I Samuel 6
RESTORATION OF THE
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
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).
they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of
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
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
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
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
this reference to
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
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
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
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,
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.
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 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
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
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.
realization of His purpose among men who do not love him!
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
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
great gorge which bounded
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
May, and consequently the disastrous battle of Eben-ezer must have been
fought in the previous October.
It was in the time of harvest that the ark was restored to
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:
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).
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,
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).
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 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.
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
kind — supernatural.
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
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).
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
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),
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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
unchanged Friend of
Thus in defeat there was a triumph. Thus have we an indication of what will
yet be. The foes of 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
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
one, for Askelon
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
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;
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,
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
Irreverence (vs. 19-20)
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
had passed. It is evident that before the people would have dared to send
for the ark to
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.
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 Uzzah – this 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:
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
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
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.
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
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
their ascendancy today. The Bible says “And
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
corporal punishment and
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
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.
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
The Return of the
On the taking of the ark
“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:
Ø Exceeding abundant (I Timothy 1:14). The people of
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
nearest border city of
(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
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.”
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
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.
(v. 21; ch.
7:1). From Beth-shemesh it was taken (not to
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
eighty priests, and subsequently to
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.
the hill), and shortly afterwards to
“in curtains” until deposited in the
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
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
held, as previously at
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”
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