1 Samuel 4:10-22
And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter…
This story tells of a harvest that had long been predicted, and that at length was reaped. "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." See, now, the various harvests that were reaped that day.
1. Israel reaped a great harvest. How did this come about? Not surely because Israel had not enough men with whom to fight! For Gideon, with a much smaller body of men, had once defeated a much larger army than the Philistines had that day. Nor was it because God was not able to maintain the dignity of His own ark. For soon after this, without any army at all, He forced the Philistines to send back the ark — and so plagued them that they were only too, thankful to get rid of it. No; Israel reaped defeat that day because for years they had sown disobedience.
2. Hophni and Phinehas reaped a great harvest that day. Rapacious, licentious, blasphemous; they had profaned holy things, and that for many years current, so that at last they probably thought that God would not act, even if they forgot all decency, and rivalled the heathen in their sins. Because sentence against their evil work was not executed speedily, therefore their heart was fully set in them to do evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11). So far had they gone, that they in common with Israel forgot that the ark was only a symbol of the Divine presence, and that, if they so acted as to forfeit the real presence of God, no number of arks could save them. Such being the case, no wonder that their fate was what it was.
3. Eli reaped a sad harvest. His fate was by no means as dark as that of his two sons; for he was a godly man, though weak. His heart was right, after all, and he was more anxious for the welfare of the ark than for that of his wicked sons. Still, his fate was sad. Compare his end with that of Joshua, and you will realise what a vast difference there was between the two. One went out in a blaze of glory, while the other was darkened by an eclipse. His sowing in the education of his sons had been very faulty, and he had been duly warned, but in vain. As a result, he too had to reap a harvest of the same kind that he had sown. God's laws are ever the same. Men may think that He has changed, but He has not. Or they may think that He will make an exception in their case; but they are mistaken. God makes no exceptions. Sow to the flesh — reap corruption. Sow to the Spirit — reap everlasting life. This was the law then, and this is the law today.
(A. F. Schauffler, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.