Shmuel 1-Chapter 6: The Ark of G-d is returned by the philistines

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Chapter 6: The Ark of G-d is returned by the philistines

1. Discussing how to return it in a respectful manner:

  • Remaining in the field for 7 months: The Ark of G-d was in the field of the philistines for 7 months.
  • Meeting with the Philistine leaders : The philistines called upon their priests and sorcerers to discuss with them what should be done with the Ark of G-d, and how it should be sent back to its place of origin [in an honorable and respectful fashion in order to defuse the wrath against them[1]].
  • The advice of the philistine leaders to send the Ark back with honor: They replied: if you plan on sending back the Ark of G-d, it should not be sent back empty and you should rather send it back in a way that’s recognizable that you admit to not having handled it in a respectful way and only then will you be healed. This will then reveal to you why the plague has not left you until now as you have yet to return the Ark.
  • The plan of how to send it back: The people asked the leaders what they should do for the ark in order to show their guilt. The [five main[2]] leaders of the philistines replied: You shall take five gold sculptures of hemorrhoids and five gold sculptures of mice, as everyone received the same plague. You shall make these sculptures which have destroyed your land and give them to the G-d of Israel in a respectful manner, and then perhaps he will relax His hand from being upon you and your deity and land. Do not be of stubborn heart as was Pharaoh and his people in Egypt, as we saw that after G-d devastated them he ended up anyways sending them out. In addition to the above you shall now also take a new wagon and two fresh nursing cows who have never done work and you still tie the cows to the wagon. You shall then take their children and place them behind them, locked in a home. You shall then take the Ark of G-d and place it inside the wagon. The gold vessels which you are giving it as compensation for your sin shall be placed in a box next to it, and you shall then send off the wagon and see if it goes. You shall watch the wagon and see if it goes towards the path to Beit Shemesh and this is indeed a sign that it is G-d who has done to us this evil. If the wagon will not go in this direction then you will know that it is not the hand of G-d that struck you, and it was rather a mere coincidence.

2. The Ark is returned:

  • The Ark is prepared to be sent as they were instructed: The philistine people did as they were instructed, and they took two nursing cows and tied them to the wagon and they then confined their calves in a home. They placed the Ark of G-d in the wagon together with the box that contained the gold mouse sculptures and the sculptures of the hemorrhoids.
  • The wagon travels to Beit Shemesh while its cows sing: The cows sung songs[3] on the road to Beit Shemesh [where the Jewish people lived[4]], and mooed during their travel on the road [in longing for their calf[5]]. They traveled on a single road, and did not swerve to the right or to the left. The leaders of the philistines traveled behind the wagon until they reached the border of the city of Beit Shemesh.
  • The people of Beit Shemesh greet the Ark of G-d: The residents of Beit Shemesh were busy gathering the wheat crops in the Valley when they raise their eyes and behold, they saw the Ark approaching [by itself, without escort]. They became overjoyed to see it [although did not show it its proper honor and respect upon staring at it[6]]. The wagon arrived at the field of Yehoshua, who was a resident of Beit Shemesh, and remained there. There was a large stone in that field.
  • Sacrifices are offered: The people chopped the wood of the wagon into firewood and slaughtered the nursing cows and offered them as an Olah offering to G-d. The Levite’s took down the Ark of G-d as well as the box that contained within it the gold vessels and placed it on the large stone. The residents of Beit Shemesh brought offerings and slaughtered animals on that day for G-d.

3. The Philistines return home-A sum up of their gifts:

  • The five leaders of the philistines saw that the Ark had returned, and they therefore returned to the city of Akron on that day.
  • The [five] gold sculptures of the hemorrhoids that the philistines returned as compensation to the Ark of G-d that want to touch -d corresponded to the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gat, Akron. One sculpture per city. However, the gold sculptures of the mice corresponded to all the cities of the philistines which the five philistine leaders ruled over, from the city of Mivtzar to Kofer Haperizi and until the city of Avel Hagedola, which was a city that contained the large rock that the ark of G-d was placed on until this day in the field of Yehoshua from Beit Shemesh.  

4. The residents of Beit Shemesh are punished:

  • G-d punished the people of Beit Shemesh as they had stared at the Ark of G-d in a disrespectful manner. He smote 70 men and 50,000 men. The nation mourned the deaths as G-d had hit the nation with a great tragedy. The residents of Beit Shemesh exclaimed: who can stand before this Holy G-d, and who will rise from us to greet G-d [as all of our great men have died]. The residents of Beit Shemesh sent messengers to the residence of Kiryat Yearim, informing them that the philistines had sent them the Ark of G-d and that they should come down to Beis Shemesh and bring the Ark up to their city.


[1] Rashi 6:2

[2] See Rashi 6:4

[3] 1st interpretation in Rashi 6:12; see there for the two interpretations of the word Yisharnu

[4] Rashi 6:12

[5] Radak 6:12

[6] Rashi 6:13

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