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HOW THE IDOL FELL DOWN BEFORE THE ARK
1 Samuel iv: 1, to vii: 1.
HILE the old priest Eli was still the judge, though he was
now very feeble, the Philistines came up against Israel
from the plain beside the sea. A battle was fought, and
many of the Israelites were slain. Then the chiefs of
the people said:
"We have been beaten in the battle, because the Lord
was not with us. Let us take with us against our
enemies the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle,
and then the Lord will be among us."
So they went to Shiloh, and they took out from the Holy
of Holies in the Tabernacle (see Story 27) the ark of the covenant, and the two sons
of Eli the priest went with the ark to care for it.
When the ark was brought into the camp of the
Israelites all the men of war gave a great shout, so
that the earth rang with the sound.
And when the Philistines heard the shouting they
 what caused it, and some one told them that it was
because the God of the Israelites had come into their
camp. The Philistines were afraid, and they said to
"Woe unto us, for such a thing as this has never been
seen! Who shall save us from this great God who sent
plagues on the Egyptians? Let us be bold, and act like
men, and fight, so that we may not be made servants to
the Israelites, as they have been to us!"
The next day there was a great battle. The Philistines
overcame the Israelites and slew thousands of them.
They killed the two sons of Eli, and they took the ark
of the Lord away with them into their own land.
On the day of the battle Eli, old and blind, was
sitting beside the door of the Tabernacle, his heart
trembling for the ark of the Lord. A man came from the
army running, with his garments torn, and with earth on
his head as a sign of sorrow. As the man came near the
city and brought the news of the battle a great cry
rose up from the people. When Eli heard the noise he
"What does this noise mean? What has happened?"
The man came before Eli, and said:
"I have just come from the army. There has been a great
battle. Israel has fled before the Philistines, and
very many of the people have been killed. Your two sons
are dead, and the ark of God has been taken by the
When the old man heard this last word, that the ark of
God was taken, he fell backward from his seat and
dropped dead upon the ground. And all the land mourned
and wept over the loss of the ark more than over the
victory of the Philistines.
The Philistines took the ark of God down to Ashdod, one
of their chief cities. They set it in the temple of
Dagon, their fish-headed idol. The next morning, when
they came into the temple, the image of Dagon was lying
upon its face before the ark of the Lord. They stood
the image up again; but on the next morning, not only
was Dagon fallen down before the ark, but the hands and
the head of Dagon had been cut off and were lying on
Besides all this, in the city of Ashdod, where the ark
had been taken, all the people began to have boils and
sores. They saw in this the hand of the God of Israel,
and they sent the ark to Gath, another of their cities.
There, too, the people broke out with boils
 and sores. They sent the ark to Ekron, but the people
of that city said:
"We will not have the ark of God among us. Send it back
to its own land, or we shall all die."
Then the rulers of the Philistines resolved to send
back the ark of God into the land of Israel. They
placed it upon a wagon, and before the wagon they yoked
two cows. The cows had calves, but they tied the calves
at home, in order to find whether the cows would go
home to their calves or would take the ark away. But
the cows took the road which led away from their own
calves, straight up the hills toward the land of
Israel, and they turned neither to the right hand nor
The cows drew the ark up to the village of
Beth-shemesh, where the people were reaping their wheat
harvest on the hillsides. They saw the ark, and were
glad. The cows stopped beside a great stone in the
field. Then the men of Beth-shemesh cut up the wagon,
and with it made a fire, and on the stone as an altar
offered the two cows as an offering to the Lord.
But the men of Beth-shemesh opened the ark and looked
into it. This was contrary to God's command, for none
but the priests were allowed to touch the ark. God sent
a plague upon the people of that place, and many of
them died, because they did not deal reverently with
the ark of God.
They were filled with fear and sent to the men of
Kirjath-jearim, asking them to take the ark away. They
did so, and for twenty years the ark stood in the house
of a man named Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim.
They did not take the ark back to Shiloh, for after the
death of Eli the place was deserted, the Tabernacle
fell into ruins, and no man lived there again.