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Poole on 1 Samuel 4:4, 5: Israel's Superstitious Veneration of the Ark

Verse 4:[1] So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, (2 Sam. 6:2; Ps. 80:1; 99:1) which dwelleth between (Ex. 25:18, 22; Num. 7:89) the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

[So the people sent] Those that in verse 3 were called elders are here called the people. The plebians, and the people, are distinguished in this way, that the one is always taken for the ignoble, the other for the noble also: Concerning which, see on 1 Samuel 6:19 (Mendoza).

[And they took the Ark from there] Question 1: Whether it was lawful for the Israelites to take the Ark out of the Tabernacle? Response: It was lawful; not indeed by ordinary law, but only by interpretation of the law in case of necessity; which they were able to gather from that example in Joshua 6:4, etc (Mendoza, similarly Menochius, Estius). But Joshua only did this once, and that by the commandment of God; it does not follow from this that the same was lawful for the people to do by their own choice. It was not the purpose of the Ark, that, as often as the Hebrews were going to fight, it might be brought into the camp: but so that it might be a monument of the benevolence and present help of God; and so that they might seek oracles thence: and so that the faith of those offering and praying might be confirmed by it (Martyr). Question 2: How was it lawful for the High Priest to enter the Sanctuary to remove the Ark; since that was only to be done on one occasion, Hebrews 9:7? Response: That is to be understood of the public and solemn entrance; and with blood; not likewise of a private and secret entrance, to cleanse the place, etc. Then, some interpretation of the law is to be applied here. Moreover, Eli the High Priest entered the sanctuary, if not by his own will, at least induced by the requests of the whole people. The Levites, or rather the Priests, were carrying it (Mendoza).

That they might bring from thence the ark; which it may seem they should not have done without asking counsel of God, which they might easily have done by Samuel.

[Of the Lord of armies] Therefore, since He is such; He is able to strengthen His own, and to debilitate enemies (Kimchi in Drusius).

[Sitting upon the Cherubim[2] (thus the Septuagint in Dieu, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine)] Whose majesty was dwelling above the Cherubim (Jonathan in Dieu). But God is nowhere said to sit upon the Cherubim. The Ark is called His footstool, Psalm 99:5, and elsewhere. The Cherubim themselves were not His seat; nor the space above them; but that empty space between their wings; as it is sufficiently evident from Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89 (Dieu).

[יֹשֵׁ֣ב הַכְּרֻבִ֑ים] Seating between the Cherubim (Tigurinus). But the Hebrew expression does not sufficiently bear that between. Why may it not be translated, inhabiting the Cherubims? (like יֹשֵׁ֥ב אֹ֖הֶל, inhabiting a tent, Genesis 4:20; יוֹשֵׁב֩ הָאָ֙רֶץ, inhabiting the land, Genesis 50:11; יוֹשֵׁ֣ב הָהָ֔ר, inhabiting the mountain, Judges 1:9; יֹשֵׁ֣ב צִיּ֑וֹן, inhabiting Zion, Psalm 9:11). For they surround God, sitting in the midst of them, after the likeness of a cottage (Dieu). Sitting on the Cherubim (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius), from which He was giving responses, Numbers 7:89 (Drusius). Question: Why is mention made of this in this place? Responses: 1. So that might be signified the bitter loss of the Ark, not alone, but with the propitiatory and Cherubim. 2. So that the vain confidence of the people might be noted (Mendoza).

[The two sons of Eli were with the Ark] God draws them out for punishment. It was not proper to entrust the Ark to their temerity: But of this sin God willed to take advantage, so that He might exact punishment for their other sins (Martyr). Upon these was the principal care of looking after and keeping the Ark incumbent. And in Antiquities 5:16 Josephus relates that Eli charged them not to return to him from battle without the Ark (Mendoza).

Hophni and Phinehas were there; either, first, in the camp; or rather, secondly, in Shiloh. With the ark; attending upon it, instead of their aged father.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח הָעָם֙ שִׁלֹ֔ה וַיִּשְׂא֣וּ מִשָּׁ֗ם אֵ֣ת אֲר֧וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֛ה צְבָא֖וֹת יֹשֵׁ֣ב הַכְּרֻבִ֑ים וְשָׁ֞ם שְׁנֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־עֵלִ֗י עִם־אֲרוֹן֙ בְּרִ֣ית הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים חָפְנִ֖י וּפִֽינְחָֽס׃ [2] Hebrew: יֹשֵׁ֣ב הַכְּרֻבִ֑ים.

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