The Philistines and the Ark
5 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. But after they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.” They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
1 Samuel 5 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”Jesus (Luke 19:40)
Dagon was the chief god of many in the ancient world of whom the Philistines worshiped. He was responsible for the rain and the harvest or so they believed. As they had gods for every aspect of their lives, the taking of ‘one more’ in capturing the Ark of the Covenant was something they felt would cover them in an area lacking. Little did they know they had the very presence of God Almighty, the Great I AM, who was above all of creation – even the inanimate.
I love, love, love this story.
Upon its capture, the Ark was placed in the temple of Dagon beside the statue of this god. The next day the people found this massive heavy statue had fallen down with its face to the ground before the Ark. Astounding! What an image! More than likely thinking it was a fluke, they set the statue back up. But the next day as they entered the temple, not only had the statue fallen down into the same position, but its head and hands were broken off and lying on the threshold of the doorway.
Then the hand of God fell upon the people. Horrific tumors came upon the people, all to which the Philistines declare that the God of the Ark of the Covenant is responsible. In desperation, they have the Ark moved to another city throwing the entire population into chaos and panic as they too are afflicted with the tumors. In an almost humorous aspect, the Ark is then sent off to another city where the suffering cries of the pagans reach to the heavens.
“The hand of God was very heavy there.”1 Samuel 5:11
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey that last week of His earthly life and the people broke out in praise – the religious told Him to silence His disciples. His statement of truth cut to the heart of their criticism that if they did not praise Him, the very rocks would.
There are so many layers to this interesting story – as first, the Philistines did not praise the Lord Almighty. Their false god of stone found itself in a position of worship before the Ark not once but twice! Not only had the god been prostrate but also cut down. But the worship of God didn’t stop there. The heavy presence of God overtook the people wherever the Ark was found, bringing devastation to those who failed to give honor.
Through the turn of events that unfolded, the Philistines knew one thing for certain, the God of Israel was the God and overall. Remarkably, it took so great an affliction for them to come to this conclusion. Sadly sometimes it’s the same today. God will be praised regardless of people’s stance or belief in Him. And sometimes, when the heavy hand of God comes down upon individuals, people groups, nations – it will take affliction to drive thoughts in humility toward this fact.
It’s really an interesting thought to consider. May the Holy Spirit speak to us in regard to the burdens we bear for others, the lives we personally live. May the heavy hand of God press in upon so that He will be praised.
1 Samuel 5 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
There are times when God uses circumstances to demolish the false gods that we all cling to. Initially, we tend to make excuses and stick with the status quo. This is especially true when it involves confession and change. Even though God used verifiable evidence to illustrate that Dagon was inferior to Him, the people still chose to worship Dagon. Not only that, they instituted another religious ritual to accommodate their decision.
“The destruction of Dagon’s idol resulted in the foolish Philistine custom of stepping over the threshold of Dagon’s temple (Zep 1:9). Apparently the threshold came to be regarded as taboo because of its contact with Dagon’s hands and head (v. 1Sa 5:4).”Nelson’s Commentary
Do we make excuses when God shows up and destroys the false idols in our lives? Do we simply add another religious rule to our checklist?
He spoke to them through their crumbled false god. He spoke to them through the plagues and ulcers. And this was their chance to turn from their wicked god and serve the true God, but they would not do it.
They merely thought they could get rid of him by sending him back to Israel. We know this isn’t how it works. The ark could have signaled revival and renewal for the Philistines, but instead, it represented judgment and condemnation, as they refused to face the truth that stood before them.
1 Samuel 5 is a demonstration of the power of God. When we invite Him into the darkest places of our heart, He will bring terror and opposition to the evil that resides there. He will destroy all that is false. The question remains, we will justify and make excuses, or repent and change?
“The dying thief passes from his cross to Paradise, while Judas goes to his own place. Dare to admit the Savior into the secret place of your heart. He will utterly destroy the works of Satan, and will drive out the evil things that have too long infested it.”F.B. Meyer