I. The Philistines and the Ark
A. God Defends His Glory 5:1-5
1. The Philistines defeated Israel in battle and had taken the ark of the covenant. (4:11, 21)
2. 4:1, 2 The Philistines thought that they could treat Jehovah just like any other god.
a. They probably considered the ark as a trophy won from the battle.
3. 4:3-5 God miraculously proved his greatness over Dagon.
a. God caused Dagon to bow down to him.
b. 4:19-22 stated that “the glory had departed from Israel”.
c. But God was completely able to bring glory to Himself.
d. Guzik-God will glorify Himself. Sometimes when men disgrace the glory of God, we fear God will go without glory. We think the glory has departed. When we will not glorify God, God will glorify Himself.
e. The Philistines returned Dagon to his place, but God would not allow that to continue.
f. The Philistine priests had to know that it was not a coincidence that Dagon fell twice.
g. Instead of repenting and following Jehovah, they were superstitious and made a new religious tradition of not stepping on the threshold. Men will ignore the obvious truth about God in order to try to maintain independence from God.
B. God Afflicts The Philistines 5:6-12
1. Vs. 6, 7-The hand of the Lord was heavy-God was doing two things by afflicting them.
a. He was demonstrating his power and authority over them and over their false gods.
b. He was making them miserable so that they would want to send the ark back to Israel.
2. Tumors-There are two main ideas on this. Severe hemorrhoids, or Bubonic plague.
a. The Bubonic plague is transmitted through fleabites. These fleas live on small rodents.
b. The Bubonic plague is easily managed with antibiotics, but then it was deadly.
3. Vs. 8-12 The Philistines very selfishly thought only to save their own provinces.
a. They didn’t consider the damage that would be done by sending the ark to the next province. They didn’t want to surrender to God.
b. The affliction from God continued wherever the ark was sent to. People were dying.
c. They understood that their suffering was directly from God, but they would not repent. They only wanted relief to themselves.
d. Only as a last resort, they decided to give up their “spoils of war” trophy and send the ark back to Israel.
e. Psalm 32:8-10 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.
II. The Ark Returned to Israel
A. The Plan To Return The Ark 6:1-12
1. V. 1 Why was the ark in the country for seven months? Seven months of death/suffering.
a. They were reluctant to give up a trophy of war which had been gained in battle.
b. In one way, it showed off their might, but it was afflicting and killing them.
c. How slow and reluctant we are to surrender to God, even though we are suffering for our sins. Men and women can be unbelievably stubborn in pride and self-indulgence.
2. Vs. 2-5 The Philistines were finally willing to send the ark back to Israel
a. Trespass offering-The Philistines were willing to admit that they were wrong.
b. This trespass offering wasn’t a turning to God, but an apology for offending God.
c. There was no repentance in their hearts nor was there a turning to God.
d. 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong, nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you.
e. They were surrendering the ark, but they were not surrendering their hearts.
3. V. 6 The religious leader scolded the civic leaders for not doing this sooner. They reminded them of other cultures that had been similarly stubborn and suffered.
a. NOTE-We are wise to see the negative and positive consequences of other people’s lives. We are not exceptions to the laws and principles of God.
4. Vs 7-12 The Philistines wisely made a plan that could not be misinterpreted.
a. They believed that their afflictions were coming from God, but they wanted to be sure.
b. Milk cows that had never been yoked would resist being in a yoke.
c. They would not want to pull a cart or be separated from their calves.
d. Their plan proved that it was indeed God that had afflicted them.
e. It was ten miles to Beth Shemesh, and the cows didn’t wander at all.
f. God guarded His own glory, and was now graciously bringing the ark back to Israel
g. It was a miraculous thing that the cows pulled the cart in unison, that they did not meander. Lowing as they went-they expressed displeasure, but they didn’t deviate.
h. NOTE-The ark was only to be handled by Levites, and they were never to touch the ark. The ark was to be carried by two wooden poles that were inserted in the four rings that were attached to the ark. God allowed for this mishandling of the ark by the Philistines because they were ignorant, and God was bringing the ark back to Israel.
B. The Israelites Receive The Ark 6:13-21
1. Vs. 13-15 God’s people recognized that the ark had been returned, and they rejoiced.
a. They sacrificed to the Lord. Burnt offering-Signifies total commitment to God.
b. In essence, this was a rededication service unto God.
c. Their sins had caused the ark to be captured. Now they are re-committing to God.
2. Vs. 16-18 This must have been a great relief for the Philistines.
a. It was a confirmation that it had been the God of Israel that had afflicted them.
3. Vs. 19-21 The Israelites were glad to have the ark back, and they rightly sacrificed to God.
a. In spite of their joy and re-commitment to God, they acted carnally.
b. They were not to look into the ark. Their carnal curiosity cost them greatly.
c. God dealt harshly with His people because they knew better. The Philistines didn’t.
d. NOTE-Some Bible manuscripts say 70 men, not 50,070 men.
e. The holiness of God had been expressed to the Philistines through the plagues.
f. Now the holiness of God is expressed to the Israelites through this act of God.
g. V. 20 The people recognized the holiness of God.
h. V. 21 Like the Philistines they sought to send that ark away.
i. Guzik- And to whom shall it go up from us? For the men of Beth Shemesh, the holiness of God was a problem that could be fixed by putting distance between themselves and God. Their question was not, “How can we be made right with a holy God,” but it was “Who can we give this problem to so the holiness of God is no longer a burden to us?”
j. Guzik– Though God is holy, though He is apart from us, instead of building a wall around His apartness, God calls us to come to Him and share His state of being set apart. As it says in 1 Peter 1:16, God calls us to be holy, for I am holy. Holiness is not so much something we have, it is something that has us.