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1 Samuel chapter 4

New International Version

1 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. 2 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. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, 'Why did the LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD's covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.'
4 So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 When the ark of the LORD's covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook.
6 Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, 'What's all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?' When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid. 'A god has come into the camp,' they said. 'Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 We're doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!'
10 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. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
12 That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13 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 God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.
14 Eli heard the outcry and asked, 'What is the meaning of this uproar?' The man hurried over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see.
16 He told Eli, 'I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.' Eli asked, 'What happened, my son?'
17 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 God has been captured.'
18 When he mentioned the ark of God, 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 he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.
19 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 God 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. 20 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.
21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, 'The Glory has departed from Israel'--because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, 'The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.'
English Standard Version

1 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.
2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head. 13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?” 17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
King James Version

1 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. 2 And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. 3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. 7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. 8 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
10 And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
12 And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. 13 And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out. 14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see. 16 And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son? 17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. 18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
19 And his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. 22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
New American Standard Bible

1 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. 2 Then the Philistines drew up in battle formation to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3 When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, 'Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let’s take the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh, so that He may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.' 4 So the people sent men to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD of armies who is enthroned above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD was coming into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, 'What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?' Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. 7 So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, 'God has come into the camp!' And they said, 'Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will save us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Take courage and be men, Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; so be men and fight!'
10 So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the defeat was very great, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 Moreover, the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
12 Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes torn, and dust on his head. 13 When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road keeping watch, because his heart was anxious about the ark of God. And the man came to give a report in the city, and all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, 'What does the noise of this commotion mean?' Then the man came hurriedly and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were fixed and he could not see. 16 The man said to Eli, 'I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.' And he said, 'How are things, my son?' 17 Then the one who brought the news replied, 'Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great defeat among the people, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas are also dead; and the ark of God has been taken.' 18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. And so he judged Israel for forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God had been taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, because her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women who were standing by her said to her, 'Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.' But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the boy Ichabod, saying, 'The glory has departed from Israel,' because the ark of God had been taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 So she said, 'The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God has been taken.'
New Living Translation

1 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. 2 The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. 3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, 'Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?' Then they said, 'Let's bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.'
4 So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD of Heaven's Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were also there with the Ark of the Covenant of God. 5 When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!
6 'What's going on?' the Philistines asked. 'What's all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?' When they were told it was because the Ark of the LORD had arrived, 7 they panicked. 'The gods have come into their camp!' they cried. 'This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! 8 Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness. 9 Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don't, we will become the Hebrews' slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!'
10 So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents. 11 The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.
12 A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefield and arrived at Shiloh later that same day. He had torn his clothes and put dust on his head to show his grief. 13 Eli was waiting beside the road to hear the news of the battle, for his heart trembled for the safety of the Ark of God. When the messenger arrived and told what had happened, an outcry resounded throughout the town.
14 'What is all the noise about?' Eli asked. The messenger rushed over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and blind.
16 He said to Eli, 'I have just come from the battlefield--I was there this very day.' 'What happened, my son?' Eli demanded.
17 'Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,' the messenger replied. 'The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.'
18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel's judge for forty years.
19 Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near her time of delivery. When she heard that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth. 20 She died in childbirth, but before she passed away the midwives tried to encourage her. 'Don't be afraid,' they said. 'You have a baby boy!' But she did not answer or pay attention to them.
21 She named the child Ichabod (which means 'Where is the glory?'), for she said, 'Israel's glory is gone.' She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. 22 Then she said, 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.'
Christian Standard Bible

1 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. 2 The Philistines lined up in battle formation against Israel, and as the battle intensified, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about four thousand men on the battlefield.
3 When the troops returned to the camp, the elders of Israel asked, "Why did the Lord defeat us today before the Philistines? Let's bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh. Then it will go with us and save us from our enemies." 4 So the people sent men to Shiloh to bring back the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord entered the camp, all the Israelites raised such a loud shout that the ground shook.
6 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 Lord had entered the camp, 7 they panicked. "A god has entered their camp! " they said. "Woe to us! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will rescue us from these magnificent gods? These are the gods that slaughtered the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 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--thirty thousand of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
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 waiting, 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 ninety-eight years old, and his eyes didn't move because he couldn't see.
16 The man said to Eli, "I'm the one who came from the battle. 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 forty 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, 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, 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."

What does 1 Samuel chapter 4 mean?

Samuel is mentioned in the first verse of 1 Samuel 4, but then he is not mentioned for several chapters, covering about twenty years' time. The action moves to Israel's ongoing war with the Philistines and what happens after the Philistines capture the ark of the covenant.

The Philistines already controlled some of Israel's territory and people. The Israelites put an army together to take a stand against the Philistines on the edge of the hill country of Ephraim. The Israelites encamp at Ebenezer, a short march from the camp of the Philistines, who wait at a place called Aphek. Their first battle goes badly for Israel, and many Israelite soldiers are killed (1 Samuel 4:1–2).

Israel's elders can't understand why the Lord would defeat them. They decide to send for the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10), the ornate box used in atonement rituals (Exodus 25:22). They want it brought to the battlefield from the tabernacle at Shiloh, because they mistakenly believe they can "bring" God's presence into battle using a physical object. Regardless of what modern popular culture suggests, nothing in Scripture indicates the ark was meant to be used as a weapon. When Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, arrive with the ark, all the Israelites unleash a mighty shout of celebration that carries all the way to the camp of the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:3–6).

The Philistines are idol-worshippers who know the reputation of Israel's God. So, they wrongly believe the ark of God to be Israel's deity, literally; they are terrified when they hear the Israelites have brought the object to their camp. They know the story of how God struck the Egyptians with many plagues to free His people from slavery. How can they fight against such a god? Still, they decide to take courage and fight like men (1 Samuel 4:6–9).

The battle is not even close, but the result is the exact opposite of what either side expected. The Philistines kill almost eight times as many Israelites as they did in the first skirmish. The rest flee for their homes. The Philistines capture the ark of God, and Eli's sons are killed. One survivor runs nearly the length of a modern athletic marathon to deliver the news to Eli, who is waiting by the road at the gate of the city in Shiloh. Eli is blind, overweight. and ninety-eight years old. When he hears his sons are dead and the ark has been captured, he falls over backwards in his chair and breaks his neck. He had been the judge over Israel for forty years (1 Samuel 4:10–18).

Eli's son Phinehas has a wife who is pregnant and nearly due. When she hears that the ark has been captured by the Philistines and Eli and her husband are dead, she goes into premature labor and quickly gives birth. The baby survives, but Phinehas's wife will soon die. Before she does, she names the baby Ichabod, which literally means "no glory." Her final recorded words are that the glory has departed from Israel because the ark of God has been captured (1 Samuel 4:19–22).

What neither Israel nor the Philistines know is that God hasn't abandoned the ark. Israel's enemies will quickly learn they cannot keep the ark like some mere trophy. The details of this painful lesson make up 1 Samuel chapter 5.