3 Hopeful Truths from the Ichabod Bible Story
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2020 4 Dec
The name Ichabod may not form many images in our minds. When it comes to the Bible, we may not even recall hearing about a character named Ichabod in our Sunday schooling. Little did we know that this man, Ichabod, was not only given a terrible name … but he may have helped save the priesthood in Israel. This man in the Bible only shows up in a handful of verses, but he may have helped preserve thousands of years of tradition. Back in the time of Ancient Israel, when they escaped from slavery in Egypt, God established a priesthood in the tribe of the Levites. The Levites were one of 12 tribes of Israel. But the priesthood waned and also got corrupted over the years, especially by the time Ichabod steps into the picture.
I can also wager a bet that we had heard about the prophet Samuel and the priest named Eli who reared him. If you know Samuel, then you know the beginning of Ichabod’s story, long before he was born.
For those of us unfamiliar with the story, Samuel was dedicated to the temple service at a young age. This means he lived with Eli, the high priest, and his family. Eli had some wicked sons. One of them marries a woman who gives birth to a son, Ichabod.
We’ll uncover the story of Ichabod, discuss what happens to him, and touch on why we should care about Ichabod in the Bible.
Who Was Ichabod in the Bible?
As mention before, Ichabod was born to an unnamed woman (1 Samuel 4) and Eli’s son Phinehas.
Now, we don’t know much else about what happens to Ichabod. We’ll touch on whether he survives and has a tale to tell. But the meaning of his name sheds light on the hopelessness of Israel’s situation.
Israel had been engaging in battle with their enemy, the Philistines.
Phinehas and his wicked brother decide to turn the tide of the battle. They bring out the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25), a housing vessel for the Lord God himself during Old Testament times. This battle strategy fails.
While Ichabod’s mother, dying during childbirth, births her son, Eli’s sons die in battle, Eli dies when he falls from a roof, and the Philistines steal the Ark of the Covenant from Israel.
What Does the Name Ichabod Mean in the Bible?
Upon hearing the news of the disasters to have befallen on her family and Israel, the woman names her son “Ichabod.” His name means “no glory” or “where is the glory?”
In other words, the glory of the Lord had departed from her household and from the nation of Israel when the Philistines captured the Ark. Eventually it is returned to Israel, but for years, they experience devastation without the glory, shekinah, of the Lord (present in the Ark).
Throughout Israel’s history, they witnessed the Lord’s glory depart, most often ending in tragedy. For instance, in Ezekiel 10, God’s glory disappears from the temple, because of Israel’s sin.
What Happened to Ichabod?
Whatever happens to the child given such an unfortunate name that means “no glory?”
We see a mention of him 10 chapters after his birth where his nephew becomes a priest. This means that despite the wickedness of Eli’s sons, including Ichabod’s father. Despite the fact he is orphaned at birth during a tumultuous time in Israel’s history, Ichabod finds a way to continue the priestly line in his family.
Although we don’t know if he had a chance to become a priest himself or if he helped with any reforms, we do see that his family line continues in the important duties given to the Levites back in the time of the Pentateuch.
Even though Ichabod’s life starts in tragedy: losing three family members before we hear his first cry, the story doesn’t have to end in a cautionary tale.
3 Hopeful Truths from the Story of Ichabod
Even though we only receive a few verses about this man, we can learn a great deal from the mistakes his family made before him, and how he shifted his family’s legacy.
First, like many of the kings of Israel, Ichabod hailed from a family of chaos.
Not only did Eli’s sons commit heinous acts and disregarded God’s guidelines for Levitical priests (1 Samuel 2), but Eli passively allowed for them to continue their actions. This ultimately led to the downfall of all three of these men on the same day.
Nevertheless, even though Ichabod didn’t come from a good family, as we saw from the example of the kings of Judah, God can still move in the lives of broken people.
Secondly, Ichabod did not allow for his name or his family to determine his legacy.
Names had deeper meanings in the Bible. They determined someone’s actions, their life legacy, etc. Ichabod, upon receiving such a horrid name at his mother’s dying breath, could’ve allowed the definition of “no glory” to rule his life. Instead, he continues the priesthood in the hope that God’s glory would come back to Israel.
Finally, the Ark does return to Israel eventually.
God’s glory doesn’t depart forever. He returns to Israel time and time again, no matter how many times they mess up. Even when the enemy steals our joy, like the Philistines took away the Ark, we can still rest in the hope that God will turn everything right in the end.
What Can We Learn from Ichabod and His Story?
We can learn a great deal from a man who only cameos in two chapters in the Bible.
Maybe we come from a difficult familial background where we’re the only ones who believe in God or the words of Scripture. But when we see how God moved in Ichabod’s family, we can see how our family’s past does not determine our future. We can ask God to help us break the cycle of sinfulness and to pursue his commands wholeheartedly.
Ichabod’s story also shows us that God does not depart forever.
As Christians, we have the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. His glory does not depart from us. But even throughout the Old Testament, we see God time and time again return to his people.
Praise the Lord that we have a heavenly Father who cares so deeply about us. Unlike the absent Eli or the deceased Phinehas, we have a father who is everlasting and who is full of glory. Our name does not have to be Ichabod. Because our glorious Lord lives within us.
We can also remember that Ichabod likely saved the priesthood, an extremely important institution of Israel. He may not have received much spotlight, and barely a shout-out, but through his family line, the thousands of years of the priesthood continues. This is especially important when we think of Jesus as our High Priest. This imagery would've been lost on his audience had Ichabod not continued the priesthood, even after the terrible example of his father and grandfather.
Thankfully, he continues the lineage, which makes Jesus' role of our Great Priest even more significant. Like Ichabod, even if we don't get much spotlight, we all play a part of the beautiful story of God, that unfolds each day.
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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