Themes in 1 Samuel 02: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1 Samuel 5-7)
The Exodus of the Glory - In our first study, we noted 1 Samuel (1100 BC) overlaps with the book of Judges. At the time Israel is not only threatened by the Philistines from the outside, but corruption rots from within. Enter Samuel. The first four chapters weave together the rise of Samuel with the fall of Eli’s house. This intentional contrast highlights God’s grace in the midst of wickedness to preserve His people. Eli fails as a father and leader. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas “despised the offering of the LORD.” They reject Yahweh through false worship (2:13) which corresponds to their immorality (2:22). Judgment came at the battle of Aphek against the Philistines. In this battle Israel sought to use the Ark of the Covenant as a magic power. Over 30,000 Israelites perished. Upon hearing of the deaths of Hophni and Phinehas and the capture of the Ark, Eli fell and broke his neck. Sealing the divine interpretation, Phinehas' wife died while giving birth to a son named Ichabod (“not glory/glory has left”) (4:19-22). Samuel arises to lead just as Eli’s dynasty falls.
The Exodus of the Ark - At Aphek the Philistines not only slaughtered many Israelites, but they captured the Ark. They place the Ark into the house of their sweetheart god, Dagon (5:1-2). The Lord then reveals His supremacy over Dagon (5:3-4). But the Philistines could not receive God’s clear and appropriate revelation to them. They worship sticks and stones, so Yahweh shows them pictorially that their god is dead. Missing this teachable moment, He judges the Philistines with plagues, possibly bubonic plague for seven months. The writer plainly patterns this as an Exodus event typologically (6:6). After plague-judgment (like in Egypt), resulting in “panic” (5:11) on several cities, they determine to “let my people go” and send the Ark back to Israel. Pagan thinking always sees God as just another force to be manipulated, rather than a loving, powerful Person. The Philistines tried homeopathic magic. God sent mice and tumors, so they sent Him back a like offering of golden mice and tumors to appease Him. Did it work? . . . When the Ark arrives in Beth-Shemesh, Israelite men also disrespected the Covenant Lord; they superstitiously “looked into the ark” and were struck down (probably 50 men over 1000s, e.g., leaders, vs 50,070 men). Now they complain, who can stand this God? Next it was taken to Kiriath-Jearim in the house of Abinidab. Samuel alone seems to see the need for true worship vs superstitious magic. “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your heart, … direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines’” (7:3-4). Finally, Israel repented and God delivered them at Mizpah. “The LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel” (7:11).
How can we commit idolatry?
Failing to worship
Not be present for prescribed, worship according to the Word
Be present physically, but not in heart mind and strength; worship until you worship
Keep the form of godliness but deny the power of God with us
Only worship on Sunday - neglect daily prayer, immersion in the Word, family worship
Failing to love the Body of Christ
Greediness instead of service.
Greed instead of giving.
Superior attitudes that will not associate with the lowly.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more