I Samuel 6

The Word of God in the hands of the world brings them condemnation (v. 2) causing them to seek to get rid of it.
By refusing to part with their sins,
sinners but lengthen out their own miseries (v. 4).

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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:

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.

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

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;

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.

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.

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?

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.

1 Samuel 6:1-12 – Returned with a Trespass-Offering

   There is reason to suppose that when the Philistines got possession of the Ark, they destroyed Shiloh. See Psalms 78:60, 64; Jeremiah 26:9. They could not imagine how to rid themselves of the sacred emblem, which brought only destruction in its train, until they had consulted the priests. These priests appear to have been well acquainted with the previous history of the Israelites, though centuries had passed since the passage of the Red Sea. How ignorantly men think of God! He is not their enemy, but the enemy of their sin.
   What a striking illustration is afforded by these lowing kine! Their maternal instincts yearned for their young, detained behind; but they were urged forward by a supernatural impulse. So the missionary may leave wife and child, that he may carry the Gospel to the heathen; so the slum-worker may abandon all that others hold dear, in order to change some wretched district into a city of God. Our weak heart clings, but the love of Christ constrains us, and we go forward, urged by a divine and overmastering motive.

I Samuel 6:12—And the kine went along the highway, lowing as they went.

   That “two milch kine” which had never borne the yoke should move quietly along the high road, turning neither to the right nor to the left, and lowing for the calves they had left behind, clearly indicated that they were possessed and guided by some mysterious power, which we know to have been God’s. And if He were able thus to overpower the instincts of their nature, and to compel them to do his will, may we not infer that all circumstances, and all men, however unwittingly, and against their natural instinct, are subservient to the purposes of his will, and bearing of the Ark? The fish yields the tribute money; the colt of the ass waits where two ways meet to bear the Redeemer; the man with the water pot leads to the upper room; the Roman soldiers enable Paul to fulfill the mission of his life, in preaching the Gospel without hindrance in the very heart of Rome.
   As we go forth into the world, let us believe that the movement of all things is towards the accomplishment of God’s purpose. Herein is a fulfillment of the Psalmist’s prediction about man, which can only be perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the second Adam that all things are under his feet, all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field. Everything serves Christ, and those who serve Christ. In a true sense all things are ours; they minister to us, even as Christ to God.
   And against our natural inclinations let us always regard the claims of God as paramount; and dare to go his way, though our heart pines for those we leave behind. “He that loveth father or mother…son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

1 Samuel 6:13-21 – Rashness Punished

   The new cart, with its precious burden, must have come upon the men of Beth-shemesh like an apparition. The Ark was welcomed by them, after its seven months of absence, with great joy. But privilege entails responsibility; and their wanton curiosity and irreverence could not be permitted. Reverence for God Himself demanded the most careful behavior toward the Ark of His Presence, and when this was lacking, swift judgment ensued. See Numbers 1:50-51; 4:5, 16-30.