1 Samuel 4

1Samuel revealed the word of the Lord
Heb “and the word of Samuel was.” The present translation understands Samuel to be the speaker of the divine word (“Samuel” is a subjective genitive in this case), although the statement could mean that he was the recipient of the divine word (“Samuel” is an objective genitive in this case) who in turn reported it to Israel.
to all Israel.

The Ark of the Covenant is Lost to the Philistines

Then the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines.
Heb “and Israel went out to meet the Philistines for battle.”
They camped at Ebenezer,
Heb “the stone, the help.” The second noun is in apposition to the first one and apparently is the name by which the stone was known. Contrast the expression used in 5:1 and 7:12, where the first word lacks the definite article, unlike 4:1.
and the Philistines camped at Aphek.
2The Philistines arranged their forces to fight
Heb “to meet.”
Israel. As the battle spread out,
The MT has וַתִּטֹּשׁ (vattittosh), from the root נטשׁ (ntsh). This verb normally means “to leave,” “to forsake,” or “to permit,” but such an idea does not fit this context very well. Many scholars have suspected that the text originally read either וַתֵּט (vattet, “and it spread out”), from the root נטה (nth), or וַתִּקֶשׁ (vattiqesh, “and it grew fierce”), from the root קשׂה (qsh). The former suggestion is apparently supported by the LXX ἔκλινεν (eklinen, “it inclined”) and is adopted in the translation.
Israel was defeated by
Heb “before.”
the Philistines, who
Heb “the Philistines, and they killed.” The pronoun “they” has been translated as a relative pronoun (“who”) to make it clear to the English reader that the Philistines were the ones who did the killing.
killed about four thousand men in the battle line in the field.

3 When the army
Or “people.”
came back to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by
Heb “before.”
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
Heb “and it will come in our midst and it will save.” After the cohortative (see “let’s take”), the prefixed verbal forms with the prefixed conjunction indicate purpose or result. The translation understands the ark to be the subject of the third masculine singular verbs, although it is possible to understand the Lord as the subject. In the latter case, one should translate, “when he is with us, he will save us.”
from the hand of our enemies.

4 So the army
Or “people.”
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.
5When the ark of the covenant of the Lord arrived at the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly
Heb “shouted [with] a great shout.”
that the ground shook.

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. 7The Philistines were scared because they thought that gods had come to the camp.
The Hebrew text has a direct quote, “because they said, ‘Gods have come to the camp.’” Even though the verb translated “have come” is singular, the following subject should be taken as plural (“gods”), as v. 8 indicates. Some emend the verb to a plural form.
They said, “Too bad for
Traditionally “woe to.” They thought disaster was imminent.
us! We’ve never seen anything like this!
8Too 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! 9Be 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!”

10 So the Philistines fought. Israel was defeated; they all ran home.
Heb “and they fled, each to his tents.”
The slaughter was very great; thirty thousand foot soldiers fell in battle.
11The ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were killed.

Eli Dies

12 On that day
Or perhaps, “the same day.” On this use of the demonstrative pronoun see Joüon 2:532 #143.f.
a Benjaminite ran from the battle lines and came to Shiloh. His clothes were torn and dirt was on his head.
13When he arrived in Shiloh, Eli was sitting in his chair watching by the side of
Read with many medieval Hebrew mss, the Qere, and much versional evidence יַד (yad, “hand”) rather than MT יַךְ (yakh).
the road, for he was very worried
Heb “his heart was trembling.”
about the ark of God. As the man entered the city to give his report,
Heb “and the man came to report in the city.”
the whole city cried out.

14 When Eli heard the outcry,
Heb “the sound of the cry.”
he said, “What is this commotion?”
Heb “the sound of this commotion.”
The man quickly came and told Eli.
15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes looked straight ahead;
Heb “were set” or “were fixed,” i.e., without vision.
he was unable to see.

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
Heb “he”; the referent (Eli) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
asked, “How did things go, my son?”
17The messenger replied, “Israel has fled from
Heb “before.”
the Philistines! The army has suffered a great defeat! Your two sons, Hophni and Phineas, are dead! The ark of God has been captured!”

18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli
Heb “he”; the referent (Eli) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
fell backward from his chair beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he
Heb “the man.”
was old and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years.

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. 20As 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.
Heb “and she did not set her heart.”

21 She named the boy Ichabod,
The name Ichabod (אִי־כָבוֹד) may mean, “Where is the glory?”
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.
22She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God has been captured.”

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