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Verses 1-12

Though God had allowed the Philistines to gain the victory, He very soon spoils their pleasure in having captured the ark, taking it to Ashdod. They think the most fit place for it is in the house of Dagon, the fish-god (half fish, half man). No doubt they even considered they were patronizing Israel's god by giving it this place!

But the next morning Dagon was found fallen on its face before the ark, and they were given the work of lifting their god back into its place! The second morning, however, they were not able to restore the damage; for as well as being fallen again, the head of Dagon and the palms of his hands had been cut off. It was a message to the Philistines that if they thought Dagon had intelligence, he had not even a head: if they thought he could do anything, he had no hands to do it. Since the damage had been done on the threshold of his house, the priests of Dagon adopted the superstitious custom of never stepping on the threshold as they came in the door. They did not come to the sensible conclusion, however, that they should give up the worship of this impotent idol.

But not only did their idol suffer at the hand of God: the people themselves were afflicted by an epidemic of painful hemorrhoids, or boils. The evidence was so clear that this was all connected with the presence of the ark among them that they wanted this removed somewhere else immediately. They decide on Gath, further inland from Ashdod, perhaps because it had no temple of Dagon, as did Ashdod and Gaza. Where it was put in Gath we are not told, but its presence in the city was quickly felt by a great destruction and an epidemic of hemorrhoids that left the whole city in consternation.

What can they do? They try a third city, Ekron, but only to further spread the scourge of death and painful disease. The people themselves cry out in fear of the results when the ark is brought there, and their fears are quickly realized. They have learned now that it would be folly to take it to another Philistine city, and yet the awful scourge continues to plague the Ekronites. Finally in desperation they convene a gathering of the Lords of the Philistine cities to make a decision as to what to do with the ark. Of course the answer was to return it to Israel. How good to see in all this that God was caring for His glory when Israel had failed to do so.

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