The Philistines (people from Philistia) had taken possession of the ark of God, a very holy object. However, they were still serving false gods and they were not giving honour to the real God.
They wanted to keep the ark, because they had taken it as a prize from their battle with Israel.
God had warned them about their wrong attitudes, but they were refusing to listen to him (6:6). He did not use words to warn them; he did it by his actions against their false god called Dagon. First, he caused the image of that false god to fall to the ground. Then, he destroyed the image.
Such events should have caused the Philistines in Ashdod to be very afraid. However, they still did not want to change their behaviour. They still considered Dagon to be their god, and they tried to keep the ark in their town.
So, God again acted to warn them. An awful illness began to spread through their town. They knew that God had permitted similar troubles to happen in Egypt, long before (4:8; 6:6). So they would understand that God was acting against them, too.
This trouble continued for some time before anyone did anything. Perhaps the inhabitants of Ashdod hoped that their troubles would not last. In the end, they saw that the real God, the God of Israel, was acting against them and their false god. Still they refused to serve the real God; they wanted to keep the false god, Dagon. So, they decided to move the ark of God to another one of the Philistines’ towns.
Next part: The ark in Gath and Ekron (1 Samuel 5:9-12)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.