How the Idol Fell Down Before the Ark
1 Samuel iv: 1, to
the old priest Eli was still the judge, though he
was now very feeble, the Philistines came up against
Israel from the plain beside the sea. A battle was
fought, and many of the Israelites were slain. Then
the chiefs of the people said:
"We have been beaten in the battle, because the Lord
was not with us. Let us take with us against our
enemies the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle,
and then the Lord will be among us."
So they went to Shiloh, and they took out from the
Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle the ark of the
covenant, and the two sons of Eli the priest went
with the ark to care for it. When the ark was
brought into the camp of the Israelites all the men
of war gave a great shout, so that the earth rang
with the sound.
And when the Philistines heard the shouting they
wondered what caused it, and some one told them that
it was because the God of the Israelites had come
into their camp. The Philistines were afraid, and
they said to each other:
"Woe unto us, for such a thing as this has never
been seen! Who shall save us from this great God who
sent plagues on the Egyptians? Let us be bold, and
act like men, and fight, so that we may not be made
servants to the Israelites, as they have been to
The next day there was a great battle. The
Philistines overcame the Israelites and slew
thousands of them. They killed the two sons of Eli,
and they took the ark of the Lord away with them
into their own land.
On the day of the battle Eli, old and blind, was
sitting beside the door of the Tabernacle, his heart
trembling for the ark of the Lord. A man came from
the army running, with his garments torn, and with
earth on his head as a sign of sorrow. As the man
came near the city and brought the news of the
battle a great cry rose up from the people. When Eli
heard the noise he said:
"What does this noise mean? What has happened?"
The man came before Eli, and said:
"I have just come from the army. There has been a
great battle. Israel has fled before the
Philistines, and very many of the people have been
killed. Your two sons are dead, and the ark of God
has been taken by the enemy."
When the old man heard this last word, that the ark
of God was taken, he fell backward from his seat and
dropped dead upon the ground. And all the land
mourned and wept over the loss of the ark more than
over the victory of the Philistines.
The Philistines took the ark of God down to Ashdod,
one of their chief cities. They set it in the temple
of Dagon, their fish-headed idol. The next morning,
when they came into the temple, the image of Dagon
was lying upon its face before the ark of the Lord.
They stood the image up again; but on the next
morning, not only was Dagon fallen down before the
ark, but the hands and the head of Dagon had been
cut off and were lying on the floor.
Besides all this, in the city of Ashdod, where the
ark had been taken, all the people began to have
boils and sores. They saw in this the hand of the
God of Israel, and they sent the ark to Gath,
another of their cities. There, too, the people
broke out with boils and sores. They sent the ark to
Ekron, but the people of that city said:
"We will not have the ark of God among us. Send it
back to its own land, or we shall all die."
Then the rulers of the Philistines resolved to send
back the ark of God into the land of Israel. They
placed it upon a wagon, and before the wagon they
yoked two cows. The cows had calves, but they tied
the calves at home, in order to find whether the
cows would go home to their calves or would take the
ark away. But the cows took the road which led away
from their own calves, straight up the hills toward
the land of Israel, and they turned neither to the
right hand nor the left.
The cows drew the ark up to the village of Beth-shemesh,
where the people were reaping their wheat harvest on
the hillsides. They saw the ark, and were glad. The
cows stopped beside a great stone in the field. Then
the men of Beth-shemesh cut up the wagon, and with
it made a fire, and on the stone as an altar offered
the two cows as an offering to the Lord.
But the men of Beth-shemesh opened the ark and
looked into it. This was contrary to God's command,
for none but the priests were allowed to touch the
ark. God sent a plague upon the people of that
place, and many of them died, because they did not
deal reverently with the ark of God.
They were filled with fear and sent to the men of
Kirjath-jearim, asking them to take the ark away.
They did so, and for twenty years the ark stood in
the house of a man named Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim.
They did not take the ark back to Shiloh, for after
the death of Eli the place was deserted, the
Tabernacle fell into ruins, and no man lived there