May 192010

Sorry to obsess. But look at 1 Samuel 5 & 6, a passage that has the feel of parody. The Israelites have just gone into battle against the Philistines taking their Ark of the Covenant with them as backup. But the people have been backsliding again and the battle is lost and the Ark goes over to the other side. The Philistines of Ashdod put the Ark in the temple of Dagon, one of their gods, a statue of some sort. The next morning that statue has fallen over onto its face. They put the statue back up, but the next morning they find it with its head and hands cut off and placed on the temple threshold. This is an uh-oh moment for the Philistines of Ashdod who quickly make arrangements for the Ark to be handed off to another Philistine town. Thus begins a kind of musical chairs situation and God rains down destruction and slaughter: plagues of emerods (hemorrhoids) “in their secret parts” and mice. After seven months, the Philistines decide to put the Ark on a driverless ox-cart and send it down the road toward the Israelites. They include a parcel of trespass offerings, golden emerods and five golden mice! I love the emerods and the mice and the head of the god stuck in the doorway. I can’t escape the feeling that the author here was being a bit lighthearted at the Philistines’ expense. No doubt, I shall be reproved by biblical scholars around the world.

The Ark cart eventually trundles into an Israelite farming community called Bathshemesh where the people open of the cart and check out the offerings and make celebratory offerings of their own and notify the Levites to come and take the Ark back. This is all cool except that the poor Bathshemeshites unwittingly have made a fatal error: God whacks 50,070 of them for looking inside the Ark (more collateral damage).


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