The Philistines (army from Philistia) had taken the ark of the covenant from Israel during a battle. The ark was a very holy object: a box which was evidence of Israelís covenant (agreement) with God.
The Philistines did not know the real God. They did not understand that he alone is the true God. They did not realise that he is not just Israelís God. He is the God who has authority over all people and all nations.
The principal god of the Philistines was a false god called Dagon. The Philistines put the ark into the house of this false god. We cannot be sure why they did that. Perhaps they wanted to show that Dagon had defeated Israelís God. Perhaps they wanted to join the two religions; they may have considered all sacred objects to be alike. Perhaps they simply thought that the house of Dagon was the best place to keep a sacred object.
Everything that is truly holy belongs to God. It is a very serious matter for anyone to have control over someone or something that is holy. We see the proper reaction to this situation in Jonah 1:14-16. The sailors considered it necessary to act against Jonah, a holy man. So, the sailors acted in a very humble manner in front of God. They asked God to forgive them. They respected God. They offered a sacrifice (a gift, usually an animal) to him. Also, they made promises, probably to serve him.
That is how the Philistines should have behaved too. Israelís God is the God who created heaven and earth. All people in every nation are responsible to him. The Philistines had control over the holy ark of God, so they should have been humble in front of him. They should have chosen to serve him alone as their God.
Next part: The ark in Dagonís temple (1 Samuel 5:3-5)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.