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CHAPTER 4 Jun. 25 
The Ark Captured
Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle and encamped beside Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2The Philistines put themselves in position against Israel; when they joined battle Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand Israelite soldiers. 3When the people had returned to the camp the elders of Israel said, Why has Yahweh struck us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of Yahweh out of Shiloh that it may go with us and save us out of the hand of our enemies. 4So the people sent to Shiloh and they brought from there the ark of the covenant of Yahweh of Armies, who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5When the ark of the covenant of Yahweh came into the camp all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout they said, What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean? When they understood that the ark of Yahweh had come into the camp 7they were afraid, for they said, God has come into the camp. They said, Woe to us! Nothing like this has happened before. 8Woe to us! Who can deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, and behave like men, you Philistines, so that you will not be servants to the Hebrews as they have been to you. Strengthen yourselves like men and fight! 10The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated and they fled every man to his tent and there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand Israelite foot soldiers were killed. 11The ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were killed.

Eli’s Death
12A man of Benjamin ran out of the army that day and came to Shiloh with his clothes torn and earth on his head. 13When he came, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. When the man came into the city and reported what had happened, all the city cried out. 14When Eli heard the noise of the crying he said, What does this noise mean? The man hurried and told Eli. 15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were bad so that he could not see. 16The man said to Eli, I am the one who came out of the army, and I fled today from the battle. He said, What happened, my son? 17The man who brought the news answered, Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Your two sons Hophni and Phinehas are dead, and the ark of God has been captured. 18When he made mention of the ark of God, Eli fell off his seat backward by the side of the gate and his neck broke and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years. 19His daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant, near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labour and gave birth, but was overcome by her pains. 20As she was dying the women attending her said, Don’t be afraid, for you have given birth to a son. But she didn’t answer, neither did she pay any attention. 21She named the child Ichabod saying, The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22She said, The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken. 


4:10 God wished to demonstrate by this defeat that mere religious tokenism wouldn’t save anyone. Israel’s tokenistic use of the ark, a mere wooden box, is similar to the way some use the crucifix and icons today. It is the essence behind the symbol rather than the symbol itself which we must understand and believe in. See on 5:9.
4:13 His heart trembled for the ark of God- The record emphasizes Eli’s love for the ark; even after the shock of hearing that his sons had been killed, it was only when he heard that the ark had been taken that he had a stroke and died (:18). Likewise his daughter in law died with mourning for the ark on her lips (:22). But this love of the external things of one’s religion (see on :10) wasn’t the same as true spirituality. For all Eli’s love of the things associated with the true God, he was severely condemned for not having the glory of God and care for His people at heart (see on 3:13). It’s not difficult to love the external trappings of our religion- the church hall, the social events, the regular activities, the general ambience. But this isn’t the same as true spirituality.