On the other hand the Philistines are celebrating. Not only have they defeated the Israelites but they have also captured their God. Remember we are talking about a pagan nation that believes the idols are actually true and breathing gods. To them this ark is their god. So to celebrate and show their appreciation to their god, Dagon, they place the ark in front of a statue of Dagon.
Just imagine as they finish a night of celebration and mocking the Israelites and their captured God, the Philistines go to bed on top of the world. Then they wake up and go to worship. When they enter the house of Dagon, their god is bowed down in front of the ark. The priest are scratching their heads asking how did that happen. Someone suggest , “They probably bumped it when they were putting the ark in here. It fell after everyone left.”
They carefully place Dagon back on his stand and make extra sure he will not fall again. The next morning they walk into the temple and a look of horror comes upon their face. Not only is Dagon back bowing before the Lord. his hands and head have been cut off. In 1 Samuel 5:9 they have realized that the hand of God is hard against them and their god. They are ready to give the ark back to the Israelites.
What gets me about this passage is that it is blaringly obvious that God is sending them a message. If their god is bowing to Him, shouldn’t they bow to Him. He has given them victory over the Israelites and here he is speaking to them. As Paul says in Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. They have an opportunity to turn to God. He is revealing Himself to them and they send Him away so they can go back to their idols.
How often does this same scenario reveal itself in our lives. Jesus shows us what he wants from us. Yet we turn to our idols. Instead of taking up our cross and following we complain about going to church. instead of worshipping him as Lord we carry Him around like a genie in a bottle expecting Him to bow to us. We never seem to notice we keep falling on our faces in front of Him.
The saddest part of this story though isn’t that the Philistines chose not to turn to God, but that the Israelites picked up a pagan custom from it. (1 Samuel 5:5) The priest of Dagon started to avoid the threshold of the temples because the head and hands of Dagon were lying on the threshold. Jump forward to Zephaniah 1:9 On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold. The Israelites missed what God was telling them.