Shortly after the Lord called Samuel to be the prophet over the people of Israel, the Philistines made war against them. Israel was being beaten by the Philistines, so they asked that the ark of the Lord be brought into their camp. They perceived that with the presence of the Lord in their midst, they were guaranteed victory. The Philistines were afraid when they heard that Isreal had the ark of the Covent. “Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness” (1 Samuel 4:8). Despite their fear, they pursued the Israelites and defeated them.
The Israelites ran away and the ark of God was captured by the Philistines. They took the ark to Ashdod and put it in the house of Dagon their god and placed it beside him. The next day they found Dagon lying face down on the floor. They put Dagon back in his place and the next day, he was not only lying face down, but his hands and head had been cut off. “The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory” (1 Samuel 5:6). They moved the ark of God between three different cities, because of the affliction that they experienced.
On each occasion, the city which they took the ark to, was afflicted by tumours and death. The people eventually agreed to send the ark of God back to the children of Israel. “They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you”” (1 Samuel 6:3). The Philistines melted gold and made images of the tumours and mice that had ravaged their land. They hoped that the hand of the Lord would be lighter with them due to their offering.
I am amazed at how the presence of God brought terror on the Philistines. The ark was designed to rest with God’s people and carried his presence. Although Isreal was in a state of sin, the Philistines were foolish to think that they could place God in a tent with their other god. No wonder Dagon was found face down with his head and hands cut off. Furthermore, God had a covenant with his own people and not with the Philistines. The presence of God among them served as judgement as they were the enemies of God. More so, the ark did not belong to them and their envy and stupidity led to their calamity. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours” (Psalm 86:8).