Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:1
Some attach the opening words to the close of 1 Sam. 3, as the complement of what is there said, "The Lord revealed himself to Samuel ... in Shiloh, and the word of Samuel went forth to all Israel." If placed at the commencement of 1 Sam. 4, and in connection with what follows, they are to be understood in the sense that Samuel called all Israel to battle against the Philistines. (Compare Sa1 7:5.) But this is not the natural interpretation of the words, which seem clearly to belong to what went before.
The mention of the Philistines connects the narrative with Judg. 13-16. Since the Philistine servitude lasted forty years Jdg 13:1, and seems to have terminated in the days of Samuel Sa1 7:13-14 in about the 20th year of his judgeship Sa1 7:2; and since it had already begun before the birth of Samson Jdg 13:5, and Samson judged Israel for 20 years "in the days of the Philistines" Jdg 15:20, it seems to follow that the latter part of the judgeship of Eli and the early part of that of Samuel must have been coincident with the lifetime of Samson.
Eben-ezer - (or, the stone of help) The place was afterward so named by Samuel. See the marginal references. "Aphek," or the "fortress," was probably the same as the "Aphek" of Jos 12:18. It would be toward the western frontier of Judah, not very far from Mizpeh of Benjamin, and near Shiloh Sa1 4:4.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:3
In the evening of the defeat of the Israelites the elders held a council, and resolved to send for the ark, which is described in full, as implying that in virtue of the covenant God could not but give them the victory (compare Num 10:35; Jos 3:10).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:4
The people sent - The expression is very indicative of the political state so frequently noted by the writer of the Book of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:6
Of the Hebrews - This was the name by which the Israelites were known to foreign nations (compare Exo 1:15; Exo 2:6).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:8
This is a remarkable testimony on the part of the Philistines to the truth of the events which are recorded in the Pentateuch. The Philistines would of course hear of them, just as Balak and the people of Jericho did Num 22:5; Jos 2:10.
With all the plagues ... - Rather, "with every kind of plague" equivalent to "with utter destruction.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:12
Runners who were swift of foot, and could go long distances were important and well-known persons (compare Sa2 18:19-31). There seem to have been always professional runners to act as messengers with armies in the field (Kg2 11:4, Kg2 11:6,Kg2 11:19, the King James Version "guards").
Earth upon his head - In token of bitter grief. Compare the marginal references.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:15
Dim - Rather, "set." The word is quite different from that so rendered in Sa1 3:2. The phrase seems to express the "fixed" state of the blind eye, which is not affected by the light. Eli's blindness, while it made him alive to sounds, prevented his seeing the ripped garments and dust-besprinkled head of the messenger of bad news.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:18
A comparison of Sa2 18:4, explains exactly the meaning of the "side of the gate," and Eli's position. His seat or throne, without a back, stood with the side against the jamb of the gate, leaving the passage through the gate quite clear, but placed so that every one passing through the gate must pass in front of him.
Forty years - This chronological note connects this book with that of Judges. (Compare Jdg 3:11, etc.) It is an interesting question, but one very difficult to answer how near to the death of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the High Priest, Eli's forty years of judgeship bring him. It is probable that at least one high priesthood intervened.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:21
Is departed - Properly, "Is gone into captivity."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 4:22
The lesson of the ruin brought upon Churches by the covetousness and profligacy of their priests, which is here taught us so forcibly, and which has been again and again illustrated in Jews and Christians, is too solemn and important to be overlooked. When the glory of holiness departs from what should be a holy community, the glory of God's presence has already departed, and the outward tokens of His protection may be expected to depart soon likewise. (Compare Eze 10:18; Eze 11:23; Rev 2:5.) But though particular congregations may fall, our Lord's promise will never fail his people Mat 28:20.