1 Samuel 6:21
And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
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(21) Kirjath-jearim.—Kirjath-jearim should be spelt and pronounced Kirjatb-jearim, the “city of woods” (wood-ville, wood-town, wooton). Its modern name is Kurzet-el-Erab, “the city of grapes,” the woods being in later days replaced by vines.

1 Samuel 6:21. Kirjath-jearim — Whither they sent, either because the place was not far off from them, and so it might soon be removed: or, because it was a place of eminence and strength, and somewhat farther distant from the Philistines, where therefore it was likely to be better preserved from any new attempts of the Philistines, and to be better attended by the Israelites, who would more freely and frequently come to it at such a place than in Beth-shemesh, which was upon the border of their enemies’ land.

6:19-21 It is a great affront to God, for vain men to pry into, and meddle with the secret things which belong not to them, De 29:29; Col 2:18. Man was ruined by desiring forbidden knowledge. God will not suffer his ark to be profaned. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Those that will not fear his goodness, and reverently use the tokens of his grace, shall be made to feel his justice. The number smitten is expressed in an unusual manner in the original, and it is probable that it means 1170. They desire to be rid of the ark. Foolish men run from one extreme to the other. They should rather have asked, How may we have peace with God, and recover his favor? Mic 6:6,7. Thus, when the word of God works with terror on sinners' consciences, they, instead of taking the blame and shame to themselves, quarrel with the word, and put that from them. Many stifle their convictions, and put salvation away from them.Kirjath-jearim - See Joshua 9:17 note. It has been thought that there was a high place at Kirjath-jearim (the hill, 1 Samuel 7:1), the remnant of its old pagan sanctity when it was called Kirjath-Baal, "the city of Baal" (see Joshua 18:14; 2 Samuel 6:2); and that for this reason it was selected as a proper place to send the ark to. 21. Kirjath-jearim—"the city of woods," also called Kirjath-baal (Jos 15:60; 18:14; 1Ch 13:6, 7). This was the nearest town to Beth-shemesh; and being a place of strength, it was a more fitting place for the residence of the ark. Beth-shemesh being in a low plain, and Kirjath-jearim on a hill, explains the message, "Come ye down, and fetch it up to you." They sent to Kirjath-jearim, either because the place was not far from them, and so it might soon be removed, which they mainly desired; or because it was a place of eminency and strength, and somewhat further distant from the Philistines, where therefore it was likely to be better preserved from any new attempts of the Philistines, and to be better attended by the Israelites, who would more freely and frequently come to it at such a place, than in Beth-shemesh, which was upon the border of their enemies’ land; or because they thought they would gladly receive it, being a pious and zealous people; or because it was in the way to Shiloh, its ancient habitation, and whither they might suppose it was to be carried by degrees and several stages, whereof this was one.

And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim,.... Which was a city further on in the tribe of Judah, and lay among some woods, from whence it had its name, and was formerly called Kirjathbaal, from Baal's being worshipped there; of which see Joshua 15:9, they might choose to send hither to fetch the ark from them, because it was at a greater distance from the Philistines, their city Bethshemesh being on the borders of them; and because it might be a place of greater eminence and strength, and besides lay in the way to Shiloh, whereby they might suppose it was intended to be had; unless Shiloh was before this time destroyed:

saying, the Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; which they doubted not would be good news to them:

come ye down, and fetch it up to you; but say not one word of the reason of this request, lest it should discourage them; but rather represent it as a favour to them, and an honour done them, as indeed it was. Kirjathjearim seems to have stood on an eminence in comparison of Bethshemesh, and therefore it is said to come down from the one, and go up to the other. That Bethshemesh was in a valley, see 1 Samuel 6:13 and this on a hill, 1 Samuel 7:1.

And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
21. Kirjath-jearim] i.e. “city of forests,” originally belonged to the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17), and was one of the frontier cities of Judah (Joshua 15:9).

The site is probably to be fixed at the modern village of Kuryet-el-enab, i.e. “city of the grape,” which stands among the hills, 8 or 9 miles N.E. of Ain Shems. “A ride over ruined rocky paths, some of the worst in the country, brought us to Kureit-el-Enab, the ancient Kirjath-jearim, in a pleasant valley of olive-groves, abounding in jays and hawks. We dismounted to visit the old Gothic church, said to have been built by the English Crusaders, and still quite perfect, though desecrated by the Moslem villagers to the uses of a cow-shed.” Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 397. [See however Add. Note IX. p. 245.]

Kirjath-jearim was also called Baalah (Joshua 15:9), Baale-Judah (2 Samuel 6:2), and Kirjath-baal (Joshua 15:60), names which point to the former existence of Baal-worship in the place.

The Ark was probably taken to Kirjath-jearim, which was neither a priestly nor Levitical city, as being the nearest place of importance on the road to Shiloh, but why it was not restored to its old resting-place does not appear. Possibly Shiloh, as the central seat of worship and government, was occupied by the Philistines after the battle of Aphek. Certainly it never regained its old importance. See Jeremiah 7:12-14; Jeremiah 26:6.

come ye down] Kirjath-jearim was among the hills of Judah on higher ground than Beth-shemesh.

1 Samuel 6:21Disposal of the Ark of God. - 1 Samuel 6:19. As the ark had brought evil upon the Philistines, so the inhabitants of Bethshemesh were also to be taught that they could not stand in their unholiness before the holy God: "And He (God) smote among the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked at the ark of Jehovah, and smote among the people seventy men, fifty thousand men." In this statement of numbers we are not only struck by the fact that the 70 stands before the 50,000, which is very unusual, but even more by the omission of the copula ו before the second number, which is altogether unparalleled. When, in addition to this, we notice that 50,000 men could not possibly live either in or round Bethshemesh, and that we cannot conceive of any extraordinary gathering having taken place out of the whole land, or even from the immediate neighbourhood; and also that the words אישׁ אלף חמשּׁים are wanting in several Hebrew MSS, and that Josephus, in his account of the occurrence, only speaks of seventy as having been killed (Ant. vi. 1, 4); we cannot come to any other conclusion than that the number 50,000 is neither correct nor genuine, but a gloss which has crept into the text through some oversight, though it is of great antiquity, since the number stood in the text employed by the Septuagint and Chaldee translators, who attempted to explain them in two different ways, but both extremely forced. Apart from this number, however, the verse does not contain anything either in form or substance that could furnish occasion for well-founded objections to its integrity. The repetition of ויּך simply resumes the thought that had been broken off by the parenthetical clause יי בּארון ראוּ כּי; and בּעם is only a general expression for שׁ בּאנשׁי ב. The stroke which fell upon the people of Bethshemesh is sufficiently accounted for in the words, "because they had looked," etc. There is no necessity to understand these words, however, as many Rabbins do, as signifying "they looked into the ark," i.e., opened it and looked in; for if this had been the meaning, the opening would certainly not have been passed over without notice. ראה with ב means to look upon or at a thing with lust or malicious pleasure; and here it no doubt signifies a foolish staring, which was incompatible with the holiness of the ark of God, and was punished with death, according to the warning expressed in Numbers 4:20. This severe judgment so alarmed the people of Bethshemesh, that they exclaimed, "Who is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God!" Consequently the Bethshemeshites discerned correctly enough that the cause of the fatal stroke, which had fallen upon them, was the unholiness of their own nature, and not any special crime which had been committed by the persons slain. They felt that they were none of them any better than those who had fallen, and that sinners could not approach the holy God. Inspired with this feeling, they added, "and to whom shall He go away from us?" The subject to יעלה is not the ark, but Jehovah who had chosen the ark as the dwelling-place of His name. In order to avert still further judgments, they sought to remove the ark from their town. They therefore sent messengers to Kirjath-jearim to announce to the inhabitants the fact that the ark had been sent back by the Philistines, and to entreat them to fetch it away.
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