Understanding the Old Testament

Disaster at Ebenezer

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Palestine derives its name from the Philistines, who were from Caphtor (see Amos 9:7, Jeremiah 47:4, and Deuteronomy 2:23). Biblical scholars believe Caphtor refers to Crete, a large island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The Israelites had been battling the Philistines since the time of Samson. When Samuel was grown (1 Samuel 3:19-20) and Eli was 98 years old (1 Samuel 4:15), the Israelites fought the Philistines at Ebenezer. The Israelites lost the battle and 4,000 soldiers. (1 Samuel 4:2)

They decided that they needed Godís help to defeat the Philistines. So they went to Shiloh and retrieved the Ark of the Covenant, which they carried with them into battle. (1 Samuel 4:3-4)

They lost again, and this defeat was worse than before. 30,000 Israelites died, including Eliís two incorrigible sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and the Philistines captured the Ark. (1 Samuel 4:10-11)

A Benjamite carried word of the defeat back to Shilohóand Eli. When he learned that the Ark had been captured, Eli fell backward and broke his neck, which killed him. (1 Samuel 4:17-18) Thus ended Eliís judgeship over Israel after forty years.

But the tragedy for Eliís family was not over yet. Phinehasí wife went into labor when she heard the bad news about the defeat, the Ark, and the deaths of her husband and father-in-law. After giving birth to a boy named Ichabod, she too died. (1 Samuel 4:20)

Meanwhile, the Philistines carried the Ark back to Ashdod, one of the five major cities of the Philistines (the other four were Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekronósee 1 Samuel 6:17). There they set it in the temple of their god, Dagon. (1 Samuel 5:1-2)

Questions to ponder or discuss: The Israelites believed that having the symbol of Godís presence with them in battle would guarantee God's help, thus ensuring victory. What did they do wrong? What should they have done instead? Can we ever force God to do our bidding? Why or why not?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity


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Understanding the Old Testament


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