Today's passage: I Samuel 5
After a sad chapter before this, God seems to give a little comic relief. At least, I find it humorous. The Philistines have brought the ark back to their territories. They place it in their fish god's (Dagon) temple. Their whole purpose for this is to show the superiority of their god over Israel's God. God has other plans. The next morning they find their merman face first on the floor before God's ark. Dagon's priests probably assumed he somehow fell over during the night. They set him upright. The next morning, God leaves them no doubts as to what actually happened. This time fish god is headless, handless and his stumpy torso are all groundward, giving obeisance to the Ark of the Covenant. The priests decide maybe they should just leave it alone. But God doesn't leave the priests alone, or any of the other people in Ashdod's city. He strikes them with boils, or in one place I read, hemorrhoids. Sorry, there is really no delicate way to put that. Either one would be highly uncomfortable. The Ashdodians (is that a word?) realize it is Israel's God doing this, so they decide to be generous to their fellow Philistines and push the Ark off on them. They transport the box to Gath. Clueless, the Gathites agree to house the Ark. They are cursed with the emerods (boils/tumors/hemorrhoids) too. After figuring out this is because of the Ark dwelling in their city, they decide they shouldn't be greedy. Wouldn't their neighboring city, Ekron, want to display the Ark for a while? I can see the pitch. Gathites (while itching all over): "We, in Philistia, have decided each major city should take turns putting the Ark of the Covenant on display. Like a traveling exhibit at a museum. We've had a turn, wouldn't your people like to proudly display it? Yes? We'll have it there tonight. Oh no, problem at all. We want to make sure you have access to it immediately. They are on their way now." I love how loyal these Philistines are to each other. I'm wondering if they don't divulge that the ark comes with boils attached would be to admit that their city's god was inferior to another city and to another country. Perhaps there is a little god rivalry going on between the five major cities of Philistia. None of them wants to admit they have been beaten, so they craftily think of a way to get rid of the Ark without admitting to their god's weakness. They are secretly afraid that the next city will not have these problems, therefore showing one god's superiority.
After a heavy dose of emerods, Ekron decides to send the curs-ed box back to Israel. I'm wondering how they pitched this proposal? I mean, how do they send it back without admitting that Israel's God is superior? They must have found some convenient excuse to get rid of it and still save face. What would they tell the Israelites? "You know, we think you've been on pretty good behavior, we're going to give your toy back." or "We will return your Ark to you if you agree to the following conditions." See, now that would be the smart thing to do. The Israelites already felt as if their God had gone with the Ark, which was part of the problem, they were viewing God as their enemies viewed Him. If they wanted their God back, they wanted the box back, agreeing to any terms. The Philistines would also think that the Israelite God was attached to the Ark. It was the physical representation of their God. Just as their idols were physical representations of their gods. It makes sense that the Philistines think Israel is powerless without the Ark, because they worshipped gods who were one-note. They only had power in certain aspects of life, like harvest, or fertility, or weather. They couldn't comprehend that Israel's God was not like any of theirs, and the fact that they were struck with boils as soon as God's Ark landed in their city seemed proof of this. Chapter 6 goes into a little more detail about how the Philistines scheme to get rid of this thing, and hopefully all of the side effects that go with it, so I guess I'm just going to have to wonder until tomorrow.
One thing is for certain. My God is not like any other god. He is superior. The old saying, "My dad is bigger than your dad"? Well, my dad may not have been bigger than other kids' dads, but my God is bigger than your god. I never have to wonder about that.