1 Samuel 4:1

ESV And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
NIV 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.
NASB So the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle, and they camped beside Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped in Aphek.
CSB And Samuel's words came to all Israel. Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped at Ebenezer while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
NLT And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel. At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek.
KJV And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

What does 1 Samuel 4:1 mean?

As is sometimes the case in translations of Scripture, this chapter traditionally begins with a line that better fits at the end of the previous chapter. These divisions—verses and chapters—are not original to the text, so they should not be seen as "had" breaks in the flow of a passage. First Samuel 3:19–20 relays how Samuel grew in the Lord, how God was with him, and how the Israelites recognized Samuel as a prophet. Verse 21 indicates that God revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by His Word—God spoke His messages to Samuel. And now, in this verse, the word of Samuel came to all Israel. God spoke to Samuel and Samuel shared the message with the Israelites. In short, Samuel was a prophet to Israel.

Samuel, though, disappears from the story completely until 1 Samuel 7:3, after twenty years have passed. Then he is introduced as the next judge of Israel (Judges 2:16–19). During the events that begin with the second part of this verse, commentators suggest Samuel was growing from a young boy into a man, first at Shiloh and then elsewhere.

For the first time in this book, Israel's most constant enemy of the era of Kings is introduced. A people now referred to as the Philistines first came to Palestine around 2000 BC, during the time of Abraham. It was the second migration of Philistines, though, around 1200 BC that dramatically upset the power dynamic in the region. The Philistines migrated to Canaan by boat from locations in the Aegean Sea, including Crete and Greece. Known as the Sea Peoples, they defeated major powers in Canaan and waged a mighty war against Egypt, which they eventually lost. They settled into five major cities along the southern coast of Palestine: Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza (1 Samuel 6:17).

The Philistines had apparently come to attack Israel seeking to expand their own territories to the north. Evidently, they had already had some success against the Israelites (1 Samuel 4:9). The book of Judges indicated that the latest judge, Samson, had only "begun" to free Israel from Philistine oppression (Judges 13:5; 16:28–30).

The city of Aphek is the most northern of the five cities of the Philistines. Israel encamped against the Philistine army at Ebenezer, just east of Aphek, to make a stand against them. This area is west of Shiloh, where Eli and his sons and Samuel were all tending the tabernacle of the Lord.
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