1 Samuel 5:6 – 6:21 The Ark in Philistia CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
This lesson is more of a running commentary on the passage because it lends itself well to that type of teaching. So, we’ll comment on the verses as we study through the passage.
v.6 – the men of Ashdod were experiencing three kinds of problems – they were being killed [v.12], they were being smitten with emerods [hemorrhoids], and their land was being marred with mice [6:5]. These plagues were from the hand of the Lord.
v.7 – the men of Ashdod reasoned that the problems were the result of the ark of the Lord being with them. They recognized that the hand of the Lord was upon them but their superstitious nature caused them to fear the ark more than the Lord [v.11].
v.8 – so they sent the ark to Gath [nice guys]. Gath is one of the other 5 principle cities inPhilistia [6:17].
v.9 – and the men, young and old, received the same treatment that they received in Ashdod.
v.10 – so they sent it to Ekron [after apparently sending it to the other principle cities 6:17] and the men of Ekron cried out upon its arrival, knowing what had already happened in the other cities.
v.11-12 – so as a result of all the death and destruction the men decided to send the ark back to Israel.
v.1 – it is hard to believe that it took the Philistines 7 months to figure out that they needed to send the ark back to Israel. Like Pharaoh, they waited way too long to respond to the plagues.
v.2 – the priests and diviners are spiritual men. The priests are the priests of Dagon and the diviners are prognosticators. They are influenced by evil spirits and yet their advice is right in this case. They are similar to the damsel who had the spirit of divination in Acts 16:16-18.
v.3 – they advise that the ark be returned with a trespass offering and that the hand of the Lord will be removed from them.
v.4 – the trespass offering recommended is like an antidote – 5 golden emerods and 5 golden mice, 1 each for the 5 lords of the Philistines.
v.5 – they hope that returning the ark with the trespass offering will relieve the destruction to them, their gods and their land. Notice the added instruction, “give glory unto the God of Israel.” In other words, it’s not glory to the “ark” but glory to the God of the ark!!
v.6 – this verse explains why it took 7 months for them to decide to return the ark – they had hardened their hearts like Pharaoh did – but even Pharaoh eventually let the Jews go and they needed to let the ark go.
v.7-12 – the diviners told them how to return the ark so that the Philistines could know for sure whether the plagues were just a “chance” or whether they were by the hand of God. They instructed the men to use two milch kine [mother cows with calves]. These cows were to never have been in the yoke. They were to be separated from their calves. The ark was to be placed on a new cart. The ark was to be returned with the trespass offering. Then the cows were to be let go to see if they would go to Bethshemesh in Israel on their own. And they did and the men were convinced that it was the Lord. The mother cows should have turned back to their calves [they were lowing], they should have fought the yoke having been unaccustomed to it, and they should not have known how to go.
v.13-15 – the men of Bethshemesh sacrificed the kine on the wood of the cart and the Levites [1 Chr 15:2, Num 7:9, Deut 10:8] placed the ark on the great stone Abel [v.18].
v.16-18 – and the Philistines returned, satisfied that this was from the Lord.
v.19-21 – the men of Bethshemesh looked into the ark [which should have been covered Num 4:15] and 50,070 men died. In all, they lost 4,000 in the first battle [4:2], 30,000 in the second battle [4:10] and 50,070 more when they violated the ark. Of course, the men of Bethshemesh were ready for the ark to be moved just like the Philistines were. So they asked the men of Kirjathjearim to come and get it.