1 Samuel 6:12
And the cows took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, 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 to the border of Bethshemesh.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Went along the highway, lowing.—But the dumb beasts did what the idol priests and diviners scarcely considered possible, for God’s hand drove them. The narrative here throughout is evidently unadorned, very easy and natural, and speaks of primitive customs, telling its story of the Divine interference of the Glorious Arm” with exquisite simplicity and truth.

The dumb beasts went on their strange way with their golden burden, the princes of the Philistines following them, awe-struck, at a distance.

1 Samuel 6:12. The kine took the straight way to Beth-shemesh — Though they had no driver, nor visible director, and had such strong attractives to draw them back, and there were so many other ways in which they might have gone. Lowing as they went — After their calves, which had been taken from them; and hereby evidencing at once both their natural and vehement inclination to their calves, and the supernatural power which overruled them to a contrary course. The lords went — To prevent all imposture, and to get assurance of the truth of the event. All which circumstances tended to the greater illustration of God’s glory.6:10-18 These two kine knew their owner, their great Owner, whom Hophin and Phinehas knew not. God's providence takes notice even of brute creatures, and serves its own purposes by them. When the reapers saw the ark, they rejoiced; their joy for that was greater than the joy of harvest. The return of the ark, and the revival of holy ordinances, after days of restraint and trouble, are matters of great joy.Lowing as they went - Milking cows had been chosen on purpose to make the sign more significant. Nature would obviously dispose the cows to go toward their calves; their going in an opposite direction was therefore plainly a divine impulse overruling their natural inclination. And this is brought out more distinctly by the mention of their lowing, which was caused by their remembering their calves.

And the lords ... - This circumstance of the five satraps of the Philistines accompanying the ark in person both made it impossible for the Israelites to practice any deceit (compare Matthew 27:63-66), and is also a striking testimony to the agitation caused among the Philistines by the plagues inflicted on them since the ark had been in their country.

12. the lords of the Philistines went after them—to give their tribute of homage, to prevent imposture, and to obtain the most reliable evidence of the truth. The result of this journey tended to their own deeper humiliation, and the greater illustration of God's glory. To the way of Beth-shemesh, i.e. leading to Beth-shemesh, a city of the priests, Joshua 21:16, who were by office to take care of it.

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. And the kine took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh,.... Though they had none to drive, lead, or guide them, yet they steered their course to the road that led to Bethshemesh, though there were other ways they might have taken; which shows they were under the direction of God himself:

and went along the highway; or, "in one highway", or "post" (t); though they had never been used to a yoke, they drew together in one path; and did not draw one way, and another another, as oxen unaccustomed to a yoke do:

lowing as they went; on account of their calves, which showed their sense of them, and their natural affection for them; and yet went on, did not attempt to go back to them; by which it was plain they were under a supernatural influence:

and turned not aside to the right or to the left; when other ways presented, on the right hand or on the left; they kept going straight on in the road that led to the place they were destined for; all which can be reckoned nothing less than a miracle:

and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Bethshemesh; not before them to guide them, or on the side of the ark to take care of it, but behind: and not at all out of respect and reverence to it, but to see what would be the issue of things, whether it would turn out an imposture or not; and that they might be able to make a true judgment of what had befallen them, as their priests and diviners had directed them to; they followed it until it was out of their territories, and in the hands of the Israelites. This place Bethshemesh is thought by some, as R. Isaiah observes, to be the same with Timnathheres, where Joshua was buried, in Judges 2:9, which signifies the figure of the sun, as this does the house of the sun; and where, perhaps, when inhabited by the Canaanites, was a temple of the sun; and it was, according to Bunting (u), twelve miles from Ekron, from whence the ark came; and so far it was followed by the Philistines. This was a city given to the Levites, and so a proper place for the ark to come to be taken care of; hence mention is made of Levites that took it down from the cart, 1 Samuel 6:15; see Gill on Joshua 21:16.

(t) "in via elata una", Montanus; "eadem semita", Tigurine version; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (u) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 123.

And the kine took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, 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 {g} them unto the border of Bethshemesh.

(g) For the trial of the matter.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10–18. The plan carried out and the Ark restored to Israel

12. took the straight way to the way of Beth-skemesh] Better, went straight forward on the road to Beth-shemesh.

lowing as they went] For their lost calves.Verse 12. - The kine took the straight way. The Hebrew brings out the directness with which the heifers took the route to Beth-shemesh very forcibly. It says, "And the kine went straight in the way upon the way to Beth-shemesh; they went along one highway, lowing as they went," i.e. they went in one direct course, without deviating from it. Nevertheless, their continual lowing showed the great stress that was laid upon their nature in being thus compelled to separate themselves from their calves. And the lords of the Philistines went after them. I.e. behind them, leaving the kine free to go where they chose. The usual position of the driver of an ox cart in the East is in front. Conder ('Tent Work,' 1:274) describes the view up the great corn valley of Sorek to the high and rugged hills above as extremely picturesque, and this it is, he adds, which was spread before the eyes of the five lords of the Philistines as they followed the lowing oxen which bore the ark on the "straight way" from Ekron to Beth-shemesh. The ruins of the latter place, he says, lie on a knoll surrounded by olive trees, near the junction of the valley of Sorek with the great gorge which bounded Judah on the north. THE ARK AT BETH-SHEMESH (vers. 15-20). "Wherefore," continued the priests, "will ye harden your heart, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? (Exodus 7:13.) Was it not the case, that when He (Jehovah) had let out His power upon them (בּ התעלּל, as in Exodus 10:2), they (the Egyptians) let them (the Israelites) go, and they departed?" There is nothing strange in this reference, on the part of the Philistian priests, to the hardening of the Egyptians, and its results, since the report of those occurrences had spread among all the neighbouring nations (see at 1 Samuel 4:8). And the warning is not at variance with the fact that, according to 1 Samuel 6:9, the priests still entertained some doubt whether the plagues really did come from Jehovah at all: for their doubts did not preclude the possibility of its being so; and even the possibility might be sufficient to make it seem advisable to do everything that could be done to mitigate the wrath of the God of the Israelites, of whom, under existing circumstances, the heathen stood not only no less, but even more, in dread, than of the wrath of their own gods.
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