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When Religion Fails    1 Sam. 4:3-5, 10, 20-22; 5:1-4; 6:19-21    June 13, 2010

            

1.   Misplaced Trust. 1 Sam. 4:3-5, 10

3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord defeated us

today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies." 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook.

10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. NKJV


(Ryrie Study Bible.)

4:3 The ark symbolized the presence and power of God, but the Israelites used it superstitiously by placing their faith in it rather than in God Himself.

4:4 above the cherubim. A golden cherub was on each end of the lid of the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle. Between their overarching wings was God's presence (Ex 26:17-22).

(Ryrie Study Bible.)


(Dake Annotated Reference Bible.)

Verse 3

a [Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines?] Question 13. Next, 1 Sam 4:6. This is answered in note above.

b [Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies] They thought that bringing the ark of God into their midst meant the Lord would be with them and give them victory. But a material symbol in the camp would not atone for their sin or guarantee God's presence and blessing. God let the ark be captured and the tabernacle destroyed in Shiloh, fulfilling the prophecy of 1 Sam 2:32-34. He took care of the ark in Philistia and did miracles there until the Philistines had to send it back to Israel (1 Sam 5:1-7:2).

Verse 4

a [So the people sent to Shiloh ... and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God] This was God's way of bringing Hophni and Phinehas into battle to fulfill the prophecy of 1 Sam 2:31-34.

Verse 5

a [all Israel shouted with a great shout] Here is an example of empty religious shouting — a great lesson to all men (1 Sam 4:5-6). God is not in every shout of praise; when sin is involved He will not respect it.

Verse 9

a [Be strong, and quit yourselves like men] A similar expression is used by Paul in 1 Cor 16:13. Six examples of commands to be strong, and of good courage:

1.    Moses to Israel (Deut 31:6)                     2.    Moses to Joshua (Deut 31:7,23)

3.    Jehovah to Joshua (Josh 1:6,7,9,18)               4.    Joshua to Israel (Josh 10:25)

5.    David to Solomon (1 Chron 22:13; 28:20.     6.    Hezekiah to Israel (2 Chron 32:7)


Verse 10

a [thirty thousand footmen] This made 34,000 killed (1 Sam 4:2,10).

(Dake Annotated Reference Bible.)


(Life Application Study Bible.)

4:3 The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. The Ark was supposed to be kept in the Most Holy Place, a sacred part of the Tabernacle that only the high priest could enter once a year. Hophni and Phinehas desecrated the room by unlawfully entering it and removing the Ark.

The Israelites rightly recognized the great holiness of the Ark, but they thought that the Ark itself—the wood and metal box—was their source of power. They began to use it as a good luck charm, expecting it to protect them from their enemies. A symbol of God does not guarantee his presence and power. Their attitude toward the Ark came perilously close to idol worship. When the Ark was captured by their enemies, they thought that Israel's glory was gone (4:19-22) and that God had deserted them (7:1,2). God uses his power according to his own wisdom and will. He responds to the faith of those who seek him.

4:4 "The LORD of Heaven's Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim," conveys that God's presence rested on the Ark of the Covenant between the two gold cherubim (or angels) attached to its lid. The people believed that the Ark would bring victory when Hophni and Phinehas carried it into battle.

4:5-8 The Philistines were afraid because they remembered stories about God's intervention for Israel when they left Egypt. But Israel had turned away from God and was clinging to only a form of godliness, a symbol of former victories.

People (and churches) often try to live on the memories of God's blessings. The Israelites wrongly assumed that because God had given them victory in the past, he would do it again, even though they had strayed far from him. Today, as in Bible times, spiritual victories come through a continually renewed relationship with God. Don't live off the past. Keep your relationship with God new and fresh.  

(Life Application Study Bible.)


 

2.   God Is Not In Them. 1 Sam. 4:20-22

       20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, "Do not fear, for you have borne a son." But she did not answer, nor did she regard it. 21 Then she named the child Ichabod,* saying, "The glory has departed from Israel!" because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured." NKJV


(Ryrie Study Bible.)

 4:21 Ichabod means "no glory." The loss of the ark meant the absence of glory in Israel.

(Ryrie Study Bible.)


( Life Application Study Bible.)

4:19-22 This incident illustrates the spiritual darkness and decline of Israel. This young boy, Ichabod, was supposed to succeed his father, Phinehas, in the priesthood, but his father had been killed because he was an evil man who desecrated the Tabernacle. The terror of God's leaving his people overshadowed the joy of childbirth. When sin dominates our lives, even God-given joys and pleasures seem empty.4:19-22 This incident illustrates the spiritual darkness and decline of Israel. This young boy, Ichabod, was supposed to succeed his father, Phinehas, in the priesthood, but his father had been killed because he was an evil man who desecrated the Tabernacle. The terror of God's leaving his people overshadowed the joy of childbirth. When sin dominates our lives, even God-given joys and pleasures seem empty.

( Life Application Study Bible.)


 

3.   Treating The Holy As Common. 1 Sam. 5:1-4; 6:19-21

5 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.

2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon* and set it by Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the Lord . So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. 4 And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the Lord . The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso* was left of it. NKJV


6: 19 Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord . He struck fifty thousand and seventy men* of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.

20 And the men of Beth Shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up from us?"

21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord ; come down and take it up with you." NKJV


(Ryrie Study Bible.)

5:1 Ashdod, located on the Mediterranean coast 33 mi. (53 km) W of Jerusalem, was one of the five major Philistine cities (cf. 1 Sam 6:17).

5:2 Dagon was a Philistine vegetation god. In ancient literature Baal is sometimes referred to as the "son of Dagon."

5:4 The idol fell before the ark twice. The second time it was destroyed, as divine judgment on the Philistine deity.

(Ryrie Study Bible.)


(Dake Annotated Reference Bible.)

Verse 1

a [took the ark of God] Little did they realize what was in store for them for taking Israel's symbol of the glory of God. They were flirting with divine judgment when they took consecrated things to dedicate to their own gods, thereby gloating over the powerlessness of Jehovah.

b [Eben-ezer] See note c, 1 Sam 4:1.

c [Ashdod] Ashdod was one of the five main cities of Philistia.

Verse 2

a [Dagon] Dagon, the national god, was half man (upper part) and half fish (lower part). See Biblical Facts About False Gods .

Verse 3

a [Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD]


Eight Miracles Because of the Ark (1 Sam 5:3)

1.    The overthrow of Dagon. God evidently sent an angel who toppled Dagon from his pedestal onto his face before the ark of the Lord as if in homage to the God of Israel. He was restored to his place by the Philistines (1 Sam 5:2-3).

2.    The destruction of Dagon. The next morning instead of merely being overthrown he had toppled on his face before the ark with his head and hands cut off. Only the lower part was still on the pedestal. This was the work of someone who had power to cut the idol into parts (1 Sam 5:4-5).

3.    A plague of emerods (tumors or hemorrhoids) in all of Ashdod and surrounding country (1 Sam 4:6)

4.    Supernatural plague upon Gath, of emerods (tumors or hemorrhoids) in the secret parts (1 Sam 5:7-9)

5.    Supernatural plague of deadly destruction upon people in Ekron (1 Sam 5:10-11)

6.    A plague of emerods upon the people of Ekron who did not die in the plague of death (1 Sam 5:12)

7.    The two cows with calves shut up at home, going of their own accord from their calves to take the cart and ark of God back to Israel (1 Sam 6:7-12). The pagans even designed this test themselves.

8.    Supernatural destruction of men of Bethshemesh (1 Sam 6:19


Verse 4

a [Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him] The man portion of the idol was broken off, leaving only the fish stump on the base. Because the head and hands were on the threshold, it was considered sacred and no one would walk on it anymore (1 Sam 5:4-5). Thus, the curse on Dagon was perpetuated and the superiority of God was revealed.

(Dake Annotated Reference Bible.)


    (Life Application Study Bible.)

5:1ff Dagon was the chief god of the Philistines, whom they believed sent rain and assured a bountiful harvest. But the Philistines, like most of their pagan neighbors, worshiped many gods. The more gods they could have on their side, the more secure they felt. That was why they wanted the Ark, thinking that if it helped the Israelites, it could help them, too. But when the people living nearby began to get sick and die, the Philistines realized that the Ark was not a good omen. It was a source of greater power than they had ever seen—power they could not control. (Life Application Study Bible.)