1 Samuel 6

Listen to 1 Samuel 6

The Ark Returned to Israel

1 The ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.
2 And the Philistines called for the priests and 1the diviners and said, "What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place."
3 They said, "If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him 2a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why 3his hand does not turn away from you."
4 And they said, "What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?" They answered, "Five golden 4tumors and five golden mice, 5according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords.
5 So you must make images of your 6tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, 7and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps 8he will lighten his hand from off you 9and your gods and your land.
6 Why should you harden your hearts as 10the Egyptians and 11Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, 12did they not send the people away, and they departed?
7 Now then, take and prepare 13a new cart and two milk cows 14on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them.
8 And take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side 15the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as 16a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way
9 and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to 17Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not 18his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence."
10 The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home.
11 And they put the ark of the LORD on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors.
12 And the cows went straight in the direction of 19Beth-shemesh along 20one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of 21Beth-shemesh.
13 Now the people of 22Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it.
14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. 23A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD.
15 And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon 24the great stone. And the men of 25Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the LORD.
16 And when 26the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.
17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a 27guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron,
18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, 28both fortified cities and unwalled villages. 29The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
19 30And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. He struck seventy men of them,[a] and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great blow.
20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, 31"Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?"
21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of 32Kiriath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up to you."

1 Samuel 6 Commentary

Chapter 6

The Philistines consult how to send back the ark. (1-9) They bring it to Bethshemesh. (10-18) The people smitten for looking into the ark. (19-21)

Verses 1-9 Seven months the Philistines were punished with the presence of the ark; so long it was a plague to them, because they would not send it home sooner. Sinners lengthen out their own miseries by refusing to part with their sins. The Israelites made no effort to recover the ark. Alas! where shall we find concern for religion prevail above all other matters? In times of public calamity we fear for ourselves, for our families, and for our country; but who cares for the ark of God? We are favoured with the gospel, but it is treated with neglect or contempt. We need not wonder if it should be taken from us; to many persons this, though the heavies of calamities, would occasion no grief. There are multitudes whom any profession would please as well as that of Christianity. But there are those who value the house, the word, and the ministry of God above their richest possessions, who dread the loss of these blessings more than death. How willing bad men are to shift off their convictions, and when they are in trouble, to believe it is a chance that happens; and that the rod has no voice which they should hear or heed!

Verses 10-18 These two kine knew their owner, their great Owner, whom Hophin and Phinehas knew not. God's providence takes notice even of brute creatures, and serves its own purposes by them. When the reapers saw the ark, they rejoiced; their joy for that was greater than the joy of harvest. The return of the ark, and the revival of holy ordinances, after days of restraint and trouble, are matters of great joy.

Verses 19-21 It is a great affront to God, for vain men to pry into, and meddle with the secret things which belong not to them, De. 29:29 ; Col. 2:18 . Man was ruined by desiring forbidden knowledge. God will not suffer his ark to be profaned. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Those that will not fear his goodness, and reverently use the tokens of his grace, shall be made to feel his justice. The number smitten is expressed in an unusual manner in the original, and it is probable that it means 1170. They desire to be rid of the ark. Foolish men run from one extreme to the other. They should rather have asked, How may we have peace with God, and recover his favor? ( micah 6:6 micah 6:7 ) . Thus, when the word of God works with terror on sinners' consciences, they, instead of taking the blame and shame to themselves, quarrel with the word, and put that from them. Many stifle their convictions, and put salvation away from them.

Cross References 32

  • 1. Deuteronomy 18:10; [Genesis 41:8; Exodus 7:11; Daniel 2:2; Daniel 5:7]
  • 2. [Leviticus 5:15, 16]
  • 3. ver. 9
  • 4. 1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 12
  • 5. ver. 17, 18; Joshua 13:3; Judges 3:3
  • 6. [See ver. 4 above]
  • 7. [Joshua 7:19]
  • 8. [1 Samuel 5:6, 9, 11]
  • 9. 1 Samuel 5:3, 4, 7
  • 10. [Exodus 14:17]
  • 11. Exodus 8:15, 32; [Exodus 7:13; Exodus 9:7, 35; Exodus 10:1]
  • 12. Exodus 12:31
  • 13. [2 Samuel 6:3]
  • 14. [Numbers 19:2]
  • 15. ver. 4, 5
  • 16. [See ver. 3 above]
  • 17. Joshua 15:10
  • 18. ver. 3
  • 19. Joshua 21:16
  • 20. Numbers 20:19
  • 21. Joshua 21:16
  • 22. [See ver. 12 above]
  • 23. ver. 18
  • 24. [See ver. 14 above]
  • 25. [See ver. 12 above]
  • 26. See ver. 4
  • 27. ver. 3, 8
  • 28. [Deuteronomy 3:5]
  • 29. ver. 14, 15
  • 30. [Exodus 19:21; Numbers 4:15, 20; 2 Samuel 6:7]
  • 31. [2 Samuel 6:9]
  • 32. 1 Chronicles 13:5, 6; [Joshua 9:17; Joshua 18:14]

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Hebrew of the people seventy men, fifty thousand men

Chapter Summary


In this chapter we are told the Philistines advised with their priests what to do with the ark, and wherewith to send it home, 1Sa 6:1,2 whose advice was to send with it a trespass offering, golden images of emerods and mice, and to put it on a new cart, and the images in a coffer on the side of the ark, and draw it with two cows, 1Sa 6:3-8, and gave them a token whereby they might know whether they had been smitten by the God of Israel or not, 1Sa 6:9 which advice they took, and acted in all things according to it; and the lords of the Philistines accompanied the ark to the border of Bethshemesh, 1Sa 6:10-12, where they of Bethshemesh received it with joy, and offered the kine for a burnt offering to the Lord, and the Levites took care of the ark and presents in it, and the lords of the Philistines returned home, 1Sa 6:13-18, but they of Bethshemesh looking into the ark were smitten of God, upon which they sent to the men of Kirjathjearim to fetch it from them, 1Sa 6:19-21.

1 Samuel 6 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.