Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: 1 Samuel
Book: 1 Samuel
Chapter: 4

The Israelites overcome By the Philistines. (1-9) The Ark
taken. (10,11) The Death of Eli. (12-18) The Birth of Ichabod.

1-9 Israel is smitten before the Philistines. Sin, the accursed
thing, was in the Camp, and gave their enemies all the advantage
they could wish for. They own the Hand of God in their trouble;
but, instead of submitting, they speak angrily, as not aware of
any just provocation they had given him. The foolishness of Man
perverts his way, and then his Heart frets against the Lord, Pr
19:3, and finds fault with him. They supposed that they could
oblige God to appear for them, By bringing the Ark into their
Camp. Those who have gone back in the Life of religion,
sometimes discover great fondness for the outward observances of
it, as if those would save them; and as if the Ark, God's
Throne, in the Camp, would bring them to Heaven, though the
world and the Flesh are On the Throne in the Heart.

10,11 The taking of the Ark was a great Judgment upon Israel,
and a certain token of God's displeasure. Let none think to
shelter themselves from the wrath of God, under the Cloak of
outward profession.

12-18 The defeat of the Army was very grievous to Eli as a
Judge; the tidings of the Death of his two sons, to whom he had
been So indulgent, and who, as he had reason to fear, died
impenitent, touched him as a Father; yet there was a greater
concern On his Spirit. And when the Messenger concluded his
story with, "The Ark of God is taken," he is struck to the
Heart, and died immediately. A Man may die miserably, yet not
die eternally; may come to an untimely End, yet the End be

19-22 The Wife of Phinehas seems to have been a person of
Piety. Her dying regret was for the loss of the Ark, and the
departure of the Glory from Israel. What is any earthly joy to
her that feels herself dying? No joy but that which is spiritual
and divine, will stand in any stead then; Death is too serious a
thing to admit the relish of any earthly joy. What is it to one
that is lamenting the loss of the Ark? What pleasure can we take
in our Creature comforts and enjoyments, if we want God's Word
and ordinances; especially if we want the comfort of his
gracious presence, and the Light of his countenance? If God go,
the Glory goes, and all good goes. Woe unto us if he depart! But
though the Glory is withdrawn from one sinful nation, City, or
village after another, yet it shall never depart altogether, but
shines forth in one place when eclipsed in another.