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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Samuel 6

Verses 1-2

What Should Happen to the Ark?

After seven months, a complete time, the Philistines seek advice from their brightest minds. Earlier the lords of the Philistines acted. Now their priests and diviners are called. Under no circumstances will the religious, natural man turn to the true God, the only source of light there is. After the political level, now comes the religious level. This combination is also seen in Pilate and the chief priests in the condemnation of the Lord Jesus, of whom the ark is a striking picture.

In any case, they want to get rid of the ark, which means as much as they want to get rid of God. This is what man always wants when he does not want to bow before the Lord Jesus, although he must acknowledge His majesty, for he cannot deny it. Someone can succeed in excluding God for some time, but not forever. The final meeting will take place and then they will be removed and sent to hell.

Verses 3-6

The Ark Must Return With a Guilt Offering

Although they know nothing of service to God in Israel, they propose to make a guilt-offering. This indicates that something in their conscience has been touched. In their folly they believe that an image is sufficient. Their offense is not a bloody sacrifice either but consists of statuettes of their plagues. We recognize the use of statues today in roman-catholicism, where these things play a major role. The tangible is always preferred to what is not tangible, but spiritual. The illustrations also concern impurities.

In all respects their offering is an insult and horror to God. The proposal is in keeping with their idolatry, but not with God. They have no awareness of the true guilt offering. The Philistines are more concerned about their suffering bodies than about their sickened souls. They only act with a view to improving their living conditions. Their ‘offering’ goes no further than a memory of their torments.

They determine the offering on one tumor and one mouse per lord. The tumors have affected their bodies and the mice have affected their land. The mice have probably been the plague that has devastated their harvest, for it is harvest time (1 Samuel 6:13). They understand that both the tumors and the mice are sent by God. By making a likeness of each of them and sending it along as a guilt offering, they acknowledge that.

What happens to them reminds them of the events of the past in Egypt. However, it does not work their conversion, as it did not in the case of Pharaoh at the time. So is the nature of man. Without repentance they want to get rid of the plagues. The Egyptians also wanted to get rid of the Israelites as soon as possible and gave them gifts.

The part of the world in which we live is also ravaged by plagues. New diseases appear again and again. However, it does not make people realize that these plagues are a scourge from God. It is conceivable that the plagues that come over the Christian countries are, among other things, the result of the tainting by the theologians of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God.

Verses 7-12

A New Cart and Milch Cows

The Philistines now want absolute certainty that they are dealing with God. They do not want to bring back the ark themselves. They do not think they can either, because every move has brought them disaster. Their solution suits the natural man who does not possess the light of God.

It seems indecent and inappropriate for them to use something for the worship of God that has previously served a general purpose. Everything in the obeisance to God must be holy, separated from general custom and entirely dedicated to the service of God. That is why they use a new cart. They will not be punished for this, as is David later in the death of Uzzah, when Uzzah touches the ark (2 Samuel 6:3; 2 Samuel 6:6-Judges :). As Israelites, they should have known better.

The Philistines still calculate with the possibility that everything has happened by chance. Such a thing will not be the case with a true Christian. The Philistines want certainties. And God does according to their thinking and makes it clear that He is at work. Yet it has no effect on their relationship with Him.

By using milch cows to pull the cart, it is humanly unthinkable that the ark will safely leave the country. This is evident from the facts described. It concerns cows that
1. not being used to the yoke,
2. do not know the way to Beth-shemesh,
3. have none to guide them,
4. have the strong instinct of animals to return to their calves – hence their ‘lowing’ when they go – and
5. also have the instinct to go to their own stable.

Yet they go “the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh”. This proves that an invisible, strong hand leads them, the irresistible hand of their Creator. The natural motives are overcome by spiritual power.

“The cattle on a thousand hills” belong to God (Psalms 50:10). The animals do what He wants. A fish provides a coin when the Lord Jesus needs it (Matthew 17:27). Similarly, a donkey is ready to carry him (Mark 11:2). He commands a fish to harbor Jonah for three days and three nights, and a worm to teach him a lesson (Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:10Jonah 4:7). He uses a lion to kill a disobedient prophet and forbids this lion from devouring the prophet (1 Kings 13:24; 1 Kings 13:28). He also keeps the lion’s mouse closed in the pit where Daniel is (Daniel 6:23).

The city lords, who wanted to rule the ark, can only follow the ark as slaves of service. In that in which they have acted proudly, God has shown Himself as far above them. We can learn from the animals that are used by the lords of the city but are controlled by God.

Do we have so much spiritual insight that we are guided by God’s Spirit against our natural motives? It is God’s intention to bring the ark back to His people. He still does this spiritually today by letting the Lord Jesus preach, and for this He uses people who are guided by Him.

There may be little insight, but if there is surrender to Him, He will return the Lord Jesus to His people. Thus, God has always found people to make His Son the center of the church again. A revival means that His Son will once again be central to the heart of His own. When the Lord Jesus is no longer central, dedication disappears.

Verses 13-15

The Ark Arrives in the Land

The ark arrives in Beth-shemesh, a Levite city where the Kohathites live. It is precisely those Levites who are appointed by God to carry the ark (Numbers 3:29-Obadiah :; Joshua 21:10; Joshua 21:16). There God brings the ark and not to Shiloh. God knows whom He can entrust the glory of His Son. When the ark arrives in Beth-shemesh, the inhabitants of the city, the Levites, are busy harvesting the wheat.

The Levites work here on land. They are busy with the wheat. Wheat speaks of the result of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (John 12:24). This result consists of the believers, who are all who by faith in the Lord Jesus have received Him as their life. The Lord Jesus is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died. That is why a lot of fruit has come.

The ark comes where people are reaping in the harvest, where they are busy with the blessings God has given in the land. Something similar we see with Gideon (Judges 6:11), with the shepherds who keep watch over the flock in the night of the Savior’s birth and to whom the good news is proclaimed (Luke 2:8-2 Samuel :), and with the disciples who are also busy in their daily work when the Lord calls them (Matthew 4:18-Song of Solomon :). The inhabitants of Beth-shemesh are happy to see the ark (cf. John 20:20). But did they really miss the ark and seek it, like David later (Psalms 132:3-Deuteronomy :)?

It is therefore undeserved grace when the presence of the LORD returns. Without having searched for it, without having fought for it, without having paid a ransom, the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, returned to them. They have never seen the ark, but from the description they know and its brilliance they must have known: this is the ark. So it will always be with faith.

The cows are sacrificed as burnt offering. They have been used to put the ark back into the hands of the people and are now sacrificed to God. The Levites have, in picture, offered the Lord Jesus to God as a burnt offering. They have also brought offerings, which is a peace offering and speaks of fellowship. This fellowship may be particularly experienced at the Lord’s Table as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

The wood of the car is split (cf. 1 Kings 19:21). The means that have been used to bring back the ark are also used to honor God. Now the wood serves to burn the sacrifices, so that they ascend to God as a sweet odor (Leviticus 1:7-1 Samuel :).

Verses 16-18

The Lords Return Home

The expressions of joy and the offering of the animals take place under the watchful eye of the Philistines. We can see in this the image that being together at the Lord’s Table and proclaiming His death is also watched by unbelievers. They have no part in it and turn away from it. They do not want to be part of it either. Their hearts have not changed, even though they have seen the clearest evidence of God’s work.

Once again, the guilt offering is mentioned and what it consists of and on whose behalf it is given. The compensation in the form of this guilt offering is the result of their human wisdom. It will also be a constant testimony of their recognition that God is there, and of their refusal to bow before Him despite such clear evidences.

Verse 19

The Holiness of the Ark

There is an unexpected turn of events. Joy turns into mourning, for God’s judgment affects them. His people have looked into the ark, something that is strictly forbidden. Here we have the important principle that the more light someone or a community has about the things of God, the greater the judgment of God will be in case of a transgression. They know they are not allowed to look into the ark.

It may well be that the priests, the Levites, and the people in their enthusiasm have forgotten the holiness of God and have not thought of His precepts. But an understandable enthusiasm should never tempt us to consider the sacred as ordinary. God maintains His honor toward the Philistines in a way that suits them. Here He does so in the way that suits His people. He sanctifies Himself in those who approach Him (Leviticus 10:1; Leviticus 10:3Leviticus 10:9).

Verses 20-21

The Ark Is Unwanted

The people react in the same way as the Philistines. They also want to get rid of the ark now that they have come into contact with its holiness. Is it sometimes the case with us also? Does it also make us feel oppressive when we remember that we are in God’s presence continually and that He knows every thought, every word, and sees every action in our lives?

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.