In the safe, posh setting of the seminary, the Bible can seem straightforward enough. For example, my class one day was considering 1 Samuel 5, which is about the capture of the ark of YHWH by the Philistines, who brought it to the town of Ashdod and placed it before Dagon, the Philistines’ god. In a strange nighttime turn of events, the statue of Dagon is turned on its face before the unblinking ark of the Lord, and then Dagon’s face lies shattered before the unimpressed ark.
The narrative seems clear enough. Surely it is obvious that in the night the unspeakable, silent power of YHWH rose up and pushed Dagon over. We considered that event, and were ready to move on.