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I Samuel
Chapter 4


And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.

Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did YAHWEH bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of YAHWEH’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

arkofcovenantSo the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of YAHWEH Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of Elohim.

When the ark of YAHWEH’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of YAHWEH had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A mighty one has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty ones? They are the mighty ones who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”

So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of Elohim was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head.

When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of Elohim. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.

Eli heard the outcry and asked “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

The man hurried over to Eli, who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes were set so that he could not see.

He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.

Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of Elohim has been captured.”

When he mentioned the ark of Elohim, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years.

Test Your Memory

What did YAHWEH SAY would happen to Eli's sons? When YAHWEH spoke, things DID seem to happen, JUST as He said, didn't they?


His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of Elohim had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention.

She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of Elohim and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of Elohim has been captured.”

Chapter 5


After the Philistines had captured the ark of Elohim, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of YAHWEH! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning, when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of YAHWEH! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.


YAHWEH’s hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the mighty one of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our mighty one.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the mighty one of Israel?”

They answered, “Have the ark of the mighty one of Israel moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the Elohim of Israel.

But after they had moved it, YAHWEH’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. So they sent the ark of Elohim to Ekron.

As the ark of Elohim was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the mighty one of Israeli around to us to kill us and our people.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the mighty one of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; Elohim’s hand was very heavy upon it. Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

Gee, what does it take for these people to see where the Ark needs to be? Hmmm, pretty hard-headed, aren't they?


Chapter 6

When the ark of YAHWEH had been in Philistine territory seven months, the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of YAHWEH? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.”

They answered, “If you return the ark of the Elohim of Israel, do not sent it away empty, but by all means send a guilt offering to Him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why His hand has not been lifted from you.”

The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?”

They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and pay honor to Israel’s mighty one. Perhaps He will lift His hand from you and your mighty ones and your land. Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When He treated them harshly, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of YAHWEH and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to Him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then YAHWEH has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance.”

So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. They placed the ark of YAHWEH on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.



A modern day method, perhaps?


Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to YAHWEH. The Levites took down the ark of YAHWEH, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to YAHWEH. The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron.


These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to YAHWEH—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock, on which they set the ark of YAHWEH, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

But YAHWEH struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of YAHWEH. The people mourned because of the heavy blow YAHWEH had dealt them and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of YAHWEH, this holy Elohim? To whom will the ark go up from here?”


Did you get this?

YAHWEH put 70 of them to death because they LOOKED into the ark of YAHWEH!
* * * * * * * * * * *


Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of YAHWEH. Come down and take it up to your place.”


Chapter 7


So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of YAHWEH. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of YAHWEH.

It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after YAHWEH.

And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to YAHWEH with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign mighty ones and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to YAHWEH and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served YAHWEH only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with YAHWEH for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before YAHWEH. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against YAHWEH.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to YAHWEH our Elohim for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to YAHWEH. He cried out to YAHWEH on Israel’s behalf, and YAHWEH answered.

While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day YAHWEH thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has YAHWEH helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again.

Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of YAHWEH was against the Philistines. The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to her, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to YAHWEH.




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