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After the Lord.
1 Sam. VII. 2.
-And all the house of Israel lamented after
The whole series of the history of the times in which this scripture was written, may be thus briefly detailed : After the Judges mentioned in the preceding book, called by their name, God raised up Eli, who was both a judge and priest, and though he was a good man himself, yet his sons were profane, and oppressed the people, by requiring both boiled flesh and raw for roasting, and abusing the women that came to the door of the tabernacle; so that their sin was very great and of bad consequence, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. * Eli being informed of his sons' profligate course, too much indulged, or too mildly rebuked them; “ Why,” said he, “ do you such things ?" f too
1 Sam. ii. 12–17. + 1 Sam. ii. 23. Defects in this reproof.-Polirit. in loc. Ser. 10.
soft words for such hard and heinous acts: there wanted deeds, he being a magistrate ought to have punished or removed them, if not put them to death. Well, a man of God is sent to Eli,* whether Phinehas, or Elkanah, or an angel, I dispute not, to rebuke and threaten him and his house ; but he not reforming, God inspires and commissions young Samuel to give him a severe admonition, and warn him as immediately from the Lord.f The good old man falls under the admonition though given by a child, but now the disease was grown past his curing, his counsel did no good, and he could not correct them; no doubt he acknowledged his fault, and since it would be no better, he puts the matter over into God's hands : “Let him do what seemeth him good.” [ God can by his grace curb and cure them, or by his power he can crush and confound them: let him use his pleasure, I give my children into his hands : let my Lord get to himself a name of glory by them or upon them, I freely submit. A speech becoming a man of God and religious priest. Well, God himself undertakes to deal with them : in the fourth chapter, || the Israelites and Philistines join battle, four thousand Israelites are slain, the ark is sent for into the camp; the law on the tables within it had been broken, yet the ark must be their palladium. They doted on the ark, but provoked the God of the ark : they repent not of their corrupt manners, or pollution of God's worship; they neither used outward means by recruiting their army, which was a tempting of God, nor do they use proper religious means, to obtain reconciliation with God; but fondly presume upon God's lenity and indulgence to them, because of the mere presence of the ark.
of the ark. The ark comes, Hophni and Phinehas carry it, Israel shout for joy, the Philis* 1 Sam. ii. 27. + 1 Sam. üi. 18.
ll i Sam. iv. 2-1.
tines animate one another, imagining, if they now prevailed, they conquered the God of Israel, looking on the ark to be Israel's idol, or at least, that God's power was restricted to it, after the conceit of idolaters; they fight, prevail, and kill thirty thousand Hebrews, with Hophni and Phinehas, take the ark as a prize, the tidings whereof broke Eli's heart, then his neck, brought pangs on Phinehas's wife, and though she was a mother, yet full of grief, (which she bequeathed to the world in the name of her surviving child, Ichabod) she expired. * Well, the Philistines now lead Israel's God in triumph, as they judge; they bring it to Dagon their god in Ashdod, for a reproach to the true God :t but the triumphing of the wicked is short. Though Israel be a loser, yet Dagon and his worshippers are no gainers by the ark of God's presence: Dagon falls on his face, prostrate in homage thereto, beaten on his own dunghill; being erected again, his head and hands were knocked off by another fall; † so that now he had neither wit nor strength to help himself—the fair Venus or female part was gone, the fishy part only is left. But this was but a sport in comparison of what befell Dagon's worshippers, for God's hand was heavy on them all : || as the Spartan boy carried the fox in his bosom till the animal tore his vitals, so did the inhabitants of Ashdod. The ark which brought life to those who venerated it, brought death upon despisers ; even as the Lord's supper is profitable to due partakers, but unworthy receivers find it to turn to their judgment here, and eternal misery hereafter. Carnal hearts pretend a fond respect for ordinances, but find the Lord a jealous God upon their perverting his institutions or unsuitable carriage. Ashdod was soon weary of God's • 1 Sam. iv. 9-21.
+ 1 Sam. v.
# 1 Sam. v. 3, 4. \! 1 Sam. v. 6.
§ 1 Cor. xi. 29.
ark; they hold a council of their lords ; they post it away to Gath, which was their metropolis, thinking belike, that to be a better air, or under a more benign influence of the stars : but here also God's hand was upon them with a great destruction, they had painful and incurable emerods in their secret parts. * Being weary of the ark, they would shift it off to Ekron, but the Ekronites were wise by others' calamities:t and a consultation was held, the result of which was that they should carry back the ark into its place, for all the five cities of the Philistines were sharply punished, the seven months it had been in their country. And they were weary of it; only they must consult the diviners how to send it back, and their advice was to send it with a trespass-offering, || namely, five golden emerods and five golden mice, upon a new cart, drawn by two milch kine, that thus they might give glory to the God of Israel; and they signified that by the direction the cattle took, it might be known whether it was God's hand or a chance, and peradventure they might be healed. They did so: the kine went straight to Bethshemesh, a city of the Levites, s they rejoiced to see it coming, but though they offered a burnt-offering to the Lord, yet looking into the ark, the Lord smote fifty thousand and threescore and ten men with death ; and they lamented it, and cried out, “ Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God ?” But alas, they lament not their sacrilege and injury to the ark, but the death of their people; imitating the Philistines, they howled for the punishment, not kindly mourning for their offences; ** they reflected not on their own miscarriages, but transferred the cause to God's holi
• 1 Sam. v. 9.
+ 1 Sam. y. 10. I 1 Sam. vi. 2. ll 1 Sam. vi. 4. § 1 Sam. vi. 12. 11 San. vi. 19, 20.
Qui propter culpas non dolebant, sed propter pænas ululabant.
ness; and now they also would be glad to be rid of so chargeable guest, and send messengers to Kirjathjearim, that the people there might fetch it to them, who came and brought it.
Query, Why did they not send it to Shiloh, where it was before ?
Answ. 1. That was far off, this near, and they were in haste to get delivered of a burden.
2. Divine providence removes its favour from Shiloh, for the impiety thereof, Jer. vii. 12. You see ordinances are not perpetually entailed on one place: the gospel is a flitting gospel ; God sometimes breaks up house, and is gone to another residence, Psal. lxxviii. 67, 68. Matt. xxi. 43.
Qu. Why were not they of Kirjath-jearim afraid of Bethshemesh's punishment ?
Answ. They probably knew that the plague was not for the ark's sake, but to punish irreverence and curiosity; now they resolve to reform that, and take warning as David did, 1 Chron. xv. 13. It becomes persons that suffer in ordinances, not to find fault with God or them, but to charge it on themselves, and amend what is amiss; men's own sins are the exciting cause of God's indignation, the imposing cause of troubles. That is a good scholar, who learns these two lessons under God's hand.
I shall not trouble you with enumerating the several places in which the ark rested amongst the Israelites before it was brought by David into Obed-edom's house, 2 Sam. vi. 10 ; nor attempt to explain what is meant by the sanctifying of Eleazar, or ordaining him to the sacred ministry; what the keeping of the ark is, that nothing be taken away, or no unbecoming thing be done to it, or about it; nor why Eleazar the son, and not Abinadab the father was employed about