What does the Chiasm in 1 Samuel 4-7 Teach us About Victory?

This week I am preaching chapter four of First Samuel, the second of the four chapters that fit together into one section often called the Ark Narrative.  The section is clearly outlined below in the form of a Chiasm.

First Samuel Ark Narrative Chiasm-page-001The Bible sometimes uses a unique writing style known as a chiasm (ki’azem) as seen above.  A chiasm uses a pattern of repetition for clarification and emphasis.  In short, a chiasm is a pattern within a passage in which the second half parallels the first half, but in reverse order.  In the case above, A and A go together, and B and B go together.

With this structure we see that the battle in chapter 4 goes with the battle in chapter 7.  Both of these battles take place close to at a placed called Ebenezer which means rock of help.  This is ironic in chapter 4 because there, Israel receives no help.  It is not until the second battle of Ebenezer that the Lord helps them.  The reason for that is simple and can be seen by comparing these two battles and looking at the context.

In the first battle (chapter 4), Israel had a priest and his two sons who were not following the Lord (1:12, 2:29-30) and most importantly, the people relied on the Ark of the covenant to save them and not Yahweh (4:3).  Therefore, the Lord defeated them before the Philistines (4:10).

The second battle looked quite different (chapter 7).  Much time had passed (20 years, 7:2).  Furthermore, now that the prideful sons of Eli as well as Eli himself have been dethroned, humble Samuel can now lead the people as his mother had prophesied (2:8-10) and as the Lord had promised again (2:34-35) and again (4:13-14).  God brings down the prideful and lifts up the humble.  That is what is clear in the battle.  The text says that under humble Samuel, “the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (7:4).  It is then the “Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines” (7:10).

Just as God did not help his people in chapter 4 when they did not humble themselves before him, so also now he will not help us until we humble ourselves before him.  And just as Israel in chapter 7 humbled themselves before Yahweh and were given power and victory, so also we must humble ourselves in obedient faith so that God may win for us the victory.

This is how the churches in Emporium Pennsylvania will rise up. This is how the true gospel will prevail over the dead spirit of this town. Only though surrender to God and reliance upon His great power.

For more on Chiasms see our blog on basic Chiasms and the structure of Daniel here and of a section of Ecclesiastes here.

Check out our sermons here.