1 Samuel 4:16
And the man said to 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?
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(16) I fled to day out of the army.—The fatal battle had taken place very early that same morning. The utter rout, the awful slaughter, the death of Hophni and Phinehas, and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, all this the messenger knew, and with this terrible news had hasted to the seat of the government—the now empty sanctuary.

The very words of the runner were remembered. The whole vivid scene was evidently related by a bystander—some have even suggested that it was Samuel who stood by Eli’s side.

4:12-18 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.Dim - Rather, "set." The word is quite different from that so rendered in 1 Samuel 3:2. The phrase seems to express the "fixed" state of the blind eye, which is not affected by the light. Eli's blindness, while it made him alive to sounds, prevented his seeing the ripped garments and dust-besprinkled head of the messenger of bad news. 13-18. Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside—The aged priest, as a public magistrate, used, in dispensing justice, to seat himself daily in a spacious recess at the entrance gate of the city. In his intense anxiety to learn the issue of the battle, he took up his usual place as the most convenient for meeting with passers-by. His seat was an official chair, similar to those of the ancient Egyptian judges, richly carved, superbly ornamented, high, and without a back. The calamities announced to Samuel as about to fall upon the family of Eli [1Sa 2:34] were now inflicted in the death of his two sons, and after his death, by that of his daughter-in-law, whose infant son received a name that perpetuated the fallen glory of the church and nation [1Sa 4:19-22]. The public disaster was completed by the capture of the ark. Poor Eli! He was a good man, in spite of his unhappy weaknesses. So strongly were his sensibilities enlisted on the side of religion, that the news of the capture of the ark proved to him a knell of death; and yet his overindulgence, or sad neglect of his family—the main cause of all the evils that led to its fall—has been recorded, as a beacon to warn all heads of Christian families against making shipwreck on the same rock. I am he that came out of the army; I speak not what I have by uncertain rumours, but what mine eyes were witnesses of. And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army,.... It is very probable that the people Eli inquired of told him there was a messenger come from the army, though they did not choose to relate to him the news he brought:

and I fled today out of the army; so that as he was an eyewitness of what was done in the army, the account he brought was the earliest that could be had, in bringing which he had made great dispatch, having ran perhaps all the way:

and he said, what is there done, my son? has a battle been fought? on which side is the victory? is Israel beaten, or have they conquered? how do things go? he uses the kind and tender appellation, my son, to engage him to tell him all freely and openly.

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?
16. I am he] He has to announce himself to the blind old man who cannot see the tale of disaster which his dust-soiled, blood-stained garments tell all too plainly to the people.

the army] Better, as in 1 Samuel 4:12, the battle-array.

What is there done] Lit., What was the affair? Vulg. quid actum est? David uses the same phrase to the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1:4.Verses 16, 17. - What is there done, my son? Literally, What is the thing? Or, as the phrase is translated in 2 Samuel 1:4, "How went the matter?" Eli must have gathered from the words of the messenger that Israel had been defeated; for he expressly says, I fled, and his haste, as testified by the added words today, showed that the defeat was a severe one. Eli, therefore, anxiously asks what has happened, and the answer piles misery upon misery, rapidly heaping together four crushing catastrophes. For Israel had fled before the Philistines; there had been a great slaughter; among the slain were Eli's two sons; and, worst of all, the ark of God was taken. Stimulated in this way, they fought and smote Israel, so that every one fled home ("to his tent," see at Joshua 22:8), and 30,000 men of Israel fell. The ark also was taken, and the two sons of Eli died, i.e., were slain when the ark was taken, - a practical proof to the degenerate nation, that Jehovah, who was enthroned above the cherubim, had departed from them, i.e., had withdrawn His gracious presence.

(Note: "It is just the same now, when we take merely a historical Christ outside us for our Redeemer. He must prove His help chiefly internally by His Holy Spirit, to redeem us out of the hand of the Philistines; though externally He must not be thrown into the shade, as accomplishing our justification. If we had not Christ, we could never stand. For there is no help in heaven and on earth beside Him. But if we have Him in no other way than merely without us and under us, if we only preach about Him, teach, hear, read, talk, discuss, and dispute about Him, take His name into our mouth, but will not let Him work and show His power in us, He will no more help us than the ark helped the Israelites." - Berleburger Bible.)

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