The time of the judges were sort of like the dark ages in Europe.
Very few people followed God. Each person did whatever they wanted while ignoring God.
In this passage, Eli learns what happened, leading to his death.
Israel Loses the Ark and Eli Dies
Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes torn and dust on his head.
When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God.
So the man came to tell it in the city, and all the city cried out.
When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What does the noise of this commotion mean?”
Then the man came hurriedly and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see.
The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.”
And he said, “How did things go, my son?”
Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.”
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years.
Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her.
And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention.
And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.” ~ 1 Samuel 4:12-22 NASB
The End of the Judges
As we learned from the beginning, Eli was Israel’s high priest and judge. With his death, Israel is about to enter a new era.
Samuel also became a judge but his reign marked a transition for Israel.
This is the beginning of the move to a monarchical society.
The 100 Year Revival
After Eli’s death, Samuel began a great revival in Israel. This revival would last a century.
Although he was not eligible to become high priest, Samuel acted the part and took care of the priestly duties (sacrifices, etc.).
What about Ichabod?
The birth of Ichabod did not bring joy to his mother because of the tragedy of Israel — and of her family.
The child should have followed his father as a priest but his father was now dead. And, he was dead because he defiled the tabernacle.
So, Israel was left without a real priest and Samuel stepped up. God is still working through these tragedies.
Joy – Even in Good Times?
This lesson wanders a bit I know. But, there is something we can learn from these verses.
First, even the joy of having a child had no meaning for his mother. Instead, she experienced the terror of God abandoning His people of Israel.
For us, sin can take away the joy God promises us. In fact, pleasure seems empty during the good times when we let our human frailness rule our lives.
Let’s keep God first in our lives — and receive the joy Christ gives.
If you would like to discover how to receive the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to see John 3:16 here.