1 Samuel 4-8: Head and hands

You know the question that popped into my mind when I was reading for today? Why Dagon’s head and hands? The only explanation I could find talked about the possible parallel to a military execution. God was executing Dagon as a conquered foe.

There are some interesting parallels in chapter between Dagon and Yahweh. After their victory over Israel, the Philistines took the Ark with them, thinking that just as Israel would serve Philistine, so the Israelite God would serve the Philistine gods. What a surprise when they find Dagon prostrate before the Ark, not once, but twice. The first time in submission, the second time conquered and defeated. Also notice that the Philistines had to stand Dagon back up. Like all pagan gods, Dagon was unable to sustain himself, he needed human help. Yahweh requires no such help.

In fact, notice who saves the Ark and returns it to Israel. It is not Israel, not some crack team of commandos sent in on a covert mission (if this were a Hollywood movie, that’s how it would go). God himself gets the Ark back to Israel. God has no need for human help. Commentator Stephen Andrews writes: “He can fight the Philistines by himself. The ark won’t need to be rescued; he will bring it back by himself. In fact, Israel won’t need to carry Yahweh. Yahweh will carry Israel.”

This is a perspective that is interesting. God is not dependent on us to do his will. He wants us to serve him and work with him, but I think we arrogantly assume that God needs us to accomplish his will. This account of the Ark in a foreign land, God in confrontation with a foreign god, reminds us that God is powerful and able to care for himself.  This account also reminds us of Yahweh’s battle with the gods of Egypt and his judgement on them.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Samuel 9-12

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