January 11, 2000

1 Samuel 5
Vv. 1-6

Below is an interesting note:

[Keil-Delitzsch on 1 Samuel] Chap. v. THE ARK IN TI1E LAND OF THE PHIlLISTINES.— Vers. 1-6. The Philistines carried the ark from Ebenezer, where they had captured it, into their capital, Ashdod (Esdud; see at Josh. xiii. 3), and placed it there in the temple of Dagon, by the side of the idol Dagon, evidently as a dedicatory offering to this god of theirs, by whose help they imagined that they had obtained the victory over both the Israelites and their God. With regard to the image of Dagon, compounded of man and fish, i.e. of a human body, with head and hands, and a fish's tail, see, in addition to Judg. xvi. 23, Stark's Gaza, pp. 248 sqq., 308 sqq., and Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, pp. 466-7, where there is a bas-relief from Khorsabad, in which "a figure is seen swimming in the sea, with the upper part of the body resembling a bearded man, wearing the ordinary conical tiara of royalty, adorned with elephants' tusks, and the lower part resembling the body of a fish. It has the hand lifted up, as if in astonishment or fear, and is surrounded by fishes, crabs, and other marine animals" (Stark, p. 308). As this bas-relief represents, according to Layard, the war of an Assyrian king with the inhabitants of the coast of Syria' most probably of Sargon, who had to carry on a long conflict with the Philistian towns, more especially with Aslldod' there can hardly be any doubt that we have a representation of the Philistian Dagon here. This deity was a personification of the generative and vivifying principle of nature' for which the fish with its innumera1, multiplication was specially adapted, and set forth the idea of the giver of all earthly good.

Those who have seen Disney's, "The Little Mermaid" will recognize "Arial's" father. He fits, almost perfectly, the above description of Dagon of Ashdod. He also fits in well with Disney's promotion of nature worship.


Ashdod was one of the five principal cities of the Philistine; it was one of the chief seats of the worship of Dagon. It belonged to the tribe of Judah, but was never taken by Judah. It was a strongly fortified city on the highroad from Egypt to Palestine.

The Philistines' victory celebration turned out to not be what they expected. Placing the ark of God before their god was their way of paying homage to their god for the victory over Israel. However, the actions of their god before the ark of God clearly shows that Dagon played no part at all in their victory. The victory was the doings of Israel's God to bring shame upon his unfaithful people.

1) Matthew Henry points out that the next thing we should read should have been Israel's gathering to see how they could recover the ark of God. But we don't. Its loss caused great distress of Eli, to his death, and of his daughter-in-law's death. But that seems to be all the distress it caused. We do not even have a record of Samuel being distressed over its loss.

"The glory of God is departed, let it depart; we have more important things to pursue than the glory of God."

Many have softness enough to lament the loss of the ark that have not hardiness enough to take one step towards the recovery of it, any more than Israel here. If the ark will help itself it may, for they will not help it. Unworthy they were of the name of Israelites that could thus tamely part with the glory of Israel. God would therefore take the work into his own hands and plead his own cause, since men would not appear for him. (MH)

How many families and churches have taken the same attitude toward the glory of God? We will faint (Eli) over the glory departed, but we will not live to see it returned.

My experience has been that when others think they see the glory departed, they, rather than endure hardness to see it returned, depart also. This is the all too common response of many pastors and many church members.

Question: Is the glory departed? And if so, why? What can be done about it?

2) Though there was no power in the ark of God do deliver Israel from the Philistines as they trusted in it, it still represented the power of the true God. The ark only represented the power and glory of God. The means to the end has power as long as there is no confidence placed in the means. Confidence must be in the God of the ark, not in the ark.

3) God caused the Philistines to regard his ark with great fear. Rather than move to melt it down or damage it in any way, they took it to a place of safety. Did they look inside to see what was so important? We are not told.

perhaps they looked no further than the golden outside and the cherubim that covered it, like children that are more affected with the fine binding of their bibles than with the precious matter contained in them. (MH)

4) Among the options of why the Philistines placed the ark of God in Dagon's temple are these:

A) They may have offered the ark to Dagon as a trophy of their victory over Israel. Yet the image of Dagon represented their god, fell before the representation of Israel's God, the ark. It not only fell once, but twice, as well as lost its head and hands.

B) They may have sought to honour or worship the ark, absorbing it into their manner of warship. (The Church of Rome.) However, God will not only have any other gods before him, but he will not have any gods in addition to him.

5) The ark of God was placed by Dagon, but the next morning, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. God made this pagan god bow before him, though that god had no power within himself.

Observe: if even the stones, Dagon – an image of stone, must bow before him and confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, then how foolish of men not to bow now before him in this life. The hardness of the human heart is shown in their refusal to bow before the Lord God at this point.

And there is a system of theology that teaches the human heart has the ability to seek after God!!

6) Though Israel was subdued by their enemy, Israel's God was not. Dagon's actions before the God of Israel shows that Dagon is the defeated one. Israel's defeat was God's doing.

7) The image of Dagan could not stand on its own, but had to be lifted up by its worshipers.

The Philistines were confident that their god gave the victory over Israel. However, they are clearly shown that the victory was not Dagon's, for Dagon was powerless before the God of Israel. Even Israel's humiliation and defeat at the hands of the Philistines brought glory to God.

Note, The kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, and corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful. When the interests of religion seem to be run down and ready to sink, yet even then we may be confident that the day of their triumph will come. Great is the truth, and will prevail. Dagon by falling prostrate before the ark of God, which was a posture of adoration, did as it were direct his worshippers to pay their homage to the God of Israel, as greater than all gods. See #Ex 18:11. (MH)

How foolish to pray to a god that must himself be helped.

8) V.4, Dagon lost his head and his hands, proving "him utterly destitute both of wisdom and power." (MH.) Yet the people still desired him as their god. Of course, he was a god that demanded no holy living on their part; he was a convenient god, there to do their bidding and to assure their happiness and contentment.

Sadly, the modern god worshiped today under the name Christian is very close to the same as the old pagan gods. He is seen as someone to meet man's every desire. (See notes in ch. 4.)

9) V. 5, "Thus instead of acknowledging the true God by this miracle, they fall into greater superstition." (Geneva)

2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

Vv. 6-12

Emrods, or haemorrhoids

Or Emerods, bleeding piles known to the ancient Romans as mariscae, but more probably malignant boils of an infectious and fatal character. With this loathsome and infectious disease the men of Ashdod were smitten by the hand of the Lord. This calamity they attributed to the presence of the ark in their midst, and therefore they removed it to Gath #1Sa 5:6-8. But the same consequences followed from its presence in Gath, and therefore they had it removed to Ekron, 11 miles distant. The Ekronites were afflicted with the same dreadful malady, but more severely; and a panic seizing the people, they demanded that the ark should be sent back to the land of Israel #1Sa 5:9-12 6:1-9 (Online Bible.)

Note that emerods is one of the curses against those who mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:27 against those who wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day... (V. 15.)

This section shows the hardness of man. Unless the Spirit of God opens eyes, eyes will not be opened. Though Dagan and the Philistines were helpless before the God of Israel, they refused to become followers of the God of Israel. Though God's power was shown many times to the Philistines, they refused to change their thinking. Their goal was to get Israel's God away from them.

How like the unsaved — unless God opens their eyes, they will not see the Lord's saving hand; they cannot turn to Christ. Accordingly, presentation of facts to the unsaved is useless unless the Lord changes their hearts. It is not the presentation of facts that will change one's mind, but the sovereign work of the Spirit. This does not mean we should not present Scriptural facts to the unsaved, but it does mean we must not depend upon the wisdom of the proper presentation of facts to change one's heart.

1) V. 6, Dagon's fall before the ark of God called the Philistines to repentance, but they refused. They knew that their problems were at the hand of Israel's God, v. 7. Thus they deserved the vengeance of God. He gave them a chance. Note Revelation 2:21, 9:20, 16:9, 11.

If God does not give the spirit of repentance, man cannot repent. Therefore, it is a mark of God's loving kindness when he gives the spirit of repentance, so people will escape the wrath to come against sin:

9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1.)

Observe: the way one escapes the wrath to come is through repentance and faith in Christ. But it does not stop there — the Philistines refused to repent of their wicked ways, so they faced the wrath of God in various ways on this side of death.

2) V. 6, he destroyed them, and smote them... The destruction was, evidently, separate from the emerods, v. 12. The enemy boasted that they had the military might over Israel, but they could not protect themselves from the might of Israel's God. They conquered Israel, but they are more than helpless before Israel's God.

God has many ways of judging man: physical arms (as he did against Israel with the Philistines), weather, disease and pestilence. Just because fallen man avoids the physical arms and captivity to an enemy does not mean he has avoided God's hand against him.

3) V. 7, though they now know the true power of the true God, they became more determined to stay away from him — The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us... How like the unsaved. Though knowing the truth about the Lord God, they grow in their determination to avoid him.

4) V. 8, Gath, was one of the five royal cities of the Philistines. It was the birth place of Goliath (1 Sam. 17:4), and was "famed fro a race of giants." (MH) However, this race of strong men was also brought to its knees by Israel's God, as both great and small alike fell before God's judgment, v. 9. For by strength shall no man prevail. (1 Sam. 2:9.)

5) V. 9, God's people shouted for joy when the ark came to them (though they were wrongly assured of God's presence with it), but the Philistines were destroyed. The same message brings health, peace and healing to the elect, but brings conviction, fear and destruction to the non-elect.

6) V. 10, the ark of God is then sent to Ekron, another of the five royal cities of the Philistines. Here was a noted sanctuary of Baal-zebub. (2 Kings 1:2, 3, 6, 16.) The people of Ekron were convince that the ark was sent to them to kill them.

7) V. 11, that it slay us not. This was idolatry, but we can not really blame the Philistines for worshiping the ark, for God's people looked to it also to slay their enemies. Can we blame the reprobates for worshiping sports, the lake, the new cars and houses and their jobs when God's people to the same? (Worshiping, i.e., looking to something to do what only the Lord can do.)

8) Vv. 8-10, the harder the Philistines tried to get away from the Lord God, the harsher the plague became. No one can escape the hand of the Lord, whether that hand is for good or evil. (Ps 139.)

Instead of God's hand leading them to repentance, they grew harder in their rejection of the God of the ark. How like the reprobate – Things that should get their attention and draw them to the Lord many times turn them further from the Lord. On the other hand, the same events can take place in the elect's lives, and they will be drawn closer to the Lord.

9) V. 12, The longer the heathen refused to recognize the supremacy of the Lord, the heaver became the plague. The cry went up to heaven... not to Dagon nor to Baal-zebub. In their distress, they cried out to heaven above. It has been said, "There are no atheists in a fox-hole."

Note also that in the "good times," people have little or no use for the God of Israel. However, when times are difficult, they are far more inclined to turn to him. Speaking of Israel, the Lord said that,

When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. (Ps. 78:34.)

My desire: That those I have who are not saved will be stricken with the heavy hand of the Lord until they yield to him.


The enemy triumphed over God's people, yet God triumphed over the enemy. When God judges, he will overcome. (MH)

There would be many wars against the Philistines, and the Philistines would be finally removed from the being a nation. Notice here in this chapter they had the chance to repent and turn to Israel's God. They did not, so God justly destroys them in his good time. Note also that the "reference" of the threshold, v. 5, assured that the message of Dagon falling before Israel's God would be passed on to the following generations, "so that they were without excuse." God is honoured even in superstition. As I pointed out above and in chapter 4:10, it seems people want to be deceived, and will pay good money to the deceivers.

The ark of God contained the Law of God, the Ten Commandments. It stands, therefore, to reason that neither God's people nor the Philistines wanted it near to them. Israel looked upon God and his law as simply something to help them in their time of need. The Philistines looked upon the God of the ark (law) as someone who would hinder their false worship.

The Philistines tried everything to conquer Israel's God — they set the ark before their god, Dagon, and Dagon fell; they sent the ark to Gath, the home of the strongest and bravest of the Philistines, and they were decimated; then they tried to send it to Ekron, the home of Ball-zebub, but the people refused it. Everything the world might try to overcome Israel's God is less than useless:

Isaiah 40:17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. Isaiah 41:11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Isaiah 41:12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

A closing word:

5. They were all at last weary of the ark, and very willing to get rid of it. It was sent from Gath to Ekron, and, coming by order of council, the Ekronites could not refuse it, but were much exasperated against their great men for sending them such a fatal present (#1Sa 5:10): They have sent it to us to slay us and our people. The ark had the tables of the law in it; and nothing more welcome to faithful Israelites than the word of God (to them it is a savour of life unto life), but to uncircumcised Philistines, that persist in enmity to God, nothing more dreadful nor unwelcome: to them it is a savour of death unto death. A general assembly is instantly called, to advise about sending the ark again to its place, # 1Sa 5:11. While they are consulting about it, the hand of God is doing execution; and their contrivances to evade the judgment do but spread it. Many drop down dead among them. Many more are raging ill of the emerods, #1Sa 5:12. What shall they do? Their triumphs in the captivity of the ark are soon turned into lamentations, and they are as eager to quit it as ever they had been to seize it. Note, God can easily make Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all that heave at it, #Zec 12:3. Those that fight against God will soon have enough of it, and, first or last, will be made to know that none ever hardened their hearts against him and prospered. The wealth that is got by fraud and injustice, especially that which is got by sacrilege and robbing God, though swallowed greedily, and rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel, must be vomited up again; for, till it be, the sinner shall not feel quietness in his belly, # Job 20:15-20. (MH)

The longer the Philistines resisted and refused to recognise the chastening hand of the living God in the plagues inflicted upon them, the more severely would they necessarily be punished, that they might be brought at last to see that the God of Israel, whose sanctuary they still wanted to keep as a trophy of their victory over that nation, was the omnipotent God, who was able to destroy His foes. (K-D)

January 14, 2000