I Samuel Chapter 5
Memory verses for this week:
Psa 67:3 Let the people praise thee, O God;
let all the people praise thee.
We continue our study on Samuel this week. In last week’s
lesson, we studied about the defeat of Israel by the Philistines.
Not only were they defeated, but the Ark of God was lost. Both of
Eli’s sons were slain, and this news led to the death of both Eli
and Phinehas’ wife as she gave birth to a son which she named
Ichabod. As we mentioned last week, this meant the glory of the
Lord had departed from Israel.
The Ark of God and the Philistines
1 Sam 5:1 And
the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer
1 Sam 5:2 When
the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house
of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
The Philistines felt that they had conquered and captured Israel’s
God when they took possession of the Ark of God. They perceived
God as no more a god than their false gods, so they felt they had
him in their control. Perhaps they felt they were honoring God by
bringing the ark into the house of Dagon. This was in Ashdod, and
Dagon was their false God. The place they took the ark was the
temple of Dagon. Dagon was known as the fish-god, with the first
part of the word ‘dag’ meaning fish. Dagon had the likeness of a
man from his belly up. He had folded hands before his face as
though he worshipped, he had no feet, but his tail was that of a
1 Sam 5:3 And
when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was
fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And
they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.
1 Sam 5:4 And
when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was
fallen upon 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 upon
the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
When the pagan priest came into the temple on the next day, they
found Dagon had fallen down before the ark as though in worship of
it. They took him and sat him up again. The following morning,
the priest again found him upon his face before the Ark of God.
This time had had fallen down to the ground, and struck his head and
hands on the door. Both the head and hands were broken off,
leaving just the middle section of the false god. By being broken
and ruined, you’d have thought his worshippers would have realized
that the God of the ark was the real God. All false idol gods are
broken and worthless. The scriptures do not tell us what they did
with him. Perhaps they tried to piece him back together.
1 Sam 5:5
Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into
Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this
1 Sam 5:6 But
the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed
them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts
Since Dagon had suffered by falling against the threshold of the
door, they supposed this had somehow made the threshold holy.
After this, the people were very careful lest they step on the
threshold hallowed by the break up of their false god Dagon. The
false god Dagon was not the only one affected by the presence of the
ark there in Ashdod. The people soon realized that the Lord was
displeased with them. They were afflicted with emerods which
caused many of the people to die.
Matthew Henry made some interesting comments about the thinking of
the Philistines about putting the Ark of God with Dagon.
I. The Philistines’ triumph over the ark, which they were
the more pleased, the more proud, to be now masters of, because
before the battle they were possessed with a great fear of it, ch.
4:7. When they had it in their hands God restrained them, that they
did not offer any violence to it, did not break it to pieces, as the
Israelites were ordered to do by the idols of the heathen, but
showed some respect to it, and carefully carried it to a place of
safety. Whether their curiosity led them to open it, and to read
what was written with the finger of God on the two tables of stone
that were in it, we are not told; perhaps they looked no further
than the golden outside and the cherubim that covered it, like
children that are more affected with the fine binding of their
bibles than with the precious matter contained in them. They carried
it to Ashdod, one of their five cities, and that in which Dagon’s
temple was; there they placed the ark of God, by Dagon (v. 2),
either 1. As a sacred thing, which they designed to pay some
religious respect to, in conjunction with Dagon; for the gods of the
heathen were never looked upon as averse to partners. Though the
nations would not change their gods, yet they would multiply them
and add to them. But they were mistaken in the God of Israel when,
in putting his ark by Dagon’s image, they intended to do him honour;
for he is not worshipped at all if he is not worshipped alone. The
Lord our God is one Lord. Or rather, 2. They placed it there as a
trophy of victory, in honour of Dagon their god, to whom no doubt
they intended to offer a great sacrifice, as they had done when they
had taken Samson (Jdg. 16:23, 24), boasting that as then they had
triumphed over Israel’s champion so now over Israel’s God. What a
reproach was this to God’s great name! what a disgrace to the throne
of his glory! Shall the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, be a
prisoner to Dagon, a dunghill deity? (1.) So it is, because God will
show of how little account the ark of the covenant is if the
covenant itself be broken and neglected; even sacred signs are not
things that either he is tied to or we can trust to. (2.) So it is
for a time, that God may have so much the more glory, in reckoning
with those that thus affront him, and get him honour upon them.
Having punished Israel, that betrayed the ark, by giving it into the
hands of the Philistines, he will next deal with those that abused
it, and will fetch it out of their hands again. Thus even the wrath
of man shall praise him; and he is bringing about his own glory even
when he seems to neglect it, Ps. 76:10. Out of the eater shall come
II. Ark of God is Sent to Gath
1 Sam 5:7 And
when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the
God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us,
and upon Dagon our god.
1 Sam 5:8 They
sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto
them, 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 about
unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about
The Lords of the Philistines got together and decided that they
should remove the Ark and send it to Gath. They concluded that God
did not like Dagon, and would be better pleased in a town where
there would be no competition as to who was God. No sooner did the
ark arrive in Gath than the people began to fall victim to
emerods. J. Vernon McGee said that everyone seemed to be passing
the buck. No one wanted the ark, and they couldn’t find a place
I do not mean to be irreverent but everyone was passing the
buck. Finally there was a meeting of the lords of the Philistines
and they decided to send the ark back to Israel. God had sent
judgment upon the Philistines. The Philistines had one question,
“What shall we do with Israel’s ark?
1 Sam 5:9 And
it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the
LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he
smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had
emerods in their secret parts.
In the Believer’s Study Bible, W. A. Criswell gave some insight
into what might have plagued the Philistines.
5:6 The terms
translated “tumors” (cf. 5:9, 12; 6:4, 5, 11, 17), refer to some
type of growths or swellings on the body. The first term occurs
elsewhere only in Deut. 28:27; the second occurs only in this
passage. The association with rats (6:4, 5) suggests to some that
the plague that afflicted the Philistines may have been bubonic
plague, which is characterized by swelling of the lymph glands. It
should be noted, however, that the rats themselves constituted a
pestilence (cf. 6:5). On the basis of related terms in Arabic and
Aramaic, others suggest that the terms translated “tumors” here may
be better rendered “hemorrhoids.”
Based upon verse 9, I would tend to believe that they were plagued
most likely by hemorrhoids. The Philistines were very unhappy to
have the ark in their presence, so they send it on to the town on
1 Sam 5:10
Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as
the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying,
They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay
us and our people.
The Philistines in Ekron were not happy to have the ark with them
either. They cry out and ask if this was sent to slay us and our
people. The word of the terror associated to the Philistines
spread fast concerning the Ark of God. While it brought great
glory and safety to God’s chosen nation Israel, it wrought havoc on
the lost Philistines. God is never pleased with a people who
fail to serve him totally and wholly from the heart. And that
begins by acknowledging that there is only one true God. The first
four commandments have reference to man’s relationship towards God.
Exo 20:3 Thou
shalt have no other gods before me.
Exo 20:4 Thou
shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any
thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth:
Exo 20:5 Thou
shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD
thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon
the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
Exo 20:6 And
showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my
Exo 20:7 Thou
shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD
will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exo 20:9 Six
days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exo 20:10 But
the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt
not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy
manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger
that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For
in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in
them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the
sabbath day, and hallowed it.
We today may not build a little gold or silver image that we bow
down to each day, but we can just as easily be worshipping a false
god if we fall in love with our television set or some sport. We
can take almost anything and make it into an idol if we are not
careful. It might be a new vehicle, or even our own children.
God is a jealous God, and he wants us to acknowledge Him and Him
only as God.
III. Second Meeting of the Lords of the Philistines
1 Sam 5:11 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
again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for
there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of
God was very heavy there.
1 Sam 5:12 And
the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of
the city went up to heaven.
The lords of the Philistines put their heads together and decide
that the best thing to do is to send the ark of God away from them
that they be not slain. Many Philistines had died, and a great
plague had fallen upon them for having the ark in their presence.
God is both a God of love and a God of judgment. For those who
know Him not as Lord and Savior, he is only a God of judgment.
Every lost person will one day have to stand at the Great White
Throne judgment. It says in verse 11 that the hand of God was
very heavy there. Many died, but some that did not die were
smitten with the emerods. I know that the Philistines thought
they were really doing a great thing when they took the Ark of God
into their possession. But many a person who failed to
acknowledge God for who He was and is paid a high price in the
bible. We need to learn from the failures of others that we might
not make similar mistakes in our lives.
Internet Bible Studies are prepared and distributed free of charge.
The lessons may not be sold without consent. If you have questions
or wish to discuss the lessons, or possibly need help in finding
Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, contact David Parham
4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day.
e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Each act spreads, and many will
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
on the Bible,
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.
[ii]J. Vernon McGee,
Thru the Bible commentary
[computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System,
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.
Believer’s study Bible
[computer file], electronic ed. , Logos Library System,
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1991 by the Criswell
Center for Biblical Studies.