1 Samuel 6:14
And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they split the wood of the cart, and offered the cows a burnt offering to the LORD.
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(14) The field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite.—The great stone—most likely a mass of natural rock rising from the soil—was the occasion of the cart being stopped there, Beth-shemesh and its suburbs being a city of the priests (Joshua 21:16). The presence of Levites, among whom were doubtless priests, is natural. These were, of course, the principal men of the city and its suburbs, and they were familiar with all sacrificial rites prescribed by the Law. The offering of these sacrifices at Beth-shemesh, although the Tabernacle never had been stationed there, was no transgression against the law, for now the Ark of the Covenant was present, the occasional throne of the glory-presence of the Eternal, before which the sacrifices were really offered.

1 Samuel 6:14. The cart came into the field of Joshua, and stood there — This was another marvellous thing, that the kine went no further, but stood, as soon as they were come into the territory of a city belonging to the priests, (for such Beth-shemesh was,) whose office it was to take care of the ark. Where there was a great stone — Which seems to have been the boundary of the two countries. They offered the kine — That is, the Beth-shemites, the priests, did this, and not the lords of the Philistines. The great stone probably served for an altar, and on it they offered a whole burnt-offering, in praise to God for his goodness. But was there not a double error in this ?Acts 1 st, In that they offered females for a burnt-offering, contrary to Leviticus 1:3. 2d, In that they did it in a forbidden place? See Deuteronomy 12:5-6. To this it must be answered, that a case so singular is not to be brought to the test of the general rules. These regulations respected only ordinary offerings, and not such as an extraordinary occasion, like this, might require. Besides, the ark being here, and God having not yet appointed any place for its future residence, now Shiloh was destroyed, they thought in reason their sacrifice might be here acceptable to him. And they the rather chose to offer these cows to God, because they considered them as belonging to him, as having drawn his ark, and been particularly directed by him, and therefore to be his sacrifices.6:10-18 These two kine knew their owner, their great Owner, whom Hophin and Phinehas knew not. God's providence takes notice even of brute creatures, and serves its own purposes by them. When the reapers saw the ark, they rejoiced; their joy for that was greater than the joy of harvest. The return of the ark, and the revival of holy ordinances, after days of restraint and trouble, are matters of great joy.A great stone - (Compare Genesis 28:18; Judges 13:19). This great stone was probably used as an altar on this occasion, and the kine stopping at it of their own accord was understood by the Bethshemites as an intimation that they were to offer sacrifices on it to the Lord God of Israel, who had so wonderfully brought back the ark from its captivity.

And they clave the wood of the cart ... - A similar expedient was resorted to by Araunah 2 Samuel 24:22, and by Elisha 1 Kings 19:21.

14. and they clave—that is, the Beth-shemites, in an irrepressible outburst of joy.

offered the kine—Though contrary to the requirements of the law (Le 1:3; 22:19), these animals might properly be offered, as consecrated by God Himself; and though not beside the tabernacle, there were many instances of sacrifices offered by prophets and holy men on extraordinary occasions in other places.

They clave; not the lords of the Philistines, but the Beth-shemites, to wit, the priests that dwelt there.

A burnt-offering to the Lord: there may seem to be a double error in this act. First, That they offered females for a burnt-offering, contrary to Leviticus 1:3 22:19. Secondly, That they did it in a forbidden place, Deu 12:5,6, into which they might easily be led by excess of joy, and eager desire of returning to their long-interrupted course of offering sacrifices. And some think these irregularities were partial causes of the following punishment. But this case being very extraordinary, may in some sort excuse it, if they did not proceed by ordinary rules. As for the first, though they might not choose females for that use, yet when God himself had chosen, and in a manner consecrated them to his service, and employed them in so sacred and glorious a work, it may seem tolerable to offer them to the Lord, as being his peculiar, and improper for any other use. And for the latter, we have many instances of sacrifices offered to God by prophets and holy men in other places besides the tabernacle, upon extraordinary occasions, such as this certainly was; it being fit that the ark should at its first return be received with thanksgivings and sacrifice; and this place being sanctified by the presence of the ark, which was the very soul of the tabernacle, and that by which the tabernacle itself was sanctified, and for whose sake the sacrifices were offered at the door of the tabernacle. And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite,.... In that part of the valley where they were reaping wheat which belonged to him, whom we nowhere else read; whether a priest or Levite, which is not improbable, since this was a city of the Levites, or a common Israelite, is not certain:

and stood there where there was a great stone; afterwards called the great stone of Abel, 1 Samuel 6:18. By the providence of God it was so ordered, that the kine made a stop just at this place; and proceeded no further, as if sensible they were come to their journey's end, and had brought the ark into the hands of its friends, and to a proper place for them to express their thankfulness for it; for this stone seemed designed to be, as it was, the altar on which the burnt offering, by way of thanksgiving for the return of the ark, was to be offered; the Jews say (w) this stone was the altar built by Abraham:

and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the Lord; the cart they cut in pieces, and laid the wood of it in order upon the stone, and slew the two cows, and laid their pieces on the wood, and set fire to it, and burnt them with it, as expressive of joy and thankfulness that the ark was returned. This was done, not by the lords of the Philistines, as some of the ancient Jews thought, as Kimchi relates, in which they are followed by some Christian interpreters; but by the men of Bethshemesh, as Kimchi, by the priests there; for though this was not the proper and usual place for sacrifice, nor were cows offered in sacrifice; yet this being an extraordinary case, and thank offerings were necessary as soon as the ark was returned, these things were dispensed with; and the rather, since Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, was destroyed; and besides, the ark of the Lord was here present, which sanctified the place, as it did the tabernacle, and made it fit for such service; and as for these cows, they had been employed in sacred service, and the Lord had a right unto them, and claim upon them; and it seemed not fitting that they should be after employed to any other use and service than his own; nor were the men of Bethshemesh blamed or punished for this, though they afterwards were for looking into the ark.

(w) Hieron. Trad. Heb. in lib. Reg. fol. 75. D.

And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and {h} they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD.

(h) That is, the men of Bethshemesh, who were Israelites.

14. Joshua a Beth-shemite] Joshua the Beth-shemeshite. Our translators have copied the Vulgate in abbreviating the form, as in the case of ‘Benjamite’ for ‘Benjaminite.’

they clave the wood of the cart, &c.] For a similarly extemporised sacrifice see 2 Samuel 24:22. Cp. also 1 Kings 19:21.Verse 14. - Stood there, where there was a great stone. Probably a mass of natural rock rising through the soil. This they used as an altar, breaking up the cart for wood, and sacrificing the kine. In this joyful work all the people seem to have joined, though the sacrifice would be offered only by the priests. Accordingly they arranged the sending back in such a manner as to manifest the reverence which ought to be shown to the God of Israel was a powerful deity (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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