Hebrews Lesson 138 October 20, 2008
NKJ John 10:10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
We're continuing our study in Hebrews 9 in terms of our sub-series on the Tabernacle. Some of you remember that two years ago we had John Cross here for the Pastor's conference. He is the head of Goodseed Ministries and he has invited me to come up and speak on the Tabernacle at their annual Bible conference somewhere between Calgary and Banff. I hear that's a horrible place to go especially in November so I'll just have to suffer and go there. But I have only 8 hours to cover the Tabernacle. So I'm going to have to either figure out how to talk very, very fast or cut something out. But I'll be ready.
We're studying the Tabernacle and we have gone through all the different aspects of the Tabernacle - each piece of furniture - the two pieces in the outer courtyard (the brazen altar, the laver). We've looked at the furnishings, the wall coverings, and the veil. We went inside the Tabernacle itself, the tent of meeting. We looked at each of the different pieces of furniture inside the tent of meeting. We looked at the golden menorah (the lampstand) as it pictures Jesus Christ as the light of the world.
On the right side as go into the tent of meeting you would see the table of showbread which pictures Jesus Christ as the bread of heaven. Straight ahead there is the altar of incense by the veil separating the outer Holy of Holies from the inner holy place. The altar of incense depicts Jesus Christ in His high priestly ministry as our mediator, our intercessor. Then as you go into the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the tent of meeting, which the high priest of Israel would be allowed to enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement which was just celebrated last week...
Beginning sundown Wednesday a week ago, the Jews celebrated Yom Kippur which is the Day of Atonement. That was celebrated. That was the only time anyone could go into the Holy of Holies. The only one who could go into the Holy of Holies was the high priest. He had to carry out several sacrifices for himself as well as for the nation.
It is a picture ultimately of the positional cleansing of the nation. And I think that's an important thing to deal with: this idea of positional salvation, positional cleansing versus experiential salvation, experiential cleansing. "Positional" has to do with our position before the Supreme Court of Heaven. Our legal standing before God when we trust Christ as Savior is that we are justified; but we still continue to sin. So once a year there is this picture of positional cleansing; and then there is the ongoing depiction of experiential cleansing through the washing of the hands and washing of the feet with the water in the laver.
We looked at the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant, the various three items that are inside that are inside the Ark of the Covenant - the manna representing spiritual provision of God for the spiritual nourishment of the people which was of course rejected as they turned their noses up at the food God provided for them. We saw the rod of Aaron from the almond tree (the rod that budded) as a depiction of God's selection of Aaron as the High Priest. Of course the people had rebelled against Moses accusing him of nepotism putting his family in positions of leadership and so God was showing that He was the one who chose the high priest and the high priestly line. Then the third item was the tablets of the Ten Commandments picturing the Law that people had also broken.
So the top cover of the Ark of the Covenant I pointed out was the Mercy Seat called the kappor, which pictures the place where God's justice and righteousness are satisfied by the blood sacrifice. The blood is the exchange medium for the payment of sin, which is that which provides positional cleansing.
That's the key idea in the word for atonement. I need to repeat this again and again so everybody remembers this because most of us were brought up and taught what was commonly understood to be the meaning of the word for atonement in the Hebrew. The Hebrew is kaphar. If you look it up in a lot of older dictionaries now, (and some of them aren't that much older); but if you look them up in certain English-based dictionaries such as Vines Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament and New Testament even look them up in some of the Hebrew lexicons that were published earlier in the 20th century…
I point these out because a lot of these are available now in various electronic formats. I know some of you have computer programs and you look at these. Some of you go to websites that have different computer tools. I don't know how many different tools – I think there's Blue Mountain Bible or Blue Letter Bible and there's E-Sword and a number of others that are online. There are a number of tools you can get that are good programs. But a lot of people don't get the more sophisticated, expensive packages. There are a lot of little things that people don't know about.
I know this is running down a rabbit trail, but there are people that need to hear this. For example when I went to seminary back in the 70's, the standard lexicon dictionary for Hebrew and Aramaic was called - we always referred to it by the initials of the editors - BDB (Brown, Driver and Briggs). Now anybody can go out and buy a computer program, and it will come with an edition of BDB. Now the edition which we used when I was in seminary was the latest edition which was published - I believe it was in 1918. That's a little old. A lot of linguistic things were discovered between 1918 and 1978 - a tremendous amount of stuff. So it was outdated even when I was in seminary. If you use a New American Standard Bible, the editors of the New American Standard Bible basically went with the primary meaning of every Hebrew word stated in BDB which is one of the minor flaws with the New American Standard translation because it didn't take into account more recent studies. So that's a problem. But the more recent edition that most people get in their computer Bible is the 1914 edition of BDB which isn't quite as good as the 1918 edition. It's little stuff like that that they don't tell you and you're not familiar with because the 1914 edition is in public domain and the 1918 edition is still copyrighted by I believe it's Oxford or Clarendon that puts it out. I can't remember who.
Then there was a German lexicon that came out in the 40's or 50's that was edited by Ludwig Kohler and I forget the other guy's name - Baumgartner. That was always referred to by those initials KB. That was revised in the 90's from a one volume work to a four or five volume work. I just have it electronically so I don't remember how many volumes it is. That's considered the most recent and latest and greatest tool for doing Hebrew studies. Then there is another that's out there that Randy Price told be about a two years ago and it's 6 or 7 volumes. Each volume is like $200 so we'll just wait on that one until the grace of God pops up somewhere.
But the HALOT or the Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament that came out in '98 is considered to be the best and most recent tool. But, what you run into when you get onto various websites with different people doing different things is that they rely on older tools that have older or in some cases a little bit of outdated information. One of these has to do with the word kaphar. It was always easy to remember that kaphar means to cover. It had that similar sound. But there were actually, according to most recent scholarship, two different words that were homonyms or homophones that occurred in Hebrew. One is the word that was used of the pitch that Noah used in covering, sealing the ark. That is the boat that he used. The ark - the word there is a different Hebrew word than Ark of the Covenant. Then you have this homonym or homophone that's used in Exodus related to atonement. But what's interesting about this word is when the Jewish rabbis that they brought down to Alexandria around 240 to 200 BC because the Hellenized Jews in Alexandria in north Egypt had lost their Hebrew. They needed to have a Bible, an Old Testament in their language. So they decided to go back to Israel and find some scholars who could translate into Greek. They brought them back and they translated what was known as the Septuagint which means "the 70" because the legend was that 70 rabbis in 70 days translated the Pentateuch. This was miraculous. So these rabbis more than 50% of the time translated that Hebrew word kaphar with the Greek word katharizo which is the word for cleansing in the Greek. And current scholarship has substantiated the fact that the root meaning of this second kaphar has to do with cleansing and purification.
So the focal point of atonement is on the ritual cleansing and purification from sins which I think makes a lot more sense than the idea of covering. But because the High Priest brings the blood in, sprinkles it before the Ark and puts the bowl up there, it covers and the Mercy Seat covers. That had a certain sound to it a certain ring to it that makes sense to people, but that misses the point here. The focal point is that this idea of cleansing. The root issue that experientially in salvation is that we have to be cleansed of sin and that's related to the idea of forgiveness. I am running down a really off rabbit trail here, but I think this is important. I mentioned in my opening prayer Colossians 2:12-14 on my opening introduction related to confession. In Colossians 2:12-14 we have this emphasis on the nailing of that certificate of debt to the cross and it's related there to having nailed that to the cross He forgives us. So the action of nailing it to the cross precedes forgiveness. It's the basis of forgiveness.
You also have a verse in Colossians 1:14 and Ephesians 1:7 that says: (parallel verse, identical verse)
NKJ Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
NKJ Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
Now some of you have been around more than a week or two, remember that there was a bit of a theological dust-up about 15 years ago over the issue of whether or not Christians really need to confess their sins. There were some people who were going to Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 and saying, "See, it's at the cross that we have forgiveness." The failure was to distinguish what is going on here between positional forgiveness and experiential forgiveness and also a failure to properly understand the noun that was used there for forgiveness. The noun that's used there for forgiveness was aphesis. Aphesis is only used like 5 times in the New Testament.
It always bothered me because if you look in any dictionary, any theology on redemption there are two basic word groups that are used for redemption in the New Testament - agorazo which has to do with the marketplace, exagorazo the same word with a prefix or a couple of prefixes and lutrao or lutrosis (lutrao being the verb, lutrosis the noun) having to do with purchasing something from the market place. It's just standard drill into people – what's the meaning of redemption? To buy or to purchase, to pay the price for something. But if you look at the grammar of Ephesians 1:14 and Colossians 1:14 where it says:
NKJ Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
It's very clear that the phrase "the forgiveness of sins" is appositional to the word redemption. That means that an appositional phrase is explaining the head noun in other words. Most people think of forgiveness as not holding something against somebody or not being bitter against somebody or not being resentful of someone. If you look it up in Webster's Dictionary or The Oxford English Dictionary that's the definition you'll get for forgiveness.
But how is the idea of personally not harboring a grudge against somebody appositional? How it that even related to the meaning of the word redemption? Redemption means to pay a price, to purchase something. How are those two ideas related? I knocked around on that for a long time and then I realized… Recently I went back to do another study on this that aphesis wasn't used of this idea of not holding a grudge or not being bitter; but it was used in numerous economic contexts to refer to the forgiveness or the cancellation of a debt. That is exactly what redemption means. Redemption means to buy something or pay for something and that is the canceling of a debt.
Then you come to Colossians 2:12-14 and it's the same thing. It tells you that the cancellation of debt of decrees against us is the basis for forgiveness. So it puts it together realizing that this issue of positional, which is just a legal term. A lot of people have trouble with that.
One day I was talking to some pastors and one guy who was there is a lay pastor. He was a lawyer by profession. I've known him for many, many years. I was talking to him afterwards and I didn't know how much of a grasp he would have on some of these things.
I said, "You know a lot of folks have trouble with position."
He said, "Not if you're a lawyer. You stand in the courtroom before a judge and whether you did it or not if you're declared not guilty, you're not guilty. That's your position before the law. It doesn't matter what your experience might have been."
That's what we mean by positional truth. It is our position before the Supreme Court of Heaven. So that's what's depicted with this whole ceremony of the Day of Atonement. It is that positional or experiential cleansing that takes place at the cross because it's at the cross that our debt is cancelled; the sins are paid for; but it's not applied until we trust in Christ.
So the Ark is the center because it is the place where God has the focal point of His presence upon the earth.
The Midrash Tanhuma says that Jerusalem is the center of the world, the Temple Mount is in the center of Jerusalem, the Temple is in the center of the Temple Mount, The Holy of Holies is in the center of the Temple and the Ark is in the center of the Holy of Holies.
Now don't you like the picture in the background, if you can see it? The picture of the Second Temple has been superimposed over that gold dome thing that's there just to give you an idea of the way things ought to be.
Okay, now moving ahead what I want to do is look at the Ark in history and prophecy. This is an important study because it shows God's dwelling among His people and His protection and provision for His people and it also gives us a tremendous illustration of the fact that God is very precise in the way He has revealed that the Christian life should be led and how believers should do things. We get this idea today often that we can come before the Lord with a kind of loosy-goosy idea that do whatever I want to do is the movement of the Holy Spirit within me and so that's okay. But it often violates a specific protocol that's laid down in the Scripture. We see this pattern of precise and specific protocol all the way through the Scriptures.
One of them has to do with the Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament there were specific directions given for how the Ark was to be taken care of and how it was to be transported. In Numbers 4 we have directions on how the Levites were to pack up everything within the Tabernacle and how they were to transport it.
In Numbers 4:5-6 there is the description related to the Ark of the Covenant.
NKJ Numbers 4:5 "When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it.
So what has happened is as they're getting ready to move out they would come in (Aaron and his sons would come in.) and they would take the veil down. There would be maybe two or three of them holding the veil up so see they're not going inside the Holy of Holies and his sons are not seeing the Ark of the Covenant. They take the veil down and then they would walk forward and they would cover the Ark with the veil.
Then they would be able to pick the Ark up by the two carrying poles that are there because they are never removed from their holders.
So when the camp sets out we read:
NKJ Numbers 4:6 "Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins,
This would protect it from the elements.
and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles.
Now the next thing we learn about the carrying of the Ark is that:
- It would be carried by the poles.
- Only Levites could carry it - Deuteronomy 10:8.
- Only those from the sons of Kohath could carry the Ark of the Covenant. It was given to the tribe of Kohath (one of Aaron's sons) that theirs was the service of the holy objects – not one of Aaron's sons - excuse me one of the tribes of the Levites. It was their responsibility to carry the holy objects which they carried on their shoulders according to Numbers 7:9.
When the Israelites would move out from their encampment each morning, then the Ark of the Covenant (with the Kohathites carrying the Ark of the Covenant) would move out in front of all the tribes; and they would lead the way as the people followed the Lord as He guided them through the wilderness.
Now as they went through the 40 years in the wilderness for discipline and then you come to the end of the 40 years and it's time for the new generation to go into the land; then it was the Ark that would lead the people into the land. This is described in Joshua 3:6f. The focal point of that has to do with the description that was given first from God to Joshua and then from Joshua to the people. So there was a certain amount of repetition of the commands in this chapter so I'll just summarize it by focusing on the action that occurred in Joshua 3:11f.
NKJ Joshua 3:11 "Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan.
This is in direct obedience to the command that God had given to Joshua beginning in verse 6. So as the Levites (the Kohathites) carrying the Ark took off, they headed to the Jordan, which was flowing at flood stage. It's early spring. They just celebrated Passover. The Jordan is at flood stage.
You don't get a sense of this today because there is so much water taken out of the Jordan as it comes down from the Sea of Galilee for irrigation, both by the Jordanians to the east and the Israelis to the right or to the west. You don't really get a sense when you look at it… go over the bridge there, it's about as wide as maybe 4 of these chairs. It doesn't look like there's a lot of water there today; but at flood stage at that time it was quite impressive.
In verse 13 we read:
NKJ Joshua 3:13 "And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off,
I don't know how many of you have ever seen or been near a river that is flowing at flood stage and how rapidly that is rushing passed you. But what the Levites were told to do is to walk up to the water and to step into the flowing stage. As the soles of their feet hit the water, then it stopped. That's called trust. You believe that God is going to do it. Now remember this generation did not go through the Red Sea. They've heard the stories; but their parents all died off (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) as they were going through the wilderness. So they have to walk up to the water; and they have to step into it. As they step down, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off above them. It just stopped.
the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap."
NKJ Joshua 3:14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people,
NKJ Joshua 3:15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest),
NKJ Joshua 3:16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan.
This is upstream.
So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
Now it was important for the Israelites to keep their distance from the Ark; and they were told not to come within 2,000 cubits of the Ark. So that's approximately 1,000 yards. They had to keep their distance. The priests would have carried the Ark out. The water would have stopped. Then the people probably crossed downstream about 1,000 yards south of the Ark.
NKJ Joshua 3:17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
Then they were sent back (one man from each tribe) to the middle of the Jordan while the Ark was still there - each to retrieve a rock. Now if you've ever been there, you know it's not difficult to find rocks anywhere in that area.
They came out and the built a rock cairn. The purpose of the rock cairn was to act as a memorial so in you in future generations fathers could teach their children. When they came back to this spot they would say, "Well Daddy, why is that stack of rocks there?"
Then they could tell the story of how God had dried up the Jordan to allow them to cross over miraculously into the land that He had given them. It shows that their advance into the land is led by the Lord and blessed by the Lord and that this is no accident and it's not a result of their military prowess. So they entered the land. This is described there in Joshua 4 and Joshua 5.
Then the first thing is they do is go to Jericho. Jericho is the lowest city on the earth. Jericho is only about 10 miles or so from the crossing of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is about 1400 feet below sea level. Jericho is about 800 feet below sea level. They came up to the city of Jericho and then God gave them their marching orders for defeating and capturing the city of Jericho. This is given in Joshua 6:3.
NKJ Joshua 6:3 "You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days.
NKJ Joshua 6:4 "And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.
Now there are approximately 600,000 Jewish males in their army and they're going to march around the city once a day until that last day when they go around 7 times. That would have taken most of the day to do that. They must have started very early in the morning and then they would have marched in formation around the city in silence until the last time and then the priest would blow the trumpets and the walls would fall down.
NKJ Joshua 6:5 "It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."
So they did exactly what God said to do and the walls fell down and they captured the city. But it is the Ark leading the way. Now not every time Israel went into battle did the Ark go out in front out; but at these key events you see the Ark out in front indicating something about God's leading the people. Of course word would spread throughout all of Canaan about this particular formation and this strange box that led them and that this was the Ark of the Lord.
Now the next thing we read about the ark in terms of its travels is it's taken to Shechem. Now in this map which tracks later travels we see Shechem which was the focus of our study on Tuesday night. We see Shechem located up here about 70 or 80 miles north of Jerusalem located just to the east actually on a little bit of a saddle, just a little bit east of the saddle between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal.
In Joshua 8:33 we read:
NKJ Joshua 8:33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
So it was here that they read antiphonally the cursings and the blessings from the Mosaic Law; and it was a covenant renewal ceremony for this generation is affirming their commitment to obey the Mosaic Law.
Now following the conquest, the Ark found its resting place at Shiloh. Now Shiloh is located within the territory of Benjamin and during the period following the conquest we have the period of the judges. During the period of the judges, the Ark is not mentioned very much; but there's one event that occurs in Joshua 18 and also in Joshua 22. In this passage there is a battle between the tribe of Benjamin who is being quite rebellious and idolatrous and the rest of Israel.
So there is this civil war that takes place. The high priest at the time is Phinehas who has the Ark at Bethel. Now you see on the map here Bethel is located here. It's much closer to Jerusalem. It's not in the area around Shiloh probably because of the idolatry and the fighting. It goes back to Shiloh later on; but Phinehas the son of Eleazar the High Priest comes and retrieves the Ark to take it into battle against the Benjamites. They've already been defeated. The rest of the nation had already been defeated twice and now they're going to go against the Benjamites a third time. This time with the Lord's direction they go to battle and defeat the Benjamites. So once again showing which side had the blessing of the Lord.
Now after all this happens, what occurred with the Israelites was something that occurs with a lot of Christians. We all know Christians who sort of treat their Bible or a cross or some other symbol of Christianity as if it has some sort of inherent power some; sort of talisman or good luck charm. This is the influence of paganism and of course Israel was very prone to being influenced by paganism during the period of the judges. So they began look at the Ark as some kind of super good luck charm that would give them victory in battle. They lose sight of the fact that it is simply a symbol of God's presence. The real issue is their relationship to the God who is the One who dwells between the cherubs. So while it's at Shiloh, this is a place where Samuel ministered before the Lord at Shiloh according to I Samuel 1:3, 9; 4:3.
Here on the map we have Shiloh over here and then over here we have Aphek. This is Joppa. Later on this is the seaport from which Jonah is going to leave to head to Tarshish. This is where Peter is sleeping in Acts 10 when he has the vision of the tablecloth coming down from heaven. Up here in red we have Aphek. Aphek is the location of this battle that occurs between the Philistines and the Israelites. The Israelites are afraid that they are going to be defeated and so they decide, "Oh, we're going to go get the Ark and God will protect us."
We read in I Samuel 4:1ff:
NKJ 1 Samuel 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek.
NKJ 1 Samuel 4:2 Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field.
So there is this initial defeat and the people come back to the camp and rally themselves.
The elder says:
NKJ 1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies."
No relationship with God, they just treated the Ark as if it is a good luck charm.
So in verse 4 we read:
NKJ 1 Samuel 4:4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli,
These worthless no-good sons
Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
They bring the Ark of the Covenant into the camp. All of Israel shouts.
NKJ 1 Samuel 4:5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook.
Philistines hear all of this tumult going on. They say, "What can that mean?"
They hear that the Ark has come and so now they're convinced that they are going to be defeated because Israel has the Ark. But what happens is that the Ark (according to 1 Samuel 4:11 the Ark of God) was taken. It is captured. So now the Philistines think that their god Dagon must be really great, really powerful. The Ark of God is taken and the two sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) die. So this is divine discipline on the family of Eli and on his line of the high priest because of their corruption.
Then in the rest of this particular chapter (chapters 4 and 5) we have the description related to the movement of the Ark. So I'm going to go back to this particular slide. You might turn with me to I Samuel 4 because long chapters like this are not worthy of sticking up there on a bunch of slides.
So the Ark is taken. Word gets back to Eli's family that the Ark is taken and he falls over dead. Phinehas' wife who is pregnant has a child. She dies in childbirth. They name the child Ichabod meaning "the glory of God has departed from Israel."
Then you get to chapter 5 and we read this. I always think this is one of the most amusing stories in all of Scripture. Not only does God have a great sense of humor, but God has an earthy sense of humor. You really see that in the Hebrew text in I Samuel. In fact, if Hebrew scholars had real integrity they would have translated a number of phrases in I Samuel a little differently. But most people would not like those Bible because it would offend their sense of propriety. The language is extremely earthy because the Holy Spirit is really making fun of the Philistines and of their religion.
This is so politically incorrect today for God or for a pastor to get up and to satirize and make fun of somebody else's religion. Yet there are numerous passages in the Old Testament that are just that. They are divinely inspired satires that are poking fun at the religion of other people. We in our self-righteousness think that's wrong; but that is actually the right thing to do. That is what Christians should be doing on the offensive: ridiculing other people's religion not as an end in itself, but as a way to show its invalidity and its irrationality because that is what God is doing in this particular section.
So the people take the Ark and they take it back to Ashdod, which is probably the largest center and the chief city of the Pentapolis (the 5 cities of the Philistines), and they take it into the temple of Dagon. Dagon is their god. It's the state god of the Philistines and is depicted usually as half fish and half man. The people of Ashdod take the Ark in there and they set it before Dagon showing that our god has conquered the God of the Jews.
The next morning they go in and God has knocked Dagon down on his face and Dagon is bowing down to the God of Israel as represented by the Ark of the Covenant. So the Philistines probably don't know exactly what has happened yet so they raise the idol back in place. Then they get up early the next morning they go back to the temple. This time God wants to be sure they get the message. So Dagon is not only down on his face, but His head and his hands are cut off and set aside so that the only thing that is there is his torso. This is the typical kind of torture that pagans engaged in the ancient world. Jews did not; but the pagans did where they would decapitate an enemy. They would cut off their hands and their feet. This is one way in which they would count the enemy dead is by collecting their hands.
So it's also probably the actual forerunner etymology of the word disarmament because if you don't have an arm you can't throw a spear and you can't hold a sword. That's why in the early part of Judges when they they defeat Cushan-Rishathaim (I think it is) and they cut off his toes and cut of his thumbs. Israel shouldn't have done that. That was a sign they were already being influenced by pagan ideas. Rather than trusting to God to protect them, they were trusting in these pagan methodologies. It was just an early form of disarming the enemy. Cut off their thumbs and cut off their toes and you've effectively rendered him incapable of ever fighting you again because he can't hold a sword; he can't hold a spear.
So anyhow God's having a lot of fun with this and Dagon is bowing down before the Ark. Now God is going to give them another little fun event.
In verse 6:
NKJ 1 Samuel 5:6 But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.
I really like the way the King James translates this—hemorrhoids. It's extremely painful tumors in their posteriors. It wasn't exactly hemorrhoids, but the people are struck with these tumors that are extremely painful and do not allow them to sit down. But they immediately understand that this is the result of the God of Israel in verse 7.
So in verse 8 they decide they're going to have a meeting with all of their leaders to try to decide what to do with the Ark of God.
So they say, "Well, He doesn't like it here in Ashdod so let's send Him over to Gath."
With friends like that who needs enemies?
So they send the Ark of the Covenant over to Gath, which is the next city. Then we're told:
NKJ 1 Samuel 5:9 So it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction; and He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out on them.
Then in verse 10:
NKJ 1 Samuel 5:10 Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, "They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!"
So God is taking care of Himself. The picture here is that Israel needed to learn to trust God to be their Defender and they didn't need to trust in anything else. They didn't need to trust in a standing army. They didn't need to trust in other weapons. They needed to relax and trust God to protect them. So God has been captured and now He has been taken around to the various cities of the Philistines. God is fully capable of taking care of all of them.
Eventually what happens is that they send Him back to the Jews on a cart. They are going to attach two milk cows to the Ark to carry the Ark back. The idea is that milk cows are not broken. They just had calves so the mothers do not want to be separated from the calves. So the last thing in the world two untrained mama cows are going to want to do is be yoked together and to pull a cart. They are going to want to go in different directions and they are going to want to go back to their babies. So it shows a miracle here that God is directing things when the milk cows take them back. They also add their images that they've created of the tumors and the rats.
I wonder what those tumors really looked like. I have no idea – what a gold hemorrhoid looks like. I always wanted to know.
So they send them back.
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:12 Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left. And the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shemesh.
Watch it! What's going to happen? They are probably amazed that it worked and that the Ark went on a straight line to Beth Shemesh.
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh werereaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:15 The Levites took down the ark of the LORD
See there was an understanding that only Levites should handle the Ark. The reason nothing happened to the Philistines is they're putting it on the Ark is they're not under the Law and God is allowing them to do that so that the Ark would be taken back to Israel.
and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone. Then the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices the same day to the LORD.
This included the two cows that had brought the cart back to Israel.
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:16 So when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.
Now there's a further problem though with what happens in Beth Shemesh; and in verses 19 to 20 the men of Beth Shemesh become curious thinking they can control things and they're going to peak and try to look inside the Ark of the Lord.
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:19 Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.
The point is the Ark can only be handled in a specific and precise way. You can't just handle God anyway you want to. God tells us exactly how we are to approach Him and the basis of our relationship to Him, and man cannot make it up on his own. Man cannot have a relationship with God unless his unrighteousness has been dealt with and he approaches God in a cleansed manner.
So we come to verse 1 on the next chapter and the men of Kirjath Jearim where they take the ark at the end in verse 21. They send messengers to the inhabitants
NKJ 1 Samuel 6:21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up with you."
NKJ 1 Samuel 7:1 Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
So this is now in the house of a Levite and Eleazar has been properly consecrated (set apart) to take care of the Ark of the Lord. He will take care of the Ark of the Lord for 20 years. But there is a greater length of time between this time and the time when David finally takes it into Jerusalem. The Ark was in the land of the Philistines for approximately 7 months. Now the Ark has been returned and taken to Kirjath Jearim.
Now Kirjath Jearim is the modern town (suburb of Jerusalem actually) Abu Gosh. Those of you who were on the first trip we took to Israel a couple of years ago, Abu Gosh is where we had our last night dinner. So that's where Kirjath Jearim is – about 9 miles from the Temple Mount. So that was Abu Gosh the modern Arab village which is the ancient Kirjath Jearim.
Three principles that are emphasized here
- God is never defeated, though God's people may be defeated. God and His plan are never defeated. I think that's a particularly appropriate principle in light of this election year. There are so many people that are very upset, depressed, discouraged with news related to the election. We have to understand that history is under the control of God and however the election goes – this is how God is working out history. Just because someone who we do not believe is the right person or the right people get elected and we don't have good leaders… This nation is filled with people who do not have the integrity and the knowledge and the wisdom - any orientation to Scripture or reality whatsoever on both sides of the aisle to function as leaders of this nation. So we have to recognize that most of the time we have choices between somebody who is 100% bad and somebody who is 90% bad. Most of theses leaders are just going to take us in the wrong direction, but they're not the Leader we are trusting in.
NKJ Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.
We are to trust in the Lord. God is never defeated. His plan will work itself out.
- The second principle related to that is God is greater than anything in human history. He defeated the Philistines. He made fun of the Philistines. God is the one who ultimately will demand respect and to be treated ultimately with honor and respect as per in Israel when He returns.
- God does not need us to protect Him or to give Him security or to take care of Him. God is perfectly capable of making sure that His plan works itself out in history.
Now the next thing that happens after they brought the Ark back and it comes to Kirjath Jearim and it comes to the house of Abinadab and Eleazar, it is going to stay there for some time. Now during the period that follows this – this is I Samuel 7, I Samuel 9. We have the anointing of Saul. Apparently the Ark is kept there at Kirjath Jearim throughout the most of the period of Saul. Throughout most of Saul's period - there is one time possibly when the Ark is taken and moved; but it stays in the house of Eleazar. One time it's taken out at the Battle of Michmash which is recorded in I Samuel 14:21. It's taken out by Saul and returned to the house of Eleazar.
Now in terms of the chronology of this, we're told it spent 20 years in the house with Eleazar. That's when Abinadab dies. Then there is a 40-year period with Saul and a ten-year period for the reign of David. All of that and then a couple of those periods may overlap so it's a little bit uncertain exactly how it works out - but it's at least a period of 60 or 70 years before David will bring the Ark into Jerusalem. So it stays with that family. So Abinadab is a Levite. His son is Eleazar and Eleazar has two sons and these are the two sons that are going to be involved in the transfer of the Ark into Jerusalem.
There we are going to see a problem with Uzzah and Ahio. They are the two brothers who are the sons of Eleazar who are not going to be properly trained for the transfer of the Ark.
What I want to do is just stop there tonight because we're at a good transition point before we get to David's moving of the Ark into Mt. Zion. Then we'll back and look at that and what happens with Solomon and also what has happened to the Ark of the Covenant and where might the Ark of the Covenant be today. I think there's a good chance that we know, but we won't know until we know. So we'll address that next time.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.