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4. The Philistines and the Ark of God

December 17, 2009

Text:      I Samuel 4:1-7:1

Outline:      I. Israel is Defeated by the Philistines      I Samuel 4:1-10

                         II. Eli and His Two Sons Die      I Samuel 4:11-22

                         III. The Ark is in the Hands of the Philistines      I Samuel 5:1-12

                        IV. The Philistines Return the Ark to Israel      I Samuel 6:1-7:1

Context/Discussion/Comments:

     Israel sends out their army to fight the Philistines. The Philistines defeat Israel and kill 4000 men. Israel doesn’t understand why they lost so they decide to take the Ark into battle the next time. Israel sends men to Shiloh to get the Ark from the tabernacle along with Eli’s two sons. They bring it into their camp and Israel’s army becomes jubilant.

     The Philistines hear Israel’s jubilance, learn that the Ark is with them, and become afraid because they remember the stories of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their arrival into the Promised Land. Israel fights the Philistines again and are defeated again, losing 30,000 men. The Ark is captured and Eli’s two sons are killed.

     A messenger is sent to Eli at Shiloh to inform the town and Eli of Israel’s defeat, the death of Eli’s two sons, and the capture of the Ark. Eli falls, breaks his neck, and dies upon hearing the news of the Ark. His daughter-in-law goes into labor and dies after giving birth to a son, Ichabod, while mourning over the departure of God and His glory.

     The Philistines bring the Ark to Ashdod and place it in their temple beside Dagon, their god. Dagon falls over twice and is broken in pieces. Also tumors begin breaking out among the people of Ashdod so the Ark is moved to Gath. Tumors break out on the people of Gath so the Ark is moved to Ekron. But Ekron was in panic and they convinced the Philistine leaders to send it back to Israel. So after 7 months in Philistine territory, the Ark is returned to Israel on a new cart pulled by two cows who have never been yoked. The cart holds the Ark, 5 gold idols of tumors, and 5 gold idols of rats representing the 5 kings of Philistia. They send it away but watch where it goes to learn if their calamity was at the hand of Israel’s God.

     The Ark returns on its’ own accord to Beth Shemesh in Israel. The people rejoice, chop up the cart, and sacrifice the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Ark now rests on a large rock in a field. God kills 70 men of Beth Shemesh because they looked into the Ark, touching it. The people then send for men from Kirath Jearim to come get the Ark [presumably Levites of the Korath clan]. They take the Ark to Abinadab’s house [not back to Shiloh] to be guarded by his son, Eleazar [presumably a descendent of Aaron].

Lessons/Applications:

     1. Even the most sacred vessels [symbols such as the cross; even Bibles] of the Lord God are worthless in life’s battles when one fails to bow before the Lord and seek His Will.

     2. Failure to be responsible in your God-given assignments results in disappointment, mourning, and death. The Lord keeps His promises and His judgments are just.

     3. God can accomplish what we fail to accomplish. Our accomplishments are to be in His Name and for His Glory and not for our name and for our glory. Let us keep our focus on Him at all times and our priorities in line with His Will.

     4. The Lord is greater than any god[s]. He alone judges the sin in our lives.

Remember, God wants us:

                 to Seek Him,

                           to Acknowledge Him,

                                        to Revere Him,

                                                     to Respect Him,

                                                                 to Honor Him, and

                                                                                 to Worship Him always.

                                  Seek the Lord, not His symbols.              

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