Verse 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.
[Of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, בֵּית־הַשִּׁמְשִׁי] It is used like בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי/Beth-lehemite. 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] 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).
[In that place was a great stone (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, 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).