Bible: 1 Samuel 4-6

4:1 Samuel revealed the word of the Lord 1  to all Israel.

The Ark of the Covenant is Lost to the Philistines

Then the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. 2  They camped at Ebenezer, 3  and the Philistines camped at Aphek. 4:2 The Philistines arranged their forces to fight 4  Israel. As the battle spread out, 5  Israel was defeated by 6  the Philistines, who 7  killed about four thousand men in the battle line in the field.

4:3 When the army 8  came back to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by 9  the Philistines? Let’s take with us the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. When it is with us, it will save us 10  from the hand of our enemies.

4:4 So the army 11  sent to Shiloh, and they took from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits between the cherubim. Now the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 4:5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord arrived at the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly 12  that the ground shook.

4:6 When the Philistines heard the sound of the shout, they said, “What is this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews?” Then they realized that the ark of the Lord had arrived at the camp. 4:7 The Philistines were scared because they thought that gods had come to the camp. 13  They said, “Too bad for 14  us! We’ve never seen anything like this! 4:8 Too bad for us! Who can deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues in the desert! 4:9 Be strong and act like men, you Philistines, or else you will wind up serving the Hebrews the way they have served you! Act like men and fight!

4:10 So the Philistines fought. Israel was defeated; they all ran home. 15  The slaughter was very great; thirty thousand foot soldiers fell in battle. 4:11 The ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were killed.

Eli Dies

4:12 On that day 16  a Benjaminite ran from the battle lines and came to Shiloh. His clothes were torn and dirt was on his head. 4:13 When he arrived in Shiloh, Eli was sitting in his chair watching by the side of 17  the road, for he was very worried 18  about the ark of God. As the man entered the city to give his report, 19  the whole city cried out.

4:14 When Eli heard the outcry, 20  he said, “What is this commotion?” 21  The man quickly came and told Eli. 4:15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes looked straight ahead; 22  he was unable to see.

4:16 The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle lines! Just today I fled from the battle lines!” Eli 23  asked, “How did things go, my son? 4:17 The messenger replied, “Israel has fled from 24  the Philistines! The army has suffered a great defeat! Your two sons, Hophni and Phineas, are dead! The ark of God has been captured!

4:18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli 25  fell backward from his chair beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he 26  was old and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years.

4:19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas, was pregnant and close to giving birth. When she heard that the ark of God was captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she doubled over and gave birth. But her labor pains were too much for her. 4:20 As she was dying, the women who were there with her said, “Don’t be afraid! You have given birth to a son!” But she did not reply or pay any attention. 27 

4:21 She named the boy Ichabod, 28  saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” referring to the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 4:22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God has been captured.”

The Ark Causes Trouble for the Philistines

5:1 Now the Philistines had captured the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 5:2 The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the temple of Dagon, where they positioned it beside Dagon. 5:3 When the residents of Ashdod got up early the next day, 29  Dagon was lying on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him back in his place. 5:4 But when they got up early the following day, Dagon was again lying on the ground before the ark of the Lord. The head of Dagon and his two hands were sheared off and were lying at the threshold. Only Dagon’s body was left intact. 30  5:5 (For this reason, to this very day, neither Dagon’s priests nor anyone else who enters Dagon’s temple step on Dagon’s threshold in Ashdod.)

5:6 The Lord attacked 31  the residents of Ashdod severely, bringing devastation on them. He struck the people of 32  both Ashdod and the surrounding area with sores. 33  5:7 When the people 34  of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel should not remain with us, for he has attacked 35  both us and our god Dagon!

5:8 So they assembled 36  all the leaders of the Philistines and asked, “What should we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They replied, “The ark of the God of Israel should be moved to Gath.” So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.

5:9 But after it had been moved the Lord attacked 37  that city as well, causing a great deal of panic. He struck all the people of that city 38  with sores. 39  5:10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.

But when the ark of God arrived at Ekron, the residents of Ekron cried out saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel here 40  to kill our 41  people! 5:11 So they assembled 42  all the leaders of the Philistines and said, “Get the ark of the God of Israel out of here! Let it go back to its own place so that it won’t kill us 43  and our 44  people!” The terror 45  of death was throughout the entire city; God was attacking them very severely there. 46  5:12 The people 47  who did not die were struck with sores; the city’s cry for help went all the way up to heaven.

The Philistines Return the Ark

6:1 When the ark of the Lord had been in the land 48  of the Philistines for seven months, 49  6:2 the Philistines called the priests and the omen readers, saying, “What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Advise us as to how we should send it back to its place.”

6:3 They replied, “If you are going to send the ark of 50  the God of Israel back, don’t send it away empty. Be sure to return it with a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and you will understand why his hand is not removed from you.” 6:4 They inquired, “What is the guilt offering that we should send to him?

They replied, “The Philistine leaders number five. So send five gold sores and five gold mice, for it is the same plague that has afflicted both you and your leaders. 6:5 You should make images of the sores and images of the mice 51  that are destroying the land. You should honor the God of Israel. Perhaps he will release his grip on you, your gods, and your land. 52  6:6 Why harden your hearts like the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? 53  When God 54  treated them harshly, didn’t the Egyptians send the Israelites on their way? 55  6:7 So now go and make a new cart. Get two cows that have calves and that have never had a yoke placed on them. Harness the cows to the cart and take their calves from them back to their stalls. 6:8 Then take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart, and put in a chest beside it the gold objects you are sending to him as a guilt offering. You should then send it on its way. 6:9 But keep an eye on it. If it should go up by the way of its own border to Beth Shemesh, then he has brought this great calamity on us. But if that is not the case, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us; rather, it just happened to us by accident.”

6:10 So the men did as instructed. 56  They took two cows that had calves and harnessed them to a cart; they also removed their calves to their stalls. 6:11 They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the chest, the gold mice, and the images of the sores. 6:12 Then the cows went directly on the road to Beth Shemesh. They went along, mooing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left. The leaders of the Philistines were walking along behind them all the way to the border of Beth Shemesh.

6:13 Now the residents of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they were pleased at the sight. 6:14 The cart was coming to the field of Joshua, who was from Beth Shemesh. It paused there near a big stone. Then they cut up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 6:15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, which contained the gold objects. They placed them near the big stone. At that time the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 6:16 The five leaders of the Philistines watched what was happening and then returned to Ekron on the same day.

6:17 These are the gold sores that the Philistines brought as a guilt offering to the Lordone for each of the following cities: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 6:18 The gold mice corresponded in number to all the Philistine cities of the five leaders, from the fortified cities to hamlet villages, to greater Abel, 57  where they positioned the ark of the Lord until this very day in the field of Joshua who was from Beth Shemesh.

6:19 But the Lord 58  struck down some of the people of Beth Shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord; he struck down 50,070 59  of the men. The people grieved because the Lord had struck the people with a hard blow. 6:20 The residents of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark 60  go up from here?”

6:21 So they sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down here and take it back home with you.”

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