The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”
So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
This is not what we expected to hear in this story, is it? The Israelites were defeated by the Philistines in the first battle. They questioned God how this could have happened. So they sent for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought to the battlefield. The Ark arrived and they were excited to have God’s presence among them. However, they lost the next battle as well.
The Ark was captured by the Philistines and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were killed.
How could God let them be defeated?
One thing that came to mind was that Hophni and Phinehas were not righteous men. They used their position for their own benefit. Sometimes we use God for our own benefit even when we are not faithful.
Maybe God needed to teach the Israelites a lesson…
Maybe God was looking for more faithfulness, not just to be used to win a war like a good luck charm…
What is God trying to teach me in this story?