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1 Samuel 5:1 -


THE ARK OF GOD IN PHILISTIA ( 1 Samuel 5:1-12 ).

The Philistines took the ark of God . The silence of Scripture is often as remarkable as what it tells us. From Psalms 78:60-64 ; Jeremiah 7:12 ; Jeremiah 26:9 , we gather that from Aphek the Philistines marched upon Shiloh, and having captured it, put all whom they found there to the sword, and levelled the buildings to the ground. Especially their wrath fell upon the priests, in revenge for the bringing of the ark to the camp, by which the war was made a religious one, and the worst feelings of fanaticism aroused. Of all this the history says nothing, nor of the measures taken by Samuel under these trying circumstances. From his previous eminence, the government would naturally devolve upon him, especially as Eli's sons were both slain; and evidently he must have managed in some way to save the sacred vessels of the sanctuary, and the numerous records of the past history of the nation laid up at Shiloh. Whatever learning there was in Israel had its seat there; it was probably the only school wherein men were initiated in the knowledge brought out of Egypt; and it is one of the worst and most barbarous results of war that it destroys so much connected with human progress and civilisation, overthrowing with its violent hand as well the means of a nation's culture as the results thereof. Samuel evidently did all that was possible to counteract these evils; and as the Philistine army withdrew into its own country immediately after the destruction of Shiloh, probably to carry homo the rich spoils obtained there, he was apparently able to ward off the worst effects of the Philistine invasion, and by rapidly reorganising the government to save the people from utter demoralisation. But upon all this Scripture is silent, because it concerns the history of Israel on its temporal side, and not as it exemplifies God's spiritual dealings with nations and men. From Eben-ezer (see on 1 Samuel 4:1 ) unto Ashdod. This town, the Azotus of Acts 8:40 , was with Ekron and other Philistine cities, assigned to the tribe of Judah

. In one of the sculptures brought from Khorsabad there is a representation of a battle between the Assyrians and the inhabitants of the Syrian sea coast, and in it there is a figure, the upper part of which is a bearded man with a crown, while from the waist downwards it has the shape of a fish (Layard's 'Nineveh,' 2:466). Moreover, it is swimming in the sea, and is surrounded by a multitude of marine creatures. Doubtless this figure represents Dagon, who, nevertheless, is not to be regarded as a sea god, like Neptune; but as the fish is the product of water, he is the symbol of nature's reproductive energy. Together with Dagon a female deity was commonly worshipped, called Atergatis, half woman and half fish, whose temple is mentioned in 2Ma 12:26. In the margin there she is explained as being Venus ; but the ideas have only this in common—that Venus also, as rising out of the sea, symbolises life as springing out of water. As Dagon had a temple also at Gaza ( 16:23 ), and at the other cities of Philistia (Jerome on Isaiah 46:1 ), he was evidently the chief deity of the nation, and the solemn depositing of the ark in his temple, and by Dagon, —literally, "at his side,"—was intended as a public demonstration that the God of the Israelites was inferior to, and had been vanquished by, the national deity of the Philistines.

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