What does 1 Samuel 4:13 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: 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.
NASB: 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.
CSB: When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair beside the road watching, because he was anxious about the ark of God. When the man entered the city to give a report, the entire city cried out.
NLT: 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.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: Now when he came, there was Eli, sitting on 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.
Verse Commentary:
Eli sits by the roadside waiting for news of the battle with the Philistines taking place near Ebenezer, some distance from the tabernacle in Shiloh. He likely was the one who agrees to let the ark be taken to the camp of the Israelites. This was in hopes that having it nearby would cause the Lord to give them victory. Yet Eli seems to have been uneasy with that decision. His heart is said to be fearful for the ark of God, the most precious item in the tabernacle that he was responsible for overseeing.

The runner, a man from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Samuel 4:12), arrives at Shiloh from the battlefield. This distance was nearly the length of a modern athletic marathon. He begins telling everyone he meets as he enters the city: Israel is defeated. Tens of thousands are dead. The ark of God is captured. Eli's sons have been killed. All the people begin to cry out in shock and mourning at the terrible report.
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.
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