Poole on 1 Samuel 6:14, 15: Thanksgiving and Praise for the Ark's Miraculous Return



Verse 14:[1] 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.


[Of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, בֵּית־הַשִּׁמְשִׁי] It is used like בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי/Beth-lehemite.[2] Into the field of Joshua, which was in Beth-shemesh (Jonathan, Septuagint). I would prefer, of Beth-shemesh, that is, a Beth-shemite field. Or, in Beth-shemesh; that is, in it territory; or, near it. Thus ב is taken (Drusius).


[And it stood there[3]] It rested, stood; or remained (Drusius). Just as the cows were proceeding by the peculiar providence of God, so also they were staying. Question: Why did it stand there? Responses: 1. Joshua was a man more righteous than the others (Tostatus). 2. In order to signify the coming translation of the Ark from Ephraim to Judah, in which was Beth-shemesh. 3. Because this was the first place to those coming from Philistia. So that the Philistines might see, who were desiring an experiment; for it was not to be carried farther by cows, but by the Levites. Now, the miracles ceased there, where they stopped being necessary. There also were many reapers, who, as eye-witnesses, might proclaim the majesty of the Ark, which a little previously the Israelites held in contempt. Not citizens at leisure, but laboring reapers, found the Ark (Mendoza).


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[In that place was a great stone[4] (thus nearly all interpreters)] But the Septuagint: and they caused to stand there, in its presence, a great stone, signifying this stone was first erected at that time as a monument of what happened (Mendoza).


[And they broke up the timbers of the cart] So that they might kindle them with fire to consume the burnt offering (Piscator). But why did they break this cart up, and sacrifice those cows, since others were not wanting? Responses: 1. So that the cart and the cows, which had been of service in a sacred matter might never serve in profane matters thereafter. Just as the Philistine previously took care, that the wagon be new, etc. [concerning which see on verse 7]. 2. They were happily presaging to themselves that the Ark was never again to be carried off. As in Bœotia,[5] as Plutarch testifies in Questions 28, the cart on which the bride was led to the house of the bridegroom was immediately burned, so that all hope of leaving that house might be taken from the new bride (Mendoza).


[And they placed the cows upon it as a burnt offering to the Lord] Some maintain that this sacrifice was offered by the Philistines. Thus Mariana and Salian following the ancient Hebrews. Their reasons are: 1. That the Israelites would not have offered cows, contrary to the law. [Concerning this there is to be discussion shortly.] 2. The Beth-shemites had no right to this cart, etc. Response: These things, no less than the golden mice, etc., were thought to have been freely given by the Philistines. Others generally think, and more rightly, that they were offered by the Israelites. For, 1. the Philistines were ordered to follow, only to see where it would go, etc.; and they were yet adhering to their idols. 2. It was a sin for the Hebrew to communicate with the Gentiles in divine worship (Mendoza). Question: Whether the Beth-shemites sinned in this sacrifice? Response 1: Some answer in the affirmative (Lyra, Tostatus), relying on these arguments. 1. That they, not the Priests, offered. Response: Priests from the Priestly city of Beth-shemesh, Joshua 21:16, were present (Menochius, Sanchez, similarly Mendoza, Junius). Either the Beth-shemites that sacrificed were Priests; or they were sacrificing, namely, through the Priests: See on 1 Samuel 1:3 (Mendoza). 2. That they offered outside of the Tabernacle. Responses: 1. This was not done only once (Menochius), by Samuel, Elijah, etc. 2. The Ark was there, which was the soul of the Tabernacle, as it were (Sanchez), and because of which sacrifices were made before the Tabernacle (Menochius). The Ark sanctified the place (Mendoza). 3. That they sacrificed females; yet at that time the burnt offering is commanded to be made only of males, Leviticus 1:3; 22:19 (Mendoza, Tostatus, Lyra). Responses: 1. That law appears to have had place in the solemn place and time of sacrifices, not in an extraordinary case (Sanchez); not if necessity, or circumstantial matters, suggested something else. But these cows had been divinely driven (Menochius); wherefore, what they had believed to have been received from God, they were judging to be due to God, and to be able to be brought to His altar (Sanchez). 2. Perhaps they were driven by a peculiar divine instinct to sacrifice those cows, lest they remain for profane uses (Mendoza). Response 2: Others deny that the Beth-shemites sinned here (thus Sanchez, Menochius, Tirinus). For, we do not read that they were repoved because of this sacrifice, or punished (Menochius). If there were sin in this, the Scripture would not have passed over it in silence, when rendering the reasons for the following plague (Sanchez).


They clave; not the lords of the Philistines, but the Beth-shemites, to wit, the priests that dwelt there. A burnt-offering to the Lord: there may seem to be a double error in this act. First, That they offered females for a burnt-offering, contrary to Leviticus 1:3; 22:19. Secondly, That they did it in a forbidden place, Deuteronomy 12:5, 6, into which they might easily be led by excess of joy, and eager desire of returning to their long-interrupted course of offering sacrifices. And some think these irregularities were partial causes of the following punishment. But this case being very extraordinary, may in some sort excuse it, if they did not proceed by ordinary rules. As for the first, though they might not choose females for that use, yet when God himself had chosen, and in a manner consecrated them to his service, and employed them in so sacred and glorious a work, it may seem tolerable to offer them to the Lord, as being his peculiar, and improper for any other use. And for the latter, we have many instances of sacrifices offered to God by prophets and holy men in other places besides the tabernacle, upon extraordinary occasions, such as this certainly was; it being fit that the ark should at its first return be received with thanksgivings and sacrifice; and this place being sanctified by the presence of the ark, which was the very soul of the tabernacle, and that by which the tabernacle itself was sanctified, and for whose sake the sacrifices were offered at the door of the tabernacle.


Verse 15:[6] 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.



[Now, the Levites took down the Ark] It is a Hysteron Proteron; for the Ark had been taken down before they broke up the cart, and placed the cows upon it (Mendoza). The Levites, that is, of the line of the Priests, whose duty this was, Numbers 4:5, etc. (Junius). These Levites were not of the reapers, for they were not free from servile ministries (Mendoza).


And the Levites took down, or, for the Levites had taken down; for this, though mentioned after, was done before the sacrifices were offered.


[They offered burnt offerings] Not upon the same stone, on which the Ark had been placed; but on some altar made of unpolished stones, according to the precept in Exodus 20:25 (Mendoza). They were offering, that is, they were furnishing animals to the Priests for burnt offerings and sacrifices (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). Sacrifices, or peace offerings , were made for the giving of the thanks for a benefit received (Mendoza).

[1] Hebrew: וְהָעֲגָלָ֡ה בָּ֠אָה אֶל־שְׂדֵ֙ה יְהוֹשֻׁ֤עַ בֵּֽית־הַשִּׁמְשִׁי֙ וַתַּעֲמֹ֣ד שָׁ֔ם וְשָׁ֖ם אֶ֣בֶן גְּדוֹלָ֑ה וַֽיְבַקְּעוּ֙ אֶת־עֲצֵ֣י הָעֲגָלָ֔ה וְאֶת־הַ֙פָּר֔וֹת הֶעֱל֥וּ עֹלָ֖ה לַיהוָֽה׃ [2] See, for example, 1 Samuel 16:18a: “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite (בֵּ֣ן לְיִשַׁי֮ בֵּ֣ית הַלַּחְמִי֒), that is cunning in playing…” [3] Hebrew: וַתַּעֲמֹד. [4] Hebrew: וְשָׁ֖ם אֶ֣בֶן גְּדוֹלָ֑ה. [5] Bœotia was one of the central regions of Greece. [6] Hebrew: וְהַלְוִיִּ֞ם הוֹרִ֣ידוּ׀ אֶת־אֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֗ה וְאֶת־הָאַרְגַּ֤ז אֲשֶׁר־אִתּוֹ֙ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֣וֹ כְלֵֽי־זָהָ֔ב וַיָּשִׂ֖מוּ אֶל־הָאֶ֣בֶן הַגְּדוֹלָ֑ה וְאַנְשֵׁ֣י בֵֽית־שֶׁ֗מֶשׁ הֶעֱל֙וּ עֹל֜וֹת וַֽיִּזְבְּח֧וּ זְבָחִ֛ים בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לַֽיהוָֽה׃