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I Samuel

I Samuel Chapters

1 Samuel 5

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“Dagon Falls Before the Ark”

The terrible news of the Ark’s capture by Israel’s enemy precipitated the deaths of Eli and his daughter in law. Eli’s two wayward sons died in battle and thousands of Hebrew soldiers died on the battle field. The whole thing was a disaster. This is what happens when God is left out of our lives and we do whatever we please.

In everyday life we follow the culture of the day, wanting good incomes, great jobs and employer applause. That is because we lack the understanding that we should pray for whatever GOD wishes us to do. When we thus leave out God and His will, we will live aimlessly through life, unless and if He graciously stops us in our tracks and causes us to think again. If this happens to you, do not moan and become depressed – thank Him for His mercy and look for HIS answers for your life. Otherwise your heart and mind will remain captive to the enemy of souls.

There are times when God will allow His children great latitude when they sin. This does not mean He allows the sin to go unchallenged, or that it is somehow forgotten. Sin that is not repented of is never forgotten by God! We are all challenged every day over our sins. The more we try to avoid listening to God’s voice the worse becomes our sin, for to avoid God we must elevate self and silence conscience. Yes, God is ‘longsuffering’… but NOT always! Beware.

Now, the whole nation of Israel was suffering because Eli did not control his own sons. To control children is every parent’s (and societies’) duty. But, when a high-profile man of God does not control his children, everybody knows about it and everybody must suffer, for his influence travels far.

Verses 1-5

  1. “And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.

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

  3. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.

  4. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.

  5. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.”

The Philistine victors took the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol and habitat of Almighty God on this earth, and carried it back to their city of Ashdod. They should have taken note of the other meaning of ‘arown (Ark of the Covenant), which is ‘a coffin’, for that is what it came to represent over the following weeks!

God allowed them to carry His ark all the way from north of Jerusalem to the coast of the Mediterranean. Ashdod (now modern Esdud), (‘powerful’) was a major city, inhabited by idol worshippers. The generals ordered the ark to be placed in their temple dedicated to Dagon the fish god. Dagon was the symbol of fertility. This is an irony, as all man-made gods are sterile! The huge statue had the hands and face of a man and the tail of a fish. The impudent Philistines placed the Ark right next to Dagon. The idea seemed to be to add extra impetus to their position by doubling-up on ‘god power’. To them it seemed obvious – whoever had the Ark also controlled the god within. This is how many Christians see the ‘God’ of their imaginations… someone Who is at their beck and call.

Next day the temple attendants arrived in the great hall to find the Dagon statue fallen on its face in front of the Ark. Though the ark was not God, God made sure that this man-made edifice did not sit next to His ark as an equal... no, Dagon had to fall prostrate before Him! Every day we see the idols of man smashed and degraded before our eyes, yet people still maintain their allegiance to them, no matter what or who they are. And thus our societies become more wicked and less strong.

The puzzled attendants and priests set the statue back on its base and went on with their usual priestly tasks. But, next day, they arrived to find Dagon again on the floor before God’s Ark – only this time both hands and the head were ‘cut off’, leaving only the tail. We should note that the statue was not just crushed or broken – the parts were cut off... karath. That was why the priests and everyone else refused to set foot in the temple after the discovery. They knew something was amiss.

Verses 6-9

  1. “But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them; and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.

  2. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.

  3. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, 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 about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither.

  4. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.”

What we now see happening is a verity of God – when He says something is forbidden, He means it, not just for the faithful, but for everyone. And if He makes a demand, it applies to all, even if others do not know of His demands. This also applies to ‘lost tribes’ and anyone else who has not heard the Gospel. The Philistines were to find out that God would not tolerate anyone handling His Ark...

Thus it was that the ‘hand of God was heavy upon them of Ashdod.’. That is, God brought grief upon the people of the city. They were struck down and filled with awe, ravaged, stunned by their fate. It is commonly held that God gave the people haemorrhoids (‘emerods’). This is one meaning of the word, but it does not seem to fit what actually happened to the people.

They appear to have died swiftly. It is true that haemorrhoids causes pain and bleeding, but death is not the usual result of their presence. The answer lies in the second meaning for ‘emerods’ – tumour. I suggest that the people were visited by fast growing and fatal tumours. We are not told what parts of the body were affected – but we all know how lethal cancerous tumours can be. We also know that this physical illness was accompanied by a plague of mice in the land (see chapter 6).

As is often the case, errors and sins made by national figures wreak national havoc. God killed the people of Ashdod and those in the surrounding country, with deadly tumours, which were probably fungating. The Philistines correctly identified the source of their discomfort... it was the God of the Israelites. He cannot stay with them any longer! The longer He stayed with them the greater would be the penalty.

The men of Ashdod convened a meeting of the lords of Philistia and sought an answer to their dilemma. They decided to send the Ark to another of their cities, the city of giants, Gath (‘winepress’), one of the five royal cities. Swiftly, the Ark was transported to hapless Gath!

Soon, they, too were struck down with emerods and were destroyed. The meaning of ‘secret parts’ includes ‘bursting forth’. From this we might reasonably conclude that the cancers were of a fungating type – bursting out from the body in hideous manner, through skin and muscle, filling the air with a foul nauseating smell that is intolerable from many yards away. God seems to want the Philistines to SEE the result of their evils. What they had proved to them beyond doubt, the power and wrath of the God of Israel.

In our own day, if we suffer a big and sudden downfall we should firstly examine our lives to see if they are as God wishes them to be. It is possible the new circumstances have nothing to do with sin, but if sin (public or not) is the cause of our downfall we must rectify it immediately, or the consequences will be enormous and maybe lifelong. If sin is not the reason, then the circumstance is a trial of our faith, which we MUST observe and pass, without fail.

Verses 10-12

  1. “Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that Ekronites cried out, saying, they have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people.

  2. 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.

  3. And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven.”

The deadly game of ‘pass the parcel’ continued, for the leaders of Gath quickly dispatched the Ark to yet another city, Ekron.(‘emigration’ or ‘torn up by the roots’). This was the northern-most royal city, in the Judaean lowlands, so the Philistines could not get rid of the Ark much farther away! It seems that the inhabitants were unaware of the kind ‘present’ they were about to be given by their kinsmen, until it arrived, for as soon as they saw what was coming into their city, the cried out in alarm. They shouted that the coming of the Ark would lead to their deaths. Sensibly, spurred on by thoughts of their own awful deaths, they decided there and then to send the Ark back to its own land, after yet another convened meeting of the lords. Even as they spoke, people were dying all around them.

God did not let up on His wrath. This is worth bearing in mind – when God has decided to punish, nothing on earth will hamper that decision. He will act and will not stop until it is done. Not even a late repentance will alter the fact or the action.

As the men of Ekron panicked and made their decision the cry of the dying and their families were heard everywhere. We can only imagine what will happen when God takes us all to Judgement Day and proclaims His wrath against the unsaved, who, He says, will be in hell forever with wailing and gnashing of teeth. God will and must act against those who displease Him. He even acts against His own children if they continue in disobedience. The Old Testament is replete with such instances. Let us all beware.

Today, many Christians remain silent and do nothing as evil fills the earth, and as wicked men place God’s glory far lower than their current gods. These Christians fondly think they do well by turning the other cheek in ignorance. No, they are joining forces with the Dagon’s of their age. God sees them and is angry. We are not called to hide behind church walls, but to stride out, sword in hand, to be alongside the Saviour in battle. The Christian who is without battle-scars is soft-bellied and useless, pretending to be holy when, all along, it is a cover for his fear and refusal to show himself as a true believer. He is a coward whose refusal to be a warrior will cause his earthly demise. 

---oOo---

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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United Kingdom

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1 Samuel 4

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“The Death of Eli and His Sons”

In the New Testament we read of the deaths of a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, because they lied to the Apostles (and therefore to God). Their deaths brought a hush of reverence upon the whole Christian church at that time.

A long time before that, God displayed His mighty hand against Eli and his priest-sons. For a long time Eli ignored, or did not do anything about, his rebel sons. They held grave and powerful positions in the land of Israel, for the Temple priests were also princes of state along with the Chief Priest. Eli was the chief prince, judge over all Israel, and its supreme ruler. Therefore, his responsibility to both God and men was tremendous.

In this chapter we read of how this responsibility was called to book as Eli was reminded of his errors at the cost of his life; he had failed God miserably by allowing his wayward sons to act sinfully within the walls of God’s house. They also acted with gluttony, violence, greed, and sexual impropriety outside it, giving the households of Eli and God a terrible name.

As my mother used to warn me, God does not sleep. He knows what is going on. Indeed, He knew the sins we would commit before He made the world! So, why are we so stupid when it comes to disobeying? Why do we think we can get away with it? He will, and He must, act against us at some point in our lives, if we continue in our sins. For Eli, the sins of his sons were to lead not only to their deaths, but also to his own.

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1 Samuel 3

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“Here am I”

Throughout his childhood Samuel worked in the temple, under the guidance of Eli and the other priests. He met with his mother at least once a year, when she and the family came to the Temple to make sacrifice and to worship. Possibly, they met in between, too, though the text does not tell us.

See how different the attitude is toward children in those days? Today, young people are treated as special cases when it comes to worship and discipline. But, here, we read of Samuel who ‘ministered unto the Lord’ from his youngest days. Jewish children and young people are given responsibility early on. They are not excused their sin and bad behaviour, or their ignorance. It would do our own young people a power of good not to be placed on a pedestal!

Verse 1

  1. “And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”

So, Samuel ‘ministered unto the Lord’ under the watchful eye of Eli the High Priest and ultimate ruler of the Hebrew nation. That is, he served God. This is powerful testimony as to his calibre! We are told that God’s word was ‘precious’ in those days because there was ‘no open vision’. By comparison, we can read in verse 21 that ‘the Lord appeared again in Shiloh’, and this is how we ought to understand verse 1. That is, the word of God, by vision or prophecy, was almost non-existent at this time later in Eli’s life.

We can only assume that God withdrew His active presence from the nation because of the wickedness of Eli’s sons and the way Eli did not deal properly with their sins. God will not give His blessings to those who wilfully and constantly commit evil in His sight. In this case, God withdrew His presence from the whole nation because of the sins of these three men.

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I Samuel 2

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“...I will cut off thine arm...”

Two contrasting matters are brought before us in this chapter: the faithful, powerful, prayer of Hannah, and the sin of Eli’s sons who brought God’s service into disrepute. In the background we have a report of the young Samuel serving God truly.

Here we read of the most fearful thing that can happen to a man in this world – the removal of God’s favour and active presence. Because he allowed his priest sons to do what they liked, Eli was told, through another man of God, that his days were numbered and his name would be removed from amongst those favoured by God. He was told that all would be lost. You will note God does not give Eli a second chance, nor even the opportunity for him or his sons to repent.

From this we might assume God must have warned them before this, so the warning we read of in this chapter must have been a last resort. It might be the case, but there is no evidence of God directly warning Eli or his sons before this time. We do read, though, that the whole of Israel was critical of the sons’ evil ways. Eli knew of this national shame upon his house, but he did nothing substantial about it. At the very least he ought to have removed his sons from office; but, he did not.

How often modern pastors and preachers tolerate sin amongst themselves! They think maybe one day their brethren might repent and turn from their ways. And so the evil continues, often without ceasing. For Eli, the result was God’s disapproval and wrath, and his own eventual shame. This can and does happen today. It is a mistaken view that God will always turn the other cheek. This is clearly not so! God is His own master and His requirements of His people do not apply to Himself.

Here we see God giving not a first warning, but a chilling final judgement. Because it was a judgement, it was sealed, and there was no way Eli or his sons could have escaped. Even if they had repented, they would still have suffered the penalty given by God. In other parts of this book, we will see God acting out his wrath suddenly and without warning, upon those who were His people. Not just upon His enemies, but upon His own children whom He loved. To God love and wrath are not opposites, but simply different aspects of His divinely holy activity.

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1 Samuel 1

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I first taught the books of Samuel to a packed adult class that met in my home over 40 years ago. My wife, who attended those classes, requested a repeat study of the Books and I was more than happy to oblige, for I had very happy memories of those days. So, we again studied both books from early 2000 to the middle of the year 2001, this time with different Christians. (note: and studied in 2017, again by request).

In many of those early classes, the listeners were often gripping the edge of their seats as they heard the historical narrative unfold like some great Hollywood movie block-buster! I did not need to use theatrics to make the Books come alive - they already are alive! If Christians can only read these marvellous Books with open and searching minds, they will see an era when God spoke in His actions as well as through the mouths of prophets. There was a direct response to God’s commands with direct results. And the same applies today, if only we would trust!

Samuel gave me a big thrill the first time I expounded the Book, and it did so again. I find Samuel enthralling, full of excitement and intrigue, political manoeuvres, sinful mistakes and God’s mercies. I have told my present class that Samuel would make a magnificent film if only it could be done, such is its enormous breadth of action and its portrayal of people! I find the Books breath-taking, and those who hear the account verse by verse are often on the edge of their seats as that ancient time comes alive in their minds and hearts. I hope that some of this excitement we first felt is conveyed in a small way to the present reader!

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