Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15

King James AV1611


First Samuel

First Samuel was taught by Dr. James Modlish


Chapters Five-Six





A. The Philistines (1)

B. Dagon, the Fish-god (2-5)

C. "Pass the Buck" (6-10)

D. Superstition of the Philistines (11,12)


A. "What shall we do..." (1-3)

B. Spiritual Inoculation ,(4-6)

C. The experiment (7-18)

D. Problem Text? (19-21)



God will not reveal His power on behalf of His children Israel. At the same time, He will not allow His name to be mocked or defiled. Both the Philistines and the children of Israel learn some important lessons in these chapters. The Philistines added the ark to their sacred idol collection in the house of Dagon. The Lord "put Dagon in his place," on his face before the ark. Since Dagon did not remain face down, God, removed his face along with the palms of his hands; in contrast "the hand of God was very heavy" upon the Philistines (vs. 6,11).

It was decide, to return the ark to Israel. In the absence of any willing volunteers, two cows were chosen to accomplish the task. There is an awesome lesson in these chapters at the expense of many human lives. The Israelites trusted the ark in battle for victory (Chapter 4). Hophni, Phinehas, Eli, 34,000 Israelite soldiers, 50,700 people of Bethshemesh, and countless Philistines lost their lives and health for trifling with the God of Heaven. The Lord must never be taken lightly.



A. The Philistines - Philistia, land of sojourners, (Psa. 60:8; 87:4; 108:9). The historian Josephus called these people the "Palestines." The present day "Palestinians" may certainly find their roots in the Philistines, perennial enemies of the children of Israel. Philistia embraces the seacoast plain extending from Joppa and the plain of Sharon on the north, to the valley of Gerar and the "south country," and from the Mediterranean to the foot of the Judean hills. Its length was about 40 miles, its width 10 miles at the north, and about 20 miles in the north, where it seems to have reached Beer-sheba, (Gen. 21:33, 34; 26:1; Ex. 23:31; Josh. 13:2,3).

The Philistines are generally believed to have been descendants of Ham in part, (Gen. 10:14; 1 Chron. 1:12). Their country was included in the land promised to Israel, (Num. 34:5,6), and was assigned to Judah and Dan, (Josh. 15:45,47;19:41-46). No attempt to conquer them was made by Joshua but following his death, Judah took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron, (Judg. 1:18). The Philistines oppressed the Hebrews during the period of the Judges, Shamgar and Samson effecting only temporary deliverances. There are well over 250 Old Testament mentions of the Philistines.

The land of Philistia incurred much traffic throughout the centuries because of its strategic geographical position between Africa and Asia. "Monsieur Ganneau has suggested that the Mohammedan peasantry of Palestine, a race differing from the nomadic Arabs, are descendants of the ancient Canaanites, including the Philistines." Dictionary of the Holy Bible, American Tract Society, p. 434, copyright 1886!

B. Dagon, the Fish-god - It might do the student well to study the information concerning Dagon in Hislop's Two Babylons, (pp. 114, 215, 241-243, 252-255, 264, 270, 319).

An ancient Mesopotamian deity, early transported to the west. Dagon is generally represented as having the body or trunk of a fish, with human head and hands, as being the symbol of water, and all the vivifying natural powers which take effect in warm countries through water. According to north-Syrian religious texts, Dagon is described as the father of Baal. For other references see: (Judg. 16:23; 1 Chron. 10:10).

C. The Philistines were not as excited about having the ark in their custody as they once thought they would be. Everyone wants a place to dump their garbage, commonly called in the 1980's a "landfill," but no one wants it in their own backyard! The ark reminds us of this very situation; the Philistines were thrilled to have the ark, but it soon became a menace to the "national public health." Many of the inhabitants could not help but take the whole thing very personally (vs. 9). Emerods are tumors or boils, in fact our English word hemorrhoid comes from the same root word.

D. The Philistines certainly were no more spiritual than the Israelites. They continued in the same errors of the Jews. They thought that the power associated with the ark was of the ark (it), when it was the God of the ark that should be revered and feared, (see 1 Sam. 4:3) and not the ark itself!



A. The Philistines must have "caught on" very slowly. Seven months (6:1) had passed as this spiritual game of "hot potato" continued. The "seven" certainly could signal a picture of the great tribulation (see Ex. 9:11; Job 2:7; Rev. 16:2). The Philistines, through spiritual counsel, decide to send the ark away, but not empty (vs. 3). The ark includes some special gifts for Jehovah.

B. The Philistines believed that there could be healing if they included five golden emerods and five golden mice in the trespass offering. Why the mice? It may have been thought that mice had something to do with the transmission of the disease as is true during the 1300's, when the Black Plague ran rampant across Europe. Rats were blamed for being the carriers. It is interesting that the principle of inoculation is carried out by infecting an individual with just a little of the disease. "Put a little gold on a boil and a mouse and they might instigate a healing on the Lord's part," thought the Philistines.

C. The priests and diviners concoct an ingenious plan. They decided to let Jehovah choose where the ark would go. Pitting God's will against the instinctive nature of the beast, two cows were separated from their calves and harnessed to a cart. The priests knew that the cows, without divine intervention, would seek the company of their young. If God were involved, He could override their created instincts and send the cows to His appointed destination. If the cows went to their calves, disease of the emerods could be attributed to chance (vs. 9). Verse (17) mentions the five major cities of Philistia.

D. One of God's "boo-boo's" is found in (vs. 20). The figure is questioned by almost every commentator. Why is it that men always tend to minimize God's personal efforts to reveal himself. (e.g. The Crossing of the Red Sea, The Genesis flood, etc.)

Fifty thousand and seventy men is a considerable number. The commentators believed God's pen "slipped" and the number should be 70!


[1]. Bethshemesh had suburbs (Joshua 21:16).
[2]. It is not just men counted but people (vs. 19).
[3]. There were hundreds of the former inhabitants of Bethshemesh living there in addition to those from the tribe of Naphtali (vs. 13).
[4]. The area around the city is called Bethshemesh (vs. 13).
[5]. There were conservatively three million plus people in the land at this time with less than 100 major city areas. The average sized urban area would number 30,000 plus people. What is so peculiar about the ark of God attracting 50,000 spectators? God killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night, (Isa. 37:36), what's the big deal? With God all things are possible.

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