1 Samuel
1-2 The Philistines Defeat Israel 3-5 The Ark Is Taken into the Camp 6-11 The Ark Taken by the Philistines 12-18 Message of the Losses 19-22 Ichabod
The Philistines Defeat Israel

1Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek. 2The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.

The first part of verse 11Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek. still belongs to the last verse of 1 Samuel 3. The LORD reveals Himself to Samuel through His word. This word is passed on by Samuel to Israel. Yet it is called here “the word of Samuel”. The people hear him speak, but he only passes on what the LORD has spoken to him.

As Levite he teaches the people the law (Deu 33:8-10a8Of Levi he said,
“[Let] Your Thummim and Your Urim [belong] to Your godly man,
Whom You proved at Massah,
With whom You contended at the waters of Meribah;
9Who said of his father and his mother,
‘I did not consider them’;
And he did not acknowledge his brothers,
Nor did he regard his own sons,
For they observed Your word,
And kept Your covenant.
10“They shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob,
And Your law to Israel.
They shall put incense before You,
And whole burnt offerings on Your altar.
; 2Chr 17:8-98and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests.9They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.; 30:2222Then Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good insight [in the things] of the LORD. So they ate for the appointed seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD God of their fathers.). His service concerns all the people who as itinerant Levites he teaches from place to place and exhorts to obey God’s law.

When Samuel is confirmed in his service, we get the history of breaking down the old state of affairs. This history we see happening in the going ‘into captivity’ of the ark. God in His providence allows the ark to be captured by the enemies of His people, which otherwise would never have happened, but the people are responsible for it. The main enemies in this history are the Philistines. In the book of Judges they have come forward more and more clearly. In this first book of Samuel it is the first mention of the Philistines since the capture and death of Samson, about twenty years ago.

It is important to remember anew what these enemies present. The most remarkable thing is that they live in the same land as the Israelites, a land that God promised to Israel and now belongs to them. However, there is a big difference between the ways along which both peoples ended up there. There is a short way from Egypt to Canaan and that is “the way of the land of the Philistines” (Exo 13:1717Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”). By this way, the Red Sea and the desert can be avoided, as well as the Jordan, while Israel came into the promised land via the Red Sea, the desert and the Jordan.

In the spiritual application we can learn a lot from this. The Philistines represent the nominal Christians. These are people who confess to belong to God’s people, but who do not find it necessary to believe that Christ died and rose up for them, and that they died and rose with Him (in the picture the Red Sea and the Jordan). Nor did they get to know the experiences of the desert. They came into the land without having realized these truths in their hearts and experienced them in practice. According to their confession they no longer belong to the world (Egypt). In name they belong to God’s people, but they are not born again.

The Philistines do not belong in the land of God. God’s people, however, have failed to expel the Philistines from the land and precisely they get the ark in their hands, as we will see in the following verses. The ark is in the Old Testament one of the most beautiful pictures of the Lord Jesus. The gold of the ark speaks of His Godhead and the wood of His Mankind, who are united in one Person (the ark). In the mercy seat of the ark we see a picture of His work of atonement and in the cherubs of His government. The ark stands in the most holy place in the immediate presence of God. It is also the throne of God. In Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:99For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,).

It seems that Israel is taking the initiative in the fight, because they are first mentioned. They go to war without a command from God or a threat from the Philistines. There is no priest who comes to encourage them (cf. Deu 20:1-41“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots [and] people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.2When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people.3He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them,4for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’). Nor is there any indication that they consulted Samuel for this fight. It seems to be a sudden outbreak of violence, possibly a sudden outburst of violence because of the humiliations suffered.

They camp besides “Ebenezer”, which means “stone of help”. This name is already mentioned here, although the place will receive this name from Samuel only twenty years later after a victory over the Philistines (1Sam 7:1212Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”). It is as if this already indicates that the place where the defeat is suffered will become the place where the LORD gets the honor.

The first battle is won by the Philistines, because God is not here with Israel. Just like Samson, they are powerless, because they did not remain separated to God. Nor do we read of any action of Samuel in prayer for their benefit. They rely solely on their own strength, while their hearts have departed from God (Jer 17:55Thus says the LORD,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
). If the people of God do that, they always fail. God departs from those who depart from Him (Hos 9:1212Though they bring up their children,
Yet I will bereave them until not a man is left.
Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them!
). So the LORD also departed from Samson (Jdg 16:2020She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.), because Samson first departed from Him.


The Ark Is Taken into the Camp

3When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 4So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts who sits [above] the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, [were] there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5As the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded.

When the people have returned to the camp, the elders wonder why the LORD has made them suffer the defeat. The question is a pious expression, but without any working of conscience. They are not waiting for an answer, but they themselves give the answer. Therefore this answer is not from the LORD, but comes from their own heart. They accept that the defeat is from the LORD, possibly because they realize that He did not go with them. A fair conclusion, but followed by a wrong reaction.

The effect of the defeat should have been general humiliation (cf. Jos 7:6-86Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, [both] he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.7Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, [only] to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!8O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned [their] back before their enemies?). Then they would have known that it is by their sin, their unfaithfulness to the LORD. However, they resort to a foolish act. Now they want to force the LORD to go with them. They want to take the ark with them, that it may redeem them.

The leaders have some knowledge. However, a little knowledge is life-threatening if you imagine that you know everything. They remember that the ark was once with them and then gave them the victory. That was when they were at Jericho and the walls fell (Jos 6:3-203You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days.4Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.5It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.”6So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.”7Then he said to the people, “Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of the LORD.”8And it was [so], that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.9The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets.10But Joshua commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout!”11So he had the ark of the LORD taken around the city, circling [it] once; then they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.12Now Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew the trumpets; and the armed men went before them and the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while they continued to blow the trumpets.14Thus the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp; they did so for six days.15Then on the seventh day they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.16At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.17The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.18But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet [them] and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.19But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.”20So the people shouted, and [priests] blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.). Only they forget that the walls of Jericho fell “by faith” (Heb 11:3030By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.). Here the faith is lacking. This is an act of superstition that the ark wants to use as a mascot. God has not given any command to do so. What they want, borders on magic.

The same happens in Christianity with statutes such as baptism and supper. These symbols, when used independently of faith, are attributed a magical effect in their mere use. As soon as external customs are separated from a living relationship with God and Christ, they become idolatry. In this way, the cross becomes a sign of victory, while it means defamation.

Prayer and Bible reading can also become inanimate habits, as well as visiting a Christian meeting. This happens when these things happen from a thought that God will be happy with them and not from an inner desire to have fellowship with Him. There can only be fellowship with Him if the whole life is subjected to His will. Otherwise it is a fetching of the ark of the covenant, while the heart is not directed toward the God of the covenant.

God’s presence is only where there is obedience to His Word. This is why Moses was able to count on God’s presence when he let the ark go ahead (Num 10:35-3635Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said,
“Rise up, O LORD!
And let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee before You.”
36When it came to rest, he said,
“Return, O LORD,
[To] the myriad thousands of Israel.”
; cf. Jos 3:10-1110Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.11Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you into the Jordan.). Perhaps Hophni and Phinehas remembered that event when they let the ark come.

It is easy for man’s corrupt heart to invoke examples from Scripture to justify wrong practices. Therefore these examples are then taken out of their context. Once the ark has arrived in the land, there is no indication that it can be removed from its resting place when certain events happen. All the time the people must go to the ark as the place of God’s presence (Deu 12:5-145But you shall seek [the LORD] at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.6There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.7There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.8“You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man [doing] whatever is right in his own eyes;9for you have not as yet come to the resting place and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you.10When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around [you] so that you live in security,11then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the LORD.12And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.13“Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every [cultic] place you see,14but in the place which the LORD chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.). Never may they pick up the ark to come to them.

It is customary for all peoples of the earth to take their gods and sacred materials with them in the war. This is what the Persians, Romans and Greeks do, for example. In our modern age we find remnants of this ancient superstition in the dedication and blessing of crosses and the sanctification of national colors and flags.

The ark is taken to be used in battle. At that moment the Holy Spirit gives a detailed description of the ark. The ark is “the ark of the covenant of the LORD”. This indicates the connection between God and His people. It is also “the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts” (cf. 1Sam 1:33Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the LORD there.). That is His Name as the Prince of His hosts. Finally, it is mentioned that He “sits [above] the cherubim”, indicating that He rules in righteousness.

According to God’s thoughts this is all connected to the ark. For faith the ark is the glory and honor of Israel (verse 2222She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”). However, there is no faith with the people and even less with the two sons of Eli who are with the ark. The connection of the ark with the two wicked sons of Eli is a connection that God cannot accept.

It is not the priests who let the ark be taken, but the people who send to take the ark. The people rule and do what is good in their own eyes. The whole people cheers, but it is a hollow, vain cheering without any real reason. So much they have been misled. Their cheers prove their religious error. Seeing a symbol enraptures them while they deny its truth. Cheering is always easier than fighting. It is easier in mass meetings to become enthusiastic under the influence of the mass than in daily life to live devoted to the Lord. A high degree of religious excitement is no proof of God’s favor and blessing.


The Ark Taken by the Philistines

6When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What [does] the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews [mean]?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. 7The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all [kinds of] plagues in the wilderness. 9Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.” 10So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

The Philistines also lack insight, which is understandable. For them the ark is also a mascot, nothing more. Just like the unbelieving Israel, they interchange the symbol with the true God. The cheering of the one and the fear of the other are both the result of unbelief and ignorance.

The Philistines speak of “the Hebrews”, not of “the Israelites”. The Israelites were among the foreign peoples known as “Hebrews” (Exo 1:1515Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;; 2:66When she opened [it], she saw the child, and behold, [the] boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”). What the Philistines say further shows that they are familiar with the history of the ark and God’s people. They know what happened about three hundred years ago. Yet they are not accurately informed. They connect the plagues with which God plagued the land of Egypt with the desert and not with the land of Egypt.

In any case, they are very impressed by the power of God, Who, by the way, with their idolatrous view they see as several mighty gods. The only thing they can say to each other as people of the world to encourage each other is: “Be men.” The man of faith speaks differently. He does not trust in his own human strength, but in the Lord.

The Philistines are fighting with all their strength, while it seems as if there is no battle on the part of Israel. They may have been surprised because they trusted their mascot and thought in their folly that God would fight for them because of the ark. In reality they lose because the LORD is not with them and gives them into the hand of the Philistines. Superstition makes a person blind to the real danger and powerless against the enemy. Israel do like the sons of a certain Sceva who, out of pure self-interest, call the name of Jesus in order to be successful (Acts 19:13-1713But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”14Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.15And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”16And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.).

God will not be forced to fight for us if our heart is not with Him. The use of holy words, the citation of venerable leaders, relying on sanctified substances such as baptismal water and bread and wine is all worthless. It is about purity of heart and hands. No external privileges, no previous experiences of God’s presence, no correctness of position or doctrine can take the place of truth in the heart of God. God “desires truth in the innermost being” (Psa 51:66Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
).

The slaughter is large. Around the ark, the corpses must have piled up because they desperately wanted to protect the ark as the symbol of their belief. The defeat is insulting and extensive. God uses this war to liberate the ark from the hands of wicked men who boast to be His people. Eli’s sons have disappeared from the stage forever. The ark is going into captivity. At the same time the way it goes is a triumphal march, as we will see.


Message of the Losses

12Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on [his] seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God. So the man came to tell [it] in the city, and all the city cried out. 14When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What [does] the noise of this commotion [mean]?” Then the man came hurriedly and told Eli. 15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.” And he said, “How did things go, my son?” 17Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.” 18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years.

A man of Benjamin manages to escape. With great speed he reaches Shiloh. There Eli is beside the gate. The messenger runs by Eli. This is not the man he thinks first of to bring his sad message. Apparently Eli is not involved in what is happening in the lives of the people. The man of Benjamin brings his message to the city. His torn clothes are a sign of the torn and divided and scattered people. The earth on his head points to the humiliation of the people. His appearance indicates that he is a messenger with bad tidings.

After the message there is a lot of crying in the whole city. All inhabitants will have family or friends in the army about whom they are in care. Especially the message about the ark will have landed hard. In any case, that is Eli’s greatest concern, greater than the concern for his sons. What would happen to his sons is told him (1Sam 2:3434This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die.).

Eli is blind, but not deaf. He cannot see the torn clothes and the earth on the head of the messenger, but he does hear the effect of the message. Although he does have an idea, he wants to know the right reason for the crying. Then the messenger also comes to Eli and tells him what happened. The report Eli gets is not from second hand, but from an eyewitness. Nor is it a report of an event in the far past, but of something that has happened this same day.

In a friendly way Eli invites him to report. He uses the fatherly “my son”, so that the messenger will tell him everything that has happened, freely and openly, without omitting anything (cf. 1Sam 3:16-1816Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.”17He said, “What is the word that He spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. May God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the words that He spoke to you.”18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.”).

In his report, the messenger briefly and forcefully mentions four cases, of which each is more serious than the previous one:

1. Israel has fled for its enemies. The fact that Israel has had to turn its back on its enemies is proof of the presence of a great evil. It points to a serious deviation from the LORD, Who promised the opposite if the people were faithful.

2. There has been a great massacre among the people. They could also have been defeated without much loss. Of the combative men, however, there are not many left.

3. His two sons are dead. As a father, it will have affected him even more than the thirty thousand other dead. Especially since there is little hope that they died in the peace of God.

4. The ark of God is captured. This is the most feared and most terrible message of all. Now God has left Israel and there is no hope for Israel to restore.

Only when there is mention made of the capture of the ark, Eli falls off his chair and dies. No matter how weak he may have been in maintaining the rights of the LORD, there was with him sincere care for the symbol of God’s presence.


Ichabod

19Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”

In Eli’s house is a God-fearing woman, the wife of the wicked Phinehas. Also to her the ark is the most important. The women around her do not understand her, just as Hannah was not understood. They do not understand what is going on in her with respect to the honor of God’s people. Her God-fearing heart knows what the ark means to Israel. For her, the ark represents the presence of God, which is now gone (Psa 78:60-6160So that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh,
The tent which He had pitched among men,
61And gave up His strength to captivity
And His glory into the hand of the adversary.
).

What is happening here, is definitive. The ark has gone into captivity and will never return to the tabernacle in Shiloh. Shiloh has been destroyed and the tent has not been used as a shelter for the ark anymore. The ark gets its place in the coming temple.

There are four captivities of Israel, which means that they are in captivity outside their country. Three times that is literally the case and once symbolic and that is here.

1. The first captivity is in Egypt. During this captivity the people have deviated from God. Moses, raised by God, takes the people out of captivity and brings them to the promised land. This will happen again to the people in the future.

2. In 1 Samuel we see the second case. The people are given in captivity because of their unfaithfulness, this time in the ark that comes into Philistine hands. In the ark the people are symbolically captured. God leaves His people. History is then continued in what happens to the ark in the land of the Philistines. All the time the ark is gone, nobody seems to have cared about it. Only when David cares about it, the ark is brought back from captivity and brought to Zion.

3. The third captivity is the Babylonian, as the judgment over the decay among the kings. The glory of the LORD departs from Jerusalem, be it in phases (Eze 9:3a3Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case.; 10:18-1918Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.19When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’S house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.; 11:22-2322Then the cherubim lifted up their wings with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.23The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.). The restoration – albeit a partial one – takes place under the high priest Jeshua and the prince Zerubbabel, who together are a picture of the Lord Jesus. This restoration is described in the book of Ezra (Ezra 1:1-31Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also [put it] in writing, saying:2“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.3Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.; 2:1-21Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city.2These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum [and] Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:; 3:22Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose and built the altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.).

4. The fourth captivity – the scattering of Israel among the nations – is the result of the rejection of the Lord Jesus and continues still. This will be ended by the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself. Then comes the kingdom of peace, with no chance of a new captivity.

It is not just a prophetic history for Israel. The prophetic meaning is also important to us. Philistines are a picture of the nominal Christians. It is what we see especially in the church of Sardis (Rev 3:1-61“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.2Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.3So remember what you have received and heard; and keep [it], and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.4But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.5He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’). It presents Protestantism, as it has developed since the Reformation. We see as never before that the ark has ended up in the dirty hands of the Philistines. It is the time of the bible criticism and the false teaching about the Lord Jesus. In Protestantism these errors are greater than in Roman Catholicism.


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