Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.The Ark in the Harvest-field
1 Samuel 6:13
The ark had been a prisoner in the land of the Philistines since the fatal day when the army of Israel was completely overthrown. Its presence had brought mischief and misery, plague and death to the cities of Ashdod and Ekron, and after seven months' sojourn it was sent back to its own country with all respect and with all care.
I. The coming of the ark at that time to that particular occupation of the men of Beth-shemesh was to them a great reminder, a striking memorial. God brought Himself to the level of their intelligence by sending the ark into their harvest-field as a sacrament of sacred realities, to press home this truth to them that it was to God they owed the harvest they were reaping.
II. It is just as much our duty to recognize the same source of all our good, but possibly we need this reminder, God in the harvest-field, more forcibly even than they did. The world has grown much older since then; childlike faith is not so evident and worthy, simple trust is obscured or pushed out of the way by habits of doubting, of accepting things as of use and wont, and of explaining away the supernatural by natural reasons and processes. Romance, imagination, wonder are gone; and with these often goes the sense of blest dependence on the great Creator, and of gratitude to the great Giver of all food. But this decay of interest is, in its way, a sign of the superficiality of much of the age in which we live.
III. What we need above all to see is the ark of God standing in the harvest-field, the great source of all our supply. We need to rub our sleepy eyes and yet awake to the presence of the great Creator. The ark in the harvest-field teaches us also that the harvest-field is sacred ground; the field is holy. The ark in the harvest-field was a summons to the men of Beth-shemesh to present the firstfruits of their harvest to God. And as the harvesters saw it safely placed in their midst, it renewed to them the message of the Law, that to God were due the firstfruits of their reaping and in special measure for such special restoration of the Divine presence and smile.
—W. A. Swanson, Homiletic Review, November, 1906, vol. LII. p. 388.
References.—VII. 11.—C. Perren, Outline Sermons, p. 272. VII. 12.—F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Reading (2nd Series), p. 105.
And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place.
And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you.
Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.
Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:
And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.
And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.
And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:
And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.
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 them unto the border of Bethshemesh.
And they of Bethshemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.
And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, 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.
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 Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.
And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;
And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Bethshemite.
And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.
And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?
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.