Twilight Kingdom (2)

Ichabod (1 Samuel 4:1-22)

Dec 05, 2023 By: Pastor Joseph LoSardo Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: 1 Samuel: Twilight Kingdom Scripture: 1 Samuel 4:1-22

 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured  (1 Samuel 4:21)

Chapters 4 through 7 of 1 Samuel comprise a single story in the form of a lengthy chiasm. Using similar words and phrases, the author introduces the drama in chapter 4, describing the loss of the ark of the covenant, which he then resolves in chapter 7, with the return of the ark. Israel under Eli and without any mention of Samuel (chapter 4), is contrasted with Israel’s triumph when Samuel returns to the narrative (chapter 7). Some have set a title over this entire section, “From Ichabod to Ebenezer,” a reference to Israel’s double-defeat at Ebenezer and the birth of Ichabod (“no glory”) in chapter 4, and then in chapter 7, Samuel setting up the stone of Ebenezer (“the LORD has helped us”). Chapter 4, which describes the initial loss of the ark, is tied to the fall of Eli’s house; chapter 7 relates the return of the ark as an effective symbol of the rise of Samuel; and in between, chapters 5-6 detail the story of the ark in exile in Philistia. We will attempt to cover these 4 chapters in two sermons. In preparation for these messages, read all four chapters together, and then read just chapters 4 and 7 again. Try to observe the parallels between chapter 4 and chapter 7, as this will lend clarity to the activity that we will look at in chapter 4, in this week’s sermon.

In 1 Samuel 4, Israel’s initial defeat and loss of 4,000 soldiers at the hand of the Philistines occasions their decision to get the ark from Shiloh and use it as a “lucky charm” in battle. Their defeat leads them to ask the right question in verse 3: Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? But their answer, let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies, demonstrated superstition rather than faith and repentance. They treated the ark as a proverbial “rabbit’s foot,” resulting in an even greater defeat: 30,000 slaughtered in battle, the ark captured, and Eli’s two sons killed. The news of this resulted in the death of Eli and the premature birth of his grandson, Ichabod, meaning “no glory;” or stated as a question: “where is the glory?” or answer: “the glory has departed.”

Chapter 4 is important in the narrative of Samuel, as it reveals the fulfillment of the prophecies made to Eli in chapters 2 and 3. It also sets up the story of the ark which serves as a parable for what God is doing with His people, in the rise of Samuel and the kingdom.