1 Samuel 5:1-7:1 The hand of the Lord was heavy
“The hand of the Lord was heavy.” (1 Samuel 5:6)
Although God uses the Philistines to punish Israel, that does not mean they are right in capturing the ark. They thought they had triumphed over the God of Israel; so much so that they placed the ark in the temple of their god Dagon. But Dagon twice bows before the presence of God in the ark!
The second time, Dagon loses his head and his hands, but the hand of the Lord punishes every Philistine town that harbors the ark until finally their priests tell them to return it to Israel with offerings for their guilt. They place the ark and their offerings on a cart pulled by two cows, allow the cows to go their own way, and the cows pull the cart to the town of Beth Shemesh in Israel.
This was a sure sign that God had punished the Philistines and had now returned the ark to Israel. However, although the people of Beth Shemesh initially celebrate the return of the ark by sacrificing to the Lord, seventy men look into the ark and are struck dead. “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” say the people of Beth Shemesh. So they send the ark to the city of Kiriath Jearim.
Consider these verses (1 Samuel 5:6-8) from the reading today (1 Samuel 5:1-7:1): “The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.” So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?”
What does this phrase “the Lord’s hand was heavy” mean to the people then? What does the phrase mean today?
Holy God, may we ever make your Name holy!
DR. GARY HOLLOWAY
Gary Holloway is Executive Director of the World Convention. Holding degrees from Freed-Hardeman, Harding, The University of Texas, and Emory University, he has written or edited thirty books, including (with Douglas Foster) Renewing God’s World: A Concise Global History of the Stone-Campbell Movement from ACU Press. He is married to Deb Rogers Holloway.