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1 Samuel 6:2 . The ark of the Lord Hebrews of Jehovah. The Philistines knew the name of the Lord; and had heard of his wondrous works in Egypt, 1 Samuel 6:6. They had great light, as indeed all the surrounding nations of Israel must have had.
1 Samuel 6:4 . Five golden mice. See on 1 Samuel 5:6.
1 Samuel 6:9 . A chance that happened to us. מקרה mikreh, a natural consequence, after the fatigues of war, which implies the care of God; for what is accounted chance by men, is all the operations of heaven. See on chap. 10. Luke 10:31. It would seem that the Spirit of God moved the tongue of this pythoness to deliver this oracle, though she might not know it; nor do such favours prove the divine approbation of heathen oracles, more than the rain which falls on the just and the unjust. Isaiah 41:23.
1 Samuel 6:15 . Offered burnt-offerings. This was often done, as well by prophets as by gentiles, under visible marks of the divine presence; and no complaint is made against it, though the law required the usual oblations to be offered on his altar alone: 1 Samuel 7:9.
1 Samuel 6:19 . He smote fifty thousand and threescore and ten men. Josephus, relating this, mentions no more than seventy men; and as Beth-shemesh was but a small city, originally allotted for the priests, it is probable that the number has been mis-written in the Hebrew copy. Tremellius conjectures the sense of the text to be, that the Lord smote them with emerods, as he had smitten fifty thousand and seventy of the Philistines. Another critic contends that the number should be five hundred and seventy men.
While all Israel was mourning and troubled for the loss of the ark; all Philistia was mourning and troubled because of its presence. And if all Israel was astonished that the ark should exert no powers for their salvation; both they and their neighbours were soon convinced that it exerted astonishing powers for the punishment of sin. Dagon was confounded, and fell vanquished in its presence. The Philistines died with pestilence, and the survivors were afflicted with disease; and the corn was consumed in the field as soon as it began to shoot in the earth. Here was God’s threefold scourge on the enemy, and by these scourges they were brought to repentance.
Mark next the fruits of their repentance. Humbled under the hand of heaven, they consulted the ministers of their religion what they should do. Religion is the only refuge and comfort of the afflicted: let us never neglect it in health, for we know not but the heaviest affliction may be at the door. Let us never dream of turning to God without the trespass-offerings of a broken spirit and a contrite heart; but let us at the same time be fully assured, that no tears are acceptable to God unless the sinner, according to the utmost of his power, endeavour to repair his faults.
Repentance, accompanied with proper fruits, shall soon receive tokens of God’s approbation. The two cows, forgetful of their tender calves, looked not behind: the two cows, untutored to the yoke, tractably proceeded with the symbols of JEHOVAH’S presence: the two cows unacquainted with the road, but guided by a divine instinct, proceeded in the highway leading towards Shiloh. Then Philistia saw the profaneness of her sins: then she was humbled before Israel’s God, and glorified him in his judgments: then Israel heard and was instructed. Here are the true characters of national repentance; here is the genuine ground of national reform. So the penitent enemy of Israel learned to put away his sin, and God graciously removed his afflicting hand. Learn, oh my soul, even of these young cows, to subject thy carnal nature to the yoke, without making the smallest retrograde motion; and let it be offered up a burnt-sacrifice to the Lord, that the body of sin may be destroyed.
The men of Beth-shemesh were the first to see, and the first to rejoice at the ark’s return. How happy did they account themselves to give this early welcome to the return of the hallowed tokens of the Lord’s presence. Yes, and happy they were, had they been contented within the line prescribed. But curiosity prompted them to look into the ark; for they could not presume that the Philistines had plundered it of the tables, the parchments, the manna, and the almond rod, seeing it was returned with a trespass- offering. This was a violation of the law fully known and understood, therefore God smote them as he had smitten the Philistines; for with him is no respect of persons. He also designed thereby to make all Israel revere the ark of his strength. Learn then, reader, to revere the mysteries of the christian faith. The touching of the hallowed emblems of bread and wine belongs to hallowed men: without their blessing it is no sacrament. Adore, where thou canst not comprehend. Presume not to decide on secret and future things; and whatever can augment thy happiness shall be revealed in due time. Be assured it is far best to know secret things precisely in the order of providence.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent