1 Samuel Chapter 6: Philistines Sorry, Send Ark Back with Gift, Israelites Punished for Irreverence.

Dec 30th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 6: Philistines Sorry, Send Ark Back with Gift, Israelites Punished for Irreverence.

1 Sam. 6:1 And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.

The Ark was with the Philistines for seven months. Not only is the number seven a sacred symbol of fullness or completeness, but the Hebrew sacred year consisted of the first seven months.

1 Sam. 6:2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.

1 Sam. 6:3 And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.

1 Sam. 6:4 Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.

1 Sam. 6:5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.

Verses 2-7 are an interesting sidelight of history, for in spite of their animosity toward the Israelites, the Philistines were familiar with Jewish history and background and had a fear and respect lest they incur the wrath of the God of Israel. The Philistines followed the advice of their priests and diviners by making five gold likenesses of two of their afflictions: mice and emerods. Heathen religions thought that the gods had to be pacified with offerings, and even the Old Testament tells about trespass and guilt offerings in the Hebrew arrangement.

In addition to the emerods, there was apparently an unrelated problem with mice. Therefore, the Philistines probably thought they would kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes. Sending the Ark back to show respect to the God of Israel would indicate they had learned the lesson. But they would make solid-gold symbols of not only (1) emerods, the physical malady that had plagued them in connection with capturing the Ark, but also (2) mice, which were habitually marring the land. In other words, while the Philistines were making this trespass or guilt offering to pacify the God of Israel and stop His wrath, they would also make an offering for the mice that had been plaguing them for some time. Actually, their strategy of tacking the mice onto the situation with the Ark is rather humorous.

“Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, [are] according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.” Five Philistine lords and five cities (one for each lord) comprised Philistia. All five cities represent Christendom, the apostate Church. However, Ashdod, the first city, which had the statue of Dagon, their national god that fell twice, was a complete picture in itself.

As indicated in the commentary for verse 1, which stated that the Ark was with the Philistines for seven months, the number seven shows completeness. Therefore, the seven months correspond to the seven stages of the apostate Church during the Gospel Age, which are contemporaneous with the seven stages of the true Church. Although the Papacy did not come into real power until AD 539, the seeds of Antichrist existed even in the days of the apostles; that is, the papal seed in embryonic form, the Nicolaitan spirit, was present even in the early Church. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:7). This alien power was in with the true Church. Not until the Gospel Age is complete will the true Church be liberated from all unclean situations and be born in the beauty of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6).

To state the matter again, the Philistine priests and diviners advised sending the Ark back with a trespass offering to pacify the God of the Israelites. They hoped that by having a worthwhile offering of five golden mice and five golden emerods accompany the Ark, they would be freed from their ills.

1 Sam. 6:6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?

Verse 6 indicates the Philistines knew about the plagues that had afflicted Egypt and how Pharaoh had hardened his heart. They did not want still severer judgments as had happened to Pharaoh.

1 Sam. 6:7 Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:

1 Sam. 6:8 And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.

1 Sam. 6:9 And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.

The advice of the Philistine priests and diviners continued. Still testing to see if the Philistines were really being punished by the God of Israel, they set the stage. Two nursing cows would be taken away from their calves and tied to a new cart. With the strong maternal instinct and the earnest desire of the calves for milk, the test was to see if the cows would act contrary to nature, ignore their young, and go voluntarily to Israel. If the cart did not go by the way of Beth-shemesh, the Philistines would take back the golden emerods and mice.

1 Sam. 6:10 And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:

1 Sam. 6:11 And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.

1 Sam. 6:12 And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh.

1 Sam. 6:13 And they 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.

1 Sam. 6:14 And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD.

In spite of maternal instincts, the bovine animals left their calves and pulled the cart with the Ark up the highway that was the best approach to the border city of Beth-shemesh just inside Israel. Notice that the animals were lowing, indicating they were feeling the emotional trauma of not obeying natural instincts to return to their young. In other words, they were yearning for their calves. Hence a supernatural power overrode their instincts and energized them to go to Israel, not deviating or turning the least bit either to the right or to the left. The lords of the Philistines followed the cart to make sure there was no change of status. At the border, the cows pulled the cart inside the territory of Israel to the field of a man named Joshua, and there they stopped, having performed their task. The Philistines were convinced that the Ark had caused the plagues in three of their chief cities.

The people of Beth-shemesh rejoiced to see the Ark as they were reaping wheat at the time of harvest. Providentially, the cows brought the cart to a “great stone,” which would serve as a landmark for future reference. There in Joshua’s field on that large stone, the people offered the kine, the two female animals, unto God as a burnt offering.

It is interesting that the five golden mice and the five golden emerods were put in a coffer. Thus there were two coffers on the cart: the Ark was an Israelite coffer, and the trespass offerings were put in a Philistine coffer.

1 Sam. 6:15 And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.

1 Sam. 6:16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

1 Sam. 6:17 And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;

1 Sam. 6:18 And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Beth-shemite.

When the Levites saw that the Ark had been returned, they made offerings right then and there in gratitude to the Lord. The Ark was set down on the “great stone of Abel,” a prominent landmark that “remaineth unto this day.” What is meant by the term “this day”?

Certainly the stone remained at least until the day of Samuel’s death, at which time the Book of 1 Samuel was completed and available. However, there is the possibility that this reference is to the time when Ezra collected the books from Babylon. Under Cyrus the Persian, a search was made, and a Hebrew scroll was found in a particular treasure house. The books were in disarray, but Ezra codified them into the Old Testament. Therefore, Ezra may have inserted this note, meaning “to this day” around 500 BC, which was about 600 years after this incident with the Ark of the Covenant had occurred.

Q: Did Ezra codify the entire Old Testament starting with Genesis?

A: Yes. Of course the very ancient records, such as those Noah had carried on the Ark during the Flood, were written on some form of stone. The Old Testament contains evidence of certain other records, and Ezra pieced together several scrolls.

1 Sam. 6:19 And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

1 Sam. 6:20 And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?

1 Sam. 6:21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.

Because the men of Beth-shemesh were careless and disobeyed the specific instruction in the Law not to look into the Ark, 50,070 people died. Therefore, those who remained wanted to get the Ark out of their territory as fast as possible—much as the Philistines had done earlier.

Inside the Ark were Aaron’s rod that budded, the golden pot of manna, and the tables of the Law. Once the contents were inside, the lid was put on the Ark, and it was kept shut. By faith, the priests realized that the items were in the Ark, and the Ark was guarded like a sacred shrine in the Most Holy.

Q: How did the Levites happen to be on hand?

A: Some of the Levites lived nearby, so when word spread that the Ark had been returned, they came to Beth-shemesh.

Comment: It is interesting that Levites took the Ark out of the cart, yet Uzzah died for touching the Ark to steady it while in transit (2 Sam. 6:1-7). Also, the more knowledgeable Levites should have prevented the men of Beth-shemesh from looking into the Ark.

Reply: Some of the Levites may also have looked in the Ark and been among those who died for disobedience. The account does not go into those details.

The men of Beth-shemesh wanted the Ark to be taken to Kirjath-jearim, so they sent messengers to that city, asking the inhabitants to come get that article of furniture. Kirjathjearim was in western Israel, more specifically southwest of Jerusalem in Judah.

There is a spiritual lesson here. The Philistines’ capture of the Ark pictures Papacy’s holding the Lord’s people “captive” in the wilderness for 1,260 years. True Christians were isolated from one standpoint and held in bondage in mystic Babylon from another standpoint.

(1985-1987 Study)

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