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Pastor Matthew Fanning

May 21, 2010

The Capture of the Ark

The Future History of the Gentiles

Part 3 - I Samuel 5

By:  Pastor Bill Randles


The story of the capture of the Ark of God contains not only history, as we have seen, but also the Gospel and Eschatology. We pointed out in our last article that the future history of Israel was outlined in the double defeats by the Philistines and the loss of the Ark.

The first defeat, in which 4000 Israelites were killed in battle, corresponds to the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Solomon’s temple. It was devastating, but Israel did return from captivity and the temple was rebuilt after more than 70 years.

But the second defeat was much more devastating. Not only were 30,000 Israelites killed in the battle, but the sons of the High Priest were killed, and the High Priest himself died also that day. But the greatest and most psychologically shattering loss for Israel, was that the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines. This defeat corresponded to the events around the destruction of the temple and the dissolution of the nation in 70AD. Israel has yet to recover from this disaster. The birth of Ichabod - which means the glory of God has departed, became a harbinger of what Hosea would prophesy of Israel,

For the sons of Israel shall remain for many days without king or priest, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or image. But afterwards the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord…in the last days.  (Hosea 3:3)

There was an incident, which occurred shortly before the second and most disastrous defeat, which has a correspondence in Jewish history. When the sons of the High Priest took the Ark out of the sanctuary and virtually handed it over to the Gentiles - this foreshadowed the handing of Jesus over to Pilate – Jesus being the one who was the actual fulfillment of all that the Ark represented and pointed to.

In the same way the story in I Samuel 5 is at the same time, actual history, Gospel and Eschatology, only this time in regards to the Gentiles.

Now the Philistines took the Ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the Ark of God and brought it unto the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.  When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the Ark of the Lord…(I Samuel 5:1-3)

I see the Gospel in this part of the story. The people of that time and in that part of the world interpreted a military victory as a triumph of one god over another. In fact that is still the case in the Middle East today. Every advance by Islam is seen as a victory of Allah over Jahweh and Jesus! The battle cry Allah Akbar does not mean, “Allah is Great”, but rather, “Allah is Greater!”, for Islam is a religion of comparison.

To the Philistines Dagon had defeated Jahweh. They took the Ark of the dead god, Jahweh, down into the temple of the victorious god, Dagon. When they closed the door shut on the Ark in the temple of Dagon, it foreshadowed the rolling of the stone over the face of the tomb where Jesus was laid.

I see Easter morning in I Samuel 5: 3-4, for early the next morning, the Philistines go down to the temple of Dagon to triumph over the defeat of Jahweh and realize that the God of Israel has not been defeated at all, He is risen and exalted. This is the Gospel in I Samuel 5, in apparent weakness and powerlessness God triumphs over His enemies.

But there is Eschatology here also, for this too is a prophecy as well as an actual historical event. The Gentiles, like the Jews in chapter 4, suffer a double defeat, the first one which is seemingly recoverable, but the second ends up being utterly devastating - they are broken and that without remedy.

The first defeat is in verse 3, for Dagon is made to prostrate before the living God. This would be the future of the Gentile world, from 70 AD on until the end. All of the Roman gods, the Greek gods, the pantheons of classical antiquity were abandoned, shown to be impotent, as the Christian Gospel advanced. The Celtic, Teutonic, Saxon and Gothic gods were abandoned, Paganism collapsed as Christianity took root and spread.

…So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. (I Sam 5:3b)

Between the first and second half of verse 3 lies two thousand years of future history for the Gentile world. What happened when they found Dagon prostrate before the Lord himself? They picked Dagon up again and set him up in his exalted place. In other words, right before the end, the old gods, the pre-Christian deities are brought back into play. This sets the stage for the second and irreparable defeat of the gentile powers.

The old gods are back, and the world is now consciously “post Christian”. Dagon has been set up, Moloch is now worshipped with Abandon, (abortion), as well as Baal and Astarte (sexual revolution), have reemerged in one form or another. The old gods that were once prostrated by the spread of the Gospel have been set back up in their place.

Jesus warned us concerning this that when an unclean spirit is driven out of a house (nation), he goes into the wilderness, seeking rest and finding none, afterwards he comes back, and when he finds the house empty, swept and garnished, he goes and finds seven other spirits even worse than he, and moves into the house and the latter state is worse than the first. The secularization of the West has only left an empty house, and if nature abhors a vacuum, how much more the spiritual world?

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. (I Sam 5:4)

The second defeat of the Philistines was worse than the first, for in the second defeat, Dagon was not only prostrated, but his head and his hands were broken! The breaking of the head should alert the Biblically aware to the primal Gospel, that the “Seed of the woman would crush the serpents head,” but at the cost and pain of the bruising of the seed’s heel.

The crushing of the idol, Dagon, foreshadows what Nebuchadnezzar saw in his vision of the final defeat of the Gentiles world powers. He saw a massive statue of a man, with a head of gold, shoulders of silver, waist and loins of bronze and legs of iron, and finally, feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. But at the end, a stone not made by human hands struck the statue and crushed it to powder.

Thus the end of the “times of the gentiles” will be as the crushing of the great, humanistic idol, by the return of the Savior and Lord to rule and reign on earth.

You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay the bronze the silver, and the gold, were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled all of the earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)

This is the Gospel according to the capture of the Ark, that rather than capturing Jahweh, Jahweh captured the Philistines! Jahweh triumphed over their gods and showed Himself to be either the Savor of life or the Savor of death to them. And this is the Eschatology of the story of the Ark, a twofold defeat of Paganism, it is prostrated at first, but in the last days the Idols are propped back up - then utterly crushed by the return of the true king and Savior!

Part 4 - Hemorrhoids and Mice!