FIRST SAMUEL 1-6
A Devotional Commentary by Nate Wilson
With the ASV Text
Click here to download a map of cities mentioned in I Samuel.
I Samuel CHAPTER 1
1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite: 2 and he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 3 And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests unto Jehovah, were there. 4 And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: 5 but unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah, but Jehovah had shut up her womb. 6 And her rival provoked her sore, to make her fret, because Jehovah had shut up her womb. 7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of Jehovah, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
8 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting upon his seat by the door-post of the temple of Jehovah. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Jehovah, and wept sore. 11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before Jehovah, that Eli marked her mouth. 13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. 14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. 15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I poured out my soul before Jehovah. 16 Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken hitherto. 17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him. 18 And she said, Let thy handmaid find favor in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat; and her countenance was no more sad.
19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before Jehovah, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and Jehovah remembered her. 20 And it came to pass, when the time was come about, that Hannah conceived, and bare a son; and she called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of Jehovah. 21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto Jehovah the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. 22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before Jehovah, and there abide for ever. 23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only Jehovah establish his word. So the woman tarried and gave her son suck, until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of Jehovah in Shiloh: and the child was young. 25 And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, Oh, my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Jehovah. 27 For this child I prayed; and Jehovah hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28 therefore also I have granted him to Jehovah; as long as he liveth he is granted to Jehovah. And he worshipped Jehovah there.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING SAMUEL'S COMING INTO THIS WORLD:
First we have a short genealogy. Learning genealogies made the past come alive and not be forgotten as quickly, because you would feel like you knew all those people before you!
Bigamy was common practice, and the Bible never seems to disapprove of it until Paul's elder qualifications.
The ark was in Shiloh (David hadn't carried it up to Jerusalem yet), and the faithful would go once a year for the Passover and Day of Atonement. The week-long Passover feast would include sacrifices, some of which were eaten by the family along with whatever poor people and Levites they invited to join them. Samuel's father gave Hannah twice as much to eat at these feasts.
Notice that God shut Hannah's womb. It was not a matter of human origin; God did it. Hannah, rather than being bitter-tongued and contentious, was a gentle spirit. She kept it to herself and to God, even when her rival's insults made her tremble. What a good example! She must have wondered, "Why God? Why have you shut my womb and yet let my mean rival have children?" God always has His reasons, but He isn't obligated to share them with us. Remember, we deserve for Him to snuff out our lives and send us to hell. We can rest in peace, knowing at least that God IS in control of the situation and that He will arrange what happens to edify us and to bring glory to His Name. Meanwhile, there was apparently something in the sacrifice at Jerusalem that provided occasion for Peninnah to tease Hannah.
Elkanah's gentle rebuke in v.8 is important: firstly, no matter how much a husband loves his wife, if his interest is divided, it will not be enough. I must love my wife singleheartedly, and let nothing distract me from her. In Elkanah's case, he had another wife. Although polygamy is not common in my culture, men still divide their attention by undue attention to secretaries or business associates, by looking to lust at women, by spending too much time working, buy letting a hobby consume their time or thoughts, by viewing pornography, or by loving the children more than the wife... Lord, please protect me from these things!!
Elkanah's rebuke is also a reminder that I should be better to my wife than 10 sons, and that a wife should adore her husband and not worry about how many children God gives (or doesn't give) her.
Again we see Hannah's good example: She had been all bent out of shape and wasn't eating, but when her husband spoke to her, she caught herself. Then, rather than pouting, she took her case to God.
Hannah's prayer is kinda strange to me because I know that God's children are always in the forefront of His thoughts. Why then, does Hannah beseech God to look at her, remember her, and not forget her? Perhaps she felt forgotten because she had probably prayed many times for children and still had none. She calls herself a servant of God--like a female slave. No pride there! She vows that if God gives her a son, rather than keeping him, she will give him back to God. Wow! This would be the most difficult thing I could imagine she would ever have to do if she was barren and then had one child!
It occurs to me that with Peniniah and her kids around, they could have been a bad influence on Hannah's future child, so there may have been more reasons than one that Hannah wanted to give her child to the temple. Unfortunately, however, Eli's sons would be just as bad or worse of an influence!
Why is it that it was a godly vow to not cut a man's hair, yet Paul, in I Corinthians, says it is a disgrace for a man to have long hair? Anyway, Samuel must have had long hair.
Any one who truly follows God will be misunderstood and falsely accused, as Hannah was. But rather than raising her hackles, Hannah answers respectfully, "My lord," to Eli, and ever so gently rebukes him. I suppose drunkenness at that time of feasting was not uncommon, and Eli had probably seen it before, but Lord, please give me Hannah's gentle, respectful attitude when I am misunderstood, and please help me to be a better judge of human character than Eli was--let me not rebuke those of Your people who are fervently following You, mistaking them for sinners.
Again, what a wonderful example we have in Hannah! After she laid her burden upon Jehovah, she left it there, and in faith that her petition was heard, she was cheerful and happy and joined in the feasting.
Verse 19 gives another point in favor of morning devotional times!
When the whole family returned home after their party of worship, Elkanah and Hannah enjoyed the marriage bed again, and God remembered Hannah's prayer and responded by letting them conceive. When the boy was born, Hannah named him. Samuel means "requested from God."
Leviticus 12:6-8 describes the "sacrifice of days." It was a time of purification signifying the end of recovery from a birth.
Hannah knew the importance of breast-feeding--he wasn't to be given away until he was weaned! But why couldn't she have gone with everybody anyway to Jerusalem? My wife has traveled fine with our "suckling" children. Was Hannah afraid that if she took him up, she'd have to go ahead and give him away? How can I know the mind of a woman?! Well, Elkanah seems to share my mindset, but he is gracious and decides to let her have her way in this matter. Lord, give me the wisdom to know when to let my wife do something I'm not so sure about and when to lay down the law. I realize that You hold me accountable for what my wife does because I am her "head."
v.24 Elkanah and Hannah brought Samuel up later. She brought costly sacrifices---three bullocks--she was so grateful to God!
"May your soul live!" What a cool salutation! (The word "as" which is used in most English translations is simply not in the Hebrew text.) Hannah excitedly relates the story of how God gave Samuel to her. She gives all the credit to Jehovah and His Name is in almost every sentence she utters!
What's more, Samuel knew what to do. He had been trained well by Godly parents. At the age of two perhaps (a common weaning age internationally) he "worshipped God." Wow! Lord, please help me to raise my children so that even at a very young age they will know how to worship You!
I Samuel CHAPTER 2
1 And Hannah prayed, and said: My heart exulteth in Jehovah; My horn is exalted in Jehovah; My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; Because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2 There is none holy as Jehovah; For there is none besides thee, Neither is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; For Jehovah is a God of knowledge, And by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty men are broken; And they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; And they that were hungry have ceased to hunger: Yea, the barren hath borne seven; And she that hath many children languisheth. 6 Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up. 7 Jehovah maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, he also lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, He lifteth up the needy from the dunghill, To make them sit with princes, And inherit the throne of glory: For the pillars of the earth are Jehovahís, And he hath set the world upon them. 9 He will keep the feet of his holy ones; But the wicked shall be put to silence in darkness; For by strength shall no man prevail. 10 They that strive with Jehovah shall be broken to pieces; Against them will he thunder in heaven: Jehovah will judge the ends of the earth; And he will give strength unto his king, And exalt the horn of his anointed.
11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto Jehovah before Eli the priest. 12 Now the sons of Eli were base men; they knew not Jehovah. 13 And the custom of the priests with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priestís servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand; 14 and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took therewith. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. 15 Yea, before they burnt the fat, the priestís servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have boiled flesh of thee, but raw. 16 And if the man said unto him, They will surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would say, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. 17 And the sin of the young men was very great before Jehovah; for the men despised the offering of Jehovah.
18 But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother made him a little robe, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, Jehovah give thee seed of this woman for the petition which was asked of Jehovah. And they went unto their own home. 21 And Jehovah visited Hannah, and she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before Jehovah.
22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, and how that they lay with the women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting. 23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings from all this people. 24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make Jehovahís people to transgress. 25 If one man sin against another, God shall judge him; but if a man sin against Jehovah, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding, they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because Jehovah was minded to slay them. 26 And the child Samuel grew on, and increased in favor both with Jehovah, and also with men.
27 And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, Did I reveal myself unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaohís house? 28 and did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up unto mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? 29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honorest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? 30 Therefore Jehovah, the God of Israel, saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now Jehovah saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy fatherís house, that there shall not be an old man in thy house. 32 And thou shalt behold the affliction of my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel; and there shall not be an old man in thy house for ever. 33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thy heart; and all the increase of thy house shall die in the flower of their age. 34 And this shall be the sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die both of them. 35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. 36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thy house shall come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priestsí offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread.
Hannah is such an exemplary woman; sure she can sew (v.18), but boy can she pray--Mary, the mother of Jesus, even patterned her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) after Hannah's prayer! The "lifted horn" image is a symbol of strength and triumph (perhaps the blowing of horns after a victory?) and perhaps the "large mouth" over the enemies simply means she is laughing.
Beautiful truths! There IS NO God but Jehovah; no one holds a candle to God! God weighs all things and he judges justly. No matter how things look right now, I can rest assured that God will bless the righteous and punish the wicked. He can do anything--He has all power and He turns the circumstances of all people. God, I praise You that You are totally sovereign and that You "keep my feet." Those who grow strong do so by Jehovah's good will, not by their own strength.
It's interesting that the Bible doesn't mention Hannah's name on the return home. From the context, she must have gone home with her husband. The husband and wife are so much ONE that to say that Elkanah went home is to say his wife did too.
Eli's sons didn't follow God. Men in full-time ministry can all-too-easily use their spiritual influence to do evil and get away with it. Rather than following closely God's instructions laid out in the law on how to offer sacrifices, those boys just did it however they wanted. It is clear that they were more interested in eating steaks and sleeping around than in worshipping God and helping others to worship Him. When I read the book of Leviticus, I get the impression that the sacrifices are for God's sake, but a side-effect is that the priests get fed. Those boys had it turned around. Not to say I'm above that--when people send their cheques in to my ministry, am I rejoicing that they have made this sacrifice to God and looking for their spiritual benefit (Phil 4)? I'm afraid I all-too-often am adding up how much money WE GOT this month instead. Lord, forgive me, and help me to have a godly attitude in this matter!
V.20 Why is it that God blessed the ministry of Eli? He himself had apparently been a good priest, and the Lord answered His prayers. But as a father, he stunk. Why is this so common in the ministry today? I guess You reward obedience to some extent, and You also recognize men in spiritual authority. Yet such men, when they are old, are troubled by the behavior of their progeny, and they go to their grave troubled. They also loose a certain amount of esteem in the eyes of others at an age when godly men who have also been good fathers are growing in esteem due to their long life of godliness AND the due to the blessing of their godly children. Oh Lord, not that I want esteem in the eyes of men, but that I die at peace and that I be fully pleasing to You, please give me grace to be a godly man, a good minister, AND an excellent father--all three!
Well, let's see; Elkanah and Hanah had five more children, Wow! And Samuel "grew up with Jehovah." God, I covet that for my children. I see that I grew up with You, and I want my children to as well! Let them follow after You all the days of their lives!
Rebuking a son long after he has entrenched himself in sin is ineffective. The important thing is to keep an eagle eye on him all along, so that you notice when he is going wrong at an early age and discipline him quickly and lovingly. We should carefully teach our children righteousness pro-actively all their lives. Eli had not been watching his sons closely; He did not punish them early, and so by the time they were really evil, his rebuke was too late and fell on deaf ears.
According to the Law, the boys should have been stoned to death, but Eli was too soft-hearted. I can understand; I hate to discipline my children. I don't like to stop what I'm doing to attend to that; I don't enjoy crossing their will; and I certainly don't like to cause them pain and hear them cry! It's tough to discipline your child; it takes a lot of personal self-discipline and tough love to care about the future of the child. Do not delay discipline out of soft-heartedness! "Because the sentence against an evil man is not carried out quickly, the hearts of the sons of men are fully given over to evil," said Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
v.26 We keep seeing the contrast--a bit about Hophni and Phineas, then a little on Samuel--back and forth. Dear God, let my sons be like Samuel, growing in stature and in favor both with Jehovah and with men!
v.29 How easy it can be to "honor your children before God." All it takes is to forsake God's standards and instead go with your children's wishes--it's so easy! It takes self-discipline to honor God first... but what rewards it brings!
Eli wasn't careful. He got lazy with the offering of sacrifices and he was lazy in the training of His sons. Eli was supposed to be the high priest--the spiritual example and mentor of all Israel! God scrutinizes and judges those in spiritual authority more closely because we are examples to so many people. If someone in authority sins, he causes many others to stumble. God's blessings are generally contingent on our obedience.
I Samuel CHAPTER 3
1 And the child Samuel ministered unto Jehovah before Eli. And the word of Jehovah was precious in those days; there was no frequent vision. 2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place (now his eyes had begun to wax dim, so that he could not see), 3 and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, in the temple of Jehovah, where the ark of God was; 4 that Jehovah called Samuel; and he said, Here am I. 5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. 6 And Jehovah called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. 7 Now Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah yet revealed unto him. 8 And Jehovah called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And Eli perceived that Jehovah had called the child. 9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Jehovah; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And Jehovah came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel said, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
11 And Jehovah said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even unto the end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons did bring a curse upon themselves, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eliís house shall not be expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever. 15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of Jehovah. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. 16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he said, Here am I. 17 And he said, What is the thing that Jehovah hath spoken unto thee? I pray thee, hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide anything from me of all the things that he spake unto thee. 18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is Jehovah: let him do what seemeth him good.
19 And Samuel grew, and Jehovah was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of Jehovah. 21 And Jehovah appeared again in Shiloh; for Jehovah revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of Jehovah.
God promises to raise up a more faithful priest, and his name is Samuel. In contrast to Eli, we see Samuel's sensitivity and obedience to God chronicled in chapter 3. You know, it takes a lot of love and self-discipline to get up out of bed in the middle of the night and come running when you have been called! (Ask any mother with small children who wake up in the night!) Samuel was hearing God's voice and immediately obeying.
This is a passage worth sharing with our children to teach them how to respond to God, although nowadays in the United States, just as in Samuel's time, "there were not many visions," the word of God is certainly not rare anymore. Samuel needed instruction, for although he "ministered unto the Lord" he "didn't "know the Lord." If a child as great as Samuel needed instruction, surely our children need it, too! We can't assume that just because we stick them in Sunday School that they will know Jesus; we need to personally instruct them in the ways of God and prepare them to hear from God themselves. Family devotions are a key in this process: reading the Bible and discussing it as a family teaches your children to read the Bible and understand it for themselves.
So we have Samuel's first word from God; his first prophecy--and such a difficult one, too! Eli's house would not be forgiven; they would be cut off because of his sin of not obeying God in the rearing of his children.
Oh God, please give me Your strength and wisdom and give me the discipline to train up my children in Your ways, to love You first and foremost!
I Samuel CHAPTER 4
1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and encamped beside Eben-ezer: and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2 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. 3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath Jehovah smitten us to-day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of Shiloh unto us, that it may come among us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies. 4 So the people sent to Shiloh; and they brought from thence the ark of the covenant of Jehovah of hosts, who sitteth above the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 And when the ark of the covenant of Jehovah came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6 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 Jehovah was come into the camp. 7 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. 8 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 manner of plagues in the wilderness. 9 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.
10 And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man to his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
12 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. 13 And when he came, lo, Eli was sitting upon his 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. 14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man hasted, and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were set, so that he could not see. 16 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, How went the matter, my son? 17 And he that brought the tidings 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. 18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell from off his 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.
19 And his daughter-in-law, Phinehasí 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 brought forth; for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast brought forth a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 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. 22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.
v.3 "Why did the Lord bring Defeat?" I donít know why God lets His people suffer and be defeated. It doesn't seem right--is surely is frustrating when He lets me suffer defeat, or when I see a godly man take a step of leadership in this world, then fall flat on his face. It is part of God's fathership, I guess. As Lord and King, He can do whatever He wants and has the authority and ability to make all His children triumphant, healthy, and rich. But as Father, He won't spoil us by giving us everything we want. He uses hardship to punish us for sin and also to make us more holy. He lets us suffer some of the consequences of our sin--although the consequence of hell is waived, others are not. David's firstborn son died because he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Suffering is also given to us for refining (See James and I Peter).
So, why did the Israelites lose to the Philistines here? Probably because Israel was apostate. They didn't love God and they didn't seek Him. Even the priesthood was corrupt. And there was little communication between God and man (3:1). They still clung, however to the tokens of their father's faith: they talked about God (4:3), they took the Ark of the Covenant to battle with them; and the priests were in their midst. We nowadays must watch that we do not follow suit--many already have. We cling to religious tokens which God established with our Christian forefathers, such as Sunday morning church services and prayers, but is our HEART really there? Is it truly devotion to God, or is it carrying on traditions? Or worse yet, is it for the reason the Israelites employed God's ark and His priests--for selfish, human interests? Rather than being concerned for God's glory to be made known among the nations, they were just trying to save their necks. Rather than falling on their faces before God and asking Him to save, they relied initially upon men (the elders 4:3), and then tacked God onto their plans later. Again, how prevalent this is today! Oh God, I pray that I would be entirely devoted--wholeheartedly--to You and run to You first when You place trials in my life.
You are the "Lord Almighty, Who is enthroned between the cherubim." It sounds like a bit of irony in verse four to hear God described in this way in the context of being summoned by an army as a magic charm.
v.7-8 I think that the world--even the anti-Christian leaders of this world--probably share the Philistine's fear of You--so does Satan, for that matter! They know our God is awesome and sovereign, yet they will conquer their fears and all the more vigourously attack. We must never consider ourselves as shrimps before them. We are with God, and He will do as He pleases--He isn't daunted by them! We Christians sometimes feel like we're so small and powerless in the face of what is happening in the world, but in truth, the world is a little afraid of us--and well they should be, for we stand behind JESUS!
God let Israel lose to teach them a lesson.
The prophecy that God gave to Samuel came true for Eli's house: both of his sons died and so did he. Eli was more concerned for the wooden box called the ark than he was for his sons at his death. As for Eli's descendants, no mention is ever made of Hophni or his descendants through the rest of the Bible, so apparently he never had any children and his line died with him. Phineas, Eli's other son, had a son named Ahitub (I Sam 14:3) before he had Ichabod. Ichabod is never mentioned again in the Bible, but his son Ahitub had a son named Ahimelech who helped David when David was fleeing from Saul. As punishment, Saul ordered the death of Ahimelech and everyone related to him, so 85 of them were killed (I Sam 22). That pretty much wiped out what was left of Phineas' offspring. One man escaped, however, Ahimelech's son Abiathar, and he ministered as a priest with David for a while and had a son named Abimelech (I Chron 18:14). However, Abiathar was evicted from the priesthood under Solomon's rule and Zadok took his place (I Kings 2). Zadok was the son of a man named Ahitub, but that was not Ahitub the son of Phineas but a different Ahitub the son of Amariah (I Chron 6:7). None of Eli's descendants are mentioned in the geneaologies later on in Chronicles and Ezra, so we can assume that their lines all died out.
I Samuel CHAPTER 5
1 Now the Philistines had taken the ark of God, and they brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. 2 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of Jehovah. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of Jehovah; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagonís house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod, unto this day.
6 But the hand of Jehovah was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with tumors, even Ashdod and the borders thereof. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us; for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. 8 They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel thither. 9 And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of Jehovah was against the city with a very great discomfiture: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great; and tumors brake out upon them. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. 11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and they said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to its own place, that is slay us not, and our people. For there was a deadly discomfiture throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12 And the men that died not were smitten with the tumors; and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
The Philistines tried first to set the ark of the covenant next to their own national god named Dagon. But God will not tolerate any gods beside Himself! Is there any way in which we also try to set up other things right next to God in importance in our lives?
Dagon's hands must have been raised over it's head, facing the door, and when it fell, the hands and head hit the raised threshold of the doorway first before the rest of the idol hit the rest of the floor on its way down. This cracked off the two "hands" of the Philistine Fish-god, symbolizing it's inability to do anything. However, instead of noticing this natural reason for the hands falling off and respecting God for making the idol fall, they instead began fearing...the DOOR THRESHOLD! Oh the lengths to which men will go to avoid acknowledging the true God!
The silly Philistines of Ashdod tried to patch up their Dagon idol and set it back up as though it were God, even after it had fallen on its face before the ark of Jehovah! How foolish and stubborn even modern man is in this regard! How the humanists fly in the face of the obvious truth of God, trying desperately to patch up their little theories in their vain "religion."
I didn't realize that our slang term "wasted" (as in "our football team wasted the other team") has Biblical roots! This apparently has to do with sicknesses and a plague of rats though. Green translates the Hebrew word עפלים as "hemorrhoids," whereas the ASV translates it "tumors." The word has to do with swellings or bumps--always used in the plural. Could it be analogous to some cancers today? God has some nasty curses for those who, in the face of clear evidence, refuse to believe Him!
So the people in Ashdod send the ark to the Philistine city of Gath, where they had the same trouble. When the people of Gath tried to ship it over to Ekron, they said, "Hey no way are WE keeping this thing! Send it back!"
At least they figured out that it was the ark and the God of Israel wasting them. But, again, rather than internalizing that knowledge and seeking to appease and know this great God, they just wanted to get Him out of their lives. They were fearful, superstitious people, desperately trying to keep believing in their own little God.
God, it makes me feel sad for those poor people. And of course for the thousands of other peoples who even now are in the same dark condition. God, help me know how to respond both proactively and reactively to people like this. And let my little heart never turn from You, my God! You are the only real God, and certainly You are more powerful than all the other things to which people devote themselves. And, of course, You punish all who devote themselves to anything or anyone but You!
I Samuel CHAPTER 6
1 And the ark of Jehovah was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do with the ark of Jehovah? show us wherewith we shall sent it to its place. 3 And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but by all means return him a trespass-offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. 4 Then said they, What shall be the trespass-offering which we shall return to him? And they said, Five golden tumors, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. 5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your tumors, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. 6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? 7 Now therefore take and prepare you a new cart, and two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke; and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them; 8 and take the ark of Jehovah, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass-offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. 9 And see; if it goeth up by the way of its own border to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.
10 And the men did so, and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home; 11 and they put the ark of Jehovah upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their tumors. 12 And the kine took the straight way by the way to Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14 And the cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered up the kine for a burnt-offering unto Jehovah. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of Jehovah, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto Jehovah. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. 17 And these are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a trespass-offering unto Jehovah: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages, even unto the great stone, whereon they set down the ark of Jehovah, which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
19 And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah, he smote of the people seventy men, and fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because Jehovah had smitten the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God? and to whom shall he go up from us? 21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought back the ark of Jehovah; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
Not only had God shown the impotence of the Philistine Dagon god, but also the impotence of their human leaders. God is restoring respect to Himself. After all, it is a primary purpose of His that all nations worship Him. He had shown Himself superior to all that the Philistines worshiped, but rather than bow to this great God, they just wanted to get rid of Him. People still do this today, donít they?
Why did the Philistines call for their own priests and diviners? They should have called for an Israelite priest of Jehovah! But that's the way the world is; they would rather go to an M.D. or a psychologist or some new-age whacko than to church elders (James 5:14).
I bet the Philistines usually put the religious relics of all the cities they conquered up in their Dagon temple and in their homes, but they would have none of this ark! They wanted to return it.
The Philistine priests and diviners told their leaders to send a guilt offering (How did they know to do that?), but they were ignorant of the right way to do it--God required the sacrifice of an animal and the transfer of guilt. Rather than doing this, the Philistines sent a coffer of gold shaped into hemorrhoids and rats! If only they had asked a priest of Jehovah. If only a prophet of God had come to them at this strategic time, think of the "people-movement" that would have occurred!
The Philistines did, however, remember that God sent very similar plagues on Egypt 380 years ago (or so). But they still doubted if it was really Jehovah, so they tested Him one more time by putting two cows that were still nursing young calves on a cart to pull the ark back to Israel. Now, if you take a mother away from its baby while it is still suckling, it will make a beeline for its young as soon as you release it. The Philistines thought maybe these plagues were just random chance, so they tested God to see if He would display His power in turning the wills of those cows to go to Israelite country instead of back to their calves.
Again, I can see the same thing happening today: the "priests" of our country's religion of secular humanism are scientists. They won't accept God's miracles as a display of His power. They figure the earth could have evolved by chance. They explain away creation and miracles and try to do scientific tests, just like the Philistines did.
The Philistines city-states lined the Mediterranean coast and plain West of Judah; to get back into Israelite country, one had to go East, following a ravine up into the hills of Judah. Amazingly enough, those cows left their babies and headed straight for Israelite country--Beth-shemesh ("house of the sun"), in the Judean hill country, about halfway between the Philistine coastal cities and Jerusalem. The Israelites knew what to do when they received the ark; they sacrificed the oxen to the Lord, but they didn't know what to do with the coffer of golden hemorrhoids and rats. Perhaps it was at this time that the Philistines told these Jews about all that had happened.
But the Jews forgot God's law that only the Levites carry the ark. They wondered if the Philistines might have carried off some of the contents of the ark, so they looked inside to see if everything was there. God, why would You have killed 50,070 people for this? Think of the families ruined and the political upheaval of having all the leaders dead! It must have been spectacular, like a scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. But You had to teach them to revere You--and they sure enough did after that! They decided to call the priests from one of the Levite cities to get the ark.
Click Here to view the next six chapters of I Samuel.