1 Samuel 4 — This reminds me of when the Israelites sent the spies into Canaan. They saw the inhabitants and were afraid. Caleb tried to talk them out of their fear but to no avail. Only here, when the Philistines rightfully fear the God of Israel because of his past exploits in Egypt, they’re talked into fighting, and they win! This fulfills what God spoke concerning Eli and his house and the glory departs from Israel, but in a sense, this is simply the fruit of seed planted long before this.
1 Samuel 5 — Israel was the rightful bearer of God’s glory; not the pagan nations. I’m aware that it’s a later tradition that says the high priest would enter the holy of holies with a rope (or chain) tied around his ankle in case he died in God’s presence, but reading passages like this one make me think it’s not so unlikely. God’s glroy can’t be handled by just anyone; it has to be handled by a chosen people. I also find it poetic that the false gods of the Philistines fall down before the God of Israel as if to set an example for the Philistines.
1 Samuel 6 — The Philistines knew enough to offer a guilt offering to the LORD, but technically, it was the wrong offering. The guilt offerings outlined in Leviticus were either a ram without blemish (Lev. 5:15-19; 19:22) or a male lamb (Lev. 14:12, 21, 24-25). But the Philistines were probably unaware of the rules and regulations of Israel’s sacrificial system so who can blame them?
1 Samuel 6:19 — There’s some interesting stuff going on with this verse in various translations as well as the LXX and MT. The MT, LXX, and KJV all make reference to the 50,000 (חמשים אלף/πεντηκοντα χιλιαδας) men struck dead. The ESV, NRSV, NIV, and NLT do not. The NET gets real specific and says 50,070. The NRSV follows the LXX in mentioning the descendants of Jechnonia (οι υιοι Ιεχονιου) while the other translations follow the MT in only mentioning the men of Beth-shemesh. It’s almost enough to get me interested in textual criticism!
1 Samuel 7 — Surprise, surprise. Israel does what they should do and God rewards them for their obedience. Would that they could just stick with it! Would that I could!
1 Samuel 8 — And there you have it; Israel wanted to be like the Gentiles (v. 20). It’s funny because Israel already had a King, the LORD (v. 7), but their King was unique in that he was able to judge justly and rule with perfect wisdom. They rejected this for an imperfect king like those that the nations had. And what was the penalty? Enslavement. Bondage. Hard labor. A return to Egypt basically. But God gave them what they wanted, and we know from other portions of Scripture that when God does that it’s actually his judgment (cf. Rom. 1). But how appropriate that Israel’s redemption would come from the very King that they rejected; it would just take a while for him to become incarnate and resemble something similar to what they were expecting, but even then he didn’t do what they expected him to do, at least not yet (see Rev. 17:14; 19:16).