I Samuel 4
A Soldier from the Tribe of Benjamin"s Journal
The Israelites armed ourselves to battle the Philistines again. We camped near Ebenezer and to the west, not far from the sea. The Philistines camped in Aphek.
Since we were on higher ground we could see their army. Their strong army.
The Philistines showed no fear for the battle. They did not run around as if afraid. Instead they followed typical army procedures by putting themselves in battle array. I must admit, I didn't know how we could defeat them.
The signal sounded to battle. Our men fought as best they could against the mighty Philistines. I did not sense God's presence with our army. We made mistakes, stepped left when we should have stepped right. At the end of the day, the Philistines soundly defeated us. We lost four thousand men in the field.
Those who survived returned to the camp to report our loses to the Israelite elders. The elders shook their heads. "I don't understand," said one. "Why has the Lord defeated us before the Philistines, the people he told us to conquer?"
Another one said, "We need to brig the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh here. Maybe then the very presence of the covenant of the Lord will save us from the hand of our enemies."
The others agreed. They sent a group of men to Shiloh to bring the ark. When they returned, Hophni and Phinehas, sons of the high priest, Eli also escorted the ark. Seeing the ark approach our camp made all the men cheer. We shouted, we cheered loud and strong, for with the ark of the covenant of the Lord present we would surely win.
The Philistines stood together and looked our way. Yes. Now they would be afraid, as they should. They ran around their camp bumping into each other until someone called them together, probably their captain. He raised his arm and then pointed to our army. He probably gave them the "come on we can do it" speech. Hah. It won't work this time! This time you will be our servants.
The battle resumed a little later. Once again, we couldn't fight as we had been trained. In my heart, I could not feel God's presence with our army. The Philistines fought with strength and great power killings thirty thousand foot soldiers. They pressed forward into the camp and captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord.
My heart pounded into my head. I could hardly speak. The wicked Philistines captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord and killed Hophni and Phinehas. The elders sent me back to tell Eli, the high priest to report the sad news..
I found Eli sitting on a seat watching for a report. He couldn't see well since he was ninety eight years old. As I walked near him he eyes were wide and his hands trembled. "Tell me," his voice trembled. "Tell me why the city cries out with sorrow."
I bowed before him. "I came from the battlefield, fleeing the battle line as many others."
He reached his hand out and placed it on my head. "Tell me what has happened."
I sighed. "Israel has fled before the Philistines, and many of our men have been killed including your two sons Hophni and Phinehas...and the ark of God has been captured."
When I said the ark had been captured, Eli went wide and fell backwards off the seat and broke his neck. He died right away.
1. Who did the Israelites go to battle against
2. Why were they afraid of the Philistines?
3. After the first defeat what did the Israelites do?
4. Who came with the ark to the battlefield?
5. What did the Israelite soldiers do when they saw the ark?
6. What did the Philistines do when they heard shouting?
7. What happened at the second battle?
8. What did Eli do when he heard the news about the ark of the covenant?
In the last story, God spoke to young Samuel. In the message He said He would punish the house of Eli. Why did God punish them?