“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” (I Samuel 7:12).
Many Christians have joined in the singing of a familiar verse in an old hymn, without knowing its great meaning: “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’ve come.” When the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines, the old priest Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, all died the same day, as did Phinehas’ wife, in childbirth. It was a tragic day for Israel.
But then the people returned to God, under Samuel, and twenty years later the Lord gave them a great victory over the superior armies of the Philistines. In commemoration of this deliverance, Samuel set up a stone monument in the same place where the Philistines had captured the Ark twenty years before, calling the stone “Ebenezer,” a name which was always associated thereafter with the site as we read in I Samuel 4:1; 5:1.
Now “Ebenezer” means “Stone of Help,” and seeing it would always remind the people, whenever they might later come to fear the circumstances around them, that God had been their “help in ages past,” and thus could be trusted as their “hope for years to come.” Only God is truly able to help in times of great need, but He is able! “From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).