1 Samual Chapter 5


1 The Philistines having brought the ark into Ashdod, set it in the house of Dagon. 3 Dagon is smitten down and cut in pieces, and they of Ashdod smitten with emerods. 8 So God dealeth with them of Gath, when it was brought thither: 10 and so with them of Ekron, when it was brought thither.

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

The Philistines. A careful study of Ps. 78:60–64 together with Jer. 7:12; 26:6, 9 indicates that God permitted the Philistines not only to discomfit the people of Israel at Ebenezer but probably also to pursue them northeast to Shiloh.

The Philistines left part of their army to guard the prize they had taken from Israel, for it was from the camp of Israel (1 Sam. 5:1) that they started their return journey to the cities of the plain.

There is archeological evidence for the destruction of Shiloh about this time. In any case it is believed that the tabernacle services ceased when the ark was taken (see PP 609).

“When the call of God first came to him the services of the sanctuary were held in contempt. “Men abhorred the offering of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:17. But the worship of God was now maintained throughout the land, and the people manifested an interest in religious services. There being no ministration in the tabernacle, sacrifices were for the time offered elsewhere; and the cities of the priests and Levites, where the people resorted for instruction, were chosen for this purpose. The highest points in these cities were usually selected as the place of sacrifice, and hence were called ‘the high places’.”  {PP 609.1}

What a fearful responsibility rested on the shoulders of the young man Samuel, with Eli dead and the ark, the very center of religious service, in the hands of the enemy!

Even after the return of the ark, seven months later, it must indeed have been a heavy task for Samuel, traveling from place to place, to encourage the people and prevent the collapse of the religious life of a nation that for centuries had been accustomed to think of Shiloh as the very center of their corporate life.

That the Lord “let none of his words fall to the ground” (chapter 3:19) indicates that the people recognized him as the logical successor to Eli, although it was not until 20 years later that Samuel was formally invested with the authority of judge (ch. 7:1–15; see PP 590; 4T 517, 518).

Verse 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon.

House of Dagon. One of the chief temples of the Philistines, Dagon being their principal deity.

The gods of the heathen were never considered as averse to associating with other gods, and the Philistines may have felt fortunate in honoring Israel’s Deity along with the gods they had known for years.

They probably placed the ark by the side of Dagon, planning to offer him a great sacrifice, as they had done years before when Samson was taken captive (Judges 16:23, 24).

Then they boasted their triumph over Israel’s champion; now they would exult over the presumed capture of Israel’s God.

Some believe that the word translated “Dagon” is related to the Hebrew word dag, meaning “fish,” and that the god was shaped like a man above the waist, and like a fish below.

In Layard’s Nineveh there is a description of a bas-relief from Khorsabad representing a battle between the Assyrians and the inhabitants of the Syrian seacoast.

The relief shows a figure, the upper half of which is a bearded man, and the lower half a fish.

Others think that the name “Dagon” is derived from dagan, meaning “corn,” and therefore that the Philistine deity was a corn god representing fertility. His being half man, half fish would not necessitate his being a sea god.

Theophoric name in Ugarit and Babylon. See Dagon Wikepedia.

Verses 3,4 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. 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.

The head of Dagon. The second morning Dagon was not only prostrate again, but his head and hands were severed from his body and thrown on the threshold of the temple, where all who entered must tread.

Deprived of the emblems of reason and activity, he lay there in his true ugliness, merely a misshapen stump.

Verse 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.

The priests would not step on the threshold, but leaped over it. Could Zephaniah have been thinking of this when he said, “On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold” (Zeph. 1:9)

Verse 6-8 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.

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.

What shall we do? The discomfiture of Dagon before the ark seemed to create in the hearts of the lords of Philistia a resentment against the God of heaven and a greater allegiance to Dagon.

He was still the deity who had given them the victory on the field of battle, and they had done him homage by entrusting the ark to his protection.

Even though they admitted he had been worsted in personal conflict, he was still their god, and they refused to surrender to the idea of acknowledging the supremacy of the Creator of all things.

An epidemic struck the city which, according to all heathen reasoning, was the work of the supreme Deity, from whom came both good and evil; therefore the only thing to do was to get rid of the offending symbol of God’s presence.

But God, who is no respecter of persons, was as anxious that the Philistines recognize the gifts of His providence to them as He was that the Jews do so. (see PP 587, 588).

“How great is the long-suffering of God toward the wicked! The idolatrous Philistines and backsliding Israel had alike enjoyed the gifts of His providence. Ten thousand unnoticed                                                                      

mercies were silently falling in the pathway of ungrateful, rebellious men.

Every blessing spoke to them of the Giver, but they were indifferent to His love. The forbearance of God was very great toward the children of men; but when they stubbornly persisted in their impenitence, He removed from them His protecting hand.

They refused to listen to the voice of God in His created works, and in the warnings, counsels, and reproofs of His word, and thus He was forced to speak to them through judgments.  {PP 587,588

However, convinced against their will, the Philistines were of the same opinion still. So it was with Pharaoh. But it need not have been so.

Nebuchadnezzar did not let pride control him, and, through repeated revelations of God’s protective power, came to the place where he turned from his idolatry and worshiped the God of heaven (Dan. 4:24–27, 34, 35).

Even as God had shown Pharaoh His restraining power over the plagues, He now demonstrated to the Philistine lords His ability to halt the epidemic that was sweeping through their land.

Pride forbade any course of action other than ridding themselves of what to them was the great source of offense—the very thing God intended to be to them a means of salvation.

Verses 9,10 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!”

The Ekronites cried out. The selfishness and credulity of the Philistines are illustrated by the fact that each city, in turn, sent the ark on to a neighboring city.

Finally, it arrived at Ekron, the northernmost of the five principal cities of Philistia.

The cry of that city was one of indignation at having something forced on them without their consent.

The word here translated “cried out” is from za‘aq, “to cry out in alarm,” whereas in verse 12 the “cry” of the city is from shawe‘ah, “a cry for help.”

Verses 11,12 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 ocry of the city went up to heaven.


1–12 PP 586

1–4 SR 188

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles