Ichabod: Glory in Exile
1 Samuel 4:5–22
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #026
September 22, 2015
“Our Father, it is so wonderful that we can come together and reflect upon You and think about Your works in history and how they manifest Your Person, Your power, and Your glory. That as we study these events in the Old Testament, as Paul pointed out in 1 Timothy 2, these are revealed and preserved for our spiritual edification, our spiritual growth, that these events might provide us examples where we can learn how You relate to human history, how You control human history, despite what appears to us to be setbacks and failures, and that You are always in control. Even when we are in the midst of disaster or in the midst of divine discipline; nevertheless, You are still in the control.
Father, help us to realize that as we look at the world around us, which so often seems to be in chaos and spinning out of control, that You are still in control, that we are to trust You. We are to continue to walk consistently with You, and that You are the One who is working out Your plan and purposes in human history. We pray that You will just encourage us and strengthen us from Your Word this evening. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Samuel 4. We should finish tonight. We started the Battle of Aphek last week. We covered 1 Samuel 4:1–4.
Tonight we should make a little more progress and at least get through this chapter. This is really the prelude to one of the most amusing, funny, ironic, sarcastic, sections of Scripture when we get into 1 Samuel 5.
What we learn from this is that God is perfectly capable of taking care of Himself. He’s perfectly capable to handle the conflicts that come in history and in people’s lives, but He’s not going to be used by people to fit their agenda.
He’s not going to operate like we sometimes treat Him—like He’s a good luck charm, that if we just make sure we go to church, or we do certain things right, that somehow God’s going to bless us.
God has a better understanding of all the dynamics of the situation. He is omniscient. We can’t pull the wool over His eyes, which is what Israel was basically trying to do.
In this section we see how God takes care of His own glory. That glory is going to end up going into exile by the end of 1 Samuel 4.
Just a reminder, because what happens so often when people get into the Word is they chop it up into these segments or individual blocks. We don’t always see the whole pattern.
These opening chapters in 1 Samuel, up to about 1 Samuel 8, take place in the period that is known as “the time of the Judges,” which is covered in the book of the Judges.
But in the book of the Judges, even though many of those key leaders (Deborah, Barak, Jephthah, Gideon, Samson), are mentioned in Hebrews 11, that doesn’t mean that everything they did was right. In fact, they get progressively worse. That is the whole trend of Judges.
In Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25, the theme of Judges is stated: “In those days there was no king of Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
It is moral relativism. The whole culture is just increasingly pagan.
At the beginning of the book of Judges, they’re acting in obedience to the Lord. But by the end of the book of Judges, their behavior is not distinguishable from the Canaanites at all.
This is the period we are talking about. What we learn here is that Eli is a judge, even though he is not mentioned in the book of Judges. He’s a judge. Samuel will become a judge. They are the last two judges.
Eli demonstrates that even as a high priest and a judge he is totally corrupt. He apostatized the faith. That word “apostasy” means to depart from the truth, to depart from the faith. Eli has departed from the faith, and his sons are just as corrupt and abusive as they can possibly be.
This is why God is bringing in judgment upon Israel before He can turn things around.
I’ve pointed out that the broad outline in 1 Samuel 1–7 is that Yahweh is preparing to deliver Israel by a great change. They have been mired for a couple of generations in apostasy and in oppression from the Philistines.
The last judge mentioned in the book of the Judges is Samson, about whom nothing good is said. The only time Samson really obeys God is right there at the end, which is when he has been blinded. He prays that God would restore his strength so that he can tear down and destroy the temple of Dagon, which is interesting background, because the focal point in 1 Samuel 5 is going to be on another temple of Dagon.
But Samson’s life overlaps that of Samuel’s. The point that I’ve been making in 1 Samuel 4 is that Yahweh causes Israel to be defeated. They would say why has God deserted us? He defeated us. We brought the Ark into combat. God should have given us victory as He did in the days of Joshua and in battles before.
But now God allowed Israel to be defeated. The Ark is captured.
What God is showing is that He is the One who is really in charge. He’s not going to march to the tune of men. He is going to set forth His own agenda. He demonstrates His sovereignty over Israel, His sovereignty over the gods of their enemies, and His control of the situation.
But before He can bring about this change He’s got to clean out the corruption that has entered into Israel. This is what happens as part of that cleansing of the corruption. We looked at it last time.
This is when the Philistines come up from the south. They gather at a place called Aphek. The Israelites gather at Ebenezer. This is referred to as the Battle of Aphek-Ebenezer.
I’ve put this chart up on the board several times. I’ve had people ask me to put it up again. This shows the overlap of Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel—how their lives overlap, which you don’t pick up just from reading through the book of Judges.
Samuel and Samson live roughly at the same time. Samson’s death is probably just a short time before this. The fact that he has caused so much trouble with the Philistines, as I’ve pointed out in the past, may be the reason the Philistines are moving their military up to Aphek and preparing to invade into the territory of Israel.
The two major battles we are going to see and that are in 1 Samuel 1–7, revolve around:
1. Battle of Aphek, which is a massive defeat for Israel.
2. Battle of Mizpah which is described in 1 Samuel 7 and which is their victory.
This is a map to orient you to the geography of the situation. Jerusalem is down here to the lower right about 20 miles south of Shiloh, which is where the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant is located. That is about 20 miles or a little less from the battle scene at Aphek. That orients us to this northern area.
But what happens at the end of the Battle of Aphek is the Ark is captured by the Philistines. They take the Ark down here to Ashdod. They set the Ark in the pagan temple of Dagon. That is the focus of what happens in the rest 1 Samuel 4, and into 1 Samuel 5.
The first part of the battle in 1 Samuel 4:2 we studied last time. Four thousand men are killed. After that, the reaction of the Israelites is that we didn’t have God with us. We need to go get the Ark. The focus is on that which is associated with God, the Ark of the Covenant, not God.
They are not right with God. They have not dedicated the battle to the Lord. They have not gone to the Lord in repentance, humility, and prayer. They just want to use God. If we go get our magic rabbit’s foot, the Ark of the Covenant, and bring that into battle, then God is going to give us victory.
That is how so many people think about God. They think that they can just use God for their immediate needs. Then as soon as everything stabilizes in their life, they forget about God. They are no longer reading the Word, studying the Word, being involved in their own personal spiritual growth.
I use this map to show a little bit about the orientation of the battle. The black line represents the movement of Israel to the Battle of Aphek. The slash lines represent the movement of the Philistines.
This map shows what many scholars believed in the past, and that is according to the archeological finds at Shiloh back in the 1920s, that the destruction layer there indicated that the Philistines went on to exploit the victory and destroyed Shiloh.
However, passages in Jeremiah indicate that Shiloh was probably not destroyed until sometime later. In fact, there is at least one prophet that lives in Shiloh during the period of 1 or 2 Kings.
Here is the issue they raise. In 1 Samuel 4:3, they are going to go get the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh. “When it comes it may save us from the hand of the enemies.” There is not a focus on God saving them. It is on the Ark. They are just going to use that which is associated with God, like some sort of magic rabbit’s foot.
1 Samuel 4:4 describes going to Shiloh, getting the Ark, and notice it continues to be named “the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts.” This is the full title.
Sometimes the Ark is called “the Ark of the Testimony” because the tablets of the Law were kept inside the Ark. The term Ark just refers to a box. It was a box made of acacia wood that was covered with pure gold.
The Ark, in and of itself, is a picture of the deity and the humanity of Christ.
We have gone through an extensive tabernacle study. Everything in the tabernacle teaches us something about Jesus Christ. That is what is so great about studying the tabernacle.
The Ark is focusing on the propitiatory work of Christ. That’s a big word people don’t use a lot today. It means satisfaction.
It focuses on the fact that the lid of the Ark was called the “mercy seat.” This cover, the lid that was pure gold, covered over the broken Law that is inside the Ark.
On Yom Kippur … does anybody know when Yom Kippur begins? Right now, tonight, September 22, 2015. It is the Day of Atonement.
Every year on Yom Kippur the high priest would take two goats. He would put his hands on the two goats and recite the sins of Israel.
One goat was then taken off into the wilderness and let go to indicate that God has forgiven those sins and they have been completely removed. They are not going to be brought up again.
That goat is called the scapegoat. It was taken so far out into the wilderness that it couldn’t find his way back.
The other goat was sacrificed. The blood of that goat was placed on the mercy seat so that the cherubs, the two angels that are there, depict that the holiness and the righteousness of God is satisfied. It is the blood that covers the sin.
As I pointed out last time in Exodus 25.22, this is where God would meet them. It is intimately associated with the presence of God. This is why it is called “the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts.”
That term—“Lord of hosts”—emphasizes that there is an ongoing battle. It brings that to the foreground. Here is another picture of the Ark of the Covenant.
What we find is a reaction of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4:7. They hear what is going on. They hear the sound of tumult, the sound of rejoicing. They are having a pep rally over in the Israelite army. They hear that. They know what this means and what this is going to indicate for them.
It shows that they have a historical understanding of the working of God. They recognize that this is the God who brought the plagues upon the Egyptians. This is the God who gave the Israelites victory as they left Egypt and destroyed the army of the Egyptians.
This is the God who gave them victory when they entered into the land. He gave them victory at Jericho. He gave them victory at Ai. He gave them victory over the Canaanite kings of the north and the south, and He gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. They immediately cry out that God has come into the camp.
I want you to watch this because they always refer to God as Elohim, which is translated into the text in English as God—whereas when the writer is writing from the Israelite perspective, he refers to God as Yahweh.
They cry out God or a god, one of the gods. They just treat the God of Israel as one of many gods. God has come into the camp and they cry out, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened.”
They don’t have any faith in God, but they recognize the historical evidence. That is like a lot of unbelievers. They recognize some historical value to Christianity and to the Bible, but they don’t believe it. They don’t really believe that it is true. They treat it lightly. They don’t submit to the authority of Scripture.
They cry out, 1 Samuel 4:8, “Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?” Notice, they just treat God as a plurality. “These are the gods who struck with the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.”
Then they have their own pep talk. This is just their little motivational seminar. They are going to get everybody revved up on their own power and their own ability. They say that even though they believe and they’ve got all this historical evidence that the God of Israel can defeat them, they think they can just “man-up.”
That is basically a free translation here from the Hebrew. They are saying in 1 Samuel 4:9, “Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines,” man-up, you can do it! You can beat the Hebrews. Don’t become their servants. Don’t let them defeat you. Conduct yourselves like men and fight!
So they get all revved up, and they have their own pep rally overnight to get revved up to go into battle. Then they go into battle.
Look at 1 Samuel 4:10, “So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent.” You find this phrase throughout the Old Testament whenever Israel is defeated.
It exaggerates the significance of the battle—that everyone goes home. Everyone just flees the battle. “Everyone fled to his tent. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell.”
They lost 4,000 in the first part of the battle. Then they went to get the Ark, and now they lose 30,000 more. They’ve lost 34,000. They’ve got 34,000 killed in action.
But the tragedy is that the ark of God was captured. And the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas—die. They are killed in the battle.
Remember, this is what was prophesied in 1 Samuel 2:34 by the man of God who came to Eli and announced judgment on the house of Eli.
God was shutting down the house of Eli because of their apostasy, because of their corruption. Remember, his two sons were using their position to intimidate and abuse people. They were forcing the women who came to or served at the tabernacle to function like temple prostitutes. They were forcing them into sexual acts.
God is now bringing judgment. Eli has been waiting for this probably for 10 years, since it was first announced at the end of 1 Samuel 2, and then confirmed by the Word of the Lord to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3.
In 1 Samuel 2:34 the unnamed prophet, man of God, told Eli, “… this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.”
This is the announcement that this judgment is coming true. This will be the end of the house of Eli. We see that this prophetic sign is fulfilled. The death of Hophni and Phinehas confirms the prophecy.
Here is something we need to remember. One of the signs that a prophet is a true prophet is that according to Deuteronomy 18, what he prophesied comes true. If it doesn’t, then he is supposed to be executed by the death penalty, because anyone who says “This is the Word of the Lord” when it is not, is guilty of great deception. God is not going to let His Word be counterfeited. There was a capital penalty assigned to anyone who claimed to be a prophet and their prophecy did not come true.
So we have a situation at the end of 1 Samuel 2 when you had this prophet come to Eli in privacy. He tells Eli what God is going to do, but it is confirmed by someone else.
There is “the Word of the Lord” coming to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 and giving Samuel the same message that he gives to Eli. That confirms the message.
Then there is an external objective verification as that is fulfilled.
The reason I point this out is because in the looseness of a lot of evangelical theology and language, we have people say, “Well, the Lord told me to do this, and the Lord told me to do that.”
As we’ve studied so many times, the Lord only speaks through His Word today. He does not speak apart from His Word. The Holy Spirit may bring Scripture to our mind, but God isn’t going to give us direct revelation like He did in the Old Testament or in the early generation, the first generation of the church.
One of the patterns we see is when God did give revelation, if it was given in private, it was always confirmed through external verification. We will see this again and again in 1 Samuel. No one can just come along and say “God spoke to me and said that I should do this.”
The question then should be, how do we verify that? That was what was clearly seen in the two tests for a prophet in Deuteronomy 13 and 18:
- It had to be internally consistent. It had to be consistent with all previous revelation.
- It always had to come true. There were no dropped prophecies, not 98% true.
I heard one man giving a defense of the continuation of the gift of prophecy several years ago. He said that the New Testament gift doesn’t function like the Old Testament gift. It only has to be true 60–70% of the time. Where do you get that from the Scripture?
If the foundation of the New Testament church was apostles and prophets, and the foundation is only laid once, then those gifts are no longer on the scene.
In 1 Samuel 4:12–15, what happens after the battle is a man of Benjamin… Why do you think he points out a man of Benjamin?
One of the things that we learn in Bible Study Methods is to pay attention to the details. Many times I’ve had conversations with people, and they always seem to get around to saying, “what is interesting is that you always get down into such detail in the Scripture.”
Well, the details are important. If Jesus said every jot and tittle is going to be fulfilled, and those are just portions of letters, then the details are important.
So why do you think there is an emphasis here on “a man of Benjamin”? What is the last thing that we’ve learned about the Benjamites in Scripture?
They had a rough time at the end of the Judges. They were in apostasy. They were basically in the center of a civil war with the other eleven tribes against them. God brought a great discipline upon them. They don’t come out of the book of (or the period of the) Judges with a very good spiritual reputation. It stinks!
What is the next thing we are going to learn in the book of Samuel about the tribe of Benjamin? Saul.
Saul is going to be selected as the first king. I don’t think it is just happenstance that there is this emphasis. He doesn’t just say there is a messenger that came from the battle line, but it is a “man from Benjamin” who is bringing the bad news.
It starts to get us thinking in terms of the flow of the book about the tribe of Benjamin again. There is a little bit of foreshadowing there, but not a whole lot.
“Then a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line the same day, and came to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dirt on his head.” Why is that?
That is how a Middle Easterner at this time, and for much of the ancient world, would indicate their grief and their sorrow, the fact that they were distressed, terribly distressed. They would tear their clothes. They would put dirt on their head. They would put on sackcloth and ashes. It is a visual symbol to represent how they are feeling, their emotional state.
The Benjamite has terrible news. This is the most disastrous thing to happen to Israel in the ancient world, second only to the destruction of the temple in 586 BC. That is because the Ark of God is captured by the Philistines. This is a major disaster.
The Benjamite comes, and Eli is sitting out by the tabernacle on his seat waiting. He anticipates something. He is 98 years old. He knows about this prophecy. He knows that God has said that his two sons will be killed on the same day. It hasn’t been fulfilled yet. He knows he is not going to live much longer.
I think he is very anxious about the news that is going to come that day. That is why he is waiting. He is frightened for the Ark of God, which shows another aspect of his spirituality, but I think it basically is related to the fact that he knows something. He’s got this premonition that something disastrous is going to take place.
First of all, the messenger runs into the city and he tells them what has happened. They are crying out. They are wailing. They are in such distress. As this noise increases in volume, Eli hears it and he begins to ask what is going on.
As we learn in the next verse, Eli’s eyes are so dim that he can barely see. This is a reminder that Eli’s spiritual condition reflects the spiritual condition of the nation. They are in rebellion against God. They are in apostasy.
As he is physically blind, they are spiritually blind. He can’t see the light. Israel can’t see the light. They are coming under God’s judgment. All he can do is ask the question, what is going on? What is taking place? What is happening?
As the story unfolds, the writer builds this dramatic scene to a climax. What is going to happen when Eli hears the news? When Eli hears that not only are his sons dead, but the Ark has been captured? What is going to be his reaction?
Before we see that I want to show you a couple of pictures. This is from the Tel. That is the archeological dig at Shiloh in Israel. This is in the West Bank. This gives you a broad picture of the terrain here. You can see the hills in the background. It looks a lot like the hill country of Texas.
As you notice, the ground is not level. The ground is very uneven. There are hills. It is up and down. There are valleys, but there is a flat area down below.
You can see in a close up here a white covered area to the right. There is a darker covering over here on the left. Both are places were the archeologists are working. This area is the only flat area around. It is just a little bit larger than the dimensions of the tabernacle.
Remember, the tabernacle was here at Shiloh for over 300 years. As they excavated here, they found a number of artifacts. They have found pottery chards and different things like that that would have been part of the ritual observance at the tabernacle for those 300 years.
This was the site where all the Israelites were supposed to gather to worship the Lord at all the great feast days of Israel. This is where the tabernacle was located. Eli is sitting at the gate, at the entry way.
The terms that are used here indicate that the tabernacle, which was originally just a tent and very mobile, had probably become a little more solid, a little more stable over the 300 years. It says that he is by the gate.
Instead of just curtains, they had built more substantive pillars, posts, and gates. But Eli is sitting outside the front gate to the tabernacle.
The man comes to him and says, 1 Samuel 4:16–17, “I am the one who came from the battle. I fled from the battle line today.” Eli says tell me, what happened. The messenger says, and note what he says:
1. Israel has fled from the Philistines.
That is tragic news. They have been defeated.
2. There has been a great slaughter by the Philistines.
They have killed 30,000. He doesn’t know the exact number, but we do.
3. He says, “also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead.”
So far there is no reaction from Eli. The messenger says that Israel is defeated, that there has been a massive slaughter. His two sons are dead.
4. Then the last thing that he says is that the Ark of God has been captured.
As soon as Eli hears that (1 Samuel 4:18)—and the writer makes sure we understand it is not for the first three things—it is for that last thing:
“Then it happened when he made mention of the ark of God. Eli fell off his seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died.”
His reaction is not caused by learning about the defeat, or by the massive casualties, or by the death of his two sons. What kills Eli is when he hears about the fact that the Ark of God has been taken. At that point he looses his balance, falls off his seat, breaks his neck, and he dies.
Then we are given an interesting analysis, “for the man was old and heavy.”
The previous verse told us he was 98 years old. It is restated that he is old, but he is heavy. Then we are told that he had judged Israel for 40 years. Since he was 58 years old he had been a judge. He was rather old by the time he started judging Israel although he’d been a priest much, much earlier.
What is interesting is the little play on words here for the word “heavy.” This is what I think is so much fun and so much more interesting when we get into looking at the original languages of the Scripture, looking at Hebrew and looking at Greek.
It is really fun in Judges, and it is really fun in 1 and 2 Samuel because the writer—and it may even be the same writer … we don’t know—but the writer uses a lot of puns, otherwise known as paronomasias—word plays.
In that day, when you did not have boldface type, you didn’t have italics, you didn’t have underlining, and all these other things that we use, you would bring points out, emphasize things, by the way you said them.
Vocabulary and repetition of certain key words, using puns, paronomasias, things like that, would bring out certain points.
The word here is kaved, which is the word usually translated kavod. It is the word translated “glory.” But it means something in its root core meaning. It means something that is “weighty.”
There was an idiom back in the 1970s or 1980s that when something significant happened, people would say “Well, that’s heavy.” That is the idea here. It is something significant. It is something powerful. It referred to something that was weighty—literally, something that weighed, that was very heavy.
In that sense it also applies to Eli because he is obese at this time. Also it is used figuratively for something that is significant, something that is important. Certainly Eli was heavy, literally.
And figuratively he’s important. He’s the high priest. He’s the judge of Israel. There’s a layer of meaning here.
Also the word means “oppressive, oppression.” He and his sons oppressed Israel religiously. They brought them into apostasy in the way the sons abused the people when they would bring sacrifice to the tabernacle. They were under religious oppression from these apostate boys.
Kaved also has the idea of being burdensome, and something that is honored or glorified. As we look at this, Eli had social and religious significance. He is important, as well as physically heavy.
The sons apostatized and oppressed the people, and Eli condoned their lifestyle. He didn’t discipline them. He didn’t correct them. He tried to, but it was ineffective. And because of his sins and those of his sons, Israel was under spiritual oppression.
They were under a spiritual burden. They needed to have this whole apostate priesthood cleaned out. All of that is indicated in this play on words by using the word kaved.
That is not the last time we see it in this section. Remember, it also has that idea of something that has glorified, or has glory or is honored. We’ll get back to it in just a minute.
In 1 Samuel 4:19—20, we are told of a second reaction. That is his daughter-in-law.
It is interesting the way the writer emphasizes this. It says, “Now his daughter-in-law.” It doesn’t say, the wife of Phinehas, his daughter-in-law. It is emphasizing his relationship to his daughter-in-law. It says, “his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered.” She is just about nine months pregnant and about ready to have that child.
She hears the news that the Ark of God is captured. This is to point out how devastating this is. She hears that the Ark is captured, and immediately goes into labor. She is having this convulsive reaction. She bends over, she squats down and gives birth because her labor pains had come upon her, and then she dies. But before she dies she is going to name her son.
The women around her tell her not to fear, that she has given birth to a son. She doesn’t answer. I don’t know whether she doesn’t answer because she can’t answer. I don’t know if she doesn’t answer because she is out of it, but she doesn’t answer their question.
Instead in 1 Samuel 4:21–22, she names the child Ichabod. That is where Washington Gladden got the name “Ichabod Crane.” It comes out of the Scripture. A couple of names in Scripture I’m not sure why anybody who reads the Bible would ever name their children these names.
One of them is Ichabod. Why would you name your child “no glory?”
There is another one: that is the nickname that Naomi gave herself after her husband and two sons died. That is the name Mara. It means “bitter.” I know of one commentator on Fox News named Mara. I know of a couple of other women who have been named Mara. Why in the world would parents name their children “bitter”?
Ichabod probably means “without glory.” The popular etymology is that sometimes these names don’t literally mean what the text says they mean, but they sound like that. It is called a popular etymology.
The word khavod is the root here. I put a hyphen there to separate the prefix from the root word itself (i-khavod). The root word is khavod. It is the word we just saw meaning “glory” or something “heavy” or something “important.”
It has the idea of raising a question. It could mean “where is glory?” That “i” prefix is a little ambiguous, but it could mean “where is glory?”
In other words, where did the glory go? Every time you’d mention the name of this boy, you would be reminded that the glory is gone. The glory of Israel is gone. The glory of God is gone. We’ve lost God. He’s no longer with us.
Or it could be “no glory” or “nothing of glory.” But nobody knows exactly what that prefix means semantically. The mother interprets it to refer to the departure or the exit of the Ark.
Notice what she says in two places here:
1 Samuel 4:21: “Then she names the child Ichabod, saying, ‘The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband” who died.
Then it is repeated in 1 Samuel 4:22: “And she said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’ ”
Twice it is stated. Whenever the Holy Spirit puts something in the Scripture twice, we know we need to pay attention to that.
That is the significance of his name. When she uses this word “departed” that is also a significant word. It is the Hebrew word glh, which means “to go into exile.”
That is how it is used when you get into the prophets later on and when you get into Amos. Amos uses it to refer to the exile of Israel when the Babylonians came in and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and took the Israelites into captivity. This is the exile.
This is a foreshadowing of what will eventually happen to Israel—that the glory is going to depart again. This is described in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel saw the glory of God leave the Holy of Holies and the inner temple, and go out through the East Gate, then cross the Kidron Valley, go up the Mount of Olives, and then ascend to Heaven.
This is the same path basically the Lord Jesus Christ took when He ascended to Heaven. He crossed the Kidron Valley with His disciples, went up the Mount of Olives, and then ascended to Heaven.
Ichabod indicates the departure of the glory of God. God is now going into exile from Israel. The significance of this is not lost on Israel. It is referred to twice later on in the Old Testament.
I want to remind you that when we study Scripture, I try to point out how these events are used later on in Scripture. They are not just isolated stories. God didn’t just reveal this little incident to us because it is a nice story and somewhat related to what goes on in Samuel. This has significance later on in Israel’s history.
I want you to turn with me to Psalm 78. This Psalm is called A Contemplation of Asaph. There is a collection of Psalms that are written by Asaph.
There is a lot of debate as to exactly when these were written, whether it was earlier around the time of David, or whether it was later, after the separation of the Northern Kingdom from the Southern Kingdom.
The purpose of this Psalm is to emphasize God’s faithfulness to Israel, even when they are unfaithful. That is a great principle for us to understand. Many times we are disobedient. We are unfaithful to God, but God is always faithful to us. He is always faithful to His Word. He is always faithful to do and to deal with us on the basis of His Word.
Remember, there is this contrast here in Psalm 78 between Israel’s faithlessness and God’s faithfulness. There are two historic examples that are used by Asaph to remind his readers of God’s faithfulness.
- The first is the unfaithfulness of the Exodus generation.
As they came out of Egypt they continued to gripe and complain about God and His provisions, and to rebel against God and rebel against Aaron, and to rebel against Moses. There is the contrast between how unfaithful they were in the wilderness, yet God remained faithful to them and to His Word. Ultimately it is faithfulness to His Word and to His covenant.
- The second example comes from Israel’s faithlessness during this time at the end of the period of Judges.
Yet God is faithful to His covenant to deal with His people in grace.
Look at Psalm 78:57.
In Psalm 78:56, “Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, and did not keep His testimonies.” That summarizes the period of the Judges. “They turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers.”
Who were their fathers? Their fathers were the wilderness generation. It is talking about the generation at the time of Samuel and Eli. It says they turned aside like their fathers. “They turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places.”
This is describing their complete apostasy. They built the high places to sacrifice to the fertility gods, the gods of the Canaanites, the Ashteroth and the Baalim.
It says “they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.” They had completely given themselves over to idolatry.
Psalm 78:59, “When God heard this, He was furious, and greatly abhorred Israel.”
“So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh.”
This is describing 1 Samuel 4. God leaves the tabernacle at Shiloh and He will never return. He never comes back to Shiloh. He shuts down the worship there.
In fact, the study of what happens to the tabernacle is somewhat obscure at this point. What we find in about 40 years is that there is an altar that is set up at Gibeah. There seems to be a tabernacle there, but the Ark is near Jerusalem. Then the Ark is moved into Jerusalem. It reflects the fragmentation of the spirituality of Israel at this time.
Psalm 78:60–62, “So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He has placed among men, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory …”Guess what that word is? khavod. “His glory into the enemy’s hand. He also gave His people over to the sword.”
They’ve come under divine discipline, the fourth cycle of discipline described in Leviticus 26.
They are under military dominion for the next 20 years. It says God is furious with his inheritance.
“The fire consumed their young men, and their maidens were not given in marriage.” They are so depressed. They are so discouraged by the fact that they have lost God. They’ve had a number of young men that have died. They are so distressed that society almost breaks down. The normal social functions almost completely break down in the nation because of what has happened with the capture of the Ark. “Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.”
Think about that. Why wouldn’t they lament and grieve over the deaths of their husbands? Because they are already in such grief, according to this description, from the loss of God and the complete break down of their society and their culture. This is one example where 1 Samuel 4 is mentioned.
There is another one in Jeremiah. I want you to turn with me to Jeremiah 7.
What is happening in Jeremiah’s time? Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. He is at the time of the exile. He begins before the defeat of Judah by the Babylonians. He is announcing the coming judgment that God is going to bring on Judah for their apostasy, for their idolatry, for their disobedience, for all of their failures.
In Jeremiah 7:12 he is going to give us a reference to Shiloh. Let’s just look at the context a little bit. Remember how important it is to look at context. At the beginning in Jeremiah 7:1, “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord …” This is God speaking to Jeremiah.
He is told, in Jeremiah 7:2, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’ ” By this time what has happened in their apostasy is the Jews are not paying any attention to God’s Word at all.
Isaiah warned them that this day was going to come—that the Southern Kingdom was going to be defeated and destroyed. Isaiah warned them that the Babylonians, that Nebuchadnezzar was the one who was going to come and destroy Jerusalem and destroy the temple. This had been anticipated.
Other prophets had announced this time and time again. But the people, the religious leaders, have so turned their back on God that they are not listening. They think that the temple, which is their glory, this is Solomon’s temple, the first temple, is so glorious and so wonderful that it can’t be destroyed. They are just totally given over to arrogance thinking that “God can’t destroy us.” They are just in this horrible place of rebellion.
Yet, Jeremiah’s message to them in Jeremiah 7:3, was “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.” The only way they can stay there is if they turn back to the Lord.
Then God goes on to say, “Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’ ” That is what they are saying; the temple of the Lord cannot be destroyed.
They go on, and in the next few verses, Jeremiah continues to give them an indictment of how everybody is living for themselves. They are oppressing the aliens that are coming in and living in Israel, the fatherless, the widow.
This isn’t talking about government oppression. This is talking about the part of the individuals. This isn’t an indictment of the government. It is an indictment of the people. The government reflects that, but the people are not being caring of the poor, of the widows, and of the orphans. Everybody is just so concerned with their own lives and their own agendas.
What you find in liberal theology, and especially under the influence of Marxism, and you find this in various forms of liberation theology, is the idea that this is all an attack on government. See, the role of the government is primarily to take care of the widows, the orphans, etc.
But when you study the Mosaic Law, it is the responsibility of the individuals to do this. It is always placed on individual responsibility as a manifestation of that first divine institution. We’ve studied many times on individual responsibility.
God places the responsibility on the individuals, on the families to take care of their own.
There is only a small amount of responsibility in the Mosaic Law given to the government. Only one tithe of the three was to provide a safety net for the widows and orphans.
So there is this indictment of the people. They’ve all just turned their backs on the poor, on the widows, and on the orphans. That is part of the indictment.
Look at Jeremiah 7:11. As he reaches the end of his indictment, Jeremiah says, “Has this house, which is called by My name”—God is speaking here—“Has this house which is called by My name become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, says the Lord.”
See, what they are doing is, in the ancient world temples were used as the Federal Reserve Bank. This was the place where people stored their money. Who is going to attack a temple? Who is going to go in and rob a temple under the eyes of a god, whoever it was, because that was considered the safest place around. That was where they stored the money.
They are not using the money for what God intended it to do. They are using it for their own purposes. It has become a system of thievery, a system of robbery, and hyper taxation. All of this is covered in the book of Kings.
Then God says “so you think I won’t destroy the temple? Let me give you a little historical evidence that I will destroy My dwelling place.”
In Jeremiah 7:12–14, He says, “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh.”
You don’t think I will destroy this temple? Just take a walk about 20 miles north of Jerusalem to Shiloh. You will see the destruction that is there. I’ve already destroyed My dwelling place among you once. I can do it again.
“But go to my place in Shiloh where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. ‘And now, because you have done all these works,’ says the Lord, ‘and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.’ ”
See, this is how this is connected. God is using Shiloh as an example that He does enter into human history. He does bring judgment to those who have disobeyed Him. They can go on and on and on. God will extend grace and extend grace and extend grace before judgment, but eventually the longsuffering of God is going to bring judgment.
It happens individually. God does not always whack us every time we disobey Him. God will give us enough rope to hang ourselves. We may go years and years and years in destructive sinful patterns.
Then finally God says you, just keep excusing it. You keep rationalizing it. We are going to have to deal with it in divine discipline. “Whom the Lord loves He chastens.” That is a sign that we are part of God’s royal family, according to Hebrews 12.
This is the example. It is going to come back again. Just turn over a few pages to Jeremiah 26:6. This is a similar scenario. God is again reminding them that He’s going to destroy the temple.
He lays out the indictment in Jeremiah 26:1–5. They have continued in their evil. They have continued in idolatry. They have continued to disobey Him. God now announces His judgment that He “will make this house”, that is the temple of Solomon, “like Shiloh.” He will completely destroy it, “and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.”
What do you think the response was when He said that? It ought to remind you of several times in the Gospels when Jesus makes certain statements about who He is, about His mission.
What happens? Jesus says that “before Abraham was, I Am”—a clear statement that He is deity using the divine name Yahweh, or I Am. He indicates that and what did the Pharisees do? Did they say let’s go back and have a theological discussion about this? Is that what they did?
They reached down to stone Him.
What happens when the prophets proclaim the truth of God’s Word, when Christians stand against the tide of a degenerate pagan culture, how do people respond? In hostility and anger.
This is exactly what happens in Jeremiah 26:7 after Jeremiah announces that God has said that He was going to destroy the temple:
“So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.” And when He “made an end of speaking” what did they say?
The end of Jeremiah 26:8, “You will surely die!” You have gone too far now. We are going to kill you. But the rulers come out and rescue Jeremiah at this point so that doesn’t happen.
Unlike Stephen later on in Acts 7: Stephen was making the same point again and again and again—you have turned your back on God and you have killed God’s prophets. The Pharisees and Sadducees got so mad at him that they picked up rocks and stoned him to death in Acts 7.
God does bring judgment, but He has to bring this judgment on Israel. He has to take them through this crucible in order to cleanse the priesthood of sin, in order to cleanse the nation of sin, before He is going to start rebuilding the nation.
We are going to see this amusing episode that takes place starting in 1 Samuel 5 of how the people are just so distraught because God has been captured. God has been taken away.
God is going to show that He is perfectly capable of taking care of Himself, thank you very much. He doesn’t need any help from anybody else. It is extremely amusing.
“Father thank You for this time that we’ve had to study Your Word, to come to a better understanding of who You are, because it shows us that You are not always one to operate as we might predict or might think. You operate “outside of that box” because You operate on the basis of infinite knowledge. You know exactly what is necessary in order to bring about Your desired goals and to cleanse from sin, to discipline for sin. And Father, it shows us that You have a specific purpose in all of the things that You have done in history. It is remarkable to see how these different events connect together.
Father, we know that the same is true individually in our spiritual lives. That You warn us, that You entice us, that You draw us to try to get into Your Word, to study Your Word, to walk in the light, to walk according to Your truth. Again and again and again we see people who turn their back on the Word and are not interested. As a result of that, judgment sometimes comes, and it may not be far away as far as our country is concerned.
Father, as believers we need to shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. We pray that we might have the courage and the spiritual fortitude to do so. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”