19As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and made everything that Samuel said come true. 20So all the people of Israel, from one end of the country to the other, knew that Samuel was indeed a prophet of the LORD. 21The LORD continued to reveal himself at Shiloh, where he had appeared to Samuel and had spoken to him. And when Samuel spoke, all Israel listened.
The Capture of the Covenant Box
1At that time the Philistines gathered to go to war against Israel, so the Israelites set out to fight them. The Israelites set up their camp at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek. 2The Philistines attacked, and after fierce fighting they defeated the Israelites and killed about 4,000 men on the battlefield. 3When the survivors came back to camp, the leaders of Israel said, “Why did the LORD let the Philistines defeat us today? Let's go and bring the LORD's Covenant Box from Shiloh, so that he will go with us and save us from our enemies.” 4So they sent messengers to Shiloh and fetched the Covenant Box of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned above the winged creatures. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, came along with the Covenant Box.
5When the Covenant Box arrived, the Israelites gave such a loud shout of joy that the earth shook. 6The Philistines heard the shouting and said, “Listen to all that shouting in the Hebrew camp! What does it mean?” When they found out that the LORD's Covenant Box had arrived in the Hebrew camp, 7they were afraid, and said, “A god has come into their camp! We're lost! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before! 8Who can save us from those powerful gods? They are the gods who slaughtered the Egyptians in the desert! 9Be brave, Philistines! Fight like men, or we will become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they were our slaves. So fight like men!”
10The Philistines fought hard and defeated the Israelites, who went running to their homes. There was a great slaughter: 30,000 Israelite soldiers were killed. 11God's Covenant Box was captured, and Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were both killed.
The Death of Eli
12A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran all the way from the battlefield to Shiloh and arrived there the same day. To show his grief, he had torn his clothes and put earth on his head. 13Eli, who was very anxious about the Covenant Box, was sitting on a seat beside the road, staring. The man spread the news throughout the town, and everyone cried out in fear. 14Eli heard the noise and asked, “What is all this noise about?” The man hurried to Eli to tell him the news. 15(Eli was now 98 years old and almost completely blind.) 16The man said, “I have escaped from the battle and have run all the way here today.”
Eli asked him, “What happened, my son?”
17The messenger answered, “Israel ran away from the Philistines; it was a terrible defeat for us! Besides that, your sons Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and God's Covenant Box was captured!”
18When the man mentioned the Covenant Box, Eli fell backwards from his seat beside the gate. He was so old and fat that the fall broke his neck, and he died. He had been a leader in Israel for forty years.
The Death of the Widow of Phinehas
19Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, and it was almost time for her baby to be born. When she heard that God's Covenant Box had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she suddenly went into labour and gave birth. 20As she was dying, the women helping her said to her, “Be brave! You have a son!” But she paid no attention and did not answer. 21She named the boy Ichabod, explaining, “God's glory has left Israel” — referring to the capture of the Covenant Box and the death of her father-in-law and her husband. 22“God's glory has left Israel,” she said, “because God's Covenant Box has been captured.”
The Covenant Box among the Philistines
1After the Philistines captured the Covenant Box, they carried it from Ebenezer to their city of Ashdod, 2took it into the temple of their god Dagon, and set it up beside his statue. 3Early next morning the people of Ashdod saw that the statue of Dagon had fallen face downwards on the ground in front of the LORD's Covenant Box. So they lifted it up and put it back in its place. 4Early the following morning they saw that the statue had again fallen down in front of the Covenant Box. This time its head and both its arms were broken off and were lying in the doorway; only the body was left. 5(That is why even today the priests of Dagon and all his worshippers in Ashdod step over that place and do not walk on it.)
6The LORD punished the people of Ashdod severely and terrified them. He punished them and the people in the surrounding territory by causing them to have tumours.7When they saw what was happening, they said, “The God of Israel is punishing us and our god Dagon. We can't let the Covenant Box stay here any longer.” 8So they sent messengers and called together all five of the Philistine kings and asked them, “What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the God of Israel?”
“Take it over to Gath,” they answered; so they took it to Gath, another Philistine city. 9But after it arrived there, the LORD punished that city too and caused a great panic. He punished them with tumours which developed in all the people of the city, young and old alike. 10So they sent the Covenant Box to Ekron, another Philistine city; but when it arrived there, the people cried out, “They have brought the Covenant Box of the God of Israel here, in order to kill us all!” 11So again they sent for all the Philistine kings and said, “Send the Covenant Box of Israel back to its own place, so that it won't kill us and our families.” There was panic throughout the city because God was punishing them so severely. 12Even those who did not die developed tumours and the people cried out to their gods for help.
The Return of the Covenant Box
1After the LORD's Covenant Box had been in Philistia for seven months, 2the people called the priests and the magicians and asked, “What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the LORD? If we send it back where it belongs, what shall we send with it?”
3They answered, “If you return the Covenant Box of the God of Israel, you must, of course, send with it a gift to him to pay for your sin. The Covenant Box must not go back without a gift. In this way you will be healed, and you will find out why he has kept on punishing you.”
4“What gift shall we send him?” the people asked.
They answered, “Five gold models of tumours and five gold mice, one of each for each Philistine king. The same plague was sent on all of you and on the five kings. 5You must make these models of the tumours and of the mice that are ravaging your country, and you must give honour to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will stop punishing you, your gods, and your land. 6Why should you be stubborn, as the king of Egypt and the Egyptians were? Don't forget how God made fools of them until they let the Israelites leave Egypt. 7So prepare a new wagon and two cows that have never been yoked; hitch them to the wagon and drive their calves back to the barn. 8Take the LORD's Covenant Box, put it on the wagon, and place in a box beside it the gold models that you are sending to him as a gift to pay for your sins. Start the wagon on its way and let it go by itself. 9Then watch it go; if it goes towards the town of Beth Shemesh, this means that it is the God of the Israelites who has sent this terrible disaster on us. But if it doesn't, then we will know that he did not send the plague; it was only a matter of chance.”
10They did what they were told: they took two cows and hitched them to the wagon, and shut the calves in the barn. 11They put the Covenant Box in the wagon, together with the box containing the gold models of the mice and of the tumours. 12The cows started off on the road to Beth Shemesh and headed straight towards it, without turning off the road. They were mooing as they went. The five Philistine kings followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
13The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, when suddenly they looked up and saw the Covenant Box. They were overjoyed at the sight. 14The wagon came to a field belonging to a man named Joshua, who lived in Beth Shemesh, and it stopped there near a large rock. The people chopped up the wooden wagon and killed the cows and offered them as a burnt sacrifice to the LORD. 15The Levites lifted off the Covenant Box of the LORD and the box with the gold models in it, and placed them on the large rock. Then the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt sacrifices and other sacrifices to the LORD. 16The five Philistine kings watched them do this and then went back to Ekron that same day.
17The Philistines sent the five gold tumours to the LORD as a gift to pay for their sins, one each for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18They also sent gold mice, one for each of the cities ruled by the five Philistine kings, both the fortified towns and the villages without walls. The large rock in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, on which they placed the LORD's Covenant Box, is still there as a witness to what happened.
19The LORD killed seventy of the men of Beth Shemesh because they looked inside the Covenant Box. And the people mourned because the LORD had caused such a great slaughter among them.
The Covenant Box at Kiriath Jearim
20So the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who can stand before the LORD, this holy God? Where can we send him to get him away from us?” 21They sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim to say, “The Philistines have returned the LORD's Covenant Box. Come down and fetch it.”
1So the people of Kiriath Jearim fetched the LORD's Covenant Box and took it to the house of a man named Abinadab, who lived on a hill. They consecrated his son Eleazar to be in charge of it.
Samuel Rules Israel
2The Covenant Box of the LORD stayed in Kiriath Jearim a long time, some twenty years. During this time all the Israelites cried to the LORD for help.
3Samuel said to the people of Israel, “If you are going to turn to the LORD with all your hearts, you must get rid of all the foreign gods and the images of the goddess Astarte. Dedicate yourselves completely to the LORD and worship only him, and he will rescue you from the power of the Philistines.” 4So the Israelites got rid of their idols of Baal and Astarte, and worshipped only the LORD.
5Then Samuel sent for all the Israelites to meet at Mizpah, saying, “I will pray to the LORD for you there.” 6So they all gathered at Mizpah. They drew some water and poured it out as an offering to the LORD and fasted that whole day. They said, “We have sinned against the LORD.” (It was at Mizpah that Samuel settled disputes among the Israelites.)
7When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, the five Philistine kings started out with their men to attack them. The Israelites heard about it and were afraid, 8and said to Samuel, “Keep praying to the LORD our God to save us from the Philistines.” 9Samuel killed a young lamb and burnt it whole as a sacrifice to the LORD. Then he prayed to the LORD to help Israel, and the LORD answered his prayer. 10While Samuel was offering the sacrifice, the Philistines moved forward to attack; but just then the LORD thundered from heaven against them. They became completely confused and fled in panic. 11The Israelites marched out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines almost as far as Bethcar, killing them along the way.
12Then Samuel took a stone, set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and said, “The LORD has helped us all the way” — and he named it “Stone of Help”. 13So the Philistines were defeated, and the LORD prevented them from invading Israel's territory as long as Samuel lived. 14All the cities which the Philistines had captured between Ekron and Gath were returned to Israel, and so Israel got back all its territory. And there was peace also between the Israelites and the Canaanites.
15Samuel ruled Israel as long as he lived. 16Every year he would go round to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and in these places he would settle disputes. 17Then he would go back to his home in Ramah, where also he would serve as judge. In Ramah he built an altar to the LORD.