1 Samuel 4: ‘…having a form of godliness…’


  • Emergency religion
  • Pragmatic religion
  • Idolatrous religion


One commentator calls this section ‘rabbit foot theology’ because of the superstitious and unbiblical way in which the Israelites follow the living God in chapter 4. That about sums up the religion of the day. We are moving now into a new section where Samuel who has been introduced is put away for a few chapters and God takes the foreground. We have had several statements of God’s acting against the wicked and prophecies against the corrupt leaders of Israel, God is now going to act in fulfilment of those things. In this opening salvo we are introduced to the Philistines. These were a people who lived on the coast and were there when Israel arrived in the Exodus, (Ex. 13:17). By the end of the time of Joshua they had established their five capital cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. Incidentally the modern word ‘Palestine’ is derived from Philistine. They were used by God to chastise His people during the time of the judges (Judges 3:31), and their false religion was a snare to Israel (Judges 10:6-7). Delilah is a famous Philistine we would be familiar with. They obviously were the superior power in the area and even controlled who could have iron (1 Sam. 13:19-22). When we see Israel wanting a king to lead them into battle, it is likely that the Philistines are the reason why. We will see God fight His own battles against the Philistines in chapters 5-7, this chapter begins the narrative of judgement by beginning at the house of the Lord. The Philistines are employed by God to remove the corrupt priesthood and make a way for more godly leadership. In particular we are going to be focusing on Israel’s view of God and their religion. We want to observe their emergency religion, their pragmatic religion, and their idolatrous religion.