In 1 Samuel 4 we read about some significant events in Israel. Some can be puzzling to consider, others should give us pause to reflect in our own lives. We learned in 1 Samuel 3 that Samuel became a well known prophet guided by the LORD. We see here in 1 Samuel 4 that “the word of Samuel came to all Israel” preceding the Israelites going to battle (and losing) against the Philistines. This may seem puzzling, it does to me. The LORD was guiding Samuel, clearly identified at the end of 1 Samuel 3. Samuel brought the word to Israel and they got defeated in battle. The missing piece is perhaps that we always think that YHWH wants us to win. But we will learn as we read that the defeat in battle actually accomplished YHWH’s purpose which he previously spoke through Samuel to Eli. Eli and his family were being punished and held accountable for the sin and rebellion of Eli’s sons against YHWH in their service as priests and in Eli’s failure to correct his sons effectively.
The people of Israel, instead of pausing to ask YHWH why they had lost decided to go in to battle with the ark. They were defeated again. The power is in YHWH, not the ark. They carried it as if it was an idol that would, by itself bring victory. They should have turned to the LORD to seek an answer.
We should surely pause to consider what in our lives we need to consult the LORD for as we face defeat. Let us seek him genuinely and wholeheartedly. Let us repent if needed and do things his way. Let us not just keep going back to defeat over and over on our own power.
Philistines Take the Ark in Victory
1Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek. 2The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 4So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5As the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. 7The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8“Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9“Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.”
10So 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 thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
12Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God. So the man came to tell it in the city, and all the city cried out. 14When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What does the noise of this commotion mean?” Then the man came hurriedly and told Eli. 15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.” And he said, “How did things go, my son?” 17Then the one who brought the news replied, “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.” 18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years.
19Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”
Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.