I Samuel 6

 

 

 

 

RESTORATION OF THE ARK TO THE ISRAELITES

    (vs. 1-12).

 

 

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

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 ark of Jehovah was in the country — literally, the

field, i.e. the territory — of the Philistines seven months, during which

long time the people wherever the ark was deposited were afflicted in their

persons with a most painful malady. The princes determined, therefore, to

restore it to Israel, and convened the priests and the diviners, that they

might advise them as to the manner in which this purpose should be best

carried out, lest some error or want of due reverence might only serve to

increase their sufferings. It would be the duty of the priests to see that the

proper ceremonial was observed in moving the ark, while the diviners

would decide what day and hour and special method would be lucky. The

importance of the diviner, qosem, is shown by his being mentioned in

Isaiah 3:2 in an enumeration of the leading orders in the state. He is

placed there between the prophet and the elder or senator; but the Authorized

Version, displeased perhaps at finding one who practiced a forbidden art

nevertheless described as practically so valued, translates the word

prudent. Literally it means a divider or partitioner, because it was his

office to separate things into the two classes of lucky and unlucky. Tell us

wherewith, etc, Though this translation is tenable, the right rendering is

probably how. The princes did not assume that gifts must accompany the

ark, but inquired generally as to the best method of restoring it. So the

answer of the priests and diviners is not merely that expiatory offerings are

to be made, but that the ark is to be sent back in such a way as to give

proof that Jehovah had intervened, or the contrary (vs. 7, 8, 9).

 

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.  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.”

A trespass offering. The offering that was to be made when

the offence had been unintentional (Leviticus 5:15). Why His hand is

not removed from you. A euphemism for “why your punishment

continues to be so severe, without sign of abatement.” If healing follows

the gift, you will know that the malady was Jehovah’s doing. The trespass

offering was to consist of five golden emerods, and five golden mice, it

being an old heathen custom, still constantly practiced abroad, of

presenting to the deity tokens representing the deliverance wrought for

such as had implored his aid. Thus Horace (Carm.,’ 1:5) speaks of the

custom of hanging up in the temple of Neptune the clothes in which a man

had escaped from shipwreck. Slaves when manumitted offered their chains

to the Lares; and the idea is so natural that we cannot wonder at its

prevalence. One plague was on you all. Rather, “is on you all.” It did not

cease until the ark had been restored. The Hebrew has on them all; but as

all the versions and several manuscripts read you all, the substitution of them

is probably the mistake of some transcriber.

 

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.”

Mice that mar the land. The idea of a plague of field mice is,

as we have seen, due to one of those many unauthorised insertions of the

Septuagint by which they supposed that they removed difficulties from the

way of their readers. As the ancients use the names of animals in a very

generic way, any rodent may be meant from the jerboa downwards; but

probably it was the common field mouse, arvicola arvensis, still common

in Syria, which multiplies with great rapidity, and is very destructive to the

crops, and so became the symbol of devastation and pestilence (see on ch.

5:6). When, as Herodotus relates (Book 2:141), the Assyrian army of

Sennacherib had been defeated, because a vast multitude of field mice had

overrun his camp and gnawed asunder the bow strings of his troops, the

Egyptians raised a statue to Hephaestus, holding in his hand a mouse. But

very probably this is but the literal explanation by Herodotus of what he

saw, while to a well instructed Egyptian it represented their god of healing,

holding in his hand the mouse, as the symbol either of the devastation

which he had averted, or of the pestilence with which he had smitten the

Assyrian army (see on ch. 5:6).

 

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?”

Wherefore do you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and

Pharaoh? On this reference to Egypt see on ch. 4:8. It is

remarkable that they so correctly point out that it was the obduracy of the

Egyptians which made their punishment so severe. Yet finally even they, in

spite of their determined opposition were compelled to let Israel go. So

now the question is whether the Philistines will restore the ark on the

warning of one plague, or whether they will hold out till they have been

smitten with ten.

 

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, and take, etc. The Hebrew is, “Now take

and make you a new cart, and two milch kine.” The transposition of the

Authorized Version throws undue stress upon the verb make, whereas the Hebrew

simply means that both the cart was to be new, and the heifers untrained and

unbroken to the yoke. Both these were marks of reverence. Nothing was to

be employed in God’s service which had been previously used for baser

purposes (compare Mark 11:2). No animal was deemed fit for sacrifice

which had labored in the field. The separation of the kine from their

calves was for the purpose of demonstrating whether the plague after all

was supernatural, and it is remarkable what great care the Philistine priests

take against confounding the extraordinary with the Divine. If, however,

the kine act in a manner contrary to nature, their last doubt will be removed.

 

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.”

Put the jewels of gold… in a coffer. Instead of jewels the

Hebrew word signifies any article of workmanship, and so figures, images

wrought in gold. They were to be placed reverentially at the side of the

ark, for it had wrought them so great evil that they had learned to look

upon it with awe.

 

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.

10 And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the

cart, and shut up their calves at home:  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.”  His own coast, or “border.” The ark throughout this verse is

spoken of as if it were itself a deity. Beth-shemesh i.e. “the house of

the sun,” also called Irshemesh, “city of the sun” (Joshua 19:41) — had

evidently been in the time of the Canaanites the seat of this popular

idolatry. It was now a city of the priests, situated in the tribe of Judah, on

its northeastern border, next the tribe of Dan, and was the nearest Israelite

town to Ekron. If, then, the kine, albeit unused to the yoke, left their calves

behind, and drew the cart by the most direct route unto the land of Judah,

they would give the required proof that the Philistines were smitten by the

hand of Jehovah, and that it was no chance that had happened unto them.

 

 

Seeking Light (vs. 1-9)

 

The facts are:

 

1. The Philistines, oppressed by Providence, are uncertain what to do with

the ark.

2. They, consulting the priests and diviners, are advised to send the ark

away with all due honors and safeguards in case it is sent at all.

3. They are instructed how to carry out the advice, and warned not to

refuse so to do.

4. Having done their best, they are to learn the truth from the issue. The

incidents recorded furnish an instance of men seeking light. The events of

the past few months had clashed with their material interests, and a series

of observations had given rise to the opinion that these events were

traceable to a restlessness on the part of the Hebrew Divinity. They did not

wish to send back the ark. At the same time, there might be some error in

the observations already made; and if so, the troubles of the land and the

presence of the ark would be a mere coincidence. This then was more than

an ordinary case of perplexity. The Philistines knew the ark to be a superior

power. Their doubt was whether it was indicating its mind by the events

which troubled the land, and if so, what should be their conduct in relation

to it. Thus the crude ideas and superstitious conduct of heathens embrace

truths which find expression in modern experience.

 

  • THERE ARE IN HUMAN LIFE SEASONS OF DEEP PERPLEXITY,

WHEN MEN WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH CONCERNING GOD.

More intelligently than the Philistines, we believe in God as the Lord of all,

and the ever present Worker in human affairs. Although events move on in

well defined lines of natural order, we know that God uses them to indicate

His will, in conjunction with the intimations furnished by His word and

Spirit. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” (Psalm 37:23)

But amidst the voices that fall on the ear, and owing to dullness of perception,

the soul sometimes is in great doubt concerning the mind of God, and what

course should be pursued. This is especially true when events run counter to

our desires and apparent interests, and when pride of spirit is cherished. Home

may be wrecked. Business may bode disaster. Great decisions have to be

made. In each God has a will of His own, and conduct must have primary

regard to Him. The desire to do right is out of proportion to the perception

of what in the particular instance is right.

 

  • THE COURSE TO BE ADOPTED FOR THE REMOVAL OF PERPLEXITY.

The Philistines proved themselves to be men of good sense by the course

they took. The particular methods of obtaining more light will always depend

on the spiritual state and previous attainments of those seeking it; yet the main

lines pursued will be the same. Summarizing then the reference here to men of

experience, and the advice given by them, we see a course available for all.

 

Ø      To act on the experience of the past. The priests and diviners were the

embodiments of generations of experience in matters pertaining to the

gods. Their advice, therefore, was the product of experience. Likewise

for every man there is a rich store of wisdom in the events of his own life, in

the records of history, in the judgment of contemporaries. Experience is a

process which gradually enkindles and feeds a lamp within the spirit of a

man. It is one of God’s ways of making our path plain. Especially should

the experience of others both show us the line of duty and warn us of the

risk of shutting our eyes to the light. The reference to the experience of

Pharaoh, under circumstances in some respects similar to theirs, was

extremely judicious on the part of the Philistine priests.  (see I Corinthians

10:11)

 

Ø      To fulfil all known religious obligations. The advice to send back the

ark intact, with due honors and with emblems of confession of sin, was

based on the best religious knowledge of the people. The only way of

ascertaining the real mind of the Hebrew Divinity was to honor and

propitiate it. In this crude conception we have a great principle. Our escape

from many perplexities depends largely on our careful performance of such

religious duties as are imposed by our present knowledge. No man can

know the will of God as he ought unless he obey that will as far as he

knows it, and at any cost.

 

o        If prayer is a clear duty, pray;

o        if confession of sin, confess:

o        if some great act of self-denial, perform it.

 

The perceptive powers are clearer when calmed by true practical religion.

The discharge of high duties fits for discerning others. A sound spiritual

condition, conserved by daily observance of religious obligations, is a

powerful solvent of doubts. “If any man will do the will of God, he shall

know of the doctrine whether it be of God.”  (John 7:17)

 

Ø      To supplement these means by watching carefully for new indications.

The Philistines were to do all in their power to enable them to judge the

significance of coming events. We cannot always make occasions for

Providence to reveal itself; but we can fulfill all conditions for observing

clearly, and then can watch the indications of the will which we know does

speak to us in daily life, in the word and in the “still small voice.” Then,

acting in a reverent spirit, straitness will yield to a “large place”  (Psalm

18:19) and darkness will be made light before us.

 

  • God has wise and unlooked for methods to accomplish the

realization of His purpose among men who do not love him!

  • How superior are the privileges of those who, live close to God,

can cry direct for more light to THE FATHER OF LIGHT!

 

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.  The kine took the straight way.

The Hebrew brings out the directness with which the heifers took the route to

Beth-shemesh very forcibly. It says, “And the kine went straight in the way upon

the way to Beth-shemesh; they went along one highway, lowing as they went,” i.e.

they went in one direct course, without deviating from it. Nevertheless,

their continual lowing showed the great stress that was laid upon their

nature in being thus compelled to separate themselves from their calves.

And the lords of the Philistines went after them. I.e. behind them,

leaving the kine free to go where they chose. The usual position of the

driver of an ox cart in the East is in front. Conder (‘Tent Work,’ 1:274)

describes the view up the great corn valley of Sorek to the high and rugged

hills above as extremely picturesque, and this it is, he adds, which was

spread before the eyes of the five lords of the Philistines as they followed

the lowing oxen which bore the ark on the “straight way” from Ekron to

Beth-shemesh. The ruins of the latter place, he says, lie on a knoll

surrounded by olive trees, near the junction of the valley of Sorek with the

great gorge which bounded Judah on the north.

 

 

THE ARK AT BETH-SHEMESH

(vs. 15-20).

 

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.”  And they of Beth-shemesh. More exactly, “And Beth-shemesh

was reaping its wheat harvest,” the whole population being in the fields.

Though a priestly city, we find in v. 15 the Levites distinguished from the

ordinary inhabitants, as though they and the priests formed only the ruling

class. In the valley. Now called the Wady Surar, branching off into

another valley on the south. Robinson (‘Later Bibl. Res.,’ 153) speaks of

the site of Beth-shemesh as a very noble one, being “a low plateau at the

junction of two fine plains.” The wheat harvest takes place in Palestine in

May, and consequently the disastrous battle of Eben-ezer must have been

fought in the previous October.

 

 

The Ark in Harvest (v. 13)

 

It was in the time of harvest that the ark was restored to Israel. Whilst the

cornfields of the Philistines were wasted by an extraordinary plague, the

valley of Beth-shemesh was covered with golden grain, and the men of that

city were busily occupied in gathering it in (Ruth 1:6). But at the sight

of the sacred symbol they left their secular occupation, gathered around it

with great joy, and spent the day in “offering burnt offerings and sacrificing

sacrifices to the Lord” (v. 15). We may regard the harvest as

representing material blessings, which are more richly bestowed at this

season of the year than any other; the ark as representing spiritual

blessings: “the law which came by Moses,” and “the grace and truth which

came by Jesus Christ ” (John 1:17); the throne of grace, and the mercy and

grace which are there obtained. And the fact just mentioned suggests a

comparison between the former and the latter. Both come from the same

hand; but spiritual are superior to material blessings, inasmuch as they:

 

  • REVEAL MORE OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS. Consider them:

 

Ø      In the principle from which they proceed. The one class of benefits from

benevolence in general; the other from benevolence in the form of mercy.

“According to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

 

Ø      In the mode by which they are communicated. The operation of the laws

of nature (Genesis 8:22; Jeremiah 5:21); the gift and sacrifice of His

only begotten Son. “Through Jesus Christ.”

 

Ø      In the nearness with which the great Benefactor comes to us. “Thou

visitest the earth” (Psalm 65:9); but “blessed is the man whom thou

choosest and causest to approach unto thee” (Psalm 65:4), in that

closer fellowship which those who are reconciled in Christ enjoy, and

whose hearts are the temple of thine abode, the habitation of thy Spirit.

“Revelation is the voluntary approximation of the infinite Being to the

ways and thoughts of finite humanity; and until this step has been taken by

Almighty grace, how should man have a warrant for loving Him with all

his mind, and heart, and strength?” (A.H. Hallam).

 

  • INVOLVE MORE VALUABLE GOOD.

 

Ø      The one pertains to the body, the other to the soul.

Ø      The one to man considered simply as a creature, needing support; the

other as a sinner:

o        needing forgiveness,

o        renewal,

o        salvation.

Ø      The one pertains to time, the other to eternity; “bread that perisheth,”

bread that endureth to everlasting life” (John 6:27, 51); “that good

part which cannot be taken away” (Luke 10:42).

 

  • PRODUCE MORE EXALTED JOY. “Rejoiced.” “The joy in

harvest (Isaiah 9:3).

 

Ø      In its relation to God. The one is felt less and the other more directly in

Him. The difference is very much the same as that which exists between the

joy felt at receiving a present from a friend at a distance, and that of seeing

his face and holding personal intercourse with him. And what are all the

harvests which the earth ever produced compared with one smile of the

Father’s countenance, one whisper of Divine love? (Psalm 4:6-7).

 

Ø      In its influence on the heart;

o        elevating,

o        purifying,

o        enlarging,

o        strengthening,

o        satisfying it.

 

Ø      In its power over circumstances. The joy of our harvest may be speedily

turned into sorrow by bereavement (v. 19) and other afflictions; but the

joy which is felt in God is independent of outward circumstances, lifts the

soul above them (Habakkuk 3:17-18), lives in death, and is perfected

in heavenly bliss.

 

  • INCITE TO MORE COMPLETE CONSECRATION.

 

Ø      With respect to the Giver. His bestowment of “fruitful seasons, filling

our heart with food and gladness,” incites to some return to Him

(Exodus 23:14-17); but His bestowment of mercy and grace, to the

whole burnt offering” of the man himself (Romans 12:1).

 

Ø      With respect to our fellow men. The one incites to the giving of “those

things which are necessary for the body” (Exodus 23:11); the other

incites (and effectually constrains) to the giving of what is good for the

whole man, body and soul; to self-sacrifice, and the “peace offerings” of

brotherly kindness, and of charity toward all men.

 

Ø      The whole course of life; not in one or two acts merely, but in a

continued service of love to be completed IN ETERNITY!

 

  • Conclusion.

 

Ø      If God has bestowed upon you temporal good, rejoice not in it so much

as in SPIRITUAL GOOD!

Ø      If He has withheld it, rejoice in the higher good which is yours.

“... all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”

(I Corinthians 3:22-23)

Ø      “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and

all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).

 

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.”

Stood there, where there was a great stone. Probably a mass of natural

rock rising through the soil. This they used as an altar, breaking up the

cart for wood, and sacrificing the kine. In this joyful work all the people

seem to have joined, though the sacrifice would be offered only by the

priests.

 

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.”

The Levites took down the ark. Naturally, in a city of which

priests formed the ruling caste, the people would be acquainted with the

general nature of the regulations of the law. Apparently it was only after

the sacrificial feast that they forgot the reverence due to the symbol of

Jehovah’s presence among them.

 

 

Restored Blessings (vs. 10-15)

 

The facts are:

 

1. The kine bearing the ark, contrary to their instincts, go away from their

home to Beth-shemesh.

2. The men of Beth-shemesh, seeing the returning ark, leave their

occupations, and express their joy in sacrificial worship.

3. The Levites, exceeding their privileges, open the ark and examine its

sacred contents.

4. The representatives of the Philistines observe the issue of their

experiment and return. The rapid succession of incidents connected with

the restoration of the ark illustrates several important truths.

 

  • THE SUPREMACY OF GOD OVER HIS CREATURES. As a human

device, the means for ascertaining the will of the God of Israel were

excellent; and it is a mark of condescension that God should thus use

imperfect men to effect His purpose. The men argued that He who

commands disease and the ravages of vermin can, if disposed, effect His

will through the agency of other creatures. God is not indisposed to exert

His great power, should moral cause exist, even through the actions of men

who act up to the measure of light attained to. The departure of the kine

from their home and young to a strange land was a remarkable instance of

the control of God over the strongest instincts. The seeming unnaturalness

of the event is owing to our one-sided views of God’s purposes and

methods. It was contrary to their nature, as ordinarily exercised, to go from

home. It was not contrary to the nature of things for them to do the will of

their Maker.  (I recommend Genesis 17 – Names of God - El Shaddai by

Nathan Stone – this website – CY – 2016)

 

Ø      It is a reality in every case of animal life that God’s will is done. All

creatures are “HIS.” He formed their powers and gave them tendencies.

Therefore every creature, in following its ordinary course, is actually

carrying out a Divine intent. In this the kine were one with all cattle.

Animals exist not for themselves. The end of their existence is moral and

spiritual. The fabric of the universe and the lower creatures are for the

development of the spiritual and eternal. In the case of the kine a great

spiritual end was subserved — the restoration of the ark and consequent

development of the “kingdom which cannot be moved.” The original

appointment of instinct and the specific control of it are acts identical in

kindsupernatural.

 

Ø      There are other instances of special control. Balaam’s ass was used to

reprove the prophet. The lions were restrained from touching Daniel. In

either case, as here, the event was connected with a manifest spiritual

purpose; and who shall say that He who governs men and calms the sea

shall not be free to control the movements of kine, as truly as when on His

way to Jerusalem He guided the ass on which He sat?

 

Ø      It is a means of teaching important truth. This subordination of the most

powerful impulses to the high purposes of God sets forth the truth that the

most powerful natural attachments must yield to the requirements of the

kingdom of God; as well perhaps as that, in coming years, the inferior

creatures will subserve the advance of Christ’s kingdom as certainly as that

they will share in its blessings (Isaiah 11:6-7; Matthew 13:32).

 

  • THE JOY OF RESTORED BLESSINGS. The men of Beth-shemesh

were the first honored with a sight of the ark, and with the instinct of the

true Israelite they appreciated the boon.

 

Ø      The blessing now received was very great. The significance of the ark to

Israel cannot be fully expressed. Its return from captivity meant to the

people a reinstatement in the favor of God. Their cry of anguish and the

intercession of Samuel had been heard. Likewise the Church, after seasons

of chastisement and loss of privilege, knows the greatness of the boon

when God makes “the place of His feet glorious” (Isaiah 60:13),

and comforts Zion with the light of His countenance.

 

Ø      The restoration was unexpected. Both as to the fact and the means there

was no anticipation of what occurred. Men were called from common toils

to share in a great spiritual joy. Thus does God in His mercy break in on the

cares and sorrows of common life with blessings in excess of our hopes.

Israel was not able to devise means of delivery from Egypt, and surprise

filled their minds when they saw the salvation of God. Christ’s appearance

after death even took away the power of utterance (Luke 24:36-41).

“For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I

gather thee.”  (Isaiah 54:7)

 

Ø      The expression of joy was natural. It was most proper for a nature

toned by recent chastisement to rush from the occupations of life to bid

welcome to the long wept for ark of God. The recovery of property, the

return of a lost son, nothing, could stir such deep feelings as the sign of the

restored favor of Jehovah. The sacrifice of the kine was a form of

penitence, homage, and gratitude culminating in highest joy. There is NO

JOY LIKE THAT OF GOD’S ASSURED FAVOR!   It is a gladness

beyond that of the time when corn and wine increase. “Then was our

mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” (Psalm 126:2)

 

  • UNLAWFUL CURIOSITY. A debased condition is not recovered

from suddenly. Despite the repentance for past sin and gratitude for return

of God’s favor, the low tone of life consequent on former practices

remained. As a consequence of the singular combination of good and bad

qualities at this hopeful turn in affairs, the joy of the day was marred by a

wicked, profane curiosity. This was the more culpable because the

inhabitants were chiefly Levites, who must have been acquainted with the

very strict prohibition to manifest any rude curiosity in reference to the

sacred symbols (Exodus 3:5; 19:21; Numbers 4:20).

 

Ø      Curiosity, though useful in the acquisition of knowledge, is sometimes

wicked.

 

o        In human affairs, as when it consists in an idle intrusion into the secret

business or sorrows of others, or endeavor to obtain information with

malicious intent.

 

o        In Divine things, as when it consists in a restless craving to know the

secret purposes of God; or an endeavor to subject the Divine nature to

the same kind of criticism and analysis as the work of His hand; or a

fruitless endeavor to solve the mystery of His sovereignty in relation

to the existence of evil; or a rude, irreverent attempt to penetrate into

the great “mystery of godliness,” the person of Christ.

 

Ø      The wickedness of such curiosity is evident,  because of:

 

o        The relation of man to God. God is the infinite, eternal, holy One, of

whom all that is is but the dim shadow. No ideas, no beings, not even

the totality of the material and spiritual universe, are commensurate

with Him.  On the other hand, man is only one among many creatures,

limited in power, defective in nature, and incapable even of knowing

the mysteries within his own breast. The moral evil in man unfits him

for the vision of God even so far as that is possible to holy beings.

The reverence due to God is due also in measure to man from man

when justice and fellow feeling bar the way to secret things.

 

o        The habit is destructive to all that is good. In no instance is evil

better known by its fruits than in that of curiosity carried into

Divine and human things. It is the ruin of reverence, which is the

essence of worship, the guardian of all that is good in life, the

crowning grace of conduct, and the spring of manifold virtues.

It, when prevalent, renders man distrustful of his fellows, and

loosens the bonds of home. No society can exist WHERE ALL

REVERENCE IS DEAD and unbridled curiosity is its death.

 

  • AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY. The five lords of the Philistines

witnessed the restoration of the ark and the joy of the men of

Bethshemesh, and they became wiser men. They carried back the

information that Jehovah was indeed:

 

Ø      the Destroyer of Dagon,

Ø      the Controller of disease,

Ø      the Lord of the brute creation, and

Ø      unchanged Friend of Israel.

 

Thus in defeat there was a triumph. Thus have we an indication of what will

yet be. The foes of the Church of Christ will learn that He does hold the

mastery over all. Ebbs there may be in the prosperity of the Church, but the

power will reassert itself, and men will marvel both at the means and the fact.

A great discovery will be made to all creatures when, after the conflict of

ages with the world power, the true Israel of God shall rejoice in THE

PERFECT AND EVERLASTING PRESENCE OF THEIR LORD!

 

16 “And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned

to Ekron the same day.”  They returned to Ekron the same day. The lords of

the Philistines would of course take no part in this rejoicing, but, having seen

the ark restored, and the people busied in making preparations for the

sacrifice, returned immediately home.

 

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;

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.”

The golden emerods. We have here and in v. 18 an enumeration of the gifts

differing from, without being at variance with, that in v. 4. They are still five

golden emerods, for which the name here is not ophalim, but tehorim, the word

always read in the synagogue (see ch. 5:6). From its use in the cognate languages

it is pretty certain that it is rightly translated in our version. But besides these there

were golden mice, according to the number of all the cities, etc. The priests had

named only five mice, one for each of the lords of the Philistines; but the

eagerness of the people outran their suggestion, and not only the fenced

towns, but even the unwalled villages sent their offering, lest they should

still be chastised. Country villages. Literally, “the village” or “hamlet of

the Perazi.” The Septuagint, a trustworthy authority in such matters, makes

the Perazi the same as the Perizzite. Both words really signify “the

inhabitant of the lowland,” i.e. of the plain country of Phoenicia; but from

Zechariah 2:4, where Perazoth is translated “towns without walls,” and

from Ezekiel 38:11, where it is rendered “unwalled villages,” we may

conclude that it had come popularly to mean an open village, though

literally, in both these places, it means “the hamlets of the lowland.” Even

unto the great stone of Abel, etc. All this part of the verse is exceedingly

corrupt, and requires large interpolations to obtain from it any meaning.

Both the Vulgate and the Syriac retain the unmeaning word Abel; but the

Septuagint gives us what is probably the true reading: “and the great stone

whereon they set the ark of Jehovah, which is in the field of Joshua the

Beth-shemeshite, is a witness unto this day” (compare Genesis 31:52;

Isaiah 30:8).

 

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.”

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?

He smote the men of Beth-shemesh, etc. In this verse also

the text is undoubtedly corrupt. The Septuagint ascribes the sin not to all

the people, but to “the sons of Jeconiah, who were not glad when they saw

the ark, and he smote them.” But as this reading is not supported by the

other versions we may pass it by. The numbers, however, are evidently

wrong. Fifty thousand men would imply a population of 250,000 people,

whereas Jerusalem itself in its palmiest days never had a population of even

70,000. There were no large cities among the Israelites, but a scattered

population living upon their fields, and with a few small walled towns here

and there to protect them and their cattle in any sudden emergency.

Kennicott, however, has satisfactorily explained the mistake. In the old

way of denoting numbers by the letters of the alphabet an ain = 70 had

been mistaken for a nun with two dots = 50,000. The Syriac has 5000, that

is, a nun with one dot. We must add that the Hebrew is not fifty thousand

and threescore and ten men, but “seventy men, fifty thousand men,”

without any article between, and with the smaller number first, contrary to

Hebrew rule. The occasion of the calamity was probably as follows: — As

the news of the return of the ark spread from mouth to mouth, the people

flocked together to take part in the sacrifice. which would of course be

followed by a feast. Heated thereat by wine, perhaps, and merriment, they

lost all sense of reverence, and encouraged one another to look into the ark

and examine its contents, though the words need not absolutely mean more

than that “they looked at the ark.” Even so the men of Beth-shemesh, as a

city of priests, must have known that death was the penalty of unhallowed

gazing at holy things (Numbers 4:20), and it is more than probable that

those who were smitten were priests, because in them it would be a

heinous sin; for it was a repetition of that contempt for religion and its

symbols which had been condemned so sternly in Eli’s sons. The mere

seeing of the ark was no sin, and had given the people only joy (v. 13),

but as soon as they had received it the priests ought to have covered it with

a vail (Numbers 4:5). To leave it without a vail was neglectful, to pry

into it was sacrilege. Because Jehovah had smitten many of the people,

etc. This clause should be translated, “because Jehovah had smitten the

people with a great smiting.” The sudden death even of seventy men in an

agricultural district, especially if they were the heads of the priestly families

there, would be a great and terrible calamity, enough to fill the whole place

with grief.

 

 

 

Irreverence (vs. 19-20)

 

  • THE OFFENCE. The Philistines are not blamed for sending away the

ark of God on a wooden cart. They did not know, or, if they knew, they

had no means of observing, the mode of carriage by Levites which had

been prescribed in the Mosaic law. In placing the ark on a new cart never

before used, and drawn by young cows that had never before worn a yoke,

the Philistines meant to show respect. But the men of Beth-shemesh, being

Israelites, and having Levites among them, knew, or ought to have known,

the laws regarding the sacred ark. So they were more severely judged.

Their familiar handling of the ark was a presumptuous sin. Irreverence had

grown during the years of misgovernment and license through which Israel

had passed. It is evident that before the people would have dared to send

for the ark to Shiloh, and take it into the field of battle, they must have lost

much of the veneration with which their fathers had regarded the symbol of

Jehovah’s presence. And now the men of Beth-shemesh actually presumed

to look into the ark, perhaps to ascertain whether the Philistines had put

any gold into it, besides the golden offerings which they had placed in a

separate coffer. So doing, they forgot, or willfully broke, the law which

allowed none of the people at large so much as to approach the ark, and

required that the priests should cover it with a veil, before the Kohathites

might carry it; and in carrying it those Levites might not lay their hands

upon it, but were commanded to bear it on gilt staves passing through

golden rings in the four corners of the sacred chest. Indeed the Kohathites,

though thus honored as the bearers of the ark, were forbidden not only to

touch it, but even to go into the most holy place to see it covered under

pain of death.

 

  • THE PENALTY. The Lord saw it needful to restore reverence for His

law and for the ark of His testimony by striking a blow at presumption

which would not be soon forgotten. Accordingly, seventy of the country

people at Beth-shemesh were smitten with death. On the same ground, a

few years later, was Uzzah the Levite stricken dead because he put his

hand on the ark of God. (I Chronicles 13 – I recommend I Chronicles

13,15 – Spurgeon Sermon – The Lesson of Uzzahthis website – CY –

2016)  What a warning against irreverence! For this cause men may

die close to the ark of the covenant, perish beside the mercy seat. Nay,

that which is the greatest blessing may be turned by presumption into

the greatest disaster. The savor of life may be turned into a savor of

death. It is especially a warning to those who “name the name of the

Lord.” The ignorant and profane are judged, but not so strictly as those

who “profess and call themselves Christians;” just as the Philistines were

afflicted with boils, but the Israelites were visited with death. God is much

displeased with listless minds, irreverent postures, and heedless spirits in

His Church. No doubt it may be pleaded that such faults come of want of

thought, and not of any evil intent; but want of thought is itself a very

grave offence in such a matter as the service of God. Even levity is

inexcusable; (I have never seen a funny story in the Bible!  I take it

that sin is a very serious thing! - CY – 2016) for, at all events in adult

persons, it comes of hardness of heart, ingratitude to Christ, neglect of

reflection on sacred themes and objects, engrossment of thought and

affection with the things which are seen, and an indifference to

the presence and purpose of the Holy Spirit.  Let us study reverence.

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the holy ones, and to

be had in reverence of all that are round about Him.”   (Psalm 89:7)

 

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.”  Who is able, etc. Literally, “Who

is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God?” A punishment so severe

following upon their unhallowed temerity made the inhabitants of this city of

priests eager to pass the ark on to others. They therefore sent messengers to the

inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim to request them to fetc.h it away.

Kiryath-yarim — for so it ought to be pronounced — means the city of

forests Woodtown, softened among us into Wooton. It was chosen

apparently simply because it was the nearest town of any importance, and

was therefore identified in early Christian times with the modern Kuriet-el-

anab, grapetown, the woods having given way to vines, and which is

about ten miles off, on the road to Mizpah. Conder, however, doubts the

correctness of this view, and places Kirjath-jearim at Soba (see ‘Tent

Work,’ 1:18 22).

 

 

Trophies and Chastisement (vs. 17-21)

 

The facts are:

 

1. An enumeration by the Israelites of the golden images sent with the ark.

2. A terrible chastisement on the men of Beth-shemesh for their profane curiosity.

3. An effort to send the ark away, consequent on the terror created. These

    closing incidents of the restoration introduce for consideration:

 

  • THE TROPHIES WON IN THE CONFLICT WITH FOES OF THE

CHURCH OF GOD.  The golden emerods and mice were expressions of

pagan superstition, and yet of submission to the superior power of Jehovah.

In so far as they represented the five lords of the country, they were, in the

eyes of Israel, evidence of the extent to which the might of Jehovah had

been recognized. As the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were kept as

memorials of what God had done, and prophetic of what He would do, so

these images were noted in the annals of the time as signs of the same power

in conquest. The remembrance of them would inspire courage, and also

suggest due fear. The Church of Christ has won many trophies. Christ

Himself has led “captivity captive.” (Ephesians 4:8)  He has in many

instances snatched learning, science, art, statesmanship, and literature

from the hand of the enemy, and made them contribute to the splendor of

His kingdom. The extent to which trophies have been gathered deserves a

register as truly as that given of the offerings of the Philistine lords. A calm

reflection on this subject will inspire the Church for new efforts, and awaken

gratitude for the past.

 

  • CHASTISEMENT FOR SINS OF PROFANITY. The joy of

restoration was soon beclouded by the sorrow of death. The death of

seventy men for the sin of treating the ark of God profanely raises the

question of what there can be in such sins to merit so severe a

chastisement. A general answer to such a question is that we are not in a

position to determine for God the form, time, or extent of punishment due

to sin. None can adjudge sin correctly but THE PERFECTLY HOLY ONE!

There may be far more in an act than comes to the surface. Hence a reverent

spirit is mostly concerned to know the fact. But there are a few

considerations which may throw a little light on the apparent severity of

the chastisement.

 

Ø      The essential evil of the sin. Much difficulty arises from not considering

that some sins, and this especially, are a most virulent moral poison. They

are at the very antipodes to the true spirit of love and obedience. Hence the

dire consequences of their prevalence come more sharply into view when

we remember the special contagion of example in such cases as these; for

profanity of spirit is easily caught from example, and at once lowers the

entire nature of a man.

 

Ø      The liability to fall into it. Not only is the sin heinous, and spread by

example, but there is a predisposition to it which gives to the slightest

encouragement from without double power. The evil already in man is

good soil for such seed. If a sinful nature means aversion to a holy God,

then it requires only a small encouragement to turn that aversion into the

positive form of disregard of the Divine presence.

 

Ø      The privileges of the transgressors. Punishment is always proportionate

to privilege abused. As officials in the service of God, the Levites were

doubly criminal. Those who grow up amidst the sanctities and quiet

reverence of the sanctuary or pious home commit deadly sin when they

think or act towards God profanely. Had we all the details of the behavior

of the men of Beth-shemesh, no doubt the grossness of their conduct

would stand out in fearful contrast with the privileges they had enjoyed as

servants of the altar.

 

Ø      The bearing on ages to come. Every sin bears on the future, and so does

its punishment. The DETERRENT EFFECT of punishment is important;

(I would say that the arguments against scare tactics, the death penalty as

a deterrent to crime and loosening of penalties for deviant life styles are 

cause for their ascendancy today.  The Bible says “And all Israel shall hear,

and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.”

Deuteronomy 13:11 – In the same vein, much of the discipline problems

in American schools can be directly laid at the door of the removal

of corporal punishment and America is reaping the results today!

The same can be said of lax parenting techniques.  CY - 2016) and its

infliction with this reference is equitable, seeing that the sin acts on others

and in ages to come. The effect of the death of the men at Beth-shemesh

was seen in the salutary fear that came on all. “This holy Lord God!” It

was a great gain to the world to have driven home this great truth. Nor

would the effect end there. God has taught the entire world by the terrible

things in righteousness (Psalm 65:5) which have been recorded. Here is

one of the means of the EDUCATION of the future race. Men are more

reverent for what they read in the Old Testament.

 

Ø      The infliction of death is a prerogative of God. God sets the appointed

time. Temporal death is not less of God when it comes gradually. Its direct

infliction is the form in which He marks His disfavor and impresses His

creatures. If seventy men sin, and commit in the civil religious state of

Israel a capital crime (Numbers 4:5, 15, 20), they of course must pay

the prescribed penalty. It is an awful thing to die by the sudden stroke of

God, but a more awful thing to be in a state of mind to deserve it.

 

  • Practical lessons:

 

Ø      Let us keep watch over the first risings of a spirit of levity.

Ø      Cultivate in young and old, by all conceivable means, reverence for all

things connected with the worship of God.

Ø      Remember that the severity of God is really mercy to his creatures as a

whole.

 

 

The Return of the Ark (vs. 10 – ch. 7:1)

 

 

On the taking of the ark Israel sank to the lowest point of degradation. But

when the night is darkest then dawn is nearest.” And the return of the

sacred symbol was the first gleam of returning day. It was:

 

  • RESTORED BY DIVINE FAVOR (vs. 10-12), which was:

 

Ø      Exceeding abundant (I Timothy 1:14). The people of Israel do not

appear to have made any effort for its restoration, but God remembered

them, and for their sake constrained their enemies to send back the

precious treasure. “That is free love which never has been desired, never

has been deserved, and never can be requited.”

 

Ø      Shown in an extraordinary manner. It was brought by creatures acting

contrary to their natural instincts, under a Divine impulse, in a direct line to

the nearest border city of Israel — Beth-shemesh (the house of the sun); a

sign to Israel as well as the heathen. Two kine knew their owner as

(Isaiah 1:3) Hophni and Phinehas knew him not.  God’s favor often comes

by the most unlikely agencies and means. His power is universal, and all

things serve Him.

 

Ø      Unexpected and surprising (v. 13). It was the time of harvest, and the

men of Beth-shemesh were pursuing their ordinary secular occupations,

thinking nothing of the ark, when they suddenly lifted up their eyes and

beheld it approaching. It was found by them like “the treasure hid in the

field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

 

Ø      Distinguishing. Shown toward Beth-shemesh beyond other cities, and

toward Joshua beyond any other man; for some reason, perchance, in the

people as well as in the locality. The city we know was a priestly city

(Joshua 21:16). We shall probably be doing them no wrong if we

suppose that they regarded its presence as an honor to themselves. It

distinguished their township above all the cities of Israel.

 

  • RECEIVED WITH GREAT JOY (vs. 13-18). We can imagine how

promptly they put aside their harvest work and gathered with one accord

around the sacred object. Their joy was the joy of:

 

Ø      Gratitude for the favor shown toward them (I Kings 8:62-66; Ezra 6:16-17).

Ø      Devotion (vs. 14-15). “They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed

sacrifices (peace offerings) unto the Lord.”

Ø      Hope; for in it they saw a proof of the power of God over the heathen,

and a promise of their own freedom and prosperity.

Ø      And the day of their abounding joy was commemorated by means of the

great stone on which the ark and the coffer containing the jewels of gold

were set, “which remaineth unto this day.”

 

  • REGARDED WITH IRREVERENT CURIOSITY (vs. 19-20).

 

Ø      Their conduct consisted of “looking into (or upon) the ark.” Whether

they actually pried into it is uncertain. Whatever may have been the precise

nature of their conduct, the spirit in which they acted was their chief

offenCe in the sight of Him who looketh at the heart.” There may be much

sin in a look.

 

Ø      Their sin was great; exhibiting want of reverence and godly fear,

presumption, perhaps rationalism, recklessness, profanity (Leviticus 10:3).

A spirit of intelligent curiosity and inquiry is of unspeakable worth,

being the principal means of discovering truth and promoting human

progress; but it should be ever joined with humility and reverence, as it has

been in the greatest minds. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The

fact that Beth-shemesh was a city of the priests would lead us to expect

better things of its inhabitants. “It is not improbable that in their festive

rejoicing they may have fallen into intemperance, and hence into

presumptuous irreverence, as it is thought was the case with Nadab and

Abihu” (‘Speakers Commentary).

 

Ø      Their punishment was severe; for “of fifty thousand men, seventy died a

sudden death” (Hengstenberg; v. 19). What is sent as a blessing is often

turned by men themselves into a curse.

 

Ø      The effect was morally benefical on the people generally. “Who is able

to stand before this holy Lord God?” etc. (v. 20).

 

o        A conviction of His transcendent and awful holiness. “Our God is a

consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

 

o        A feeling of their own deep sinfulness, which the former never fails

to produce (Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8).

 

o        A persuasion of the necessity of “righteousness and true holiness”

in those among whom He dwells; for their request to the inhabitants of

Kirjath-jearim, “Come ye down, and fetch it up to you,” was the

expression of something more than selfish dread (ch. 5:7), being caused

by the belief that it would be more worthily honored by others than by

themselves. The conduct of a single city sometimes reveals the moral

condition of a whole nation. And Israel was evidently not prepared to

receive openly and fully the sign of God’s presence among them, nor,

until they should have passed through long and painful discipline, any

further signal manifestation of His favor.

 

  • REINSTATED IN RESPECTFUL BUT IMPERFECT HONOR

(v. 21; ch. 7:1). From Beth-shemesh it was taken (not to Shiloh, which had

been rendered unworthy, and was now perhaps in ruins, but) to Kirjath-jearim

(city of forests or woods, Psalm 132:6), where it was:

 

Ø      Settled among a willing people, and in the house of a devout man —

Abinadab, “on the hill.” “God will find out a resting-place for the ark.”

When one people prove themselves unworthy of it, and wish to part with

it, He will provide another people of greater worth, and ready to welcome

it. “It is no new thing for the ark to be in a private dwelling house.”

 

Ø      Placed under special and proper guardianship. “Sanctified (consecrated)

Eleazar his son to keep the ark from profane intrusion.” Even in the most

corrupt times there are individual instances of true piety. These are

honored of God, and for their sakes others are spared (Isaiah 1:9).

 

Ø      Disassociated from the tabernacle and its services. After the capture of

the ark the desecrated tabernacle appears to have been removed from

Shiloh to Nob, where we find it long afterwards (ch. 21:6), attended by more

than eighty priests, and subsequently to Gibeon (I Kings 3:4; I Chronicles

16:39; 21:29; II Chronicles 1:3, 6-7), where it finally fell into decay and

perished; the ark itself remained in Kirjath-jearim about seventy years,

when it was removed to the house of Obed-edom (II Samuel 6:3,11.

Gibeah = the hill), and shortly afterwards to Jerusalem, where it abode

in curtains” until deposited in the temple of Solomon. The separation

was anomalous, preventive of the full observance of the prescribed order

of Levitical services, and indicative of the imperfect moral relations which

 subsisted between the people of Israel and their Divine King.

 

Ø      Long disregarded by the nation. No public assemblies appear to have

met at the place where it stood; no sacrifices to have been offered there, no

festivities held, as previously at Shiloh. It is not even mentioned again until

the time of David, when it was said, “We inquired not at (or for) the ark in

the days of Saul” (I Chronicles 13:3). Its neglect was permitted

because its proper use was impossible until a thorough internal reformation

and more complete union of the nation should be effected. “It was made

evident that the nation was not yet worthy to receive the perfect fulfillment

of the promise, ‘I will dwell in your midst.’ (Exodus 29:45)  They endeavored

to dispose of the ark in the best possible way. It was buried, as it were, in

Kirjathjearim until the time when God would bring about its joyful resurrection”

(Hengstenberg).

 

 

 

 

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