Skip to main content


TEXT: 1 Samuel 7:12

The Scripture: Samuel & Ebenezer

The meaning of Ebenezer originates more than a thousand years before Christ, during the ministry of the prophet Samuel.

First Occurrence

1 Samuel 4:1 — And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

What we do know is that during his early days as a prophet, Israel received back the ark of the covenant from the Philistines after seven months, having lost it in war. So distressing was it to lose the ark that when news of it had come to Israel’s judge Eli, he fell backwards from his chair, broke his neck, and died (1 Samuel 4:18). Sadly, even with the loss of the ark, the nation was not yet ready to come before God in full repentance. It took twenty years for the people to be sufficiently humbled to turn to Samuel to lead them in restoring their relationship with God.

Second Occurrence

1 Samuel 5:1 — And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.

Origin Text

1 Samuel 7:12 — Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. {Ebenezer: that is, The stone of help}

Samuel gathered the people at the town of Mizpah. There the people would fast and confess their collective infidelity to God (“We have sinned against the Lord,” 1 Samuel 7:6) and Samuel would pray for them (1 Samuel 7:5). But when the Philistines heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they took it as an opportunity to march on their enemies — and when Israel heard they were coming, the nation panicked. The people pled to the prophet, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8).

Samuel responded by sacrificing a lamb to God on behalf of the people, and as he did, the Philistines began to attack. But God heard Samuel and answered with a magnificent display of power. “The Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them” (1 Samuel 7:10–11). God heard the cries of his people through Samuel, and came to their rescue.

Then, to commemorate God’s mighty intervention on behalf of his people,

Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. (1 Samuel 7:12–13)

In Hebrew, Ebenezer means “stone of help” (eben = stone; ezer = help). Samuel wanted the people to remember, not just for a few days, but for years, for decades, for generations, how God had come to the rescue of his people when they humbled themselves before him.

Samuel erecting the stone Ebenezer was not the end of Israel's story. Many more dangers, toils, and snares were to come. Samuel raising the “stone of help” was in no way a declaration that the final victory had been won, but that up to that point God had helped them. “Till now the Lord has helped us.” And because God’s people weren’t yet out of the woods, this Ebenezer had a part to play in reminding the nation to keep the faith in the days ahead.

The Hymn Writer: Robert Robinson

Robert Robinson (1735–1790) was born at Swaffham, Norfolk, in 1735. Whilst in his eighth year the family migrated to Scarning, in the same county. He lost his father a few years after this removal. His widowed mother was left in sore straits. His mother was a godly woman, and far above her circumstances. Her ambition was to see her son a clergyman of the Church of England, but poverty forbade, and the boy (in his 15th year) was indentured (seven year apprenticeship) in 1749 to a barber and hairdresser in London.

It was an uncongenial position for a bookish and thoughtful lad. His master found him more given to reading than to his profession. Still he appears to have nearly completed his apprenticeship when he was released from his indentures.

In 1752 came a life changing event, Out on a frolic one Sunday with like-minded companions, he joined with them in sportively rendering a fortune-telling old woman drunk and incapable, that they might hear and laugh at her predictions concerning them. The poor creature told Robinson that he would live to see his children and grandchildren. This set him a-thinking, and he resolved more than ever to "give himself to reading”.

Matthew 3:7 — But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Coincidently he went to hear George Whitefield. The text was St. Matthew iii. 7, and the great evangelist's searching sermon on "the wrath to come" haunted him blessedly. He wrote to the preacher six years later penitently and pathetically. For well nigh three years he walked in darkness and fear, but in his 20th year found "peace by believing."

He soon after began to preach, and ministered for some time in connection with the Calvinistic Methodists. He subsequently joined the Independents, but after a short period preferred the Baptist connection.

Robert Robinson wrote “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” at age 22 (1757).

Robinson remained in London until 1758, attending assiduously on the ministry of Gill, Wesley, and other evangelical preachers. Early in this year he was invited as a Calvinistic Methodist to the oversight of a chapel at Mildenhall, Norfolk. Thence he removed within the year to Norwich, where he was settled over an Independent congregation.

In 1759, having been invited by a Baptist Church at Cambridge (afterwards made historically famous by Robert Hall, John Foster, and others) he accepted the call, and preached his first sermon there on Jan. 8, 1759, having been previously baptized by immersion. The "call" was simply "to supply the pulpit," but he soon won such regard and popularity that the congregation again and again requested him to accept the full pastoral charge. In 1761, he became pastor of the Baptist congregation at Cambridge, after persuading the people to "open communion."

In 1770 he commenced his abundant authorship by publishing a translation from Saurin's sermons, afterwards completed. In 1774 appeared his masculine and unanswerable Arcana, or the Principles of the Late Petitioners to Parliament for Relief in the matter of Subscription. In 1776 was published A Plea for the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in a Pastoral Letter to a Congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Cambridge. Dignitaries and divines of the Church of England united with Nonconformists in lauding this exceptionally able, scholarly, and pungently written book. In 1777 followed his History and Mystery of Good Friday. The former work brought him urgent invitations to enter the ministry of the Church of England, but he never faltered in his Nonconformity.

In 1781 he was asked by the Baptists of London to prepare a history of their branch of the Christian Church. This resulted, in 1790, in his History of Baptism and Baptists, and in 1792, in his Ecclesiastical Researches. Other theological works are included in the several collective editions of his writings. He was prematurely worn out. He retired in 1790 to Birmingham, where he was somehow brought into contact with Dr. Priestley, and Unitarians have made much of this, on exceedingly slender grounds. He died June 9, 1790.

About the year 1780, he began to incline towards Unitarianism, and at length his people deemed it essential to procure his resignation. While arrangements for this purpose were in progress he died suddenly at Bingham, in June 1790. He wrote and published a good many works. His three changes of ecclesiastical relationship show that he was somewhat unstable and impulsive. His hymns are terse (abrupt) yet melodious, evangelical but not sentimental, and on the whole well wrought. His prose has all that vehement and enthusiastic glow of passion that belongs to the orator.

  • Notice Third Verse: prone to wonder && The Monument of Ebenezer's reminder ("till now...", "not out of the woods")

The Hymn: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

The Lyrics

Verse 1:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it - mount of God's redeeming love.

Verse 2:

Here I find my greatest treasure; hither by thy help I've come;

and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger, bought me with his precious blood.

Verse 3:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor - daily I'm constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee:

prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;

here's my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.

Scripture References

  • "Ebenezer" 1 Samuel 4:1; 5:1; 7:12
  • "Fount of Every Blessing" James 1:17
  • "Grace" 1 Corinthians 15:10