Thoughts for the Day

Monday, 8th July 2024: Samuel: 6

Philistines Trust Ark of the Covenant 1 Samuel 5 Plague Dagon

Reading : Verses 1 Samuel, Chapter 5


When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and struck them with tumours, both in Ashdod and in its territory. And when the inhabitants of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy on us and on our god Dagon.’ So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ The inhabitants of Gath replied, ‘Let the ark of God be moved on to us.’ So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath. But after they had brought it to Gath, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic; he struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumours broke out on them. So they sent the ark of the God of Israel to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, ‘Why have they brought across to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people?’ They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.’ For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there; those who did not die were stricken with tumours, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


In 2,020 when the Corona virus struck there was a really terrible moment when it felt as though nothing would stop its advance. There seemed to be no way to control it, except by keeping away from other people. There were some weeks when the media thought it might be caught by touching anything the sick had handled, and so hand-washing for the required minutes was essential. Masks were worn by all, which meant the deaf in particular suffered since they couldn't lip-read, and everyone went into lock-down. The hardest thing was to see loved ones admitted to hospital, and dying with no family member present. However, in the end our scientists came through with a variety of vaccinations to control the pandemic.

In today's reading we see a similar plague attacking the Philistines after their capture of the Ark of the Covenant. Like us they looked for reasons, and they blamed it on the 'God of Israel' who had come into their midst. If Yahweh (God) was determined to teach His people about their neglect of the Covenant made with Him, He was also determined to discipline the Philistine usurpers who had captured His Ark. One way was to destroy their pagan god Dagon, and the fact that the huge statue was attacked twice was seen as being caused by God!

Such events in the Hebrew scriptures give the people of the time, as well as us, a pause for thought. The Philistines knew the cause of their plague, and couldn't wait to be rid of God's Ark. We too look for the cause of plagues, albeit with medicines. But we also turn to God for help, and make rash promises hoping He will spare us. The question for us, today is, have we kept those promises, and are we still turning with simple trust to our Heavenly Father when life is hard?


Heavenly Father,
we are quick to turn to You for help
when we are in dire need,
realising there is no other sure remedy.
But sometimes those earnest promises
that we make can be quickly forgotten.
May we learn to be steadfast in prayer
both for ourselves and also for others,
appreciating that You work
to aid all our human endeavours
no matter how difficult the situation.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might like to find out about the Philistine god Dagon:

Or look at this map:

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