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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 4

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-22

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines. Death of Eli

The reason which led to 1 Samuel 4:1; being detached from its proper context is that without it this chapter seems to begin with inexplicable abruptness. The explanation of this lack of connexion is that the editor is now using a different document. This section is in no sense a continuation of the preceding. It does not proceed with the history of Samuel, whose name does not even occur in it, but relates the journeyings of the ark. Alike in style and in conception it is totally distinct from the section which precedes and the section which follows it. In many respects it resembles the history of Samson more closely than any other part of OT.

1. The Philistines] see on Judges 3:3. Ebenezer] ’stone of help.’ The place is called by the name familiar to the readers of the book, though it did not actually receive the name till later (1 Samuel 7:12). The positions of Eben-ezer and Aphek have not been determined with certainty.

3. The ark of the covenant] so called because it was a sign and proof both of God’s covenant and of His presence.

4. RV ’which sitteth upon the cherubim.’ This does not imply that there were figures of cherubim upon the ark (1 Kings 8:6), but refers to the general glory of Jehovah. The cherubs are heavenly beings regarded as standing in Jehovah’s presence (cp. the seraphim of Isaiah 6), and, in Ezekiel 1, 10, as of composite form. Cp. also Psalms 18:10. In Solomon’s temple two winged cherubs stood in the most holy place (1 Kings 6:24).

The two sons of Eli] This notice is intended to remind us why the arrival of the ark produced no result.

6. Hebrews] This is the general name for Israelites when foreigners are the speakers (Genesis 39:14).

8. The Philistines are not quite accurate in their history, but the mistake is not at all unnatural.

15. Ninety and eight] This number is interesting as showing how mistakes arise. In the original it was denoted by two letters.

The LXX, losing sight of one, reads 90. The Syriac, confusing 9 with 7, reads 78. The Hebrew explains the cause of the other two readings.

19f. The narrative is somewhat obscure. Apparently Phinehas’ wife dies in giving birth to her child; before her death, she cries out ’I-chabod,’ which is thus given as the child’s name. 1 Samuel 4:22 simply repeats 1 Samuel 4:21.

21. I-chabod] ’no glory.’ The glory was that of the presence of God, the visible sign and symbol of which was the ark.

22. Departed] lit. ’gone into exile.’ The ark had gone into a foreign land.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 4". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/1-samuel-4.html. 1909.
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