Verse 6. Meanwhile, where was the habitation of God among men? He was wont to shine forth from between the cherubim, but where was the ark? It was like a hidden thing, a stranger in its own land.
Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah. Rumours came that it was somewhere in the land of Ephraim, in a temporary lodging; rather an object of dread than of delight. Is it not wonderful that so renowned a symbol of the presence of the Lord should be lingering in neglect -- a neglect so great that it was remarkable that we should have heard of its whereabouts at all? When a man begins to think upon God and his service it is comforting that the gospel is heard of. Considering the opposition which it has encountered it is marvellous that it should be heard of, and heard of in a place remote from the central city; but yet we are sorrowful that it is only in connection with some poor despised place that we do hear of it. What is Ephratah Who at this time knows where it was? How could the ark have remained there so long?
David instituted a search for the ark. It had to be hunted for high and low; and at last at Kirjathjearim, the forest city, he came upon it. How often do souls find Christ and his salvation in out of the way places! What matters where we meet with him so long as we do behold him, and final life in him? That is a blessed Eureka which is embedded in our text -- "we found it." The matter began with hearing, led on to a search, and concluded in a joyful find. "We found it in the fields of the wood." Alas that there should be no room for the Lord in the palaces of kings, so that he must needs take to the woods. If Christ be in a wood he will yet be found of those who seek for him. He is as near in the rustic home, embowered among the trees, as in the open streets of the city; yea, he will answer prayer offered from the heart of the black forest where the lone traveller seems out of all hope of hearing. The text presents us with an instance of one whose heart was set upon finding the place where God would meet with him; this made him quick of hearing, and so the cheering news soon reached him. The tidings renewed his ardour, and led him to stick at no difficulties in his search; and so it came to pass that, where he could hardly have expected it, he lighted upon the treasure which he so much prized.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 6. We heard of it at Ephratah. This is commonly understood of Bethlehem, as that place had this name. But the ark never was at Bethlehem, at least we read of no such thing. There was a district called by this name, or one closely resembling it, where Elkanah, Samuel's father, lived, and whence Jeroboam came, both of whom are called Ephrathites. 1 Samuel 1:1 1 Kings 11:26 . This was in the tribe of Ephraim, and is probably the place meant by the Psalmist. Now the ark had been for a long series of years at Shiloh, which is in Ephraim, when it was taken to be present at the battle with the Philistines, in which Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were slain, and when thirty thousand of the Israelites lost their lives, together with the capture of the ark. The frightful report of this calamity was brought to Eli, and occasioned his instant death. This appears to be the event referred to in the words, "We heard of it at Ephratah"; and a grievous report it was, not likely to be soon forgotten.
We found it in the fields of Jaar. After the ark had been for some time in the land of the Philistines, they sent it away, and it came to Bethshemesh, in the tribe of Judah. 1Sa 6:12. In the immediate vicinity of this place was also Kirjathjearim, i.e. the city of Jaar, to which the ark was removed; for the Bethshemites were afraid to retain it, as many thousands of them had lost their lives, for the violation of the sanctity of the ark, by looking into it. As this slaughter took place close by, if not in the fields of Jaar, the Psalmist, with reference to it, says, "We found it in the fields of Jaar." Having glanced at these two afflictive and memorable events, he goes on with his direct design, of encouraging the people to perform due honour to the ark, and to the temple, by contrasting with the sad occurrences to which he had adverted their present joy and prosperity. --William Walford, in "The Book of Psalms. A New Translation, with Notes." 1837.
Verse 6. We heard of it at Ephratah, etc. Either of the ark which David and others had heard of, that it formerly was at Shiloh ( Joshua 18:1 ), here called Ephratah, as some think; so the Ephraimites are called Ephrathites ( Judges 12:5 ); and Elkanah of Ramathaimzophim, of Mount Ephraim, is said to be an Ephrathite ( 1 Samuel 1:1 ); but this tribe the Lord chose not, but the tribe of Judah, for his habitation; and rejected the tabernacle of Shiloh, and removed it from thence ( Psalms 78:60 Psalms 78:67-68 ). "We found it in the fields of the wood;" at Kirjathjearim, which signifies the city of woods; being built among woods, and surrounded with them: here the ark was twenty years, and here David found it; and from hence he brought it to the house of Obededom, and from thence to Zion.
Christ has been found in the fields of the wood; in a low, mean, abject state, as this phrase signifies: Ezekiel 16:5 . The shepherds found him rejected from being in the inn, there being no room for him, anti lying in a manger ( Luke 2:7 Luke 2:16 ); the angels found him in the wilderness, among tile wild beasts of the field ( 1:13 ); nor had he the convenience even of foxes and birds of the air; he had no habitation or place where to lay his head: Matthew 8:20 . And he is to be found in the field of the Scriptures, where tiffs rich treasure and pearl of great price lies hid: Matthew 8:44 . -- John Gill.
Verse 6. We heard of it at Ephratah. The only explanation, equally agreeable to usage and the context, is that which makes Ephratah the ancient name of Bethlehem ( Genesis 48:7 ), here mentioned as the place where David spent his youth, and where he used to hear of the ark, although he never saw it till long afterwards, when he found it in the fields of the wood, in the neighbourhood of Kirjathjearim, which name means Forest town, or City of the Woods. Compare 1 Samuel 7:1 with 2 Samuel 6:3-4 . --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 6. We heard of it at Ephratah, etc. Having prepared a sumptuous tabernacle, or tent, for the ark on Mount Zion, in the "City of David", a great national assembly was summoned, at which all the tribes were invited to attend its removal to this new sanctuary. The excitement spread over all Israel. "We heard men say at Ephratah Bethlehem, in the south of the land, and we found them repeat it in the woody Lebanon", sings the writer of the 132nd Psalm, according to Ewald's rendering. "Let us go into his tabernacle; let us worship at his footstool." The very words of the summons were fitted to rouse the deepest feelings of the nation, for they were to gather at Baalah, of Judah, another name for Kirjathjearim, to "bring up thence" to the mountain capital "the Ark of God, called by the name, the name of Jehovah of Hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim": 2 Samuel 6:2 . It "had not been enquired at in the days of Saul": but, when restored, the nation would have their great palladium once more in their midst, and could "appear before God in Zion." and be instructed and taught in the way they should go. --Cunningham Geikie, in "Hours with the Bible." 1881.
Verse 6. Ephratah. The Psalmist says, that David himself, even when a youth in Bethlehem Ephratah, heard of the sojourn of the ark in Kirjathjearim, and that it was a fond dream of David's boyhood to be permitted to bring up the ark to some settled habitation, which he desired to find ( Psalms 132:5 ). --Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 6. We found it. The Church can never long be hid. The sun reappears after a short eclipse. --Henry Law.
Verse 6. It is not always where we first seek God that he is to be found. "We heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood." We must not be governed by hearsay in seeking for God in Christ; but seek for ourselves until we find. It is not in every house of prayer that God in Christ can be found: after seeking him in gorgeous temples we may find him "in the fields of the wood." "If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there; believe it not" upon his own testimony, but seek him for yourselves. --George Rogers, 1883.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 6-7. We shall use this for practical purposes. A soul longing to meet with God. God has appointed a meeting place.