1 Samuel 4
New English Translation
4 1 Samuel revealed the word of the Lord[a] to all Israel.
The Ark of the Covenant is Lost to the Philistines
Then the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines.[b] They camped at Ebenezer,[c] and the Philistines camped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines arranged their forces to fight[d] Israel. As the battle spread out,[e] Israel was defeated by[f] the Philistines, who[g] killed about 4,000 men in the battle line in the field.
3 When the army[h] came back to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why did the Lord let us be defeated today by[i] the Philistines? Let’s take with us the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. When it is with us, it will save us[j] from the hand of our enemies.”
4 So the army[k] sent to Shiloh, and they took from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who sits between the cherubim. Now the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord arrived at the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly[l] that the ground shook.
6 When the Philistines heard the sound of the shout, they said, “What is this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews?” Then they realized that the ark of the Lord had arrived at the camp. 7 The Philistines were scared because they thought that gods had come to the camp.[m] They said, “Woe to us! We’ve never seen anything like this! 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues in the desert! 9 Be strong and act like men, you Philistines, or else you will wind up serving the Hebrews the way they have served you! Act like men and fight!”
10 So the Philistines fought. Israel was defeated; they all ran home.[n] The slaughter was very great; 30,000 foot soldiers from Israel fell in battle. 11 The ark of God was taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were killed.
12 On that day[o] a Benjaminite ran from the battle lines and came to Shiloh. His clothes were torn, and dirt was on his head. 13 When he arrived in Shiloh, Eli was sitting in his chair on the lookout[p] by the side of[q] the road, for he was very worried[r] about the ark of God. As the man entered the city to give his report,[s] the whole city cried out.
14 When Eli heard the outcry,[t] he said, “What’s this commotion?”[u] The man quickly came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes looked straight ahead;[v] he was unable to see.
16 The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle lines! Just today I fled from the battle lines!” Eli[w] asked, “How did things go, my son?” 17 The messenger replied, “Israel has fled from[x] the Philistines! The army has suffered a great defeat! Your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead! The ark of God has been captured!”
19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and close to giving birth. When she heard that the ark of God was captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she doubled over and gave birth. But her labor pains were too much for her. 20 As she was dying, the women who were there with her said, “Don’t be afraid! You have given birth to a son!” But she did not reply or pay any attention.[aa]
21 She named the boy Ichabod,[ab] saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” referring to the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, because the ark of God has been captured.”
- 1 Samuel 4:1 tn Heb “and the word of Samuel was.” The present translation understands Samuel to be the speaker of the divine word (“Samuel” is a subjective genitive in this case), although the statement could mean that he was the recipient of the divine word (“Samuel” is an objective genitive in this case) who in turn reported it to Israel.
- 1 Samuel 4:1 tn Heb “and Israel went out to meet the Philistines for battle.”
- 1 Samuel 4:1 tn Heb “the stone, the help.” The second noun is in apposition to the first one and apparently is the name by which the stone was known. Contrast the expression used in 5:1 and 7:12, where the first word lacks the definite article, unlike 4:1.
- 1 Samuel 4:2 tn Heb “to meet.”
- 1 Samuel 4:2 tn The MT has וַתִּטֹּשׁ (vattittosh), from the root נָטַשׁ (natash). This verb normally means “to leave,” “to forsake,” or “to permit,” but such an idea does not fit this context very well. Many scholars have suspected that the text originally read either וַתֵּט (vattet, “and it spread out”), from the root נָטָה (natah), or וַתִּקֶשׁ (vattiqesh, “and it grew fierce”), from the root קָשַׂה (qasah). The former suggestion is apparently supported by the LXX ἔκλινεν (eklinen, “it inclined”) and is adopted in the translation.
- 1 Samuel 4:2 tn Heb “before.”
- 1 Samuel 4:2 tn Heb “the Philistines, and they killed.” The pronoun “they” has been translated as a relative pronoun (“who”) to make it clear to the English reader that the Philistines were the ones who did the killing.
- 1 Samuel 4:3 tn Or “people.”
- 1 Samuel 4:3 tn Heb “before.”
- 1 Samuel 4:3 tn Heb “and it will come in our midst and it will save.” After the cohortative (see “let’s take”), the prefixed verbal forms with the prefixed conjunction indicate purpose or result. The translation understands the ark to be the subject of the third masculine singular verbs, although it is possible to understand the Lord as the subject. In the latter case, one should translate, “when he is with us, he will save us.”
- 1 Samuel 4:4 tn Or “people.”
- 1 Samuel 4:5 tn Heb “shouted [with] a great shout.”
- 1 Samuel 4:7 tn The Hebrew text has a direct quote, “because they said, ‘Gods have come to the camp.’” Even though the verb translated “have come” is singular, the following subject should be taken as plural (“gods”), as v. 8 indicates. Some emend the verb to a plural form.
- 1 Samuel 4:10 tn Heb “and they fled, each to his tents.”
- 1 Samuel 4:12 tn Or perhaps, “the same day.” On this use of the demonstrative pronoun see Joüon 2:532 §143.f.
- 1 Samuel 4:13 tn The Qal of this verb, צָפָה (tsafah), means “to look.” (The more common word for “to see” is רָאָה, raʾah). Here the ptc. is Piel, which means “to be on the lookout for, look” (HALOT 1045 s.v. I צָפָה). Since we are told later that Eli could not see (which may mean that his eyesight was poor), the important part of using this verb is that Eli positioned himself to get the news as soon as it arrived.
- 1 Samuel 4:13 tc Read with many medieval Hebrew mss, the Qere, and much versional evidence יַד (yad, “hand”) rather than MT יַךְ (yakh).
- 1 Samuel 4:13 tn Heb “his heart was trembling.”
- 1 Samuel 4:13 tn Heb “and the man came to report in the city.”
- 1 Samuel 4:14 tn Heb “the sound of the cry.”
- 1 Samuel 4:14 tn Heb “the sound of this commotion.”
- 1 Samuel 4:15 tn Heb “were set” or “were fixed,” i.e., without vision.
- 1 Samuel 4:16 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Eli) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 4:17 tn Heb “before.”
- 1 Samuel 4:18 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Eli) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 1 Samuel 4:18 tn Heb “the man.”
- 1 Samuel 4:20 tn Heb “and she did not set her heart.”
- 1 Samuel 4:21 sn The name Ichabod (אִי־כָבוֹד) may mean, “Where is the glory?”