At the beginning of 1 Samuel, the chaos of the Judges still reigns over Israel. They are defeated, they lose glory (Ichabod, “Where is glory,” is born) and the ark of Yahweh.
But they did not have to leave the land.
The story of the ark is like the story of the Exodus in a number of ways. But there is also an important difference. In the exodus, Israel was in captivity in Egypt. Back in Deuteronomy 28:64-68, Moses warns Israel that they will be driven from the land if they do not obey the Lord. For a couple of centuries, Israel has been worshiping idols, and Eli’s sons are guilty of ‘very great’ sins. Yet Israel is not being driven from the land. Instead, the ark, the symbol of the Lord’s presence in Israel, leaves. the Lord Himself takes on the curse of the covenant: He goes into exile in place of His sinful people. And while He is in exile, he defeats Israel’s enemies. This is a picture of the gospel: As Jesus defeated Satan and sin by His humiliation, so Yahweh defeats Dagon and Philistia by suffering ‘defeat’ and exile. But Yahweh proves that the defeat of God is greater than the victory of men.
Peter Leithart, A House for My Name, 130.