1 Samuel 7:2-4 The Voice (VOICE)
This section about the chest of the covenant shows God’s power in the world when all the nations around Israel believe in their own gods. Hebrew literature often talks about the Lord as the greatest of all gods, and this passage shows Him using the covenant chest to declare His preeminence. He embarrasses another god in his own temple, brings death and destruction on those around Him (as He did with the plagues of Egypt), and inflicts something like the bubonic plague, which would devastate Europe in the Middle Ages, on the Philistines. God is powerful and must be treated with the greatest of reverence. Even the people of God are happy to see the chest of the covenant move on, because it is too powerful for sinful human beings to live close to with comfort.
2 Time passed, 20 years or so, from the time that the covenant chest was taken to Kiriath-jearim, and all the people of Israel began to grieve over their separation from the Eternal One.
Samuel (to the Israelites): 3 If you really want to totally devote yourselves and return to the Eternal One, then get rid of all the foreign gods and goddesses you have gathered. Devote yourselves to the Eternal, serve Him and Him alone, and He will save you from the oppression of the Philistines.
The Canaanites have a long history of worshiping idols or local gods. In this case, the god being worshiped is Astarte (Ashtoreth), a fertility goddess similar to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. In Canaanite mythology, she is the sister and wife of the high god Baal. She and similar goddesses are worshiped throughout the ancient Near East; and the children of Israel are constantly falling away from serving the Lord by worshiping Astarte, Baal, and other pagan gods. God commands His people not to raise up idols or bow down to any gods except Him. Along with the worship of these gods come many strange practices that pollute the people of the Lord.
4 So the people of Israel got rid of their gods and goddesses,[a] and they began to serve only the Eternal One.