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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 6
“territory” The Hebrew word is literally “field.” It refers to the territory. The writer likely saw the area as still belonging to Israel by God’s grant.(top)
“the priests and the diviners.” Note that the people now go to the religious people for answers. The “lords” of the Philistines made suggestions, move the ark from place to place, but that did not work out.
“What should we do.” This could also be translated, “What are we to do” (CJB).(top)
“return, yes, return.” The Hebrew text uses the figure of speech polyptoton for emphasis, repeating the root word “return.” The idea is to “be sure to” return the ark with a gift—don’t forget the gift.
[For more on the figure polyptoton, see commentary on Gen. 2:16.](top)
“they said, ‘Five gold tumors...’” This is the Philistine priests and diviners speaking and giving the solution. This seems like something they made up, there certainly is not anything in the Mosaic Law about it. The fact that the Philistines made gold mice is likely due to the fact that the plague that the Philistines were experiencing had something to do with mice (or rats). In fact, some of the early Greek translations include that the plague was carried by mice, although there is no such information in the Hebrew texts.(top)
“to give glory to the God of Israel.” This does not mean that the Philistines would start worshiping Yahweh. Rather, giving glory to God in this context is giving recognition of His power (cp. Rev. 11:13).(top)
“Why then do you harden your hearts.” There is a wonderful irony here as the pagan Philistine priests and diviners reprove the Philistine leaders for hardening their hearts against Yahweh. So the Philistines recognized Yahweh as a god, but not that he was one of their gods or a top god. It is noteworthy that the pagan Philistines remembered that Yahweh had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, while the Israelites, the people of Yahweh, forgot Him and turned to pagan gods and worshiped and served them. People do what they want to do and make up reasons for not doing what they don’t want to do. Yahweh required a kind of service that many of the Israelites apparently did not want to do, while the pagan gods offered things like ritual sex that was very attractive to many Israelites.(top)
|1Sa 6:7||- (top)|
“send it away, that it may go away.” This is the same basic language that was used of the Egyptians sending Israel out of Egypt (1 Sam. 6:6).(top)
“If it goes up to Beth-shemesh.” The Philistines are making very sure that what has happened to them was indeed the hand of Yahweh by even picking the city that the cows had to walk toward.
“the road of his territory.” That is, the road that is in Yahweh’s territory, as we see as the sentence develops.(top)
|1Sa 6:10||- (top)|
|1Sa 6:11||- (top)|
“lowing as they went.” This is perhaps God’s way of announcing His coming, using the cows as his trumpeters. It was common that a king would have people go ahead of him with trumpets and fanfare announcing his coming.(top)
“The people of Beth-shemesh.” The city of Beth-shemesh was a Levitical city (1 Sam. 6:15).
“reaping their wheat harvest.” So this is late May or June. If the Ark of the Covenant had been with the Philistines for seven months (1 Sam. 6:1), then the battle in which the Ark was captured occurred in November or December, seven months earlier.
“in the valley.” The Hebrew could also be, “on the plain.” This was the Sorek Valley, which had a wide, flat plain in the valley. From Ekron to Beth-shemesh is up the Sorek Valley.(top)
|1Sa 6:14||- (top)|
“The Levites took down the ark.” Joshua 21:16 says that Beth-shemesh was a Levitical city, so the presence of the Levites would be expected.(top)
|1Sa 6:16||- (top)|
|1Sa 6:17||- (top)|
|1Sa 6:18||- (top)|
“70.” The Masoretic Hebrew text, which is normally used for the translation of the Old Testament, reads “fifty thousand, seventy,” but in this instance, as in some other places in the Old Testament, there was an obvious copyist’s error. Beth-shemesh was one of the Levitical cities scattered around Israel, and it was in the tribal area of Judah (Josh. 21:16). Today, Beth-shemesh is a seven-acre tel (a tel is an ancient city mound), so Beth-shemesh was not a large city; the entire population of Beth-shemesh did not number 50,000. When the ark showed up at Beth-shemesh, it was totally unexpected, and some of the men of the town were harvesting wheat (1 Sam. 6:13). The people of the town celebrated when the ark was recovered, and some of the men looked into the ark and subsequently died. Given the size of the town and the fact that its arrival in town was a surprise, 50,000 people could not even have come from the surrounding area.
Furthermore, there was no way a number as large as 50,000 people could reasonably look into the ark. It seems clear that it was 70 people who died. The original reading of “70” is preserved in a few Hebrew manuscripts. Some scholars have proposed that the original text read 70 men and 50 oxen, which was then misunderstood as 50,070 men, but there is no proof for that, even if it is a reasonable attempt to explain how 70 became 50,070.
It could perhaps be that the Hebrew, “70 men; 50,000 men” could possibly be an overall number of the people who died in the whole ark incident: 34,000 Israelite warriors (1 Sam. 4:1, 10), and obviously many Philistines died due to the war, plagues, and mice. So it is possible that in all, some 50,000 people were “struck” by Yahweh.(top)
|1Sa 6:20||- (top)|
|1Sa 6:21||- (top)|