|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-5 See the ark's triumph over Dagon. Thus the kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, and corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful. When the interests of religion seem to be ready to sink, even then we may be confident that the day of their triumph will come. When Christ, the true Ark of the covenant, really enters the heart of fallen man, which is indeed Satan's temple, all idols will fall, every endeavour to set them up again will be vain, sin will be forsaken, and unrighteous gain restored; the Lord will claim and possess the throne. But pride, self-love, and worldly lusts, though dethroned and crucified, still remain within us, like the stump of Dagon. Let us watch and pray that they may not prevail. Let us seek to have them more entirely destroyed.
Verse 1. - The Philistines took the ark of God. The silence of Scripture is often as remarkable as what it tells us. From Psalm 78:60-64; Jeremiah 7:12; Jeremiah 26:9, we gather that from Aphek the Philistines marched upon Shiloh, and having captured it, put all whom they found there to the sword, and levelled the buildings to the ground. Especially their wrath fell upon the priests, in revenge for the bringing of the ark to the camp, by which the war was made a religious one, and the worst feelings of fanaticism aroused. Of all this the history says nothing, nor of the measures taken by Samuel under these trying circumstances. From his previous eminence, the government would naturally devolve upon him, especially as Eli's sons were both slain; and evidently he must have managed in some way to save the sacred vessels of the sanctuary, and the numerous records of the past history of the nation laid up at Shiloh. Whatever learning there was in Israel had its seat there; it was probably the only school wherein men were initiated in the knowledge brought out of Egypt; and it is one of the worst and most barbarous results of war that it destroys so much connected with human progress and civilisation, overthrowing with its violent hand as well the means of a nation's culture as the results thereof. Samuel evidently did all that was possible to counteract these evils; and as the Philistine army withdrew into its own country immediately after the destruction of Shiloh, probably to carry homo the rich spoils obtained there, he was apparently able to ward off the worst effects of the Philistine invasion, and by rapidly reorganising the government to save the people from utter demoralisation. But upon all this Scripture is silent, because it concerns the history of Israel on its temporal side, and not as it exemplifies God's spiritual dealings with nations and men. From Eben-ezer (see on 1 Samuel 4:1) unto Ashdod. This town, the Azotus of Acts 8:40, was with Ekron and other Philistine cities, assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47) but never actually conquered. It lay near the sea, about thirty-two miles north of Gaza, and is now an unimportant village, still bearing the name of Esdud. Of the five Philistine capitals Ashdod and Gaza were of the most importance, as being the keys of Egypt, and the former was also enriched by the sale of the produce of Arabia, of which it was the emporium.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Philistines took the ark of God,.... Which fell into their hands, Israel being beaten, and caused to flee, and the priests that had the care of the ark slain; and when possessed of it, they did not destroy it, nor take out of it what was in it, only took it up:
and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. Ebenezer was the place where the camp of Israel was pitched, 1 Samuel 4:1 and near to which the battle was fought. Ashdod was one of the five principalities of the Philistines, the same with Azotus, Acts 8:40. The distance between these two places, according to Bunting (q) was one hundred and sixty miles; though one would think the distance from each other was not so great: why it was carried to Ashdod is not plain; perhaps it might be the nearest place of note in their country; and certain it is that it was one of their most famous cities, if not the most famous; See Gill on Isaiah 20:1, and had a famous idol temple in it.
(q) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 122.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
1Sa 5:1, 2. The Philistines Bring the Ark into the House of Dagon.
1. Ashdod—or Azotus, one of the five Philistine satrapies, and a place of great strength. It was an inland town, thirty-four miles north of Gaza, now called Esdud.
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