The Philistines took the ark of the covenant to Ashdod, and they set it up next to their god, Dagon. The next morning Dagon was fallen over before the ark, and the morning after that as well and with its hands cut off. In addition the people of Ashdod all began to break out in tumors all over and began dying. So the Philistines took the ark to Gath, where the tumors and deaths began to happen there. When they move the ark to Ekron, the people of Ekron think that the Philistines want them dead sending this to them since they also have tumors and many men dying. Finally, the Philistines decide to send it back to Israel so that it will not kill all their people.
This image from when Louis and I went to the Vatican popped into my head as I read this story.
This painting is in the Constantine Room in the Vatican.
The Philistines, God, the people of Ashdod and its territory, the people of Gath, the people of Ekron, the lords of the Philistines.
Verses 2-4 “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.”
Verse 11-12 “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.”
Judges 16:23 “Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.”
But the rest of that story is that the Lord gave him into their hands to destroy them because Samson knocks down the whole building on all of them. Our God is a jealous God, and He is the only one who should receive such high honor.
Isaiah 46:1-2 “Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.”
Jeremiah 50:2 “”Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.'”
Ezekiel 6:4-6 “Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Micah 1:7 “All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste, for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.”
Joshua 13:2-3 “This is the land that yet remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is counted as Canaanite’ there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim,”
Exodus 9:2-3 “For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks.”
Psalm 32:4 “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
Acts 13:11 “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.”
Yep, even in the New Testament God’s hand can be heavy on someone and cause affliction.
1 Samuel 6:5 “So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land.”
God is the one and only true God. Trying to place any other gods on equal footing or higher than Him is a terrible sin that will cause immense suffering in your life. You might not have an altar in your house, I know I don’t, to other gods. But in the past few chapters we have been looking at many ways that we give God less glory than he should be receiving from us. And we even go so far as to give other people, objects, and ideas more weight than God and the Bible. Once again, turn to God and evaluate with Him your own heart. Are we worshipping idols?
Perhaps you are struggling in your relationship with God. This is something that could be a barrier. In Lebanon I had a month period where I stopped reading my Bible because something hurtful had happened and I did not want to deal with it. I turned to isolation and sometimes denial. This was not living in the truth, and it did not bring God glory. I was not able to give him honor when I was running away from Him. And my heart was hurting badly, as the Psalm above discusses. But God so quickly will be at your side again as you cast down your idols. He hasn’t left, we have often just placed idols and barriers between us, shielding us.
Jesus in the Old Testament
“In a great reversal, what appeared to be a Philistine victory turns out to be a resounding defeat. The ark’s travels from city to city ultimately become a kind of victory march for Israel.”* Or at least for our God. “God can neither be manipulated by those who confess him nor managed by those who defy him. Christ’s death and resurrection constituted the greatest reversal of all time, as seeming defeat was turned to resounding victory (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14).”*
Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Hebrews 2:14 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,”
*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Old Testament section, so these are paraphrases and quotes from the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.
Thank you for reading. I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please take a moment to leave a comment to share with us.
Next Week: 1 Samuel 6-7:2
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