23 June 1 Samuel 5:1-12

23 June. The Ark of the Covenant is taken to Ashdod, Gath and Ekron

“After the Philistines had captured the Ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. They carried it into Dagon’s temple and put it next to [the statue of] Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next morning, they found that Dagon had fallen on his face on the ground before the Ark of the LORD.”

“So they put Dagon back in his place. The next morning when they rose, they again found Dagon fallen on the ground before the Ark of the LORD. His head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only his body was still in one piece. So even today, Dagon’s priests and others who enter his temple at Ashdod refuse to step on the doorsill.”

“The LORD was hard on the people of Ashdod and their neighbours. He caused them to suffer and gave them growths on their skin. When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, ‘The Ark of the God of Israel can’t stay with us. God is punishing us and Dagon our God.’ The people of Ashdod called all five Philistine kings together and asked them, ‘What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?’”

“The rulers answered, ‘Move the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath.’ So the Philistines moved it to Gath. But after they moved it to Gath, there was a great panic. The LORD was hard on that city also, and he gave both old and young people growths on their skin. Then the Philistines sent the Ark of God to Ekron.”

“But when it came to Ekron, the people of Ekron yelled, ‘Why are you bringing the Ark of the God of Israel to our city? Do you want to kill us and our people?’ So they called all the kings of the Philistines together and said, ‘Send the Ark of the God of Israel back to its place before it kills us and our people!’”

“All the people in the city were struck with terror because God was so hard on them there. The people who did not die were troubled with growths on their skin. So the people of Ekron cried loudly to heaven.”

          (1Samuel 5:1-12)



After their success at the Battle of Ebenezer (see 1 on the map), the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Philistines to Ashdod, to the temple of the god Dagon (see 3 on the map). But, overnight, the image of Dagon fell on its face, and the people of Ashdod were covered in tumours.

Fearing that the onset of disease was the result of divine retribution, the people of Ashdod sent the Ark to Gath (see 4 on the map). But the inhabitants of Gath were also covered in tumours.

So the Ark was moved on again to Ekron (see 5 on the map). However, the plague spread once again, possibly carried by rats (see 1 Samuel 6:5).

Ashdod, Gath and Ekron were three of the five cities in the Philistine confederation.

Ashdod had been founded by the Canaanites in the 17th century BC. But about two hundred years later, it was attacked and conquered by the Philistines who invaded from Cyprus and Crete (see Deuteronomy 2:23). It became the largest and most powerful of the five Philistine kingdoms on the coast of Palestine. While Ashdod itself was located 2 miles / 3 km inland, on the ‘Via Maris’ - the important trade route from Egypt to Syria and Mesopotamia - Ashdod had its own port at Ashdod Yam (meaning ‘Ashdod-on-Sea’).

Gath (meaning a ‘winepress’) was situated inland on a well-defended white chalk scarp overlooking a fertile valley where many vines grew. Excavations since 1996 at Tell es-Safi, in the Elah Valley, half way between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, have revealed remains of the ancient city of Gath, and remains of a winepress cut into the rock can be seen nearby.

Ekron was also, originally, a Canaanite settlement located on the border between the territories of Judah and Dan (see Joshua 15:11, 45 & 19:43). But it became the most northerly of the five Philistine kingdoms that remained unconquered after the Israelites invaded Canaan in c.1406BC (see Judges 1:19).

The map shows the location of the Battle of Ebenezer, and the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines after the battle.

You can read more about Ashdod @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/29-the-journeys-of-ruth-and-samuel/the-ark-is-taken-to-ashdod/, Gath @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/30-israel-becomes-a-kingdom-under-saul-and-david/david-defeats-goliath-of-gath/ and Ekron @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/29-the-journeys-of-ruth-and-samuel/the-ark-is-moved-to-ekron/

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