Gnawing At A Biblical Puzzle (1)

My readers will forgive me, I pray, for allowing the spirit of the weekend to move me toward writing of matters Scriptural. Yet I feel certain that before we are done, we will have explored arenas that we encounter even in what we like to call the ‘real world’. Realness in that context defining a thing’s immediacy rather than its essence.

The story is told in the first Book of Samuel of the Jews fighting a war against the Philistines and taking very heavy casualties. On the second day of fighting, not only is the human toll high, the Ark that contains the Tablets of the Covenant is captured. The Philistines take this trophy and place it in the temple of their idol, whom they call Dagon. Dagon had the body of a fish, with the head and hands of a human being.

When they open the temple the next morning, they find that Dagon has fallen to the ground. They restore it to its perch. The morning after that, they awaken to discover that God has refined the message a bit. The fish torso is still in its position on the platform, but the human head and hands have fallen off. Thereafter, they assign a greater reverence to the portion that remained on its base.

After this, the Philistine people begin to suffer a widespread plague of hemorrhoids. Everyone seems to be suffering from them, so much so that the streets are a cacophony of wailing from the pain. Finally, they come to the conclusion that they must return the Ark.

The obvious questions are: why did the head and hands fall off and the fish body remain? And why were they punished with hemorrhoids of all things? These questions have been engaging me for twenty years or more and only recently have I arrived at a theory that explains this to my satisfaction.

Have a look at Samuel I, Chapters 4-6, and see what you think. I’ll be back in a few hours to offer my analysis and its relevance to contemporary life.