In the midst of the defeats and other calamities that overwhelmed the Israelites, Samuel's authority grew, and the respect for him increased, until he was acknowledged the helper of his people. His first efforts were directed toward counteracting the spiritual decay in Israel. When he assembled the people at Mizpah for prayer, he sought to distinguish between the faithful and the idolatrous, in order to mete out punishment to the disloyal. He had all the people drink water, whose effect was to prevent idolaters from opening their lips. (40) The majority of the people repented of their sins, and Samuel turned to God in their behalf: "Lord of the world! Thou requirest naught of man but that he should repent of his sins. Israel is penitent, do Thou pardon him." (41) The prayer was granted, and when, after his sacrifice, Samuel led an attack upon the Philistines, victory was not withheld from the Israelites. God terrified the enemy first by an earthquake, and then by thunder and lightning. Many were scattered and wandered about aimlessly; many were precipitated into the rents torn in the earth, the rest had their faces scorched, and in their terror and pain their weapons dropped from their hands. (42)
In peace as in war Samuel was the type of a disinterested, incorruptible judge, who even refused compensation for the time, trouble, and pecuniary sacrifices entailed upon him by his office.
Though, according to this account, the sons of Samuel were by no means so iniquitous as might be inferred from the severe expressions of the Scripture, still the demand for a king made by the leaders of the people was not unwarranted. All they desired was a king in the place of a judge. What enkindled the wrath of God and caused Samuel vexation, was the way in which the common people formulated the demand. "We want a king," they said, "that we may be like the other nations." (47)