Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 4

The death of Eli

1 Samuel 4:12-18

At Shiloh, perhaps nobody waited in a more anxious manner for news from Israelís battle than Eli did.

As the chief priest, Eli probably knew his responsibilities well. Israelís chief priest did not attend funerals, and he could not go near to a dead body. Even when his parents died, he could not join in the sad ceremonies (Leviticus 21:10-12).

God had warned Eli that both his sons would die on the same day (2:34). That had also happened to the first chief priest, Aaron (Leviticus 10:1-2). Aaron too could not show his sad feelings; he had to continue with the sacred ceremonies (Leviticus 10:6-7). So, as the army fought their battle, Eli prepared his mind to behave in a similar manner.

The news reached Shiloh late on the day of the battle. A man ran all the way there to bring a report of what had happened. He spoke first to the people in the town; then Eli called him.

We can see Eliís attitude to bad news in 1 Samuel 3:18. He would not argue about anything that God chose to do. So, when Israelís army suffered defeat, God had allowed that to happen. When his sons died, all Godís judgements are right and proper. Eli would not allow any such news to upset him.

But the news about the ark of the covenant was a different matter. The ark was the most sacred object in Israel. It was the sacred box that acted as evidence of Godís covenant (agreement) with Israel. Eli and his family had guarded that box for 400 years. As chief priest, Eli considered nothing to be as precious or as important as that box.

At the news of its loss, Eli had no answer. Israel had lost the one object that proved its relationship with God. Because of the shock, Eli fell and he died. He was 98 years old; he had led Israel for 40 years.

Next part: About Ichabod (1 Samuel 4:19-22)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.