1 Samuel 5:11
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.
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(11) Send away the ark.—The lords of the Philistines were a long time before they could make up their minds to get rid of this deadly trophy of their victory. They had grown up with an undefined awe of the “golden chest,” which, as they supposed, had so often in the days of the famous Hebrew conqueror, Joshua, led the armies of Israel to victory; and now at last it was their own. It was indeed a sore trouble for them to yield it up to their enemies again; to see the historical sacred treasure of Israel, so long veiled in awful mystery, at the feet of their fish-god idol, was a perpetual renewal for Philistia of the glorious triumph of Aphek, which avenged so many years of bitter humiliation. The plague and misery which afflicted the cities of Philistia in the day when the sacred Ark dwelt an unhonoured guest in their midst suggest many and grave thoughts. Is there not an unseen power ever protecting God’s institutions, His ordinances, and His ritual, the sacred House dedicated to His solemn worship, the vessels of the sanctuary, the very lands and gold consecrated to His service, even though all these things, owing to the faults and errors of His servants, have lost apparently their holy and beneficial influence over the hearts and homes of men?

Does not this old loved story warn rash and careless souls against laying rough hands on any ark of the Lord, though the ark in question seem to be abandoned by God, and destitute of power and dignity?

1 Samuel 5:11-12. There was a deadly destruction through all the city — That is, in every city where the ark of God came, some were struck with the pestilence and died, and others lingered under intolerable pains, which made them cry out in an inexpressible manner. The cry of the city went up to heaven — A hyperbolical speech; things that are exceeding great, beyond expression, being often said to reach to heaven, Deuteronomy 1:28. 5:6-12 The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the Philistines; he not only convinced them of their folly, but severely chastised their insolence. Yet they would not renounce Dagon; and instead of seeking God's mercy, they desired to get clear of his ark. Carnal hearts, when they smart under the judgments of God, would rather, if it were possible, put him far from them, than enter into covenant or communion with him, and seek him for their friend. But their devices to escape the Divine judgments only increase them. Those that fight against God will soon have enough of it.The "lords" (see Judges 3:3) were very unwilling to give up their triumph, and, with the common pagan superstition, imagined that some local bad luck was against them at Ashdod. The result was to bring the whole Philistine community under the same calamity. 11. they sent—that is, the magistrates of Ekron. Throughout all the city, to wit, the city of Ekron, during its short stay there. Or, in every city, to wit, where the ark of God came; for it came also to Gaza and Askelon, and produced the same effects there, as may be gathered from 1 Samuel 6:4,17, though for brevity sake it be here omitted. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines,.... As the men of Ashdod had done before on the same account, 1 Samuel 5:8.

and said, send away the ark of the God of Israel; as these lords were united in their government, and made one common cause of it against Israel, one could not dispose of this capture without the consent of the rest; otherwise the lord of Ekron, with his princes, were clearly in it that it was right and best to send it away out of any of their principalities:

and let it go again to its own place; to the land of Israel and Shiloh there, though to that it never returned more:

that it slay us not, and our people; that is, all of them, for great numbers had been slain already, as follows:

for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; a mortal disease went through the whole city, and swept away a multitude of people:

the hand of God was very heavy there; it seems by the expression to haste been heavier on the inhabitants of this city than upon those of Ashdod and Gath, which made them the more pressing to get rid of the ark.

So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send {e} 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.

(e) The wicked when they feel the hand of God, grudge and reject him, where the godly humble themselves, and cry for mercy.

11. and gathered together all the lords] A second council of state was held, but the protest of the Ekronites was not listened to. The league was unwilling to part with the trophy of its victory.

a deadly destruction] A deadly panic: dismay caused by the fatal character of the disease.But they were obliged to give up this notion when they found the god lying on his face upon the ground again the next morning in front of the ark of Jehovah, and in fact broken to pieces, so that Dagon's head and the two hollow hands of his arms lay severed upon the threshold, and nothing was left but the trunk of the fish (דּגון). The word Dagon, in this last clause, is used in an appellative sense, viz., the fishy part, or fish's shape, from דּג, a fish. המּפתּן is no doubt the threshold of the door of the recess in which the image was set up. We cannot infer from this, however, as Thenius has done, that with the small dimensions of the recesses in the ancient temples, if the image fell forward, the pieces named might easily fall upon the threshold. This naturalistic interpretation of the miracle is not only proved to be untenable by the word כּרתות, since כּרוּת means cut off, and not broken off, but is also precluded by the improbability, not to say impossibility, of the thing itself. For if the image of Dagon, which was standing by the side of the ark, was thrown down towards the ark, so as to lie upon its face in front of it, the pieces that were broken off, viz., the head and hands, could not have fallen sideways, so as to lie upon the threshold. Even the first fall of the image of Dagon was a miracle. From the fact that their god Dagon lay upon its face before the ark of Jehovah, i.e., lay prostrate upon the earth, as though worshipping before the God of Israel, the Philistines were to learn, that even their supreme deity had been obliged to fall down before the majesty of Jehovah, the God of the Israelites. But as they did not discern the meaning of this miraculous sign, the second miracle was to show them the annihilation of their idol through the God of Israel, in such a way as to preclude every thought of accident. The disgrace attending the annihilation of their idol was probably to be heightened by the fact, that the pieces of Dagon that were smitten off were lying upon the threshold, inasmuch as what lay upon the threshold was easily trodden upon by any one who entered the house. This is intimated in the custom referred to in 1 Samuel 5:5, that in consequence of this occurrence, the priests of Dagon, and all who entered the temple of Dagon at Ashdod, down to the time of the historian himself, would not step upon the threshold of Dagon, i.e., the threshold where Dagon's head and hands had lain, but stepped over the threshold (not "leaped over," as many commentators assume on the ground of Zephaniah 1:5, which has nothing to do with the matter), that they might not touch with their feet, and so defile, the place where the pieces of their god had lain.
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