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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 4

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 4:1 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.

Ver. 1. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.] It was commonly noised and noticed what he had foretold against Eli and the whole people; and it happened accordingly, because they prepared not to meet the Lord with entreaties of peace, as afterwards they did, [1 Samuel 7:2-6] when once and again they had paid for their learning. Samuel was but a child when he foretold this calamity; but at man’s estate, fit to succeed Eli in the government, ere it was inflicted. God is slow, but sure, if men repent not; and those that will not hearken to the word shall "bear the rod, and who hath appointed it." [Micah 7:9]

And pitched beside Ebenezer,] i.e., The stone of help, so called here by anticipation. See 1 Samuel 7:12. And, as it proved now to the defeated Israelites, by antiphrasis, as Mare Pacificum, which is out of measure troublesome and dangerous.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 4:2 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.

Ver. 2. And the Philistines put themselves in array.] Heb., Marshalled themselves: to meet Israel, as thinking to hold them under; encouraged, likely, thereunto, because Eli their judge was old and feeble: but God had a holy hand in it, for the just punishment of priests and people.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 4:3 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.

Ver. 3. Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today?] There was cause enough, [Psalms 78:58; Psalms 78:61-62; Psalms 78:64] but they could not see it. Men’s minds are as ill set as their eyes; neither of them look inwards to the plague of their own hearts, to sin, the mother of all their misery. These Isralites mistook the cause of their calamity to be the want of the ark amongst them. This was non causa pro causa. And alike mistaken are the Jews at this day: and those Lutheran ministers who concluded some few years since at Hamburg, that Germany was therefore so embroiled in war, because their images in churches were not adorned enough: which therefore they would procure done. (a) A bad business!

Let us fetch the ark of the covenant.] This was done sometimes with good success, but by such as were upon good terms with God. The ark and the mercy seat were never sundered: but then they sealed up mercy to the penitent and obedient only. Against others God hath a controversy, and sendeth in the enemy to revenge the quarrel of his covenant. He is to be fetched into the field by the suits of his humble suppliants, who shall thereupon do great exploits. But these carnal Israelites trusted in the ark of wood, as a sure pawn of God’s presence and power, likeas the superstitious Philistines used to bring their gods into the field, [2 Samuel 5:24] and as in the days of King Edward VI the Norfolk rebels brought with them into the battle their breaden god, setting him in a cart: neither was there lacking masses, crosses, banners, candlesticks, &c., all which were taken in the cart, and there lay all in the dust. (b)


Verse 4

1 Samuel 4:4 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.

Ver. 4. So the people sent to Shiloh.] This they did presumptuously and profanely, of their own head, not consulting with God, or waiting for his warrant: for they said, "We are lords," and they acted as if they had been petty gods within themselves, &c. When the beginning is carnal confidence, the end is usually shame of any business, even of this life.

And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark.] Josephus addeth, that their father Eli charged them to live and die with it; and if it were lost, never to look him in the face more. H ταν η επι ταν, said she to her son, when she gave him his shield: Either bring it back from the battle, or be thou brought back dead upon it. Let us resolve either to live with the gospel, or to die for it.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 4:5 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.

Ver. 5. And when the ark, &c.] The ark was indeed to the Israel of God, the chiefest evidence of his gracious presence, and the most principal type of Christ. The word here used is Aron, which is put for a coffin, coffer, or chest. [Genesis 50:26; 2 Kings 12:9] This showeth that all the counsels of God, all the love and favour of God, all that God accounteth precious, are treasured up for his in Christ. [Colossians 2:3; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 10:12] But what is all this, or any of God’s ordinances, to the profligate professor, who yet boasteth of them, and beareth himself too bold upon them

All Israel shouted.] This was to triumph before the victory. So they afterwards bellowed out, "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord," [Jeremiah 7:4] as the Papists now do ‘The Church, the Church,’ ad ravim usque; and as they go to war with their crucifixes at their bosoms, and with the sign of the cross, as if armed thereby against devils and adversaries.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 4:6 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.

Ver. 6. And they understood.] Per exploratores, saith Vatablus, by their scouts and intelligencers.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 4:7 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.

Ver. 7. And the Philistines were afraid.] But without cause; for God - who as Josephus well saith, was greater than the ark - was their enemy. The ark also was brought into the camp without any pomp or due reverence, and by the hands of those ungodly priests that were now come into the field to fetch their bane, as had been foretold in 1 Samuel 2:34.

For there hath not been such a thing heretofore.] Not that they knew of; but such a thing there had been before at the siege of Jericho, and in that expedition against the Midianites. [Numbers 31:6] So after this (1 Samuel 14:18, 2 Samuel 11:11) David sent the ark into Joab’s camp before Rabbah; though at another time, when he fled from Absalom, he sent back the ark to Jerusalem, [2 Samuel 15:25] as knowing that God could as well save without it.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 4:8 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.

Ver. 8. Woe unto us!] So at the siege of Mountabon, in France, when the Popish soldiers heard the people of God within the town singing a psalm, after which they ever expected a sally, they would so quake and tremble, crying, They come, they come! as if the wrath of God had been breaking out upon them. These faithless Philistines, followed by the furies of their own consciences, were woe begone, as we say, at the sight of God’s ark, as being the people of God’s wrath and of his curse.

With all the plagues in the wilderness.] Or, Near the wilderness. That last sweeping plague - the drowning of them in the Red Sea - was near the wilderness of Etham, on the shore whereof their dead carcasses were cast up. [Exodus 14:30] Or it may be these frightened Philistines spoke at random, and according to their skill, as Bishop Bonner did when he said the martyrs were like to certain arrant heretics of whom Pliny maketh mention, that they daily sing antelucanos hymnos - psalms before daybreak.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 4:9 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.

Ver. 9. Be strong, and quit yourselves like men.] Though they were convinced that they should fight against God, yet they hearten up themselves, and resolve to fight howsoever: so doth every obstinate sinner. Ahaziah sent a third captain to fetch the prophet ai despito di Die, as if he would despitefully spit in the face of Heaven, and wrestle a fall with the Almighty.

That ye be not servants unto the Hebrews.] That ye lose not your sweet liberty. Philo Judaeus reporteth of a certain heathen people, who in their wars used only this expression, to put spirit into their soldiers, Estote viri, libertas agitur. Play the men, for your liberty lieth at stake.


Verse 10

1 Samuel 4:10 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.

Ver. 10. Every man into his tent,] i.e., Into his house, pedibus pro armis usi, et depositis hastis domum ad beatos rastros, benedictum aratrum, sanctamque stivam recurrerunt, as one (a) saith of the Dutch boors.

And there was a very great slaughter.] Notwithstanding the presence of the ark, and far greater than before. [1 Samuel 4:2] Men fare the worse for their external privileges, if they rest in them. "Of the Jew first," &c. [Romans 2:9]

Thirty thousand footmen.] That is, Men able to march afoot; for horsemen they had none.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 4:11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Ver. 11. And the ark of God was taken.] By the wicked Philistines, who had as little joy of it - for it plagued them - as the Israelites before had benefit by it: Ut videas quid, ant quantum res sanctae sine sancto earum usu prosint, (a) that men may see how little good is gotten by holy things if not used in a holy manner.

And the two sons of Eli … were slain.] As had been forethreatened in 1 Samuel 2:34. God’s menaces will be accomplished in their time; and yet most men hear and read them as they do the predictions of an almanac, which they think may come to pass, and it may be not: they put off all, as those in the gospel did, with a "God forbid!"


Verse 12

1 Samuel 4:12 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.

Ver. 12. And there ran a man of Benjamin.] Not Saul, as some of the Jewish doctors have dreamed, but another Benjamite.

With his clothes rent.] In token of grief to the breaking of his loins. [Ezekiel 21:6]

And with earth upon his head.] As weary of his life, and not willing to be any longer above ground.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 4:13 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.

Ver. 13. Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching,] i.e., Waiting what news from the camp, and praying for good.

For his heart trembled.] His guilty conscience misgave him. By his example let all men learn to look to their families:

"Aedibus in propriis quae prava aut recta gerantur.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 4:14 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.

Ver. 14. And the man came in hastily.] Aι βλαβαι ποδωκεις: Ill news, like ill weather, cometh ere it be sent for; but this doleful messenger was not so discreet as he might have been.


Verse 15

1 Samuel 4:15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.

Ver. 15. And his eyes were dim.] Heb., Stood. They were shrunk in his head by the contraction of the sinews.


Verse 16

1 Samuel 4:16 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?

Ver. 16. And I fled today out of the army.] I am an eyewitness, and therefore may be credited. But he should not have poured forth all the ill news at once, to the crushing of the old man’s heart.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 4:17 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.

Ver. 17. Israel is fled, &c.] Themselves had by their sins abandoned the victory, and sent it to the enemy. They should have said as Jerome (a) did after the overthrow of the Roman army by the barbarians, Infelices nos qui tantum displicemus Deo, ut per rabiem barbarorum illius in nos ira desaeviat.


Verse 18

1 Samuel 4:18 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.

Ver. 18. When he made mention of the ark.] This word struck him down backward, and killed him in the fall. No sword of a Philistine could have slain him more powerfully; neither can you say whether his neck or heart were first broken.

His neck brake, and he died.] Howbeit he had hope in his death, and might write Resurgam on his grave; whereas the wicked fall like the elephant, which, being down, riseth not again.


Verse 19

1 Samuel 4:19 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.

Ver. 19. That the ark af God was taken.] Here likewise lay the pinch of this good woman’s grief. The miseries of the Church made Melancthon almost neglect the death of his most beloved children: they cost Oecolampadius his life.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 4:20 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].

Ver. 20. Neither did she regard it.] {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 4:19"}


Verse 21

1 Samuel 4:21 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.

Ver. 21. And she named the child Ichabod,] i.e., Inglorious, (a) as Josephus interpreteth it. Now no glory, because no ark. (b)

And because of her father-in-law, &c.] She was not without natural affection, but her spiritual affections prevailed. Hence, the comment on the next verse.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 4:22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

Ver. 22. The glory is departed.] This comes in twice; the other of her father and husband is but once named.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-4.html. 1865-1868.

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