1 Samuel 4:12-22 – Eli Breathes His Last

Read 1 Samuel 4:12-22

graphic design with an open door and the words, "the will of God"

Our last reading told of the massacre of Israelite soldiers and the loss of the ark. Today it is reported to Eli and others. The outcome is not explained in great detail but left to speak for itself. We see how two people responded to this news, yet we must not forget the Israelite people as a whole have also been dealt a severe blow.

God had shared a portion of what took place that day with Samuel before it happened. Eli had been prepared for what to expect only because he had pulled the truth out of Samuel. Didn’t it seem as if Eli was more moved by the loss of the ark than in losing his sons?

Eli was likely consumed with the belief that God had left the Israelites to fend for themselves. What would happen to the people Eli had cared for over the past 40 years? It was more than he could bear, and he fell to his death.

The unnamed wife of Phineas soon heard the news and went into labor. She realized her pampered life would never be the same. We hear she died in childbirth but was able to name her son before she died. His name was Icabod which means, “Where is the glory?” In her final moments, I can’t even imagine what she must have been thinking. I wonder what became of Icabod? We’ll have to wait and see.

When she said, “Israel’s glory is gone,” what did she mean by glory? Did she realize in that moment the significance of losing the ark to the enemy? Did she lose her own will to live because of her own fear of what it would be to live without God’s protection?

We don’t hear from Samuel here. If we did, I can imagine he would be trying to comfort the people. He had inside information from God himself that Eli and family would die from less than normal circumstances. Because we have that same information, we know God is still at work.

What will God do next? Was his identity contained in the ark as the people believe? If so, that would suggest that he now “belongs” to the Philistines. Of course, God doesn’t belong to anyone. We are the ones blessed to belong to God. But in this time and place, the people didn’t understand God the way we do. For now, it appeared God was gone from Israel. Why else would they have lost?

Another unspoken situation is what is happening in the Philistine camp. They now have the ark. Our story will continue to unfold over the next few readings. From the Philistine’s perspective, they now have control of Israel’s God. They understand even less than the Israelites how God works in and for his people.

How about us? Do we misunderstand God and his intentions for our lives? Do we need to gain some clarity into the direction God is leading in our world today? Are we limiting God or trying to put him into a box because of our inadequate understanding? Take some time to wrestle with these questions today.

praying hands looking up

Let’s pray …
Lord, forgive me when I try to limit you and your majesty. Cleanse my heart and mind from the filth of this world that tries to confuse and distract me. May I keep my eyes focused on you and what you have for me to accomplish. May I be listening and ready to move. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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