And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hand were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him” 1 Samuel 5:4 KJV

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. 1Samuel 5:4 NASB

The ark was in captivity. The lesson Israel had to learn is that God did not need Israel; Israel needed God! God was well able to take care of His own interests in the contest with Dagon. As a sign of their triumph over Israel, the Philistines placed the ark in the house of their god, Dagon. This would have been typical of the culture of the day. The idols of a conquered nation were brought into the house of their victor’s gods as a sign of the superiority of their god. Their pyrrhic victory would soon become apparent to all.

The day after the triumphal march back to the house of Dagon, the Philistines awoke to find Dagon prostrate before the ark of the Lord. With an almost humorous touch, the divine penman tells us that they set their god in his place again. Human hands had to steady and help Dagon to sit upright.

The next morning, things had gotten even more critical for Dagon had not only fallen on his face, but his head and hands were now cut off. Here was an idol with no head to think or hands to act. The figurative was depicting the reality.

The ark was in captivity, taken by evil men and brought to their own quarters. Yet God made it very apparent to all that He was Lord. The blindness of superstition may still prefer Dagon to Jehovah, but they had to acknowledge that it was the hand of God and that Dagon could not protect them.

There was a day when the anti-type of the ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, was taken captive by His enemies. In their mockery and revelry, they adorned His head with a crown of thorns. In malice and wickedness, they pierced His hands with nails. His head and His hands – He was cruelly treated by men.

The contrast with Dagon is stark. Yet heaven is silent. God does not rise-up to vindicate amidst the evil intentions of men. Men do not quake in fear and cause their “cry to go up to heaven” (1 Sam 5:12). They do not caution against hardening their hearts (6:6), or devise plans to avoid involvement with this “ark” (6:1-19). With unbridled delight and unholy glee, they platted a crown of Jerusalem thorns and placed it on His brow. And heaven was silent. With triumphant rejoicing, they pierced His hands and His feet. And heaven was silent.

It is not Dagon now who is defeated before the Lord. But it is the Lord Who appears defeated before His foes.

When the ark returned to Israel, the men of Beth-shemesh found that the holiness of God was linked with judgment and death as men lay strewn around the ark. But at Calvary, it was the “ark” that knew the holiness of God and death under divine judgment.

Consider

Compare and contrast other links of the Lord Jesus with the ark of God and its experiences. For example, curiosity may have led the men of Beth-shemesh to look inside the ark (1 Sam 6:19-20), resulting in many deaths. Can you link this with Herod’s curiosity to see Jesus in Luke 23?

Look at all the references and titles applied to the “ark” in 1 Samuel 5 and 6.