1 Samuel 4
Philistines crush Israel’s army, Eli dies
Philistines go to war with Israel1When Samuel spoke to the people of Israel, everyone listened and took him seriously.
Philistines raised a massive army against Israel and took it to Aphek. Israel raised an army to meet the threat and camped at nearby Ebenezer. 2Philistines crushed Israel’s fighting men, killing 4,000 in the battle.
3Israel’s army fell back to their camp. And their leaders asked, “Why did the LORD send us running from the Philistines? Let’s send men to Shiloh and bring us the Box of the Law,  the sacred chest with the Ten Commandments. Then God will send his power to help us win this battle.”  4So they went to Shiloh and brought the chest, which was covered by a lid with angelic cherubim on top. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas came with it.
5When the chest arrived in Israel’s camp, the men cheered so loud that the roar felt like it was shaking the ground.  6Philistines heard it and started asking, “Why are these Hebrews we just defeated suddenly cheering?” They soon learned that the sacred Box of the Law of the LORD had just arrived.
7Philistines were terrified. They said, “Gods have come to help them fight us. We’re in deep trouble. We’ve never faced anything like this. 8We’re in deep trouble. Who’s going to save us now? We’re facing the powerful gods that decimated Egyptians with one plague after another. 9But be brave. Be Philistines. Fight for your freedom unless you want to become slaves of these Hebrews. Fight like men.”
10Fight, they did. Philistines won the battle and the war. Thirty thousand Israelite men died in that fight. Survivors scattered and ran for their lives back to their homes. 11Philistines captured the Box of the Law containing the Ten Commandments. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Eli dies at news of his dead sons12A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran to Shiloh with news of the battle, arriving the same day. His clothes were ripped and his head was covered with dirt. 
13Eli was sitting on a chair by the road, waiting for news of the battle. He was worried about what might happen to the sacred chest and the Ten Commandments of the LORD. When the messenger arrived and delivered the news, Shiloh erupted in screams, crying, and sounds of chaos.
14Eli heard the wailing of the people and he asked, “What’s going on?” The messenger rushed over to Eli. 15Eli was 98 years old and blind.
16The messenger told him, “I just came running from the battle, fought today.” Eli said, “My son, what happened?” 17The man said, “Israel’s army scattered under the attacking Philistines. They slaughtered us, killing many of us. Both of your sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead. God’s chest, the Box of the Law, now belongs to the Philistines.”
18In that moment, when Eli heard the Box of the Law was lost, he fell backward out of his seat, beside the gate. He was a heavy man and elderly. The fall broke his neck and he died. He had led Israel for a generation, 40 years. 
Eli’s grandchild, Ichabod19Eli’s son Phinehas had a wife who was pregnant and about to give birth. Someone told the woman that the chest of the Ten Commandments was captured and the men in her family were dead, including her husband and her father-in-law. She managed to deliver the baby after a horrific labor.
20As she lay dying, women tried to comfort her saying, “Don’t be afraid. You now have a son.” She didn’t respond at all to that. 21She named the boy Ichabod,  meaning Nothing, because there’s nothing left of Israel’s glory.  The Box of the Law of the LORD was captured, and her husband and father-in-law were dead.
22She said, “The glory of Israel left when Philistines took the Box of the Law of God.” 
Better known as the Ark of the Covenant, an archaic description that’s not especially intuitive for Bible newcomers.
They may have felt they were simply doing what Moses and Joshua did when Israel fought their way to the Promised Land of Canaan, in today’s Israel and Palestinian Territories (Numbers 10:35-36; Joshua 6). Back then, God ordered the priests to carry the Ark into battle, as an assurance that he was fighting with them. “Put seven priests at the front of the line, walking in front of the Box of the Law” (Joshua 6:4).
Imagine the sound of a football stadium during a championship game.
People in Bible times tore their clothes and threw dirt on their heads and faces to express sorrow or grief, the way people today often wear black at funerals to express their sadness.
“Forty years” was a common way of saying “many years,” or “a long time.” The symbolic number shows up about 150 times in the Bible. It was probably intended to be taken no more literally than our modern saying “at the eleventh hour.” “Eleventh hour” means at the last moment, not 11 o-clock.
“Ichabod” in Hebrew is ’îkābôd. It means the opposite of glory. It’s interpreted several ways: no glory or “where’s the glory?” The glory was the presence of God which appeared to Moses and to Samuel at the Box of the Law. Without God, what’s left? Ichabod.
With the Box of the Law (Ark of the Covenant) gone, many in Israel may have felt God was gone, too. Bible writers quote God giving Moses instructions for building the revered chest. God tells Moses, “This is where I’ll meet with you, at the Box of the Law, above the lid and between the cherubim. There, I’ll talk with you about all the laws I’ll have for the people of Israel” (Exodus 25:22). It was beside this chest that God first spoke to young Samuel (1 Samuel 3:3-4). With the Box gone, the glorious presence of the LORD was gone with it, Ichabod’s mother seemed to believe. As though the Box contained God.
Israelites taught that the lid of the Box of the Law was God’s “footstool,” (1 Chronicles 28:2). Not literally, but it became perhaps the closest thing to his footprint, as a symbol of his presence, walking among his people, though unseen.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.