1 Samuel chapter 4

The Philistines capture the Ark. The death of Eli.





VERSE 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.

Israel went out against the Philistines to battle. Israel started this fight. The Philistines did not.

The word of Samuel came to all Israel. This is a change. Previously, a message was referred to something like this: “The word of the LORD came to Moses.” But now it is given through Samuel to the whole nation.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 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’s get the ark of the LORD’s covenant out of Shiloh and bring it to us, that it may come among us and save us out of the hand of our enemies.”

that it may come among us, and save us. Their concept of the Ark is superstitious. They see it as a lucky charm.

It is sad that the leaders of the nation know so little about their faith or their history. Why was that? Here are two reasons:

  1. Eli and his two corrupt sons were not teaching them their history or their faith.
  2. They were not reading the Scriptures.


VERSE 4. So the people sent to Shiloh, and they brought from there 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.


VERSE 5. When the ark of the LORD’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 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.

God has come into the camp. This does not mean the Philistines recognize the One God of Israel.

The Hebrew word is אֱלֹהִ֖ים (“elohim”). It means divine, divine being, God, god, goddess, gods.

What they said was more like this:

  • A god has come into the camp
  • The gods have come into the camp


VERSE 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.


VERSE 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!”


VERSE 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.


VERSE 11. God’s ark was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

God’s ark was taken. This is a very sad moment. And it was entirely preventable, had the Israelites bothered to read the Bible and bothered to become aware of their faith and history.

the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. With his two sons dead, the lineage of Eli has ceased. This fulfills part of the prophecy that his house would fall. It will be completed in verse 18 below.




VERSE 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.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 15. Now Eli was ninety-eight years old. His eyes were set, so that he could not see.


VERSE 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?”


VERSE 17. He who brought the news answered, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been also a great slaughter among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and God’s ark has been captured.”


VERSE 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.

his neck broke, and he died. Not only were the two sons of Eli slain (see verse 11 above), but now Eli himself is dead. This fulfills the prophecy that his house would fall.

he was an old man, and heavy. It is interesting that the Bible mentions the obesity of Eli. It brings to mind the imagery in the prophet Isaiah, where the shepherds fattened themselves on their sheep. That is exactly what Eli was doing.


VERSE 19. His daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to giving birth. 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.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 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.

She named the child Ichabod. The word “Ichabod” means “no glory”.


VERSE 22. She said, “The glory has departed from Israel; for God’s ark has been taken.”


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.