I Samuel 5 and 6

The Philistines and the Ark…

This section is another vivid portrayal that God is God. There is no other. He is holy and glorious and fierce all unto Himself. His holiness is not touched by any other.

He allows the ark to be captured by the Philistines, who think it might be a good idea to put it in the temple of Dagon, their god. I love that God causes Dagon to ‘bow’ before the ark. So what do the Philistines do? They prop him back up and find him the next day with his head and arms cut off and only his trunk lying prostrate before the ark.

Obviously, the Philistines did not regard Dagon as a jealous or singular god. It was perfectly fine to them to bring in the ark of God and put it with Dagon. In fact, maybe they thought it was good to have Israel’s God’s ark with them now. Maybe they even thought to worship him on their terms? I don’t know because they don’t get a chance. God did not need the worship of the Philistines.

At first I thought maybe the presence of the ark was causing a reaction of all the trouble with the Philistines (tumors, mice, etc.) but then you see that vs. 6 says “The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors” God was actively and severely dealing with the Philistines. He continued to act against them when they moved the ark to another spot (as if that would solve the problem!) Again in the chapter it says that the hand of the LORD was heavy and then at the end of the chapter, it says that the hand of God was very heavy.

I get the impression that there was an urgency in moving the ark from place to place. And then immediately they tried to figure out how to get rid of it? NO! The process was seven months before they called for their priests and diviners to help. Even considering it was ancient times and things might’ve moved at a slower pace because of logistics, it seems like longer than it should’ve been. Were they hoping to make it work? Hoping that maybe it wasn’t the ark? (6:9 says that sending the ark was a test to see if God caused their affliction or if it was coincidence) Too proud to consider returning their war trophy? I don’t know. Maybe it really was just a matter of logistics.

There’s a lot more in the next chapter including returning the ark with sacrifices and offerings (golden tumors – I wonder what that looked like – and golden mice) The Levites take over in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. They offer burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices. Seventy men die at Beth-shemesh because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. Their reaction is “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” Indeed!

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not
lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”

Psalm 24:4

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