1 Samuel 6

1 The LORD’s ark was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 The Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the LORD’s ark? Show us how we should send it to its place.” 3 They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, don’t send it empty; but by all means return a trespass offering to him. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.” 4 Then they said, “What should the trespass offering be which we shall return to him?” They said, “Five golden tumors, and five golden mice, for the number of the lords of the Philistines; for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. 5 Therefore you shall make images of your tumors, and images of your mice that mar the land; and you shall give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will release his hand from you, from your gods, and from your land. 6 Why then do you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When he had worked wonderfully amongst them, didn’t they let the people go, and they departed? 7 “Now therefore take and prepare yourselves a new cart, and two milk cows, on which there has come no yoke; and tie the cows to the cart, and bring their calves home from them; 8 and take the LORD’s ark, and lay it on the cart. Put the jewels of gold, which you return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by its side; and send it away, that it may go. 9 Behold; if it goes up by the way of its own border to Beth Shemesh, then he has done us this great evil; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us. It was a chance that happened to us.” 10 The men did so, and took two milk cows, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 They put the LORD’s ark on the cart, and the coffer with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. 12 The cows took the straight way by the way to Beth Shemesh. They went along the highway, lowing as they went, and didn’t turn aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shemesh. 13 The people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there, where there was a great stone. Then they split the wood of the cart, and offered up the cows for a burnt offering to the LORD. 15 The Levites took down the LORD’s ark, and the coffer that was with it, in which the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone; and the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day to the LORD. 16 When the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. 17 These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering to the LORD: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages, even to the great stone, on which they set down the LORD’s ark. That stone remains to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. 19 He struck of the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the LORD’s ark, he struck fifty thousand and seventy of the men. Then the people mourned, because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20 The men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? To whom shall he go up from us?” 21 They sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the LORD’s ark. Come down, and bring it up to yourselves.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

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? Mic 6:6, 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.

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