1st Samuel – Israel and the Philistine oppression. Israel loses the Ark of the Covenant!

1 Samuel 4 (reading 1 Samuel 3:19-4:4)
The end of chapter 3 and the start of 4 bring us forward in time into the early adult life of the prophet Samuel. His prophetic ministry as Israel’s prophet and as one who speaks directly to God, as had Moses, is now known nation-wide, and the Lord’s glory has returned to the tabernacle. As far as technology goes, we’ve moved out of the late Bronze Age and into Iron Age I. And in the Eastern Mediterranean a new and highly disruptive and aggressive people have invaded. The Sea People (as the Egyptians called them) originating in the island of Crete, an advanced technology, seafaring and trade oriented people, had over the past 100 plus years or so, in the 13th and 12th centuries BC, swept down the coast of the Levant, subduing the coastal land in Syria (Ammurapi, the king of Ugarit in Syria had urgently appealed to neighboring kingdoms for help against the “Seven Ships of the Enemy”, but the city was crushed before help could arrive), Lebanon, Israel and finally attacking Egypt where they were slowed and stopped over the ruling period of 3 different pharaohs. The Egyptians called them the “Peleset” and after defeating them they record that some of the Peleset settled in Canaan, which accords with the Bible’s record of their arrival and behavior.

The biblical authors remembered the Philistines as coming from a foreign land, from “Caphtor”/Crete (Genesis 10:14; Deuteronomy 2:23; 1 Chronicles 1:12; Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4).

The wave-like invasions of these Sea People’s resulted in a significant, frightful collapse and severe regression of civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean, not least of which was the end of the Hittite empire. In Israel the Sea People were known as the Philistines, and held the coastal strip there building up the five cities of the Philistine confederacy – Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath (where Goliath was from). And we meet them as such here in 1 Samuel 4. They oppressed and enslaved the Israelites in the time of Samuel and feature heavily in the life of the judge Samson, as well as the rulerships of Saul and David.