1 Samuel 4-8
The sordid saga of constant war continues. The Israelites take the Ark of the Covenant onto the battlefield thinking it will protect them, but it doesn’t. Believers attribute this not to the failure of the Ark’s protection, but to the Israelites’ lack of sufficient faith or obedience. (What a surprise!) After they lose their battle, Yahweh makes good on this threat to kill Eli and his family.
Translation becomes interesting here. In retaliation for the Philistines defeating Israel and capturing the Ark, god strikes the Philistines with… some awful ailment (v 6). In my Hebrew-English translation, and in the KJV, it’s an emerod. Everywhere the Philistines move the Ark, emerods follow, like a plague. So what’s an emerod? Modern bibles say ‘tumor’. But Mirriam-Webster says the word arises from “Middle English emeroidea, emerodes, plural, from Middle French emorroides, from Latin haemorrhoidae” ie a hemorrhoid”. I guess apologists are tired of hearing laughter, so they chose a less-loaded word for recent bible versions. But if you take the time to look it up, even Christiananswers.net admits that it’s actually a hemorrhoid.
The Philistines make plans to return the Ark and end their bad luck. They make 5 golden emerods and 5 gold mice to present as guilt offerings (WTF?). They even make a special cart to transport it back. Now I have a question. Didn’t god say (Numbers 4:15) that anyone who touched the Ark would die? In fact, in v 19 god kills a bunch of Israelites just for looking at it! So how were the Philistines spared? They couldn’t have captured it without looking at it or touching it. Anyway, the Philistines decide to let some random cows pull the cart and decide where to take the Ark. And guess what, the cows head right back to the Israelites, who were so thankful that they killed the poor cows as a reward for their loyalty. I couldn’t make this stuff up! Here’s an artist’s rendering of a golden emerod.
Samuel must have grown up, because he emerges as a leader. He persuades the Israelites to purge their towns of all the idols, burns a few animals, and voila! Just like that they win the next battle with the Philistines. This chapter ends on a contradiction – v 13 promises that the Philistines will leave Israel alone for the remainder of Samuel’s life, but in chapter 13:5-10 we’ll see that that’s not true.
Samuel is already old, and he has sons who are no-good-nicks, just like the sons of almost all the previous Israelite leaders. (What’s up with that? Maybe these guys were so busy being heroes that they had no time to be parents.) Anyway, the Israelites beg Samuel to appoint a competent successor. Samuel tries to persuade them that a king will exploit them, but they prefer monarchy over the anarchy of the Judges. God says to go ahead and give them what they want. Right decision, or wrong one? Keep reading….