The Philistines were the people from a nation called Philistia, on the south-west border of Israel. Although their nation was small, its army became very powerful. It was Israelís most serious enemy during the lives of Samson, Samuel, Saul and David. During that period of history, the two nations fought each other often.
Our passage describes a typical battle during this period of history. The men from each nation gathered in camps, not far away from each other. Then they waited to see which side would begin the battle.
On this particular occasion, the Philistines began the fight, and they were successful. 4000 of Israelís men died in the battle. The other soldiers returned to Israelís camp and they were worried. It seemed clear that they would be unable to defend themselves in the next battle.
Although Israelís people were not loyal to the real God, its leaders still blamed him. God had not supported them in the battle, he had helped their enemies. That is what they said.
Then the leaders of Israel made an extraordinary decision. If God would not fight for them, they would force him to fight for them. They would bring the ark of the covenant into the camp of Israel. If the ark of God was in danger, he would have to fight on their side. That was their plan.
The ark was a box; it acted as the evidence of Godís covenant (agreement) with Israel. The leaders thought that no enemy could ever take that away from them.
The Bible warns that people must never test God (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7). In other words, people must not try to control God. It shows a completely wrong attitude towards God. We must be humble in front of God. (A Ďhumbleí person is willing to learn the lessons that God teaches and to obey his instructions.)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.