Evening Bible Study
Samuel is the
last of the “Judges”. He is the man who
will bridge the gap between the time of the Judges and the beginning of the
Kings of Israel.
We’ve seen Samuel
grow up, raised in the Tabernacle by Eli the priest.
God gave Samuel a warning to Eli about the abominable disobedience of Eli’s
sons who misused their roles as priests.
In this context,
there has been a battle between the Philistines and the Israelites at a place
The Israelites decided they needed some extra help, so they had Eli’s sons bring the Ark of the
Covenant from Shiloh, hoping that the Ark would be their “lucky charm” and win
the battle for them.
Instead, God allowed the Israelites to lose the battle, 30,000 Israelites
die, Eli’s to sons are killed, and the Philistines have captured the Ark of the
5:1-12 God vs.
:1 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to
:1 Ashdod – “powerful”
to Ashdod” map clip
Ashdod is one of the five main Philistine cities along with Gaza, Ashkelon,
Gath, and Ekron.
Ebenezer is up in the hills, Ashdod is on the coastal plain about 36 miles
to the southwest.
:2 When the
Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon
and set it by Dagon.
– Dagown – “a fish”
This was the
main Philistine god, half man, half fish.
He was a god of fertility.
The Philistines take the ark to Dagon’s temple.
This is to be a show that Dagon was superior to the God of Israel.
It’s as if they
are presenting Dagon with the spoils of war – the “god” of the Israelites.
Note: They certainly couldn’t
have put the Ark in the house of Dagon in Gaza.
That was the temple that Samson had torn down. (Judges 16:30)
:3 And when the
people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its
face to the earth before the ark of the Lord.
So they took Dagon and set it in its place again.
:3 Dagon, fallen on
Can your “god” fall down?
What are you putting your trust in?
Who do you count on? Can your
Some people put
their whole lives into their job, and then they are laid off.
Some people put
their whole lives into their marriage, and then their spouse leaves them.
Can your “god” fail?
Your “god” is the thing or person that is most important to you.
Our God is steady when everything else falls.
46:1–2 NKJV) —1 God is
our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore
we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be
carried into the midst of the sea;
:4 And when they
arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground
before the ark of the Lord. The
head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the
threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it.
:4 before the ark
Every knee shall bow
What a picture!
2:9–11 NKJV) —9 Therefore
God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every
name, 10 that at
the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on
earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
To get the point across, God knocks this pagan piece of
stone on its face and sends the Philistines a message.
:5 Therefore neither
the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold
of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
:5 tread on the
The writer is giving us a little insight into Dagon worship practice and
the origins of some of their rituals.
Apparently the priests of Dagon were so freaked out that they instituted a
new religious ritual that kept them from walking on the threshold of Dagon’s
The practice was still in effect at the time that the writer of 1Samuel was
I have actual footage of the priests of Dagon following these threshold
rituals and it seems that they incorporated a song into this ritual…
“Hokey Pokey” video
What’s odd is
that they honored the “threshold”, but forgot the God of Israel who actually
caused the stupid statue to fall over.
1903 the Russian czar noticed a sentry posted for no apparent reason on
the Kremlin grounds. ‘What
are you guarding,’ asked the czar. ‘I don’t know. The captain ordered me to
this post,’ the sentry replied. The czar called the captain. His answer:
‘Written regulations specify a guard was to be assigned to that area.’ The czar
ordered a search to find out why. The archives finally yielded the reason. In
1776 Catherine the Great had planted
a rose bush there, and there found the first flower of spring. “Post a sentry
here,” she commanded, “so that no one tramples that flower under foot!” One
hundred years later, sentries were still guarding the spot even though there
were no flowers there.
Tradition takes over when our brain stops working.
Ritual without understanding accomplishes nothing
NKJV) —6 He
answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it
is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is
far from Me. 7 And in
vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the
commandments of men.’
Rituals can have value as long as we remember why we’re doing them.
In communion, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”.
It’s good to remember why you do what you do.
:6 But the hand
of the Lord was heavy on the
people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both
Ashdod and its territory.
– [email protected] – tumors, hemorrhoids; ‘ophel
– hill, mound
“mounds of tumors”. Sounds like someone needs
to invent “Preparation H”
This was apparently part of the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians, and
God had promised Israel that if they disobeyed Him, they would be afflicted
with the same plagues:
NKJV) The Lord will strike you with the boils of
Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be
It will appear that there’s another component with this “plague”, there
will be mice or rodents involved.
suggested that this might be something like the Black Plague that was spread by
:7 And when the
men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel
must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.”
:8 Therefore they sent and gathered to themselves all the lords of the
Philistines, and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?”
And they answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried away to Gath.”
So they carried the ark of the God of Israel away.
:8 the lords of the
Each of the five major Philistine
cities had their own “lord” or king.
Apparently they form some sort of ruling council.
:8 Gath –
miles inland from Ashdod. (show map)
This city would become
famous very soon by a very tall person, Goliath.
I wonder if the Lord of Gath voted for this or was simply out-voted.
:9 So it was,
after they had carried it away, that the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction; and
He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out on
:10 Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of
God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the
ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!”
– “torn up by the roots”
There is no vote taken by the lords of the Philistines. The people of Gath just send the ark to
Of the five
cities of the Philistines, this is the one closest to Israel, the farthest one
to the north.
:11 So they sent
and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, “Send away the
ark of the God of Israel, and let it go back to its own place, so that it does
not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly destruction throughout all
the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.
:12 And the men who did not die were stricken with the tumors, and the cry
of the city went up to heaven.
:12 the cry of the
city went up to heaven
God can take care of Himself.
I think that there is very much a place for us to be “defenders of the faith”.
The Bible says,
(1 Pe 3:15 NKJV) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be
ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope
that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Yet as we do this, we need to keep in mind that there is a
sense in which God needs no defending.
Eli was horrified
at the thought of Israel losing the ark.
Perhaps he felt that he had let God down in his responsibilities.
But God is able to take care of Himself.
We’re seeing that in Revelation – that God will be directing the things
happening on earth, all by Himself.
Just because you can’t see God with your eyes doesn’t mean that He isn’t
real and that He isn’t powerful.
We are not God’s defenders, God is our defender.
6:1-21 Moving the
:1 Now the ark of the Lord
was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
:1 seven months
I guess you could say it was in the Philistine hands the “perfect” (“7”)
amount of time.
I find it fascinating that it took them so long to realize they needed to
get rid of this thing.
I’d say the Philistines were a little stubborn in their own pride, being
unwilling to give up this “god” that they had captured.
:2 And the Philistines
called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark
of the Lord? Tell us how we
should send it to its place.”
They called their own religious gurus to find out what they should do.
:3 So they said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not
send it empty; but by all means return it to Him with a trespass
offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why His hand is
not removed from you.”
:4 Then they said, “What is the trespass offering which we shall
return to Him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden rats, according
to the number of the lords of the Philistines. For the same plague was
on all of you and on your lords.
:4 Five golden
JFB: “Votive or thank offerings were
commonly made by the heathen in prayer for, or gratitude after, deliverance
from lingering or dangerous disorders, in the form of metallic (generally
silver) models or images of the diseased parts of the body.”
:4 five golden rats
This is why it is thought that the hemorrhoids were accompanied by a rodent
:4 the same plague was
on all of you
It wasn’t just the cities of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron that were affected,
but ALL of the cities of the Philistines were affected.
:5 Therefore you
shall make images of your tumors and images of your rats that ravage the land,
and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten His hand
from you, from your gods, and from your land.
They are hoping that with this gift of gold to the God of Israel, things
might get better for them.
:6 Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened
their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people
go, that they might depart?
They know of the history of Israel in Egypt. They don’t want to go down the same road as
Pharaoh and have things get worse and worse.
:7 Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been
yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from
:8 Then take the ark of the Lord
and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to
Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away,
and let it go.
:9 And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh,
then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that
it is not His hand that struck us—it happened to us by chance.”
:9 Beth Shemesh
– “house of the sun”
Play “Ekron to
Beth Shemesh” map clip
Beth Shemesh is about seven miles east of Ekron.
It was a Levitical city, there were Levites living there (Josh. 21:16)
Beth Shemesh is located in the valley of Sorek, about a half mile south of
the birthplace of Samson.
:7 two milk cows
The natural thing that these two cows are going to want to do is to go home
to their babies and feed them. They are
going to want to be milked. The last
thing these cows are naturally going to do is wander farther from home.
If these cows act contrary to their nature and go towards Bethshemesh, then
the Philistines will know that this was a “God-thing”.
If the cows came back to Ekron, the Philistines would know that this wasn’t
Israel’s god causing the problems, and they’d have their gold back.
Ask yourself “why?”
The cart with
the cows was a way for the Philistines to determine whether Yahweh was behind
their problems or not.
David tries to move the Ark to Jerusalem, he copies the Philistine method of
transporting the Ark and puts it on an ox cart – but he doesn’t have the same
reason to put the Ark on a cart.
God originally designed the Ark to have rings attached to
it and poles by which the priests would carry the Ark on their shoulders.
When David uses the Philistine method of Ark transportation,
it’s a disaster.
It’s probably a little dangerous when we copy too many things from the
world in the way we live our lives and the way we do church.
The world has ways to draw a crowd – do flashy things, use big name people.
That’s fine if you’re directing the Super Bowl halftime
a problem is you’re trying to build the church with a halftime show.
The church ought to be built up by building up people from
the inside – connecting them to God, feeding them with the Word of God, challenging
them to follow God and serve Him.
:10 Then the men
did so; they took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their
calves at home.
:11 And they set the ark of the Lord
on the cart, and the chest with the gold rats and the images of their tumors.
:12 Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and
went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the
right hand or the left. And the lords of the Philistines went after them to the
border of Beth Shemesh.
:12 lowing as they
The milk cows are probably lowing because they want to be milked, but they go
against instinct and head straight toward Bethshemesh. I think it’s interesting that the lowing of
the cows is going to help bring attention to what’s on the cart.
:12 the lords of
the Philistines went after them
These great men of Philistia follow two milk cows.
They want to know if Yahweh has indeed been behind their problems.
They find out that He has.
Note: I think this must have
been an amusing event to the Lord in heaven to watch these five proud, grand
lords of the Philistines following a couple of cows.
And to think that they’re walking with bad hemorrhoids makes it even a tad
:13 Now the people
of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and
they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.
:13 reaping their
The wheat fields
that these people are out working in are the same fields where Samson’s mother
was visited by an angel and told she would have a special son.
We’ve talked about the likelihood that Samson’s work was done at the end of
the period of the Judges, kind of overlapping with the times that we’re reading
This places the event around the end of May or the beginning of June.
:14 Then the cart
came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was
there. So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt
offering to the Lord.
The people take the cart and the oxen and use them to offer a burnt
offering to the Lord.
:15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord
and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of
gold, and put them on the large stone. Then the men of Beth Shemesh
offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices the same day to the Lord.
:16 So when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they
returned to Ekron the same day.
Can you imagine these five “lords” watching from a distance as the people
of Beth Shemesh offer sacrifices to Yahweh?
I wonder what the five lords of the Philistines said to each other as they
walked home that day.
:17 These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned as
a trespass offering to the Lord:
one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron;
:18 and the golden rats, according to the number of all the cities
of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities
and country villages, even as far as the large stone of Abel on which
they set the ark of the Lord, which
stone remains to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.
:18 the golden rats
We aren’t specifically told there were five “rats”. It’s possible that there might have been more
than five golden rats. Perhaps each of
the cities wanted to pitch in to get rid of the infestation.
:19 Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into
the ark of the Lord. He struck
fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because
the Lord had struck the people
with a great slaughter.
:19 fifty thousand
and seventy men
Another way of translating this could be, “he smote fifty out of a thousand, namely seventy
It is thought that there were 1400 people who looked at the ark, and 1/20
of them were killed, namely 70
Both Josephus and the Septuagint record that there were seventy killed.
:19 because they
had looked into the ark of the Lord
The ark was a
box. Kind of like a treasure chest with
valuables inside. Somebody got curious
as to what was inside, and they peeked.
What was in the ark?
At the very
least, there should have been two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments
written on them.
There may have also been a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded (Heb. 9:4).
By the time that Solomon built the temple,
(1 Ki 8:9 NKJV) Nothing was
in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when
the Lord made a covenant
with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
What happened to the pot of manna and the rod of
Aaron? Some have suggested that the men of Bethshemesh ,
or even the Philistines, might have taken them.
:20 And the men
of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up
:21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying,
“The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up with you.”
:21 Kirjath Jearim
– “city of forests”
A city 8miles
northeast of Beth Shemesh, up in the hills.
There is a little village today called “Kiryat Ye-arim” at this spot. Last November we ate our last supper in a
neighboring village called Yad HaShmona.
Why wasn’t the ark returned to Shiloh?
Archaeological data indicates that the city was destroyed about 1050 bc, perhaps after the battle at Aphek (1 Sam. 4).
The ark would stay at Kirjathjearim for about 100 years, until the time of
David, when he would bring it up to Jerusalem.
:20 to stand before
this holy Lord God?
God is holy
God is not like us. He is pure. He is without sin. He is holy.
The ark was not God, but it was to be a symbol to remind people of God’s
presence, and so God wanted the people to treat it differently.
David and the ark.
When David later decided to bring the ark from Kirjathjearim to his capitol
of Jerusalem, he wasn’t sure how to move it, so he just did what was done the last time it was
moved. He used the Philistine example,
putting the ark on an oxcart. It brought
trouble. When one of the oxen stumbled,
a priest reached out to steady the ark, and God put the man to death.
(1 Ch 13:12 NKJV) David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark
of God to me?”
It wasn’t until
later that David found out what the problem was, and corrected it by finally
finishing the move by having the priests carry the ark.
(1 Ch 15:14–15 NKJV) —14 So the
priests and the Levites sanctified
themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord
God of Israel. 15 And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their
shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.
The priests “sanctified” themselves, they made themselves
How do we make ourselves holy?
By turning from our sin and trusting in Jesus.
(1 Jn 1:9 NKJV) —9 If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all