1 Samuel 6


After the ark had been seven months in the land of the

Philistines, they consult their priests and diviners about

sending it to Shiloh, 1, 2.

They advise that it be sent back with a trespass-offering of

five golden emerods, and five golden mice, 3-6.

They advise also that it be sent back on a new cart, drawn by

two milch kine from whom their calves shall be tied up; and

then conclude that if these cows shalt take the way of

Beth-hemesh, as going to the Israelitish border, then the LORD

had afflicted them, if not, then their evils were accidental,


They do as directed; and the kine take the way of Beth-shemesh,


They stop in the field of Joshua; and the men of Beth-shemesh

take them, and offer them to the Lord for a burnt-offering,

and cleave the wood of the cart to burn them, and make sundry

other offerings, 14, 15.

The offerings of the five lords of the Philistines, 16-18.

For too curiously looking into the ark, the men of Beth-shemesh

are smitten of the Lord, 19, 20.

They send to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, that they may

take away the ark, 21.


Verse 2. The diviners] kosemim, from kasam,

to presage or prognosticate. See De 18:10. In what their

pretended art consisted, we know not.

Verse 3. Send it not empty] As it appears ye have trespassed

against him, send him an offering for this trespass.

Why his hand is not removed] The sense is, If you send him a

trespass-offering, and ye be cured, then ye shall know why his

judgments have not been taken away from you previously to this


It is a common opinion, says Calmet, among all people, that

although the Supreme Being needs nothing of his creatures, yet he

requires that they should consecrate to him all that they have;

for the same argument that proves his independence, infinitude,

and self-sufficiency, proves our dependence, and the obligation we

are under to acknowledge him by offering him due marks of our

gratitude and submission. Such sentiments were common among all

people; and God himself commands his people not to appear before

him without an offering, Ex 23:15:

None shall appear before me empty.

Verse 4. Five golden emerods, and five golden mice] One for each

satrapy. The emerods had afflicted their bodies; the mice had

marred their land. Both, they considered, as sent by God; and,

making an image of each, and sending them as a trespass-offering,

they acknowledged this. See at the end.

Verse 5. He will lighten his hand from off you] The whole land

was afflicted; the ground was marred by the mice; the common

people and the lords afflicted by the haemorrhoids, and their gods

broken in pieces.

Verse 6. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts] They had heard

how God punished the Egyptians, and they are afraid of similar

plagues. It appears that they had kept the ark long enough.

Did they not let the people go] And has he not wrought

wonderfully among us? And should we not send back his ark?

Verse 7. Make a new cart] It was indecent and improper to employ

in any part of the worship of God any thing that had before served

for a common purpose. Every thing in the worship of God is said to

be sanctified: now the general meaning of that word is, to

separate a thing from all earthly and common uses, and devote it

solely to the service of God.

When David removed the ark from the house of Abinadab, he put it

on a new cart, 2Sa 6:3.

Bring their calves home from them] So it appears that their

calves had been with them in the fields. This was a complete

trial: unless they were supernaturally influenced, they would not

leave their calves; unless supernaturally directed, they would not

leave their home, and take a way unguided, which they had never

gone before.

Verse 8. The jewels of gold] The word keley, which our

translators so often render jewels, signifies vessels, implements,

ornaments, &c. A jewel of gold has an odd sound to those who

always attach the idea of a precious stone to the term.

Verse 9. A chance that happened to us] The word mikreh,

from karah, to meet or coalesce, signifies an event that

naturally arises from such concurring causes as, in the order and

nature of things, must produce it.

Thus a bad state of the atmosphere, putrid exhalations, bad

diet, occasioned by any general scarcity, might have produced the

disease in question; and to something of this kind they would

attribute it, if the other evidences did not concur. This gives us

the proper notion of chance; and shows us that it is a matter as

dependent upon the Divine providence, as any thing can be: in

short, that these occurrences are parts of the Divine government.

The word chance, though often improperly used to signify such an

occurrence as is not under the Divine government, is of itself,

not only simple, but expressive; and has nearly the meaning of the

Hebrew word: it comes from the French cheoir, or escheoir, to fall

out, to occur, to fall to. Hence our law-term escheat, any lands

that fall to the lord of the manor by forfeiture, or for want of

heirs: i.e., these are the occurrences which naturally throw the

lands into the hands of the lord.

Verse 12. Lowing as they went] Calling for their calves.

To the right hand or to the left] Some think they were placed

where two roads met; one going to Ekron, the other to

Beth-shemesh. It is possible that they were put in such

circumstances as these for the greater certainty of the affair: to

have turned from their own homes, from their calves and known

pasture, and to have taken the road to a strange country, must

argue supernatural influence.

The lords of the Philistines went after] They were so jealous in

this business that they would trust no eyes but their own. All

this was wisely ordered, that there might be the fullest

conviction of the being and interposition of God.

Verse 14. They clave the wood of the cart] Both the cart and the

cattle having been thus employed, could no longer be devoted to

any secular services; therefore the cattle were sacrificed, and

the cart was broken up for fuel to consume the sacrifice.

Verse 15. The Levites took down] It appears there were some of

the tribe of Levi among the people of Beth-shemesh: to them

appertained the service of the tabernacle.

Verse 17. These are the golden emerods] Each of these cities, in

what may be called its corporate capacity, sent a golden emerod.

Verse 18. And the golden mice] The desolation that had been made

through the land by these animals had excited a general concern;

and it appears from the text, that all the cities of the

Philistines, as well fended as without walls, sent a golden mouse

as a trespass-offering.

Remaineth unto this day] Some think the ark is intended, which

continued on the stone of Abel for some considerable time after it

was placed there; and that the memoranda from which this book was

afterwards compiled, were made before it was removed: but it is

not likely that it remained any time exposed in the open field.

Therefore it is most natural to suppose that it is the stone of

Abel which is here intended; and so our translators have

understood the place, and have used supplementary words to express

this sentiment: "Which stone remaineth unto this day."

Verse 19. He smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore

and ten men] The present Hebrew text of this most extraordinary

reading stands thus:

vaiyach beanshey Beith-shemesh-vaiyach baam shibim ish,

chamishshim eleph ish; "And he smote among the men of

Beth-shemesh, (because they looked into the ark of Jehovah,) and

he smote among the people SEVENTY men, FIFTY THOUSAND men."

From the manner in which the text stands, and from the great

improbability of the thing, it is most likely that there is a

corruption in this text, or that some explanatory word is lost, or

that the number fifty thousand has been added by ignorance or

design; it being very improbable that such a small village as

Beth-shemesh should contain or be capable of employing fifty

thousand and seventy men in the fields at wheat harvest, much less

that they could all peep into the ark on the stone of Abel, in the

corn-field of Joshua.

That the words are not naturally connected in the Hebrew text,

is evident; and they do not stand better in the versions.

1. The VULGATE renders it thus:-Et percussit de populo

SEPTUAGINTA viros; et QUINQUAGINTA MILLA plebis; "And he smote of

the (chief) people SEVENTY men, and FIFTY THOUSAND of the (common)

people." This distinction, I suppose, St. Jerome intended between

plebis and populus; which he might think was warranted by the

anashim, and ish, of the Hebrew text.

2. The TARGUM of Jonathan is something similar to the

Vulgate:-"And he smote besabey amma, of the elders

of the people SEVENTY men; ubekahala, and of the

congregation FIFTY THOUSAND men."

3. The SEPTUAGINT follow the Hebrew text: καιεπαταξενεναυτοις

εβδομηκονταανδραςκαιπεντηκονταχιλιαδαςανδρων; "And he smote

of them SEVENTY men; and FIFTY THOUSAND men." εκτουλαου, of the

people, is added by some copies.

4. The SYRIAC has forty-five thousand less! It is as follows:

[-----Syriac-----] wamacho Morio beamo chamesho alapin weshabein

gabrin; "And the Lord smote among the people FIVE thousand and


5. The ARABIC is nearly similar: "And the LORD smote among the

people; and there died of them [---Arabic---] FIVE thousand and


We have no other versions from which we can receive any farther


6. JOSEPHUS is different from all the rest, and has fifty

thousand less, for he renders the place thus, Antiq. Jud. libe.

vi., cap. i., sect. 4: θργηδεκαιχολοςτουθεουμετεισινωστε

εβδομηκοντατωνεκτηςβηθσαμηςκωμηςβαλωναπεκτεινεν "But the

displeasure and wrath of God pursued them so, that SEVENTY men of

the village of Beth-shemesh, approaching the ark, which they were

not worthy to touch, (not being priests,) were struck with

lightning." Here we find the whole fifty thousand is omitted.

7. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi, giving the opinion of other rabbins as

well as his own, says, "Our rabbins say SEVENTY men, and each of

them was worth fifty thousand men; or fifty thousand, every one of

whom was worth the seventy of the Sanhedrin." This only shows

embarrassment, but gives very little light.

All these discordances, together with the utter improbability of

the thing, lead us to suppose there must be a corruption in this

place, either by adding or omitting.

Dr. Kennicott has found three very reputable MSS. in which the

words chamishshim eleph ish, fifty thousand men, are

wanting. The 1st, No. 84, a MS. from Holland; the 2d, No. 210, one

of the Parisian MSS.; the 3d, No. 418, a MS. belonging to Milan;

all three written about the beginning of the twelfth century, and

numbered as above in Dr. K's Bible.

Perhaps the omission in these MSS. was occasioned by a mistake

of the transcriber, which might have easily happened, because of

the word ish, which occurs both after shibim and

after eleph; for, having written the first, and taking his

eye off, when he recommenced he might have supposed he had written

the latter, and so proceed, leaving the words in question out of

his copy. Two, three, or more persons might have been thus

deceived, and so produce the above MSS.; or the mistake once made,

all the MSS. copied from that would show the same omission. The

common reading may be defended, if we only suppose the omission of

a single letter, the particle of comparison ke, like, as, or

equal to, before the word chamishshim: thus

kechamishshim; the passage would then read: "And he smote of the

people SEVENTY men, equal to FIFTY THOUSAND men;" that is, they

were the elders or governors of the people.

Some solve the difficulty by translating, "He slew SEVENTY men

OUT OF fifty thousand men." There are various other methods

invented by learned men to remove this difficulty, which I shall

not stop to examine; all, however, issue in this point, that only

SEVENTY MEN were slain; and this is, without doubt the most

probable. The FIFTY THOUSAND, therefore, must be an interpolation,

or be understood in some such way as that mentioned above. But the

omission of the particle of similitude solves every difficulty;

and this would account for the reading in Josephus, who in his

recital would naturally leave out such an explanation of the worth

of the seventy men, as his Roman readers could not easily

comprehend such comparisons.

With a great slaughter.] Seventy men slain, out of an

inconsiderable village in a harvest day, was certainly a great


Verse 20. Who is able to stand] Why this exclamation? They knew

that God had forbidden any to touch his ark but the priests and

Levites; but they endeavoured to throw that blame on God, as a

Being hard to be pleased, which belonged solely to themselves.

Verse 21. To the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim] They wished the

ark away out of their village, but why they sent to this city

instead of sending to Shiloh, does not appear: probably Shiloh had

been destroyed by the Philistines, after the late defeat of

Israel. This is most likely, as the ark was never more taken back

to that place.

IT was a very ancient usage, when a plague or other calamity

infested a country, city, &c. for the magicians to form an image

of the destroyer, or of the things on which the plague

particularly rested, in gold, silver, ivory, wax, clay, &c., under

certain configurations of the heavens; and to set this up in some

proper place, that the evils thus represented might be driven

away. These consecrated images were the same that are called

talismans, or rather telesms, among the Asiatics. Mr. Locke

calls the diviners talismans, but this is a mistake; the image,

not the fabricator, was called by this name.

I have seen several of these talismans, of different countries;

and such images were probably the origin of all the forms of gods

which, in after times, were the objects of religious worship. It

is well known that Ireland is not infested with any venomous

creature; no serpent of any kind is found in it:-

"No poison there infects, no scaly snake

Lurks in the grass, nor toads annoy the lake."

This has been attributed to a telesm, formed with certain rites

under the sign Scorpio. Such opinions have been drawn from very

ancient pagan sources: e.g.: A stone engraved with the figure of a

scorpion, while the moon is in the sign Scorpio, is said to cure

those who are stung by this animal. Apollonius Tyaneus is said to

have prevented flies from infesting Antioch, and storks from

appearing in Byzantium, by figures of those animals formed under

certain constellations. A brazen scorpion, placed on a pillar in

the city of Antioch, is said to have expelled all such animals

from that country. And a crocodile of lead is also said to have

preserved Cairo from the depredations of those monsters. See


Virgil refers to this custom, Eclogue viii., ver. 80, where he

represents a person making two images or telesms, one of wax,

another of clay, which were to represent an absent person, who was

to be alternately softened or hardened, as the wax or clay

image was exposed to the fire:-

Limus ut hic durescit, et haec ut cera liquescit

Uno et eodem igni: sic nostro Daphnis amore.

"As this clay hardens, and this wax softens, by one and the same

fire, so may Daphnis by my love."

This thought is borrowed from Theocritus, Idyl. ii., ver. 28.

A beautiful marble figure of Osiris, about four inches and a

quarter high, now stands before me, entirely covered with

hieroglyphics; he is standing, and holds in each hand a scorpion

and a snake by the tails, and with each foot he stands on the neck

of a crocodile. This I have no doubt was a telesm, formed under

some peculiar configuration of the heavens, intended to drive away

both scorpions and crocodiles. This image is of the highest

antiquity, and was formed probably long before the Christian era.

Tavernier observes that something like what is mentioned in the

text is practiced among the Indians; for when a pilgrim goes to

one of the idol temples for a cure, he brings the figure of the

member affected, made either of gold, silver, or copper,

according to his circumstances, which he offers to his god. This

custom was common among the heathens, and they consecrated to

their gods the monuments of their deliverance. From heathenism it

was adopted by corrupt Christianity; and Theodoret informs us that

in his time there might be seen about the tombs of the martyrs

figures of eyes, hands, feet, and other parts of the body, which

represented those of the offerers which they supposed had been

healed by the intercession of those holy persons! This degrading

superstition is continued among the papists to the present day: I

have seen at St. Winifred's well, in Holywell, Flintshire several

staves, crutches, and handbarrows, hung up in different places,

which were reported to be the votive offerings of the maimed, the

halt, the withered, &c., who had received their cure by the virtue

of the saint! It is true the crutches are such as no man or woman

could ever walk with; and the barrows are such as most evidently

never carried any human being. But they serve the purpose of

superstition, and keep up an idolatrous reverence for the well and

the legendary virgin.

After all, I need not say that the system of judicial astrology

is vain, unfounded, absurd, and wicked. It in effect presumes to

take the government of the world out of the hand of an all-wise

God, and to abandon it to the most fortuitous and unconnected

occurrences of life; for the stars have their influences according

to this pretended science, conformably to the occurrences here

below: e.g., if a child be born but one hour sooner or later than

a particular configuration of the heavens, his destiny will be

widely different from what it otherwise would have been; and as an

almost infinite number of casualties may accelerate or retard a

birth, consequently the whole destiny of man is influenced and

ruled by these casualties: to say nothing of the absurdity, that

those omnipotent stars ever can affect the infant while invested

with a thin covering of flesh in the womb of its parent. But the

whole science is a tissue of absurdities.

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