1 Samuel 4:2-7:1

The Philistines lined up in battle formation against Israel, and as the battle intensified, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about 4,000 men on the battlefield.

When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by the Philistines? Let’s bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh. Then it[a] will go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. When the ark of the covenant of the Lord entered the camp, all the Israelites raised such a loud shout that the ground shook.

The Philistines heard the sound of the war cry and asked, “What’s this loud shout in the Hebrews’ camp?” When the Philistines discovered that the ark of the Lordhad entered the camp, they panicked. “The gods have entered their camp!” they said. “Woe to us, nothing like this has happened before.[b] Woe to us, who will rescue us from the hand of these magnificent gods? These are the gods that slaughtered the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Show some courage and be men, Philistines! Otherwise, you’ll serve the Hebrews just as they served you. Now be men and fight!”

10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent.The slaughter was severe—30,000 of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Eli’s Death and Ichabod’s Birth

12 That same day, a Benjaminite man ran from the battle and came to Shiloh. His clothes were torn, and there was dirt on his head. 13 When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair beside the road watching, because he was anxious about the ark of God. When the man entered the city to give a report, the entire city cried out.

14 Eli heard the outcry and asked, “Why this commotion?” The man quickly came and reported to Eli. 15 At that time Eli was 98 years old, and his gaze was fixed[c]because he couldn’t see.

16 The man said to Eli, “I’m the one who came from the battle.[d] I fled from there today.”

“What happened, my son?” Eli asked.

17 The messenger answered, “Israel has fled from the Philistines, and also there was a great slaughter among the people. Your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are both dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off the chair by the city gate, and since he was old and heavy, his neck broke and he died. Eli had judged Israel 40 years.

19 Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and about to give birth. When she heard the news about the capture of God’s ark and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband, she collapsed and gave birth because her labor pains came on her. 20 As she was dying,[e] the women taking care of her said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she did not respond or pay attention. 21 She named the boy Ichabod,[f] saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” referring to the capture of the ark of God and to the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 “The glory has departed from Israel,” she said, “because the ark of God has been captured.”

The Ark in Philistine Hands

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, brought it into the temple of Dagon[g] and placed it next to his statue.[h]When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and returned him to his place. But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. This time, both Dagon’s head and the palms of his hands were broken off and lying on the threshold. Only Dagon’s torso remained.[i] That is why, to this day, the priests of Dagon and everyone who enters the temple of Dagon in Ashdod do not step on Dagon’s threshold.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod, terrorizing and afflicting the people of Ashdod and its territory with tumors.[j][k] When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of Israel’s God must not stay here with us, because His hand is strongly against us and our god Dagon.” So they called all the Philistine rulers together and asked, “What should we do with the ark of Israel’s God?”

“The ark of Israel’s God should be moved to Gath,” they replied. So the men of Ashdod moved the ark. After they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against the city of Gath, causing a great panic. He afflicted the men of the city, from the youngest to the oldest, with an outbreak of tumors.

10 The Gittites then sent the ark of God to Ekron, but when it got there, the Ekronites cried out, “They’ve moved the ark of Israel’s God to us to kill us and our people!”[l]

11 The Ekronites called all the Philistine rulers together. They said, “Send the ark of Israel’s God away. It must return to its place so it won’t kill us and our people!”[m]For the fear of death pervaded the city; God’s hand was oppressing them. 12 The men who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

The Return of the Ark

When the ark of the Lord had been in the land of the Philistines for seven months, the Philistines summoned the priests and the diviners and pleaded, “What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we can send it back to its place.”

They replied, “If you send the ark of Israel’s God away, you must not send it without an offering. You must send back a restitution offering to Him, and you will be healed. Then the reason His hand hasn’t been removed from you will be revealed.”[n]

They asked, “What restitution offering should we send back to Him?”

And they answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice corresponding to the number of Philistine rulers, since there was one plague for both you[o] and your rulers. Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel’s God, and perhaps He will stop oppressing you,[p] your gods, and your land. Why harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened theirs? When He afflicted them, didn’t they send Israel away, and Israel left?

“Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects that you’re sending Him as a restitution offering in a box beside the ark. Send it off and let it go its way. Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh, it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn’t, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us—it was just something that happened to us by chance.”

10 The men did this: They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and confined their calves in the pen. 11 Then they put the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the box containing the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12 The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on that one highway, lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left. The Philistine rulers were walking behind them to the territory of Beth-shemesh.

13 The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed to see it. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites removed the ark of the Lord, along with the box containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. That day the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 When the five Philistine rulers observed this, they returned to Ekron that same day.

17 As a restitution offering to the Lord, the Philistines had sent back one gold tumor for each city: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The number of gold mice also corresponded to the number of Philistine cities of the five rulers, the fortified cities and the outlying villages. The large rock[q] on which the ark of the Lord was placed is in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh to this day.

19 God struck down the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the Lord.[r] He struck down 70 men out of 50,000 men.[s] The people mourned because the Lord struck them with a great slaughter. 20 The men of Beth-shemesh asked, “Who is able to stand in the presence of this holy Lord God? Who should the ark go to from here?”

21 They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and get it.”[t]

So the men of Kiriath-jearim came for the ark of the Lord and took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill. They consecrated his son Eleazar to take care of it.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Samuel 4:3 Or He
  2. 1 Samuel 4:7 Lit yesterday or the day before
  3. 1 Samuel 4:15 Lit his eyes stood; 1Kg 14:4
  4. 1 Samuel 4:16 LXX reads camp
  5. 1 Samuel 4:20 LXX reads And in her time of delivery, she was about to die
  6. 1 Samuel 4:21 = Where is Glory?
  7. 1 Samuel 5:2 A Philistine god of the sea, grain, or storm
  8. 1 Samuel 5:2 Lit to Dagon
  9. 1 Samuel 5:4 LXX; Hb reads Only Dagon remained on it
  10. 1 Samuel 5:6 LXX adds He brought up mice against them, and they swarmed in their ships. Then mice went up into the land and there was a mortal panic in the city.
  11. 1 Samuel 5:6 Perhaps bubonic plague
  12. 1 Samuel 5:10 DSS, LXX read Why have you moved . . . people?
  13. 1 Samuel 5:11 DSS, LXX read Why don’t you return it to . . . people?
  14. 1 Samuel 6:3 DSS, LXX read healed, and an atonement shall be made for you. Shouldn’t His hand be removed from you?
  15. 1 Samuel 6:4 Some Hb mss, LXX; other Hb mss read them
  16. 1 Samuel 6:5 Lit will lighten the heaviness of His hand from you
  17. 1 Samuel 6:18 Some Hb mss, DSS, LXX, Tg; other Hb mss read meadow
  18. 1 Samuel 6:19 LXX reads But the sons of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the men of Beth-shemesh when they saw the ark of the Lord.
  19. 1 Samuel 6:19 Some Hb mss, Josephus read 70 men; other Hb mss read 50,070 men
  20. 1 Samuel 6:21 Lit and bring it up to you