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Then Samuel would announce the Lord’s message to all the people of Israel. When Eli was very old, his sons lived more and more in a way the Lord considered evil.[a]

The Philistines Defeat the Israelites

At that time the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites made their camp at Ebenezer. The Philistines made their camp at Aphek. The Philistines lined up their soldiers in front of the Israelites and began the attack.

The Philistines defeated the Israelites. They killed about 4000 soldiers from Israel’s army. The rest of the Israelite soldiers went back to their camp. The elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord let the Philistines defeat us? Let’s bring the Lord’s Box of the Agreement from Shiloh. God will go with us into battle and save us from our enemies.”

So the people sent men to Shiloh. The men brought back the Lord All-Powerful’s Box of the Agreement. On top of the Box are the Cherub angels. They are like a throne where the Lord sits. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the Box.

When the Lord’s Box of the Agreement came into the camp, all the Israelites gave a great shout loud enough to make the ground shake. The Philistines heard Israel’s shout and asked, “Why are the people so excited in the Hebrew[b] camp?”

Then the Philistines learned that the Lord’s Holy Box had been brought into Israel’s camp. They became afraid and said, “Gods have come to their camp! We’re in trouble. This has never happened before. We are worried. Who can save us from these powerful gods? These gods are the same ones that gave the Egyptians those diseases and terrible sicknesses. Be brave, Philistines. Fight like men. In the past they were our slaves, so fight like men or you will become their slaves.”

10 So the Philistines fought very hard and defeated the Israelites. The Israelite soldiers ran away and went home. It was a terrible defeat for Israel. 30,000 Israelite soldiers were killed. 11 The Philistines took God’s Holy Box and killed Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

12 One of the men who ran from the battle was a man from the tribe of Benjamin. He tore his clothes and put dust on his head to show his great sadness. 13 Eli was worried about the Holy Box, so he was sitting there by the city gate waiting and watching when the Benjamite man came into Shiloh and told the bad news. All the people in town began to cry loudly. 14-15 Eli was 98 years old. He was blind, so he could not see what was happening, but he could hear the loud noise of the people crying. Eli asked, “Why are the people making this loud noise?”

The Benjamite man ran to Eli and told him what happened. 16 He said, “I am the man who just came from the battle. I ran away from the battle today.”

Eli asked, “What happened, son?”

17 The Benjamite man answered, “Israel ran away from the Philistines. The Israelite army has lost many soldiers. Your two sons are both dead, and the Philistines took God’s Holy Box.”

18 When the Benjamite man mentioned God’s Holy Box, Eli fell backward off his chair near the gate and broke his neck. Eli was old and fat, so he died. He had led Israel for 20 years.[c]

The Glory Is Gone

19 Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant. It was nearly time for her baby to be born. She heard the news that God’s Holy Box was taken. She also heard that her father-in-law Eli and her husband Phinehas were both dead. As soon as she heard the news, her pain started and she began giving birth to her baby. 20 She was about to die when the women who were helping her said, “Don’t worry, you have given birth to a son.”

But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 She named the baby Ichabod,[d] that is to say, “Israel’s glory has been taken away.”[e] She did this because God’s Holy Box was taken away and because both her father-in-law and her husband were dead. 22 She said, “Israel’s glory has been taken away” because the Philistines had taken God’s Holy Box.

The Holy Box Troubles the Philistines

The Philistines carried God’s Holy Box, from Ebenezer to Ashdod. They carried God’s Holy Box into the temple of Dagon and put it next to the statue of Dagon. The next morning, the people of Ashdod got up and found Dagon lying face down on the ground before the Lord’s Box.

The people of Ashdod put the statue of Dagon back in its place. But the next morning when the people of Ashdod got up, they found Dagon on the ground again. Dagon had fallen down before the Lord’s Holy Box. This time, Dagon’s head and hands were broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only his body was still in one piece. That is why, even today, the priests or other people refuse to step on the threshold when they enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod.

The Lord made life hard for the people of Ashdod and their neighbors. He gave them many troubles and caused them to get tumors. He also sent mice to them. The mice ran all over their ships and then onto their land. The people in the city were very afraid.[f] They saw what was happening and said, “The Holy Box of the God of Israel can’t stay here. God is punishing us and Dagon our god.”

The people of Ashdod called the five Philistine rulers together and asked them, “What must we do with the Holy Box of the God of Israel?”

The rulers answered, “Move the Holy Box of the God of Israel to Gath.” So the Philistines moved God’s Holy Box.

But after the Philistines had moved God’s Holy Box to Gath, the Lord punished that city. The people became very frightened. God caused many troubles for all the people—young and old. He caused the people in Gath to have tumors. 10 So the Philistines sent God’s Holy Box to Ekron.

But when God’s Holy Box came into Ekron, the people of Ekron complained. They said, “Why are you bringing the Box of the God of Israel to our city Ekron? Do you want to kill us and our people?” 11 The people of Ekron called all the Philistine rulers together and said to the rulers, “Send the Box of the God of Israel back home before it kills us and our people!”

The people of Ekron were deathly afraid because God severely punished them there. 12 Many people died, and those who did not, had tumors. The people of Ekron cried loudly to heaven.

God’s Holy Box Is Sent Back Home

The Philistines kept the Lord’s Holy Box in their land for seven months. The Philistines called their priests and magicians and said, “What must we do with the Lord’s Box? Tell us how to send it back home.”

The priests and magicians answered, “If you send back the Holy Box of the God of Israel, don’t send it away empty. You must offer gifts to the God of Israel. Then you will be healed. You must do this so that God will stop punishing you.”[g]

The Philistines asked, “What kind of gifts should we send for Israel’s God to forgive us?”

The priests and magicians answered, “There are five Philistine leaders, one leader for each city. All of you and your leaders had the same problems. So you must make five gold models to look like five tumors. And you must make five gold models to look like five mice. So make models of the tumors and models of the mice that are ruining the country. Give these gold models to the God of Israel as payment. Then maybe the God of Israel will stop punishing you, your gods, and your land. Don’t be stubborn like Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God punished the Egyptians. That is why the Egyptians let the Israelites leave Egypt.

“You must build a new wagon and get two cows that have just had calves. These must be cows that have never worked in the fields. Tie the cows to the wagon so that they can pull it. Then take the calves back home and put them in their pen. Don’t let them follow their mothers.[h] Put the Lord’s Holy Box on the wagon. You must put the golden models in the bag beside the Box. They are your gifts for God to forgive your sins. Send the wagon straight on its way. Watch the wagon. If the wagon goes toward Beth Shemesh in Israel’s own land, then it is their God who has given us this great sickness. But if the cows don’t go straight to Beth Shemesh, we will know it was not their God who brought this sickness to us. It was just one of those things that sometimes happen.”

10 The Philistines did what the priests and magicians said. They found two cows that had just had calves and tied them to the wagon. But they kept the calves at home in a pen. 11 Then the Philistines put the Lord’s Holy Box on the wagon along with the bag with the golden models of the tumors and mice. 12 The cows went straight to Beth Shemesh. The cows stayed on the road, mooing all the way. They did not turn right or left. The Philistine rulers followed the cows as far as the city limits of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. They looked up and saw the Holy Box. They were very happy to see it again. They ran to get it. 14-15 The wagon came to the field that belonged to Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped there near a large rock.

Some Levites took down the Lord’s Holy Box and the bag that had the golden models. The Levites put the Lord’s Box and the bag that was with it on the large rock.

The people of Beth Shemesh cut up the wagon and killed the cows. That day, they sacrificed the cows as burnt offerings to the Lord.

16 The five Philistine rulers watched the people of Beth Shemesh do this and then went back to Ekron that same day.

17 In this way the Philistines sent golden models of tumors as gifts for their sins to the Lord. They sent one golden model of a tumor for each of the Philistine towns of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The Philistines also sent golden models of mice. The number of these golden mice was the same number as the towns that belonged to the five Philistine rulers. These towns had walls around them, and each town had villages around it.

The people of Beth Shemesh put the Lord’s Holy Box on a rock. That rock is still in the field of Joshua from Beth Shemesh. 19 But no priests[i] were there to lead the celebration[j] when the men of Beth Shemesh saw the Lord’s Holy Box. So the Lord killed 70 men[k] from Beth Shemesh. The people of Beth Shemesh cried loudly because of this hard punishment. 20 They said, “Where is a priest who can care for the Holy Box? Where should the Box go from here?”

21 There was a priest at Kiriath Jearim. The people of Beth Shemesh sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim. The messengers said, “The Philistines have brought back the Lord’s Holy Box. Come down and take it to your city.”

The men of Kiriath Jearim came and took the Lord’s Holy Box up the hill to the house of Abinadab the priest. They performed a special ceremony to prepare Abinadab’s son, Eleazar, to guard the Lord’s Holy Box. The Box stayed there at Kiriath Jearim for a long time.

The Lord Saves the Israelites

Twenty years passed while the Holy Box was in Kiriath Jearim, and the Israelites began to follow the Lord again. Samuel told the Israelites, “If you are really coming back to the Lord with all your heart, you must throw away your foreign gods and your idols of Ashtoreth. You must give yourselves fully to the Lord and serve only him. Then he will save you from the Philistines.”

So the Israelites threw away their statues of Baal and Ashtoreth. The Israelites served only the Lord.

Samuel said, “All Israel must meet at Mizpah. I will pray to the Lord for you.”

The Israelites met together at Mizpah. They got water and poured it out before the Lord. In this way they began a time of fasting. They did not eat any food that day, and they confessed their sins. They said, “We have sinned against the Lord.” So Samuel served as a judge of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that the Israelites were meeting at Mizpah, they went to fight them. The Israelites were frightened when they heard the Philistines were coming and said to Samuel, “Don’t stop praying to the Lord our God for us. Ask him to save us from the Philistines.”

Samuel took a baby lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He prayed to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered his prayer. 10 The Philistines came closer and closer to fight the Israelites while Samuel offered the sacrifice. But then, the Lord caused a loud clap of thunder to hit near the Philistines. The thunder scared the Philistines, and they became confused, so the Israelites defeated them in battle. 11 The men of Israel ran out of Mizpah and chased the Philistines all the way to Beth Car. They killed Philistine soldiers all along the way.

Peace Comes to Israel

12 After this Samuel set up a special stone to help people remember what God did. Samuel put the stone between Mizpah and Shen[l] and named the stone “Stone of Help.”[m] Samuel said, “The Lord helped us all the way to this place.”

13 The Philistines were defeated and did not enter the land of Israel again. The Lord was against the Philistines during the rest of Samuel’s life. 14 The Philistines had taken some cities from Israel, but the Israelites won them back. They recovered those cities throughout the Philistine area, from Ekron to Gath.

There was also peace between Israel and the Amorites.

15 Samuel led Israel all his life. 16 He went from place to place judging the Israelites. Every year he traveled around the country. He went to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah and he judged the Israelites in all these places. 17 But Samuel always went back to his home in Ramah. There he built an altar to the Lord and judged Israel.

Israel Asks for a King

When Samuel was old, he appointed his sons to be judges for Israel. Samuel’s first son was named Joel. His second son was named Abijah. Joel and Abijah were judges in Beersheba. But Samuel’s sons did not live the same way he did. Joel and Abijah accepted bribes. They took money secretly and changed their decisions in court. They cheated people in court. So all the elders of Israel met together and went to Ramah to meet with Samuel. The elders said to Samuel, “You’re old, and your sons don’t live right. They are not like you. Now, give us a king to rule us like all the other nations.”

So the elders asked for a king to lead them. Samuel thought this was a bad idea, so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told Samuel, “Do what the people tell you. They have not rejected you. They have rejected me. They don’t want me to be their king. They are doing the same thing they have always done. I took them out of Egypt, but they left me and served other gods. They are doing the same to you. So listen to the people and do what they say. But give them a warning. Tell the people what a king will do to them. Tell them how a king rules people.”

10 Those people asked for a king. So Samuel told them everything the Lord said. 11 Samuel said, “If you have a king ruling over you, this is what he will do: He will take away your sons and force them to serve him. He will force them to be soldiers—they must fight from his chariots and become horse soldiers in his army. Your sons will become guards running in front of the king’s chariot.

12 “A king will force your sons to become soldiers. He will choose which of your sons will be officers over 1000 men and which will be officers over 50 men.

“A king will force some of your sons to plow his fields and gather his harvest. He will force some of your sons to make weapons for war and to make things for his chariots.

13 “A king will take your daughters and force some of them to make perfume for him and some to cook and bake for him.

14 “A king will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves. He will take them from you and give them to his officers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and grapes, and he will give them to his officers and servants.

16 “A king will take your men and women servants. He will take your best cattle[n] and your donkeys. He will use them all for his own work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks.

“And you yourselves will become slaves of this king. 18 When that time comes, you will cry because of the king you chose. But the Lord won’t answer you at that time.”

19 But the people would not listen to Samuel. They said, “No, we want a king to rule over us. 20 Then we will be the same as all the other nations. Our king will lead us. He will go before us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to the people and then repeated their words to the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel told the Israelites, “You will have a king. Now go home.”


  1. 1 Samuel 4:1 When Eli … evil The ancient Greek version has these words at the end of chapter 3.
  2. 1 Samuel 4:6 Hebrew Or “Israelite.”
  3. 1 Samuel 4:18 20 years This is found in the ancient Greek version and Josephus. The standard Hebrew text has “40 years.”
  4. 1 Samuel 4:21 Ichabod This name means “No glory.” The Greek has “Ouai Barchaboth.”
  5. 1 Samuel 4:21 that is … taken away This is not in the ancient Greek version.
  6. 1 Samuel 5:6 He also sent … afraid This is from the ancient Greek version.
  7. 1 Samuel 6:3 You must do … punishing you This is found in the ancient Greek version and a Hebrew scroll from Qumran. The standard Hebrew text has “Then you will know why God did not stop punishing you.”
  8. 1 Samuel 6:7 Don’t let … mothers The Philistines thought if the cows did not try to find their calves it would prove that God was leading them and that he had accepted their gifts.
  9. 1 Samuel 6:19 no priests Only priests were allowed to carry the Box of the Agreement.
  10. 1 Samuel 6:19 But no … celebration This is based on the ancient Greek version and Josephus.
  11. 1 Samuel 6:19 This is found in a few Hebrew copies. Most Hebrew copies and the ancient versions have “70 men, 50,000 men.”
  12. 1 Samuel 7:12 Shen Or “Jeshanah,” a town about 17 miles north of Jerusalem.
  13. 1 Samuel 7:12 Stone of Help Or “Ebenezer.”
  14. 1 Samuel 8:16 cattle This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “young men.”

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