1 Samuel 4:17
And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there has been also a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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. No text from Poole on this verse. And the messenger answered and said,.... He delivered his account gradually, beginning with generals, and then proceeding to particulars, and with what he thought Eli could better bear the news of, and so prepared him for the worst; in which he acted a wise part:

Israel is fled before the Philistines; they have given way and retreated, and which might possibly be done without great loss, and which, though it was bad news, might not be so very bad:

and there hath also been a great slaughter among the people; this is worse news still; however, the number of the slain is not given, nor any mention of particular persons that were killed: so that, for any thing yet said, his own sons might be safe: but then it follows:

and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead; the news of which must be very affecting to him, and strike him closely; though he might expect and be prepared for it by what both the man of God and Samuel from the Lord had related to him:

and the ark of God is taken; the thing he feared, and his heart trembled before for it; this was the closing and cutting part of the account; the messenger foresaw that this would the most affect him, and therefore referred it to the last.

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, {b} are dead, and the ark of God is taken.

(b) According as God had said before.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Observe the climax. Each blow is heavier than the preceding one. The rout of the army, the slaughter of the people, Eli’s personal bereavement, the loss of the most precious treasure of Israel. The last blow is more than the aged High-priest can bear.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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