« PreviousContinue »
with him, and accomplished whatsoever he spoke by him; so that all Israel knew, from one end of the land to the other, that Samuel was established as a faithful prophet to the Lord.
The Israelites being again favoured with a prophet, promised to themselves great things, concluding that whatever they undertook would succeed; and being animated with this thought, they were inclined to make an effort for shaking off the Philistine yoke. Wherefore, intending to give them battle, they encamped in a place, which afterwards, upon better success, was called Eben-Ezer. The Philistines sat down by Aphek, a city of Judah, and in a short time the armies joined; but the Israelites, instead of victory, find the judgments of God, denounced against priest and people, ready to fall on them; for in the action they lost four thousand of their men. The rest making an orderly retreat to their camp, the Elders began to consider what might be the cause of this defeat ; and fondly supposing it to be for want of having the Ark with them, they resolve to carry it with them in all their future expeditions. They then sent messengers to Shiloh, for Hophni and Phineas, the priests, to bring the Ark into the camp: which they forthwith did; and when the Israelites saw the Ark brought into the camp, they gave such a shout, as made the earth ring: which so disheartened the Philistines, that they were on the brink of despair, especially when they heard the true cause of this exultation.
The Israelites, on the other hand, were as presuming, as the Philistines were dejected. For concluding themselves secure under the protection of the Ark, and not in the least questioning success, they again offer battle to the Philistines; who engaging, slew thirty thousand of their foot, among whom were Hophni and Phineas; put the rest to fight; and (which was the most distressing circumstance of all) the Ark of God was taken. One of the soldiers, of the tribe of Benjamin, seeing the day lost, made his escape from the field of battle, and came running to Shiloh, with his clothes rent, and earth upon his
head; which, in those countries, were emblems of extreme sorrow for the greatest losses and misfortunes.
Though Eli had offended the Lord greatly, by his remiss and careless administration, yet he had a religious concern for the safety of Israel, and a deep veneration for the Ark of God. On this account, therefore, he went and sat at the gate to hear (for he could not see) how affairs went while he was sitting here, the Benjamite who escaped in the fight, having informed the citizens what had happened, there was a dreadful outcry among them. Whereupon, Eli, asking what was the meaning of that tumult, the Benjamite soldier was brought to him, who told him that the Israelites were routed; that his sons were in the number of the slain; and that the Ark of the Lord was taken. Eli kept his seat till the last piece of news was related, but then, his spirits failing, he fell backwards from his seat; and being heavy as well as aged, his neck was broken by the fall, and he died, having judged Israel forty years. The wife of Phineas, who was pregnant, and very near her time, hearing of the melan-' choly death of her father and her husband, and of the loss of the Ark, fell into labour; and being delivered of a son, she, with her dying breath, named him "Ichabod ;" which signifies, "No glory;" adding, as the reason of giving the child this name, "The glory is departed from Israel;" for so she justly interpreted the capture of the
The Philistines having cleared the field, and carried off the plunder, brought the Ark to Ashdod, and placed it in the temple of Dagon, near to the idol; which, the next morning, they found fallen down upon his face before the Ark of the Lord. They set him up however in his place, and next day coming in again, they not only found him fallen to the ground, but his head and the palms of his hands were broken off, and lying on the threshold, his lower part only being left intire. Whence a superstitious custom arose among the Philistines, that neither the priests nor the people would tread upon the threshold.
And now to convince these idolaters, that the cause was
no longer between the Philistines and the Israelites, but between God and Dagon; the Lord laid his heavy judg ments on Ashdod, and all the coast towns thereabouts ; afflicting the people with secret diseases, and at the same time destroying the country by the mice. The people of Ashdod were sensible that this was a judgment from the God of Israel, for taking and detaining the Ark; therefore consulting what to do, the princes of the Philistines, partly to redress the complaints of the Ashdodites, but chiefly to carry the Ark about in triumph, send it to Gath, where the same judgments pursue the detainers of it. Therefore they removed it to Ekron, the inhabitants of which no sooner saw it, but they exclaimed, "They have "brought about the Ark of the God of Israel to us, to "slay us and our people."
While the Ark was here, as they conjectured, a deadly plague attended the people; wherefore calling the priests, they resolved to send the Ark away, but could not immediately determine on the proper method of doing it. The priests advised them not to send it away empty, but to prepare a trespass-offering, for an atonement of their sacrilege, which was to consist of five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the princes of the Philistines; hoping, that by thus acknowledging the glory of the God of Israel, he would deliver them from the punishments he had inflicted on them: for "Why, (said the priests) should you be obstinate as the Egyp"tians were, to your own destruction?" Then directing them to provide a new cart, and two milch kine, that hadnever been yoked, and fasten them to the cart, without their calves, they bid them lay the Ark on the cart, and put the golden emerods and mice in a coffer by the side of the Ark, and send them away: but cautioned them strictly to observe which way the cart went; for if it went by the way of Bethshemeth, they might conclude, that it was the God of Israel, who had plagued them; but if it went not that way, they should look upon all these judgments merely as common accidents.
The Philistines sending the Ark away in this manner, the kine that drew it went on, Jowing, directly to Bethshemeth; the five princes of the Philistines followed at a
respectful distance to see what would become of it, who, when they saw it arrive safely at Bethshemeth, returned to Ekron. The Bethshemites, who were reaping in the #alley, seeing the Ark, were overjoyed. The kine having drawn the cart into the field of Joshua, the Bethshemite, stood still there by a great stone, called the stone of Abel; which the Levites* observing, they took down the Ark of the Lord, and the coffer that was with it, and laid them upon the great stone. Then, cleaving the wood of the cart for fuel, they offered the kine for a burnt-offering to the Lord. But some of the Bethshemites, whether moved by joy or curiosity, took the liberty of looking into the Ark, contrary to the Law; for which presumption the Lord slew seventy‡ of them, which so terrified the rest, that they cried out, "Who is able to stand before this Holy Lord God? And to whom shall he go from us?" This made them desirous of removing the Ark; they therefore sent to Kirjath-jearim, to acquaint them that the Philistines had sent back the Ark of the Lord, and desired them to come and fetch it. Accordingly they came, and conveyed the Ark to the house of Abinadab on the hill, whose son Eleazer was consecrated to keep it, and where it abode twenty years.
Samuel, having upon the death of Eli, and the loss of the Ark, taken upon him the administration, governed Israel twenty years; when, finding in the people a disposition to repent and return to the Lord, he exhorted them to put away the strange gods, Baal and Ashteroth, and to serve the Lord only; promising, that if they would do so, they should be delivered from the Philistines then ordering all Israel to meet him at Mizpeh, they humbled themselves there with prayer and fasting. The Philistines, having notice of this general meeting, approached them armed, and occasioned a terrible con
* Levites. Bethshemeth was a city which belonged to the Levites. See Josh' xxi. 16.
+ Contrary. See Numb. iv. 40.
Seventy. Bochart proves that the number mentioned, 1 Sam. vi. 19 should be translated Seventy."
sternation. The Israelites thus alarmed, begged of Samuel to intercede for them to the Lord. Samuel, thereupon, took a sucking lamb, and offered it whole for a burnt-offering, praying to the Lord for the people. His prayers were so effectual, that the Philistines coming to attack them at the same instant, the Lord sent down such a peal of thunder on them, just as they were ready to engage, that the Israelites obtained a mighty victory, and pursued them from Mizpeh beyond Beth-car. From which time the Philistines came not into the country of the Israelites, who recovered the towns those people had taken from them, from Ekron to Gath. And Samuel, in memory of this great deliverance, set up a monumental stone between Mizpeh and Shen, calling it Eben-Ezer, that is "The "Stone of Help."
After this, Samuel, for the better administration of justice, took a circuit through Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, returning every year to Ramah: but growing in years, and unable to travel, he constituted his two sons, Joel and Abiah, Judges over Israel; who, degenerating from their pious father, were corrupted with bribes, and acted unjustly. In consequence of which, the Elders of Israel assembling, went in a body to Ramah, and complained to Samuel; saying, "Behold, thou art old, and thy sons "walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us "like all the nations." The cause of their complaint was just; but in demanding a king, they forfeited the care of God, as well as the favour of Samuel. He, however, consulted the Lord; who ordered him to give them a king, as they desired, but reproached them for their ingratitude to himself and to Samuel and to warn them of the dangerous consequences of rejecting him and his prophet, for the purpose of having a king, he gives him instructions to lay before them what they were to expect from this wanton and fickle temper; That their monarch should enslave them and their children, by making them subject to every menial office; that they should be always in arms and tumults; liable to the inconveniences of a constant war, and subjected to heavy taxes; and that