Bible Notes Online - 1-Samuel 6 - ESV

v1-2: The ark of God had remained amongst the Philistines for seven months, covering the period described in chapter 5.

v3-5: The ark was sent back with a guilt offering. This was recognition that the wrath of God had to be appeased; the Philistines had some recognition of spiritual reality, and recognised that the tumours were no accident, and they paid honour to Israel's God.

v6: The Philistines also knew something of history, and of the suffering in Egypt at the time Israel was delivered.

v7-9: The ark of God was placed on a cart, pulled by two cows. They might have expected the cows to return to their calves, but the test was whether the cows would walk toward Israel. Their motivation was never to turn to worship the true God, but just to avoid further suffering.

They had previously referred to “Dagon our god” (5.7); to be a Philistine was to worship Dagon.

In many tribal groups today, belonging to the group implies following a particular religion, such as Islam, Buddhism, or animism. God calls people from all tribes to worship His Son Jesus Christ.

v10-12: The Philistines followed as the cart moved towards Israel. They saw that God directed the cart 'home'; they were confident that their suffering was over, for the tumours had been God's work.

v13-18: The ark returned to Beth Shemesh. The people there rejoiced, since the ark meant so much to the people of Israel. The Philistines were satisfied at events, and returned home.

v19-21: The people of Beth Shemesh looked into the ark, something that was forbidden, and they were slain. They should have known better than ignorant heathen, and recognised that God is holy, and must be worshipped properly. Their joy was commendable, but their presumption was foolish. As a result, they invited their neighbours at Kiriath Jearim to collect the ark.