1Then Samuel would speak to the whole nation of Israel.
The Philistines Capture
One day the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. They set up camp near Ebenezer, and the Philistines camped at Aphek. 2The Philistines made a fierce attack. They defeated the Israelites and killed about 4,000 of them.
3The Israelite army returned to their camp, and the leaders said, “Why did the Lord let us lose to the Philistines today? Let's get the sacred chest where the Lord's agreement with Israel is kept. Then the Lord will help us and rescue us from our enemies.”
4 The army sent some soldiers to bring back the sacred chest from Shiloh, because the Lord All-Powerful has his throne on the winged creatures on top of the chest.
As Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, 5brought the chest into camp, the army cheered so loudly that the ground shook. 6The Philistines heard the noise and said, “What are those Hebrews shouting about?”
When the Philistines learned that the sacred chest had been brought into the camp, 7they were scared to death and said:
The gods have come into their camp. Now we're in real trouble! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. 8We're in big trouble! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They're the same gods who made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians in the desert.
9Philistines, be brave and fight hard! If you don't, those Hebrews will rule us, just as we've been ruling them. Fight and don't be afraid.
10The Philistines did fight. They killed 30,000 Israelite soldiers, and all the rest ran off to their homes. 11Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the sacred chest was captured.
12That same day a soldier from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefront to Shiloh. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show his sorrow. 13He went into town and told the news about the battle, and everyone started crying.
Eli was afraid that something might happen to the sacred chest. So he was sitting on his chair beside the road, just waiting. 14-15He was 98 years old and blind, but he could hear everyone crying, and he asked, “What's all that noise?”
The soldier hurried over and told Eli, 16“I escaped from the fighting today and ran here.”
“Young man, what happened?” Eli asked.
17“Israel ran away from the Philistines,” the soldier answered. “Many of our people were killed, including your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. But worst of all, the sacred chest was captured.”
18Eli was still sitting on a chair beside the wall of the town gate. And when the man said that the Philistines had taken the sacred chest, Eli fell backwards. He was a very heavy old man, and the fall broke his neck and killed him. He had been a leader of Israel for 40 years.
19The wife of Phinehas was about to give birth. And soon after she heard that the sacred chest had been captured and that her husband and his father had died, her baby came. The birth was very hard, 20and she was dying. But the women taking care of her said, “Don't be afraid—it's a boy!”
She didn't pay any attention to them. 21-22Instead she kept thinking about losing her husband and her father-in-law. So she said, “My son will be named Ichabod, because the glory of Israel left our country when the sacred chest was captured.”
Are you ever critical of the people in the Bible? Look at Hophni and Phinehas, for example. They are of the priestly line, chosen by God to serve him at the temple. Their training, beginning at a young age, was the responsibility of their father, the priest Eli. Yet, they have a complete disrespect and disregard for their position and God (1 Samuel 2:12-17).
How clueless could they be? They had heard the stories of their people, the Israelites – the love and faithfulness of God, but also of his anger and discipline. Didn’t Hophni and Phinehas realize they couldn’t hide from God-sent consequences?
With seemingly no regard for the God of the ark of the covenant, the Israelites did what any pagan might do. They went to fetch their religious symbols with them in hopes that these would save them. They took the ark into battle. A staggering 30,000 dead soldiers proved them wrong. Among the dead were Hophni and Phinehas. Soon to follow was their father, Eli. The ark was captured. God kept his word. He followed through on the message he had given to Samuel in 3:11-14.
The wife of Phinehas was right, the glory was gone out of Israel.
But, are we any different, in our enlightened age? God commands us to love him and to love one another. Do we disregard what God asks us to do?
Matthew 7:1-5 warns us to pay attention to the log in our eye before we judge the sawdust in another’s eye. God calls us to consider our own lives.
Take time to reflect on God’s glory – his honour and splendour. May God help us to honour, love and obey him in a way that will bring glory to his name.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are just and merciful. You discipline your children because of your great love for us. Help us to love you, to trust and obey you. May we honour and glorify you in everything we do so that your glory will remain in our land. In Jesus’ name, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.