What does 1 Samuel 5:8 mean?
ESV: So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines 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 brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there.
NIV: So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, 'What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?' They answered, 'Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.' So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.
NASB: So they sent word and gathered all the governors of the Philistines to them, and said, 'What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?' And they said, 'Have the ark of the God of Israel brought to Gath.' So they took the ark of the God of Israel away.
CSB: So they called all the Philistine rulers together and asked, "What should we do with the ark of Israel's God? ""The ark of Israel's God should be moved to Gath," they replied. So they moved the ark of Israel's God.
NLT: So they called together the rulers of the Philistine towns and asked, 'What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?' The rulers discussed it and replied, 'Move it to the town of Gath.' So they moved the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath.
KJV: They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither.
Verse Commentary:
The nation of the Philistines was ruled by a pentapolis, meaning five cities. Each of these cities was ruled by a lord and important decisions that impacted the nation were shared between them (1 Samuel 6:4, 17–18). The ruler of Ashdod understood that his city was under siege from a plague of tumors caused by the presence of the ark of the Lord God of Israel (1 Samuel 5:2–7). He needed help.

The rulers met and decided to transfer the ark of the Lord from Ashdod, near the coast, to Gath, to the southeast and closer to the region of Judah. Gath will later be known as the city of the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4) and of King Achish (1 Samuel 21:10–15). It's unknown why the Philistines decided to send the ark to Gath. Perhaps they thought the primary reason for their affliction was that the ark was still in the temple beside idols to Dagon. For whatever reason, they thought things would go differently there than in Ashdod.
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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