1 Samuel
Introduction 1-5 God and the Idols 6-12 God and the Idolaters

In 1 Samuel 5-6 all interest is shifted from Israel to the land of the Philistines because the ark is there. Where there is God’s presence, there is the true center of interest. Shiloh, after three hundred years of the ark’s presence, loses the symbol of God’s presence (Jos 18:11Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them.; 19:5151These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel distributed by lot in Shiloh before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.). This makes Shiloh the constant reminder of the sin of the people (Jer 7:12,1412“But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.14therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.) .

God does not allow His glory to be violated in the land of the Philistines. He takes care of that. He maintains His own honor. The ark has brought no blessing to the Philistines. In this way, bible-critical pastors ensure that the churches do not become full, but deflate. Their preaching brings death and destruction. They do not all want to do that consciously, but that is the result.

God and the Idols

1Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands [were] cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

In this chapter we have a piece of history, not of Israel, but of the Philistines, because the symbol of God’s presence is there. In picture it says that God’s attention is in the place where His Son is seen. This does not mean that God has given up His people forever or no longer loves them.

God does not relinquish His honor, although sometimes it seems so. When God acts like this, it always turns out that He has an intention. The result is a greater glorification of His Name than would otherwise have been possible. Thus we see that the Lord Jesus is glorified to His enemies precisely in the deliverance to His enemies and that in that therein God is “glorified in Him” (Jn 13:3131Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus *said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;).

In their folly the Philistines place the ark by their god Dagon. God and the idols cannot go together (2Cor 6:14-16a14Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.). God does not allow Himself to be mocked, but rather mocks Himself with the idol. The Philistines make an unsuspecting acquaintance with God. They think they have Him in their power, but He shows that they are in His power.

Dagon is probably a fish-god, half man, half fish. He represent an idol of insight (man) and crowd (fish). This is also the idol in Christianity. The religious man worships the human mind and large numbers. There is the reasoning that something can’t be wrong if many people do it.

The Philistines see conquering the ark not only as a victory over Israel, but also over the God of Israel. Gentiles multiply their gods, they add gods to the ones they already have. Israel’s actions are even worse, because they exchange the true God for other gods.

The Philistines want to honor their god and belittle the God of Israel, but God maintains His majesty. He shows His presence and majesty above the god of the Philistines. It is no longer a matter between God and His people, nor between God and the Philistines, but between God and the idols. God’s presence judges the false gods (Jer 50:22“Declare and proclaim among the nations.
Proclaim it and lift up a standard.
Do not conceal [it but] say,
‘Babylon has been captured,
Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered;
Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.’
; Isa 48:55Therefore I declared [them] to you long ago,
Before they took place I proclaimed [them] to you,
So that you would not say, ‘My idol has done them,
And my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’

If the people and/or priests wish to offer their god early the next morning, they find a god who has fallen down in worship before the God of Israel, as it were (cf. Psa 97:77Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
). They pretend it is an accident. Without further comment they lift up their god and put him up again. It is a god without power. Idols, made by human hands, must always be carried (Isa 46:1-21Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over;
Their images are [consigned] to the beasts and the cattle.
The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary [beast].
2They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.
). What a difference with the God of Israel, who carries His people (Isa 46:3-43“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
4Even to [your] old age I will be the same,
And even to [your] graying years I will bear [you]!
I have done [it], and I will carry [you];
And I will bear [you] and I will deliver [you].
). Isaiah impressively shows the contrast between the idols and God in the verses mentioned.

The Philistines learn nothing from the downfall of their god. The next night God breaks down the human characteristics. Only the bestial – as said Dagon is possibly a fish-man god – remains. In any case, this god is completely humiliated, both in his alleged intelligence – the head is cut off, what also speaks of authority, control – and in his alleged actions – the hands are cut off. The contentment between the cut-off hands of Dagon and “the hand of the LORD” (verses 6,9,116Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.9After they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them.11They sent therefore and gathered 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, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.) Who works things, is remarkable.

The consequence of the humiliation of their idol is an increase in their superstition. This is how blind is man who bends before idols. The custom they call respect is a lasting testimony to the powerlessness of their idol. Every time they step across the threshold, it is a reminder of their god’s downfall and of the exaltation of the God of Israel.

It is assumed, as a result of a verse in Zephaniah 1, that the idolatrous Israelites in the time of the prophet Zephaniah Dagon have accepted and worshiped as idol (Zep 1:9a9“And I will punish on that day all who leap on the [temple] threshold,
Who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit.
). Stepping on the threshold means defilement. That’s why they step over it. Or one falls down for it and kisses the threshold. When Christianity became more and more corrupt, this worship of the threshold of the churches also took place. There have always been superstitious elements in Europe. The idols are accepted in roman-catholicism. It can be seen in the carrying of statues in processions. It is like carrying the trunk around.

God and the Idolaters

6Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. 7When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.” 8So they sent and gathered all the lords of the Philistines to them and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” And they said, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” And they brought the ark of the God of Israel [around]. 9After they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people.” 11They sent therefore and gathered 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, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

After God has dealt with their idols, He will occupy Himself with the idolaters. He makes them feel His judgment. He smites them with tumors, for which we can thinks of hemorrhoids or ostentatious tumors. Smiting with tumors means the outbreak of folly. It makes it clear that God stands up for the honor of His Son. There has also broken out a plague of mice, through which God also hits the land and its proceeds (1Sam 6:55So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land.).

The city princes of the Philistines deliberate what to do with this God. They want to get rid of Him and send the plagues to someone else. Their rejection of the ark is reminiscent of the rejection of the Lord Jesus by the Gerasenes. These people beg the Lord Jesus to leave their territory, because they have lost their swine through Him. That there is an insane man healed, leave them utterly indifferent. They prefer the company of an insane man, and therefore of demons, and the swine, to that of the Savior (Mk 5:13-1713Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand [of them]; and they were drowned in the sea.14Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And [the people] came to see what it was that had happened.15They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.16Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and [all] about the swine.17And they began to implore Him to leave their region.).

The lords of the cities are still unwilling to give up their victory. In their short-sighted superstition they assume that it must have been local bad luck for Ashdod. The ark must go to Gath. The result of their deliberations is that the disasters come all over the Philistine community. It’s like in Egypt again. God wants to show through plagues that He is there and He wants to force them to bring His ark – which here is always called “the ark of God”, also by the Philistines! – from the Philistine country back to His land.

The plagues are not only coercive. They are also warnings, calls to conversion. Yet the plagued man does not repent (cf. Rev 16:8-118The fourth [angel] poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.9Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.10Then the fifth [angel] poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,11and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.). In the judgment there is no regard for the person. Small or large, rich or poor, young or old, woman or man, God strikes them all. So will also the great and small sinners stand before the great white throne and be judged (Rev 20:1212And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.).

After Gath they want to send the ark of God to a third city, to Ekron. Man always wants to put up others with problems he can’t solve himself. At first sight God uses this as a means for the ark to make a triumphal march (cf. 2Cor 2:1414But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.).

We see that plagues do not change the heart of man. The people want the ark to return to its own place. They point to the calamity that the ark brought them. Here we can learn the lesson that those who believe in superstition that they can lay a claim on Christ, as the roman-catholic church does, will be plagued by plagues (Rev 18:4-84I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;5for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.6Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back [to her] double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.7To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit [as] a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’8For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.).

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