This chapter relates to us the history of the ark of God while in captivity. The Philistines for a short space rejoice over their spoil. But this joy is turned into sorrow. God visits the Philistines with plagues, till at length they are constrained to call a council in order to deliver them from what at the first they considered a great triumph.
(1) ¶ And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. (2) When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
What the Philistines design was in bringing the ark into the house of their idolatrous God, is not so easy to determine. Whether it might be to give honor to Dagon, as they did in the case of their conquering Samson, or whether it might be that they intended to unite the ark of God with Dagon as the joint object of adoration, it is impossible to say. Strange, that the human mind should have sunk so low by the fall, as ever to give into the idea of worshipping the dunghill deities of a man's own making. But the Holy Ghost by his servant the apostle, gives us the satisfactory reason of it. Romans 1:22-25.
(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.
Had the men of Ashdod only considered this as a supernatural work, instantly they must have seen in it the finger of God.
(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. (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 day.
The repetition of this judgment, and with yet more decided marks of a supernatural power, ought to have arrested their minds. Alas! we see so far from this, that they now proceeded to the consecration of the very floor, because that Dagon had fallen upon it. Reader! we sadly overlook the gracious design of the Holy Ghost, in causing these records to have been made and transmitted to us, if it doth not lead both you and me to the conviction of the universal condition of all men by the fall, in gross blindness and ignorance; and that it is the grace of God which makes all the difference between them and us. 1 Corinthians 4:7.
(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 thereof. (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.
It is not very easy to say, what this disease which is called Emerods was. The Psalmist in referring to this history, saith, that the Lord smote his enemies in the hinder parts, and put them to a perpetual reproach. Psalms 78:66. But be the disease what it might, certain it is, that it was very heavy upon them, and that they considered it as a judgment on account of the ark.
(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 thither. (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. (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. (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. (12) And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
Is it not strange that men's minds should be so far convinced by God's judgments, as to see God's hand in their afflictions: and yet should not be led further humbly to enquire the cause and seek relief. Alas, Reader! the history of this disease of the mind in the blindness and ignorance induced by the fall, is not confined to the Philistines. Elihu tells us in the book of Job, that by reason of the multitude of oppressions the oppressed are made to cry: but none saith, Where is God my Maker? Groans and cries even to Heaven, shall go forth and go up, but not to the God of Heaven. Blindness still reigns and ever must reign, until God who commands the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in the heart. The world by wisdom knew not God. See Job 35:9; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 1:21.
How very precious it is to observe, the attention which God hath over his own cause. Though Israel is sunk so low as to be supine and inattentive to the attempt of recovering the ark, yet God will be jealous of his own honor. Reader! do you not see a sweet instruction veiled under this? When the poor sinner bound in Satan's chain is fallen asleep, and is unconscious of his impending ruin; neither sends forth a cry for help; nor is aware that he needeth that help; then it is that the eye of Jesus is upon him, undertakes himself his cause, and goeth forth to his deliverance. Oh! blessed Jesus, how very precious is it to my soul to observe that thy grace, like the dew of Heaven, waiteth not for men, neither tarrieth for the sons of men.
And here also while poor dispirited sinners are thus taught that our God will maintain his own cause and deliver his people out of captivity; woe unto the oppressor, when our God ariseth to judgment! Secret punishments will be their lot in this life, and an open display of his anger in that which is to come. The wrath of man shall praise him, the remainder of wrath will he restrain.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany