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ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS..
· The people of Israel, finding that they had actually a prophet amongst them, began to think it was a proper time to attempt to free themselves from the Philistines ; but they set about this important business in a very irregular and unlawful manner, neglecting to ask counsel of God, and reform their lives ; they were therefore suffered to fall a prey to their enemies. One would have supposed, that ill success would have reminded them of their duty ; but instead of repenting, they seem to have relied on the goodness of their cause, and to think that they could oblige God to appear for them in vindication of His honour, by having the ark in the camp. · Eli was very blameable in suffering the ark to he removed ; and his sons, who had doubtless been informed of the judgments denounced against them, were impious to the last degree in presuming to carry it ; especially, as there was in the law of Moses an express command, that, when the people were settled in Canaan, the ark should rest, that all might come to it.
It was customary for the heathens to carry images of their false deities to battle, to which they imputed all their successes; no wonder, therefore, that they should be alarmed at hearing that the ark, before which the walls of Jericho had fallen to the ground, was in the camp of Israel : but could the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for whom so many miracles had been wrought, be so ignorant as to suppose that it was in their power to command the Divine Presence to at. tend their motions? or that the living God, the KING of Kings, and LORD of LORDS, would submit to be ranked with idols ? O 2
There is no difficulty in accounting for the defeat which Gop, permitted the Philistines, to give to the Israelites; it certainly was intended to teach them how wrong it was to trust to external privileges, and fancy that the ark would save then, when God was departed. : Eli appears in this instance to have acted contrary to the dictates of his own mind, and to have suffered his sons to usurp that authority which belonged to him : for we find he was in great agitation of mind, his heart trembled for the ark, lest it should fall into the hands of the Philistines ; as Israel, especially his own sons, had forfeited it. Now the dreadful threatening comes to his mind that he should see, as a prophet cold him, an enemy in God's habitation! When the messenger ar. rived, wearing sackcloth and ashes, the ensigns of distrets, he eagerly demanded what was done? With cou. rage and fortitude he heard of the slaughter of the people, and the death of Hophni and Phinehas ; but the loss of the Ark entirely overcame him, for he knew there was no comfort left for Israel, now the GLORY of the Lord was depurted.
It was become necessary, for the sake of religion, that those who violated its holy institutions, and suffered others to do so, should be pointed out to the world by exemplary punishments. Eli was certainly a devout man, but as judge and high-priest he was faulty, it is to be hoped that his penitence. procured the pardon of God, and that his punishment was only temporal.
In respect to this mode of government, Eli seems to have differed from all former judges; they were distinguished for personal courage, and, by the extraordinary aid of the Lord, they subdued the enemies of Israel, but assumed no authority over them in time of peace ; for under them (Joshua excepted) every man did that which was right in his own eyes; but it appears, that on account of his being high priest, the people chose Eli as the properest judge to decide controversies amongst them.
In the Christian dispensation there is no ark of the covenant, but we are well assured, that the Lord as certainly dwells with us, as He did with the Israelites (though invisible). We may however provoke him to withdraw His' presence if we attempt to dishonour Him ; let us therefore remember, that it is the glory of a nation to have the Lord amongst them; and let us strive, by the means He has pointed out in the Scriptures, to invite Gop to abide with us.
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; js -SECTION LXVII. THE PHILISTINES BRING THE ARK OF GOD IXTO
THE HOUSE OF DAGON.
· And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. .
When the Philistines, took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen, upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon and set him in bis place again. . ;,'11'
, And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD : and the head of Dagoa and both the palms of his hands were cut off apon the threshold: only the stump. of Dagon was left to him.
· Therefore 'neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. i
But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them and smote them, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.
And when the men of Ashdod sa'w that it was so, they said, the ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us ; for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. • 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.
And it was so, that after they had carried it about, the hand of the Lord was against them ; and he smote the men of the city.both sipall and great. .
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.
So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay ug - not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city ; the hand of God was very heavy there..!
And the men that died not were smitten ; and the cry of the city went up to heaven.'
And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months,
And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.
And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty ; but in any wise return him a trespass offering ; then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
And ye shall give glory to the God of Israel ; peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, from off your gods, and from off your land..
Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts ? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed ? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch-kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them; And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart : and put the jewels of gold which ye return him for a trespassoffering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.
And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil : but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us ; it was a chance that happened to us.
And the men did so: and took two milch-kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home : And they laid the ark of the Lord upon the cart, and the coffer with the jewels of gold.
And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the high-way, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or · to the left : and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh.