Deadly Hot Potato! by Lane Jordan Burday

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord!  Samuel 5:2

Have you ever wanted something so much, but by the time you got it, all you wanted to do was get rid of it?

That’s what happened to the Philistines. They believed the Israelites won their battles because they had the Ark of the Covenant. They knew the stories of the plagues and destruction that occurred in Egypt and other nations.

However, in 1 Samuel 4, when Israel faced the Philistines in battle, they suffered a devastating defeat. In a desperate attempt to turn the tide, the elders decided to bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, treating it as a mere good luck charm. Unbeknownst to them, their actions were in vain, for their priest, Eli, and his sons had sinned greatly before God, and He would not protect the nation.

When the Philistines saw that the ark had entered the camp, they assumed they were in serious trouble: Israel’s God had come to fight for them (4:6-8). Yet, instead of running away, they decided to fight harder and inflicted a slaughter on the Israelites and captured the ark. God allowed this to happen, for His judgment was against His people.

The irony in this story is that they had this ‘miraculous object’ and placed it in their god’s Dagon temple in Ashdod, and the next day, they saw it on the floor before the ark! They replaced their god again, and the next day, “Dagon’s head and both of his hands were broken off” (5:4). This was a sign during that time period that when the head and hands of an enemy were cut off in battle, they were used as trophies of victory. The message God sent was clear: Dagon was nothing before the living God and had been defeated.

The people in Ashdod were terrified because of what they saw, and they were also afflicted with tumors. In great fear, they sent the ark off to another town, Gath!

The same thing happened to the people of Gath: Everybody in Gath was afflicted with tumors. So now Gath decided to send the ark to the city of Ekron. But the people of Ekron said, “No way! (5:10). The ark of God had become a deadly hot potato that none of the Philistines wanted to handle.

They then sent it to the boundary of Israel, where the Israelites in Beth-shemesh received it back with great rejoicing. However, seventy people of Beth-Shemesh looked inside the ark, and they were struck dead (6:19). It sounds like the movie The Raiders of the Lost Ark? These Israelites were just as spiritually insensitive to the law of God as the Philistines. Because of their fear, they asked the people of Kiriath-jearim to take charge of the ark, and the ark stayed there for twenty years.

So, how does that apply to us now? We are to come before the Lord in truth and repentance, trusting God and not ourselves for our life. We should not presume that our works, or any object, can save us as the Israelites believed the Ark could.

Lane Jordan-Burday is the Pearls of Promise Ministries Prayer Co-Coordinator; POP Talk TV and Radio Co-Host and Writer. She is also is an award-winning and best-selling author of over ten adult and children’s books. She is a speaker with Stonecroft Ministries, seminar leader, professional life coach, Bible teacher, and artist. She served as the Associate Producer for the program In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. She prays for women to come to know the Lord is God!

Lane’s latest book, Evangeline, is a historical fiction based on the book of Esther. You can reach Lane at: Her website is:

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