Scott Pennington, Small Group Facilitator
Eli dies from a fall after being shocked by the Ark’s capture.
The captured Ark becomes an unwelcome guest of the Philistines.
The Philistines return the Ark.
Samuel defeats the Philistines in battle.
Israel requests a king despite Samuel’s warnings.
Why was the Ark so important to Israel?
The Ark was built according to instructions given in Exodus 25:10-22. In the Ark were the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 10:4-5). (These were in fact the second set of tablets, since Moses smashed the first set in anger when the Israelites had built the golden calf.) The Ark originally contained a jar of manna (Exodus 16:33-34), Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:10 and the tablets (Hebrews 9:4), but by the time of King Solomon, the Ark contained only the two tablets (1 Kings 8:9).
In reading this passage, I was drawn to 1 Samuel 5:22. Eli’s daughter-in-law was pregnant. When she heard news of the Ark’s capture, the death of her husband during battle and Eli’s subsequent death, she went into labor. She did not survive, but as she was dying she said “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”
So, where did God actually reside? In the Ark? In the Tabernacle? Today, because of Jesus, we have a fuller picture of God. I think Israel did not realize that God was with them all of the time, whether the Ark was in their camp or not. Our narrow thinking today can often put God in a box. Jesus, God incarnate (God revealed in the flesh) does not want us to have a well-defined (and confined) religion, he wants us to have an evolving relationship with him. He does not want this relationship to be one of following rules, regulations, and even the Commandments, but one where he becomes a part of our daily lives. When we love Jesus, we will want to please him and do what is right. When trials come and we are tempted to cry out “The glory has departed from us,” we can have the assurance that God has not left us, but is always present with us.