Gods Name is defended
A. Before the heathen (chap. 5)
² God will not reveal His power on behalf of His sinning people
² God will not allow His glory to be mocked
² Or His Name to be defiled by the enemy.
² The lords of the Philistines added the ark to their other religious relics in their heathen temple.
² They put Jehovah on the same level as their fish-god Dagon.
² God stands high above all other gods!
² The heathen idol fell on its face before the ark!
² Isa 19:1 The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
² The men put Dagon back on his feet
² It was powerless to help himself.
² The next day they found their idol without hands and head!
² Jehovah had proved Dagon to be a false god.
² He had defended His Name.
² Dagon lost his hands
² The hand of the Lord was heavy in judgment upon Ashdod (v. 6)
² God sent boils (“emerods,” swellings) and mice (6:4) to plague the people.
² The mice ruined the crops and carried disease germs to the people.
² The ark was then moved from Ashdod to Ekron,
² The citizens there begged to have it removed! Once again, God defended His name.
B. Before the Israelites (chap. 6)
² The Philistines decided to return the ark to Israel,
² but nobody had the courage to undertake the task.
² They finally decided to put the ark on a new cart and allow the cows to walk down the road unassisted.
² It would be natural for the cows to seek out their calves (v. 10); but if they headed instead for Bethshemesh, it would be evidence that God was directing them and therefore that He had sent the plagues. The Philistines added a trespass offering too: five images of the boils, and five images of the mice. God directed the cows and they brought the cart to the field of Joshua, an inhabitant of Bethshemesh. The Israelites in the harvest field rejoiced to see the ark returned. However, they became curious and looked into the ark (vv. 19–20), and God had to judge them. The numbers in v. 19 have created a problem, for there were not 50,000 people in that little village. In Hebrew, letters are used for numbers, and it is easy for a scribe to miscopy or misread a letter. It is likely that seventy men were judged instantly, certainly a “great slaughter” for such a small village. The problem does not affect anything crucial. It is important that we know God did judge their sin. How many were slain is not a vital matter.
Hophni and Phinehas thought they could win victories by trusting the ark when their lives were wicked, and God killed them. Eli died because he had not disciplined his own sons who were dishonoring the Lord. The Philistines died because they treated Jehovah like one of their own gods. The men of Bethshemesh died because they presumptuously looked into the ark. It does not pay to trifle with God.