1 Samuel 4:1-22

Daybreak for Students

1 Samuel 4:1-22

1 Samuel 4
And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. — 1 Samuel 4:3

A while back, my mother gave me a letter she had copied more than fifty years ago. It was called, “Our Saviour’s Letter.” Some of its contents stated that if the commandments were observed, many blessings would be received. If a woman in childbirth had a copy of this letter about her, she would safely deliver her child. Any seagoing vessel having a copy of this letter on board would not be lost. The original writer of the letter stated that it had been written by our Blessed Lord Jesus and had been found under a stone eighteen miles from Jerusalem, sixty-eight years after His crucifixion. I was told that over the years, this letter had been kept as a good luck letter, and my mother was told that if this letter were kept in the house, there was no danger of the house burning. In fact, it was just a piece of paper with words written on it, and it had no power at all.

Similarly, I have heard of others carrying a New Testament in a shirt pocket for good luck. While keeping a Bible close by is good, unless it is read and practiced it will not keep individuals safe or bring good fortune. True security is not in possessing a letter or even a Bible; true security is in having faith in the living God to provide, protect, and bless our lives.

The Children of Israel had been defeated by the Philistines, and in the process had lost four thousand men. This loss was due to Israel’s disobedience to God. Instead of searching their hearts and confessing their sins, the elders believed that if they had the Ark of the Covenant in their possession, it would save them from the enemy. Actually, they were merely attempting to use God to accomplish their own purpose.

In order to move the Ark from one location to another, it had to be carried upon the shoulders of four priests. Eli’s two wicked sons were sent to fetch the Ark from Shiloh and bring it to their battlefield. God will not be used to fulfill selfish purposes of sinful people. The Children of Israel were looking to the Ark of the Covenant to save them, like people trusting good-luck charms. Possessing a symbol of God does not insure His presence or power. Needless to say, their faith in the Ark was misplaced. They lost thirty thousand footmen, and the enemy captured the Ark.

God requires obedience, submission, and heart purity. A “good-luck” letter will not stop a vessel from breaking apart in rough seas. Neither did the Ark of the Covenant prevent God from pronouncing judgment upon sins. It we are covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ, we can fully trust in God for daily victories.


The Ark of the Covenant, in which Israel had placed their trust, was a beautifully-constructed box that Moses had built following God’s instructions.

The Ark was constructed of a wood called eron (in Hebrew), but more commonly known as acacia. It measured five spans; a span being the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger fully extended; generally accepted to be nine inches. The breadth and height were three spans each. A lid was attached with gold hinges. Two golden rings were attached to each of the longer boards, and passed through the entire box. Gilt bars passed along each board through the rings, to enable the priests to carry it on their shoulders. On the lid were two images, which were called cherubims. The entire Ark was overlaid inside and out with pure gold so the wood was not seen. The things that God wanted kept in the Ark were: the two tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, Aaron’s rod that budded, and shewbread.

God had told Samuel about the impending demise of Eli and his two evil sons. As Hophni and Phinehas retrieved the Ark and went forward in battle, they were fulfilling the very words God had spoken to Samuel — that He would bring down Eli’s house and the iniquity would not be purged either with sacrifice or offering. Eli, his two sons, and his daughter-in-law all died that day.

Generally Israel’s enemies were the aggressors, determined to defeat them before anything was started. This was one of the times Israel took the initiative and went out against the enemy. Ebenezer was located about three miles east of Aphek, where the Philistines were camped.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The judgeship of Samuel
     C.   The deliverance by Samuel
           1.   The defeat of Israel
                 a.   The judgment upon Eli’s house (4:1-22)
                       (1)   The historical setting (4:1-4)
                       (2)   The death of Eli’s sons (4:5-11)
                       (3)   The death of Eli (4:12-18)
                       (4)   The birth of Ichabod (4:19-22)


  1. What happened to Eli after he was told the Ark had been captured?

  2. What should Israel have done after losing the first battle with the Philistines?

  3. Name three specific instances in your life that have caused you to have confidence in God?


A person who has his heart covered by Jesus’ Blood has the greatest protection afforded to mankind. Such a person has no need of a good-luck charm.