Wednesday, June 1, 2011

1 Samuel 4:1-11

1 And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.

The Philistines Capture the Ark
Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. 3 When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

4 So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5 When the ark of the LORD’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. 6 Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “We’re in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”

10 So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Questions to consider:

  • Why do you think the first part of verse 1 is important?
  • Why do the soldiers think that the ark will help them be victorious in battle?
  • Why were the Philistines afraid when they heard about the ark?
  • Did the ark prevent the Israelites from being defeated?
  • Why is important to note that Eli's sons died in the battle?

Possibilities for prayer:

It's interesting to me that instead of going before God and asking him for help in the battle that was being fought, the soldiers decide that what they need is the ark of the covenant to be with them in battle, as a sort of good luck charm. I can't help but wonder if the outcome would have been different if the soldiers had instead gone to the temple and sought out God himself rather than a physical representation of his presence.

This seems like it could be relevant for us today as well. When things aren't going as we think they should, wondering about the reasons to no one in particular or just assuming that everything will work out because "God is on our side" seem like a less helpful ways to handle the situation than talking to God about it. Let's try this week to be intentional about having conversations with God regarding the situations in our lives, good and bad, instead of trying to rationalize things on our own. And remember, conversations are two-sided, so give God an opportunity to speak back to you. :)