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Ichabod was the grandson of Eli the priest, the son of Phinehas, and brother to Ahitub. His mother went into labor when she heard the news that the Ark of God had been taken by the Philistines and that her father-in-law and husband were both killed in battle. (1 Samuel 4:19).
Ichabod is a Hebrew word meaning inglorious or without glory. Phinehas’ wife was pregnant when she heard the sad news that the Ark of God had been captured by the Philistines.
She grieved so much that she went into labor and gave birth to a boy. “And she named the child Ichabod saying, ‘The glory is departed from Israel’” (1 Samuel 4:21).
Ichabod was born just when the glory of God had departed from Israel as a result of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines.
It was a common practice among the Israelites to give their children names that described circumstances surrounding their birth. For example, the name Samuel means “God heard” because he was born in answer to his mother’s prayer for a child (1 Samuel 1:11).
Therefore, Ichabod was given his name, “without glory,” because the Ark of the Covenant (and the glory of God) was taken away from Israel.
Let’s remember that the Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God’s presence and glory. When Israel journeyed from Egypt to Canaan, “the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to lead them in the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21).
This presence of God was an assurance of God’s love, favor and protection. The glory of God was manifested on top of the Ark, signifying his dwelling among His people. When the Ark of the Covenant was captured and taken away, it was devastating, symbolizing that the glory of God had departed from the Israelite nation.
No, He didn’t leave forever because He is merciful. The Bible says, “the Lord will not cast off forever: But though He causes grief yet will He have compassion” (Lamentation 3:31, 32).
The Philistines took the Ark and placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. But Dagon was found bowed before the Ark, and finally, his image mutilated before the Ark (1 Samuel 5:1-4).
And to top it up, the Philistines were heavily plagued with tumors and mice that threatened their existence. Many Philistines died during the seven months that the Ark was in their land until they decided to send it back (1Samuel 5:6).
During this time, God fought for the Israelites in the Philistine land. The Ark was eventually returned to Israel, and God dwelt among His chosen people again.
Jesus desires to dwell with us now and in the future when “the tabernacle of God will be with men and He will dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3).
Let’s not allow the glory of God to depart from us because of disobedience. It is true that we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But our God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Romans 3:21; 1 John 1:9).
As Paul urges us, “let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy” from Him who sits on the mercy seat above the Ark. Jesus promises to help us find grace to obey His commandments (Hebrews 4:16).