Poole on 1 Samuel 6:9: God or Chance? (Part 3)

Verse 9:[1] And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to (Josh. 15:10) Beth-shemesh, then he (or, it[2]) hath done us this great evil: but if not, then (1 Sam. 6:3) we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.

[And ye shall see, וּרְאִיתֶם] And see (Pagnine), that is, consider what will happen (Vatablus).

[And if indeed by the way of its borders it goes up towards Beth-shemesh, אִם־דֶּ֙רֶךְ גְּבוּל֤וֹ יַֽעֲלֶה֙ בֵּ֣ית שֶׁ֔מֶשׁ] If in the way, or by the way, of its boundary (or its limit [Montanus], or its borders [Osiander, Maresius]) it goes up to, or towards, Beth-shemesh (Montanus, Jonathan, Pagnine, Vatablus), understanding the Ark as subject. The construction is inverted, in the place of, if it goes up to Beth-shemesh, the way of the border of it, namely, of Beth-shemesh itself; that is to say, if it aims at the borders of the Beth-shemites (Maresius). If, proceeding directly towards it boundaries, and the borders of the land of Israel, the Ark goes up unto the city of Beth-shemesh (Vatablus). Hebrew: by the way of its border: that is, the way that leads to its border, that is, the region to which it pertains. It is a Genitive of subject (Piscator). Others thus: if by the way of the border ascending to Beth-shemesh it departs (Syriac). If it goes up; that is, if it proceeds; or properly; for Philistia, being on the sea, is lower than inland Judea. Moreover, this Beth-shemesh was a city in the tribe of Judah, very close to the Philistines, Joshua 15:10 (Mendoza).

His own coast, or, border, that is, the way that leadeth to his coast or border, namely, the country to which it belongs.

[He has done to us, etc., ה֚וּא עָ֣שָׂה לָ֔נוּ] It has done to us (Montanus, Pagnine, Septuagint, Munster), namely, the Ark. You will say, אֲרוֹן/Ark is feminine, but הוּא/he is masculine. Response: Often in Scripture, relatives differ from their antecedents in gender (Mendoza). Others: He has done (Junius and Tremellius, Osiander, Castalio, Piscator, Vatablus), understanding, the Lord God of Israel (Vatablus). The Lord has afflicted us with this evil (Syriac, Tigurinus, similarly the Arabic). You will say, God is not antecedent. Response: Often in Sacred Scripture, relatives are referred to remote antecedents (Mendoza).

Then he hath done us this great evil; which they might well conclude, if such heifers should, against their common use and natural instinct, go into a strange path, and regularly and constantly proceed in it, without any man’s conduct.

[But if not, etc., וְאִם־לֹ֗א וְיָדַ֙עְנוּ֙ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָדוֹ֙ נָ֣גְעָה בָּ֔נוּ] And if not, and we shall know that His hand has not touched us (Montanus). If not, we shall know that, etc. (Munster). If not, we shall know (we shall certainly learn [Junius and Tremellius]; we are certain [Tigurinus]) that His hand has not touched us (Syriac). But if they do not at all pursue that way, our calamity is not from the Lord (Arabic).

[It has happened by chance (similarly the Syriac, Tigurinus),מִקְרֶ֥ה ה֖וּא הָ֥יָה לָֽנוּ׃] It was an accident to us (Montanus). It was chance that happened (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius). I might prefer, but that, what happened to us, it was chance. A twofold Ellipsis (Piscator, thus Pagnine). It was customary in those ancient ages, that men established a certain sign among them, so that by it they might learn what needed to be done (Menochius out of Sanchez). See Joshua 3 and 1 Samuel 14 (Sanchez). Οἰονισμὸς (augury) (Grotius). Question: Whether these diviners were moved by their own, or by the divine, spirit to set forth these signs? One will say, by the divine spirit, judging the matter by the effect. Nevertheless, I rather think with Cajetan that this was human presumption. They were persevering in the principles of their art, according to the traditional practice of divination; neither were they having any commerce with God, whom they tempted, by devising a novel experiment concerning the divine power: which they were having as sufficiently tried in other ways. Moreover, the means of which they made use were useless for the end proposed, neither did they have any natural connection with that, or a divine application to signify that. Neither does it hinder that the event answered. Since God often makes use of the testimonies of the wicked and of His enemies to confirm His power and holiness, and converts the malice of the impious to the advantage of the good (Mendoza). If you should say that these men were pious, because the wrath of God was placated by their counsel, and health was restored to the people. Responses: 1. The Scripture does not say that. 2. Many wonderful works have been published by the Heathen and profane. When Curtius cast himself into a cleft of the earth, a terrible plague ceased.[3] And, with worship somewhat restored in Samaria, the lions ceased to prowl.[4] God is so good, says Origen, that He rewards, not only virtues, but also those appearances of virtues. But you will say, God thus was appearing to confirm idolatry. Response: Not at all. He that rains upon the unjust does not confirm injustice, unless this be done by accident (Martyr).

It was a chance that happened to us: this evil came to us from some influences of the stars, or other unknown causes; which was a weak and foolish inference, depending upon a mere contingency, it being uncertain whether God would please to give them this sign, and probable that he would deny it, both to punish their superstition, and to harden their hearts to their further and utter destruction. But wicked men will sooner believe the most uncertain and ridiculous things, than own the visible demonstrations of God’s power and providence.

[1] Hebrew: וּרְאִיתֶ֗ם אִם־דֶּ֙רֶךְ גְּבוּל֤וֹ יַֽעֲלֶה֙ בֵּ֣ית שֶׁ֔מֶשׁ ה֚וּא עָ֣שָׂה לָ֔נוּ אֶת־הָרָעָ֥ה הַגְּדוֹלָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את וְאִם־לֹ֗א וְיָדַ֙עְנוּ֙ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָדוֹ֙ נָ֣גְעָה בָּ֔נוּ מִקְרֶ֥ה ה֖וּא הָ֥יָה לָֽנוּ׃ [2] Hebrew: הוּא. [3] In Roman mythology, one Marcus Curtius, a young horseman, having heard an oracle that the Roman people were to cast into a chasm that had opened on the Forum their greatest strength, dove into a great chasm, closing it, and saving Rome. [4] 2 Kings 17:25-29.


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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