The Heavy Hand of God, 1 Sam. 5:6-12

1 Samuel   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:16
0 ratings


WE are all seeking something. But if that something is not God then it will come up empty. We will not find what we are looking for.The Philistines and the Israelites were seeking something. The Philistines maybe were seeking power, domination. The Israelites freedom from that domination. We see that the pursuit of both those things led to death for them. The Israelites on the battlefield, the Philistines death in their homes and villages. The common denominator is death to all who pursue something other than God. Not just any God, but the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, YHWH. This is what Jesus means in Matt. 6:33 when He says to ‘Seek first the kingdom of God.” or what the Shema means when you read this statement “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Dt. 6:4,5).
This is what it means to see God as supreme, as most satisfying, as most excellent and worthy to be pursued. He is the gem buried in the field that is worth selling all in order to purchase the field. Until we see the Lord in this light we will always be chasing the wind.
What am I pursuing?
This passage illustrates that very clearly. The Philistines thought Dagon was the cat’s meow, the ultimate among the gods. But they are proven wrong. We have seen that God reigns supreme over idols.
Now we are going to see that God reigns supreme over man.

I. A hand that cannot be resisted, 6,7

Look at the hand, pay attention to the hand.
It can cause pain or peace depended on how it is used.
There is no stopping the hand of the Lord when He is against you.
Gamaliel’s words to the Religious council who were opposed to the disciples Acts 5:39
You cannot resist God and succeed. You would much easier resist a hurricane, or resist death when it is your time.
God always does as He pleases, Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Dan. 4:35;
The only thing to do is repent and submit, acknowledge that He is Lord. Their god Dagon was powerless.
To resist God is to die.
We have before us two pictures of God’s judgment against the Philistines:

A. a heavy hand

God’s hand was continually heavy against them, It wasn’t just a flash in the pan, or a quick once and one sort of thing. This was ongoing misery.
This was the hand of YHWH, not just anyone’s hand. It was the hand of the Creator, the Ruler of the Universe, the one who spoke this world into existence.
His hand was heavy against them.
While the hand of Dagon lay cut off on the ground, the hand of YHWH is heavy against Ashdod. It is powerful against them.
This phrase “hand of the Lord was heavy is a key phrase in this section referenced here and in vss.7,9,11.
heavy=the word is cabod referring to the weight of the thing bearing down.
With His hand God created the world,
Psalm 8:6 ESV
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
God threatened Pharoah with a heavy hand,
Exodus 9:15 ESV
For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.
Moses declared that it was by the strong hand of the Lord they were brought out of Egypt,
Exodus 13:3 ESV
Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.
Joshua spoke these words to Israel after they crossed the Jordan and set up stones at Gilgal to worship the Lord
Joshua 4:23–24 ESV
For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
David said this about the hand of God
Psalm 8:6 ESV
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
1 Chronicles 29:12 ESV
Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
truth and justice in his hand
Psalm 111:7 ESV
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
David knew firsthand the weight of the hand of God upon his conscience after he sinned with Bathsheba.
Psalm 32:4 ESV
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
The hand of God is the pressure you feel inside you when you have done some wrong. It is sometimes called a guilty conscience. It is that pressure that steals your sleep, that unrelentingly occupies your mind. The only relief is to deal with it.
When God’s hand is against you there is nothing you can do about it, but surrender. Surrender without repentance is hell. It is not really surrender, it is just unwilling submission.
Surrender with repentance is peace and rest and freedom. It is like the feeling you have when you have been really tense and you can take a deep breath and sigh relief.
This is what the heavy hand of God looked like this:
He destroyed them.
destroyed/shamem=to desolate, or devastate, as in causing a great disaster or caused by a great disaster, usually as a result of divine judgment, Isa. 64:10 the holy cities had become a wilderness under divine judgment and Isaiah prays for their restoration.
Joel 2:3 the land had been like the garden of Eden, but after the divine judgment of the locusts it was a desolate wilderness.
He smote them -
smote=to strike or hit, as in slapping on the cheek, or with a rock, or punching someone, or beating them. It can refer to killing, but doesn’t have to. In this case God inflicts injury on them with these tumors.
with emorods=same word used in
Deuteronomy 28:27 ESV
The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed.
it refers to hemorrhoids, tumors around the anus. These were caused by a rodent borne disease cf. Chapter six, through the fleas that bite the rodent and then bite a human. And according to Dt. 28:27 was one of the maladies the Lord would send against those who violate His covenant.
The hand of the Lord was heavy against Ashdod He terrified and afflicted them with tumors.
I think that this is a direct attack on the gods of the Philistines just as the plagues were attacks on the various gods of the Egyptians.
The hands of Dagon were cut off and powerless, but the hand of the Lord is powerful against Ashdod.
God’s judgment is at his option. He has always been angry with the wicked. He has always been against them. But it is His grace that didn’t already destroy them which is what they deserved. And what we deserve. But He allows for things to be in His timing not ours for His own purposes not ours. It is to bring Him the greatest glory. So that none will miss that He rules in the realm of man.
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” preached during the great awakening of the 1700’s said,
‘There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up: the strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.—He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it”. Edwards, J. (1974). The works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2, pp. 7–8). Banner of Truth Trust.
He also said
“There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?” Edwards, J. (1974). The works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2, p. 8). Banner of Truth Trust.
It is said that people gripped the pews with their hands and cried out to be saved as Edwards preached.
God judges sin of those who don’t take Him seriously.
It is a heavy hand.
Here is the second picture of the hand of God

B. It is a yoke that cannot be carried, v.7

saw=to understand, comprehend with the minds eye so to speak.
that thus-they understood this was from YHWH and was directly related to their having the Ark of God.
It is a heavy yoke,
The word sore=hard, the idea of an overly heavy yoke that is hard to bear,
The metaphor of a yoke which is hard:
The Egyptians made the service to them hard
Exodus 1:14 ESV
and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
The Babylonian exile was hard service,
But Christ’s yoke is easy
Matthew 11:29–30 ESV
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
They realized they could not endure such a hard yoke. It was way too heavy for them to bear. They crumbled under the weight just like an oxen might rebel or kick against an ill fitting yoke, or one that they could not pull.
The Ashdodites recognized ‘his hand’ was hard against them. They realized that their trouble was connected to the presence of the ark. So they knew the ark could not remain with them.
The question is how do we get stop this plague? The problem initiated the search for answers.

II. The search for answers, v.8

Trouble should always cause us to search for answers. It ought to prompt us to ask the right questions.
What caused this?
Why is this happening? -Not Why me? but rather, what is God doing in this? What is He trying to teach me? How can I alleviate this problem?
What do I need to do now.
What do the Ashdodites do?
They call for an assembly of the Philistine leaders.
and they ask,”what do we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They knew their trouble was connected to the Ark.
Their declaration or conclusion was that the Ark couldn’t remain in their presence (v.7) or they would die. God’s hand was against them. In their thinking, get rid of the ark you get rid of the problem. But that was not the real solution.
Blame shifting or changing locations are not the solution.
I have heard this in counseling married couples. They want a change of partners or scenery thinking that will be the cure all to their trouble. However, they are the same person going into that next job or marriage or city that they were previously. Nothing really changes because the needed change is not on the outside but the inside.
To be clear they were not worshipping the ark. They rejected it and the God it represents. (that is part of the key to their problem though). They saw it as inferior to Dagon up to now. But rather than bow before God as Dagon was made to do they continued to search for answers elsewhere.
What was thought to be a great victory and dominance over Israel’s God was in reality a great mistake in their thinking. Again this was one of the great reversal Hannah sang about in her song in chapter 2. These people thought they could dominate the God of Israel, their Creator. But they found out in a hurry: God can do with them whatever He wants when He wants.
Instead of repenting and bowing before the God of Israel, their solution was like so many of our day, ‘lets move it.”
It is a remodeled form of escapism. Change the dynamics of the situation and all will be well.

III. Move the object of the trouble, 8b-11

Their solution doesn’t work though. as we see
Just as God’s hand was heavy against Ashdod,

A.God’s hand is raised against Gath, 8b, 9

Gath was about 15 miles south east of Ashdod.
One of the five main cities of the Philistines. Closest to Judah. the city of giants, Goliath and other giants were from Gath, 1 Sam. 17:4; 2 Sam. 21:19-22.
When David seeks refuge from King Saul he went to Achish, King of Gath 1 Sam. 21:10-15.
So Gath is another of the main cities a stronghold of the Philistines.
Things get worse, Note that the plague of boils was against small and great, ie. young and old, it was against everyone.
Now there is a grouping of words that play into what I think the author is hinting at for them to do. I cannot be sure about it, but the word the KJV translates as “carried about” v.8, 9, ‘brought about’ v.10 It is actually the Hebrew word sabab a verb that means “to turn about” as though to turn on its hinge or to to turn around. If you translated it “turn around” it gives the sense when you look at the map of turning around and sending it back to where it came from, which is what they determine to do in v.11. But it almost hints to me at repentance. What they want the ark to do is what their hearts should be doing. That is repenting, turning towards God. But they don’t do that.
They come to the same conclusion as before and send it to Ekron.

B. God’s hand raised against Ekron, v.10,11

The word for ‘send’ in v.10 is the same word used in the Exodus and so the language used here suggests the writer is alluding to the Egyptian exodus event, Ex. 12:33. (NAC)
They had enough. the only solution they saw was to move the ark to Ekron.
I can see it now as the ark arrives in Ekron the people spill out into the streets of the town and collectively cry out “not here. You cannot keep it here. You will kill us!’
You can imagine the anger of the people of Ekron when they saw the ark enter the city.
I have heard of people in stores getting angry over not wearing a mask. A man on the East side of the state was killed over a mask. Imagine this is a hundred times worse.
This was a cry of indignation. They saw this as signing their death warrant of the people in Ekron.
The reputation of the ark has preceded it. And so they fear. and justifiably so.
There was a deathly panic.
deadly destruction is used of a routed army,
Deuteronomy 7:23 ESV
But the Lord your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed.
Isaiah 22:5 ESV
For the Lord God of hosts has a day of tumult and trampling and confusion in the valley of vision, a battering down of walls and a shouting to the mountains.
The hand of God was very/exceedingly heavy there.
Again the people recognized this was the Lord doing this to them. But they still did not get the real meaning as to what to do about it.
K&D indicate that there is a progression of severity of the judgment against the Philistines. That ‘The longer the Philistines resisted and refused to recognise the chastening hand of the living God in the plagues inflicted upon them, the more severely would they necessarily be punished, that they might be brought at last to see that the God of Israel, whose sanctuary they still wanted to keep as a trophy of their victory over that nation, was the omnipotent God, who was able to destroy His foes.”  Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 2, p. 403). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
return it-sub-to send it back where it came from.
Men that didn’t die were smitten with the tumors.
This reminds me so much of the unbelievers in the book of Revelation who after 1/3 of men were killed still didn’t repent
Revelation 9:20–21 ESV
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
the same thing after the 4th and 5th vial was poured out
Revelation 16:9–11 ESV
They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
One of the main thoughts I have from this passage is that God could have killed them outright and been justified to do so. They were pagan worshippers of other gods. They rejected God the creator of the Universe. They despised Him. they were worthy of destruction. But God had been gracious to them over this 7 months of the visible acts of God that should have made them aware that God is God and not Dagon.
The Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” and we have seen that the hand of the Lord was heavy against them so they might Know the Lord alone is God and fear Him forever, Josh. 4:24.
As we will see in chapter 6 this went on for seven months. We are protesting and complaining because of 2 1/2 months of this virus. Can you imagine what would happen to our economy if this went on for 4 1/2 more months. It would be even more devastating. That was a judgment of God against them. People were dying everyday, the misery of the tumors and upheaval of normal life. Can you imagine trying to go through your normal routine with painful tumors in your body. It would have been sheer misery, not to mention unimaginable grief.
This is what Paul says about God’s wrath
Romans 9:22 ESV
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
He has put up with the Philistines in order to make Himself known to them.
Are they finally going to understand?
We see them step in the right direction.

IV. A cry for help, v.12

The cry of the city went up to heaven.
The word cry=shevat-this is a cry for help, not an outcry as in v.10 an outcry of anger, this is one for help,
Exodus 2:23 ESV
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.
David uses this word in
2 Samuel 22:7 ESV
“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.
Psalm 145:19 ESV
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
I think the phrase “the cry of the city went up to heaven” means they were at their wits end. They did not know what to do. They could do nothing to stop the death and affliction. Their cry grew in intensity and despair as time wore on.
They were crying out for deliverance to the God of heaven.
Chapter 6 contains God’s answer to them.


I don’t know what you are seeking in life. But one thing I know is that you cannot fight God and win. It is just not possible. This is clearly illustrated in this passage. The Philistines are devastated by God. By His grace they are not annihilated totally there are many survivors. And we will see that their judgment is not over yet.
We have seen that the hand of God can feel very heavy, like a yoke to heavy to bear. It is not an actually hand of course, but the feeling of guilt in your conscience, the emotion of anxiety and depression that weighs you down and it is there to bring to the place where you repent of your sin, turning to God who alone is to be worshipped and pursued and loved with all your heart mind body, soul and strength.
To do otherwise leads to ruin in this life and ultimately death.
So what will you do? Let that heaviness turn you to God, to seek answers from Him through His Word. Don’t be like the Philistines and think that a change of scenery will do the trick. This is a heart issue not a geography issue.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more