Battle of Aphek

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Battle of Aphek
Weltchronik Fulda Aa88 209r detail.jpg
The battle depicted in Rudolf von Ems' Weltchronik
Result Philistine victory
Ark of the Covenant captured
Israelite Army Philistines
Commanders and leaders
Hophni and Phinehas (on behalf of judge Eli) unknown
34,000 soldiers
2,700 archers
28,000 soldiers
560 archers
Casualties and losses
5,600 Israelite soldiers
Two Priests
7,900 Philistines soldiers

The Battle of Aphek is a biblical episode described in 1 Samuel 4:1–10 of the Hebrew Bible. During this battle the Philistines defeated the Israelite army and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Among biblical scholars, the historicity of the early events in the Book of Samuel is debated, with some scholars leaning toward many events in Samuel being historical, and some scholars leaning towards less.[1] (See also Biblical minimalism and Biblical maximalism.)

Biblical account

The Book of Samuel records that the Philistines were camped at Aphek and the Israelites at Eben-Ezer. The Philistines defeated the Israelites during the first battle, killing 4,000 Israelites. The Israelites then brought up the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh, thinking that through this "they should have the presence of God with them, and so success", [2] but the Philistines again defeated the Israelites, this time killing 30,000 and capturing the Ark.

Samuel records that the two sons of the judge Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died that day, as well as Eli. "And it came to pass, when [a messenger] made mention of the ark of God, that [Eli] fell from off his seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck broke, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years." (1 Samuel 4:18)

Most scholars agree that there were more than one Aphek. C. R. Conder identified the Aphek of Eben-Ezer[3] with a ruin (Khirbet) some 3.7 miles (6 km) distant from Dayr Aban (believed to be Eben-Ezer[4]), and known by the name Marj al-Fikiya; the name al-Fikiya being an Arabic corruption of Aphek.[5] Eusebius, when writing about Eben-ezer in his Onomasticon, says that it is "the place from which the Gentiles seized the Ark, between Jerusalem and Ascalon, near the village of Bethsamys (Beit Shemesh)",[6] a locale that corresponds with Conder's identification.

See also


  1. Schley, D. G. (1993). Graham, M. Patrick; Brown, William P.; Kuan, Jeffrey K. (eds.). History and Interpretation: Essays in Honour of John H. Hayes. Sheffield, England: JSOT Press. p. 91-92. ISBN 1-85075-466-7.
  2. Gill, J., Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on 1 Samuel 4, accessed 22 April 2017
  3. The account in 1 Samuel 4:1 of the battle at Aphek and Eben-ezer
  4. Conder, C. R., Notes from the Memoir, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, vol. 18, London 1876, p. 149; Conder & Kitchener, The Survey of Western Palestine, vol. iii (Judaea), London 1883, p. 24
  5. North, Robert (1960). "Ap(h)eq(a) and 'Azeqa". Biblica. 41 (1): 61–63. JSTOR 42637769.
  6. Eusebius Werke, Erich Klostermann (ed.), Leipzig 1904, p. 33,24.