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Bro. J. Martin
Study #6:
Yahweh's triumph over Dagon
1 Samuel 5 & 6
My beloved brethren and sisters and our dear young people.
In our last consideration, of course, we saw the glory of the God of Israel depart from
His people. In order that we might be singularly impressed with that fact, b&s and young
people, the record of God , of course, records the death of both Eli and his
daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, and it is obvious that the death of those people
was incidental, to the message that was contained in their death, namely to impress
upon us the awful tragedy of when we lose the presence of God in our midst. And both
the death of Eli and the death of his daughter-in-law, were tremendous events as far as
that was concerned, to impress that lesson upon us. And we marvelled, did we not, at
the record of the Word of God, which speaks of the way in which Eli died upon hearing
the news that the ark had been lost; the last piece of news he knew. And yet when we
come to the wife of Phinehas, b&s and young people, was it not also a marvel, that
there in her extremity, we have a mention of the ark of God first in her mind, indicating
that even in the aspect of childbirth, when the very best news that could be brought to a
woman of those days, that a man child was born into the world, that not even that news
could break her from, of course, the despondency; and the record shows us, that as far
as she was concerned, her husband was the last that she would think about at that
time. But the ark of God was taken, and the glory was departed! You know, b&s, that
woman , of course, as we've tried to stress on the occasion that we were talking about
her, that woman had every cause to rejoice. Not only because a son was born to her but
she was a wife of a priest. Her son, therefore, had the very best future before him, and
one of which, of course, she could have entered into, with great joy, if circumstances
had been different. But they were not! and the 4th chapter closed on that solemn note,
'that when we have lost God we've lost everything'.
And the 5th chapter opens, b&s, on a note of triumph as far as the Philistines are
concerned. And I want you to notice as we read the first 2 verses of chapter 5, how
there is a repetition of a phrase. 'And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it
from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it
into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon'. And the record repeats the fact, that the
Philistines took the ark of God'; there is something else, b&s, that I want to mention at
the outset of this consideration. I want you to notice as we go through tonight, the way
that the name of the ark or the title of that ark changes; we've already noticed the
significance, and the significant way in which the titles are used in relation to that ark.
And here in the opening statement of chapter 5, we've got the Philistines triumphant
over what is called merely, the ark of God, that's how they saw it. The ark of the mighty
ones, and as far as they were concerned, as indicative from the last chapter, were a
plurality of gods over which they had now been supremely triumphant. And when we
read that record, it would seem, b&s, as if the unclean Philistines, the uncircumcised
Philistines, were going to triumph over the holiness of the God of Israel!
But they were not going to do that! Psalm 78 as we read the other night, said this, 'He
delivered His strength into captivity', and when we read those words, b&s, it's an
anomaly, isn't it? that Yahweh should say through the Psalmist, 'He delivered His
strength into captivity', but it's not an anomaly at all! because the ark of God never lost
its strength. It wasn't the ark that was weak, b&s, it wasn't God that was taken into
captivity, Israel was in captivity to the bondage of their own lusts and there own
apostasy; but as far as God's ark was concerned, it never lost its strength! And the
Philistines brought into their territory, the mighty power of God, 'He delivered His
strength into captivity, and what a dreadful day that was for the Philistines! and their
triumph, b&s, was ever so short lived. What a very terrible thing to bring the strength of
God into captivity!
'From Ebenezer to Ashdod', from Ebenezer to Ashdod, and in those few simple words,
b&s, the whole tragedy of the situation is summed up. They brought the ark of God from
the Stone of Israel's help, the Stone of help, and they brought it into a place which
means 'the ravager' (Strong's - 795) and the word 'Ashdod' is from a root word which
means 'a burly ravager, a fighter', and here is the Stone of help, b&s, swept aside by the
Philistines, and the ark of God is brought into Ashdod, the ravager. And Ashdod, b&s,
was famous in history; it was famous in history for this reason, that it was the stronghold
of the Philistines on the sea coast, and it has the record of any city known to the
historians, of having withstood the longest siege in the history of mankind, as it
withstood the Egyptians for no less than 22 years! And Ashdod successfully withstood
the siege of the Egyptians for 22 years; it was an impregnable fortress, and Yahweh
smashed it up. They brought into that place, b&s, a power beyond the power of Egypt,
and Ashdod was to be smashed up, not physically broken up, but the people were to be
hit very hard by Yahweh, and they had no defence whatever against Him.
And then we read, 'that the Philistines took the ark of God and they brought it into the
house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon'. Now the word 'Dagon' b&s, is from a word 'dag'
which is the diminutive denoting 'a fish' (1712); the diminutive, of course, being a title of
endearment, Dagon was their 'dear little fish', that's really what the title means. And the
archaeologists, Laird in particular, who have, of course, explored this particular region,
tell us that the 'dagon god' had the body or stump of a fish, but its hands and its head
were human; it was a god, b&s, worshipped because a certain seafaring man had seen
it rise up out of the sea (this is according to the traditions), and had blessed him, and
he'd brought
in a big haul of fish. There are many other stories in relation to Dagon, we just don't
know which is the truest of the truth, but what the case may be, the Philistines seemed
to have worshipped it, because it was the god of the sea, and because the sea was
abounding in flesh, it became therefore, a symbol and a god of fertility and productivity.
And the Philistines saw it, b&s, as the supplier of all! Dagon the fish god, that's what
they worshipped. And they brought the ark of God, and they set it by Dagon. And it was
an exciting day for the Philistines, b&s, a very exciting day indeed, as evidenced by the
next verse.
'And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen on his
face to the earth before, before who? the ark of God? Oh, no! the title is changed. He
was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of Yahweh, and the Philistines
understood, as evidenced from their words in the previous chapter, that Yahweh was
that peculiar God of the Hebrews! And when they rushed in the next morning, in order
that they might gloat over their victory over the ark of God, b&s, lo, and behold, there is
Dagon (now he has not simply fallen upon his face, although that, of course, is what
happened to him, the eastern people always understood, that when a person falls down
upon their face before a god, then they are giving homage and reverence and
acknowledging the superiority of that god); and there is Dagon prostrate before the ark
of Yahweh. And they understood, they all understood, that there was a terrible disgrace
that day, inasmuch that Dagon, perhaps by accident, had fallen over and here he was
prostrate before Yahweh!
You read for example, of Joshua, who prostrated himself on his face before God, when
the men were beaten, who had stolen the things from Jericho and they were beaten at
Ai. We read of other occasions, when men fell before the reverence of Yahweh, in the
presence of his angels, upon their face to the ground and did obeisance to Him, and
here is Dagon doing this very thing to the great ark of Yahweh. And here, b&s, of
course, straightaway we are presented with the thought in this chapter, it's not a contest
between the Philistines or the men of Israel; it's a contest that all the world may know
that there is a God in Israel. Later on when that ark came back to Israel, Yahweh
showed, unmistakenly showed, to the whole world that the tribe was not national
because of Israel, because he slaughtered the men of Beth-shemesh, telling the world
that He's not partisan nor is He national. He's the God of heaven and earth, He's
Yahweh, self styled Yahweh, and none can brook His holiness, b&s, neither the
Philistines nor the Israelites; and the ark of God's strength was to prevail above them
all. And so there was poor Dagon flat on his face!
And what do they do? Well, they set him up in his place again. Why couldn't he get up?
You know, when you read Isaiah 46, what stupidity is in men to worship idols! They had
to set Dagon up in his place, why couldn't he get up and get in his own place? Now you
read these words of Isaiah 46 and see the stupidity of idolatry! Isaiah 46 we can read
from verses 1 to verse 7 where the prophet says concerning the gods of Babylon that,
'Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle:
your carriages were heavy laden; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop,
they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone
into captivity. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of
Israel, which are borne by Me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And
even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I
will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. To whom will ye liken Me, and make Me
equal, and compare Me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and
weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down,
yea, they worship him. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in
his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove; yea, one shall cry unto
him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble'. And there's the stupidity of
idolatry, 'they bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him and set him in his place', and
that's what they did with Dagon, b&s, and that's the stupidity of idolatry! Bel and Nebo
and all the lovers of the idols in Babylon bow down, and they bore their gods upon their
back; they've got the beasts to carry and the beast got weary that the god could neither
relieve the burden or refresh the beast. And God says, 'from the time you were born, I
carried you', and He called upon Israel to recognize Him, that none could be made
equal unto Him, and here in this 5th chapter of 1 Samuel, b&s, the superiority of
Yahweh over Dagon was clearly manifested and they had to put poor old Dagon back in
his place.
And what do they find the next morning when they come back? again, early in the
morning, and they're back to the house of Dagon, and there he is again, prostrate on
the ground, on his face before Yahweh, in the same position, but this time with a
difference! Because, lo and behold, we find the head of Dagon, and both the palms of
his hands were cut off upon the threshold (and leaving out the words in italics) 'only
Dagon was left to him', which of course, was the word indication, the fishy part of him,
as the margin renders it. And there they saw, b&s, the mighty God of Dagon, with his
head and his hands missing. And where were his head and hands? they were on the
doorstep of that house. And why were they on the doorstep of that house? Because the
head of that fish god, would have represented his intelligence. The hands of that god
would have represented his power and strength. And Yahweh cut them off, and the
word in the Hebrew really means 'to severe cleanly' (3772). So when they went in there,
it wasn't a question of a god fallen over and being broken to fragments in that sense, but
there was a clean cut, his head was cut straight off and his hands were cut straight off.
Somebody had done that and they had put them on the threshold of that house! And we
can well and truly imagine, b&s, that after the first so-called accident, the Philistines
would have never have left the house of Dagon unguarded; it would be like the watch
they set upon the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ, and lo and behold, in the morning there
was Dagon and he was desecrated; and upon that threshold the head and the hands,
and even after that the record says, whoever entered into that house, stepped over the
top of the threshold, because every time a person went through that door, they offered
an insult to his intelligence and to his word. Because we know, don't we? b&s, to tread
upon anything in the scriptural terminology of it, is to tread it with utter contempt.
Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 29 speaks about the blood of the covenant, and that
some had even dared to tread that under foot; but no such insult would ever be offered
to the Lord Jesus Christ, b&s, and not be called in question. And in that very verse, God
says whoever did that, he will answer for it, and there will be no sacrifice for him. No
one will offer the Son of God that insult, and when the temple of Ezekiel's prophecy is
built, the Son of man is invited by God, 'Son of man, He says, 'the place of the soles of
My feet, will never again be polluted with the carcasses and the whoredoms of the kings
and the children of Israel'. And when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to step upon the
earth, wherever He moves, b&s, it will be holy ground; and it will cover the earth from
one end of it to the other. But Dagon's temple was forever desecrated and they would
step gingerly over that threshold, and even there, they would feel as they passed
through that door, they were offering an insult both to the intelligence and the work of
their god.
You know, b&s, there was a man in Israel who acted like Dagon! and when they got
hold of him, on the slopes of Gilboa, they cut off his head. And the record tells us, that
the Philistines took the head of Saul and his armour, and they nailed them on the wall of
the house of Dagon, in Bethshan. And there was revenge for you! revenge such that
caused the men of Jabesh-gilead to be so stirred in their souls, b&s, that such an insult
should ever be offered to the anointed of Yahweh, to break through the ranks of the
Philistines, and rescue the body of Saul. But what a dreadful thing, and where was the
power to deliver Saul from the hand of the Philistines? Yahweh had left him, b&s, and
how Yahweh had left him! the Spirit of Yahweh left him and an evil spirit troubled him,
we read in the record until he finally was finished where Samuel told him he was
finished! 'Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams; for
rebellion is as witchcraft', and that's where he finished. And in the dead of night across
the plain of Jezreel to the city where the witch was, Endor, and there he was, b&s, like a
soothsayer, like a Philistine as Isaiah 2 verse 6 says. And he acted like them, and
where did he finish? nailed up in the temple of Dagon! trounced over by the fish god,
who has no power. No power whatever, and yet there Saul hung ignominiously before
the Philistines that they might rejoice over him, b&s, such was the intelligence and work
of that man, that that's where he finished.
But, of course, on this occasion they tried to do that with Yahweh; no way could they
ever, b&s, bring Yahweh to that dreadful fate that Saul was brought to; and He
reversed, of course, the tables upon Dagon. And so we read therefore, 'Neither the
priests of Dagon nor any that come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon
in Ashdod unto this day'. Only the fish part of him was left; you know, as one writer said,
'you would think they would have woke up to the fact that their god was fishy'! That's all
that was left of him, but you know, b&s, there's something pathetic about the stump of
that god lying there with no hands and no head and merely the body of a fish, because
if there is anything ever that symbolizes helplessness, is a fish out of water! You get a
fish out of water (his natural habitat) and put him on the dry earth, and look at him.
There is nothing that symbolizes more, the helplessness of a creature than that! And
you know, the prophets of Yahweh speak about that, Yahweh speaks about the
Egyptian who boasted in his strength and power because he drew the daily sustenance
for his life out of the Nile. And Yahweh said, 'I'll dry the water up and all the fish will be
in the bed of the river and they'll stink. And there would be nothing more dramatic than
to present to the Egyptians the helplessness of themselves, than to see the Nile devoid
of water and fish flopping about in the dry river bed, and there was helplessness and
Dagon was absolutely helpless on the ground. Why couldn't they see that?
And Yahweh cut his hands off, but we read in verse 6, 'the hand of Yahweh was heavy
upon them!' And there was nobody, b&s, who could cut that hand off! The hand of
Yahweh was heavy upon them' and we read it again in verse 9, 'And it was so, that after
they had carried it about, the hand of Yahweh was against the city'. We read at the end
of verse 11, 'That the hand of God was very heavy there'. And the Philistine god had no
hand, b&s, but Yahweh's hand was not shortened, that it couldn't have destroyed; and
no one could cut that hand off! And Yahweh's hand was heavy upon them. Now notice
what it said His hand did in verse 6, 'But the hand of Yahweh was heavy upon them of
Ashdod, and He destroyed them', now the word 'destroyed' in the Hebrew really means
'to knock senseless' (Strong's - 8074) 'to deliver a KO punch', if you like, 'to stun
somebody', and you know, it's a remarkable testimony against the people of Ashdod,
that the name Ashdod, as I told you, means 'a burly fighter' (795 + 7703) or 'a burly
ravager' and the hand of Yahweh knocked them senseless when the hand of Dagon
was powerless to save them. And what a dreadful thing happened to them, b&s!
'For He smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof'. Emerords, in
fact the Hebrew word for 'emerods' there is the word 'ophel' (Strong's - 6076) and it's a
word or form of that word used to describe 'a hill south west of Jerusalem'. Because the
word 'ophel' means 'to swell' or 'to cause a mound', and we have every indication in the
record, b&s, that the Philistines were struck with a sickness like 'hemorrhoids'; very
painful and very embarrassing, for example we read in verse 9, 'they had emerods in
their secret parts', and if you turn over to Psalm 78, that's a little more specific. And in
Psalm 78 and verse 66, speaking of this time of history, the Psalmist said, 'He smote
His enemies in the hinder parts; He put them to a perpetual reproach', and the word
'reproach' of course, means 'ashamed' (Strong's - 2781).You know, b&s, people wonder
why Yahweh would do that! What a terrible disease, but you know, there was a reason
for it; the Philistines had brought the ark of God to triumph over it into the house of
Dagon. As I told you before, they were a dirty race and a filthy race, and had earned
that epitaph of 'the uncircumcised'. Here were a boastful and a dirty people, boasting
over the triumph of their god over Yahweh, and a people, b&s, who lived in squalor and
in brutality and all that was unclean, and triumphing over the arm of God which was to
represent the most sanctified object in Israel; and it was absolutely poetic justice, that
such a people should suffer a disease which would both, a). humble them, and b). a
disease which would be, of course, a terrible thing among a people who were filthy and
And Yahweh brought them low, we read in verse 9, 'both small and great' and that was
the emerods or hemorrhoids, that was the purpose, b&s, that He brought them low both
small and great, so much so that when they sent back the golden emerods as an
indication that Yahweh had smitten them, there were 5 of them, representing the 5 lords
of the Philistines. And we read, b&s, that when the magicians give them advice in
chapter 6 and verse 4, 'Then said they, what shall be the trespass offering that we shall
return to Him? they answered five golden emerods and five golden mice according to
the number of the lords of the Philistines; for one plague was on you all, and on your
lords'. Both small and great and He made them a perpetual shame; and one can picture
the scene in Ashdod, b&s, of the days following the second morning of the early rising.
With Dagon powerless, on the ground, merely a fish or a representation of a fish, and
his intelligence scorned by Yahweh; His words trodden upon as it was to no avail and
the days following, the people going down one after another by the scourge of God, with
a painful and a very embarrassing disease which levelled the whole lot of them! And
where was their power and where was their boast, where was their uncleanness now,
b&s, they were humbled to the dust. And such was the poetic justice of Yahweh against
the people such as they were.
At the end of verse 6, we read 'He smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the
coasts thereof', the Septuagint adds the words, 'and the country was overrun with mice',
we don't find mention of the mice until chapter 6 of the AV which we have, but
undoubtedly, b&s, as the ark of Yahweh moved from one place to another, the cities
were smitten with the hemorrhoids, and the countryside was overrun with mice. And of
course, that must have been the case, as we learn later on, that they also sent back the
5 golden mice as a recognition that Yahweh had smitten them.
So the ark of Yahweh, b&s, is sent back to the Israelites later on, in great ceremony by
the Philistines in recognition of the mighty hand of God among them. Not only so, you
know, but mice and rats are notorious disease carriers, b&s! And to have the ravages of
that disease, associated with the uncleanness of the Philistines, and the country
overrun with mice, was a disaster of the first magnitude. And the princes of the
Philistines became exceedingly aware of that! and they began to attribute this, as they
ought to have done, to the power of God, as we read in verse 7. 'And when the men of
Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with
us': (we don't want it abiding with us). Now I told you to watch the titles of that ark,
have you noticed the addition? it's no longer the ark of God as far as the Philistines are
concerned, it is the ark of the God of Israel; now b&s, just to show that that's not an
insignificant phrase, from that point to the end of that chapter, they call it the ark of the
God of Israel no less than 6 times. No less than 6 times it is given that designation of
the ark of the God of Israel, and it was already being rumoured around that they had no
right to have the ark! When only previous to that, they got up early in the morning to
triumph over the Israelites. Now the word is spreading that it is not the ark of God at all,
it's the ark of the God of Israel, and the name of Israel is before the Philistines. And as
David later on, as he faced Goliath and he told Goliath that he'd feed his body to the
fowls of the heaven, so that all the earth might know there's a God in Israel! And the
Philistines were beginning to realize that, b&s, and just in case the men of Israel ran
away in their pride, to think that God belonged to them, He smote them as well, that He
might show them, b&s, that God is the property of no one; He's the property of no one
and does not have to dwell with any He does not choose to dwell with.
But for the moment, the Philistines are being very starkly impressed with the fact that
the ark doesn't really belong to them, and so they hesitate to send it back because it
was a great object of triumph! You'd think they'd get rid of the thing, no, they're not
going to do that! And you can imagine how the councils were called as we read in verse
8, 'They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines'; we often read about
these lords of the Philistines, b&s, 5 of them. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word there
rendered 'lords' is peculiar to the Philistines; it's only used for the lords of the Philistines
and in one other place, in which place it is used really, for the axle of a wheel. The only
other occurrence of the word 'ceren' (Strong's - 5633) outside of its use for the lords of
the Philistines. So you get the impression of an axle of a wheel, so the lords of the
Philistines adopted a title which made them the hub of their society, upon which
everything turned. So you find constantly the lords of the Philistines getting together for
counsel; here's the first one! We read later on in verse 11, 'So they sent and gathered
together all the lords of the Philistines', there's another council, they're the axle upon
which the whole society turns and they're going to make the decision. So they gathered
together, and I want you to notice the repetition with which they repeat this title, the ark
of the God of Israel. You listen to it from verse 8.
'They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said,
What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of
the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of
Israel about thither'. (They were clearly recognizing, b&s, that it belonged to Israel; but
at this point they were reluctant to let that ark go). So they sent it to Gath, doubtless,
thinking to themselves that a change of locality, you know, might make a difference;
perhaps it's because of the house of Dagon here in Ashdod, that this happened. We
know it belongs to Israel, it's pretty obvious that we shouldn't have it, but you know, it's a
wonderful triumph! They would still be smarting, b&s, would still be smarting very
powerfully under the destruction of their temple by Samson, the mighty man of Israel!
They'd never forgotten that, it would be a terrible thing to let that ark go; 'perhaps we
might escape if we send it to Gath'. It was not so!
As we read in verse 9, 'And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of
Yahweh was against the city with a very great destruction; and He smote the men of the
city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts'. So they thought,
'well, we'll move the thing off, we'll move it on further', and so what happens? 'So they
sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron,
that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of
Israel to us, to slay us and our people'. Ekron, b&s, is a word which means 'rooted out'
(Strong's - 6138) rooted out, and here's a remarkable thing: if you turn to the 2nd
chapter of Zephaniah, I'll show you here how the prophet, the prophet Zephaniah,
makes a play upon the name of Ekron, in verse 4, speaking about the destruction of the
Philistian cities, the prophet says, 'For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a
desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noonday, and Ekron shall be rooted up',
and that's what it means, it means to be rooted up. You know, b&s, Laird in his work of
the Philistian cities makes this observation, having told us about the siege of Ashdod,
he says 'the only city, the only city of the five of which they have never found a single
trace, is Ekron', and he makes that observation! The only city of the 5 of which they've
never found a single trace, is Ekron, rooted up, said Zephaniah, and thus it came to
pass. And it was into that place that the ark of God came!
Why should Ekron suffer? We read about that place that the hand of God was very
heavy there! The hand of Yahweh was heavy everywhere, here it is very heavy, why
should it be very heavy in Ekron? Because, b&s, Ekron was the seat of Satan! We read
about the seat of Satan don't we? in Smyrna, because it was the headquarters of a
pagan religion and philosophy, well so was Ekron! Ekron, b&s, was the throne and
majesty of the lord of the flies! Baal-zebub, he was the god of Ekron and in the words of
the scribes and Pharisees, he was the prince of devils, that's what Baal-zebub was; they
said that the Lord Jesus Christ cast out devils by the prince of the devils, namely
Baal-zebub, the lord of the flies. And one could only imagine what Ekron would have
been like, it would have been like Perth; do you remember Perth in the summertime?
they let you through the front door and the sister stands there and brushes everyone as
they go in so she can slam the door and keep all the flies out. So you can imagine what
Perth's like! Perth, I believe, is the Australian word for 'rooted up', but be that as it may,
b&s, the Ekronites were renown for their worship of the god of the flies and one could
only imagine what that place was like, and the hand of Yahweh was very heavy there!
I want you to notice in verse 9, it specifically says concerning Gath, 'that the hand of
Yahweh was against the city; as I mentioned before and we emphasize again, this
disease ravaged the cities. And I believe, b&s, that it wasn't simply that Yahweh sent
(although He did, of course,) but it wasn't only something that Yahweh sent as a
miraculous thing, but it was a thing related to the uncleanness of those people. And
never was it felt more heavily, than in the place where the lord of flies was worshipped!
You know, there was an occasion, b&s, when the king of Israel sought, sought healing
from Baal-zebub! Healing, mark you!, from the lord of flies, and was indicted for his
stupidity by the prophet, and here we have, b&s, this city feeling the hand of Yahweh
very heavy there, so much so, we read in verse 11, that they had another conference.
'So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away
the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place' (this is the first
suggestion that they should send it home) 'that it slay us not, and our people: for there
was a deadly destruction'. The word 'destruction' is badly rendered there, it really means
'panic' (Strong's - 4103), 'there was a deadly panic among the people and throughout all
the city; for the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men that died not were
smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven'. You know, b&s,
that's significant because a similar cry went up to heaven when the children of Israel
groaned under the bondage of the Egyptians; the Philistines no doubt in their triumph
would remember that, and to think that they had triumphed over the very God that
delivered the children of Israel when they cried unto the God of heaven, and now they're
all doing the same thing! And the cry of that city went up to heaven.
And they decided they'd had enough! and chapter 6 opens up with the extension of that
conference as to what they should do with the ark of Yahweh. 'And the ark of Yahweh
was in the country of the Philistines seven months'. And you'll notice in verse 2, b&s, the
Philistines no longer consider it the ark of God. They say, 'What shall we do with the ark
of Yahweh, and if that ark did nothing else, b&s, it did this, it vividly impressed the
Philistines, that the God of the Hebrews was not a plurality of gods at all! He was the
One styled Yahweh, who had left Dagon and his cities in absolute ruin. It was no longer
the ark of the mighty ones, but even the Philistines came to remember it was the ark of
Yahweh! We're going to sing at the end of this meeting, b&s, of the glory of Yahweh!
'Hallelujah, Yahweh's Name', and there was praise to God in that! even from the lips of
the uncircumcised there was praise in that; there was a clear recognition of the
superiority of that wonderful God who had delivered His people and would deliver them,
and who would destroy the Philistines!
And how long had He destroyed the Philistines? Seven months, we know, b&s, don't
we? that 7 is the complete number; Yahweh had left nothing unturned, 7 months was a
symbolic time. The destruction was complete, the Philistines were absolutely humbled;
you know, they will spend 7 months burying Gog in the Land of Israel, the latter day
Philistine, the latter day uncircumcised who will come against the land of unwalled
villages and to mock Israel's God. And they will bury him for 7 months, as indicative of
the complete destruction that God will bring upon all those godless people, who are
godly casting into His teeth, the things, of course, of profanity and God will not tolerate
that! and for 7 months the Philistines felt the heavy hand of God. But notice this in verse
1 of chapter 6, it says 'the ark was in the country of the Philistines 7 months', and the
word in the Hebrew really means, 'the open fields' (7704); so they kept the ark of God
out of the cities, right out of the cities, they wouldn't dare bring it into the 5 cities. And, lo
and behold, the whole countryside was over run with mice. Now you imagine what God
was doing! you bring that ark into the city, they're all packed in fairly close together,
closely inhabited; the disease runs from house to house, from family to family, a terrible
thing, so that men women and children are all down with this dreadful disease,
humiliated and very, very painful. So they think, 'get this ark out of the place, get it right
out in the open field, put it somewhere right out in the open, where hardly anyone lives'.
So the disease of hemorrhoids, would have little affect, and lo and behold, in the open
field what does God do, He spreads the ground with mice, and it marred the whole land.
They can do nothing against this God, and you know we're told, b&s, by those who
know, that a plague of mice in that area, are absolutely devastating once they got
going, and that they could reduce a man's field overnight to a dust ball. And the whole of
that country was overrun with mice, and they could do nothing to save the judgments of
God against them.
And so the ark of Yahweh, b&s, is to come back! And what a wonderful thing it is, that
here we have the title, the ark of Yahweh, which precedes this chapter which deals with
the sending of the ark back into Israel; in other words, Yahweh was to emerge from that
battle triumphant! 'He delivered His strength into captivity', and strength it was! And they
discuss what they're going to do with it. They said in verse 3, 'If we send away the ark of
the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return Him a trespass offering'.
Now, the speakers giving that advice, b&s, we're told in verse 2, are diviners. Now
there's a remarkable thing about this, you listen to their words! here's these diviners, the
word really means 'to cast a lot' or 'to determine by lot' (Strong's - 7080), in other words,
they are magicians, they can work magic! And you know, when those diviners when
they were asked their opinion as to what to do with that ark, they gave their advice on
the basis of what happened to the Egyptians. You know, b&s, they may have been, of
course, deceitful men, evil men, but they weren't silly! And they were the magicians of
the Philistines and you can just imagine them reasoning together, and they get the
question from the lords of the Philistines, 'you've got the brains, you're the soothsayers
from the east of whom Isaiah says, 'the land of the Philistines was replenished', you
know everything, what do you think we ought to do? and they get together and they
advise the Philistines on the basis of Jewish law; and they couple with that, b&s, the
experience of the children of Israel in Egypt, when the record says, this record, 'that
Yahweh made sport of the Egyptian magicians; whose folly proceeded no further' says
Paul, 'when Jambres and Jannes resisted Moses, men of reprobate minds and they
tried to imitate the power of God, they were shown up in the court of Pharaoh for what
they were, absolute deceivers and evil men, and brought to ruin and shame by the God
of Israel. The Philistian magicians had learnt that lesson, and they reminded their own
country men of what went on in the court of Pharaoh. The fame of that, b&s, resounded
around the world, it had never been forgotten, Yahweh said it would not! What a
wonderful thing He did! the way that He handled that affair with Pharaoh, the way that it
was drawn out like it was, the way the hardness of that man cooperated with God in His
purpose, the way the whole thing was done, that it became a thing that resounded
around the whole world and echoed in the ears of all men; and here were magicians
who were in no way going to enter into battle with that God!
And they knew, like the Egyptian magicians had to learn painfully, that this is the finger
of God! And they give advice, b&s, on the basis of Jewish law. They said, 'don't you
send it back empty',and they took that phrase right out of the Law, because the Law of
Moses said, 'none shall appear before Me empty', not that individuals were going there,
but the ark was going back! Not that they understood the details of the Law, because
there are certain indications that say that they didn't. But they had some idea and they
knew that that ark would not go back to that Land empty! None shall appear before Me
empty. You know, b&s, that in itself is an exhortation to us, even the heathen
recognize that; you know, we can come before God empty. Do you know, that very word
is used by Isaiah the prophet when he speaks about the Word of God, which comes
down like the rain, and refreshes the earth, and brings forth seed for the sower and
bread to the eater; 'so shall My Word be', says God.'That it shall not return unto Me void
or empty, but it shall accomplish that whereunto I have sent it'. And we should always
come before God, b&s, full; full of His Word. None shall appear before Me empty, no
one had to do that! and that phrase, b&s, is always used in the Law of Moses preceding
the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and that phrase is
always used in that context, that none shall appear before Me empty. And we're coming
tomorrow morning to partake of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and unleavened bread
is a symbol of sincerity and truth, as witnessed the apostle's words in 1 Corinthians 5
and verse 7. And therefore, when we come tomorrow, we've got to come full of sincerity
and truth, and woe unto the man or woman who comes empty; and even the Philistines,
they wouldn't have understood that, but they knew that phrase and they knew that
Not only that, b&s, but they knew other things too! They said, 'But in any wise thou shalt
return to Him a trespass offering'. That showed a considerable understanding of what
had happened, because there was a difference, you know, a profound difference
between a sin offering and a trespass offering! Simply put it was this, that a sin offering
was an offering made by a person for a sin committed which only affected themselves.
And we can commit such sins, b&s, which neither affect anybody else but ourselves. So
we make a sin offering; but when a person by their actions, causes others to go wrong,
or there's claiming of the rights of another, then God calls for a trespass offering and the
trespass offering, therefore, b&s, was for sins committed against a third party and the
Law of Moses divided the trespass offering into two distinct groups, 1). trespasses
against Yahweh, and 2). trespasses against our fellow man. And two words constantly
reoccur in the law of the trespass offering; violence and deceit, violence and deceit, and
when a person trespasses against another, through violence or deceit, they are to come
forth and offer a trespass offering, because they had transgressed against either God or
their fellow man. It's not without significance, b&s, that in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, a
chapter we're all well aware of, 'to whom is the arm of Yahweh revealed?' in that
chapter the chapter deals with a trespass offering. 'He shall make His soul a trespass
offering for sin, although He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise Him', and that was the great trespass offering that
Yahweh made, because people violated the Law of God, they violated the law of
brotherly love, and a man laid down His life even to pay that offering for them, although
He had done no violence nor ever exercised deceit, yet Yahweh was pleased to make
Him their trespass offering. But they knew, b&s, that the trespass offering was
something that had to be given when one violated the rights of another. And what was
the trespass offering accompanied with? Well, whatever was taken away by force or
deceit from any person had to be paid back completely, 100 percent and added to it
was the fifth part of the principle. And the Philistines sent the ark back with 5 golden
emerods and 5 golden mice, that they might tell God that all that belonged to Him was
coming back, plus what they could give! that they might fill up the trespass offering;
even the unclean, b&s, understood something about the Law of Moses more than the
people who were lead by a corrupt priesthood as Eli and his sons of Belial.
So this is what they advised, and the magicians advised that! Of course, as we read
there in verse 4, 'What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to Him? They
answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the
lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords'. Now the fact
that there was 5, would indicate, of course, that the laws of the Philistines representing
the axle or the hub of the people, representing the whole nation, would bow before God
Almighty and say, 'we have sinned; we've taken your ark, it's wrong!' The fact that they
made them of gold, b&s, I believe was highly significant; not because it represented
faith to the Philistines because the Philistines had no faith. But the fact that they made it
of gold was significant because the ark was gold, and therefore, they put alongside of
the ark, the symbols of the disease and the plague of mice which they attributed to that
ark and nothing else. And they were of gold, and you know, the Philistines, b&s, the
Philistines were also very reverent in the way that they handled that ark after it had
smitten them! and who wouldn't be! because they never presumed when they'd made
the 5 golden emerods and the 5 golden mice, they never presumed, b&s, to put them in
the ark, and that would have been quite a nice thing to do, it was quite handy! Lift the
heavy lid and pop them inside; they didn't do that, no they made a little casket of their
own. A coffer it is called, something suspended, and they put it alongside of the ark,
they never presumed to open the ark, but the men of Israel did! The men of Israel in
their curiosity, b&s, peeked into the ark (let's have a look) not even the Philistines would
do that! People were to learn, b&s, that God is holy. And you know, there's one great
lesson in the return of that ark, it's the holiness of Yahweh. You imagine this, the
Philistines had to treat it carefully and reverently, they made a new cart, they did all
sorts of things; they made that coffer, they kept it separate from the ark (they didn't
touch it) they put it alongside the ark. When they got into the land of Israel, the men of
Beth-shemesh, rejoiced to see it, and offered sacrifices, then the kine were smitten, and
the ark was taken to Kirjath-jearim.
David attempted to bring it up, b&s, God is no respecter of persons and until that lesson
was absolutely and indelibly impressed that I, Yahweh am holy and you should be
holy, that ark was not to move, whether it be enemy or friend. David himself suffered the
loss of one of his friends, never mind, they all had to learn that Yahweh is holy until
everyone trod very softly and very reverently towards the ark. But even David himself,
allowed the men to take 6 paces and stopped everyone, stopped the lot of them, and
there in silence for a moment, contemplated the event and prayed earnestly and offered
sacrifice before they dare move an inch. And that's our God, b&s, you know, the lesson
that comes home to me out of that story is this! We talk about the love of God, and so
we ought, and it's expansive, b&s, and we can glory in the love of God, and we ought to
do that! But do you know, I believe, that for all the sins that Israel committed, there's
something about that nation, that today is lacking in us, that there is a lack of reverence!
There's a lack of reverence concerning the One that we worship; I don't mean
reverence in the sense of confessing with our mouth, b&s, but the awe inspiring majesty
of that God. Look at that ark moving around! it's only a box overlaid with gold, devoid of
its significance, it's nothing! but have a look at it moving around. It cares not who comes
near it, be Philistine or Israelite, don't matter, you tread reverently in that presence or
you don't tread at all. That's the great lesson that's before us! we ought to be more
acutely aware of that! The God we worship is a consuming fire! it's a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God, and nobody wants to do that; perfect love casts out
fear. Hands up those with perfect love! We ought to tread reverently before that ark,
b&s, as we come tomorrow morning to worship before Him; whatever we do, wherever
we move, we ought to move very reverently before that ark. The Philistines had to learn
that painfully and in a very shameful way, and the Israelites were to learn their lesson,
and for 20 years lamented after the fact that they could not go near the ark, because
they never understood the principle, that I will be sanctified in them that approach unto
Me. And that's the tremendous lesson, yes, to lose the presence of the ark is to lose
everything, but to win Him back, means holiness. God will not dwell with anything else!
And so the magicians go on with their advice. And in verse 6 we read, 'Wherefore then
do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?' Just
imagine that! See what they know about the Egyptian plagues, they know quite a bit,
don't they? They know that Pharaoh's heart was hardened and they know that as a
result of that, see what happened! And they go on and they say, 'When He had wrought
wonderfully among them'; you know, that word 'wonderfully' there, b&s, the RSV
renders it 'to make sport of them', the margin says 'reproachfully' (5953) when He
wrought reproachfully among them, do you know, that's the very word that's used in
the book of Exodus by Yahweh, to tell Moses what He's going to do. They knew the
word and they lifted it out of that context. They knew what God had said, and they used
the very term that God told Moses to tell the sons of Israel, the way that He had wrought
among the Egyptians, Exodus 10 and verse 2, 'that all the earth may know that there's a
God in Israel', and they remembered that! Such was the magnitude of that occasion,
and the Philistines remembered that, and so they went very reverently about this matter.
'They make a new cart'. A new cart! You know, b&s, David got a new cart to bring the
ark from Kirjath-jearim, and what God accepted from a Philistine, He never accepted
from David. And it was because he put the ark on the cart, new or otherwise, Uzzah
was smitten and Uzzah was one of the sons of the man who was left with the ark at
Kirjath-jearim, a man who reverently kept the ark for years and years and years; and
one of his relations died later on, one of his relations, when the ark had been
successfully kept by Eliezer in the hill of Kirjath-jearim, successfully kept for years, yet
when one of his sons presumed to put forth his hand and touch the ark, even with the
best of motives, God struck him dead, and it was on a new cart. Yes, God let the
Philistines put it on a new cart, that's the very best they could do; you can't ask the
Philistines, b&s, to put the ark upon their shoulders, because that's not the point of it
with the Philistines, because the symbol of carrying the ark upon our shoulders, is to
bear the responsibilities for the glory of God. That we bear the responsibility of being
bearers of that majesty of God; God didn't ask the Philistines for that because He
wouldn't accept it of them, they were uncircumcised both in body and in heart, they were
not in the covenant. The very best they could do, was to make a new cart and from
them, God accepted that! And the magicians advised them, b&s, certain advice
whereby they could test the veracity of the God of Israel or not.
Look at the test! 2 milch kine, the word, of course, meaning '2 cows in milk' (5763),
giving suck as the Hebrew word really means; now look what they did! Look at the test,
they tested the God of Israel in 5 ways; first of all, they got two cows, not one, two. So it
just so happens that if one cow was feeling a bit off that day, and so sick that it wouldn't
react, or if it had no feeling for its calf, it's highly unlikely that two would! And if one
wouldn't react towards its calf, would it not cause the other one to do likewise, no
chances at all, two of them! Next we learn, b&s, that these two cows giving suck, upon
them had never come yoke, so even if they didn't first of all play up, because they
thought they were going to lose their calves, what would happen when they put the yoke
upon them, and they'd never felt the yoke before? They would be nervous and fractious,
would that not spark off the emotions towards those calves? No chances whatever! Not
only that, but we read there that they yoked the kine together, and then they brought
their calves home from them! The word in the Hebrew indicates that they 'dragged'
(1004) their calves, 'they turned them back'; so having yoked the kine together they then
get hold of the calves (probably put a rope around the calves' neck and dragged them
away from their mothers) This is a suggestion made by the magicians. What a terrific
thing! there was no driver, the magicians said, 'don't give them a driver, let them go on
their own', that's the 4th test; and the 5th test was, 'let them go straight up to
Beth-shemesh, they've never been up there before'! And there's 5 ways, b&s, to test the
veracity of that God, 1). two cows, 2). they'd never experienced a yoke, 3). they were
giving their calves milk, 4). there was no driver, and 5). the territory was strange.
And we know what happened! They went up straight to Beth-shemesh, we read in verse
12. 'And the kine took the straight way to Beth-shemesh'. You know, b&s, here's
another interesting thing. Why did the Philistines pick Beth-shemesh because that's
what they did? We read in the 9th verse, 'and see, if it goeth up by the way of his own
coast to Beth-shemesh, then He hath done us this great evil'. Now why would they pick
Beth-shemesh? because you see, b&s, Beth-shemesh was a city that stood right on the
border, it was right on the border as they say there, 'it goeth up by its own border to
Beth-shemesh'. And it was on the border of Dan and Judah. Dan had always been in
the hands of the Philistines, the Danites never took it out of the hand of the Philistines;
so the Philistines possessed that territory of Dan, but up to the border of Judah, they
had not possessed, but of course, they had caused inroads there, and in the days of
Samson, of course, they lorded it over the people of Judah. Yet there was a border right
along there, between the ancient territory of Dan and Judah, and Beth-shemesh was
right on that border. And there's another reason they chose Beth-shemesh, because
Beth-shemesh we read from the book of Joshua, was one of the cities of the priests,
and the magicians are going to take no chance whatever, if this failed, if their ruse failed
that the cows by their natural instincts would not go up that way, if that failed and they
didn't go up that way, then let's make absolutely sure, said the magicians, that it goes to
a city appointed by the Law of Moses where priests are to care for that ark. There's the
word of people who know a considerable amount about that Law, more perhaps than
some of the ignorant people in Israel, who should have known better!
And what did the kine do? Well, we know what they did, verse 12, 'and the kine took the
straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh; the word 'straight' b&s, is the Hebrew word
'yashar' (Strong's - 3474) from whence we get 'yashar' (3477), 'the upright one' and you
know, it's rather significant, that that word is used extensively by Yahweh in the
scriptures to indicate the way that He will direct our paths against our natural instincts;
it's used in the Proverbs of a man who chooses his own way, but the one that puts his
trust in Yahweh to direct his paths. So Yahweh will direct us along the straight way, b&s,
if we are able to resist the natural impulse to do what our nature would have us to do.
And if we are prepared to resist that, Yahweh will put us on the straight way to
Beth-shemesh as it were! and those kine, animals who could only think carnally, who
were nothing else but a bundle of instincts, and Yahweh kept them going straight away
to 'the house of the sun', that's what Beth-shemesh means, the house of the sun (1053).
And He will do that for us, we're only animals , b&s, when it comes to our nature and our
instincts; creatures ever with a mind to think like the elohim, above the animal creation,
and yet nonetheless, animals only if we give into the instincts of the flesh; but if we
resist that, Yahweh will direct our way, the straight and upright way to the house of the
And you know, it intrigues me, to think about this circumstance. I wonder, b&s, what's in
this record? I make this next suggestion, only as a suggestion because I've not been
able to confirm it nor find anything that will support what I'm going to tell you now, and I
wouldn't necessarily tell you, but in saying these things very often brethren and sisters
come to me sometimes, either to say what is not right or they may give me something to
prove that it is. But this intrigues me, if you look on a map at Beth-shemesh, you'll find
that it's south of Beth-horon and look at the 10th chapter of Joshua, you'll find that when
Joshua chased the 5 kings of the Amorites, he chased them from Beth-horon the upper
to Beth-horon the nether, of course, the two localities are down a steep vale, from one
to the other; and when he chased the Amorites they went over the hill of Beth-horon the
upper, and of course, they fled down the valley, and of course, if the sun had not stood
still on that day, then Joshua would have lost that battle, because they would have
gotten away from him. But he prayed to Yahweh, and Yahweh caused the sun to stand
still, and if you follow the course of the Amorites as described there, it would seem they
went very close to or through Beth-shemesh; and maybe, b&s, the name was gotten
from that incident, the house of the sun? Whatever the point, this we know, the ark
came into the field of Joshua, and not only so, but 5 lords of the Philistines watched it
go into that field. And it was near that place that Joshua put to death the 5 kings of
Canaan. And not only that, b&s, but in the field of Joshua, they slew the oxen by a great
stone, and the great Joshua, in the 24th chapter of the book Joshua, and verses 26 and
27, raised up a great stone and he calls upon the people (this stone is called the stone
of weakness) to choose that day whom they would serve. Now why are all those
seeming suggestions in that record. Is it that Yahweh is deliberately writing this up that
we might understand the men of Beth-shemesh if they had only used their eyes and
their ears, that the milch kine came to the man called Joshua and stopped there. And
we read in verse 14, 'and they stood there'; so going against the natural instincts of the
animal for its young, lowing as they went, they went the straight way to Beth-shemesh
until they came to a great stone', the word 'stone' is the word 'eben' (68) Ebenezer, of
course, we read earlier on, Ebenezer was where the Philistines were first of all
successful against Israel. It's a different locality, but the word there is the word 'eben',
and when the men of Beth-shemesh saw that cart, what did they do?
Well, they went and got the cart, they cut the wood of the cart up, and they offered the
kine for a burnt offering unto Yahweh. And I believe, b&s, that there was commenced a
tradition in Israel, because we read later on, of two separate incidents, where two
different, faithful men, cut up a cart and offered oxen to Yahweh! Remember David at
the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite? when he offered on the floor of the Jebusite,
he offered him the oxen, the instruments of the oxen, and the cart, and David cut up the
cart, and he used the cart for the wood and he offered up the oxen to Yahweh.
Remember Elisha the prophet when Elijah came along to the field of Abel-melholah
when he was plowing with the 12 yoke of oxen, and called to the life of the great work,
what did he do? he carved up the calf that he had there, the instruments of the oxen, we
read, and he sacrificed the oxen and using the wood of the instruments and the oxen for
the burnt offering, he offered it all up to Yahweh. Why do that? because the Philistines
did it? No, b&s, because you couldn't get a more apt symbol for sacrifice and dedication
than a cart and oxen in it! because that to Israel is what our motor cars are to us! And it
would be a wonderful thing, wouldn't it? for all these fellows that recently bought a motor
car, to offer them up for a burnt offering out there, symbolizing as far as we're
concerned, that which means a terrible lot to us, it gets us from one place to another,
which is absolutely essential as far as we're concerned for motivation in this life, that we
offer it up to Yahweh; and that's what a cart and oxen were to Israel! In that cart they
carried their furniture, they carried all their wares, they carried their food, they carried
their children, and they carried their wives. The oxen were fed like your motor car is
serviced, serviced every 1,000 miles and given the best oil; it was everything to the
Israelite, it worked for him, it became his very best friend. And when a man offered up
his oxen and his cart, b&s, he offered up a spirit of an offering which was dedication to
God. And the men of Beth-shemesh did that! The men of Beth-shemesh rejoiced to see
that cart, they rejoiced to see the oxen, and not only did they offer the oxen, but we read
at the end of verse 15, that they added to that sacrifice, 'burnt offerings and sacrifices of
their own and they rejoiced before Yahweh'.
But that rejoicing, b&s, was to be very short lived. That rejoicing was to be very short
lived indeed, because as we read in verse 19, 'That after that rejoicing when the ark had
stopped in the field of Joshua, He smote the men of Beth-shemesh because they
looked into the ark of Yahweh; even He smote of the people fifty thousand and
threescore and ten men'. Now, 50,070 men is a lot of men, but I don't believe He smote
that many! it's not even reasonable, b&s, to assume that it would have been 50,070
men in Beth-shemesh! There's been many opinions expressed upon that number, the
Companion bible has it's, Josephus has got his story of it, there are other translations
which translate it differently, but out of them all, I believe that the best sense of it would
be, that actually what happened, that He smote 70 men who were worth 50,000. In
other words, of all the men of Beth-shemesh, 70 were smitten who were the 'pick' men
of that city. And we know, don't we, b&s, that 70 was a representative number; Moses
had 70 elders to help him, the Lord sent 70 disciples out to preach the gospel, there
were 70 men who constituted the Sanhedrin in Israel, and they were always 'picked'
men. There were 77 men that Gideon thrashed with thorns in the city of Penuel, but 70
or thereabouts seems to be a representative number, and here were 70 men who were
seen to be worth 50,000, and they were smitten down because they looked into the ark
of Yahweh.
They still regarded it, didn't they, b&s, they still regarded it as nothing more or less than
an idolatrous object. They had never appreciated, 'I will be sanctified in them that
approach unto Me', and the result of that in verse 20 we read, 'And the men of
Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy Yahweh Elohim? and as a
result of that they said, 'and to whom shall He go up from us?' Two things entered into
their mind, you think of it, not the first time this is said in the bible; two things entered
into their minds, there's a door of realization upon the men of Beth-shemesh that the
One represented by that ark, b&s, is holy; now that's one thing, we can all come to that
realization. But as a result of that, when we come to that realization, there's this
realization that goes with it; either we become holy, or we part company! Now I want to
say that again, and I want you to think about it. We study the bible, we learn about that
holy Yahweh Elohim, we gaze in wonder at that remarkable character, this dreadful and
fearful Name as God said, you'll learn to fear Yahweh thy Elohim! And we think of Him
as the Creator of heaven and earth. We think about Him balancing the world upon its
twin pillars, pointed pillars from whence He's able to tip it up and to reverse all things;
we think about Him, b&s, as able to fell Dagon before Yahweh in the darkness of the
night and to cut off his hands and feet, and to bring the idol of the nation to nought; we
think about Him driving those two cows lowing as they go along, pitifully lowing because
their calves are dragged away from them, and every fibre of their animal instinct wanting
to turn themselves around, and Yahweh driving them straight as a die along that road.
We think about it! and we come to learn of the dreadful way in which He brings men and
women and children to nought, and to level them all, the lord and the lady to the level of
the scum of society with hemorrhoids, and to cover the whole nation with pain and
suffering, so that none can come before God and hold his head up or in shame. We
think about Him spreading mice across the countryside, b&s, denuding the whole
countryside not leaving a blade of grass, WHO CAN STAND BEFORE THE HOLY
GOD, YAHWEH ELOHIM? Now it's either alternatives, we either attempt to match that
holiness or we part company! Now that's the issue of the ark returning to Israel! As great
a tragedy as it was to lose it, b&s, the lesson of getting it back is holiness!
Peter, you know, in measure had that spirit in him. When the Lord Jesus Christ
performed the miracle in his presence, and he fell at His feet and he said, 'depart Lord
from me, for I'm an evil man!' Peter saw what a wonderful character he had before him,
and never thought he could live up to it, and he wanted to part company with the Lord.
The Gaderene swine ran to the sea, and the people were stirred at the power of God in
this man, and they didn't want Him to stay there, because they knew their own failings
by comparison wouldn't allow that! What of us? I know how I feel, very often when we
come to grips with the power of God in this Word, and in the heavens above and we
contemplate Him, b&s, we quail before that Presence, and we think to ourselves, how
on earth could we ever match that? And we seek to connive, even sub-consciously
perhaps, to escape our responsibilities, this way or that way; we can't live up to that!
Well, it's either we try or we part company! and for 20 sorry years, Israel lived in that
condition. And they never understood until Samuel came after those 20 years, b&s, and
told them, 'if with all your heart you turn unto God, He'll turn unto you'. Simple! that
would have answered all their problems from the outset, that could have answered
everything. It would have answered every problem in that nation, but they could never
come to grips with that; and that's our problem, b&s. As I say, we connive, even
sub-consciously this way and that way, but until we come to grips with the fact, that
either we get down on our knees and make some endeavour to live up to the great
principles of the Uncreate, or we've got to part company! There's no way, b&s, the glory
had departed from Israel, God was prepared to send it back, He punished the
Philistines in order that He might do that; seven months was long enough for them, and
it took 20 years, to bring Israel to the state of mind where they finally lamented after
Let us hope and pray, b&s, that we will never have to suffer that period of time, that we
may learn that lesson, 'I will be sanctified in them that approach unto Me'; let us go
away with the lesson of the ark returning, and if there's no other lesson that we've
learnt, let this lesson burn into our memories, BE YE HOLY AS I AM HOLY!