In 1 Samuel 4 and 5, the Israelite’s are embroiled in battles against the Philistines. The Philistines were an aggressive, warmongering people who occupied the territory Southwest of Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
The name Philistine comes from the Hebrew word Philistia and the Greek rendering of the name Palaistinei, giving us the modern name of Palestine. It is thought that the Philistines originated in Caphtor, the Hebrew name for the island of Crete and the whole Aegean region (Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4). For unknown reasons, they migrated from that region to the Mediterranean coast near Gaza. Because of their maritime history, the Philistines are often associated with the “Sea Peoples.” The Bible records that the Philistines had contact with both Abraham and Isaac as early as 2000 B.C. (Genesis 21:32, 34; 26:1, 8).
When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He purposely took them around the Philistine country even though it was the shorter route. God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’” (Exodus 13:17).
During the days of Samson and Samuel, the Philistines moved inland from the coast of Canaan. In Canaan, the Philistines built 5 major cities (Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron (Joshua 13:3) that were each governed by a King or “lord” (Seren/Tyrant). These cities, like other Canaanites, were riddled with giants, the mixed hybrid race of Nephilim (human/fallen angels).
The Philistines had a superior army and military to the Israelites. The Philistines were known for their innovative use of iron, which was superior to the bronze used by the Israelites for weapons and implements. For nearly 200 years, the Philistines harassed and oppressed the Israelites, often invading their territory. The Philistines worshipped 3 “gods”, two of whom we’ve already discussed, Baal and Ashtorah. They also worshipped a “god” named Dagon, who was the supposed father of Baal. In Hebrew (Dag) means fish. Dagon was the “fish god” and was represented by a creature that appeared to be half man, half fish. Dagon wore a mitre hat, a type of hat that looks like a fish head with its mouth open. The half man/half fish image furthered an evolutionary belief that both men and fish had evolved together from the primal waters. Sounds a bit like the world’s current evolutionary beliefs. Hmmm…
In 1 Samuel 5, the Israelites, tired of losing wars against the Philistines, decided to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them. The Philistines had a habit of taking images of their ‘gods’ into battle. So, instead of repenting of their idolatry (worshipping the Canaanite ‘gods’), Israel had the bright idea that should copy this idea by using the Ark of the Covenant as a “good luck charm”. They took the Ark from Shiloh, where it had been resting in the Tabernacle, and moved it into battle with them. YHWH did NOT honor this attempt because they were looking to the Ark, and not to HIM, Almighty God, to save them. Yes, the Philistines were giants, they had far better armor and military equipment, but the real reason that the Israelites lost so many battles with them, is because Israel refused to repent and worship ONLY YHWH. The True God of Abraham is FAR GREATER than any of these demonic entities that were masquerading as ‘gods’, but Israel was blinded by the prosperity and strength of their surrounding neighbors.
As it turned out, the Philistines slaughtered 30,000 Israelites in that battle, and took the Ark of the Covenant. This was completely allowed by YHWH because the Ark was such, that any person who touched it would immediately DIE. God gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to carry the Ark! If not followed exactly as prescribed, people could die! God’s Glory was within that Ark, and no human being can approach the Glory of God without HIM making special commendations! However, because YHWH was teaching the Israelites and the Philistines a lesson, HE allowed the theft of the Ark. The Philistines took the Ark with them to Dagon’s temple in the city of Ashdod and sat it next to a statue of Dagon.
If you have ever wondered if YHWH has a sense of humor, yes HE does! When the people of the city of Ashdod rose early in the morning, they discovered the statue of Dagon toppled over, flat on its face. (1 Samuel 5: 1-4). They set the statue up, and the next day the Statue was again toppled over again, but this time its head and hands were broken off. Clearly YHWH was sending them a MESSAGE. However, the Philistines didn’t get the message immediately, and what came next became more serious. The people of Ashdod were now developing tumors all over their bodies. A plague of tumors literally broke out among them. It didn’t take long before the people of Ashdod realized what was happening and demanded that the Ark be given back to the Israelites. Although the Philistines did not worship the God of Israel, YHWH Elohim, they did recognize that He was powerful and that His Hand was against them for taking the Ark. The Philistines returned the Ark, along with 5 Golden Tumors and 5 Golden Rats as a guilt offering to the God of Israel (1 Samuel 6: 3-5). Again, YHWH allowed them to touch the Ark (without dying) and put it on a cart so that it could be returned to Israel.
The Ark was returned to the Israelites, who were overjoyed that it was back!! After the Ark had been taken, Israel really felt like YHWH Elohim had left them. After it was returned to Israel, the Ark was taken to the house of Abinadab, instead of returning to Shiloh. Abinadab’s son, was consecrated (set apart) so that he could properly take care of the Ark. The Ark remained here for 20 years, until King David brought it to Jerusalem. (1 Samuel 7:1-2)