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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 5

Verses 1-12

The Ark in the Hands of the Philistines (5:1-12)

The Ark was taken to Ashdod, one of five cities which constituted the Philistine federation, situated on the coastal plain about five miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Here the Ark was set up in the temple of the Philistine deity Dagon, beside the latter’s image. The story presents the Lord as challenging a divine rival, and thus it reinforces the absolute claims of God evidenced in the first commandment of the Decalogue and manifested throughout the historical revelation. The living God will brook no rival. In demonstration of this fact Dagon was twice left prostrate, and the second time severely damaged.

Zephaniah 1:9 mentions a custom of leaping the threshold, and this story gives the traditional origin of the custom. The broken image of Dagon fell across the threshold of the temple and therefore the priests had to leap the threshold to enter.

The disaster to Dagon, who is identified with his image in the story as he would have been by the Philistines, was followed by sickness among the Ashdodites. In consequence the Ark was taken to Gath. A similar pestilence led to yet a further removal to Ekron. The pestilence was one of boils, but, as we shall see in the next chapter, these appear to have been associated with mice, which suggests that the disease was bubonic plague. The Philistines saw their trouble as the direct activity of the Lord, proving his supremacy over Dagon, and anxiously sought for a way to restore the Ark of the Lord to its place.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Samuel 5". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/1-samuel-5.html.