1 Samuel 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 on her.
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4:19-22 The wife of Phinehas seems to have been a person of piety. Her dying regret was for the loss of the ark, and the departure of the glory from Israel. What is any earthly joy to her that feels herself dying? No joy but that which is spiritual and divine, will stand in any stead then; death is too serious a thing to admit the relish of any earthly joy. What is it to one that is lamenting the loss of the ark? What pleasure can we take in our creature comforts and enjoyments, if we want God's word and ordinances; especially if we want the comfort of his gracious presence, and the light of his countenance? If God go, the glory goes, and all good goes. Woe unto us if he depart! But though the glory is withdrawn from one sinful nation, city, or village after another, yet it shall never depart altogether, but shines forth in one place when eclipsed in another.A comparison of 2 Samuel 18:4, explains exactly the meaning of the "side of the gate," and Eli's position. His seat or throne, without a back, stood with the side against the jamb of the gate, leaving the passage through the gate quite clear, but placed so that every one passing through the gate must pass in front of him.

Forty years - This chronological note connects this book with that of Judges. (Compare Judges 3:11, etc.) It is an interesting question, but one very difficult to answer how near to the death of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the High Priest, Eli's forty years of judgeship bring him. It is probable that at least one high priesthood intervened.

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. To wit, before her time, which is oft the effect of great terrors, both in women and in other creatures, Psalm 29:9. And his daughter in law, Phinehas's wife, was with child, near to be delivered,.... Was near her time, as it is commonly expressed. Ben Gersom derives the word from a root which signifies to complete and finish (k); denoting that her time to bring forth was completed and filled up; though Josephus (l) says that it was a seven months' birth, so that she came two months before her time; the margin of our Bibles is, "to cry out" (m); and so Moses Kimchi, as his brother relates, derives the word from a root which signifies to howl and lament, and so is expressive of a woman's crying out when her pains come upon her:

and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken: which is mentioned first, as being the most distressing to her:

and that her father in law and her husband were dead; her father-in-law Eli is put first, being the high priest of God, and so his death gave her the greatest concern, as the death of an high priest was always matter of grief to the Israelites; and next the death of her husband, who should have succeeded him in the priesthood; for though he was a bad man, yet not so bad as Hophni, as Ben Gersom observes; and therefore the priesthood was continued in his line unto the reign of Solomon; and no notice is taken by her of the death of her brother-in-law:

she bowed herself, and travailed; put herself in a posture for travailing; perceiving she was coming to it, she fell upon her knees, as the word used signifies; and we are told (n), that the Ethiopian women, when they bring forth, fall upon their knees, and bear their young, rarely making use of a midwife, and so it seems it was the way of the Hebrew women:

for her pains came upon her; sooner it is very probable than otherwise they would, which is sometimes the case, when frights seize a person in such circumstances: or were "turned upon her" (o); they ceased, so that she could not make the necessary evacuations after the birth, which issued in her death; some render it, "her doors were turned" (p), or changed; the doors of her womb, as in Job 3:10, though these had been opened for the bringing forth of her child, yet were reversed, changed, and altered, so as to prevent the after birth coming away, which caused her death, as follows.

(k) "absolvere, consummare, perficere", Buxtorf. (l) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 3.) sect. 4. (m) "ad ululandum", Montanus; so some in Munster; "ad ejulandum", as some in Vatablus. (n) Ludolph. Hist. Aethiop. l. 1. c. 14. (o) "versae erant", Pagninus, Montanus. (p) "Quoniam inversi sunt super eam eardines ejus", Munster; so Jarchi; Vid. T. Bab. Becorot, fol. 45. 1.

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 {i} bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.

(i) And positioned her body for her labour and delivery.

19–22. Death of Eli’s Daughter in Law

19. his daughter in law] Her death is recorded (a) as being a further fulfilment of the doom of Eli’s house: (b) for the sake of her pathetic dying words about the Ark.Verses 19-21. - His daughter-in-law. The death of Eli's daughter-in-law is equally tragic with his own. The news of the terrible calamity that had befallen the ark of God brought on a premature delivery; but when she had given birth to a son, the attendant women naturally hoped that the good tidings would cheer the mother's heart. They haste, therefore, to tell her; but she answered not, neither did she regard it. This does not mean that she was already dead; if so, the women would not have told her. It means that no private joy could compensate her for the loss of the outward sign and proof that the covenant of Jehovah was with her and her people. The loss of the ark seemed to her to signify the overthrow of her national religion. But she heard, for immediately There is she named the child I-chabod. There is some doubt as to the exact meaning of the word. It may mean Alas! the glory; but more probably it signifies No glory - the glory of Israel is no more. In the reason given by the narrator for her sorrow, as summed up in the name given to her child, the deaths of Eli and of Phinehas are included, but her own words refer only to the ark. Literally they are, "The glory is gone into captivity from Israel." There is possibly a reference to this in Psalm 78:64, where, speaking of the fall of Shiloh, the Psalmist says, "Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation." Others, it may be, like the wife of Phinehas, felt that there was no room for private grief at a time of so great national distress and humiliation.

The tidings of this calamity were brought by a Benjaminite, who came as a messenger of evil tidings, with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head - a sign of the deepest mourning (see Joshua 7:6), - to Shiloh, where the aged Eli was sitting upon a seat by the side (יך is a copyist's error for יד) of the way watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God, which had been taken from the sanctuary into the camp without the command of God. At these tidings the whole city cried out with terror, so that Eli heard the sound of the cry, and asked the reason of this loud noise (or tumult), whilst the messenger was hurrying towards him with the news.
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