King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 4

The Israelites overcome by the Philistines. (1-9) The ark taken. (10,11) The death of Eli. (12-18) The birth of Ichabod. (19-22)

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The Israelites overcome by the Philistines

1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

2 And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.

3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.

6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.

7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.

8 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.

9 Be strong and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.

The ark taken

10 And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.

11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

The death of Eli

12 And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.

13 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.

14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.

15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.

16 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?

17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.

18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.

The birth of Ichabod

19 And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.

21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.

22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. And. Heb. inserts here the conclusion of the last verse, whence some would infer that Samuel told the Israelites to make war upon the Philistines. But as it turned out so ill, this would have tended to discredit him; and we find that the Philistines were the aggressors. — Days. this war took place immediately after the threats denounced to Heli; (Sararius) or according to Usher, and the best chronologists, about 27 years after that event. C. — The addition of the Sept. seems to insinuate, that the sons of Heli persevered for a long time in their wicked course. C. iii. 20. H. — Josephus says that Phinees was his father’s coadjutor. — Salien observes that this must be considered as a fresh blot in the character of the latter, since he ought to have delivered the delinquents up to execution. Deut. xxi. 21. Tirin, on the contrary, adduces the power of his sons, and the debilitated state of Heli, to excuse his neglect. H. — Help. In Heb. Eben-ezer; so called, from the help which the Lord was pleased afterwards to give to his people, Israel, in that place, by the prayers of Samuel, C. vii. 12. (Ch.) about 21 years afterwards. — Aphec, in the tribe of Juda, not far from Maspha.

Ver. 2. Here, &c. Heb. “in the field” of battle. C. — Sept. “in the ranks, in the field.” H.

Ver. 3. Ancients; the commanders of the respective tribes. Heli was not able to lead on the people to battle, on account of his blindness and great age. — Enemies. All nations attribute much to the exterior marks of religion. The Israelites had witnessed the victories which had been obtained while the ark was present. Jos. vi. 4. See Num. xiv. 45. But they ought to have considered, that their infidelity rendered them unworthy of the divine protection; and that God was more displeased at their profanations, than at the indignity to which the sacred vessels would be exposed. He would know how to vindicate his own honour and glory. The symbols of religion were thus carried in the army, by the Persians, &c. Herod. vii. — The Romans regarded their standards as so many deities. Halicar. vi. See 2 K. vi. 21. 2 Par. xiii. 8. C. — The confidence which the Israelites placed in the ark was commendable, but their sins deserved to be punished. W. Num. x. 35.

Ver. 4. Ark. On this extraordinary emergency they thought it lawful. Abulensis, q. 6. — They easily obtained the consent of Heli; and his sons went to take it down, and to attend it to the army, as he was incapable of doing duty. We know not what ceremonies were used, nor whether the brothers acted as high priests alternately. C. — Cherubim. The Scripture often represents God in this manner. Ex. xxv. 22. Ps. xvii. 10. Ezec. x. 1. The commonality of the Jews attributed bodies to the angels, but to denote that they were not like those with which we are acquainted, they called them cherubim, or complex and unusual figures. C.

Ver. 7. God: “Elohim.” Sept. “these gods.” They speak of the true God according to their false ideas. C. — Sighing. Sept. “deliver us, O Lord, this day.”

Ver. 8. Joy. A few days ago the Hebrews were dismayed, now they shout for joy, as they did at the taking of Jericho. Heb. and Sept. “it was not so heretofore.” H. — Gods. Heb. may be rendered in the singular, with the Chal. and Arab. But the Sept. and most commentators, explain it in the sense of the Vulg. The title of high, (adirim) or magnificent, was given by the Philistines to Dagon, whom they styled Atergatis. C. — Sept. stereon, means, “stable, perfect,” &c. H. — Plagues, till they were overwhelmed in the Red Sea, which is surrounded with deserts. Some supply, “and (his people) in the desert.” Sept. Syr. &c. C.

Ver. 9. Fight. To serve those whom they had lately oppressed, would be doubly afflicting. Salien. — If these people had seriously attended to the instructions, which they might have derived from the fall of others, they would surely never have exposed themselves to fight against the high God. But they looked upon him in no other light than their own contemptible idols. Homer often represents them as wounded, and conquered by mortal men.

Ver. 10. Footmen. They had no cavalry, (C.) as God seemed to discourage any. H. — Even after Solomon’s time, they had not many horsemen. C. — The Israelites had before lost 4,000: now when they were full of confidence, and fought with valour, they behold 30,000 fall. The ark proved thus fatal to them. H.

Ver. 11. Slain. Abulensis (q. 17,) thinks they were fighting in defence of the ark, when they might have saved themselves by flight; so that he does not despair of their salvation. God permitted them to lose their lives in the exercise of a holy ministry, which they had so scandalously profaned. C.

Ver. 12. Man. The Jews say that Saul carried these melancholy tidings, and that Goliah slew the sons of Heli. H.

Ver. 13. Stool. Heb. cisse; “a throne or tribunal,” where Heli sat to decide any controversies, and where he had blessed the mother of Samuel. C. — God. He had great reason to fear that this was the day when his sons would perish, and he apprehended that the ark would be in danger. H.

Ver. 17. Taken. Every sentence expresses something more distressing to the aged judge and father; the flight and slaughter of his people, the ruin of his children, and the loss of the ark, which must have filled all Israel with a mortal gloom and terror, lest God should have abandoned them. So many dismal circumstances oppressing the heart of Heli, he fainted away, and falling backwards, expired. H. — The Scripture takes notice of his great age, that we might not think that he killed himself in despair. Salien.

Ver. 18. Named the ark, &c. There is great reason, by all these circumstances, to hope that Heli died in the state of grace; and by his temporal punishments, escaped the eternal. Ch. — But many of the Fathers condemn him, and the Scripture says nothing of his conversion, or of that of his children, so that the matter is doubtful. C. — Years. Heb. “and heavy.” — Forty. Sept. “twenty,” in which they are followed by many Fathers. Euseb. Sulpit. &c. — Some reconcile the two texts by saying, that Heli and Samson judged together for twenty years. But the Sept. is probably corrupted, as the other versions agree with the original. C.

Ver. 19. Sudden, through extreme affliction. M. — Josephus says the child was only in his seventh month, but alive. Abulensis thinks he did not long survive his mother.

Ver. 21. Ichabod. That is, Where is the glory? or, there is no glory. We see how much the Israelites lamented the loss of the ark, which was but the symbol of God’s presence amongst them. How much more ought Christians lament the loss of God himself, when by sin they have drove him out of their souls? Ch. — The ark is often called the glory of Israel. Isai. lxiv. 21. Ps. xxv. 8. Ichabod might remind the people that the greatest loss had been sustained by them, as well as by his family. His mother had both in view the ark, Heli, and Phinees, her husband, (H.) when she exclaimed, ichabod, “Woe! or, Alas! the glory.” Mendoza. — The Scripture does not mention Ophni’s posterity. But besides this posthumous son, Phinees had one elder, who now succeeded Heli in the pontificate, (C. xiv. 3. Josephus. Salien, A. 2940, A.C. 1113,) while Samuel took possession of the civil administration, and almost totally eclipsed the glory of Achitob. Many of the Fathers have even looked upon him as the high priest. But he was only a Levite, though, by dispensation, he acted sometimes as an extraordinary priest. S. Jerom c. Jov. i. and in 1 Cor. He reduced the people to a sense of their duty, and taught them to trust in the true God alone, and they would be protected, though deprived of the ark. This was also presently restored to them. H.