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Poole on 1 Samuel 6:12: The Ark's Miraculous Deliverance

Verse 12:[1] 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.

[Now, the cows were going in a straight line, וַיִשַּׁ֙רְנָה הַפָּר֜וֹת בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ[2]] And the cows straightened upon the way (Montanus). The cows straightened themselves (went straight [Vatablus, Drusius, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius]) along the way (Pagnine). The cows turned themselves, etc. (Jonathan). The sense of that is, the Philistines arranged the cows, turned away from Judea, and towards Philistia; but they turned themselves toward Judea (Mendoza). And the cows were abandoned along the way, etc. (Syriac). And they abandoned the cows along the way (Arabic). יִשַּׁרְנָה is here found in an unusual manner, in the place of תִשַּׁרְנָה, with the distinctive sign of the feminine. The Dagesh (ּ) in the שׁ indicates the first י of the root. Thus elsewhere, וַיֵחַמְנָה, they went into heat,[3] and יַעֲמוֹדְנָה, they will stand: which the Grammarians call ἀνδρόγυνα/ androgynous, because the feminine is conjoined with the masculine. There are three such (Drusius). The future יִשַּׁרְנָה has a י at the beginning, a note of the masculine, and a ה at the end, a note of the feminine, that it might appear to be a compound of both the masculine and the feminine third person, so that it might indicate either sex, perhaps to indicate that, although the cows were feminine, they, furnished with a masculine spirit and resolve, and with a manly sense, as it were, carried the Ark directly to its destined location (Malvenda).

To the way of Beth-shemesh, that is, leading to Beth-shemesh, a city of the priests, Joshua 21:16, who were by office to take care of it.

[And on one road they were going, בִּמְסִלָּ֣ה אַחַ֗ת[4]] By a way (track [Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius]) one, or the same (Pagnine, Munster, Tigurinus). On the same path (Syriac). Not without some divine power. For unbroken heifers, when they are first yoked, are wont to turn aside, love to separate, and lunge in contrary directions (Mendoza).

[Going on and lowing, הָלֹךְ֙ וְגָע֔וֹ] Going (or proceeding [Pagnine]) and lowing (Montanus). They were proceeding, lowing (Syriac). Incessantly lowing (Junius and Tremellius). That is, being mindful of their calves, which they unwillingly left (Malvenda). And so, by lowing they were testifying to their natural disposition to return to their calves; but by proceeding they were testifying to the divine power directing elsewhere (Mendoza). Moreover, God willed that the Ark by taken by the cows to Beth-shemesh, rather than to another city, because this was a Priestly city. It was fitting that Priests watch over and care for the Ark (Lapide).

Lowing as they went; testifying at once both their natural and vehement inclination to their calves, and the supernatural and Divine power which overruled them to a contrary course. The lords of the Philistines went after them, under pretence of an honourable dismission of it; but in truth, to prevent all imposture, and to get assurance of the truth of the event; all which circumstances tended to their greater confusion, and illustration of God’s glory.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִשַּׁ֙רְנָה הַפָּר֜וֹת בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ עַל־דֶּ֙רֶךְ֙ בֵּ֣ית שֶׁ֔מֶשׁ בִּמְסִלָּ֣ה אַחַ֗ת הָלְכ֤וּ הָלֹךְ֙ וְגָע֔וֹ וְלֹא־סָ֖רוּ יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול וְסַרְנֵ֤י פְלִשְׁתִּים֙ הֹלְכִ֣ים אַחֲרֵיהֶ֔ם עַד־גְּב֖וּל בֵּ֥ית שָֽׁמֶשׁ׃ [2]יָשַׁר signifies to be straight. [3] Genesis 30:38: “And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive (וַיֵּחַמְנָה) when they came to drink.” [4] 1 Samuel 6:12a: “And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway (בִּמְסִלָּ֣ה אַחַ֗ת הָלְכ֤וּ הָלֹךְ֙), lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left…” מְסִלָּה/highway is related to the verb סָלַל, to lift or cast up.

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