So far in the book of Samuel, we have read of little mention of real worship – other than some sacrificial offerings. Indeed chapter 3:1 says “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” And Eli’s consultation with the Lord is especially and conspicuously absent in this chapter, as the Israelites go to do battle with the Philistines. They are soundly defeated in verse 2, and the elders seem to decide on their own that the Ark should be brought to the battle to put the Lord with them, treating it – and God – like little more than a talisman. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons are right there with it when the Israelites were defeated even worse this time. And now, the Ark has been captured! Containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments, this loss of the sign of the Lord’s covenant with Israel is devastating!
One of the men of the tribe of Benjamin from the field of battle runs and gives the news to Eli, who is more distressed at the loss of the Ark than the death of his sons – and he dies on the spot (verse 18)! The verse states that he had judged Israel for 40 years. Samuel the prophet would be the final judge. Eli’s daughter-in-law, too, is more distressed at the loss of the Ark; and she goes into labor. She dies giving birth and names her son Ichabod – which means “Where is the glory?” Because the glory has left Israel. It would seem to the people that the Lord himself has left them!
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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