1 Samuel 6:5
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.
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(5) Images of your mice.—This is the first mention of the plague of “mice” in the Hebrew text. The Greek Version had (see above) carefully appended to the description of the bodily disease the account of this scourge which devastated the land of Philistia. In these warm countries which border the Mediterranean vast quantities of these mice from time to time seem to have appeared and devoured the crops. Aristotle and Pliny both mention their devastations. In Egypt this visitation was so dreaded that the mouse seems to have been the hieroglyphic for destruction. The curse then weighed heavily in Philistia, both upon man and the land.

1 Samuel 6:5. Of your mice that mar the land — By this it appears that their county was infested by mice, which had eaten their corn in the field, and other fruits of the earth, though no mention is made of this before. And give glory to the God of Israel — That is, acknowledge, by this present, that he is the inflicter of these plagues, and has power to remove them, begging his pardon and seeking for healing from him. And hereby give him the glory of his power in conquering you, who seemed to have conquered him; of his justice in punishing you; and of his goodness if he relieve you. For this is the signification of this phrase in a similar case, (Revelation 16:9,) where St. John complains that after many plagues men did not repent. To give glory unto God — That is, to acknowledge his sovereign authority, power, justice, and other attributes.

6:1-9 Seven months the Philistines were punished with the presence of the ark; so long it was a plague to them, because they would not send it home sooner. Sinners lengthen out their own miseries by refusing to part with their sins. The Israelites made no effort to recover the ark. Alas! where shall we find concern for religion prevail above all other matters? In times of public calamity we fear for ourselves, for our families, and for our country; but who cares for the ark of God? We are favoured with the gospel, but it is treated with neglect or contempt. We need not wonder if it should be taken from us; to many persons this, though the heavies of calamities, would occasion no grief. There are multitudes whom any profession would please as well as that of Christianity. But there are those who value the house, the word, and the ministry of God above their richest possessions, who dread the loss of these blessings more than death. How willing bad men are to shift off their convictions, and when they are in trouble, to believe it is a chance that happens; and that the rod has no voice which they should hear or heed!It was a prevalent custom in pagan antiquity to make offerings to the gods expressive of the particular mercy received. Thus, those saved from shipwreck offered pictures of the shipwreck, etc., and the custom still exists among Christians in certain countries.

The plague of the mice is analogous to that of the frogs in Egypt. The destructive power of field-mice was very great.

5. give glory unto the God of Israel—By these propitiatory presents, the Philistines would acknowledge His power and make reparation for the injury done to His ark.

lighten his hand … from off your gods—Elohim for god.

Glory unto the God of Israel; the glory of his power in conquering you, who seemed and pretended to have conquered him; of his justice in punishing you; and of his goodness if he shall relieve you.

From off your gods they so speak, either because not only Dagon, but their other gods also, were thrown down by the ark, though that be not related; or because the plural number in that case was commonly used for the singular.

Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods,.... Which some take to be images of the five cities; others of a man at large with the disease in his back parts; others of that part of the body of a man only, in a circular form, in which the disease was, and expressing that; but the text is plain for the disease only, as high large tumours: though Maimonides (f) says of these images, that the word is attributed to them, not because of their external form, but because of their spiritual virtue and influence; whereby the damage or disease of the emerods in the hinder parts were removed: he seems to take them to be a sort of talismans, which were images of a disease or noxious creature a country was infected with, made under some celestial influence to remove it; and Tavernier (g) relates, as Bishop Patrick observes, that it is a practice with the Indians to this day, that when any pilgrim goes to a pagoda for the cure of any disease, he brings the figure of the member affected, made either of gold, silver, or copper, according to his quality, which he offers to his god. There is a tradition among the Heathens, which seems to be borrowed from this history, and serves to establish the credit of it; the Athenians not receiving Bacchus and his rites with due honour, he was angry with them, and smote them with a disease in their private parts, which was incurable; on which they consulted the oracle, which advised them in order to be rid of the disease to receive the god with all honour and respect; which order the Athenians obeyed, and made images of the several parts, privately and publicly, and with these honoured the god in memory of the disease (h): both the disease and cure are here plainly pointed at:

and images of your mice that mar the land; that devoured the fruits of it, as these creatures in many instances have been known to do; and particularly in Palestine, the country of the Philistines, where in some places their fields were sometimes almost deserted because of the abundance of them; and were it not for a sort of birds that devoured them, the inhabitants could not sow their seed (i): the Boeotians sacrificed to Apollo Pornopion (which signifies a mouse), to save their country from them (k); Aristotle (l) reports of field mice, that they sometimes increase to such incredible numbers, that scarce any of the corn of the field is left by them; and so soon consumed, that some husbandmen, having appointed their labourers to cut down their corn on one day, coming to it the next day, in order to cut it down, have found it all consumed; Pliny (m) speaks of field mice destroying the harvest; Aelianus (n) relates such an incursion of field mice into some parts of Italy, as obliged the inhabitants to leave the country, and which destroyed the corn fields and plants, as if they had been consumed by heat or cold, or any unseasonable weather; and not only seeds were gnawn, but roots cut up; so the Abderites (o) were obliged to leave their country because of mice and frogs:

and ye shall give glory to the God of Israel; by sending these images as monuments of their shameful and painful disease, and of the ruin of their fields; owning that it was the hand of the Lord that smote their bodies with emerods, and filled their fields with mice which devoured them; seeking and asking pardoning of him by the trespass offering they sent him:

peradventure he will lighten his hand from you: abate the violence of the disease, and at length entirely remove it:

and from your gods; not Dagon only, but others seem to have suffered, wherever the ark came: for the Philistines had other deities; besides Dagon at Ashdod, there were Baalzebub at Ekron, and Marnas at Gaza, and Derceto at Ashkelon; and perhaps another at Gath, though unknown; and besides the gods suffered, or however their priests, by the number of men that died, and by the fruits of the earth being destroyed; which must in course lessen their revenues: and from off your land; the fruits of which were destroyed by mice.

(f) Moreh Nevochim, par. 1. c. 1.((g) Travels, p. 92. (h) Scholia in Aristoph. Acharnen. Act ii. Scen. 1. p. 383, 384. Edit. Genev. 1607. (i) Magini Geograph. par. 2. fol. 241. (k) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 1. c. 13. (l) Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 37. "----saepe exiguus mus", &c. Virgil, Georg. l. 1. v. 181, 182. (m) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 65. (n) De Animal. l. 17. c. 41. (o) Justin. l. 15. c. 2.

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 {c} gods, and from off your land.

(c) This is God's judgment on the idolaters, that knowing the true God, they do not worship him correctly.

5. images of your mice that mar the land] The Heb. text now first definitely speaks of the plague of mice, which was alluded to in ch. 1 Samuel 5:6. The Sept. as we have seen mentions it in 1 Samuel 5:6 and 1 Samuel 6:1. The extraordinary voracity of field-mice, and the incredible rate at which they multiply, are noticed by many ancient writers on Natural History. Aristotle, in his History of Animals (VI. 37) says, “In many places mice are wont to appear in the fields in such unspeakable numbers, that scarce anything is left of the whole crop. So rapidly do they consume the corn, that in some cases small farmers have observed their crops ripe and ready for the sickle on one day, and coming the next with the reapers, have found them entirely devoured.”

In 1848, it is said, the coffee crop in Ceylon was entirely destroyed by mice.

These images are not to be compared with the talismans or amulets made by magicians and astrologers in later times to effect cures or avert evils, as is done by Kitto, who gives many examples of such charms (Bible Illustrations, p. 84): nor with the thank-offerings for recovery in the form of the injured members which may be seen suspended at the altars of Roman Catholic churches in Switzerland and Italy at the present day: but with “a custom which according to the traveller Tavernier has prevailed in India from time immemorial, that when a pilgrim takes a journey to a pagoda to be cured of a disease, he offers to the idol a present, either in gold, silver, or copper, according to his ability, of the shape of the diseased or injured member. Such a present passes as a practical acknowledgment that the god has inflicted the suffering or evil.” Thus in the present case the Philistines offered “representations of the instruments of their chastisements” as an acknowledgment that the plagues of boils and mice were inflicted by the God of Israel, and were not “a chance.” Thereby they would “give glory to the God of Israel.” Cp. Revelation 16:9.

The question has been raised, whether there was a plague of mice at all. The mouse was the Egyptian symbol of destruction, and the two kinds of images were, it is said, emblematic of the same thing, the pestilence. The words that mar the land may mean no more than “mice such as are commonly found in the country.” The theory is more ingenious than probable. The natural inference from the text certainly is that there was a plague of mice, and it is quite in accordance with the practice of Hebrew writers that in a condensed narrative like the present, the fact of the desolation of the country should be barely mentioned in ch. 1 Samuel 5:6; and the cause of it stated incidentally afterwards.

We should compare (though with caution) the Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21:8). (a) It too represented the instrument of chastisement: (b) Looking to it implied an acknowledgment of sin, and a desire for deliverance from punishment, as did the sending of these offerings by the Philistines.

1 Samuel 6:4-5 stand as follows in the Sept.: “And they say, What shall be the expiation for the plague which we shall return to it? And they said, According to the number of the satraps of the aliens five golden seats, for one calamity was on you, both on your rulers and on the people: and golden mice in the likeness of your mice that mar the land.” Possibly this is an intentional alteration to get rid of the apparent discrepancy with 1 Samuel 6:18. See note there.

Verse 5. - Mice that mar the land. The idea of a plague of field mice is, as we have seen, due to one of those many unauthorised insertions of the Septuagint by which they supposed that they removed difficulties from the way of their readers. As the ancients use the names of animals in a very generic way, any rodent may be meant from the jerboa downwards; but probably it was the common field mouse, arvicola arvensis, still common in Syria, which multiplies with great rapidity, and is very destructive to the crops, and so became the symbol of devastation and pestilence (see on ch. 5:6). When, as Herodotus relates (Book 2:141), the Assyrian army of Sennacherib had been defeated, because a vast multitude of field mice had overrun his camp and gnawed asunder the bow strings of his troops, the Egyptians raised a statue to Hephaestus, holding in his hand a mouse. But very probably this is but the literal explanation by Herodotus of what he saw, while to a well instructed Egyptian it represented their god of healing, holding in his hand the mouse, as the symbol either of the devastation which he had averted, or of the pestilence with which he had smitten the Assyrian army (see on 1 Samuel 5:6). 1 Samuel 6:5The trespass-offering was to correspond to the number of the princes of the Philistines. מספּר is an accusative employed to determine either measure or number (see Ewald, 204, a.), lit., "the number of their princes:" the compensations were to be the same in number as the princes. "Five golden boils, and five golden mice," i.e., according to 1 Samuel 6:5, images resembling their boils, and the field-mice which overran the land; the same gifts, therefore, for them all, "for one plague is to all and to your princes," i.e., the same plague has fallen upon all the people and their princes. The change of person in the two words, לכלּם, "all of them," i.e., the whole nation of the Philistines, and לסרניכם, "your princes," appears very strange to us with our modes of thought and speech, but it is by no means unusual in Hebrew. The selection of this peculiar kind of expiatory present was quite in accordance with a custom, which was not only widely spread among the heathen but was even adopted in the Christian church, viz., that after recovery from an illness, or rescue from any danger or calamity, a representation of the member healed or the danger passed through was placed as an offering in the temple of the deity, to whom the person had prayed for deliverance;

(Note: Thus, after a shipwreck, any who escaped presented a tablet to Isis, or Neptune, with the representation of a shipwreck upon it; gladiators offered their weapons, and emancipated slaves their fetters. In some of the nations of antiquity even representations of the private parts, in which a cure had been obtained from the deity, were hung up in the temples in honour of the gods (see Schol. ad Aristoph. Acharn. 243, and other proofs in Winer's Real-wrterbuch, ii. p. 255). Theodoret says, concerning the Christians of the fourth century (Therapeutik. Disp. viii.): Ὅτι δὲ τυγχάνουσιν ὧνπερ αἰτοῦσιν οἱ πιστῶς ἐπαγγέλλοντες ἀναφανδὸν μαρτυρεὶ τὰ τούτων ἀναθήματα, τὴν ἰατρείαν δηλοῦντα, οἱ μὲν γὰρ ὀφθαλμῶν, οἱ δὲ ποδῶν ἄλλοι δὲ χειρῶν προσφέρουσιν ἐκτυπώματα καὶ οἱ μὲν ἐκ χρυσοῦ, οἱ δὲ ἐξ ὕλης ἀργύρου πεποιημένα. Δέχεται γὰρ ὁ τούτων Δεσπότης καὶ τὰ σμικρά τε καὶ εὔωνα, τῇ τοῦ προσφέροντος δυνάμει τὸ δῶρον μετρῶν. Δηλοῖ δὲ ταῦτα προκείμενα τῶν παθημάτων τὴν λύσιν, ἧς ἀνετέθη μνημεῖα παρὰ τῶν ἀρτίων γεγενημένων. And at Rome they still hang up a picture of the danger, from which deliverance had been obtained after a vow, in the church of the saint invoked in the danger.)

and it also perfectly agrees with a custom which has prevailed in India, according to Tavernier (Ros. A. u. N. Morgenland iii. p. 77), from time immemorial down to the present day, viz., that when a pilgrim takes a journey to a pagoda to be cured of a disease, he offers to the idol a present either in gold, silver, or copper, according to his ability, of the shape of the diseased or injured member, and then sings a hymn. Such a present passed as a practical acknowledgement that the god had inflicted the suffering or evil. If offered after recovery or deliverance, it was a public expression of thanksgiving. In the case before us, however, in which it was offered before deliverance, the presentation of the images of the things with which they had been chastised was probably a kind of fine or compensation for the fault that had been committed against the Deity, to mitigate His wrath and obtain a deliverance from the evils with which they had been smitten. This is contained in the words, "Give glory unto the God of Israel! peradventure He will lighten His (punishing) hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land." The expression is a pregnant one for "make His heavy hand light and withdraw it," i.e., take away the punishment. In the allusion to the representations of the field-mice, the words "that devastate the land" are added, because in the description given of the plagues in 1 Samuel 5:1-12 the devastation of the land by mice is not expressly mentioned. The introduction of this clause after עכבּריכם, when contrasted with the omission of any such explanation after עפליכם, is a proof that the plague of mice had not been described before, and therefore that the references made to these in the Septuagint at 1 Samuel 5:3, 1 Samuel 5:6, and 1 Samuel 6:1, are nothing more than explanatory glosses. It is a well-known fact that field-mice, with their enormous rate of increase and their great voracity, do extraordinary damage to the fields. In southern lands they sometimes destroy entire harvests in a very short space of time (Aristot. Animal. vi. 37; Plin. h. n. x. c. 65; Strabo, iii. p. 165; Aelian, etc., in Bochart, Hieroz. ii. p. 429, ed. Ros.).

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