1 Samuel 4 The Message (MSG)
The Chest of God Is Taken
4 1-3 Whatever Samuel said was broadcast all through Israel. Israel went to war against the Philistines. Israel set up camp at Ebenezer, the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines marched out to meet Israel, the fighting spread, and Israel was badly beaten—about four thousand soldiers left dead on the field. When the troops returned to camp, Israel’s elders said, “Why has God given us such a beating today by the Philistines? Let’s go to Shiloh and get the Chest of God’s Covenant. It will accompany us and save us from the grip of our enemies.”
4 So the army sent orders to Shiloh. They brought the Chest of the Covenant of God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the Cherubim-Enthroned-God. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Chest of the Covenant of God.
5-6 When the Chest of the Covenant of God was brought into camp, everyone gave a huge cheer. The shouts were like thunderclaps shaking the very ground. The Philistines heard the shouting and wondered what on earth was going on: “What’s all this shouting among the Hebrews?”
6-9 Then they learned that the Chest of God had entered the Hebrew camp. The Philistines panicked: “Their gods have come to their camp! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We’re done for! Who can save us from the clutches of these supergods? These are the same gods who hit the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues out in the wilderness. On your feet, Philistines! Courage! We’re about to become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they have been slaves to us. Show what you’re made of! Fight for your lives!”
10-11 And did they ever fight! It turned into a rout. They thrashed Israel so mercilessly that the Israelite soldiers ran for their lives, leaving behind an incredible thirty thousand dead. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chest of God was taken and the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas—were killed.
Glory Is Exiled from Israel
12-16 Immediately, a Benjaminite raced from the front lines back to Shiloh. Shirt torn and face smeared with dirt, he entered the town. Eli was sitting on his stool beside the road keeping vigil, for he was extremely worried about the Chest of God. When the man ran straight into town to tell the bad news, everyone wept. They were appalled. Eli heard the loud wailing and asked, “Why this uproar?” The messenger hurried over and reported. Eli was ninety-eight years old then, and blind. The man said to Eli, “I’ve just come from the front, barely escaping with my life.”
“And so, my son,” said Eli, “what happened?”
17 The messenger answered, “Israel scattered before the Philistines. The defeat was catastrophic, with enormous losses. Your sons Hophni and Phinehas died, and the Chest of God was taken.”
18 At the words, “Chest of God,” Eli fell backward off his stool where he sat next to the gate. Eli was an old man, and very fat. When he fell, he broke his neck and died. He had led Israel forty years.
19-20 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and ready to deliver. When she heard that the Chest of God had been taken and that both her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went to her knees to give birth, going into hard labor. As she was about to die, her midwife said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she gave no sign that she had heard.
21-22 The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.”