What does 1 Samuel 4:16 mean?
ESV: 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?”
NIV: He told Eli, 'I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.' Eli asked, 'What happened, my son?'
NASB: 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?'
CSB: 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.
NLT: He said to Eli, 'I have just come from the battlefield — I was there this very day.' 'What happened, my son?' Eli demanded.
KJV: 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?
NKJV: Then the man said to Eli, “I am he who came from the battle. And I fled today from the battle line.” And he said, “What happened, my son?”
Verse Commentary:
Eli, the priest and judge of Israel, has been waiting for news of the battle with the Philistines. Perhaps against his better judgment, he allowed the ark of God to be taken to the battlefield. Israel assumed the ark's mere presence would bring victory. Eli, it seems, was not so superstitious (1 Samuel 4:13). He has heard a loud commotion in the streets and has demanded to know what is going on. He is quite old and blind (1 Samuel 4:13–15).

Now the runner from the battle comes to tell the terrible news to Eli himself. He begins by admitting that he ran away from the battle to bring this news to Eli. Eli must know this is not a good sign, but he asks the man how it went. Despite his earlier indifference (1 Samuel 3:18) when an earlier prophecy (1 Samuel 2:34) was repeated by Samuel, he will not react well to what he hears. The deaths of his sons likely hit him hard, but what's especially troubling to Eli, for whatever reason, is that the ark was captured during Israel's defeat (1 Samuel 4:11).
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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