1 Samuel 4
-The book moves on in time to the point where Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle towards the west. Israel camped beside Ebenezer; meanwhile, the Philistines made their camp in Aphek due west of the Israelite encampment. The Philistines drew up in battle array in anticipation of their clash with Israel. As the battle ensued, the Philistines were victorious against the Israelites killing about 4,000 men on the battlefield. This was a big shock to the army of Israel and their elders wondered what was going on. They asked, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” They concluded that they needed to go east to Shiloh and take the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD so that it may come and give them deliverance from the power of the enemy. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were still running things at the time with the Ark of the Covenant, and consented to bring the Ark to the Israeli camp. As it approached them at the camp, all Israel shouted to such a great extent that the earth resounded. Of course the Philistines heard the shouts and soon perceived that indeed the Ark of the Covenant, a feared object, was with the Israelites. The Philistines felt that God was in the camp of their enemy. They knew that nothing like this had actually happened before. They feared the woe upon them because of the LORD’s reputation in dismantling Egypt with His plagues and the wilderness miracles that were common knowledge in the region. However, they took courage and gathered their strength together to resist and fight. They had made the Israelites their slaves and did not want to become the slaves of Israel due to cowardness and fear. “So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel 30,000 foot soldiers (1 Samuel 4:1-10).”
-The Ark of God was taken, and Hophni and Phinehas died in the conflict specifically as prophesied (1 Samuel 2:34). Now a man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battle line all the way to Shiloh that same day with torn clothes and dust on his head. As he came to the city, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly waiting and watching for any kind of news. He was trembling in his heart on account of the Ark of the Covenant being away from its proper spot in the holy of holies. The man gave his account first to men of the city, who immediately cried out in anguish. Eli didn’t initially know what was going on, and the man who ran from the battle shared with him the grim news. He specifically told Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped, from the battle line today.” Eli responded, “How did things go, my son?” The bearer of the horrible news then said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the Ark of God has been taken.” When the part about the Ark was mentioned, Eli fell off of his seat backwards beside the gate. His neck was broken and he died, “for he was old and heavy.” His 40-year reign as Israel’s judge had come to a disastrous close, but that was not all (1 Samuel 4:11-18).
-Eli’s daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and on the verge of giving birth to a son. When she heard the distressing news that the Ark had been taken and her husband’s and father-in-law’s deaths, she kneeled down in anguish, gave birth to her son, then died in the pains of childbirth. The women who stood by her reassured her that she not be afraid, she was having a boy. But, she could not even answer or pay attention in her agony. All that she muttered before leaving the earth was to call the child’s name, Ichabod (no glory), because “the glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God was taken (1 Samuel 4:19-22).”
-*Application* Israel’s mistake was looking to an object, the Ark, rather than the LORD of the object. It was God’s presence they needed, not a box plated with gold as ornate and special as it was. This amounted to idolatry in a sense. They trusted the Ark, and negated the God of the Ark in their battle. Sin was indeed present, and God’s wrath came upon them in an overwhelming way because of it. The leadership was corrupt with Hophni and Phinehas and unwilling to take up the mantle of courage in the case of Eli. When sin begets a camp, tribe, or nation, we too can pronounce Ichabod over it. There is no glory in things done apart from God’s presence and will.
Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 4:21