Question: "What does the term Ebenezer mean in the Bible?"
Answer: Most of us are familiar with the name “Ebenezer” because of the character Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol. Because of that story, the name “Ebenezer” has taken on the connotation of miserliness and a lack of charity—although, to be fair, Ebenezer Scrooge did become a changed man at the end of the story.
The name “Ebenezer” actually comes from the Bible. In 1 Samuel 7, during the end of the time of the judges, Israel experiences revival under the leadership of Samuel. The nation repents of their sin, destroys their idols, and begins to seek the Lord (1 Samuel 7:2–4). Samuel gathered the people at Mizpah where they confessed their sin, and Samuel offered a sacrifice on their behalf (verses 5–9).
It was during this time of repentance and renewal that the enemy attacked: “While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle” (1 Samuel 7:10). The Israelites went out to do battle against the invaders, and God sent them supernatural help: “That day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites” (verse 10).
Israel’s victory over the Philistines was decisive. Several cities the Philistines had captured were restored to Israel, and it was a long time before the Philistines tried to invade Israel again (1 Samuel 7:13–14). To commemorate the divine victory, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us’” (verse 12).
Ebenezer means “stone of help.” From then on, every time an Israelite saw the stone erected by Samuel, he would have a tangible reminder of the Lord’s power and protection. The “stone of help” marked the spot where the enemy had been routed and God’s promise to bless His repentant people had been honored. The Lord had helped them, all the way to Ebenezer.