“Unit 17: Day 2, 1 Samuel 4–8,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 17: Day 2,” Old Testament Study Guide
The Philistines defeated the Israelites in war and took the ark of the covenant of God. After being tormented by various plagues, the Philistines returned the ark. Samuel exhorted the Israelites to repent and return to the Lord. After a brief period of repentance, the Israelites again rejected the Lord and asked Samuel to give them a king to rule over them.
Ponder the following question: When will you need the Lord’s help today?
As you study 1 Samuel 4, look for what you can do to receive the Lord’s help.
Read 1 Samuel 4:1–2, looking for troubles the Israelites were experiencing.
If you had a chance to speak to the soldiers of Israel’s army after their defeat, what might you tell them to help them after that difficult experience?
Read 1 Samuel 4:3 to discover what the elders of Israel said to the army. (In this case, the term elders refers to the leaders of the people, not the priesthood office.)
The ark of the covenant contained the stone tablets Moses received from the Lord on Mount Sinai. It also represented God’s presence.
You may want to mark the word it, which refers to the ark, at the end of verse 3.
What does the Israelite elders’ statement that “it may save us” show about their faith in the Lord? In 1 Samuel 4:4–9 we see that the Israelites took the ark with them into battle.
Read 1 Samuel 4:10–11, looking for what happened during the Israelites’ battle with the Philistines.
Why do you think the Israelites were defeated even though they had the ark of the covenant with them?
The Israelites vainly supposed that carrying the ark of the covenant into battle would save them. However, they had departed from the commandments and ways of the Lord. Therefore, they went into battle without His strength and help, despite the presence of the ark. One principle we can learn from this experience is that in order to receive the Lord’s help, we must place our faith in Him and obey His commandments.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What are some things we can do to show the Lord that we have placed our faith in Him?
When have you felt that the Lord had helped you as you put your faith in Him and kept His commandments?
As recorded in 1 Samuel 4:12–22, when Eli learned that his two sons had been killed and the ark of the covenant had been captured, he fell backward from his seat, broke his neck, and died. Thus were the words of the Lord fulfilled concerning the house of Eli. Not long after that, Eli’s daughter-in-law died soon after giving birth to a son. Before dying she named her son Ichabod, which means “Where is glory?” (verse 21, footnote a), and said, “The glory is departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:21).
One of the false gods of the Philistines was Dagon, the fish god. The Philistines believed that Dagon had given them victory over Israel. After capturing the ark of the covenant, they brought it to Dagon’s temple as a war trophy and set it before an image or statue of Dagon.
Read 1 Samuel 5:2–5, looking for what happened to the image of Dagon when the ark of God was set by it. How would you describe what happened to the statue of Dagon, including what caused it?
Read 1 Samuel 5:6, looking for what started happening to the Philistines while the ark was with them.
We do not know exactly what emerods were, but we do know they were a very destructive disease with tumors or boils (see verse 6, footnote a). The plague among the Philistines appears to have included an outbreak of mice as well (see 1 Samuel 6:5).
In 1 Samuel 5:7–12 and 1 Samuel 6 we learn that the plague spread among other Philistine cities, and many Philistines died. As the plague worsened, the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant to the Israelites in an attempt to pacify the Lord’s wrath. When the Israelites received the ark from the Philistines, some of them looked into it and also incurred God’s anger.
Although the Philistines returned the ark, they continued to be a threat to the Israelites. Read 1 Samuel 7:3, looking for what Samuel said the Israelites needed to do to be delivered from the Philistines. You may want to mark what you find.
To “return unto the Lord with all your hearts” (1 Samuel 7:3) means to sincerely repent. Notice that in order to do this, the Israelites needed to put away their false gods. Similarly, to sincerely repent we must forsake our sins.
Read 1 Samuel 7:4–6, looking for what else the Israelites did to repent.
Based on the Israelites’ actions in verses 4 and 6, we learn that to sincerely repent, we must forsake our sins and confess them to the Lord. You may want to write this truth in your scriptures.
Consider how forsaking and confessing our sins helps us turn away from sin and turn to God for forgiveness. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Confessing and forsaking are powerful concepts. They are much more than a casual ‘I admit it; I’m sorry.’ Confession is a deep, sometimes agonizing acknowledgment of error and offense to God and man” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 40).
You might have wondered what sins need to be confessed and to whom they should be confessed. We need to confess all of our sins to Heavenly Father. Serious sins should also be confessed to the bishop or branch president. If you have questions about what sins need to be confessed to a bishop or branch president, talk with your parents or your bishop or branch president.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How would you explain to others the importance of forsaking and confessing sins?
What might the Israelites have done differently that would have negatively affected the outcome of this battle?
Consider those sins you need to repent of, and make a commitment to do so. You will be blessed as you repent by confessing and forsaking your sins.
According to 1 Samuel 7:14–17, the Lord continued to help the Israelites succeed against the Philistines throughout the rest of Samuel’s life.
What are some ways we might be tempted to follow the world instead of the Lord?
As you study 1 Samuel 8, consider how you might complete the following principle: If we choose to follow the world instead of the Lord, then .
Read 1 Samuel 8:1–5, looking for what the Israelites asked for as Samuel neared the end of his life.
Read 1 Samuel 8:6–8, looking for how Samuel felt about the Israelites’ request to have a king and what the Lord said in answer to Samuel’s prayers.
The Israelites’ desire to have a king “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5) shows that they desired to follow the trends of the world around them and to place their trust in man rather than in the Lord, who was their true King. As you read 1 Samuel 8:10–18, look for what would happen if the Israelites appointed a king to rule over them.
Notice that all of the consequences of having a king would bring sorrow and regret to the Israelites. Complete the previous principle based on what you learned from 1 Samuel 8:10–18.
- Answer one or both of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What lesson have you learned as you have seen others experience sorrow and regret as a result of following the world rather than the Lord?
What could you do to better follow the Lord instead of the world?
Read 1 Samuel 8:19–20, looking for the Israelites’ response to Samuel’s warning.
The Lord had Samuel warn the people of the consequences if they had a king, but they refused to heed the warning. In response, the Lord told Samuel to “make unto them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22).
President Ezra Taft Benson explained why the Lord granted the Israelites’ request: “Sometimes [God] temporarily grants to men their unwise requests in order that they might learn from their own sad experience. … Samuel gave them the warning. But they still insisted on their king. So God gave them a king and let them suffer. They learned the hard way. God wanted it to be otherwise, but within certain bounds He grants unto men according to their desires. Bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 17–18).
You will be blessed as you choose to follow the Lord by putting your faith in Him, repenting when necessary, and heeding the warnings given by His prophets.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied 1 Samuel 4–8 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: