Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 4-8

1 Samuel 4 – Disaster: The Ark of the LORD is Lost

Fulfilling prophecy (1 Samuel 2:34), tragedy struck the household of Eli and all of Israel as the LORD had promised. Routed in battle by the Philistines, the men of Israel set their hearts to parade the sacred “ark of the covenant of the LORD” onto the battlefield where it and the battle were lost (4:1-11). Receiving the news that his sons were slain and the ark was lost, Eli fell from where he was sitting, breaking his neck, and died (4:12-18).

When the wife of Phinehas, Eli’s daughter-in-law, learned her husband was dead and the ark was lost, she went into labor and with her dying breath named her son “Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel” (4:21-22).

1 Samuel 5 – Dagon, the Fish God and the Ark of God

Israel had lost the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s heavenly throne and His presence in Israel. The nation had gone to war without seeking God’s blessing, and the victorious Philistines had taken the Ark and demeaned it as nothing more than a trophy of war displayed and mocked in the temple of Dagon, their fish god (5:1-5).

The Philistines learned Dagon was a powerless, lifeless idol in the presence of the Ark of God. Wherever the Ark was displayed, the Philistines suffered “emerods,” meaning plagues, boils, and physical devastation. Fearing the Ark and the judgment of Israel’s God, the Philistines determined to send it back to Israel (5:11-12).

1 Samuel 6 – The Ark Returned to Israel

Fearing the Ark and the wrath of God, the Philistines constructed a new cart to return it to Israel (6:1-7) and directed the casting of gold images like the “emerods” (boils) and “mice” that had plagued the land (6:4-5).

Not absolutely convinced all that had befallen them was because of the Ark’s presence, it was decided to have a new cart constructed that would be drawn by two milk cows, separated from their calves. Knowing the cow’s instinct would be to go to their calves, it was believed if Israel’s God was the cause of their troubles, He would guide the cart bearing the Ark home to Israel (6:7-12).

When the Ark arrived in Israel, the people of Bethshemesh celebrated its return and, cutting up the cart for its wood, sacrificed the cows in celebration (6:13-14).

Celebration Turned to Sorrow (6:19-20)

In their excitement for the Ark’s return, the citizens of Bethshemesh violated its holiness (6:19). Rather than covering the Ark with its two cherubims on top of the Mercy Seat that represented God’s throne, they treated it as an object of curiosity,“looked into the ark of the LORD,” and were slain (6:20).

1 Samuel 7 – Samuel, the Righteous Judge of Israel

Remembering the high priest Eli and his sons were dead, the people placed the Ark in the home of Abinadab (most likely a Levite) and charged his son Eleazar with the care of the Ark (7:1). Nearly a century would pass before the Ark was removed from Kirjathjearim and brought to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

God honored Samuel’s rule as judge of Israel and gave the nation peace from war with the Philistines throughout his reign (7:3-17).

1 Samuel 8 – Israel Demands a King

When Samuel was old his sons were made judges; however, they did not walk in the righteous ways of their father (8:1-3a).  We read, they “turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (8:3).

The failure of Samuel’s sons to rule righteously gave cause for the people to request a king to rule in Israel (8:5-6). Their demand sorrowed Samuel; however, the LORD assured him “they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee” (8:8).

Because Israel rejected God’s benevolent rule, the LORD commanded Samuel to warn the people they would pay a heavy price for rejecting Him and choosing a king (8:9).

Their sons would be drafted, and their daughters would become household servants (8:10-13). The king would tax their crops and herds and take away their servants (8:14-17). When they would complain the burdens placed on them by the king were unjust, the LORD promised He would not hear they cries (8:18).

Nevertheless, the people demanded a king, and the “the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king” (8:22).

As we will see, the people’s demand to have a king and be like all the other nations (8:5) would be a request they would regret.

Lesson: Be Careful What You Ask For…You May Get It!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith