Useful Bible Studies > 1 Samuel Commentary > chapter 4

How the Philistines took the ark of the covenant

1 Samuel 4:6-11

The Philistines (the army from Philistia) probably expected that Israelís men would go home after the first battle. Israel had suffered a severe defeat in that battle.

Israelís army had hoped that they could free their nation from Philistiaís control. Philistia was already ruling Israel. After that first battle, it seemed that Israel would continue to be under Philistiaís rule.

So, it surprised the Philistines very much to hear loud, joyful shouts from Israelís camp. The Philistines soon discovered the reason. The ark of the covenant - the sacred box which was evidence of Godís covenant (agreement) with Israel - had arrived in Israelís camp. The soldiers from Israel were probably shouting about how, long ago, their God had defeated Egypt.

That made the Philistines afraid. Egypt was a much stronger nation than Philistia. It seemed to them that Israel had, somehow, gained the support of a very powerful God, or gods. The Philistines could not understand completely what the men from Israel were shouting. However, they understood that they were in great danger.

Because they were so afraid, the Philistines fought hard against Israel. Their soldiers were desperate, so they fought with all their strength. Their success in the second battle was much greater than their success in the first battle. It was a terrible defeat for Israel.

By the end of the battle, 30,000 men from Israel had died. Among them were Hophni and Phinehas, the priests, who were the two sons of Eli, Israelís chief priest. As God had warned Eli, both of his sons died on the same day (2:34).

The Philistines also took the ark of the covenant, which they brought back to Philistia.

Next part: The death of Eli (1 Samuel 4:12-18)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.