1 Samuel 6

1 After the Chest of God had been among the Philistine people for seven months,
2 the Philistine leaders called together their religious professionals, the priests, and experts on the supernatural for consultation: "How can we get rid of this Chest of God, get it off our hands without making things worse? Tell us!"
3 They said, "If you're going to send the Chest of the God of Israel back, don't just dump it on them. Pay compensation. Then you will be healed. After you're in the clear again, God will let up on you. Why wouldn't he?"
4 "And what exactly would make for adequate compensation?"
5 make replicas of the tumors and rats that are devastating the country and present them as an offering to the glory of the God of Israel. Then maybe he'll ease up and not be so hard on you and your gods, and on your country.
6 Why be stubborn like the Egyptians and Pharaoh? God didn't quit pounding on them until they let the people go. Only then did he let up.
7 "So here's what you do: Take a brand-new oxcart and two cows that have never been in harness. Hitch the cows to the oxcart and send their calves back to the barn.
8 Put the Chest of God on the cart. Secure the gold replicas of the tumors and rats that you are offering as compensation in a sack and set them next to the Chest. Then send it off.
9 But keep your eyes on it. If it heads straight back home to where it came from, toward Beth Shemesh, it is clear that this catastrophe is a divine judgment, but if not, we'll know that God had nothing to do with it - it was just an accident."
10 So that's what they did: They hitched two cows to the cart, put their calves in the barn,
11 and placed the Chest of God and the sack of gold rats and tumors on the cart.
12 The cows headed straight for home, down the road to Beth Shemesh, straying neither right nor left, mooing all the way. The Philistine leaders followed them to the outskirts of Beth Shemesh.
13 The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. They looked up and saw the Chest. Jubilant, they ran to meet it.
14 The cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth Shemeshite, and stopped there beside a huge boulder. The harvesters tore the cart to pieces, then chopped up the wood and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to God.
15 The Levites took charge of the Chest of God and the sack containing the gold offerings, placing them on the boulder. Offering the sacrifices, everyone in Beth Shemesh worshiped God most heartily that day.
16 When the five Philistine leaders saw what they came to see, they returned the same day to Ekron.
17 The five gold replicas of the tumors were offered by the Philistines in compensation for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
18 The five gold rats matched the number of Philistine towns, both large and small, ruled by the five leaders. The big boulder on which they placed the Chest of God is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, a landmark. If You Are Serious About Coming Back to God
19 God struck some of the men of Beth Shemesh who, out of curiosity, irreverently peeked into the Chest of God. Seventy died. The whole town was in mourning, reeling under the hard blow from God,
20 and questioning, "Who can stand before God, this holy God? And who can we get to take this Chest off our hands?"
21 They sent emissaries to Kiriath Jearim, saying, "The Philistines have returned the Chest of God. Come down and get it."

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.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO FIRST SAMUEL 6

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