The ark of the covenant was not to be misused. God made that very clear to both Israel and its mortal enemies in the days of Samuel, Saul, and David, the Philistines.
The ark had been moved from Shechem to Shiloh at some point during the time of the Judges. As we discussed last week, the Samaritans believe to this day that Eli, the high priest who raised Samuel, was the one who moved the center of Israelite worship sometime around 1200 BC.
Whether that’s true or not, the tabernacle was in Shiloh by the time of Eli, and his death coincided with the capture of the ark by the Philistines. It had been brought to the battlefield by the Israelites in hope that it would guarantee a military victory.
The Bible does not record that the Israelites prayed or sacrificed to God before the battle, and we learned last week that Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, “did not know the Lord.” So, the ark was used by the Israelites as a sort of cosmic good luck charm and not as any sign of their faith in God. And it didn’t work, as Israel was routed and Eli’s sons were killed.
However, the Philistines didn’t enjoy their victory. A plague of “tumors” broke out, which was, based on a better understanding of Philistine culture and religion thanks to recent archaeological finds, probably even more painful than scripture suggests.
We briefly discuss the history of the Philistines and evidence connecting them to the early Greeks and the Amorites, links that explain the various names attached to their creator-god Dagon, also known as Saturn, Kronos, Baal-Hammon, El, Molech, Enlil, and Kumarbi—in our view, all of them identities worn by the leader of the rebellious “sons of God” from Genesis 6, the Watcher chief Shemihazah.
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