And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.Some attach the opening words to the close of 1 Samuel 3, as the complement of what is there said, "The Lord revealed himself to Samuel ... in Shiloh, and the word of Samuel went forth to all Israel." If placed at the commencement of 1 Samuel 4, and in connection with what follows, they are to be understood in the sense that Samuel called all Israel to battle against the Philistines. (Compare 1 Samuel 7:5.) But this is not the natural interpretation of the words, which seem clearly to belong to what went before.
The mention of the Philistines connects the narrative with Judges 13-16. Since the Philistine servitude lasted forty years Judges 13:1, and seems to have terminated in the days of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:13-14 in about the 20th year of his judgeship 1 Samuel 7:2; and since it had already begun before the birth of Samson Judges 13:5, and Samson judged Israel for 20 years "in the days of the Philistines" Judges 15:20, it seems to follow that the latter part of the judgeship of Eli and the early part of that of Samuel must have been coincident with the lifetime of Samson.
Eben-ezer - (or, the stone of help) The place was afterward so named by Samuel. See the marginal references. "Aphek," or the "fortress," was probably the same as the "Aphek" of Joshua 12:18. It would be toward the western frontier of Judah, not very far from Mizpeh of Benjamin, and near Shiloh 1 Samuel 4:4.
And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.
And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.In the evening of the defeat of the Israelites the elders held a council, and resolved to send for the ark, which is described in full, as implying that in virtue of the covenant God could not but give them the victory (compare Numbers 10:35; Joshua 3:10).
So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.The people sent - The expression is very indicative of the political state so frequently noted by the writer of the Book of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel."
And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.Of the Hebrews - This was the name by which the Israelites were known to foreign nations (compare Exodus 1:15; Exodus 2:6).
And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.This is a remarkable testimony on the part of the Philistines to the truth of the events which are recorded in the Pentateuch. The Philistines would of course hear of them, just as Balak and the people of Jericho did Numbers 22:5; Joshua 2:10.
With all the plagues ... - Rather, "with every kind of plague" equivalent to "with utter destruction.
Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.
And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.Runners who were swift of foot, and could go long distances were important and well-known persons (compare 2 Samuel 18:19-31). There seem to have been always professional runners to act as messengers with armies in the field (2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:6,2 Kings 11:19, the King James Version "guards").
Earth upon his head - In token of bitter grief. Compare the marginal references.
And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.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.
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?
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, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.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.
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 upon her.
And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.Is departed - Properly, "Is gone into captivity."
And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.The lesson of the ruin brought upon Churches by the covetousness and profligacy of their priests, which is here taught us so forcibly, and which has been again and again illustrated in Jews and Christians, is too solemn and important to be overlooked. When the glory of holiness departs from what should be a holy community, the glory of God's presence has already departed, and the outward tokens of His protection may be expected to depart soon likewise. (Compare Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23; Revelation 2:5.) But though particular congregations may fall, our Lord's promise will never fail his people Matthew 28:20.