What is “Pouring Water Before the Lord” as Samuel Did in Mizpeh?


In 1 Samuel 7, we read about a revival in Mizpeh, where Samuel drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day, then as people asked him for continual crying on their behalf, he offered a burnt offering. What is drawing and pouring water before the Lord? —S.J.


Water had a significant meaning to the Israelites that may not be obvious to us who take it for granted. Water was not to be found just anywhere and was therefore extremely valuable. Without it one cannot live. To pour it out, especially while traveling across the vast desert, was to pour out one’s life. When it disappeared into the desert sand it could not be recovered.

Verses 2–4 of 1 Samuel, chapter 7 inform us that the Israelites had deserted the Lord. Then they began to turn to the Lord, but not with their whole heart. They had not broken their ties with the gods of their neighbors. Samuel told them “If you’re turning back to the Lord with all your hearts, you must remove your foreign gods and your idols of Ashtoreth. You must give yourselves fully to the Lord and serve only him. Then he will save you from the Philistines” (NCV). After years of halfhearted devotion to God, they complied with Samuel’s instructions. “The Israelites put away their idols of Baal and Ashtoreth, and they served only the Lord” (NCV).

At the request of Samuel all Israel gathered at Mizpeh where they, “in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the Lord. So it was at Mizpah [or Mizpeh] that Samuel became Israel’s judge” (v. 6, NLT).

Water means life. And when they drew water and poured it out, they were, in effect, declaring their allegiance to God. It was as if they were saying, We have put away Baal and Ashtoreth and have entrusted our lives to You. “Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14 NLT). They were showing their dependence on God. It meant that they had had a complete change of heart.