"
–1 Samuel 7:10
Shiloh had been an important location for the Israelites. It is where they set up the tabernacle a few years after taking possession of Canaan (Joshua 18:1 - The tent had originally been set up in Gilgal after crossing the Jordan river.) It is where Joshua drew lots for the division of the land for seven of the tribes (Joshua 18:10.) It is where the Israelites arranged an opportunity for the Benjamites to "steal" some of the dancing girls to provide wives (Judges 21:21) after almost getting obliterated by all of the other tribes. It remained the sight for the tabernacle and the ark for almost four hundred years. By comparison, the pilgrims landed four hundred years ago and the United States is just under two hundred and fifty years old.
In the first three chapter of Samuel, when talking about the tent of meeting, there is mention of doorposts, doors, sleeping quarters, and "house of the Lord" indicating that there may have been an expansion to something more permanent. A temple. So what happened to Shiloh? Well, it was destroyed shortly after the death of Eli. This is a little speculative of course since the bible doesn't clearly state that this is when Shiloh was destroyed and it certainly provides no details other than the death of Eli and Phinehas's wife. And Ichabod? So, it may be presumptive, but it does clear up some questions. First, we know that Shiloh was in fact, destroyed from these passages:
Jeremiah 7:12 " 'Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.
Jeremiah 26:6 "then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.' "
Psalm 78:60-64 60. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among men. 61. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy. 62. He gave his people over to the sword; he was very angry with his inheritance. 63. Fire consumed their young men, and their maidens had no wedding songs; 64. their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep.
It raises some questions, though. For one, why are there no details about the event? You might think that the destruction of the nation's capitol would warrant some details. Secondly, in 1Samuel chapter 21, David visits the priests at Nob. It is clear that they are performing tabernacle duties and context indicates the tabernacle in fact, at Nob. Did they build a new one? Were they able to evacuate the tent before the destruction of Shiloh? Also, the ark remains at Abinidab's house until King David retrieves it in 2Samuel, Chapter 6 so, why wasn't the ark sent to Nob? Feel free to speculate, dozens of others have.
After the death of Eli and the destruction of Shiloh, the ark was captured by the Philistines and they possessed it for seven months. Upon its return, it was sent to Kiriath Jearim where it would reside in the house of a man named Abinadab. His son Eleazar was consecrated to stand guard over it. Twenty years would pass and the people of God would return to worshiping foreign gods and consequently, come to live under Philistine oppression. As before, they would come to their senses. 1Samuel 7:2 says, "all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord" and Samuel was there to explain the situation; if they were to get rid of the foreign gods and Ashtoreths and to commit fully to the Lord, he would deliver them from the hands of the Philistines. And once again, they repented and turned to God.
Samuel had all of Israel assemble at Mizpah. Mizpah is about two miles north of Samuel's hometown of Ramah and where all of Israel had gathered to make war against the Benjamites in Judges 20:1. At Mizpah, the people fasted, poured out water to the Lord and confessed their sins. At Mizpah, Samuel interceded on behalf of the people and became their leader.
When the Philistines learned that all of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they took it as an opportunity to attack and defeat them. The Israelites were afraid and implored Samuel to cry out to God. Samuel took a baby lamb and offered it whole as a burnt offering and he cried out to God. God answered him.
1Samuel 7:10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.
The Israelites seized the opportunity and pursued the Philistines, killing them as they went. Samuel set up a stone as a monument, naming it Ebenezer which means stone of help . The Philistine towns of Ekron and Gath were returned to Israel and Samuel remained Judge over Israel for the rest of his life.
About twenty more years have passed since Mizpah, and Samuel is around sixty-five years old. He has appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah as judges but they are corrupt. 1Samuel 8:3 says, "They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice." Much like Eli's sons, Samuel's sons do not recognize the responsibility of their office. Accepting bribes is explicitly forbidden in the law:"
Exodus 23:8 "Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.
Deuteronomy 16:19 Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
Israel responded to the situation:
1Samuel 8:4-5 4. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."
THIS IS BIG. First, Israel is leveraging Samuel's age to compel a fundamental change in their society. God has provided for them for the last four hundred years, raising leaders/judges from among them as needed and providing for them on a basic level. All the judges before Samuel grew old and died; nothing has happened to indicate this relationship has changed. Second, this request has been made and rejected before:
Judges 8:22-23 22. The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us-you, your son and your grandson-because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." 23. But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."
Since leaving Egypt, it has been drummed into the Israelites that they are not like other nations; God is their ruler and king. God has repeatedly allowed Israel to repent of their sin and provide for them when they did. This has never changed.
Samuel is displeased at the request to appoint a king and prays to God.
1Samuel 8:7-9 7. And the Lord told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
God is prepared to give them a king, but he wants Samuel to clearly explain the consequences of the request. Samuel gives them a laundry list of warnings:
A king will:
1Samuel 8:19-22 19. But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. 20. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." 21. When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22. The Lord answered, "Listen to them and give them a king." Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Everyone go back to his town."
As absurd as it sounds that the Israelites would reject God as their ruler in favor of an Earthly king, it shouldn't have been all that surprising. In addition to Gideon rejecting the kingship, there have been other indications that Israel would seek a human king over God.
Genesis 49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
FYI - Saul is a Benjamite. David is from Judah.
Numbers 24:7 Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. "Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.
This is Balaam's third oracle about Israel. Agag is a common name among Amalekite kings.
Deuteronomy 17:14-15 14. When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15. be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite.
This is Moses addressing the Israelites at the end of his life. It's almost as if he knew them and how they would act.