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1Sa 6:1 And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
Ver. 1. And the ark of the Lord was in the country. ] Heb., In the field of the Philistines: whence some have thought, that being plagued for it while in their houses, they set it in the open fields, and were thereupon plagued with mice and moles, that turned up their fields and devoured their grain.
Seven months. ] Not four months only, as Josephus, falsely. This was a long while for God’s people to be without that visible pawn of his presence and glory; so that they might seem to be as forlorn and forsaken of him. Such a misery may befall any people, to be bereft of God’s ordinances; or any soul, to be for a time without the sense of his gracious presence and light of his countenance. But God hath promised to his to be "a little sanctuary unto them," Eze 11:16 and "not to leave them," or if he do so, yet "not to forsake them," Heb 13:5 provided that they look upon all other comforts as so many Ichabods, till he return unto them in mercy and lovingkindness.
1Sa 6:2 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.
Ver. 2. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners. ] Who were so called from their divinations, that is, their superstitious searchings into things secret, and to foretell future events. Cicero saith they were called diviners, a divis, from the gods, that is, from the devils, with whom they dealt doubtless.
What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? ] They say not, What shall we do with it? for they were most of them resolved to send it home; but What shall we do to it? how shall we send it as it should be sent? for they knew that it is the manner that maketh or marreth an action. Sure it is, that in divine matters men must look that not only the body of their service be found, but that the clothes be fit: that it may be καλον καλως .
1Sa 6:3 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.
Ver. 3. If ye send away the ark. ] Which they were full loath to do, but that they could neither will nor choose, and therefore kept it seven months, in hope that in some time their plagues might assuage, and they might keep from the Israelites their enemies that wherein they reposed so much confidence, and whereby they took so much encouragement.
Send it not empty. ] This nature itself taught them, that God loveth a full hand. No man might salute the kings of Parthia sine munere, without a present, saith Seneca. a See Exodus 23:15 .
But in any wise return him a trespass offering. ] They say not chataah, a sin offering, but ashom , a trespass offering; as if their sin had been but small in meddling with the ark, whereas, indeed, it was very great.
Then ye shall be healed. ] For he will be appeased. The kings of Israel were noted for [being] merciful; but God much more.
“ Litatur minimo thuris honore Deus. ”
a Epist. 17.
1Sa 6:4 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.
Ver. 4. Five golden emerods, and five golden mice. ] All these things were not only superstitious, but ridiculous: suggested, as some conceive, by Satan to the diviners, in contempt of God; but they were turned by an overruling providence to his great glory. He sent the Philistines mice and emerods of flesh and blood; they return him both these in gold: to imply, saith one, a both that these judgments came out from God, and that they did gladly give him the glory of that whereof he gave them pain and sorrow: and that they would willingly buy off their pain with the best of their substance.
a Dr Hall.
1Sa 6:5 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.
Ver. 5. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods. ] Similitudines anorum vestrorum, so the Vulgate rendereth it. And indeed they could not well make the images of their emerods, without making images of their secret parts, where they brake out; which could not but redound to their great shame and perpetual ignominy.
And images of your mice that mar the land. ] Pliny a out of Varro telleth us of a town in Spain undermined and overturned by conies: of another in Thessaly, by moles: a third in France, by frogs: a fourth in Africa, by locusts: and a fifth in Guarus marred by mice. He writeth b also, that the inhabitants of Troas were driven out of their town by mice. And no longer since than in the year of grace 1581, in the county of Essex, an army of mice so overran the marshes in Dengey-hundred, near unto Southminster, that they ate the grass to the very roots; and so tainted the same with their venomous teeth, that a great murrain fell upon the cattle which grazed thereon. c
a Lib. viii. cap. 29.
b Lib. x. cap. 68.
c Speed, in Essex.
1Sa 6:6 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?
Ver. 6. Wherefore then do you harden your hearts? ] This they seem to speak to the dissenting party that were against the sending back of the ark with the forementioned presents, as a thing dishonourable to their nation. The world is a pearl in the eyes of politicians: they are like children, always standing on their heads, and shaking their heels against heaven.
As the Egyptians and Pharaoh, &c. ] This is the true use of history;
“ Discite iustitiam moniti, ” - Virg.
1Sa 6:7 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:
Ver. 7. Now therefore make a new cart. ] For reverence to the ark, which the Philistines might cart: but if David, who should have known better, do so, as 2 Samuel 6:3 , though it were a new cart, yet God made a breach upon him, because the ark was not carried as it ought, on the Levites’ shoulders.
On which there hath come no yoke. ] Untamed and untrained, iuvencae petulcae, and therefore less likely to do that piece of service they were now to be put to. But God was the more seen in it, confuting his enemies by their own inventions.
And bring their calves home from them. ] This made the miracle the greater, and the hand of God the more manifest, since they naturally longed after their calves, and would break through all, to come to them.
1Sa 6:8 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.
Ver. 8. And put the jewels of gold … in a coffer.] For reverence’ sake of the ark, which they durst not open.
1Sa 6:9 And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, [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.
Ver. 9. By the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh. ] That is, The house of the sun, which, haply, had sometime been there worshipped, as at Heliopolis in Egypt, Jer 43:13 called now Dameta. This Bethshemesh was in the tribe of Judah, and in the way to Shiloh, where the ark had formerly stood; but now and henceforward it was, "Go ye up to my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel." Jer 7:12 God suffered the Philistines to lay it waste, as he did the Chaldees, Romans, and now the Turks to deal by that whole country; Ut ostenderet se non propter locum gentem, sod propter gentem locum elegisse, saith Theodoret. a
It was a chance that happened to us. ] This was a string that the heathens much harped upon, denying, or at least doubting of, the divine providence, and ascribing events to fate and blind fortune. The Jews tell us, that when Jeroboam’s hand was dried up, the false prophets told him that this was but by chance: and so kept him from thinking of God that had smitten him. Still the devil is suggesting the same thing to the sons of men - viz., that their crosses are but common events, such as had a time to come in, and must have a time to go in, &c.; whereas nothing in the world cometh to pass without God’s providence and decree, as is excellently set forth in Ezekiel 1:4 . See Trapp on " Eze 1:4 "
a Quest. 1, in Daniel.
1Sa 6:10 And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:
Ver. 10. And the men did so. ] According to the advice of the priests and diviners, who were of no small authority amongst them: as likewise were the Brachmanni among the Indians, the Druids among the Gauls, and the Bards here in Albion: of such esteem they are said to have been among the greatest commanders, that if two armies were even at push of pike, and a bard or priest had stepped in between them, they would have held their hands, hearkened to his advice, and not have offered to strike till he were out of danger.
1Sa 6:11 And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.
Ver. 11. And they laid the ark of the Lord upon the cart. ] In trivio absque auriga, saith Josephus; a in a place where three ways met, and without a driver to guide it: but God directed the cattle, and by his angels, say some, by the devils sortilegii huius instigatores, say others, set them right on in their way to Israel.
a Lib. vi., Antiq.
1Sa 6:12 And the kine took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, [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 Bethshemesh.
Ver. 12. And the kine took the straight way. ] So far did God, as it were, gratify these idolaters in a thing that so much concerned his own glory, and the comfort of his poor people, who now looked upon themselves as forlorn and forsaken of him.
Lowing as they went. ] In token of grief for leaving their young ones: but all creatures "continue according to thine ordinance," saith David, "for they all are thy servants." Psa 119:91 Let not us draw God’s ark, bear Christ’s yoke, lowing and lamenting, but lively and cheerful, "ready to every good work." Tit 3:1 Melior est sancta laetitia quam querula quasi tristitia, saith an ancient.
And the lords of the Philistines went after them. ] And so, as servants and pages they attend upon the ark, which erst as conquerors they carried captive. This was the Lord’s own work, and should have been marvellous in their eyes.
1Sa 6:13 And [they of] Bethshemesh [were] reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see [it].
Ver. 13. And they of Bethshemesh were reaping, &c. ] And so it was in April or May that the ark was brought back, after seven months’ abode among the Philistines. So that it was taken in October, or, as some will have it, in September, which was a solemn month amongst the Hebrews, and, for most part, sacred. For then, besides the new moon feast, were kept the feast of trumpets, of tabernacles, of atonement, &c., Lev 23:24-32 so that all was full of oblations and sacrifices: which because both priests and people polluted and profaned, therefore was the ark taken, and all lost that month.
Lifted up their eyes … and rejoiced to see it.] This was well done, and had they not fallen under that heavy hand of God for their later sin, they would have found in their hearts to show their joy by dedicating unto God, as those Milesians once did to Apollo, χρυσουν θερος , a harvest of gold, as the Philistines had done mice of gold.
1Sa 6:14 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.
Ver. 14. Where there was a great stone. ] This stone, saith Comestor, is thought by some to have been an altar, which Abraham had set up unto the Lord.
And they clave the wood of the cart. ] They would not put it to any common use, because it had borne the ark, and had been consecrated to God. The Turkish history telleth us that the very camels that are used to go to Mohammed’s tomb, are ever after of high esteem amongst them, and never afterwards used in a mean servile way, as before.
And offered the kine. ] The priests did: for Bethshemesh was a city given to the priests, Jos 21:16 and therefore they should have known better how to have demeaned themselves toward the ark.
1Sa 6:15 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 Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
Ver. 15. And put them on the great stone. ] Or, Beside it, rather, as Comestor hath it, for upon the stone they offered their sacrifices: which they might the better do in that place, because they had the ark with them, which was the visible sign of God’s presence.
1Sa 6:16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen [it], they returned to Ekron the same day.
Ver. 16. They returned to Ekron the same day. ] Amazed and convinced, but not effectually converted, Puncti et repuncti, minime tamen ad resipiscentiam compuncti.
1Sa 6:17 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;
Ver. 17. And these are the golden emerods. ] These the Israelites either kept whole for monuments and memorials, as they did the censors of Korah and his complices; or else they made golden vessels of them for the sanctuary.
1Sa 6:18 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.
Ver. 18. Both of fenced cities. ] So that the golden mice seem to have been many more than the emerods.
Unto the great stone of Abel, ] i.e., Of grief, so called from the great slaughter there made. 1Sa 6:19 See Genesis 50:11 .
1Sa 6:19 And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, 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.
Ver. 19. Because they had looked. ] Presumptuously prying into the ark, out of an impious curiosity. Arcaua Dei sunt Arca Dei; be wise to sobriety: abuse not sacraments. a The Israelites were charged on pain of death not to look upon the ark bare or uncovered; Num 4:20 the Philistines might, and not die, because not alike obliged. Peter giveth charge against curiosity, as against theft or murder. 1Pe 4:15
“ Tu fuge ceu pestem την πολυπραγμοσυνην .” - Funccius.
a Scilicet in superis etiam fortuna luenda est; Nec veniam laeso numine casus habet.
1Sa 6:20 And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?
Ver. 20. This holy Lord God. ] Here they seem peevishly to lay the blame of their sufferings upon God, as too holy and strict: of their sins, the true cause, they say nothing; but take care to rid their hands of the ark, which they should have retained reverently.
1Sa 6:21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, [and] fetch it up to you.
Ver. 21. Fetch it up to you, ] viz., Lest the Philistines fetch it again; so they pretend, howsoever. Nature need not be taught to tell her own tale.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29