I wondered in the last chapter how the Philistines would fare with the Ark in their possession. I also wondered why God would allow His home to be relocated to the enemy’s territory. This chapter gives us the answer. The Philistines could never be victorious over the Israelites while ridiculing their God – the One and Only God – at the same time. I wonder what would have happened if instead of placing the Ark beside Dagon, they ripped Dagon down and destroyed him and placed the Ark in his place. What if the Philistines would have given God the credit for their victory and welcomed him into their camp? Interesting thought but also not relevant because as we all know that didn’t happen. Instead, the Philistines gloated in their victory and tried to place God on the same level as their god Dagon. No dice, dudes. Too, we can read through the Philistines’ struggles and shout at the page, “Just give back the Ark!!!” Because that seems like the obvious and simple answer, but apparently it wasn’t. The Philistines just keep passing around the plague, so to speak, and killing off their own people – just to gloat in their victory. I don’t think they knew exactly what they had captured when they took the Ark, but they quickly found out what a powerful God it housed and represented.
On a side and sort of related note, the Ark reminds me so much of Buddhist spirit houses. Every home in Thailand has one. They “work” much like the Ark in that Buddhists believe that spirits live in them, and like the spirit in the Ark when it was with the Philistines, these spirits are spooky! Their hosts must appease them daily with gifts of Fanta and bananas and sweets and snacks and burning incense to keep them happy and inside their spirit houses, rather than unhappy and curiously entering the household to search for food and drinks! It seems silly today, but these beliefs are deeply embedded in past beliefs and stories much like the one we read today. I’m not saying Buddhists keep spirit houses because the Philistines were punished when they captured and disrespected the Ark. I’m saying that we can look to chapters like these to help us understand better where religious symbolism and rituals come from in modern times. In other words, the past can help us see more clearly in the present.
Writing prompt: do you see what I see?
We can all interpret every single chapter of the Bible in different ways. Each chapter, each paragraph, each and every word is meant to speak to us individually. What I write each day may be completely different than what you feel and see and learn when you study the Bible. This Bible study group was started as a means to share ideas, thoughts, stories, prayers and of course, writing. Today, weigh in on your individual thoughts and ideas about this chapter, and maybe about how the Book of 1 Samuel is going for you so far. Do you see any themes? Are certain words jumping off the pages at you? Is God trying to tell you something? Always. Discover what it is through your writing today.