1 Samuel 5

A reminder: as we look at different passages in the Old Testament we are looking for signals of the significance of shame, often the significance of honour and shame.

1 Samuel 5 is in the context of a war lost by Israel against thr Philistines. The army had taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them as a kind of talisman. When the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines and brought into the temple of Dagon, it was a deliberate act intending to shame and humiliate Yahweh and all Israel.

In reply, Yahweh shamed Dagon by causing him to lie prostrate and face down, bowing before Yahweh. The Philistines set Dagon back in his place, but the next morning they discovered Dagon “fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold” (1 Sam. 5:3-4). Dagon’s head and hands were cut off because “the head was a symbol of superiority and the palms of the hands a symbol of physical power.” (Tennent: p85, quoting Bechtel: p92.) “To lose one’s head is the ultimate humiliation and shame, and to lose one’s hands is a sign of the loss of power. (Tennent: p86.)

For the Philistine army, victory and hounour had tuned to shame.


Timothy Tennent; “Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology;” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007.

Lyn M. Bechtel; “The Perception of Shame Within the Divine Human Relationship in Biblical Israel;” in Lewis M. Hopfe ed.“Uncovering Ancient Stones;” Fisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN, 1994; p79-92.

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