Death of Eli
12 That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13 When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.
14 Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”
The man hurried over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes were set so that he could not see. 16 He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.”
Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”
17 The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”
18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years.
19 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. 20 As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention.
21 She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”-because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
PP: I am still in the process of deciding what book to cover next – in the meantime, a few devotionals from random parts of the Bible!
Heat of the Moment
We briefly skip the book of Judges and go to 1 Samuel, and here we read about one of the lowest points of Israel’s history to that point – the capture of the Ark. 30,000 Israelites are killed, and the sons of the high priest die in battle. The news travels back to their father, who also drops dead from shock and grief. And then we encounter his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife. Because of all the turmoil around her, she goes into premature labor. The midwives encourage her, telling her to take heart because she has born a son, but to no avail. She is so overwhelmed by the news she has heard, that she curses the son with the name Ichabod (no glory), and dies in desperation.
But the saddest part of this account is that if you look in the next few chapters of the book of 1 Samuel, you read that the ark of the Lord is returned to Israelites only seven months later, accompanied by a guilt offering from the Philistines. Only seven months…Phinehas’ wife could not keep the larger, longer work of God in her mind and heart, and let the pain of the immediate situation dictate her actions. And because of this, she lost out on so very much…
Believe it or not, we are so similar in so many ways – we allow emotion and our immediate circumstances and desperation dictate the course of our lives, giving up all hope and turning from God’s way when any sort of setback occurs. We see no end in sight, and so we abandon our course, either trying our own way again or just giving up altogether. And when we do this, like Phinehas’ wife, we miss out on God’s bigger plan for salvation.
There are few warnings and encouragements we take away from this: first, to always remember that God’s plan has length and breadth to it, that he has a longer plan for things than we are used to. Second, to not allow raw emotion and desperation to control our actions, and rob us of the salvation God has planned for us. And third…never give up. Things may seem bleak, you may even find yourself in the worst situation of your entire life (as Israel did in this passage)…but don’t give up. Hold on for your “7 months”, place your faith in God’s plan and salvation, and he won’t fail you. From very personal experience – he won’t fail you.
1. Do you remember a time where emotion or desperation dictated your course of action? What were the consequences of your choice?
2. In that situation where you just gave up, it actually may not be too late to get back on course and see it through – is there a way you can return and try to faithfully stick with it?
3. Has there ever been a time where you stuck things out longer than you thought you could, and you got to experience something very positive consequently?
4. Is there a situation in your life right now where you would like to just give up? What do you think God wants to show you through this situation?