1 Samuel 4:11
And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) And the ark of God was taken.—The bare fact, without comment or note, is given of this, the greatest calamity that had yet happened to Israel. All the people would know by this terrible sign that their invisible King had withdrawn His countenance from them; but the loss of the Ark to the heathen taught another lesson, not merely for the Israel of the days of Eli and Samuel—the eternal truth that “the living God does not bind His presence to a dead thing” (Erdmann). But though it was a dead thing, it was inexpressibly precious to the patriot Israelite. Was it not the ark “which Moses had made by God’s command at Sinai, and on which the Divine presence was enshrined in the Holy of Holies; and which had accompanied Israel in their marches through the wilderness, and before which the waters of Jordan had fled backward, and the walls of Jericho had fallen down?—that ark was taken by idolaters.”—Bishop Wordsworth.

The two sons of Eli . . . were slain.—This was in strict accordance with the saying of the man of God. (See 1Samuel 2:34.)

1 Samuel 4:11. The ark of God was taken — Which God justly and wisely permitted, to punish the Israelites for their profanation of it; that, by taking away the pretences of their foolish confidence, he might more deeply humble them, and bring them to true repentance: and that the Philistines might by this means be more effectually convinced of God’s almighty power, and of their own impotency, and of that of their gods, and so a stop might be put to their triumphs and rage against the poor Israelites. Thus, as God was no loser by this event, so the Philistines were no gainers by it; and Israel, all things considered, received more good than hurt by it. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain — If Eli had done his duty, and put them from the priesthood, they might have lived, though in disgrace. But now God takes the work into his own hands, and chases them out of the world by the sword of the Philistines.4:10,11 The taking of the ark was a great judgment upon Israel, and a certain token of God's displeasure. Let none think to shelter themselves from the wrath of God, under the cloak of outward profession.This is a remarkable testimony on the part of the Philistines to the truth of the events which are recorded in the Pentateuch. The Philistines would of course hear of them, just as Balak and the people of Jericho did Numbers 22:5; Joshua 2:10.

With all the plagues ... - Rather, "with every kind of plague" equivalent to "with utter destruction.

3-9. Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us—Strange that they were so blind to the real cause of the disaster and that they did not discern, in the great and general corruption of religion and morals (1Sa 2:22-25; 7:3; Ps 78:58), the reason why the presence and aid of God were not extended to them. Their first measure for restoring the national spirit and energy ought to have been a complete reformation—a universal return to purity of worship and morals. But, instead of cherishing a spirit of deep humiliation and sincere repentance, instead of resolving on the abolition of existing abuses, and the re-establishing of the pure faith, they adopted what appeared an easier and speedier course—they put their trust in ceremonial observances, and doubted not but that the introduction of the ark into the battlefield would ensure their victory. In recommending this extraordinary step, the elders might recollect the confidence it imparted to their ancestors (Nu 10:35; 14:44), as well as what had been done at Jericho. But it is more probable that they were influenced by the heathenish ideas of their idolatrous neighbors, who carried their idol Dagon, or his sacred symbols, to their wars, believing that the power of their divinities was inseparably associated with, or residing in, their images. In short, the shout raised in the Hebrew camp, on the arrival of the ark, indicated very plainly the prevalence among the Israelites at this time of a belief in national deities—whose influence was local, and whose interest was especially exerted in behalf of the people who adored them. The joy of the Israelites was an emotion springing out of the same superstitious sentiments as the corresponding dismay of their enemies; and to afford them a convincing, though painful proof of their error, was the ulterior object of the discipline to which they were now subjected—a discipline by which God, while punishing them for their apostasy by allowing the capture of the ark, had another end in view—that of signally vindicating His supremacy over all the gods of the nations. The ark of God was taken; which God justly and wisely permitted; partly, to punish the Israelites for their profanation of it; partly, that by taking away the pretences of their foolish and impious confidence, he might more deeply humble them, and bring them to true repentance; partly, that the Philistines might by this means be more effectually convinced of God’s almighty power, and of their own and their gods’ impotency, and so a stop might be put to their triumphs and insultations, and to their rage against the poor Israelites, whom otherwise in human appearance they might easily have rooted out. Thus as God was no loser by this event, so the Philistines were no gainers by it; and Israel, all things considered, received more good than hurt by it, as we shall see. And the ark of God was taken,.... By the Philistines; which was suffered partly as a punishment to the Israelites, for fetching it from the tabernacle without the will of God, and for their vain confidence in it; and partly that the Philistines might have an experiment of the power and might of God, as Procopius Gazaeus observes, by what they would suffer through having it among them; some have thought that this was an emblem of Christ being delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, and of the Gospel being translated from the Jews to them: and the two sons of Eli:

Hophni and Phinehas, were slain; which fulfilled the prophecy of the man of God, that they should both die in one day, 1 Samuel 2:34. It is very probable they stood fast by the ark, and chose rather to die than to give it up freely; having received a charge from their father, that if the ark was taken, not to desire life, nor ever dare to come into his presence more, as Josephus (a) relates.

(a) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 11. sect. 2.

And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. Hophni and Phinehas were slain] The “sign” given by the man of God that the whole doom pronounced against Eli’s house would be executed (ch. 1 Samuel 2:34).

The Psalmist’s account of the catastrophe should be compared, Psalm 78:56-64.Verse 11. - Moreover, the ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain, according to the prediction of the man of God. Probably the last resistance was made round the ark, and the sons of Eli at least died "as men" (1 Samuel 2:33). THE OVERTHROW OF ELI'S HOUSE (vers. 12-22). On the arrival of the ark in the camp, the people raised so great a shout of joy that the earth rang again. This was probably the first time since the settlement of Israel in Canaan, that the ark had been brought into the camp, and therefore the people no doubt anticipated from its presence a renewal of the marvellous victories gained by Israel under Moses and Joshua, and for that reason raised such a shout when it arrived.
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