1 Samuel 5:11-12—So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy upon it. Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.
Israel was defeated in their first skirmish with the Philistines. Instead of seeking God as to why, they brought the Ark of the Covenant into battle, like a big lucky charm. The evil sons of Eli carried it. They were defeated. Eli’s sons were killed, and the Ark was taken. Upon hearing the news, 98-year-old overweight Eli fell backward, broke his neck and died. Did he think God could not take care of the Ark? Sometimes we think everything is lost, but we forget God can fight without us. Samuel was still in Shiloh but the LORD could bring back the Ark all by Himself. One God of the Philistines was a fish-man, Dagon. They were sea voyaging traders and so they created a god that looked like a fish but had a head of a man and hands. When the Ark was left before the Dagon statue, the next morning found Dagon collapsed and the head and hands had broken off. Everywhere the Ark went there were death and sickness. Finally, they had enough. They set the Ark on a cart with gold presents. Two cows were taken from their calves and harnessed to the cart. Crying all the way, they took the Ark back to Israel. God showed that He could take care of His own reputation. In the process, He showed that Dagon was just a statue. The Israelites had to see that the defeat was because of their sin not the lack of the power of God. We learn that God can redeem even the worst situations all by Himself.