Introduction: At this point, the Philistines were filled with pride. God had used them to bring judgment upon His people. In His sovereignty, He allowed the Philistines to kill 30,000 Jewish soldiers. The Jews also lost their ark, their High Priest, and his sons. The Philistines believed that their god Dagon was responsible. Thus, they placed the captured ark below an idol of their god. God would, however, smash their idol and humble their pride. Although God first judges His own house, He will eventually judge non-believers as well. From the events in this chapter, He reveals several lessons about His end-time judgments upon Satan and his followers.
First, with the captured ark, God descended into the house of the Philistine god Dagon. In a similar way, Jesus descended into the Earth for three days to take your punishment. Second, in response to the misplaced pride of the Philistines, God cast the idol of Dagon down before the ark. In a similar way, God will cast the Devil and his followers down before Jesus. Third, when the followers of Dagon tried to again place the idol above the ark, God smashed their idol. In a similar way, God will judge the Devil and his followers. Fourth, God judged the proud followers of Dagon with sores and tumors. In a similar way, God may judge a vain society’s idolatry with soars, tumors, and diseases. Fifth, when the followers of Dagon refused to repent, God judged them with confusion and chaos. In a similar way, God can judge an unrepentant society with confusion and chaos. Sixth, when the followers of Dagon again refused to repent, God judged them with severe fear and helplessness. In a similar way, God can judge an unrepentant society with fear and helplessness. Finally, God judged followers of Dagon with agony and death when they again refused to repent. In a similar way, God will judge an unrepentant society with agony and death. To avoid these judgements, a society must repent and turn to Jesus. Jesus meant for His Church to be His light to guide society to return to Him.
God descended before the house of Dagon. As a result of the Jews’ sins, God’s Shekinah Glory left Israel (1 Sam. 4:22). In His sovereignty, God allowed the Philistines to take the ark and be humiliated by allowing them to bring it into the house of their god Dagon: “1 Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon.” (1 Sam. 5:1-2). The Philistines previously humiliated God’s 12th judge Samson before this idol as well: “Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.’” (Jdgs. 16:23). Yet, each time the Philistines claimed pride in these victories, God humbled them to show that He was in control.
Jesus descended before the house of the dragon. Dagon foreshadowed Satan “the great dragon.” (Rev. 12:9). Just as Yahweh appeared before the house of Dagon to bring judgment, Jesus was also humiliated and then descended into the Earth for three days and appeared before the house of “the dragon”: “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:40). “Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (Eph. 4:9). Jesus suffered humiliation and punishment so you will not have to.
The Philistines put the ark in the temple of their pagan god Dagon1
Dagon fell down in God’s presence. With pride, the Philistines thought that this would be their moment of triumph. Yet, their pride turned to humiliation when their idol of Dagon fell prostrate before the ark: “3 When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again.” (1 Sam. 5:3). The timing of Dagon’s demise establishes that he symbolically worshiped Yahweh: “Early the next morning, at the time of day prescribed in the Torah for the first daily act of worship toward the Lord (cd., Ex. 24:14; 29:39, 41; 30:7; Lev. 6:12, 20; 9:17; Num. 28:4, 23). Dagon was found in a posture of reverence and submission before the ‘ark of the LORD’ (v. 3); ‘his face’ was ‘on the ground’ (cf., Gen 19:1; 24:52; Neh. 28:4, 23). The writer, subtly suggests the futility of the Philistine’s idolatrous practices (cf., Isa 44:9-20; Jer. 10:5; Hab. 2:18; Acts 19:26; 1 Cor 8:4), noted that the people of Ashdod had to ‘put’ Dagon ‘back in his place.”’ (Robert Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, New American Commentary, Vol. 7, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee (1996) p. 97). Dagon’s fallen posture of reverence and submission also showed God’s sovereignty: “From a merely human point of view, it looks as though God is being held hostage by the Philistines. From the perspective of the Israelites, the anguish of Eli, his dying daughter-in-law, and other Israelites at the capture of the Ark, is understandable. But Israel’s God is not an idol; He does not need for men to carry Him about. God is the One who carries Israel.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh 5. The Hands of Dagon and the Hand of God (1 Samuel 5:1-7:17)).
God’s enemies will one day bow Him2
The dragon was also hurled down before Jesus. Like Dagon, the great dragon Satan was hurled down from his privileged position in heaven: “9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev. 12:9). Like Dagon, the followers of the dragon will also one day bow in submission to Jesus: “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Is. 45:23; Ro. 14:11). “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (Phil. 2:10). Jesus may be your Savior. Yet, if you rebel against Him, you have not truly bowed before Him and made Him your Lord.
God judged Dagon and crushed him. When the Philistines tried to again place Dagon in a place of superiority over the ark, Yahweh judged Dagon a second time. Yet, this time Yahweh smashed their idol: “4 But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.” (1 Sam. 5:4-5). God’s two judgements upon Dagon foreshadowed His two judgments upon Satan. His first judgment threw him out of heaven. His second and final judgment will crush him.
The Philistine idol Dagon crumbled before God’s ark3
The dragon also could not hold Jesus captive in death. Just as Dagon’s followers could not hold the ark, the great dragon also could not hold Jesus in death: “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:24). “As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the Holy and sure blessings of David.’” (Acts 13:34). Jesus did this so that you would also be freed from the power of death. “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.” (Hos. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:55). “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah.” (Ps. 49:15). If you are grateful for what Jesus did for you, how are you thanking Him? (Ro. 12:1-2).
God will also crush the dragon and his followers. Because God is just (2 Thess. 1:6), He will one day judge all sin (Ps. 94:23). During the day of wrath, Jesus will come to judge the nations and His enemies (Joel 2:1; Rev. 8-9; Is. 11:4; 63:1-6; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 9:6; Ps. 110:4-7). Although the dragon bruised Jesus at the cross, Jesus will ultimately crush him just as He crushed the Dagon idol (Gen. 3:15). Like Dagon, the dragon and his demons will finally be judged in the lake of fire. “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” (Rev. 19:20).
Jesus will one day judge the “Dragon”, just as He judged “Dagon”4
God also promises to destroy the false idols of this world. Just as He judged the Egyptian and Canaanite gods, God will also judge the false idols of the Earth: “So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols. . . . your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out.” (Ezek. 6:4, 6(b)). “I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.” (Lev. 26:30). “All her carved images will be smashed. All her sacred treasures will be burned. These things were bought with the money earned by her prostitution, and they will now be carried away to pay prostitutes elsewhere.” (Micah 1:7). “The LORD had also executed judgments on their gods.” (Nu. 33:4(b)). “And I shall set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he will burn them and take them captive. So he will wrap himself with the land of Egypt as a shepherd wraps himself with his garment, and he will depart from there safely.” (Jer. 43:12; 46:25). “When Christ, the true Ark of the covenant, really enters the heart of fallen man, which is indeed Satan's temple, all idols will fall, every endeavour to set them up again will be vain, sin will be forsaken, and unrighteous gain restored; the Lord will claim and possess the throne. But pride, self-love, and worldly lusts, though dethroned and crucified, still remain within us, like the stump of Dagon. Let us watch and pray that they may not prevail. Let us seek to have them more entirely destroyed.” (Matthew Henry on 1 Sam 5).5
Dagon’s followers will be judged with tumors, yet fail to repent. After judging the idol of Dagon, God judged Dagon’s followers with tumors. But Dagon’s followers refused to repent: “6 Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. 7 When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.’” (1 Sam. 5:6-7). Like Dagon’s followers, the dragon’s followers who refuse to repent will also be judged.
God judged the Philistine followers of Dagon with boils6
The dragon’s followers may also be judged with tumors, sores, and diseases. Like the followers of Dagon, God also afflicted the Egyptians with boils as one of His ten plagues. “So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast.” (Ex. 9:10). God warns that He can also punish vain societies or individuals with similar ugly sores or diseases: “27 The LORD will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. . . 35 The Lord will strike you on the knees and legs with sore boils, from which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.” (Dt. 28:27, 35). In the end times, God will also curse a vain generation that has turned away from Him with sores: “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” (Rev. 16:2). Yet, despite this judgment, they (like the followers of Dagon) will refuse to repent of their sins: “[T]hey blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.” (Rev. 16:11). This type of judgment might also include sexually transmitted diseases for a society that rejects His system of morality.
God always offers sinners a way out. God does not want any sinners to perish: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). If you repent and turn to Jesus, He will forgive your sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Is there any sin that you are holding onto? If so, repent so that He can forgive you.
Dagon’s followers were judged with confusion, yet failed to repent. The ugly tumors were not enough to cause Dagon’s followers to repent. They tried to avoid their sin by sending the ark to another city. But God simply caused confusion and His judgment to spread: “8 So they sent and gathered all the lords of the Philistines to them and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ And they said, ‘Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.’ And they brought the ark of the God of Israel around. 9 After they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them.” (1 Sam. 5:8-9). Like Dagon’s followers, you cannot ignore your sins. “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). Like cancer, sin will also spread if left unaddressed and cause intense suffering in your life.
The dragon’s followers will also be judged with confusion, yet fail to repent. Just as God allowed confusion and suffering amongst Dagon’s followers to spread, God can also use these same tools when a society refuses to repent of its sins: “28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.” (Dt. 28:27-29; Ex. 10:21). “We grope along the wall like blind men, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at midday as in the twilight, . . .” (Is. 59:10(a)). “By day they meet with darkness, and grope at noon as in the night.” (Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15). “They wandered, blind, in the streets; . .” (Lam. 4:14(a); Amos 8:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). The Church also cannot ignore the sins of society around it. It must be a light to the lost (Matt. 5:14).
Dagon’s followers were judged with fear, yet still refused to repent. When the followers of Dagon tried to send the ark to a third Philistine city, God again judged them. This time, He filled them with fear and the terror of His judgment: “10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, ‘They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people.’ 11 They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.’ For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.” (1 Sam. 5:10-11). The Philistines’ cries of agony were similar to the Egyptians’ cries during God’s ten plagues (e.g., Ex. 12:30). Yet, in both cases, the cries of suffering did not bring them to repentance: “Instead of submitting to the God of Israel, they decided to get rid of Him. Yet we can’t get rid of God. We can do things to push Him away but even the best of those attempts are temporary. We must all face God and stand before Him one day.” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 5).7
The Philistines panicked in the face of God’s judgment8
The dragon’s followers will be judged with fear, yet refuse to repent. God has many tools to bring a society to repentance. When a society ignores lesser forms of His judgment, He may eventually fill a society with fear and render it helpless as it suffers from its self-imposed judgments: “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Lev. 26:36). “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, . . . so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.” (Josh. 2:14). “The LORD has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old. . . . He has exalted the might of your adversaries.” (Lam. 2:17). “I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their life; and I will give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.” (Jer. 19:7; 7:33). Are you praying for society to repent of its sins?
Dagon’s followers cried out in agony and some died. But they refused to repent. Finally, after ignoring God’s less severe forms of punishment, the Philistines cried out in agony and many died in their unrepentant sins: “12 And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.” (1 Sam. 6:12). These stages of sin and punishment will again be played out during the end times.
The dragon’s followers will suffer and feel despair, yet refuse to repent. Just as the Philistines discovered, a life of unrepentant sin leads to suffering: “47 . . . and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.” (Dt. 28:47(b)). “66 So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.” (Dt. 28:66). “This you will have from My hand: you will lie down in torment.” (Is. 50:11(b)). “These two things have befallen you; who will mourn for you? The devastation and destruction, famine and sword; how shall I comfort you?” (Is. 51:19). “And it shall be that when they say to you, 'where should we go?' then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘Those destined for death, to death; and those destined for the sword, to the sword; and those destined for famine, to famine; and those destined for captivity, to captivity.’’ (Jer. 15:2). “Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.’” (Jer. 28:13). “The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together. They have come upon my neck; He has made my strength fail. The Lord has given me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to stand.” (Lam. 1:14). “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” (Prov. 5:22). “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.” (Ps. 116:3). “For evils beyond number have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; they are more numerous than the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me.” (Ps. 40:12). If you are suffering under your sins, repent and be restored.
The dragon’s followers will die and cry out in agony, yet refuse to repent. Ultimately, a nation which embraces evil will be met with ruin and destruction: “45 So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever.” (Dt. 28:45-6). “When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed.” (Dt. 4:25-26). “It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish.” (Dt. 8:19; 11:17). “A lion has gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone out from his place to make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.” (Jer. 4:7). During the end times, people will try hide in caves and beg to die: “Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble.” (Is. 2:19). “Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed; thorn and thistle will grow on their altars; then they will say to the mountains, ‘cover us!’ And to the hills, ‘fall on us!’” (Hos. 10:8; Lk. 23:30; Rev. 6:15-16). Only if they repent and turn to Jesus will they be restored: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14).