Week 2: 1 Samuel 4-6
Day 1: 4:1-10
Losing the Ark
How arrogant for the Israelites to think that because they had the ark that God would be on their side. The ark wasn’t an idol to be manipulated, but the earthly representation of God’s presence. Just because the ark went with them did not mean that God Himself was too.
Day 2: 4:11-22
We can clearly see that Eli was much more distraught about the loss of the ark than of his sons. So was Phinehas’ wife. This was a terribly sad moment for Israel, but the Lord always has plans for redemption.
Day 3: 5:1-12
I love how the Lord distinguishes Himself before the gods of the Philistines. They didn’t get it the first time Dagon fell down, but after the second time and the tumors and infestation, they got the message. The God of the Israelites was not ordinary god, not one they had encountered.
In a morbid sort of way, I find it funny how the Lord afflicted the Philistines.
Day 4: 6:1-12
The wisdom with which the Philistines acted here is impressive. They understood that this foreign God they had never met was more powerful than theirs and that He must be good enough to relent from His heavy hand if they sent the ark back to Israel.
There is a story very similar to this that Paul alludes to in the book of Acts. When Athens encountered a similar plague, a wise man from Crete was called for to solve their problem, and his wisdom is very similar to that of the Philistines here.
Day 5: 6:13-21
Unfortunately for the Israelites, they did not treat the newly returned ark of God with as much care as the Philistines had. Peeking inside the ark was a bad idea. Because of potential copyist errors here, it is unclear whether or not 70 or 50,700 people died in Beth Shemesh. The discrepancy is due to the way the Hebrew texts were copied and laid out. The Hebrew text was always set in identical columns and this number, using letters for the numbers, was copied incorrectly. Beth Shemesh likely had nothing close to this number of people. 70 seems the more reasonable number for such a small village.
This error has given many Bible detractors ammunition to shoot at the legitimacy of scripture, but this is an openly acknowledged error of which there are very few. The consistency between ancient manuscripts is unrivaled among anything in history. Most true scholars understand this and when someone points to this they are either ignorant of the consistency of scripture or being academically dishonest.
At any rate, the people of Beth Shemesh realize they didn’t want anything to do with the ark, so they sent it on its oxcart to Kiriath Jearim, where it would stay for the next twenty years.
We must take careful note of this oxcart. It will become critically important in the future.