What does 1 Samuel 4:12 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head.
NASB: 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.
CSB: 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.
NLT: 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.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: Then a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line the same day, and came to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dirt on his head.
Verse Commentary:
The second battle between the Israelites and the Philistines became a slaughter. The Hebrew term 'eleph can mean "thousands" or "clans, divisions, or units." Eight such measures were killed in the first battle, and a further thirty in the second. The Israelite forces have been thoroughly routed (1 Samuel 4:2, 10). Even worse for the Israelites who put so much confidence in God to save them through the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4:3), that same ark had been captured by the enemy. The two sons of the high priest had been killed (1 Samuel 4:11).

Someone had to tell Eli what had happened. A runner was dispatched with the news. The man from the tribe of Benjamin had to cover almost the length of an athletic marathon race to bring his report from Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1) to the old priest at the tabernacle in Shiloh.

The runner arrives with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. These were normal signs of grieving in Israel and throughout the region in this era. Putting dirt on one's head may have been a way of identifying with those who had died and would be buried (2 Samuel 1:2; 13:19; 15:32; Job 2:12).
Verse Context:
First Samuel 4:12–22 describes the reaction of the people of Shiloh, to news from the battle with the Philistines. A runner arrives and finds Eli, now ninety-eight and blind, sitting by the road at the gate. When Eli hears the news that the battle is lost, his sons are dead, and the ark is captured, he falls over backwards and dies. His daughter-in-law also reacts badly, going into premature labor and then dying herself after giving birth. She names the baby Ichabod, indicating the glory has departed from Israel because the ark has been captured.
Chapter Summary:
Israel amasses an to fight against the Philistines. After losing badly in the first battle, the elders send for the ark of God to be brought from Shiloh. They seem to assume the mere presence of the ark will act like a lucky charm or talisman. The Philistines are terrified at the idea of fighting Israel's deity, but they still defeat the Israelites, slaughtering many soldiers and capturing the ark. A runner delivers the news to Eli that his sons are dead and the ark is captured. He dies, and his daughter-in-law goes into premature labor. Before she dies, she names the baby Ichabod, saying that the glory has departed from Israel.
Chapter Context:
First Samuel 4 begins a new section of 1 Samuel. The young prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1—3) disappears from the story for several chapters. Israel brings the ark of the covenant to a battle with the Philistines, but they are wiped out anyway. The Philistines rout the army and capture the ark. A runner delivers the news to Eli that his sons are dead and the ark is taken. Eli dies, as does his daughter-in-law after giving birth to a son she names Ichabod. She declares that the glory has departed from Israel because the ark has been captured. Despite this, the Philistines will soon learn the ark is not a mere trophy (1 Samuel 5).
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
Accessed 5/26/2024 7:16:11 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com