Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:2
The word for "priest" here is the same as that used for the priests of the true God; that for diviners is everywhere used of idolatrous or superstitious divining. Three modes of divination are described Eze 21:21-22, by arrows, by teraphim, and by the entrails of beasts. (Compare Exo 7:11; Dan 2:2).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:3
Send it not empty - See the marginal references. The pagan idea of appeasing the gods with gifts, and the scriptural idea of expressing penitence, allegiance, or love to God, by gifts and offerings to His glory and to the comfort of our fellow worshippers, coincide in the practical result.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:4
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.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:7
A new cart ... kine on which there hath come no yoke - This was so ordered in reverence to the ark, and was a right and true feeling. See Mar 11:2; Mat 27:60. For the supposed special virtue of new things, see Jdg 16:7, Jdg 16:11.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:9
Bethshemesh was the first Israelite town they would come to, being on the border of Judah. (See the marginal reference.)
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:12
Lowing as they went - Milking cows had been chosen on purpose to make the sign more significant. Nature would obviously dispose the cows to go toward their calves; their going in an opposite direction was therefore plainly a divine impulse overruling their natural inclination. And this is brought out more distinctly by the mention of their lowing, which was caused by their remembering their calves.
And the lords ... - This circumstance of the five satraps of the Philistines accompanying the ark in person both made it impossible for the Israelites to practice any deceit (compare Mat 27:63-66), and is also a striking testimony to the agitation caused among the Philistines by the plagues inflicted on them since the ark had been in their country.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:13
The whole population was in the field. The harvest work was suspended in an instant, and all the workmen ran to where the ark was.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:14
A great stone - (Compare Gen 28:18; Jdg 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 Sa2 24:22, and by Elisha Kg1 19:21.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:15
The word "Levites" here probably means priests Exo 4:14, sons of Levi, since Bethshemesh was one of the cities of the priests Jos 21:13-16. The burnt offering of the kine was not in any sense the offering of the men of Bethshemesh, but rather of the Philistine lords to whom the cart and the kine belonged. But the Bethshemites themselves, in token of their gratitude for such a signal mercy, now offered both burnt offerings and sacrifices, probably peace offerings, and doubtless feasted together with great joy and gladness (see Kg1 8:62-66; Ezr 6:16-17). There is nothing whatever in the text to indicate that these sacrifices were offered otherwise than in the appointed way by the priests.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:18
The great stone of Abel ... - Probably so called from the "lamentation" described in Sa1 6:19.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:19
Fifty thousand and three score and ten - Read "three" score and "ten", omitting "fifty thousand", which appears to have crept into the text from the margin. It is not improbable that in their festive rejoicing priests, Levites, and people may have fallen into intemperance, and hence, into presumptuous irreverence (compare Lev 10:1, Lev 10:9). God had just vindicated His own honor against the Philistines; it must now be seen that He would be sanctified in them that come near Him Lev 10:3. It is obvious to observe how the doctrine of atonement, and its necessity in the case of sinners, is taught in this and similar lessons as to the awesome HOLINESS of God.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 6:21
Kirjath-jearim - See Jos 9:17 note. It has been thought that there was a high place at Kirjath-jearim (the hill, Sa1 7:1), the remnant of its old pagan sanctity when it was called Kirjath-Baal, "the city of Baal" (see Jos 18:14; Sa2 6:2); and that for this reason it was selected as a proper place to send the ark to.