Why Was the Ark Taken?


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Punishment Without Sin?

Shemuel 4 describes one of the largest defeats of Israel in their wars against the Philistines.  After an initial loss of 4,000 men, the Israelites decide to take the Ark to battle, hoping that it will ensure their success.  Instead, 30,000 men die (including the sons of the high priest, Eli), the Ark is taken captive, and Shiloh loses its central religious status.

In Tanakh, being vanquished by an enemy is usually correlated with and caused by great sin.1  However, the preceding chapters of Shemuel do not speak of any wrongdoing by the nation, neither in the realm of interpersonal relationships nor in their worship of Hashem. They tell only of the misdeeds of Eli's sons. Why, then, did such a great catastrophe befall the people?  Was the whole nation being collectively punished for the sins of Chofni and Pinchas or were they culpable of a different crime?

Later References to the Destruction of Shiloh

Two other passages in Tanakh refer back to the destruction of Shiloh, and might shed further light on our story:

Additional Questions