1 Samuel 4:1-22 NIV
1And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.
The Philistines Capture the Ark
Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why Did The Lord Bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring The Ark of the Lord’s Covenant from Shiloh, so that HE May Go With us and Save us from the hand of our enemies.”
4So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the Ark of the Covenant of The Lord Almighty, Who Is Enthroned between the cherubim.
And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the Ark of the Covenant of GOD.
5When the Ark of The Lord’s Covenant Came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”
When they learned that the Ark of The Lord Had Come into the camp, 7the Philistines were afraid. “A GOD Has Come Into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the Hand of These Mighty Gods? They Are The GODS Who Struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”
10So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
11 The Ark of GOD Was Captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Death of Eli
12That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the Ark of GOD. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.
14Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”
The man hurried over to Eli, 15who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. 16He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.”
Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”
17The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the Ark of GOD Has Been Captured.”
18When he mentioned the Ark of GOD, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.
19His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the Ark of GOD Had Been Captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention.
21She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory Has Departed From Israel”—because of the capture of the Ark of GOD and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband.
“The Glory Has Departed From Israel, for the Ark of GOD Has Been captured.”
The Ark of the Covenant Captured
Strange that they were so blind to the real cause of the disaster and that they did not discern, in the great and general corruption of religion and morals (1Samuel 2:22-25; 7:3; Psalm 78:58), the reason why the Presence and Aid of GOD Were Not Extended to them.
Their first measure for restoring the national spirit and energy ought to have been a complete reformation - a universal return to purity of worship and morals. But, instead of cherishing a spirit of deep humiliation and sincere repentance, instead of resolving on the abolition of existing abuses, and the re-establishing of the pure faith, they adopted what appeared an easier and speedier course - they put their trust in ceremonial observances, and believed that the introduction of the Ark into the battlefield would ensure their victory.
In recommending this extraordinary step, the elders might recollect the confidence it imparted to their ancestors (Numbers 10:35; 14:44), as well as what had been done at Jericho. But it is more probable that they were influenced by the heathenish ideas of their idolatrous neighbors, who carried their idol Dagon, or his sacred symbols, to their wars, believing that the power of their gods was inseparably associated with, or residing in, their images.
In short, the shout raised in the Hebrew camp, on the arrival of the Ark, indicated very plainly the prevalence among the Israelites at this time of a belief in national deities. The joy of the Israelites was an emotion springing out of the same superstitious sentiments as the corresponding dismay of their enemies.
JEHOVAH, while punishing them for their apostasy by allowing the capture of the Ark, Had another end in view - that of vindicating His Supremacy over all the gods of the nations which we will see later on.