1 Samuel 6:9
but keep watching it. If it goes up the road to its homeland, toward Beth-shemesh, it is the LORD who has brought on us this great disaster. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not His hand that punished us and that it happened by chance."
The Ministry of ChanceJ. Bonnet, D. D.1 Samuel 6:9

1 Samuel 5; 6:1-9
And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months (1 Samuel 6:1). The scene is now changed. Whilst there arises in every household in Israel a cry of mourning for the dead, Shiloh is ravaged and burnt with fire, and the yoke of oppression made heavier than before, the hosts of the Philistines return to their own country elated with victory. They carry with them the ark of the Lord, which had never before been touched by unconsecrated hands, or for ages exposed to the gaze of any but the priests; and the interest centres on the sacred symbol amidst its new and strange surroundings. It is first of all taken to Ashdod, three miles from the sea coast, the chief seat of the worship of Dagon, the national god of the Philistines (1 Chronicles 10:10); afterwards to Gath, ten miles distant (the native place of Goliath, and twice the temporary residence of David); and then to Ekron (1 Samuel 7:14), the most northerly of their cities. Although the other two cities of the Philistine Pentapolis, Gaza, the scene of Samson's death (Judges 16:21-30), and Askelon (1 Samuel 31:10; 2 Samuel 1:20), were deeply concerned in the events which attended its presence (1 Samuel 5:8; 1 Samuel 6:17), it does not appear to have visited them.

1. The time of its abode among the Philistines was for them a time of judgment. Although the ark when among the people of Israel seemed to be abandoned by God and destitute of power, it was now defended by him and clothed with might. The difference arose from the different circumstances in which it was placed; and in both cases it was shown that the possession of institutions appointed by God does not profit those who refuse to stand in a right relation to God himself, but rather serves to increase their condemnation. Judgment also is executed in many ways.

2. Judgment was mingled with mercy. The afflictions which they endured were "less than their iniquity deserved" (Job 11:6), and were "established for the correction" (Habakkuk 1:12) of their sins and the prevention of their ruin (Ezekiel 18:30). The God of Israel has supreme dominion over the heathen, "chastises" them (Psalm 94:10) for their good, and never leaves himself "without witness" (Acts 14:17).

3. The design of the whole was the furtherance of the purpose for which Israel was called, viz. to bear witness to the living and true God, and to preserve his religion separate and distinct from the idolatry and superstition of the heathen.

4. The effect of the display of his power in connection with the presence of the ark among them appears here and in their subsequent history. Consider these Philistines as -

I. TRIUMPHING IN THE CAPTURE OF THE ARK (vers. 1, 2). "They brought it into the house (or temple) of Dagon, and set it by Dagon," as a trophy or a votive offering, ascribing their victory to him, and magnifying him as superior to Jehovah. The process described by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-23) had taken place in them. Their worship was a nature worship, joined with the embodiment of their "foolish" imaginations in an image with which their god was identified. Dagon was "the god of natural power - of all the life-giving forces of which water is the instrument; and his fish-like body, with head and arms of man, would appear a striking embodiment of his rule to those who dwelt near the sea." When men have fallen away from the knowledge of the true God they -

1. Do honour to a false god; impelled by the religiousness of their nature, which will not let them rest without an object of worship.

2. Dishonour the true God, by declaring him inferior and subject to the false, and by "despising his holy things." The Philistines did not deny the existence of Jehovah; they were willing to account him one among "lords many and gods many," and regarded him as having a local and limited dominion. But the fundamental idea of the religion of Israel was that Jehovah is God alone, and demands the supreme and entire affection of man (Isaiah 42:8). "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," i.e. in my presence.

3. Give glory to themselves; are proud and boastful of their wisdom, power, and success. Self is really the idol of all who forsake the Lord. But the triumph of the ungodly is short.

II. SMITTEN BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF THE ARK (vers. 2-4). Almost as soon as they obtained possession of it, the victory which they thought they had obtained over him whose presence it represented was turned into disastrous defeat.

1. Their god was cast down and broken in pieces.

(1) Mysteriously. In the night.

(2) Significantly. "Fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord," as if in subjection, or rendering worship to the Lord of all.

(3) Irresistibly. Unwilling to lay the lesson to heart, they set him in his place again, but only to prove that their efforts on his behalf were abortive (Isaiah 45:9).

(4) More and more signally. Their very efforts affording occasion for a greater manifestation of Divine power, and one which could not be, as the first may possibly have been, attributed to accident. "The face, as a sign of its worthless glory and vain beauty, struck down to the earth; the head also, as the seat of the wisdom which is alienated from God and opposed to God; the hands, as a symbol of the powers of darkness which work therein, cut off" (Lange).

(5) Contemptuously. "Upon the threshold," as if fit only to be trodden under foot, Such, however was the blindness of his votaries, that they henceforth accounted the spot as peculiarly sacred (ver. 3).

(6) Completely. "Only the fish stump was left." "Thus the kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful."

2. Their sustenance was wasted and destroyed (ver. 6; 6:4, 5). "Mice were produced in the land, and there arose a great and deadly confusion in the city" (Septuagint). The cornfields, the chief means of their subsistence and the source of their prosperity, rendered fertile, as they deemed, by the power and favour of Dagon, were wasted by a plague of field mice (not unknown in the history of other lands) under the special arrangement of Divine providence, that they might learn the vanity of their idol and the supremacy of Jehovah.

3. Their persons were afflicted with disease. "The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod" and "the coasts (territory) thereof," and "smote them with emerods" (vers. 9, 12; either boils or hemorrhoids, bleeding piles - Psalm 78:66).

(1) Painful.

(2) Reproachful, because of the moral corruption sanctioned in connection with idolatrous worship (Romans 1:24-32).

(3) Instructive - concerning the self-control and moral purity which the true God requires in men. These things were adapted to show the folly of idolatry, the majesty of God, and the necessity of humiliation before him. Nor were they wholly without effect.

III. INSPIRED WITH DREAD OF THE ARK (ver. 7), for such was evidently the prevailing feeling of the men of Ashdod, and of others subsequently, as more fully expressed in vers. 11, 12. They attributed their afflictions to its presence - "His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god;" and feared a continuance of them. Hence they wished to get rid of it, as the Gergesenes desired Jesus to "depart out of their coasts" (Matthew 8:34).

1. The religion of the heathen is a religion of fear.

2. The fear of man in the presence of the supernatural bears witness to the sinfulness of his nature, or of his disturbed relations with the Divine.

3. It springs from a conviction or instinct of retribution, which, however, is often mistaken in its applications.

4. A servile, selfish fear drives away the soul from God instead of drawing it near to him, and is contrary to the reverential, filial fear in which true religion has its root (2 Timothy 1:7).

IV. STRIVING FOR THE RETENTION OF THE ARK (vers. 8-12). The effect of their sufferings on the people of Ashdod was to lead them to resolve, "The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us;" but its removal was deemed a matter of such importance that they called a council of the lords (or princes) of the confederacy to determine what should be done with it. Whilst they may have felt toward Jehovah a like fear to that with which they regarded Dagon, they were unwilling to render honour to him by "letting it go again to its own place" (ver. 11), still less to renounce their idolatry. They wished to retain the ark for their own honour and glory; and so indisposed were they to desist from their attempt, and acknowledge their fault, that even their own priests found it necessary to admonish them against "hardening their hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh" (ver. 6; 1 Samuel 4:8). They sought to effect their purpose by sending it to Gath; and it was only when both Gath and Ekron were still more severely afflicted than Ashdod, many died, and the cry of distress "went up to heaven" (ver. 12), that in a second council they consented to let it go.

1. The devices of men against the Lord are foolish and vain (Proverbs 21:30).

2. Their continued resistance to his will causes increased misery to themselves and others.

3. Their efforts against him afford opportunities for a wider and more signal display of his power.

4. What they are unwilling to do in the beginning they are, after much suffering, constrained to do in the end.

V. INQUIRING ABOUT THE RETURN OF THE ARK (1 Samuel 6:2-9). The Philistine princes, having resolved to send it back, called "the priests and soothsayers" together, to show them in what manner it should be done; and the answer they received, though not unmingled with the caution generally exhibited by heathen priests, was wise and good.

1. Men in all ages have had need of special guidance in Divine things. The very existence of a priesthood is a confession of such need.

2. Conviction often forces itself upon the most reluctant.

3. There is in men generally a deep feeling of the necessity of a propitiatory offering in order to avert Divine wrath - "trespass offering" (ver. 3).

4. Even the light which shines upon the heathen indicates the need of the higher light of revelation. Their wisest advisers exhibit uncertainty and doubt (vers. 5, 9).


1. By sending it back to its own place.

2. By the open acknowledgment of their transgression in the trespass offerings they present on behalf of the whole nation. "Give glory unto the God of Israel" (ver. 5).

3. By providing the most appropriate and worthy means of making their offerings. "A new cart" (2 Samuel 6:3). "Two milch kine on which there hath come no yoke" (Numbers 19:2).

4. By the humble attendance of their chief men (vers. 12, 16).

5. By confessing the incompatibility of the worship of Jehovah with the worship of Dagon. "And from this time we hear no more of the attempts of the Gentile nations to join any part of the Jewish worship with their own" (Warburton). Imperfect as their homage was, it was not unacceptable to him "who is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil" (Jonah 4:2; Acts 17:27, 30).

VII. PERSISTING IN THEIR ATTACHMENT TO IDOLS; We know not all the beneficial effect of the presence of the ark among them, in restraining them from evil and inciting them to good; but we know that -

1. They did not renounce their idolatry.

2. They did not cease from their oppression of Israel. And,

3. Were not permanently deterred from making fresh attacks upon them (1 Samuel 7:7), and by their opposition to the God of Israel "bringing upon themselves swift destruction." - D.

It was a chance that happened to us.
The world believes in chance, and without doubt there is some ground for its belief, but whether that ground constitutes a real foundation we may doubt. What does chance mean? It means that it is something which happens, falls out, without being foreseen or intended. Nothing happens unforeseen by the Great Mind that rules over all. All chance is "direction which thou canst not see;" but though we do not see it the direction was not the less there.

1. The doctrine of chance has been applied to the formation of the world. It has been said that the world is the result of the interaction of the atoms through all the past Eternity, at last falling by chance into an orderly arrangement. Let us suppose an immense number of alphabets were thrown together — a sufficient number of them, for instance, to make up the Bible, say a million of letters or so — and that someone were to be appointed to throw them up every second through a hundred million of years, is there any likelihood that they would come down once in such an order as to make the Bible, or a single book of the Bible, or a single chapter of the Bible, or a single verse? Never. Yet that is just what Lucretius supposed to happen with the making of the world from the interaction of the atoms. There must be intelligence; there must be design to elicit that which we call the world. The Greek word which we translate "world" signifies something arranged, something orderly, and hence beautiful.

2. Tendencies, that is, laws, are capable of being observed and provided for. And this is the great business of man, as Bacon observed, "Man the minister and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much as his observations on the order of nature, either with regard to things or the mind, permit him, and neither knows nor is capable of more." That is, he is to find out just what order that is which God has given to nature, and guide himself accordingly. If things were only to fall out by chance it would be utterly impossible to foresee or to guide ourselves in view of any event. If we found that the hard brick of today was soft as its original clay tomorrow, and that without any perceptible reason; or the strong timber was attacked with a weakness at varying and uncertain intervals; or that the slate which threw oft the rain of yesterday was become a sieve to the torrent of today; or that the window which was translucent had suddenly become opaque; if we could assign no reason for these sudden changes, and all other things were alike in this, we should be utterly incapable of any useful work. If the human mind were powerful enough to take in and calculate all the various forces which enter into the movements of each, it would be able to show the reasons for the slightest change in the direction and force of the wind, of the smallest flock of the cloud, and of every flash of the aurora of the north sky, and of every variation in the health of the hypochondriac. It is yet possible that science may be able to predict what was, in former days, only possible to prophecy.

3. But it may be asked, "What do you make of a miracle? Is not that such a breach of the order and continuity of nature as would be equivalent to the intrusion of chance?" We say no, for a miracle is only the operation of a higher law — it is only the result of the influence of the Great Mechanic, who, surely, should not be left out of our calculation of what is possible in this complex world of ours. Science should modestly admit that there may be direction which she cannot see — that there is a Providence "which shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will" — that outside the framework of nature there is an intelligent Mind, and that there may be reasons for its interference just as strong as those which operate on the factory director to mend a broken wheel or to reduce a too violent motion. This sphere, called in our imperfect vocabulary that of miracle, is far removed from that of chance, where uncertainty, doubt, and incapacity ever reign. But it may be suggested here that we should enter into some inquiry about prayer, and about its power to resist the usual order of nature, and thus, as it were, to set aside the government of law. Now, here I would say that, in connection with prayer, we must bear in mind that with its answer, in the Scriptures, the ministry of angels is closely associated. Verily, it is a poor science which takes cognizance alone of the seen and tangible, the weighable and measurable, while there are around us in the ambient ether, or within us in the recesses of the mind, the ministering spirits, "sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation." But it is to be observed, that whatever is done by these ministering spirits, is done, not to the production of confusion in the world, but in entire accordance with the lower laws which science observes. To our thought there can be no disorder introduced, when the superior forces are taken into account. Let us take the case of the resurrection of Christ. Science, which took no account of the Spirit of holiness, no account of the Spirit of God with which He was filled above measure, said it was not possible that He should rise again; but the Apostle tells us, it was not possible that He should be holden of death. God was in Him with such presence and power that death was overcome, and life, violently taken away, was restored. Without the Divine power in Christ, the scientific men of the day were perfectly right in assuming the impossibility of the resurrection; but (and here is no chance, but the presence of mighty cause) they were all astral in thinking that there was no resurrection for Him. It was absolutely certain that He should rise again; there was a cause mightier than death operating to His restoration. All this is certainly according to law, as Paul says: "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." It may be observed that, at least, in those cases which have been dwelt upon by pious persons as answers to prayers, naturalists have invariably reasoned that the same results would have happened without the intervention of prayer at all — which means that they, at least, did not find that any disorder occurred by any power which prayer exercised. These interventions in answer to prayer, by angelic agency or otherwise, seem to give no reason to affirm that chance has any scope or play in the world. This being understood, we may also say a word regarding the frequency of such spiritual agency's operations. Are they of frequent, or only of casual and fitful occurrence? Were they confined to Palestine and prophetic periods, or are they in operation at all times and spheres of the world? It reply, we say, without doubt, they are always working as they are always living, and working according to law, that is, according to the direction of God. But we may surely affirm that they do not interfere with any law of nature, nor are they to be relied on in answer to any prayer offered up to guard us against calamities which we might have avoided, or which we have brought on ourselves by want of proper foresight.

4. There being no such thing, then, as chance, and no violation of the laws of matter by higher power, it is clearly our duty to know what those laws are — especially those which regulate the business, trade, profession, or calling of each. It may be that, after we have done our best, we shall still be ignorant of many things which it greatly concerns us to know, our ignorance of the same bringing to us loss, disaster, even death. But that we might, by exercising foresight, avoid great calamities is certain. One-half, two-thirds, three-fourths of the accidents that occur, destructive of life and limb, should have been avoided. Why should scaffolds be continually falling, dashing human beings to the earth shattered corpses, when a rope of sufficient thickness, or a pole of sufficient firmness, would have prevented the catastrophe? Why should the shop fall under its load, when a trifling bond would have hem its walls perpendicular? Why should a house be burned, when a little care would have cured a defective flue? Why should the ship sink in the ocean, when a good lookout would have avoided collision with the iceberg or the other ship crossing the course. Be it observed, not one of these nor similar accidents but might have been foreseen and prevented. In every case the material employed followed explicitly the laws of its own being. The falling scaffold, the sinking building, the burning city, all took place according to law. When any great disaster happens to a building, we cannot, on that account, say that Heaven is enraged against it, or that it is a judgment on it for the immoralities there nurtured. The judgment is against the folly, the perverseness, the sin of imprudence, carelessness, want of foresight, or wickedness implied in the faulty construction for the sake of gain. Say not that those on whom the tower of Siloam fell were greater sinners than the others in Jerusalem on whom no such judgment came. What we are concerned with is the vast importance of prudence and care in regard to every building where human lives might, with such provision, be imperilled.

5. But still there is one thought which it is important for us to impress upon you. Place yourselves in no peril to which duty does not call — nay, let us broaden the injunction, walk in no path to which duty does not beckon the way, though absolutely safe. We have no promise that we shall have safety save in the paths of right — nay, not even of bodily safety there. Though the outer man perish the inner man will live unhurt amid the war of elements, the wrack of matter, and the crash of worlds.

(J. Bonnet, D. D.)

Abel, Beth-shemeshites, Egyptians, Israelites, Joshua, Levites, Pharaoh
Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beth-shemesh, Ekron, Gath, Gaza, Kiriath-jearim
Accident, Behold, Beth, Bethshemesh, Beth-shemesh, Beth-she'mesh, Border, Chance, Coast, Disaster, Evil, Goes, Harm, Shemesh, Smote, Struck, Territory, Touched, Watch, Working
1. After seven months the Philistines take counsel how to send back the ark
10. They bring it on a new cart with an offering unto Beth Shemesh
19. The people are smitten for looking into the ark
21. They send to them of Kiriath Jearim to fetch it

Dictionary of Bible Themes
1 Samuel 6:7-9

     4912   chance

1 Samuel 6:7-14

     4624   cow

The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
As soon as thou perceivest thyself to be visited with any sickness, meditate with thyself: 1. That "misery cometh not forth of the dust; neither doth affliction spring out of the earth." Sickness comes not by hap or chance (as the Philistines supposed that their mice and emrods came, 1 Sam. vi. 9), but from man's wickedness, which, as sparkles, breaketh out. "Man suffereth," saith Jeremiah, "for his sins." "Fools," saith David, "by reason of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities,
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

The Unity of the Divine Essence, and the Trinity of Persons.
Deut. vi. 4.--"Hear O Israel the Lord our God is one Lord."--1 John v. 7. "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." "Great is the mystery of godliness," 1 Tim. iii. 16. Religion and true godliness is a bundle of excellent mysteries--of things hid from the world, yea, from the wise men of the world, (1 Cor. ii. 6.) and not only so, but secrets in their own nature, the distinct knowledge whereof is not given to saints in this estate
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

Of Preparation.
That a Christian ought necessarily to prepare himself before he presume to be a partaker of the holy communion, may evidently appear by five reasons:-- First, Because it is God's commandment; for if he commanded, under the pain of death, that none uncircumcised should eat the paschal lamb (Exod. xii. 48), nor any circumcised under four days preparation, how much greater preparation does he require of him that comes to receive the sacrament of his body and blood? which, as it succeeds, so doth it
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Adam's Sin
Q-15: WHAT WAS THE SIN WHEREBY OUR FIRST PARENTS FELL FROM THE ESTATE WHEREIN THEY WERE CREATED? A: That sin was eating the forbidden fruit. 'She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband.' Gen 3:3. Here is implied, 1. That our first parents fell from their estate of innocence. 2. The sin by which they fell, was eating the forbidden fruit. I. Our first parents fell from their glorious state of innocence. God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.' Eccl
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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