by Linda Claassen Mitchell
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 1
The Philistine god Dagon is a dud.
The Philistines had defeated the Israelites and captured the Holy Chest of the one true God and took it to Ashdad.
1 Samuel 5:2 (IEB): “They took it and brought it into Dagon’s temple and put it next to Dagon.”(d)
Following the footnotes: (d) a false god or idol; sometimes depicted as half-man and half-fish. Samson had already destroyed Dagon’s temple at Gaza (Judg. 16:21-30). Treating the sacred objects of Israel as captured trophies, the Philistines probably did this to show that Yahweh was a subordinate deity to their own god. However, they would soon discover that Dagon could not even remain perpendicular!”
1 Samuel 5:3 (IEB):”The people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, and, look, they found that the statue of Dagon had fallen down to the ground on its face!(e) it was lying in front of the Holy Chest of Yahweh. Then the people of Ashdod picked up Dagon and put it back in its place.”
Following the footnotes: (e) the humiliated, helpless Dagon could do nothing but submit to the true God; proving that Dagon was not really a god at all!
1 Samuel 5:4 (IEB): “Early the next morning, the people of Ashdod got up. And again, look, they found the statue of Dagon face-down on the ground! It had fallen down in front of the Holy Chest of Yahweh. Its head and its two hands were broken off, and they were on the doorway.(f) Only the torso of Dagon was still in one piece.”
Following the footnotes: (f) or, “the threshold.” This demonstrated that Dagon could not think without his head or act without his arms.
1 Samuel 5:5 (IEB): “So, even today, (g) the priests of Dagon and all others who enter its temple at Ashdod refuse to step on the doorsill. (h)
Following the footnotes: (g) that is, at the time the Book of 1 Samuel was written, in Samuel’s later years.
(h) a superstition that was historically based on this incident. So, the Philistines perpetuated the memory of this disgraceful humiliation of their god – another empirical proof of what Yahweh had done to Dagon.
As I leave my study today I am reminded that we serve a powerful God! All of the things the world treasures; whether it is money, prestige, influence, or anything else made by man are false gods.
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 2
God punishes the Philistines.
The Philistines had captured the Holy Chest of the God of Israel and took it to Ashdod. Yesterday’s study told how their God Dagon kept falling on its face in front of the Holy Chest.
1 Samuel 5:6-7 (IEB): “The Always-Present One punished the people of Ashdod and their neighbors, and their territory swarmed with rats. The Always-Present One gave them lots of trouble. He caused them to have terrible hemorrhoids.(b) The people of Ashdod saw what was happening. They said, “The Holy Chest of the God of Israel must NOT stay with us! God is punishing us and Dagon, our God!”
Following the footnotes: (b) or, “tumors” Many scholars believe that this was a severe outbreak of the bubonic plaque (“the black death”) which wiped out about one-third of the human race in the mid 14th century! The mortality rate ranged from 20% to 90% from city to city. The bubonic plague was caused by rats and the Cheops flea. The fleas lived on the rats, and the fleas bit the people. Thus, the plague spread everywhere very quickly. See further evidence of the infected rates in 1 Samuel 6:4, 5, 11, 18.
1 Samuel 5:8 (IEB):”So the people of Ashdod called all five(c) Philistine lords together. They asked them, ‘what should we do with the Holy Chest of the God of Israel!?’ The rulers answered, ‘Move the Holy Chest of the God of Israel to Gath.’ So, the Philistines moved the Holy Chest of the God of Israel.”
Following the footnotes: (c) Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron were all the five main cites of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:17).
1 Samuel 5:9-11 (IEB): “However, after they had moved it to Gath, Yahweh punished that city, too. He caused a tremendous panic there. He afflicted the people of the city – the unimportant ones and the important ones. They all started having terrible hemorrhoids. Then the Philistines sent the Holy Chest of the one true God over to Ekron. But when it arrived at Ekron, the people of Ekron yelled out: ‘Why are you bringing that thing to our city!? Do you want to kill us and our people!?’ Then the people of Ekron called all the lords of the Philistines together. They said to those rulers: ‘Send the Holy Chest of the God or Israel back to its original place. Otherwise, it’s going to kill us all!’ There was mass destruction throughout the entire city. God’s punishment was so severe there.”
The Philistines made the wrong choice by capturing the Holy Chest of the God of Israel. At each turn God gave them a chance to make the right choice to return the Chest. First He made their god Dagon fall on its face in front of the chest. When they didn’t get the message, He caused Dagon to fall and break apart. When that still didn’t get through to them, He caused a plague of rats and disease. Each time they moved the Chest to another Philistine city the punishment became worse until finally they make the right choice.
I leave my study today thanking God for His patience with me, and praying that I will be listening to God’s word, and will get the message the first time!
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 3
The Philistines return the Holy Chest.
When the Philistines captured the Holy Chest of the God of Israel, God punished them. The Philistines want nothing more than to return it to the Israelites if doing that will rid them of the plagues. But, they didn’t want to give up such a rich prize if the plagues were not related to the Holy Chest after all, so they asked their priests and magicians what they should do.
1 Samuel 6:3-4 (IEB): “The priests and magicians answered them, ‘If you send back the Holy Chest of the God of Israel, do not send it back empty. You must offer a penalty-offering, so that the God of Israel will heal you. Then you will discover why He has continued to punish you.’ The Philistines asked, ‘What kind of penalty-offering should we send to Yahweh?’ The priests and the magicians answered, ‘Make five golden images of your hemorrhoids (or tumor). And make five golden figurines of rats. Match the number of Philistine lords – five. This is because the same plague has come upon all of you and your lords (a)”
Following the footnotes: (a) these pagan religious leaders were suggesting that experimental, sympathetic magic might remove the bubonic plague!
1 Samuel 6:7-9 (IEB): “Then you must build a new cart. And, get two cows that have just given birth to calves. These must be cows that have never had yokes (c) on their necks. Then hitch the cows to the cart. Take their calves home. Do not permit the calves to follow their mothers (d). Then put the Holy Chest of Yahweh on top of the cart. And put the golden models inside a box beside the Holy Chest. They are your penalty-offerings to Yahweh. Send the cart back; let it go. Watch the cart. It may go toward Beth-Shemesh, in Israel’s own land.(e) If so, Yahweh is the One who caused this great sickness to afflict us. But, the cart might not go to Beth-Shemesh. If that happens, then we will know that Israel’s God did not punish us. We would know that our sickness happened merely by chance.”
Following the footnotes:
(c) Normally, cows which have never been hitched up to a cart would not cooperate; they would balk. They would certainly not walk 17 miles without a human driver!
(d) The two milk cows would normally have a strong urge to return home to feed their calves.
(e) Located on the northern border of Judah’s territory.
1 Samuel 6:12 (IEB): “Then the cows went straight toward Beth-Shemesh. They stayed right on the road, mooing all the way…”
As I leave my study today it is obvious that God was in control the whole time. Even when the Israelites were disobedient, God was in control. Even when the Holy Chest was captured, God was in control. And when the Philistines set up a test to see if the Holy Chest was really the cause of their plague, God was in control. He is always in control.
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 4
The Holy Chest of God is back with the Israelites!
The people of Beth-Shemesh were so happy to see the Holy Chest of God returned! The cart stopped by a large rock in the field that belonged to Joshua of Beth-Shemesh. The Levites moved the Holy Chest of Yahweh off the cart along with the box that contained the gold images (the penalty-offering of the Philistines). The people chopped up the wood of the cart and killed the cows and sacrificed them to Yahweh as a whole burnt offering.
1 Samuel 6:16 (IEB): “From a distance, the five Philistine lords watched the Jews do all these things. Then the lords went back to Ekron.”
The Jews had shown great respect for Yahweh by treating the Holy Chest respectfully.
1 Samuel 6:19 (IEB): “However, some of the men of Beth-Shemesh peered into the Holy Chest of Yahweh. So God struck down 70 of them. The people of Beth-Shemesh cried, because Yahweh had punished them so terribly(c).
Following the footnotes: (c) literally, “Yahweh struck among the people with a great stroke.” God did this because these Jews were not revering the ark of the covenant.
1 Samuel 6:20-21 (IEB): “The men of Beth-Shemesh said, ‘Who can stand in the presence of Yahweh, the one true God, the Holy One!? How can we get rid of this Holy Chest!? Where could we send it!?’ Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath-Jearim.(d) The messengers said, ‘The Philistines have brought back the Holy Chest of Yahweh! Come down and get it!'”
Following the footnotes: (d) This town was near Beth-Shemesh and was a more suitable new home for the ark of the covenant. Beth-Shemesh was located on a low plain; it was vulnerable. Kiriath-Jearim sat on a hill which could be defended.
1 Samuel 7:1-2 (IEB): “The Jewish men of Kiriath-Jearim came and got the Holy Chest of Yahweh. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill. There they consecrated Eleazar (Abinadab’s son), so that he could guard the Holy Chest of Yahweh. The Holy Chest stayed at Kiriath-Jearim for a long time – a total of 20 years. And all the people of Israel were sorrowful, seeking Yahweh again.”
As I leave my study today I am reminded that the Israelites had moved so far away from the One True God that they no longer understood or feared Him. While they remembered the ritual of the sacrifices, they had forgotten their former love and reverence for Him and His word. God reminded them in a way they would remember, that He would not tolerate their disrespect! This was a severe punishment but the result was that all of Israel repented and began seeking the Lord again. And He was willing to take them back!
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 5
Samuel leads Israel back to Yahweh
1 Samuel 7:3-4 (IEB): “Samuel spoke to the whole group of Israel. He said, ‘If you are turning back to Yahweh with all your hearts, then you must get rid of the foreign gods which are among you. You must get rid of the idols of Ashtoreth.(b) You must give your selves fully to Yahweh and serve only Him!(c) Then He will save you from the hands of the Philistines.’ So, the Israelites put away their idols of Baal (d) and of Ashtoreth. And they served only Yahweh.”
Following the footnotes:
(b) These were false female gods. They were often associated with Baal (a male god).
(c) Compare Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-17; Josh.22:5; 1 Samuel 12:20-25.
Deut. 6:4-9 (IEB): “Listen, O people of Israel! Yahweh, our God, is one Yahweh. You must love the Always-Present One, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words which I am commanding you today will be on your heart. And, you must teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. You must write them down and tie them to your arms as a sign. And, they will be on your forehead between your eyes to remind you. And, you must write them on the doorposts of your houses, and on your gates.”
Deut. 11:13-17 (IEB): “If you carefully obey my commands which I am commanding to you today, if you love the Always-Present One, your God, and if you serve Him with your whole being, then He will send rain upon your land at the proper time, in the fall and in the spring, so that you will be able to harvest your grain, your new wine, and your olive oil. And, He will put grass in the fields for your animals. And, you will have plenty to eat. Watch yourselves! Don’t be fooled. Don’t turn away and serve other gods. Do not worship them. If you do such things, then the Always-Present One will become angry with you. He will shut the skies; it will not rain. And, the soil will not grow crops. And, your will soon die in the good land which the Always-Present One is giving to you.”
Josh.22:5 (IEB): “However, you must continue to carefully obey the commands and the teachings that Moses, the servant of Yahweh, ordered you – to love Yahweh, your God, and to live by His standards; to keep His commands; to cling to Him, and to serve Him with your whole being!”
(d) The Hebrew word “Baal” means “lord”. The false god, Ball, was worshiped by the Canaanites and the Phoenicians; he was called “the son of Dagon” and “the son of El”. In Syria, Baal was called “Hadad”; and in Babylonia Baal’s name was “Adad”. Pagan people believed that Baal could give fertility to the womb and life-giving rain to the soil. Baal is often pictured as one standing on top of a bull, a popular symbol of fertility and strength. Baal’s chariot was a storm cloud. Baal spoke loudly by thunder. And Baal sent forth his spear and arrows across the sky (= lightning). Baal-worship involved “sacred” prostitution and child sacrifice. (See Hos. 4:11-14)
As I leave my study today it is clear that God requires my complete devotion, with every thought, breath, and heart beat!
Yahweh is the One True God: Day 6
The people confess their sin, and Yahweh protects them.
1 Samuel 7:5-9 (IEB): “Then Samuel said, All Israel must meet at Mizpah (about 7 or 8 miles north of Jerusalem). I will pray to Yahweh for you. So, the Israelites met together at Mizpah. They drew water from the ground and poured it out in the presence of Yahweh (showing that they had truly changed their hearts). They did not eat that day. There they confessed: “We have sinned against Yahweh!” And Samuel served as the leader of Israel at Mizpah.
The Philistines heard that the Israelites were meeting at Mizpah. So, the Philistine lords came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard that the Philistines were coming, they were afraid. They said to Samuel, ‘Don’t stop praying to Yahweh, our God, on our behalf! Ask Yahweh to save us from the hands of the Philistines! Then Samuel took a little lamb, and he offered it to Yahweh as a whole burnt-offering. He called out to Yahweh on behalf of Israel. And Yahweh answered him.”
1 Samuel 7:10 (IEB): “While Samuel was doing the whole burnt-offering, the Philistines came near (the Israelites were particularly vulnerable, because they would not halt this sacrifice in order to fight). They were about to attack Israel, but Yahweh thundered against the Philistines with a loud thunderstorm. The Philistines were so scared that they became confused. The Israelites defeated the Philistines in battle.”
1 Samuel 7:12-14 (IEB): “Then Samuel took a stone, and he set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named the stone ‘Ebenezer’.(d) Samuel said, ‘Until now Yahweh has helped us.’ So, the Philistines were beaten. They did not invade the territory of the Israelites anymore. The hand of Yahweh was against the Philistines all during Samuel’s life. Earlier, the Philistines had taken some towns from the Israelites, but the Israelites got them back – from Ekron to Gath. They also took back the neighboring lands of these towns from the control of the Philistines. And, there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.”
Following the footnotes:
(d) not to be directly associated with the “Ebenezer” of 1 Samuel 4:1, 5:1. “Ebenezer” means “stone of help”. It was a makeshift monument to commemorate this signal victory which God gave to them. It was Yahweh’s victory, not one that was accomplished by them.
I leave my study today reminded that in order to have God’s protection, I have to have a right relationship with Him. When the Israelites confessed their sin, returned to serving God and did as He commanded, God forgave their former disobedience and protected them. I am also reminded to acknowledge God’s hand in my life, and to go to Him in prayer of thanks for his protection.