Reading 77/341, 1 Samuel 5-8

[A] Yesterday, the Israelites learned that they could not just use the ark of the Lord as a sort of weapon. Today, the Philistines learn that even if the Lord will not allow his own people to use him, he will so much the less allow himself to be a prize of war.
[B] The second part of the reading is rather ironic. The people want a king because they do not want Samuel's sons to succeed him, as if they do not realize that that will happen when the king has his sons succeed him. They order Samuel around in a way that they will never be able to order a king around. Yet they still want a king, so that they can be like every other nation. As if all we have read so far does not matter, as if God had no other plans for them than to be like every other nation.

...1 Samuel...

The Philistines had taken the ark of God, and they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod arose early on the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. They took Dagon and set him in his place again. When they arose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon was fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both of his hands lay cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod, to this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and afflicted them with tumors, Ashdod and its territory. When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us; for his hand is hard against us, and against Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines together, and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried over to Gath.” They carried the ark of the God of Israel there. But then, after they had carried it over, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great confusion, and he struck the men of the city, both young and old, and tumors broke out on them. So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. It happened, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people.” They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and they said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to its own place, lest it kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the whole city; the hand of God was very heavy there. The men who did not die were struck with the tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.

The Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering, then you shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to him?” They said, “Five golden tumors, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for one disease was on you all, and on your lords. Therefore you shall make images of your tumors, and images of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel, perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Why then do you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When he had worked wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore take and prepare yourselves a new cart, and two milk cows, on which there has come no yoke, and tie the cows to the cart, and bring their calves home from them, and take the ark of the Lord, and lay it on the cart, and put the figures of gold, which you return to him for a guilt offering, in a coffer by the side of it, and send it away, that it may go. Behold; if it goes up by the way of its own border to Beth-shemesh, then he has done us this great evil, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it was by chance that it happened to us.” The men did so, and took two milk cows, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home, and they put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their tumors. The cows went straight on the way to Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth-shemesh.

The people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stood there, where there was a great stone, and they split the wood of the cart, and offered up the cows for a burnt offering to the Lord. The Levites took down the ark of the Lord, and the coffer that was with it, in which the figures of gold were, and put them on the great stone, and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. When the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a guilt offering to the Lord: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one, and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages, to the great stone, on which they set down the ark of the Lord. The stone remains to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. He struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked upon the ark of the Lord, he struck of the people seventy men, and the people mourned, because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter. The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up from us?” They sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up to you.” The men of Kiriath-jearim came, and brought up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and sanctified his son Eleazar to keep the ark of the Lord. It happened, from the day that the ark dwelt in Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, for it was twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.

Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you would return to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” Then the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray for you to the Lord.” They gathered together at Mizpah, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah. When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. When the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. The children of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry to the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb, and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the Lord, and Samuel cried to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel, but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines, and confused them, and they were struck down before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and struck them, until they came below Beth-kar. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, “Until now the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no longer within the border of Israel, and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and the territories of it Israel delivered out of the hand of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went from year to year in circuit to Bethel and Gilgal, and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all those places. He would return to Ramah, for his house was there, and there also he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to the Lord.

It happened, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah. They were judges in Beersheba. His sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after profit, and took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel at Ramah, and they said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways, now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, in that they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so they also do to you. Now therefore listen to their voice. However, you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the manner of the king who shall reign over them.” Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the manner of the king who shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them to his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots, and he will appoint them as captains of thousands, and captains of fifties, and to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive groves, the best of them, and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give it to his officers, and to his servants. He will take your male servants, and your female servants, and your best young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. You shall cry out in that day because of your king whom you shall have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not answer you on that day.” But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice, and make them a king.” Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

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