The Ark is Coming Home

(א) וַיְהִי אֲרוֹן יְהוָה בִּשְׂדֵה פְלִשְׁתִּים שִׁבְעָה חֳדָשִׁים. (ב) וַיִּקְרְאוּ פְלִשְׁתִּים לַכֹּהֲנִים וְלַקֹּסְמִים לֵאמֹר מַה נַּעֲשֶׂה לַאֲרוֹן יְהוָה הוֹדִעֻנוּ בַּמֶּה נְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ לִמְקוֹמוֹ. (ג) וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִם מְשַׁלְּחִים אֶת אֲרוֹן אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אַל תְּשַׁלְּחוּ אֹתוֹ רֵיקָם כִּי הָשֵׁב תָּשִׁיבוּ לוֹ אָשָׁם אָז תֵּרָפְאוּ וְנוֹדַע לָכֶם לָמָּה לֹא תָסוּר יָדוֹ מִכֶּם.

(1) And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. (2) And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying: ‘What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? declare unto us wherewith we shall send it to its place.’ (3) And they said: ‘If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return Him a guilt-offering; then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.’

a) The literal meaning of the word 'bisdeh' is field but it is translated as 'country'. Why do you think this is so? Why do you think the word 'bisdeh' is used instead of country?

b) In verse 2, there are two questions that need answering. What are they?

c) What is the difference between the two questions and what could that mean?

d) Which question do the priests and diviners answer and what do they say?

(ה) וַעֲשִׂיתֶם צַלְמֵי עפליכם [טְחֹרֵיכֶם] וְצַלְמֵי עַכְבְּרֵיכֶם הַמַּשְׁחִיתִם אֶת הָאָרֶץ וּנְתַתֶּם לֵאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּבוֹד אוּלַי יָקֵל אֶת יָדוֹ מֵעֲלֵיכֶם וּמֵעַל אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּמֵעַל אַרְצְכֶם. (ו) וְלָמָּה תְכַבְּדוּ אֶת לְבַבְכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר כִּבְּדוּ מִצְרַיִם וּפַרְעֹה אֶת לִבָּם הֲלוֹא כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלֵּל בָּהֶם וַיְשַׁלְּחוּם וַיֵּלֵכוּ.

(5) Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel; peradventure He will lighten His hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. (6) Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when He had wrought among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?

e) What seems to be the connection between the Philistines and the Egyptians?

f) What other comparisons can be made between this story and that of the Egyptians:

(ז) וְעַתָּה קְחוּ וַעֲשׂוּ עֲגָלָה חֲדָשָׁה אֶחָת וּשְׁתֵּי פָרוֹת עָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָלָה עֲלֵיהֶם עֹל וַאֲסַרְתֶּם אֶת הַפָּרוֹת בָּעֲגָלָה וַהֲשֵׁיבֹתֶם בְּנֵיהֶם מֵאַחֲרֵיהֶם הַבָּיְתָה. (ח) וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֶת אֲרוֹן יְהוָה וּנְתַתֶּם אֹתוֹ אֶל הָעֲגָלָה וְאֵת כְּלֵי הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר הֲשֵׁבֹתֶם לוֹ אָשָׁם תָּשִׂימוּ בָאַרְגַּז מִצִּדּוֹ וְשִׁלַּחְתֶּם אֹתוֹ וְהָלָךְ. (ט) וּרְאִיתֶם אִם דֶּרֶךְ גְּבוּלוֹ יַעֲלֶה בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ הוּא עָשָׂה לָנוּ אֶת הָרָעָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת וְאִם לֹא וְיָדַעְנוּ כִּי לֹא יָדוֹ נָגְעָה בָּנוּ מִקְרֶה הוּא הָיָה לָנוּ.
(7) Now therefore take and prepare you a new cart, and two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them. (8) And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return Him for a guilt-offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. (9) And see, if it goeth up by the way of its own border to Beth-shemesh, then He hath done us this great evil; but if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us.’

g) The test set by the diviners is very specific. What do you think they choose the following things:

  • A new cart -
  • Use of cows that are not riding animals -
  • Use of cows that haven't used a yoke -
  • The calves are sent home -
  • The ascent to Bet Shemesh -
(יג) וּבֵית שֶׁמֶשׁ קֹצְרִים קְצִיר חִטִּים בָּעֵמֶק וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת עֵינֵיהֶם וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת הָאָרוֹן וַיִּשְׂמְחוּ לִרְאוֹת. (יד) וְהָעֲגָלָה בָּאָה אֶל שְׂדֵה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֵּית הַשִּׁמְשִׁי וַתַּעֲמֹד שָׁם וְשָׁם אֶבֶן גְּדוֹלָה וַיְבַקְּעוּ אֶת עֲצֵי הָעֲגָלָה וְאֶת הַפָּרוֹת הֶעֱלוּ עֹלָה לַיהוָה. (טו) וְהַלְוִיִּם הוֹרִידוּ אֶת אֲרוֹן יְהוָה וְאֶת הָאַרְגַּז אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ כְלֵי זָהָב וַיָּשִׂמוּ אֶל הָאֶבֶן הַגְּדוֹלָה וְאַנְשֵׁי בֵית שֶׁמֶשׁ הֶעֱלוּ עֹלוֹת וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זְבָחִים בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לַיהוָה.

(13) And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. (14) And the cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone; and they cleaved the wood of the cart, and offered up the kine for a burnt-offering unto the LORD. (15) And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.

h) What is the reaction of the people and how do they actualise this?

(יט) וַיַּךְ בְּאַנְשֵׁי בֵית שֶׁמֶשׁ כִּי רָאוּ בַּאֲרוֹן יְהוָה וַיַּךְ בָּעָם שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ חֲמִשִּׁים אֶלֶף אִישׁ וַיִּתְאַבְּלוּ הָעָם כִּי הִכָּה יְהוָה בָּעָם מַכָּה גְדוֹלָה. (כ) וַיֹּאמְרוּ אַנְשֵׁי בֵית שֶׁמֶשׁ מִי יוּכַל לַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי יְהוָה הָאֱלֹהִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ הַזֶּה וְאֶל מִי יַעֲלֶה מֵעָלֵינוּ.
(19) And He smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had gazed upon the ark of the LORD, even He smote of the people seventy men, and fifty thousand men; and the people amourned, because the LORD had smitten the people with a great slaughter. (20) And the men of Beth-shemesh said: ‘Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? and to whom shall it go up from us?’

i) What did the people do to deserve this?

(א) וישמחו לראות . היו מסתכלין היאך הוא בא לבדו , ומשמחתם נהגו בו קלות ראש , שלא היו מסתכלין בו באימה ודרך כבוד :
(1) They looked at it and how it was coming on its own, and owing to their joy, they acted lightheartedly, for they did not look upon it with dread and respect.

j) According to Rashi, what is the sin of the people from Bet Shemesh?

k) Is there a difference between the Philistines and the people of Bet Shemesh? If so, what is it?

Based on a Shiur by Rav Amnon Bazak www.vbm-torah.org/archives/shmuel/10shmuel.htm