5 Then the Philistines took the ark of God, and they brought it from Ebenezer to [a]Ashdod.2 They took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it beside [the image of] Dagon [their chief idol].3 When the people of Ashdod got up early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and returned him to his place.4 But when they got up early the next morning, behold, Dagon had [again] fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and his head and both palms of his hands were [lying] cut off on the threshold; only the trunk [portion] of [the idol of] Dagon was left on him.5 This is the reason neither the priests of Dagon nor any who enter Dagon’s house step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
6 Then the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He caused them to be dumbfounded and struck them with [b]tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.7 When the men of Ashdod saw what had happened, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god.”8 So they sent word and gathered all the lords (governors) of the Philistines to them 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 [c]Gath.” So they took the ark of the God of Israel there.9 But it happened that after they had taken it to Gath, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing an extremely great panic [because of the deaths from the plague], for He struck the people of the city, both young and old, and tumors broke out on them.10 So they sent the ark of God to [d]Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron, the Ekronites cried out, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel [from Gath] to [e]us, to kill us and [f]our people.”11 So they sent word and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel; let it be returned to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly panic throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy (severe) there.12 The men who had not died were stricken with tumors and the cry of the city [for help] went up to heaven.
1 Samuel 5:6It is possible that this was a type of bubonic plague or infection spread by rats (or fleas hosted by rats), as intimated in 6:4f.
1 Samuel 5:8Gath was another major Philistine city and the home of their giant warrior, Goliath. Faced with the humiliation of surrendering the ark to Israel, the Philistine governors decided instead to treat it like a dangerous “hot potato” and simply get rid of it by sending it to another city.
1 Samuel 5:10A major Philistine city north of Ashdod and near the territory of Israel.
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