And when the people came into the camp
At Ebenezer, where they pitched their tents, and from whence they went out to battle, and whither they returned after their defeat:
the elders of Israel said, wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today
before the Philistines?
they were right in ascribing it to the Lord, who had suffered them to be defeated by their enemies, but it is strange they should be so insensible of the cause of it; there was a reason ready at hand, their sins and iniquities were the cause of it, the corruption of manners among them, their neglect of bringing their offerings to the Lord, and the idolatry that many of them were guilty of, at least secretly, ( 1 Samuel 2:24 ) ( 7:3 ) to punish them for which, they were brought into this war, and smitten in it; and yet they wonder at it, that so it should be, that they the people of God should be smitten before Heathens and uncircumcised Philistines; and the rather, since they went to battle with them according to the word of the Lord by Samuel; not considering that they went into this war without humiliation for their sins, and without praying to God for success, and that it was intended as a correction of them for their offences against God:
let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us;
in which the law was, sometimes called the covenant between God and them; and which was a symbol of the divine Presence, for want of which they supposed they had not the presence of God with them, and so had not success; and the rather they were encouraged to take this step and method, because that formerly Israel had success against their enemies when the ark was with them, ( Numbers 31:6 ) ( Joshua 6:6 ) though no doubt in this there was an overruling providence of God, by which they were led to take such a step as this, in order to bring the two sons of Eli into the camp, that they might be slain in one day, according to the divine prediction:
that when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our
foolishly placing their confidence in an external symbol, and not in the Lord himself; ascribing salvation to that, which only belongs to him, whether of a temporal or spiritual kind: and such folly and vanity are men guilty of when they seek to, make use of, and trust in anything short of Christ for salvation; as in carnal descent; in the rituals of the law; in the ordinances of the Gospel; in any religious exercises, private or public; or in any works of righteousness done by them: in Christ alone is salvation from spiritual enemies; and indeed from the Lord only is salvation and deliverance from temporal enemies.