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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And they of Beth-shemesh.—Beth-shemesh, or “House of the Sun,” nearly equivalent to Heliopolis, “City of the Sun,” was a priestly city. It would thus have seemed that this was a fitting home for the Ark of the Covenant to rest in for a time. Shiloh, the old sanctuary, was, we know, now desolate and ruined; but the priests and Levites, from what follows, evidently had forfeited their old position as guides and teachers of the people. Beth-shemesh was no fit permanent dwelling for the Ark of God. The story of the priestly life in the once famous Shiloh during the latter years of Eli indicated how utterly incapable the Levitical families were to influence and guide the people. The subsequent conduct of priestly Beth-shemesh on this memorable occasion, therefore, is not to be wondered at; at first they seem to have rejoiced at the sight of their lost sacred treasure, but an act of careless irreverence called down a swift and unexpected punishment.
and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it; for though the ark while in the tabernacle was only seen by the high priest, when he went into the holy of holies; yet this having been brought out from thence, and exposed in the camp of Israel, some of this place very probably were there at that time, and had seen it, and knew it again by its form and splendour; and which gave them great pleasure to behold, which had been taken, and had been so long in the hand of the enemy, and the people of Israel deprived of it; which was the symbol of the divine Presence among them, and now restored to them again; and in this wonderful way, without seeking for it, without going to war on account of it, without paying a ransom for it; and was brought to them in a cart drawn by cattle without a driver, the lords of the Philistines with a large retinue following it. This is to be understood not of their looking "into" it, as they afterwards did, and were punished, as Kimchi; but of their looking "on" it.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)13. they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest] A description of harvest in Philistia by a modem traveller helps us to realise the scene in the valley of Beth-shemesh, which was suddenly suspended by the appearance of the Ark. “When the fog dispersed the whole plain appeared to be dotted over with harvesting parties, men reaping, women and children gleaning and gathering the grain into bundles, or taking care of the flocks which followed closely upon the footsteps of the gleaners. All seemed to be in good humour, enjoying the cool air of the morning. There was singing alone and in chorus, incessant talking, home-made jokes, and laughter long and loud.” Thomson’s The Land and the Book, p. 543.
This notice fixes the time of year as the end of May or beginning of June. Robinson saw wheat harvest in progress at Gaza on the 19th of May, and just commencing at Hebron on the 4th of June. Bibl. Res. I. 431.
in the valley] Heb. “êmek,” denoting “the long broad sweeps sometimes found between parallel ranges of hills.” Sin. and Pal. p. 481.Verse 13. And they of Beth-shemesh. More exactly, "And Beth-shemesh was reaping its wheat harvest," the whole population being in the fields. Though a priestly city, we find in ver. 15 the Levites distinguished from the ordinary inhabitants, as though they and the priests formed only the ruling class. In the valley. Now called the Wady Surar, branching off into another valley on the south. Robinson ('Later Bibl. Res.,' 153) speaks of the site of Beth-shemesh as a very noble one, being "a low plateau at the junction of two fine plains." The wheat harvest takes place in Palestine in May, and consequently the disastrous battle of Eben-ezer must have been fought in the previous October. 1 Samuel 6:7-9). The Philistines were to take a new cart and make it ready (עשׂה), and to yoke two milch cows to the cart upon which no yoke had ever come, and to take away their young ones (calves) from them into the house, i.e., into the stall, and then to put the ark upon the cart, along with the golden things to be presented as a trespass-offering, which were to be in a small chest by the side of the ark, and to send it (i.e., the ark) away, that it might go, viz., without the cows being either driven or guided. From the result of these arrangements, they were to learn whether the plague had been sent by the God of Israel, or had arisen accidentally. "If it (the ark) goeth up by the way to its border towards Bethshemesh, He (Jehovah) hath done us this great evil; but if not, we perceive that His hand hath not touched us. It came to us by chance," i.e., the evil came upon us merely by accident. In עליהם, בּניהם, and מאחריהם (1 Samuel 6:7), the masculine is used in the place of the more definite feminine, as being the more general form. This is frequently the case, and occurs again in 1 Samuel 6:10 and 1 Samuel 6:12. ארגּז, which only occurs again in 1 Samuel 6:8, 1 Samuel 6:11, and 1 Samuel 6:15, signifies, according to the context and the ancient versions, a chest or little case. The suffix to אתו refers to the ark, which is also the subject to יעלה (1 Samuel 6:9). גּבוּלו, the territory of the ark, is the land of Israel, where it had its home. מקרה is used adverbially: by chance, or accidentally. The new cart and the young cows, which had never worn a yoke, corresponded to the holiness of the ark of God. To place it upon an old cart, which had already been used for all kinds of earthly purposes, would have been an offence against the holy thing; and it would have been just the same to yoke to the cart animals that had already been used for drawing, and had had their strength impaired by the yoke (see Deuteronomy 21:3). The reason for selecting cows, however, instead of male oxen, was no doubt to be found in the further object which they hoped to attain. It was certainly to be expected, that if suckling cows, whose calves had been kept back from them, followed their own instincts, without any drivers, they would not go away, but would come back to their young ones in the stall. And if the very opposite should take place, this would be a sure sign that they were driven and guided by a divine power, and in fact by the God whose ark they were to draw into His own land. From this they would be able to draw the conclusion, that the plagues which had fallen upon the Philistines were also sent by this God. There was no special sagacity in this advice of the priests; it was nothing more than a cleverly devised attempt to put the power of the God of the Israelites to the text, though they thereby unconsciously and against their will furnished the occasion for the living God to display His divine glory before those who did not know Him.
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