1 Samuel 6

1 The Philistines kept the Ark of God in their land seven months.
2 Then they called for their priests and magicians and said, "What should we do with the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how to send it back home!"
3 The priests and magicians answered, "If you send back the Ark of the God of Israel, don't send it back empty. You must give a penalty offering. If you are then healed, you will know that it was because of the Ark that you had such trouble."
4 The Philistines asked, "What kind of penalty offering should we send to Israel's God?" They answered, "Make five gold models of the growths on your skin and five gold models of rats. The number of models must match the number of Philistine kings, because the same sickness has come on you and your kings.
5 Make models of the growths and the rats that are ruining the country, and give honor to Israel's God. Then maybe he will stop being so hard on you, your gods, and your land.
6 Don't be stubborn like the king of Egypt and the Egyptians. After God punished them terribly, they let the Israelites leave Egypt.
7 "You must build a new cart and get two cows that have just had calves. These must be cows that have never had yokes on their necks. Hitch the cows to the cart, and take the calves home, away from their mothers.
8 Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart and the gold models for the penalty offering in a box beside the Ark. Then send the cart straight on its way.
9 Watch the cart. If it goes toward Beth Shemesh in Israel's own land, the Lord has given us this great sickness. But if it doesn't, we will know that Israel's God has not punished us. Our sickness just happened by chance."
10 The Philistines did what the priests and magicians said. They took two cows that had just had calves and hitched them to the cart, but they kept their calves at home.
11 They put the Ark of the Lord and the box with the gold rats and models of growths on the cart.
12 Then the cows went straight toward Beth Shemesh. They stayed on the road, mooing all the way, and did not turn right or left. The Philistine kings followed the cows as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the Ark of the Lord, they were very happy.
14 The cart came to the field belonging to Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped near a large rock. The people of Beth Shemesh chopped up the wood of the cart. Then they sacrificed the cows as burnt offerings to the Lord.
15 The Levites took down the Ark of the Lord and the box that had the gold models, and they put both on the large rock. That day the people of Beth Shemesh offered whole burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord.
16 After the five Philistine kings saw this, they went back to Ekron the same day.
17 The Philistines had sent these gold models of the growths as penalty offerings to the Lord. They sent one model for each Philistine town: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
18 And the Philistines also sent gold models of rats. The number of rats matched the number of towns belonging to the Philistine kings, including both strong, walled cities and country villages. The large rock on which they put the Ark of the Lord is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.
19 But some of the men of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark of the Lord. So God killed seventy of them. The people of Beth Shemesh cried because the Lord had struck them down.
20 They said, "Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Whom will he strike next?"
21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the Ark of the Lord. Come down and take it to your city."

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


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

Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.