I Samuel – Chapter 6

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The Philistines asked their priests what to do about the fiasco with the Ark. They didn’t say to send it back, but they did say, IF they were going to send the Ark back, a gift should be included to appease G-d. The gift was five golden hemorrhoids and five golden mice, to represent the plague and mice which were destroying the Philistine land. (The mice were not mentioned previously. Some commentators say that the mice would chew on the people’s hemorrhoids or enter the people’s bowels – see Rashi on 5:5 and Radak on 6:4.) The Ark and the golden statuettes were placed on a new wagon that was hitched to two nursing cows. (The cows would not be inclined to leave their young unless led by G-d.) The Philistines sent representatives to follow the wagon to Beis Shemesh in Israelite territory. The cows went straight there.

When the Jews saw the wagon with the Ark approaching, there was great rejoicing. They chopped up the wagon for firewood and offered the cows as a sacrifice to G-d. But some of the people disrespectfully looked into the Ark and were killed by G-d. (The text is unclear as to whether it was 50,000 people who were each worthy of being one of the 70 Elders of Israel, or 70 Elders each of whom was equal to 50,000 commoners, or perhaps 70 Elders AND 50,000 regular people. In any event, it was not a good thing.) The people of Beis Shemesh became too scared to host the Ark, so they asked the people of Kiryas Ye’arim if they would come and take it. (Contrast this with the Philistines, who just shipped it off to the next city. The Philistines attributed the plague to an inherent destructive force within the Ark itself and treated it like a “hot potato.” The Jews attributed it to their own unworthiness and sought more appropriate hosts for the Ark.)

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