1 Samuel 4

1 The word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2 The Philistines put themselves in array against Israel. When they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field. 3 When the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us get the ark of the LORD’s covenant out of Shiloh and bring it to us, that it may come amongst us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh; and they brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of Armies, who sits above the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 When the ark of the LORD’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6 When 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?” They understood that the LORD’s ark had come into the camp. 7 The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” They said, “Woe to us! For there has not been such a thing before. 8 Woe to us! Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, and behave like men, O you Philistines, that you not be servants to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Strengthen yourselves like men, and fight!” 10 The Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter; for thirty thousand footmen of Israel fell. 11 God’s ark was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. 12 A man of Benjamin ran out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn, and with dirt on his head. 13 When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching; for his heart trembled for God’s ark. When the man came into the city and told about it, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, “What does the noise of this tumult mean?” The man hurried, and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old. His eyes were set, so that he could not see. 16 The man said to Eli, “I am he who came out of the army, and I fled today out of the army.” He said, “How did the matter go, my son?” 17 He who brought the news answered, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been also a great slaughter amongst the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and God’s ark has been captured.” 18 When he made mention of God’s ark, Eli fell from off his seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck broke, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years. 19 His daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered. When she heard the news that God’s ark was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth; for her pains came on her. 20 About the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Don’t be afraid; for you have given birth to a son.” But she didn’t answer, neither did she regard it. 21 She named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”; because God’s ark was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel; for God’s ark has been taken.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–9

Israel is smitten before the Philistines. Sin, the accursed thing, was in the camp, and gave their enemies all the advantage they could wish for. They own the hand of God in their trouble; but, instead of submitting, they speak angrily, as not aware of any just provocation they had given him. The foolishness of man perverts his way, and then his heart frets against the Lord, Pr 19:3, and finds fault with him. They supposed that they could oblige God to appear for them, by bringing the ark into their camp. Those who have gone back in the life of religion, sometimes discover great fondness for the outward observances of it, as if those would save them; and as if the ark, God’s throne, in the camp, would bring them to heaven, though the world and the flesh are on the throne in the heart.

Verses 10–11

The taking of the ark was a great judgment upon Israel, and a certain token of God’s displeasure. Let none think to shelter themselves from the wrath of God, under the cloak of outward profession.

Verses 12–18

The defeat of the army was very grievous to Eli as a judge; the tidings of the death of his two sons, to whom he had been so indulgent, and who, as he had reason to fear, died impenitent, touched him as a father; yet there was a greater concern on his spirit. And when the messenger concluded his story with, “The ark of God is taken,” he is struck to the heart, and died immediately. A man may die miserably, yet not die eternally; may come to an untimely end, yet the end be peace.

Verses 19–22

The wife of Phinehas seems to have been a person of piety. Her dying regret was for the loss of the ark, and the departure of the glory from Israel. What is any earthly joy to her that feels herself dying? No joy but that which is spiritual and divine, will stand in any stead then; death is too serious a thing to admit the relish of any earthly joy. What is it to one that is lamenting the loss of the ark? What pleasure can we take in our creature comforts and enjoyments, if we want God’s word and ordinances; especially if we want the comfort of his gracious presence, and the light of his countenance? If God go, the glory goes, and all good goes. Woe unto us if he depart! But though the glory is withdrawn from one sinful nation, city, or village after another, yet it shall never depart altogether, but shines forth in one place when eclipsed in another.

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