Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 4

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

And. Hebrew inserts here the conclusion of the last verse, whence some would infer that Samuel told the Israelites to make war upon the Philistines. But as it turned out so ill, this would have tended to discredit him; and we find that the Philistines were the aggressors. --- Days. this war took place immediately after the threats denounced to Heli; (Sararius) or according to Usher, and the best chronologists, about 27 years after that event. (Calmet) --- The addition of the Septuagint seems to insinuate, that the sons of Heli persevered for a long time in their wicked course, chap. iii. 20. (Haydock) --- Josephus says that Phinees was his father’s coadjutor. --- Salien observes that this must be considered as a fresh blot in the character of the latter, since he ought to have delivered the delinquents up to execution, Deuteronomy xxi. 21. Tirin[Tirinus], on the contrary, adduces the power of his sons, and the debilitated state of Heli, to excuse his neglect. (Haydock) --- Help. In Hebrew Eben-ezer; so called, from the help which the Lord was pleased afterwards to give to his people, Israel, in that place, by the prayers of Samuel, chap. vii. 12., (Challoner) about 21 years afterwards. --- Aphec, in the tribe of Juda, not far from Maspha.

Verse 2

Here, &c. Hebrew, "in the field" of battle. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "in the ranks, in the field." (Haydock)

Verse 3

Ancients; the commanders of the respective tribes. Heli was not able to lead on the people to battle, on account of his blindness and great age. --- Enemies. All nations attribute much to the exterior marks of religion. The Israelites had witnessed the victories which had been obtained while the ark was present, Josue vi. 4. See Numbers xiv. 45. But they ought to have considered, that their infidelity rendered them unworthy of the divine protection; and that God was more displeased at their profanations, than at the indignity to which the sacred vessels would be exposed. He would know how to vindicate his own honour and glory. The symbols of religion were thus carried in the army, by the Persians, &c. (Herodotus vii.) --- The Romans regarded their standards as so many deities. (Halicar. vi.) See 2 Kings vi. 21., and 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 8. (Calmet) --- The confidence which the Israelites placed in the ark was commendable, but their sins deserved to be punished. (Worthington) (Numbers x. 35.)

Verse 4

Ark. On this extraordinary emergency they thought it lawful. (Abulensis, q. 6.) --- They easily obtained the consent of Heli; and his sons went to take it down, and to attend it to the army, as he was incapable of doing duty. We know not what ceremonies were used, nor whether the brothers acted as high priests alternately. (Calmet) --- Cherubim. The Scripture often represents God in this manner, Exodus xxv. 22., Psalm xvii. 10., and Ezechiel x. 1. The commonality of the Jews attributed bodies to the angels, but to denote that they were not like those with which we are acquainted, they called them cherubim, or complex and unusual figures. (Calmet)

Verse 7

God: "Elohim." Septuagint, "these gods." They speak of the true God according to their false ideas. (Calmet) --- Sighing. Septuagint, "deliver us, O Lord, this day."

Verse 8

Joy. A few days ago the Hebrews were dismayed, now they shout for joy, as they did at the taking of Jericho. Hebrew and Septuagint, "it was not so heretofore." (Haydock) --- Gods. Hebrew may be rendered in the singular, with the Chaldean and Arabic. But the Septuagint and most commentators, explain it in the sense of the Vulgate. The title of high, (adirim) or magnificent, was given by the Philistines to Dagon, whom they styled Atergatis. (Calmet) --- Septuagint Greek: stereon, means, "stable, perfect," &c. (Haydock) --- Plagues, till they were overwhelmed in the Red Sea, which is surrounded with deserts. Some supply, "and (his people) in the desert." (Septuagint, Syriac, &c.) (Calmet)

Verse 9

Fight. To serve those whom they had lately oppressed, would be doubly afflicting. (Salien) --- If these people had seriously attended to the instructions, which they might have derived from the fall of others, they would surely never have exposed themselves to fight against the high God. But they looked upon him in no other light than their own contemptible idols. Homer often represents them as wounded, and conquered by mortal men.

Verse 10

Footmen. They had no cavalry, (Calmet) as God seemed to discourage any. (Haydock) --- Even after Solomon’s time, they had not many horsemen. (Calmet) --- The Israelites had before lost 4,000: now when they were full of confidence, and fought with valour, they behold 30,000 fall. The ark proved thus fatal to them. (Haydock)

Verse 11

Slain. Abulensis (q. 17,) thinks they were fighting in defence of the ark, when they might have saved themselves by flight; so that he does not despair of their salvation. God permitted them to lose their lives in the exercise of a holy ministry, which they had so scandalously profaned. (Calmet)

Verse 12

Man. The Jews say that Saul carried these melancholy tidings, and that Goliah[Goliath] slew the sons of Heli. (Haydock)

Verse 13

Stool. Hebrew cisse; "a throne or tribunal," where Heli sat to decide any controversies, and where he had blessed the mother of Samuel. (Calmet) --- God. He had great reason to fear that this was the day when his sons would perish, and he apprehended that the ark would be in danger. (Haydock)

Verse 17

Taken. Every sentence expresses something more distressing to the aged judge and father; the flight and slaughter of his people, the ruin of his children, and the loss of the ark, which must have filled all Israel with a mortal gloom and terror, lest God should have abandoned them. So many dismal circumstances oppressing the heart of Heli, he fainted away, and falling backwards, expired. (Haydock) --- The Scripture takes notice of his great age, that we might not think that he killed himself in despair. (Salien)

Verse 18

Named the ark, &c. There is great reason, by all these circumstances, to hope that Heli died in the state of grace; and by his temporal punishments, escaped the eternal. (Challoner) --- But many of the Fathers condemn him, and the Scripture says nothing of his conversion, or of that of his children, so that the matter is doubtful. (Calmet) --- Years. Hebrew, "and heavy." --- Forty. Septuagint, "twenty," in which they are followed by many Fathers. (Eusebius; Sulpitius, &c.) --- Some reconcile the two texts by saying, that Heli and Samson judged together for twenty years. But the Septuagint is probably corrupted, as the other versions agree with the original. (Calmet)

Verse 19

Sudden, through extreme affliction. (Menochius) --- Josephus says the child was only in his seventh month, but alive. Abulensis thinks he did not long survive his mother.

Verse 20


Verse 21

Ichabod. That is, Where is the glory? or, there is no glory. We see how much the Israelites lamented the loss of the ark, which was but the symbol of God’s presence amongst them. How much more ought Christians lament the loss of God himself, when by sin they have drove him out of their souls? (Challoner) --- The ark is often called the glory of Israel, Isaias lxiv. 21., and Psalm xxv. 8. Ichabod might remind the people that the greatest loss had been sustained by them, as well as by his family. His mother had both in view the ark, Heli, and Phinees, her husband, (Haydock) when she exclaimed, ichabod, "Woe! or, Alas! the glory." (Mendoza) --- The Scripture does not mention Ophni’s posterity. But besides this posthumous son, Phinees had one elder, who now succeeded Heli in the pontificate, (Chap. xiv. 3.; Josephus; Salien, the year of the world 2940, the year before Christ 1113,) while Samuel took possession of the civil administration, and almost totally eclipsed the glory of Achitob. Many of the Fathers have even looked upon him as the high priest. But he was only a Levite, though, by dispensation, he acted sometimes as an extraordinary priest. (St. Jerome, contra Jov. i., and in 1 Cor.) He reduced the people to a sense of their duty, and taught them to trust in the true God alone, and they would be protected, though deprived of the ark. This was also presently restored to them. (Haydock)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 4". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.