What does 1 Samuel 5:10 mean?
ESV: So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.”
NIV: So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, 'They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.'
NASB: So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron, the Ekronites cried out, saying, 'They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!'
CSB: The people of Gath then sent the ark of God to Ekron, but when it got there, the Ekronites cried out, "They've moved the ark of Israel's God to us to kill us and our people! "
NLT: So they sent the Ark of God to the town of Ekron, but when the people of Ekron saw it coming they cried out, 'They are bringing the Ark of the God of Israel here to kill us, too!'
KJV: Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people.
It's easy to imagine political intrigue taking place among the leaders of the five ruling cities of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:17–18). At first, the ruler of Ashdod must have been proud to have the trophy of the ark of the God of Israel brought to his city to be held "captive" in the temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1–5).
Now that the ark brings with it this plague from the Lord, nobody wants it in their city (1 Samuel 5:6–9). When the outbreak of tumors and panic overwhelm Gath, the ruler there sends the ark to Ekron, another of the five major cities of Philistia. The citizens of Ekron, though, have heard all about the ark of God that brings a plague of tumors. They begin panicking the moment the ark arrives, declaring that the leaders of the other Philistine cities must be trying to kill them with it.
The Philistine site of Ekron has been excavated and explored by archeologists, revealing a lower city, an upper tell, and an acropolis area. A huge palace and temple complex has been found. Perhaps the ark was brought to this very building while the leaders decided what to do with it.
Ekron today is known as Tel Miqne, about twenty miles, or 32 kilometers, southwest of Jerusalem. As it happens, each time the ark has been moved out of one of the Philistine cities, it is transported closer to Jerusalem and the people of Israel. In a way, the Lord seems to force the Philistines to march their captured trophy back to where it belongs.
First Samuel 5:7–12 describes growing terror among the Philistines, who captured the ark of the covenant and placed it in their pagan temple. After humiliating the idol of their god, Dagon, the Lord's hand brings a plague of fear and cancers everywhere the ark is taken. In Ekron, the men who don't die from the effects of mass panic are struck with tumors. The cry goes up to send the ark back to Israel to stop the suffering and death.
The captured ark of the Lord is placed in the temple of Dagon. On consecutive nights, the Dagon idol is found on the floor, face down before the ark. On the second night, its head and hands are removed. The Lord sends a plague of terror and tumors on the people of Ashdod. The ark is sent to Gath and then Ekron, where the suffering grows even more intense. Some men in Ekron die from sheer panic, and the rest are struck with tumors. The people cry out to send the ark away, back to the Israelites.
In the prior chapter, Israel lost badly in battle against the Philistines, who even captured the ark of the covenant. First Samuel 5 dispels any suspicion that the Israelites' defeat means the god of the Philistines is more powerful than the Lord. In Ashdod, the idol of the god Dagon is supernaturally humiliated in its own temple. A plague of terror and tumors follows, first in Ashdod and then in Gath and Ekron as the ark is moved closer and closer to Jerusalem. The people of Ekron cry out for their leaders to send it back to the Israelites. Chapter 6 details their plan to be free from the ark and God's wrath.
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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