1Samuel 4:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 6, 2002


We are in the times of the “judges”, before there was a king in Israel. These are dark times for the nation. It was rare for people to hear from God. Finally, God got a hold of a woman named Hannah. She was desperate because she could not have children. She made a vow to God that if God would give her a son, she would give the child back to the Lord. And the boy Samuel was born. When Samuel was about three years old, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle, and the priests raised him there. God would use this boy. God spoke to this boy.

:1-2 Philistine War

: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.

Samuel was now the person that God was using to talk to His people.

But pay attention here. We read that neither Samuel nor God was consulted about this war on the Philistines.

Philistines – the Philistines were originally a sea-faring people who came possibly from the island of Crete. I have even heard of speculation that they may have been descendants of the people of “Atlantis”. There is an island in the Mediterranean that seems to have been destroyed by volcanic activity, and its civilization has some parallels to the Philistines. The Philistines seem to have had two migrations into the land of Israel, one during the time of Abraham (2000 BC), and the other around 1200 BC. They settled mainly into five cities located on the coast of Israel – Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod. Their chief deity was named “Dagon”, and was thought to be half-man and half-fish with the head and torso of a man, and the tail fins of a fish.

EbenezerSee map

Aphek – a city about 20 miles west of Shiloh. It’s at the northern edge of the Philistine territory. It’s also down on the flat coastal plain, a preferable type of battlefield. See map

The idea is that the Philistines are the aggressors.

:3-9 Ark brought to the war

:3 Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines?

There actually was an answer to this question, but the people aren’t really looking for an answer. They think they already know what the answer is.


Let God answer your questions.

Some people consult dark, spiritual counsellors:
(Isa 8:19-20 NLT) So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? {20} "Check their predictions against my testimony," says the LORD. "If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no light or truth in them.
Some people go to psychologists.
I think that counseling can be a good thing, especially if you are going to a Christian counsellor who will counsel you according to God’s Word.
I think it’s possible that things like a chemical imbalance could cause some of our problems.  Some people can be helped with medication.
But sometimes people are going to a secular counsellor to talk about things that have spiritual roots.

A very common problem that many people struggle with is guilt.

Guilt is a spiritual condition. It needs to be dealt with in God’s way. A secular counselor will tell you to talk yourself out of feeling guilty. They might try to help you reason your way out of feeling guilty.

But God doesn’t tell you to hide your guilt or make excuses. God says that we need to confess our sin. We need to admit our guilt.

(Psa 32:1-5 KJV) A Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. {2} Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. {3} When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. {4} For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. {5} I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

God will forgive your sin, but you need to be open about it, confess it to Him, and turn from it.

I think that sometimes we too are asking questions but somehow it doesn’t occur to us that God actually has an answer to what we’re asking.
The answer to the Israelite’s defeat is that they have fallen away from God. They need to turn back to Him and ask Him for help.

:3 Let us fetch the ark … it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

the ark of the covenant – this is the gold covered box that held the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets by the finger of God. It was covered with a solid gold lid with two angelic beings on it called the “Mercy Seat”. The box and its lid were to be kept in the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary at the Tabernacle. The Ark was to be a picture of God’s throne in heaven.

it may save us – The nation is entering into a phase where the Ark is no longer a symbol that is to remind them of God’s presence, but it is being seen as having power in itself.



We can see others that fall into superstitious behavior – rabbit’s feet, lucky four-leaf clovers, etc.

Sy comes home after his mother’s funeral to try to put the place in order. He goes up to the attic to look around and finds an old trunk. Looking in it, he discovers his father’s WWII uniform. Sy tries it on and it’s a little tight on him. Before taking it off, he puts his hand in the pocket and comes up with a ticket—a shoe repair ticket for Herman’s on West 53rd, dated Jan. 14th, 1942, an unclaimed ticket 55 years old. Weeks later, Sy happens to be in the area of West 53rd and wanders over to see where the shoe repair was. He can’t believe his good luck. A shoe repair store is still there. He wanders in and tells the story of finding the ticket to the old man. The man says his name is Herman and has owned the shop for 60 years. “Gimme the ticket” says Herman and wanders to the back of the shop. Sy is amazed. What good fortune! What a coincidence! Only in America! Herman comes back..... “I’ve got your shoes. They’ll be ready tomorrow.”

“Good fortune” or “good luck” really isn’t all that special, is it?

Actually, sometimes our “superstitions” can border on the religious side.
Some people seem to put great trust in things like statues of Mary, saints, rosary beads, etc.
Others will put great trust in that they’ve taken communion or have been baptized.

But these things don’t save a person. We are saved by our trusting in Jesus.

(Rom 3:20-22 NLT) For no one can ever be made right in God's sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God's law, the clearer it becomes that we aren't obeying it. {21} But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight--not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. {22} We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

Sometimes even people who ought to know better can fall into a trap of thinking that God is only going to work at certain places, like Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa.
All of this stems from a lack of the real presence of the Lord.
When we’ve wandered away from the Lord, we can fall into thinking that certain “things” will bring back that sense of closeness.
What we really need is simply to turn around and come back to Him.

We’ll see this demonstrated when we get to chapter seven,

(1 Sam 7:3 KJV) And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.


God wants you to have a relationship with Him

Suppose I were to tell you about how fantastic my relationship is with my wife.  And you say to me, “Well, I’d like to go out to lunch with you and your wife and get to know you better”.
So I pull a picture of my wife out of my pocket and speak to the picture, “Honey, would you like to go out to lunch with us today?”
Wouldn’t you think I was crazy?  How do you think my wife would feel, finding out that I talk to her picture instead of talking to her?
God wants you to know Him.  Not just His picture.

:4 So the people sent to Shiloh

Shiloh – Twenty miles north of Jerusalem. This was the current home of the Tabernacle and the Ark. This was the “central sanctuary” where God was worshipped by the Israelites. See map

:4 the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims

This is a reference to the picture that the Ark gave, as it was covered with the Mercy Seat, which had two angelic beings facing each other with their wings outstretched, touching wingtips. God said,

(Exo 25:22 KJV) And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

:4 two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas

Eli was the High Priest at the time. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons, were the wicked men that were the main reason why there will be a judgment against Israel. As priests, they were in charge of the Ark.

:5 so that the earth rang again.

(NIV) all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook.

:7 God is come into the camp

God‘elohiym – (plural) gods; (plural intensive-singular meaning) the (true) God

:8 these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians

Gods‘elohiym – (plural) gods; (plural intensive-singular meaning) the (true) God

It’s hard to know what the Philistines are thinking exactly. But they use the same plural form in both verse 7 and in verse 8. I think that it might be better if you translate them both the same, either both of them saying “gods” or both of them saying “God”.

The Philistines are aware of the history of Israel. They know what God had done for Israel in delivering them from Egypt.

:9 quit yourselves like men, and fight.

quithayah – to be, become. “Be men!”

The Philistines psych themselves into a frenzy before they fight the Israelites again. They figure that they are now no longer just fighting with the Israelite army, but also with the Israelite “god”.

Be careful that you don’t think that this is what gives the Philistines the victory.

The Philistine victory comes simply because God has decided that Israel needs judgment. They need a “wake-up” call.


Act like men

We may not be Philistines, but God does want us men to act like men.
(1 Cor 16:13 KJV) Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

God wants men to learn to be strong. But the difference here in Corinthians is that we aren’t just supposed to be strong, but we are to be strong in the Lord. We are to “stand fast” in the faith.

Sometimes the thing we need to be strong in is to say “no” to sin.
When sin is let in as a beggar, it remains in as a tyrant.
The Arabs have a fable of a miller who one day was startled by a camel’s nose thrust in the window of the room where he was sleeping. “It is very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.”
The nose was let in, then the neck, and finally the whole body. Presently the miller began to be extremely inconvenienced at the ungainly companion he had obtained in a room certainly not big enough for both.
“If you are inconvenienced, you may leave,” said the camel. “As for myself, I shall stay where I am.”
There are many such camels knocking at the human heart. A single worldly custom becomes the nose of the camel, and it is not long before the entire body follows. The Christian then finds his heart occupied by a vice which a little while before peeped in so meekly.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

Be a man.

Not just for the sake of being “macho” or being the “knight in shining armor” – but be a real man, one who trusts in the Lord.  One who does what he must do.
Jonathan and his armor bearer
Frodo and the ring –

He said, “I wish I was never given this ring”.  Gandalf replies, “You cannot do much about what you’ve been given.  What’s important is what you do with it once you have it.”

Peter in Rome

Church history has it that Peter had been visiting in Rome when he heard that there was a warrant out for his arrest.  The believers in the church persuaded Peter to leave the city and flee.  Tradition has it that Jesus met Peter outside the city and said "Quo Vadis?", which is Latin for "Where are you going?".  Peter turned around and went back into the city, and was arrested.  When he was crucified, Peter did not feel himself worthy of being crucified in the same way that his Master was, and was asked to be crucified upside down.

:10-11 The ark is lost

:10 there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen

The Israelites thought that they had a secret weapon. They thought that the ark would be like a magic charm to give them victory. They were trusting in the ark and not in the Lord.

Instead of having victory with their “lucky charm”, they have an even worse defeat.

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

God had earlier warned Eli through a prophet that judgment was coming on his house because of the sins of his sons and because of Eli’s refusal to deal seriously with the problem:

(1 Sam 2:34 KJV) And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.

The prophecy comes true.


God’s Word is true

When God speaks, it will happen.  Joshua wrote,
(Josh 21:45 KJV) There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
If you want to find out what’s ahead for you and your life, immerse yourself in God’s Word.


Read the Word.

I heard Jon Courson give a message on the radio this week that really encouraged me to keep reading the Word.
The sword and the dirt

Ehud was one of the men God used during the time of the Judges.  Eglon was the very fat king of the Canaanites, who had been ruling over Israel during one of their times of being away from the Lord.  God used Ehud to free the Israelites from the dominion of the Canaanites.

(Judg 3:20-22 KJV)  And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. {21} And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: {22} And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.

The sword went in and the dirt came out.

Do you want to be free of the Eglons of life?  Do you feel like there’s “dirt” in you?  Then put in the sword.  Put in the Word.

Dry?  Do you feel that God’s Word is “dry”?

Dig the ditches.  Jehoshaphat was facing a battle with the Moabites.  They were out in the desert.  They ran out of water.  The prophet Elisha had a word from God,

(2 Ki 3:16-17 KJV)  And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches. {17} For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.

They dug ditches and the next day the ditches were full of water.

If you feel that God’s Word is too dry, then just keep digging.  Keep digging in God’s Word.  God will bring the water.

I often look at the passage I’m supposed to teach on and at first glance I say to myself, “What in the world is worthwhile in this passage!”  But as I keep digging, God opens up the Word and brings out the treasures.