In 1 Samuel 4 Israel’s arch-enemies have captured the Ark of the Covenant. This suggested that the Philistine god Dagon was more powerful than Israel’s God Yahweh. It was typical for ancient nations to place captured artifacts in the temples of their gods. Since Israel had no images of Yahweh, the closest thing the Philistines could put in Dagon’s temple (i.e., his palace) was the Ark, Yahweh’s “throne.”
1 Samuel 5:1-5 tells what happened next. The following day, Dagon’s image had fallen over in front of the Ark. The priests set Dagon up in his place again. But the following day, his image had again fallen over. And this time his head and hands were cut off. This reflects the cultural practice of cutting off body parts of conquered enemies. The Philistines thought their god had conquered Israel’s God Yahweh. But the writer points out the truth—Yahweh was not a captured foe. He was much more powerful than Dagon. And the rest of chapter 5 describes how Yahweh ravaged the Philistine cities.
1 Samuel 4 had ended with the message that “the glory has departed from Israel.” But this was far from true! Yahweh had not been conquered. Appearances can be misleading. In the midst of all kinds of setbacks and tragedies, God is still always on His throne.
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