Dagon is No Match for Yahweh in 1 Samuel 5

March 20, 2018 at 11:39 AM 2 comments

As I read through the entire Bible again this year, I’m amazed at the fact that more and more of God’s Word is coming alive to me. I find myself relating to it much easier as I see and contemplate more of God’s character as He reveals Himself to us through His Word.

 

1 Samuel 4 highlights the fact that because of Israel’s faithlessness, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines. In this same chapter, Eli the priest died. It was a tragic situation. Eli had two sons – Hophni and Phinehas –  who were priests but had no real knowledge of or relationship with God.

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:12 ESV)

I cannot imagine having my name written in God’s Word with that description. It is more than tragic. If you take the time to read about these two sons starting in 1 Samuel 2:12 onward, you’ll see how corrupt and disgusting they were and remember, these men were priests of the Living God of Israel. That did not stop their sinful passions. Eli, their father was also a priest and clearly had no control over his sons. It all has to do with upbringing and clearly, Eli did not have the type of impact on his sons he should have had. Yes, there are examples of parents doing the correct thing and still producing a child who leaves a great deal to be desired (as in Samson, for instance), but in Eli’s case, it’s as if he didn’t even try. He obviously did not raise them to love, honor, and fear the Lord. We even learn that Eli benefited from his sons’ cheating the Lord where the sacrificial system was involved. He joined in with them as we can see in 1 Samuel 2:27 ff.

During this time, the Lord was raising up Samuel to replace Eli as priest/judge over Israel (1 Samuel 3). Once the Lord did this, He ended the lives of Hophni and Phinehas as well as Eli, leaving Samuel to lead. By all accounts, Samuel was a very good priest/judge of Israel. His mother Hannah, promised him to the Lord if God would just open her barren womb. This God did and Hannah was faithful to her promise.

It appears that Samuel was very much aware of the duplicity of many within Israel. He saw their evil ways and constantly tried to get them to turn from those ways. Before Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas died, Israel went to war against the Philistines and lost, big time. Why? You guessed it – they were unfaithful to the Lord God Jehovah. They were spiritual adulterers, worshiping foreign gods. When they went out to battle the Philistines, God was not with them and they lost. Not only did they lose several thousand warriors in that battle, but the Philistines also captured the Ark of the Covenant.

1 Samuel 5 details exactly what happened to the Philistines would had captured the Ark. They likely thought they had gained a fabulous prize, but quickly learned that it wasn’t so fabulous for them after all. It’s actually a fascinating read.

1 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. (1 Samuel 5:1-2 ESV)

Dagon was an interesting false deity or god. He’s mentioned in the Bible several times (Judges 16:23, 1 Chronicles 10:10, and in the 1 Samuel 5 passage).

Dagon was the chief deity of the Philistines, and the worship of this pagan god dates back the third millennium BC. According to ancient mythology, Dagon was the father of Baal. He was the fish god (dag in Hebrew means “fish”), and he was represented as a half-man, half-fish creature. This image furthered an evolutionary belief that both men and fish had evolved together from the primal waters. Dagon may also have been the provider of grain. So Dagon was similar to many other idols in that he personified natural forces that had supposedly produced all things.

So naturally, since the Philistines bested the Israelites in this battle highlighted in 1 Samuel 4, they took the “spoils” of that victory and placed Israel’s God in the house of the Philistines’ god, or the house of Dagon. What happened next is God proving who is the best.

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. (v. 3)

They placed the Ark of the Covenant in the house of Dagon, but when they arose the next morning and checked on things, Dagon had fallen off his pedestal. It is no accident that Dagon fell “face downward on the ground” and that the idol was seen as though prostrating itself before the Ark of the Covenant. I would not say that this proves God has a sense of humor because there was nothing funny about this. God was making a very specific point. Dagon was nothing. Not only was he not a god who any sort of power at all, but his lifeless statue was made to appear subservient to God Almighty. This reflected reality.

Of course, the Philistines probably just thought that Dagon accidentally got knocked over. Notice the people had to actually physically life the statue of Dagon back into place. Isn’t this ironic? These people worshiped this statue, a statue that had no power to speak, to move, or to right itself when it fell. Surely, they would argue that the statue was merely a representation of Dagon, but not the authentic article. The point here is that there was absolutely no power infused in that statue, but God was going to prove to the Philistines that the Ark – though it merely represented God and His covenant with the people of Israel – had the power to destroy enemies because it was from this anointed tabernacle article that God spoke, moved, and determined His will for the people of Israel.

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. (v. 4)

To remove all doubt, God not only knocked Dagon off his pedestal again the next night after the Philistine priests put Dagon back, but God also removed the hands and head of the statue as well, leaving only Dagon’s trunk. There was no way the Philistines could erroneously think that the statue of their god had accidentally fallen off the pedestal. God was making His point very clear and this time, it did not go unnoticed at all.

Once the Philistines saw what happened to Dagon, they were very concerned. Of course, God was just getting started with the Philistines. Not only did God show them who was truly God, but He also began afflicting the Philistines with “tumors.” The Philistines were a bit slow to catch on, but God was patient, continuing to inflict them over time until they “got it” in spite of the Philistines relocating the Ark of the Covenant from Ashdod to Gath, from Gath to Ekron, from Ekron finally back to Israel. In the meantime, the Bible says that God’s “hand was heavy against the people” of whatever city the Ark was sent to. God did not let up on the Philistines, and while He could have been far worse on them, what He did send the Philistines was difficult enough for them.

The tumors that grew on the people of Philistia in each city where the Ark was sent, were apparently centered around the groin area. In fact, some commentators believe that these tumors were essentially hemorrhoids. Anyone who has experienced hemorrhoids knows it’s not pleasant and certainly, the larger the hemorrhoid, the more painful it is to experience. Hemorrhoids are created when the wall of the veins in the rectal area weaken to the point that an area of the wall swells and becomes inflamed. It’s similar to the way a rubber balloon will enlarge when being inflated. With treatment, it will take at least seven days or more for the swelling to go down, along with inflammation. Without treatment, it can take much longer to heal.

However, not only were the people “terrified” and “afflicted” with tumors (v. 6), but mice were also included in this issue (6:4 ) and beyond this, many died because of God’s heavy hand on them (v. 12). Obviously, this was a great problem for the Philistines so they decided to send the Ark back to Israel.

Before we go any further, I find it fascinating that the Philistines, who saw God’s power firsthand when He knocked Dagon off its pedestal, cut his hands and head off, and then terrified the people with death and/or tumors. In spite of this, they did not turn to God at all. They likely assumed that the “gods” of Israel were simply greater than the gods of the Philistines. Wouldn’t you think they would want to find out more about this God of the Israelites and even consider trading your own god represented by a statue that could be broken, for a much more powerful deity?

It seems that the Philistines were much to afraid and concerned to be open to any truth about the God of the Israelites. As far as they were concerned, the God of the Israelites was not to be messed with and needed to be returned to Israel as soon as possible, but the Ark had already been gone from Israel for seven months (6:1).

They determined that they should not send the Ark back empty-handed but with offerings. The offerings were gold sculptures of the mice (they may have believed mice had brought the plague of tumors, as in Bubonic plague), as well as sculptures of the “tumors” as well; five of each (one for each town, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, Ekron, and Gaza). Once they created these artifacts, they placed them in a box near the Ark, which had been placed on a brand new, never-before-used cart, led by two milk cows that had never been yoked. They would simply send the cow-drawn cart back to the Land of Israel.

8 And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way 9 and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.” (1 Samuel 6:8-9 ESV)

They did this and followed the cart at a distance to see where it would go. It wound up going straight to Beth-shemesh, one of the Levitical towns where Levites lived and worked.

12 And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. (1 Samuel 6:12-14 ESV)

It amazes me how often God has proven Himself over the centuries, yet people fail to see it. They fail to recognize Him, His sovereignty, and His authority over all. When faced with the conclusion that God of Israel was far greater than Dagon, the false god of the Philistines, those people simply did what they could to get rid of the artifact that God had chosen to represent His judgment, the Ark. Though they knew the Ark was a problem for them, the Philistines did not go to the natural conclusion of thinking that the God of Israel might also be the only God they should worship. No, they’d keep their inferior god, Dagon, even though they had to carry him around, lift him into place and never saw any sign from him that he cared for the Philistines. In effect, Dagon was powerless, yet they persisted in worshiping him.

Let’s face it, for the Philistines, Dagon was a good luck charm, nothing more. I wonder how often we Christians are guilty of seeing God as our “genie” or ascribe to Him the belief that nothing bad will happen to us because God is “on our side?”

We would do well to understand that it is we who need to be on God’s side, not the other way around. As we commit ourselves to Him on a daily basis, sacrificing those things that tend to pull us away from God, He will bless us with a greater understanding of who He is and how He works in our life. Certainly, it is for our good and for His glory.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Demonic, devil worship, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, Satanism. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments

  • 1. LW  |  March 20, 2018 at 7:06 PM

    Really good reminder that we need to be fully committed to the living God, and not just in it for what He can do for us.
    “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job 2:10

    • 2. modres  |  March 20, 2018 at 7:29 PM

      Thank you, yes.


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