I Samuel Chapter 4
Memory verses for this week:
Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and
again I say, Rejoice. Phil 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto
all men. The Lord is at hand.
We continue our study on Samuel this week. In last weekís
lesson, we studied about Samuel being called of God to become a
prophet and priest. The first message the Lord gave to him was in
regards to the judgment coming to Eliís house.
Samuel Becomes Prophet and Priest
1 Sam 4:1 And
the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against
the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the
Philistines pitched in Aphek.
1 Sam 4:2 And
the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when
they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and
they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.
Samuel was now the prophet of Israel and he speaks to ALL of Israel
it says in verse 1. Certainly, all of Godís people need to hear
the word of the Lord. The nation prepares for war with the
Philistine, and pitches their camp beside Ebenezer. This location
was probably northeast of Joppa in the tribe of Ephraim. The
Philistines pitched their camp in Aphek. The Philistines come in
array against Israel, and the Philistines win the battle and slay
4,000 of the Israeli army in the initial battle.
1 Sam 4:3 And
when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said,
Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto
us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of
1 Sam 4:4 So
the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark
of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the
cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there
with the ark of the covenant of God.
It would seem unlikely that Israel could win this battle having Eli
and his wicked sons as the head spiritual leaders of their
nation. God through the mouth of Samuel had pronounced judgment
for their sinfulness and defilement of the tabernacle. Eli was
still recognized as the spiritual judge/leader of the nation since
Samuel was still very young. The people decide that God is
displeased with them since he had allowed this great defeat to the
Philistines. They question why this had happened, and decide to
brink the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh and bring it
among them so that they might be saved out of the hands of their
enemies. This would bring the presence of the Lord among them, and
could cause things to change. They felt if the ark was among them,
that God would be obligated to give them the victory. I believe
their decision to seek the presence of God was wise. When things
go against us in life, we should pray and seek the Lordís face.
But one of the things we fail to see in this is the prayer seeking
the Lordís will. That should always be first and foremost in a
Christianís life. God should not be our last line of hope, but we
should seek His help first. The Israelites send down to Shiloh
to have the ark brought forth, and since it was to be carried only
by the priests, it is brought to them by Eliís sons, Hophni and
Phinehas. They arrive in the camp bearing the ark on their
shoulders. We mentioned last week that sometimes spiritual leaders
are not even saved, much less following the guidelines laid down by
the Lord. These men were very wicked, it showed great disrespect
for the things of God to have them be the ones bearing the ark.
Godís work is a great work, and it should be done by saved
individuals who are living holy and separated lives unto the Lord.
1 Sam 4:5 And
when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all
Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
The Israelites are encouraged as the ark is brought forth, and they
receive it into the camp with a great shout. Godís people have a
reason to be excited when the presence of the Lord comes among them.
II. Israelís Defeat
1 Sam 4:6 And
when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What
meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews?
And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.
1 Sam 4:7 And
the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the
camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a
1 Sam 4:8 Woe
unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods?
these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in
1 Sam 4:9 Be
strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be
not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit
yourselves like men, and fight.
1 Sam 4:10 And
the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every
man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there
fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
When the Philistines heard the shouting in the camp of Israel, they
wondered what it meant. Surely this caused them to become alarmed
when they found out that the ark of God had been brought down among
the people. In verse 8, they question ďWho shall deliver us out of
the hand of these mighty Gods?Ē They did not understand that there
was one and one only, the Great Jehovah God of Israel. But their
concern was valid. They knew that this God had smitten the
Egyptians and won many wars for Israel. And they knew how that
they had been protected by God in the wilderness for the 40
years. They declare that they will be strong and fight like men,
and not become servants to the Hebrews. Not only do they stand and
fight, but they slay 30,000 of the Hebrews in the next battle.
III. The Ark of God is Taken
1 Sam 4:11 And
the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and
Phinehas, were slain.
1 Sam 4:12 And
there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the
same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
1 Sam 4:13 And
when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for
his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into
the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
1 Sam 4:14 And
when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the
noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
In the conflict, the ark of God is taken and the two sons of Eli
were slain. If you remember a couple of weeks back, we studied
about the old prophet that came to Eli and told him what was going
to happen. This is a fulfillment of both that prophecy and the
first message God gave Samuel in chapter 3.
1 Sam 2:27 And
there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the
LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they
were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?
1 Sam 2:28 And
did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to
offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me?
and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made
by fire of the children of Israel?
1 Sam 2:29
Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have
commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make
yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my
1 Sam 2:30
Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy
house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever:
but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I
will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
1 Sam 2:31
Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of
thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine
1 Sam 2:32 And
thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which
God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine
house for ever.
1 Sam 2:33 And
the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be
to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the
increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.
In verse 12, it says that a man from the tribe of Benjamin came
running to Shiloh to bring the news of the disaster. He came in
mourning, with dirt on his head. Eli, the old priest, was no doubt
waiting anxiously to hear the news of the battle. It may have been
that he had not wanted the ark of the Lord taken up to the place of
the battle. He was now a very old man, and was blind and
overweight. He took his seat beside the road to be the first to
hear the news.
IV. Effect of the Bad News
1 Sam 4:15 Now
Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he
could not see.
1 Sam 4:16 And
the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled
to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
1 Sam 4:17 And
the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the
Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the
people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and
the ark of God is taken.
1 Sam 4:18 And
it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he
fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his
neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he
had judged Israel forty years.
Eliís heart trembled at the word of the loss of the ark. He hears
of how the Israelites have been defeated and both of his sons have
been killed. And the ark of the Lord has been taken by the
Philistines. This was too great a loss for Eli to bear, and he
fell backwards at the mention of the loss of the ark, and it broke
his neck. He had been judged of Israel for 40 years. Remember
the words of coming judgment that he had recently received from
1 Sam 3:11 And
the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at
which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.
1 Sam 3:12 In
that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken
concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.
1 Sam 3:13 For
I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the
iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile,
and he restrained them not.
1 Sam 3:14 And
therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of
Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for
1 Sam 4:19 And
his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be
delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was
taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she
bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
1 Sam 4:20 And
about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto
her, Fear not; for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not,
neither did she regard it.
1 Sam 4:21 And
she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from
Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father
in law and her husband.
1 Sam 4:22 And
she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is
Eli is not the only member of his family affected by the bad news of
the battle. The wife of Phinehas was with child, and almost ready
to be delivered. At the announcement of Phinehasí death, she goes
into labor and delivered a child. This premature death caused her
to also die, and she named the child Ichabod. These words
probably indicate that she was closer to the Lord than her
husband. Ichabod lived on in Israel to adulthood, being mentioned
again in the scriptures. This name Ichabod, was a very fitting
name for the family of Eli. It could apply to many churches and
individuals today also. The word Ichabod meant ďThe glory is
departed from Israel, because the ark of God was taken.Ē It is sad
when God departs from a church or an individual. We need to learn
from this to always seek after the Lord, and never turn away from
Matthew Henry made note of the pious nature of Phinehasí wife.
Note that she was a woman of a very gracious spirit though matched
to a wicked husband. Her concern for the death of her husband and
father-in-law was an evidence of her natural affection; but her much
greater concern for the loss of the ark was an evidence of her pious
and devout affection to God and sacred things. The former helped to
hasten her travail, but it appears by her dying words that the
latter lay nearer her heart (v. 22): She said, The glory has
departed from Israel, not lamenting so much the sinking of that
particular family to which she was related as the general calamity
of Israel in the captivity of the ark. This, this was it that was
her grief, that was her death.
1. This made her regardless of her child.
The women that attended her, who it is likely were some of the first
rank in the city, encouraged her, and, thinking that he concern was
mostly about the issue of her pains, when the child was born,
said unto her, Fear not,
now the worst is past,
for thou has borne a son
(and perhaps it was her first-born),
but she answered not, neither did she regard it.
The sorrows of her travail, if she had no other, would have been
joy that a man-child was born into the world.
Jn. 16:21. But what is that joy, (1.) To one that feels herself
dying? No joy but that which is spiritual and divine will stand us
in any stead then. Death is too serious a thing to admit the relish
of any earthly joy; it is all flat and sapless then. (2.) What is it
to one that is lamenting the loss of the ark? Small comfort could
she have of a child born in Israel, in Shiloh, when the ark is lost,
and is a prisoner in the land of the Philistines. What pleasure can
we take in our creature-comforts and enjoyments if we want Godís
word and ordinances, especially if we want the comfort of his
gracious presence and the light of his countenance?
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4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day.
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Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Each act spreads, and many will
Matthew Henryís Commentary
on the Bible,
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.