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of the Lord's presence, Israel thought it would surely save them from their enemies; which shews that it is not symbols, shadows, nor representations, that can deliver us in time of trouble, but only the power of the Lord. Secondly, we find that the philistines were as much out in their history as in their divinity; for they thought that the ark was Israel's God, and that it was this God that brought the plagues upon Egypt. We are certain that the plagues were brought upon Egypt long before the ark was made by Moses; but it seems that the philistines had a confused tradition of the wonders the God of Israel had done for his people. Thirdly, though the ark of the Lord was his “ strength and his glory," that is, where his favour and the strength of his love were displayed, and his glory shone forth; yet for the sin of Israel he “ delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemies hand,” Psalm lxxviii. 61.
Ver. 17. “ And the ark of God is taken.”]-Observe, first, the frame of Eli's mind; with what fear be expected the tidings. Though old, and blind, and heavy, yet he could not keep his chamber, when he was sensible that the glory of Israel lay at stake, but placed himself by the way. side to receive the first intelligence ; for “his heart trembled for the ark of God,” ver. 13. His careful thougbts represent to him what a dishonour it will be to God, and what an irreparable loss to Israel, if the ark fall into the philistimes hands; with what profane triumphs it will be told in Gath, and published in the streets of Ashkelon : Eli also apprehends what imminent danger there was of it; Israel bad forfeited the ark, his own sons especially, and the philistines would aim at it: and now the ibreatening comes to his mind, that he should “ see an enemy in God's habi. tation," chap. ii. 52. and perhaps his own heart reproached him for not using his authority, to prevent the carrying of the ark into the camp; all these things made him tremble. All good men lay the interests of God's church nearer their hearts than any secular interest or concerns of their own, and cannot but be in pain and fear for them if at any time they are in peril. How can we be easy if the ark be not safe?
Ver. 19–22. “And she said, The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.”]-It seems that the wife of Phinehas was a gracious woman, of a tender spirit; for though she discovered a becoming affection to her father-in-law and to ber husband, yet she was more concerned for the ark of God and sacred things. The ark was the glory of Israel, and she esteemed it her glory, and this being lost, all seemed to her to be lost; which shews that it was the center and delight of her soul. This afflicting news came in a distressing hour, for thougb she had strength to bear the child, yet she faints and dies, because the “ark of God was taken.” We may observe that those who are under the pains of child-bearing, want treasures of comfort from the covenant of grace, not only to support them under the usual sorrows of such a season, but also under any extraordinary affliction they may not foresee: for it is faith alone that keeps from fainting, Psalm xxvii. 13.
There is no sorrow to the christian like the loss of the Lord's presence ; this made Phinebas's wife regardless of ber own child, though the women that attended her said, 6. Fear not, for thou hast borne a son ;” and perhaps it was her first-born ; " but she answered not, neither did she regard it.” The sorrows of her travail, if she had had no other, would have been “forgotten, for joy that a man-child was born into the world," John xvi. 21. But what is that joy to one that feels herself dying? no joy, but that which is spiritual and divine, will stand us in any stead then; death is too serious a thing to admit the relish of any eartbly joy; it is all flat and sapless then. What is it to one that is lamenting the loss of the ark? Small comfort could she have of a child born in Israel, in Shiloh, when the ark is gone, and is a prisoner in the land of the philistines. What pleasure can we take in our creature comforts and enjoy. ments, if we want God's word and ordinances, especially if we want the comfort of his gracious presence, and the light of his countenance ? “As yinegar upon nitre, so is he that sings songs to such beavy hearts.”
This made her give her child a name, which should perpetuate the remembrance of the calamity, and her sense of it. She has nothing to say to the child, only it being her province, now her husband was dead, to name the child, she orders them to call it l-chabod, that is, Where is the glory or, Alas for the glory! or, There is no glory, ver. 21. which she thus explains with her dying lips, ver. 22. “The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.” Call the child inglorions, for so he is; the beauty of Israel is gone, and there appears no hope of ever retrieving it; never let the name of an Israelite, much less a priest, carry glory in it any more, now the ark is taken. 1. The purity and plenty of God's ordinances, and the tokens of biş presence in them, are the glory of any people, much more so than their wealth and trade, and interest among the nations. 2. Nothing is more cutting, more killing, to a faithful Israelite, than the want and loss of these. If God go, the glory goes, and all good goes. Wo unto us if he depart from us.
It is now time to enquire what is become of the ark of God; we cannot but
think that we shall hear more of that sacred treasure. I should have thought the next news would have been, that all Israel, from Dan to Beerslieba, han gathered together as one man, with a resolution to bring it back, or die in the attempt; but we find not any motion made of that kind, so little was there of zeal and courage left amoug them. Nay, we do not find that they desired a treaty with the philistives abont the rausom of it, or offered any thing in lieu of it; it is gone, and let it go. Many have softuess enongh to lament the loss of the ark, that diave not hardiness cnough to take one step towards the retrieve of it, no more than Israel here. If the ark will help itself, it may, for they will not help it. Unworthy they were of the name of Israelites, that could thus tamely part with the glory of Israel. God would therefore take the work into his own hands, and plead his own cause, since men would not appear for him. We are told in this chapter, (1.) How the philistines triumphed over the ark, ver. 1, 2. and (2.) How the ark triumphed over the philistines. (1.) Over Dagon their God, ver. 3—5. (3.) Over the philistines themselves, who were sorely plagued with emerods, and made weary of the ark; the men of Ashdod first, ver. 6, 7, then the men of Gath, ver. 8, 9, and lastly those of Ekron, wbich forced them at length upon a resolution to send the ark back to the land of Israel; for when God judgeth, he will overcome.
VER. 1-4. “ Behold Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth, before the ark.")-This may prefigure to us that the kingdom of Satan and all idol worsbip and inventions of men will fall before the kingdom of Christ. Note, when there is the greatest gloom and darkness upon the church, and the glory of Israel is departed, yet even then we may be confident that God will maintain his own glory, and in his own time bring about the salvation of his people. Secondly, the stupidity of idolaters is great in thinking Dagon to be a god, that could not stand, nor save itself from being broken to pieces. “The head of Dagon and the palms of both his hands were cut off upon the threshold ;" which might bave convinced the philistines of the victory of the ark, and of their stupid folly in worshipping so. senseless a : thing as an idol, made in the upper part like a man, and in
the lower part like a fish. Thirdly, thie destruction of Dagon may be figurative of the fall of all our idols and self-righteousness before the ark, that is, before the Lord Jesus Christ, who will suffer nothing to stand in competition with him ; for as Dagon and the ark could not possibly stand togetber, so neither can the righteousness of ihe creature, and that of Christ stand together in the matter of salvation, but our righteousness must fall before Christ's, as Dagon did before the ark. Christ's righteousness, that is, his active and pas. sive obedience, is the only foundation of pardon and acquittance with God to the true believer; “ for Christ is tbe end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," Rom. x, 4.
In this chapter we have the return of tbe ark to the land of Israel, whither
we are now gladly to attend it, and observe, (1.) How the philistines dismissed it by the advice of their priests, ver. 1-11. With rich presents to the God of Israel, to make an atonement for their sin, yer. 3, 4, 5. and yet with a project to bring it back, unless providence directed the kine, contrary to their inclination, to the land of Israel, ver. 8, 9. (2.) How the Israelites entertained it. 1. With great joy and sacrifices of praise, ver. 11-18. 2, With an over-bold curiosity to look into it, for which many of them were struck dead, the terror of which moved them to send it forward to another city, ver. 19-21...
VER. 6. " When he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?"]
It seems that these philistines had some knowledge of the Mosaic bistory, and of the great wonders which God bad .wrought for the deliverance of Israel, and therefore their priests advised them to give glory to the God of Israel, and return the ark of God to his people. Thus we see that, when the set time of deliverance is come, the Lord will cause his enemies to bring about the church's deliverance out of trouble, Isaiah xlv. 13.
Ver. 12. " And the kine took the straigbt way to the way of Beth-shemesh.”]– Which was the next city in the land of Israel, and a city belonging to the priests of the Lord.
- The kine took the straight way to Beth-sbemesh," the next city of the land of Israel, and a priest's city," and tarned not aside.” This was a wonderful instance of the power of God over the brute creatures, and, all tbings considered, no less than a miracle. That cattle unaccustomed to the yoke should draw so even, so orderly, and still go forward; that without any driver, they should go from bome, to which all tame creatures have a natural inclination, and from their own calyes, to which they had a natural affection; that, without any director, they should go the straight road to Beth-shemesh, a city eight or ten miles off, never missed the way, never turned aside into the fields to feed themselves, nor turned back home to feed their calves; they went on lowing for their young ones, by which it appeared they had not forgot them, but that nature was sensi. ble of the grievance of going from them; the power of the God of nature therefore appeared so much the greater, inover-ruling one of the strongest instincts of nature. These two kine, saith Dr. Lightfoot, knew their owner, their great owner, Isaiah i. 3. whom Hophni and Phinehas knew not ; to which I may add, they brought home the ark, to shame the stupidity of Israel, that made no attempt to fetch it home. God's providence is conversant about the motions even of the brute creatures, and serves its own purposes by them. Tbe lords of the philistines, with a suitable retinue, no doubt, went after them, wondering at the power of the God of Israel; and thus they, who thought to triumph over the ark, were made to walk after the ark.
Ver. 13. " And they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it.”]-The ark was the symbol of God's presence and glory, which rendered it the ornament, beauty, and glory of the tabernacle, and made the loss of it the greatest loss that could happen to Israel. On which account the return of the ark became such matter of joy, that the Beth-shemites rejoiced to see it, wbich joy was greater to them than the joy of hardest, ver. 15. This may be figurative of that joy that filleth the hearts of the people of God, when they see the appearance of his presence, power, and glory, after a time of darkness and captivity in ihe church, Psalm cxxvi. 1, 2.
Ver. 19, &c. “And he smote the men of Beth-sbemesh, because they bad looked into the ark of the Lord.”]—The ark was the treasure and arcana of the sanctuary, and as it was the Lord's residence or dwelling-place, it was a figure of Cbrist, and of the glory of his incarnation, namely, God dwelling in the man Christ, as bis propitiation and mercyseat with bis people. But the Loid had commanded that the ark should not be looked into, Numb. iv. 15, 20. because it was the seat of his inajesty and glory. And the incarna