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 Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
Periodically in history God chooses to reveal in dramatic fashion that He alone is God. When the shepherd boy David took on the mighty giant Goliath, he was confident of victory, knowing that the Lord would deliver the giant into his hand, "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" (1 Samuel 17:46). When Sennacherib, King of Assyria, threatened Jerusalem with invasion, King Hezekiah was reminded that the gods of all the cities that fell before Jerusalem were unable to stay the Assyrian armies. Hezekiah fell before the Lord in prayer and said, "O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth" (2 Kings 19:15). When Jehovah wills, He elevates Himself over all the false gods of the earth and proves that there is no God but Jehovah.
When Eli the priest was old and Samuel still young, God chose to show His superiority over the gods of the Philistines. With Israel encamped at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek, a mighty battle ensued. Israel was defeated and lost 4,000 men in the fray. This completely devastated the Israelites, for they remembered the mighty deeds which God had performed against their enemies in the past. Why was He not smiling on them now? Had Jehovah abandoned them? If so, how could they take Him into battle? They hit upon a plan.
"Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us it may save us out of the hand of our enemies" (1 Samuel 4:3). They clung to the superstitious hope that the mere symbol of God's presence would be enough to bring them to victory. It wasn't. In the second battle 30,000 men were slain, among them Hophni and Phinehas, the licentious sons of Eli. But even worse, the ark of the covenant was seized by the hated enemy of Israel.
The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to Ashdod, to the house of Dagon their god. Here the ark was placed before the idol. That night the Ashdodites slept with the sleep of sweet revenge.
Early on the morrow the Philistines arose to savor their victory (l Samuel 5:3). But Jehovah God was up long before the Philistines arose; and when they entered the temple of their god, they saw Dagon fallen on his face before the ark of the Lord. It was the height of humiliation. It was as if Dagon had prostrated himself before the symbol of Jehovah. Quickly they returned the idol to its place and all the Ashdodites breathed a sigh of relief.
But once again Jehovah arose long before the Philistines for "when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD" (1 Samuel 5:4). To add injury to insult, the head of the statue and both of its hands were broken off; so that only the stump of Dagon was left.
God allowed the ark to be captured by the Philistines to punish His superstitious people. But even in their punishment Jehovah was still jealous of His glory; and when the Philistines should have been savoring their victory, they were swallowing their pride.
Dagon was no match for Jehovah. The Philistines were learning what David had learned, what we all must learn. "Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O LORD. . . . For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone" (Psalm 86:8,10). Since our God alone is God, let's praise Him today all the day long. We have a God who is a God of gods and worthy of our praise.
MORNING HYMN A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe His craft and pow'r are great, And armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
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