1Samuel 5-6

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 9, 2012


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

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 called Ebenezer.

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 Covenant.

5:1-12 God vs. Dagon

:1 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.

:1 Ashdod “powerful” 

Play “Ebenezer 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.

:2 DagonDagown – “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.  Why?

 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 its face


Can your “god” fall down?

What are you putting your trust in?  Who do you count on?  Can your “god” fall?
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.
(Ps 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!
(Php 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 threshold

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 temple. 
The practice was still in effect at the time that the writer of 1Samuel was recording this.
I have actual footage of the priests of Dagon following these threshold rituals and it seems that they incorporated a song into this ritual…

PlayHokey 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.

In 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
(Mk 7:6–7 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.

:6 tumors[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:

(Dt 28:27 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 healed.

It will appear that there’s another component with this “plague”, there will be mice or rodents involved.

Some have suggested that this might be something like the Black Plague that was spread by rats.

: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 Philistines

Each of the five major Philistine cities had their own “lord” or king.  Apparently they form some sort of ruling council.

:8 Gath – “winepress”. 

About twelve 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 them.

: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!”

:10 Ekron – “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 Ekron.

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 Ark

: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 tumors

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 infestation.

: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 them.

: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.

Play “Beth Shemesh” clip

: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.
Later when 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 show.

It’s 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 went

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 more amusing.

: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 wheat harvest

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 about here.

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 men”. 

It is thought that there were 1400 people who looked at the ark, and 1/20 of them were killed, namely 70 people. 
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 from us?”

: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 “holy”.

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 unrighteousness.