I Sam. 4:2-5:12
The Philistines were bitter enemies of the Israelites. They engaged in many battles with them—both successfully and unsuccessfully. Soon after Samuel’s appointment as God’s prophet, Israel fought a war with Philistia and lost four thousand soldiers in a disastrous defeat.
Following that defeat, the Israelites mistakenly took the ark of the covenant with them into the next battle. They had the ark, but not God’s presence. Thirty thousand foot soldiers, including Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas died. The ark was also captured by the Philistines and placed unceremoniously before Dagon, the god of the Philistines.
A messenger reported to Eli that his two sons had died in battle and that the ark of the covenant had been captured. The news that the ark had been captured caused Eli to fall backward. The fall broke his neck and he died at the age of ninety-eight years.
Phinehas’ wife heard the news of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of Eli and her husband. The shock of that news caused her to go into labor. Soon after naming her baby son Ichabod, she also died. The prophecy against Eli’s family was beginning to be fulfilled.
Sometimes what one thinks is a good thing turns out to be not so good. The Philistines in their exuberance of capturing the ark learned that even though God had turned His back upon Israel, He refused to allow their god, Dagon to prevail against the ark. It fell before the ark and its head and hands broke off leaving only its torso.
Plagues broke out in every city in which the Philistines moved the ark of God. By then, no one wanted it in their presence. They asked that it be sent back to its own place. Man and his gods cannot prevail against God.