Philistine Theology

Arnold writes:

The Philistines were not unlike other nations of the ancient Near East, for whom polytheism was a fundamental assumption that lay at the heart of their worldview.  Though some people only served one god or a few gods officially, they nonetheless recognized the existence of dozens, even hundreds of deities, as many as there were natural and social forces in the world.  These deities were coterminous, or by nature immanent, in the world.They were correspondent to, or coterminous with, all other things that existed.  Socially, the deities were much like humans.  As opposed to Genesis theology, in which God created humans in his image, ancient theology accepted gods in human image.  They had births, deaths, families, and physical needs.

In addition, the ancients believed the deities were susceptible to forces of magic.  Most nations of the ancient world practiced a wide variety of magical arts, including formulaic recitations and imitative acts, which they thought could manipulate and exploit the powers of the divine and natural realms.

God seems to have been teaching both the Philistines and Israelites that he was a god unlike the ones they could have imagined.  He is the only God, not to be compared.

1 Samuel 6

When the ark of the LORD had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.”

3They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.”

4The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?”

   They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?

7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.”

10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the LORD on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.

13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the LORD, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD. 16The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron.

17 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the LORD—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock on which the Levites set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

19 But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy[a] of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them. 20And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”

21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up to your town.”

Questions

  1. What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?
  2. What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?
  3. What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?
  4. How do people ‘test’ God today?
  5. How has God shown you that he is incomparable?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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15 Responses to Philistine Theology

  1. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. They put the ark on a cart and if the cows pulling it took it back to Israel then they would know that God had done these things to them. If this did not happen then they would know that everything was just a coincidence.
    2. They looked inside of the ark.
    3. They both disrespected the Lord and did not give Him the reverence that is due Him.
    4. They test God by asking Him for a sign in regards to something that they are going through. They then base their faith on whether He gives it or not. They also test God by trying to see how close they can get to the edge before they sin.
    5. He has shown me this by stripping away everything else that I might turn to so that I only had Him to turn to. This showed me that those other things can’t help me and that they cannot compare to God.

  2. captivating10 says:

    1. What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?
    They put two calves who had never been hitched together and saw where they went.
    2. What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?
    They looked into the ark, and they were not supposed to even touch it.
    3. What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?
    They both did not respect and honow the Lord like they should have.
    4. How do people ‘test’ God today?
    They try to make bets with God or see how much sin they can get away with before God punishes them.
    5. How has God shown you that he is incomparable?
    Everyday he shows me that he is incomparable. The fact that He exists shows how incomparable He is. God is SO great. NO one could come anywhere even close.

  3. Rebecca Langer says:

    . What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?
    They put two calves who had never been hitched together and saw where they went.
    2. What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?
    They looked into the ark, and they were not supposed to even touch it.
    3. What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?
    They both did not respect and honow the Lord like they should have.
    4. How do people ‘test’ God today?
    They try to make bets with God or see how much sin they can get away with before God punishes them.
    5. How has God shown you that he is incomparable?
    Everyday he shows me that he is incomparable. The fact that He exists shows how incomparable He is. God is SO great. NO one could come anywhere even close.

  4. Moon [ED 2203;Mon 6:00pm class] says:

    1.What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them? (v.3)”do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” sending the ark with a gift and a guilt offering.
    2.What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark? they looked inside of the ark
    3.What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines? they both disrespected God as they neglected what they were supposed to do and not to do with the ark of God.
    4.How do people ‘test’ God today? e.g. asking God if He exists, show them a clear vision.
    5.How has God shown you that he is incomparable? through the Bible! I used to , even still, ask God show me a clear answer of my prayer. But as I understand Him more and more, God teaches me that the truth and every clear answer are in the Bible. Also what He is incomparable is proven by the Bible.

  5. Grace Yoo says:

    1. The Philistines put the ark of the Lord on a cart with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked and they sent it on its way. If it went towards Beth Shamesh, the Lord has brought great disaster on them. If it does not go that way, then they will know that the Lord did not do it and that it happened by chance.

    2. When the Israelites received the ark, they looked into it when they were not supposed to.

    3. Both the Israelites and the Philistines disrespected and disobeyed God.

    4. I think one way that people “test” God today is by seeing how much sin they can get away with. Sometimes people will sin and not get caught, and therefore will keep doing it.

    5. God has shown me that He is incomparable in numerous ways. I have seen all the wonders He has done in my life and I am now content with just the Lord.

  6. Sokloon Dy (Lizzy) says:

    1. they took two calves that never been put together and watched which direction they went. if it went towards Beth Shemesh, then they would know that it was God causing disaster to them. if it did not go there, then they would know that it was not the Lord, but rather chance.
    2. they looked into the ark of the LORD, which they were not allowed to.
    3. Both peoples did not honor and respect God’s Word. Both approached the ark of God incorrectly.
    4. they expect to be able to sin however much they want and get unlimited forgiveness.
    5. He offers me joy that nothing else and no one else could ever give.

  7. Jessica Gentry says:

    1. They sent the ark on its way, back to where it came from using calves, to see if God would bring it back to the Israelites and if He would then lift the burden from them that He had afflicted them with.
    2. The Israelites looked inside the ark.
    3. What is similar about the actions of the Philistines and the Israelites made the same mistake of taking God’s commands and ways too lightly. The Philistines doubted His power and therefore tried to manipulate His ways, as the Israelites looked inside the ark, underestimating God’s power and authority to punish whom He sees fit.
    4. People test God by laying out certain requests like, “show me this and I will know it is a sign from you”. People often treat their prayers as a test of God and His faithfulness.
    5. God has shown me that He is incomparable through His Word first of all, as we see His beauty and perfection and power and we can testify that there is no one on this earth who is even close to comparing with Him. He has also shown me through hard circumstances as He provides so sweetly and yet so mightily, in a way that no one else would think to respond, not simply taking away our pain but bringing us blessing in the midst of it. God is like none other and we can see this everyday through all of His ways!

  8. Cassie Clark says:

    1.If the cows went toward Israel, then the Philistines would determine that God had caused these problems.
    2. They looked into the ark.
    3.They both treated God with a lax attitude, assuming that they did not need to revere Him.
    4.Our attitudes reflect a lack of reverence for God when we persist in our sin to see how far we can go without punishment or consequence.
    5.No other belief or faith in another higher power can add up to the goodness and greatness of the Creator God who is our Savior

  9. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1) They hitched a cart with the Ark and a guilt offering to Israel’s “god” up to 2 cows and watched wich direction it went.
    2) They looked into the ark.
    3) Neither understood the power and majesty of God.
    4) People will often test God saying, if God makes this happen, then I will know that he wants me to pursue this. .
    5) God has shown me that he is incomparable in the way that he healed my younger sister Rachel of a brain tumor!

  10. Amy Kringle says:

    I did this yesterday but I was just looking at it now and my post is not up there…I’m not sure why, but maybe I forget to actually post it and just logged out? So here it is, again…

    1. They put the Ark and the gold carvings in a cart and if it went to the city of Beth Shemesh, then they would know that it was God who was really against them.
    2. They both looked inside the ark.
    3. They both tried and tested God, not taking his warnings seriously until they were punished.
    4. People continue in sin even when they know that it is wrong. They know a consequence or punishment might follow, but until it happens they “test” God by continuing in it.
    5. He’s the only God that answers the questions to all my doubts, gives a reason for living, gives understanding of the circumstances of my life and the state of the world. He gives me a whole worldview so that life makes sense. Despite my testing of him, I find there is no other person or thing fulfills me and gives hope and purpose.

  11. Sandra Tindle says:

    1. The Philistines decided to put the Ark on a cart and let the cows go where they wanted, and if they went to Beth Shemesh, then the acts were clearly from God.
    2. When the Israelites received the Ark, they disobeyed by looking into the Ark.
    3. Both the Israelites and the Philistines undermined the power of God.
    4. People ‘test’ God today by challenging Him and telling Him to do things a certain way so that they will believe, like doing a supernatural feat or phenomenon.
    5. God has shown me that He is incomparable when I look back at things that I struggled with and prayed about, and how He has answered them, sometimes in ways that I don’t even always recognize at first.

  12. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    1.What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?
    – They decided to put the Ark and guilt offerings on a cart and then see where the cows would be heading to.The cows went to Beth Shemesh, and it proved that God was the one who was against them.
    2.What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?
    – They looked into the Ark.
    3.What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?
    – They both thought that they would not be able to keep the Ark with them.
    4.How do people ‘test’ God today?
    – People sometimes pray with certain conditions.
    5.How has God shown you that he is incomparable?
    – I have known that there’s nothing comparable to God from all my life, I have no doubt with it without any reason. I think it is because God has been so gracious for my family to experience Him through generations.

  13. Kristen Patush says:

    1.What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?

    They put the Ark on a cart and let the cows go where they wanted, if they went to Beth Shemesh, then the acts were from God.

    2.What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?

    They looked into it.

    3.What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?

    Both tested God.

    4.How do people ‘test’ God today?

    If, then statements…like, “If you save my child from this, then I will give up this…”

    5.How has God shown you that he is incomparable?

    He never fails me. even though every other human can, He does not. His love is unconditional. No one else has loved me like He loves me.

  14. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.What test did the Philistines design to prove to themselves that God was acting against them?
    -If the cart with the Ark of God goes to Beth Shemesh, then God is the one who is really with Israel, but against them
    2.What command did the Israelites disobey when receiving the ark?
    – They looked into the Ark.
    3.What is similar about the actions of the Israelites and Philistines?
    – They both have narrowed down who God is by testing Him
    4.How do people ‘test’ God today?
    – Ask God for an immediate and visible miracle in the presense.
    5.How has God shown you that he is incomparable?
    – When I get comforts from God in prayers.

  15. aaron wright says:

    1. they let the Lord direct the cows pulling the carts
    2. they looked inside
    3. both disobeyed God regarding the ark..
    4. they make deals saying, if God you do this, then i will know u want this to happen.
    5. no one else forgives me every single day or can give me comfort and security like God alone.

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