…And They Returned to Ekron
My last post addressing the use of evidence within the application of apologetics reminded me of a text I recently taught at our home Bible study.
We are working our way through 1 Samuel. I’ve taught Samuel a few years ago and I am currently reproducing my notes here at my blog, so I am familiar with the book .
One of my favorite portions of Scripture is found in 1 Samuel 5-6 when God allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the Philistines. God puts Himself on display among the heathen pagans by destroying the false god of their religious worldview and bringing judgment upon their nation.
Considering the presentations I have heard from classic, evidentialistic apologetics defending the Christian faith, I wanted to make some textual observations from these two chapters that I believe cuts against their overall approach.
- Note that God did not call the Philistines to consider the evidence for His existence. He proved His existence by bringing judgment, first upon their false gods and their religious system (5:1-5), and then upon the entire nation of people (5:6).
- God held the Philistines accountable for mishandling the Ark. The Philistines had no knowledge of the ceremonial process God prescribed in Exodus and Leviticus for handling the tabernacle furniture, yet they were judged for violating the protocol.
- The Philistines were aware of the historical events pertaining to the Exodus (6:6). At this point in Israel’s history, the Exodus was some 300 years previous. This is a significant point, because the Philistines were a non-indigenous people who migrated to Canaan and became a dominant presence there after 1200 B.C., a good 200 years after the arrival of Israel to the land. How exactly would they have knowledge of the events in Egypt pertaining to the Exodus? Yet they did not dispute the historicity of those events.
- The Philistines were aware they had sinned against God (6:4). In other words, they were aware they had trespassed against God because of their capture of the Ark. They hired “god-brokers”, alleged “religious experts” who were suppose to know something about every religion and its ceremonies, so as to recommend a course of action to manipulate the particular deity to favor them.
- In spite of what they knew was the truth, the Philistines “stacked the deck” against the fact God was judging them (6:9). The diviners recommended they get a new cart, put the Ark upon it along with some images, and hitch up two milking cows that had just calved to pull it. The circumstances seemed to be rigged to fail, so that they could write off the seven months of judgment as “just chance.” To excuse all that had so clearly happened to them as an unexplained coincidence that just appeared to be God judging, rather than owning up to the fact they had encountered the divine hand of God Almighty.
- The Philistines did not repent (6:16). There is no inquiry as to who this “God” of Israel is. They had their false god exposed as a fraud and their religious system as a sham. There was no clearer evidence as to the reality of who God was. He revealed Himself to them, and yet, they “returned to Ekron the same day.” Rather than seeking out the true God, their own Creator, they went back to their false god and their false worship.