Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 6

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.

The ark ... was in the country of the Philistines seven months, [ bisdeeh (H7704)] - in the field or cultivated plain of the Philistines. Notwithstanding the calamities which its presence had brought on the country and the people, the Philistine lords were unwilling to relinquish such a prize, and tried every means to return it with peace and safety, but in vain.

Verse 2

And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.

The Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, [ wªlaqocªmiym (H7080)] - (see the note at Joshua 13:22.) The designed restoration of the ark was not, it seems, universally approved of, and many doubts were expressed whether the prevailing pestilence was really a judgment of heaven. The priests and diviners united all parties by recommending a course which would enable them easily to discriminate the true character of the calamities, and at the same time to propitiate the incensed Deity for any acts of disrespect which might have been shown to His ark.

Verse 3

And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.

Five golden emerods. Votive or thank offerings were commonly made by the pagan in prayer for, or gratitude after, deliverance from lingering or dangerous disorders, in the form of metallic (generally silver) models or images of the diseased parts of the body. This is common still in Roman Catholic countries, as well as in the temples of the Hindus and other modern pagan.

Five golden mice. This animal is supposed by some to be the jerboa, or jumping mouse of Syria and Egypt (Bochart); by others, to be the short-tailed field-mouse, which often swarms in prodigious numbers, and commits great ravages in the cultivated fields of Palestine. Images of the destroyers were also formed to protect against the thing injuring; just as may be seen in Palestine at the present day, images of the eye to protect against 'the evil eye.' For the same reason, images of emerods and mice were made by the Philistines and sent with the ark. Apollonius ('Tyanaeus') is said to have swept off the flies from Antioch and storks from Byzantium by figures (images) of these objects made while certain constellations were in the ascendant. In many cases Pliny ('Maimonides,' translated by Townley, p. 118) notices the images of eagles and beetles carved on emeralds; and Marcellus Empiricus ('Maimonides,' translated by Townley, p. 118) speaks of the virtue of these beetles for diseases of the eye ('Palestine, Past and Present,' p. 261).

Verse 5

Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.

Give glory unto the God of Israel. By these propitiatory presents the Philistines would acknowledge His power, and make reparation for the injury done to His ark.

Lighten his hand ... from off your gods - Elohim for god.

Verse 6

Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?

Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts. The memory of the appalling judgments that had been inflicted on Egypt was not yet obliterated. Whether preserved in written records or in floating tradition, they were still fresh in the minds of men, and being extensively spread, were doubtless the means of diffusing the knowledge and fear of the true God.

Verse 7

Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:

Make a new cart, [ `ªgaalaah (H5699)] - a wain, or wagon; an ox-cart. Such carts were the ordinary vehicles in times of peace, as appears from the monuments of Egypt. A Hindu epic of great antiquity, called the Ramayana, describes vehicles covered with woollen cloth, drawn by white oxen, for the conveyance of great and opulent ladies. Their object in making a new one for the purpose seems to have been, not only for cleanliness and neatness, but from an impression that there would have been an impropriety in using one that had been applied to meaner or more common services. It appears to have been a covered wagon (see the note at 2 Samuel 6:3).

Two milch kine. Such untrained heifers, wanton and vagrant, would pursue no certain and regular path, like those accustomed to the yoke, and therefore were most unlikely, of their own spontaneous motion, to prosecute the direct road to the land of Israel.

Bring their calves home. The strong natural affection of the dams might be supposed to stimulate their return homewards, rather than direct their steps in a foreign country.

Verse 8

And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.

Take the ark ... and lay it upon the cart. This mode of carrying the sacred symbol was forbidden; but the ignorance of the Philistines made the indignity be overlooked (see the note at 2 Samuel 6:6).

Put the jewels ... in a coffer by the side thereof. The way of securing treasure in the East is still in a chest, chained to the housewall or some solid part of the furniture.

Verse 9

And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-she'mesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.

Bethshemesh - i:e., 'house of the sun,' now Ain Shems (Robinson), a city of the priests (Joshua 21:16) in Judah, in the southeast border of Dan, lying in a beautiful and extensive valley. Josephus says they were set agoing near a place where the road divided into two-the one leading back to Ekron, where were their calves; and the other to the sacerdotal city, Beth-shemesh, a distance from Ekron (Akir) of somewhat more than twelve miles, and situated on the Israelite border. Their frequent lowings attested their ardent longing for their young, and at the same time the supernatural influence that controlled their movements in a contrary direction.

Verses 10-11

And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-she'mesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-she'mesh.

The lords of the Philistines went after them - to give their tribute of homage, to prevent imposture, and to obtain the most reliable evidence of the truth. The result of this journey tended to their own deeper humiliation, and the greater illustration of God's glory.

Verse 13

And they of Beth-she'mesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD.

They clave - i:e., the Beth-shemites, in an irrepressible outburst of joy.

Offered the kine. Though contrary to the requirements of the law (Leviticus 1:3; Leviticus 22:19), these animals might properly be offered, as consecrated by God Himself; and though not beside the tabernacle, there were many instances of sacrifices offered by prophets and holy men on extraordinary occasions in other places.

Verse 15

And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Beth-she'mesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

When the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. 'Afar this transaction,' says Dr. Warburton ('Divine Legation,' b. 1:, sec. 2), 'we hear no more of any attempts among the Gentile nations to join the Jewish worship with their own. They considered the God of Israel as a tutelary Deity, absolutely unsociable, who would have nothing to do with any but His own people, or with such, particularly, as would worship Him alone, and therefore, in this respect, different from all other tutelary gods, each of which was willing to live in community with the rest.'

Verse 17

And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;

These are the golden emerods ...

Verse 18

And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Bethshemite.

And the golden mice. There were five representative images of the emerods, corresponding to the five principal cities of the Philistines. But the number of the golden mice must have been greater, because they were sent from the walled towns as well as the country villages-literally, 'villages of the Perizzites.'

Unto the great stone of Abel. Abel or Aben means "stone;" so that, without resorting to italics, the reading should be, "the great stone" [Septuagint, lithos megalos]. 'We may understand,' says Taylor, editor of Calmet, 'the passage as implying that the ark was placed on a spare piece of ground, on a rising unproductive (waste) of grain. To this agree the circumstances of the story: -The men of Beth-shemesh were reaping in the grain-fields; they therefore took the ark aside to a place not occupied by growing grain, but where the surface was bare-that is, a rock; and this height, thus sanctified by the reception of the ark, was easily distinguished by future generations, because it formed no part of the cultivated land.'

Verse 19

And he smote the men of Beth-she'mesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

He smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark. In the ecstasy of delight at seeing the return of the ark, the Beth-shemesh reapers pried into it beneath the wagon cover; and instead of covering it up again, as a sacred utensil, they let it remain exposed to common inspection, wishing it to be seen, in order that all might enjoy the triumph of seeing the votive offerings presented to it, and gratify curiosity with the sight of the sacred shrine. This was the offence of those Israelites (Levites as well as common people), who, being priests of the family of Aaron, and Israelites, had treated the ark with less reverence than the Philistines themselves; and by opening the sacred chest, committed a grave offence, on account of which a destructive pestilence was sent upon the city and adjoining district.

Smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men. Beth-shemesh being only a village, this translation must be erroneous, and should be, 'he smote fifty out of a thousand,' being only 1,400 in all who indulged this curiosity. God, instead of decimating, according to an ancient usage, slew only a twentieth part -

i.e., according to Josephus, 70 out of 1,400 (see the note at Numbers 4:18-22).

Verse 20

And the men of Beth-she'mesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-je'arim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.

They sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim - `the city of woods,' called also Kirjath-baal (Joshua 15:60; Joshua 18:14; 1 Chronicles 13:6-7). This was the nearest town to Beth-shemesh, and being a place of strength, was a fitter place for the residence of the ark. The inhabitants belonging to the Hivite tetrapolis were the sacred servants of the sanctuary, and therefore the proper parties to whom, in the emergency, the custody of the ark should be committed. What a sad degeneracy for the Levitical house of Aaron in Beth-shemesh to be less fitted, from their ignorance and irreligion, to act as the servants of Yahweh than the Hivites of Kirjath-jearim! Beth-shemesh being in a low plain, and, Kirjath-jearim on a hill, explains the message, "Come ye down, and fetch it up to you."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-samuel-6.html. 1871-8.
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