Serious Bible students know that context is crucial for correct interpretation of a passage. We also know that the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original texts given by divine revelation. The chapter divisions were instituted by about 1250 AD and the verses by about 1550 AD. It is all too easy, however, to be subtlely affected by them. We start a teaching in Ephesians 2:1 or conclude it with the last verse of chapter 5. Since the divisions are usually reasonable with respect to changes in subject matter, this practice is usually not inappropriate. We need to be ever vigilant, however, to not be influenced by these divisions, assuming that the beginning of a chapter is the beginning of a new thought. Some times the divisions are a flat-out misleading mistake.

A case in point occurs in 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 4:1

And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

The reasonable inference here is that the word of Samuel had something to do with Israel going out against the Philistines. The next verse, however, shows us that the campaign was ill advised.

1 Samuel 4:2

And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.

Let’s back up a bit to the latter part of chapter 3.

1 Samuel 3:19-21

19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.

21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Chapter 3 should reasonably end with what was deemed to be the beginning of chapter 4, “and the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” Then put the chapter division and start chapter 4 with a new thought, “ Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle….”

It isn’t rocket science. I’m just using this example as a reminder to all of us to be careful in these matters. I find myself inadvertently being influenced by these divisions occasionally.

[Speaking of rocket science and such, one of my father’s more embarrassing incidents was a conversation he had with a young lady in which she drew a conclusion he thought was rather obvious. He responded by saying it wouldn’t take a nuclear physicist to figure that out. He didn’t know he was talking to a nuclear physicist and didn’t mean to be terse or insulting. Oh well. We all have our moments.]

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