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The Bitter Fruit of Disobedience

1 Samuel 4:10-11

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So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4:10-11 NIV)

When the book of 1 Samuel opens, the tabernacle of God, built during the Exodus, is residing at Shiloh. Eli is the high priest at the time, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also serving as priests. But as you read the first few chapters of 1 Samuel you get a picture of a priesthood that was corrupted. Hophni and Phinehas were stealing from the people and sleeping with the women who served at the tabernacle. Yet Eli, their father, did nothing about it.

The Philistines were a neighboring people to Israel. Conflict between the two seemed to be constant as they both vied for the same territory and resources. And that is the setting for this fourth chapter of 1 Samuel. The two armies fight, and Israel was badly beaten. So they decide to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them. After all, in their most legendary victory at Jericho, the ark was with the army.

So the army took the ark, along with Hophni and Phinehas, and marched into battle with the Philistines. And the result was catastrophic. Israel was defeated, losing 30,000 soldiers. Even worse, the ark was captured by the Philistines, and Hophni and Phinehas were killed. How could this happen?

The Fruit of Disobedience

It is likely that several factors contributed to this disaster. Among them is what seems to be the people’s attitude toward the ark. They seem to treat it as a good luck charm that would guarantee success in battle. And they failed to understand and reverence the things of God.

But, most importantly, in the context of the story, it is Hophni and Phinehas that seems to be the biggest problem. Their actions as priests had dishonored God, and they were punished for it. And their disobedience had bitter fruit, not just for them, but for the whole nation.

This was the repeated story throughout the history of Israel. When their spiritual leadership was lacking, the whole nation suffered. And I believe it is true for us today as well. When our spiritual leadership is weak or misguided, then those who look to them will suffer. The story of Hophni and Phinehas should serve as a lesson to all who provide spiritual leadership to do it in a way that honor’s God and draws people to him.

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.