Dave Burnette's Commentary

1 Samuel Chapter 6


Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Samuel, Nathan, & Gad 
Date Penned: (931-975 BC)
Overview: Samuel, Israel's Last Judge (c 1-31)
Theme: Eli and Samuel (c 1-7)
Message: The Philistines Return the Ark (v 1-21)

1 Samuel 6 Commentary

(6:2-3) The Philistines fail to Worship the Lord - The Philistines had ample evidence that the God of Israel was greater than all their gods. Their leaders gave him some token gifts, not out of true worship, but in order to remove the plague. God does not want tokens of our time and resources. He desires true, heartfelt devotion. Our participation in worship services and our contributions please him only when they flow from hearts of love.

(6:3-4) The Philistines Attempt to Appease their god - What was this trespass offering supposed to accomplish? This was a normal reaction to trouble in the Canaanite religion. The Philistines thought their problems were the result of their gods being angry. They recognized their guilt in taking the ark and now were trying everything they could to placate Israel's God. The diviners probably helped choose the gift they thought would placate Israel's God. The offering consisted of gold images of emerods (tumors) and mice, probably replicas of things associated with the plague they were suffering under. This certainly was not the kind of trespass offering prescribed in God's laws (Leviticus 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10), but God used the ways of the Philistines to return the ark to the people of Israel. God will always accomplish his will and purposes, even when our attempts are imperfect or ignorant.

(6:7-12) The God of Israel Shows His Power - The Philistine priests and diviners devised a test to see if God was really the one who had caused all their recent troubles. Two cows who had just given birth were hitched to a cart and sent toward Israel's border carrying the ark of the covenant. For a cow to leave her nursing calf, she would have to go against all her motherly instincts. Only God, who has power over the natural order, could cause this to happen. God sent the cows to Israel, not to pass the Philistines' test, but to show them his mighty power.

(6:9) God is More than an Ingredient - The Philistines acknowledged the existence of the Hebrew God, but only as one of many deities whose favor they sought. Thinking of God in this way made it easy for them to ignore his demand that people worship him alone. Many people "worship" God this way. They see God as just one ingredient in a successful life. But God is far more than an ingredient--he is the source of life itself. Have you become a "Philistine" in your attitude, treating God's favor as only another ingredient to the good life you are trying to pursue?

(6:15) Beth-Shemesh Rededicates to the Lord - The men of Beth-shemesh sacrificed a burnt offering to God. In Scripture, burnt offerings represent the renewal of relationship with God and the desire for forgiveness of sin. Although some of the people of Beth-shemesh later mishandled the ark (6:19), when they first received it, they rededicated their lives to God. They wanted to start over with God as their leader.

(6:19) Trying to Manipulate God - Why were so many people killed for looking into the ark? The Israelites had made an idol of the ark. They had tried to harness God's power, to use it for their own purposes (victory in battle). But the Lord of the universe cannot be controlled by humans. To protect the Israelites from his power, he had warned them not to even look at the sacred sanctuary objects in the most holy place or they would die Numbers 4:20). Only Levites were allowed to move the ark, and then only after they had carried out their ritual cleansing. Because of their disobedience, God carried out his promised judgment. God could not allow the people to think they could use his power for their own ends. He could not permit them to disregard his warnings and come into his presence lightly. He did not want the cycle of disrespect, disobedience, and defeat to start all over again. God did not kill the men of Beth-shemesh to be cruel. He killed them because overlooking their presumptuous sin would encourage all the Israelites to ignore God.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Reverence of a Holy God


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 1st Samuel with Chapter 6. In our text, we continue in the book of 1 Samuel with Chapter 6, and we see the Lord smote over 50,000 due to the Philistines looking inside the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark housed the Spirit of God, and it was Holy. In applying, we see the truth of serving a Holy God. This Holy God Loves You, but this Holy God must also judge sin. As the Philistines found out with our text today, ignoring this fact produces grave results. How about you? Do you reverence the God of the Bible as a Holy God? Let us learn from our text today to reverence our Holy God.


1 Samuel 6

1 Samuel 6

 1And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months.

 2And 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.

 3And 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.

 4Then 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.

 5Wherefore 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.

 6Wherefore 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?

 7Now 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:

 8And 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.

 9And 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.

 10And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:

 11And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.

 12And 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.

 13And 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.

 14And 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.

 15And 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.

 16And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

 17And 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;

 18And 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.

 19And 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.

 20And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?

 21And 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.