Verse 1: And the word of Samuel came (or, came to pass; Heb. was) to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside (1 Sam. 5:1; 7:12) Eben-ezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.
[And the word of Samuel came to all Israel, וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל לְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל] With these words, the Vulgate and the Chaldean close the preceding chapter (Mendoza). [But the Chaldean is incorrectly alleged, which with these words begins the fourth chapter; nevertheless, the Syriac and Arabic thus order it.] They translate it, and the word of Samuel was to all Israel (Montanus, similarly Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Syriac). And the word was spoken, etc.; that is, he preached to all the people, and exhorted them to repent (Osiander). The word was, etc. The Lord through Samuel commanded the children of Israel (who were consulting the Lord about this matter [Hebrews in Vatablus]) to advance against the Philistines, so that thus they might be punished for their sins (Munster). A little later, to them Samuel said what things he had heard from the Lord; namely, concerning resisting the Philistines, and undertaking an expedition against them (Vatablus). Hence the question in verse 3, Why hath the Lord smitten, etc.? That is to say, since we undertook this expedition at the commandment of God, why does He now afflict us (Hebrews in Vatablus)? God often leads into a fight those whom He suffers to be overcome in that fight; as in Judges 20. Others: the word was made, that is, set forth by Samuel; that it it was going to happen that the people would be defeated by the Philistines. If it is true, and Israel did not submit to the warning of Samuel, they were deservedly punished for their perfidy (Mendoza). [Others translate the words otherwise:] And Samuel was accredited to all Israel to be a Prophet to the Lord (Septuagint). And the word of Samuel was known to all Israel (Syriac). And the speech of Samuel was made, worthy of faith among all Israelites (Arabic). Others: the speech of Samuel came to pass, etc. (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius). Was is in the place of came to pass, as in Genesis 24:15; 41:13 (Malvenda, Drusius). And the speech of Samuel came to pass to all Israel, when the Israelites went out, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). Speech; namely, that which was related in 1 Samuel 3:11, etc (Piscator). For he had denounced evils, not only against the house of Eli, but also against Israel, 1 Samuel 3:11, etc. (Junius). What things Samuel had predicted both to the house of Eli, and to the Israelites, actually happened when the Israelites went forth to war, etc. (Malvenda).
The word of Samuel, that is, the word of the Lord revealed to Samuel, and by him to the people; either, first, The prophetical word mentioned before, 1 Samuel 3:11, etc., which is here said to come, or to come to pass, as it was foretold, to all Israel. But the subject of that prophecy was not all Israel, but Eli and his house, as is evident. Or rather, secondly, A word of command, that all Israel should go forth to fight with the Philistines, as the following words explain it, that so they might be first humbled and punished for their sins, and so prepared by degrees for their future deliverance.
[And it happened in those days] Understand not (with Tostatus Abulensis and Serarius) the days immediately following; but eighteen or twenty-eight years after that Prophecy, which happened when Samuel was twelve. Now, this war, in which Eli died, happened when Samuel was thirty or forty years old (Mendoza, Lapide). For, at the death of Eli, Samuel immediately succeeded unto the prefecture of the people. Therefore, he was older, and of a more mature age (Lapide).
[The Philistines gathered unto battle] The reason for the war was; either, 1. That either the Philistines were requiring greater tribute; or the Israelites were not paying what was due. 2. Or, on account of the slaughter wrought be Samson; which injury, the longer they were ignoring, the more fiercely they now avenge. 3. God appears to have armed and urged the Philistines (Mendoza). The counsel of God was certainly marvelous, by one and the same work to exact punishment from all; from Eli, I say, and his sons; from Israel; and from the Philistines (Martyr).
Against the Philistines; or, to meet the Philistines, who having by this time recruited themselves after their great loss by Samson, Judges 16:30, and perceiving an eminent prophet arising among them, by whom they were likely to be united, counselled, and assisted, thought fit to suppress them in the beginning of their hopes and designs of rescuing themselves from their power.
[And they pitched near the rock of help, עַל־הָאֶ֣בֶן הָעֵ֔זֶר] Near (or on [Septuagint]) Eben-ezer (Pagnine, Tigurinus). I would prefer, before Eben-ezer; for there is no ellipsis here in the Hebrew. And Eben-ezer is not the name of a place, but of a stone, 1 Samuel 7:12 (Piscator). On (or near [Syriac], or by [Drusius], or at [Munster]) the rock of help, or assistance (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Drusius, Piscator). Thus it is called by prolepsis, or anticipation; from an event following afterwards, 1 Samuel 7:12 (Vatablus out of Munster, thus all interpreters). For now it was rather a stone of stumbling, or of calamity. It is to be noted here, 1. that עַל/upon is put in the place of near. 2. That the ה/the in הָאֶבֶן, the rock, παρέλκειν, that is, is superfluous. And it is a similar thing,הָאֶ֧בֶן הַבְּדִ֛יל, the stone the tin (that is, of tin). What sort are in Latin: ventus turbo, wind whirlwind; petra pumex, rock pumice; etc. And in the sacred text: munus simila, tribute wheat flour; coma crinis, hair hair. Thus perhaps, stone help, in the place of, of help (Drusius).
Eben-ezer; a place so called here (by anticipation) from a following event, 1 Samuel 7:12.
[In Aphek] There were two cities called Aphek; 1. One in the lot of Judah, Joshua 15:53. 2. The other in the lot of Asher, Joshua 19:30 (Mendoza). The first is treated here (Mendoza, Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). For the Philistines were living in the lot of Judah (Mendoza).
Aphek; a city so called in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:53, upon the borders of the Philistines’ country; not that Aphek in Asher, Joshua 19:30; Judges 1:31, which was very remote from them.
 Hebrew: וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל לְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּצֵ֣א יִשְׂרָאֵל֩ לִקְרַ֙את פְּלִשְׁתִּ֜ים לַמִּלְחָמָ֗ה וַֽיַּחֲנוּ֙ עַל־הָאֶ֣בֶן הָעֵ֔זֶר וּפְלִשְׁתִּ֖ים חָנ֥וּ בַאֲפֵֽק׃  Hebrew: וַיְהִי.  Genesis 24:15: “And it came to pass (וַיְהִי־הוּא, and it was), before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.”  Genesis 41:13: “And it came to pass (וַיְהִי, and it was), as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.”  See Isaiah 8:14; 1 Peter 2:8.  Zechariah 4:10: “For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet (אֶת־הָאֶ֧בֶן הַבְּדִ֛יל) in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”  Plautus’ Curculio 5:2:47. Titus Maccius Plautus (254-184 BC) was a Roman playwright. Only twenty-one of his nearly one hundred and thirty comedies survive.  Priapeia 32.  Leviticus 2:1: “And when any will offer a meat offering (קָרְבַּ֤ן מִנְחָה֙) unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon…”