1 Samuel 6 Study Notes


6:1 The allusion to seven months dates the battle that resulted in the ark’s capture to around late October, since the wheat harvest (v. 13) typically occurred around late May.

6:2 Priests and . . . diviners represented the Philistines’ religious authorities. Diviners were prohibited by the law of Moses (Dt 18:10,14) because they attempted to discern the will of the divine apart from the methods God had prescribed.

6:3 A guilt offering applied to situations where holy things (here the ark) became defiled (Lv 5:15).

6:4 The five gold tumors and five gold mice do not correspond to the items the law of Moses required for guilt offerings (Lv 5:14-6:7). However, fashioning an offering in the shape of the thing from which a people wanted to be delivered is well attested in the ancient world (Nm 21:6-9).

6:5 Give glory is the same recommendation made to Achan by Joshua (Jos 7:19).

6:6 The Philistines knew Israel’s history and what God had done in Egypt (4:8). They were determined to learn their spiritual lesson quicker than the Egyptians had.

6:7-8 The Philistines put forth this one final test with a cart and two cows to make sure the plagues had come from the Lord’s hand. Nonetheless, they were certain they needed to send the ark of the Lord away. Untrained cows would not normally know how to work together to pull a cart on a road, and they would not normally leave their calves behind, so when that happened, they knew it was from God.

6:9 Beth-shemesh lay in the Sorek Valley a short distance from Timnah, which was controlled by the Philistines (Jdg 14:1).

6:10-12 The text emphasizes how the cows’ path left no room for doubt about God’s guidance. Joyce Baldwin notes the natural inclination of the cows would have been to return to their calves. The Philistine rulers followed the cart to the territory of Beth-shemesh, which probably marked the beginning of Israelite-controlled land.

6:13 Harvesting wheat was typically done around late May. The Festival of Weeks, called shavuʿoth in Hebrew (Nm 28:26-31; Dt 16:16), marked this time of ingathering and included Pentecost (Lv 23:15-16; Ac 2:1).

6:14 The text does not suggest that the people sinned in offering the cows as a burnt offering, though such offerings normally required a male without blemish (Lv 1).

6:15 Beth-shemesh was a city appointed for the Levites (Jos 21:16).

6:16 The five Philistine rulers recognized God’s hand in their troubles of the past seven months. They returned to Ekron, where presumably they reported what had happened.

6:17-18 On the Philistine cities, see note at 5:1. The expression still . . . today refers to the time 1 Samuel was written, probably early in the days of the divided kingdom.

6:19 The Masoretic Text reads “seventy men, fifty thousand men,” but many manuscripts omit the fifty thousand men, and Beth-shemesh could not have supported such a large population. The reading seventy persons, on the other hand, is undisputed. The phrase looked inside the ark may also be translated “looked at the ark” in the sense of unholy staring or gazing. The Levites should have covered the ark as soon as possible and treated it more reverently.

6:20 The people of Beth-shemesh realized their own unholiness in the presence of the Lord this holy God. The Philistines had sent the ark away; the citizens of Beth-shemesh now determined to do the same.

6:21 Kiriath-jearim was a city in Judah’s territory about fifteen miles to the east. Sending the ark there instead of to Shiloh suggests the Philistines may have overrun Shiloh after they captured the ark. Archaeological evidence indicates the city was destroyed about this time.