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Some attach the opening words to the close of 1 Samuel 3:0, as the complement of what is there said, “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel ... in Shiloh, and the word of Samuel went forth to all Israel.” If placed at the commencement of 1 Samuel 4:0, and in connection with what follows, they are to be understood in the sense that Samuel called all Israel to battle against the Philistines. (Compare 1 Samuel 7:5.) But this is not the natural interpretation of the words, which seem clearly to belong to what went before.
The mention of the Philistines connects the narrative with Judg. 13–16. Since the Philistine servitude lasted forty years Judges 13:1, and seems to have terminated in the days of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:13-14 in about the 20th year of his judgeship 1 Samuel 7:2; and since it had already begun before the birth of Samson Judges 13:5, and Samson judged Israel for 20 years “in the days of the Philistines” Judges 15:20, it seems to follow that the latter part of the judgeship of Eli and the early part of that of Samuel must have been coincident with the lifetime of Samson.
Eben-ezer - (or, the stone of help) The place was afterward so named by Samuel. See the marginal references. “Aphek,” or the “fortress,” was probably the same as the “Aphek” of Joshua 12:18. It would be toward the western frontier of Judah, not very far from Mizpeh of Benjamin, and near Shiloh 1 Samuel 4:4.
In the evening of the defeat of the Israelites the elders held a council, and resolved to send for the ark, which is described in full, as implying that in virtue of the covenant God could not but give them the victory (compare Numbers 10:35; Joshua 3:10).
The people sent - The expression is very indicative of the political state so frequently noted by the writer of the Book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel.”
Of the Hebrews - This was the name by which the Israelites were known to foreign nations (compare Exodus 1:15; Exodus 2:6).
This is a remarkable testimony on the part of the Philistines to the truth of the events which are recorded in the Pentateuch. The Philistines would of course hear of them, just as Balak and the people of Jericho did Numbers 22:5; Joshua 2:10.
With all the plagues ... - Rather, “with every kind of plague” equivalent to “with utter destruction.
Runners who were swift of foot, and could go long distances were important and well-known persons (compare 2 Samuel 18:19-31). There seem to have been always professional runners to act as messengers with armies in the field (2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:6,2 Kings 11:19, the King James Version “guards”).
Earth upon his head - In token of bitter grief. Compare the marginal references.
Dim - Rather, “set.” The word is quite different from that so rendered in 1 Samuel 3:2. The phrase seems to express the “fixed” state of the blind eye, which is not affected by the light. Eli’s blindness, while it made him alive to sounds, prevented his seeing the ripped garments and dust-besprinkled head of the messenger of bad news.
A comparison of 2 Samuel 18:4, explains exactly the meaning of the “side of the gate,” and Eli’s position. His seat or throne, without a back, stood with the side against the jamb of the gate, leaving the passage through the gate quite clear, but placed so that every one passing through the gate must pass in front of him.
Forty years - This chronological note connects this book with that of Judges. (Compare Judges 3:11, etc.) It is an interesting question, but one very difficult to answer how near to the death of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the High Priest, Eli’s forty years of judgeship bring him. It is probable that at least one high priesthood intervened.
Is departed - Properly, “Is gone into captivity.”
The lesson of the ruin brought upon Churches by the covetousness and profligacy of their priests, which is here taught us so forcibly, and which has been again and again illustrated in Jews and Christians, is too solemn and important to be overlooked. When the glory of holiness departs from what should be a holy community, the glory of God’s presence has already departed, and the outward tokens of His protection may be expected to depart soon likewise. (Compare Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23; Revelation 2:5.) But though particular congregations may fall, our Lord’s promise will never fail his people Matthew 28:20.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany