on 1-samuel 6 :21
To the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim - They wished the ark away out of their village, but why they sent to this city instead of sending to Shiloh, does not appear: probably Shiloh had been destroyed by the Philistines, after the late defeat of Israel. This is most likely, as the ark was never more taken back to that place.
It was a very ancient usage, when a plague or other calamity infested a country, city, etc. for the magicians to form an image of the destroyer, or of the things on which the plague particularly rested, in gold, silver, ivory, wax, clay, etc., under certain configurations of the heavens; and to set this up in some proper place, that the evils thus represented might be driven away. These consecrated images were the same that are called talismans, or rather telesms, among the Asiatics. Mr. Locke calls the diviners talismans, but this is a mistake; the image, not the fabricator, was called by this name.
I have seen several of these talismans, of different countries; and such images were probably the origin of all the forms of gods which, in after times, were the objects of religious worship. It is well known that Ireland is not infested with any venomous creature; no serpent of any kind is found in it: -
"No poison there infects, no scaly snake
Lurks in the grass, nor toads annoy the lake."
This has been attributed to a telesm, formed with certain rites under the sign Scorpio. Such opinions have been drawn from very ancient pagan sources: e.g.: A stone engraved with the figure of a scorpion, while the moon is in the sign Scorpio, is said to cure those who are stung by this animal. Apollonius Tyaneus is said to have prevented flies from infesting Antioch, and storks from appearing in Byzantium, by figures of those animals formed under certain constellations. A brazen scorpion, placed on a pillar in the city of Antioch, is said to have expelled all such animals from that country. And a crocodile of lead is also said to have preserved Cairo from the depredations of those monsters. See Calmet.
Virgil refers to this custom, Eclogue viii., ver. 80, where he represents a person making two images or telesms, one of wax, another of clay, which were to represent an absent person, who was to be alternately softened or hardened, as the wax or clay image was exposed to the fire: -
Limus ut hic durescit, et haec ut cera liquescit
Uno et eodem igni: sic nostro Daphnis amore.
"As this clay hardens, and this wax softens,
by one and the same fire, so may Daphnis by my love."
This thought is borrowed from Theocritus, Idyl. ii., ver. 28.
A beautiful marble figure of Osiris, about four inches and a quarter high, now stands before me, entirely covered with hieroglyphics; he is standing, and holds in each hand a scorpion and a snake by the tails, and with each foot he stands on the neck of a crocodile. This I have no doubt was a telesm, formed under some peculiar configuration of the heavens, intended to drive away both scorpions and crocodiles. This image is of the highest antiquity, and was formed probably long before the Christian era.
Tavernier observes that something like what is mentioned in the text is practiced among the Indians; for when a pilgrim goes to one of the idol temples for a cure, he brings the figure of the member affected, made either of gold, silver, or copper, according to his circumstances, which he offers to his god. This custom was common among the heathens, and they consecrated to their gods the monuments of their deliverance. From heathenism it was adopted by corrupt Christianity; and Theodoret informs us that in his time there might be seen about the tombs of the martyrs figures of eyes, hands, feet, and other parts of the body, which represented those of the offerers which they supposed had been healed by the intercession of those holy persons! This degrading superstition is continued among the papists to the present day: I have seen at St. Winifred's well, in Holywell, Flintshire several staves, crutches, and handbarrows, hung up in different places, which were reported to be the votive offerings of the maimed, the halt, the withered, etc., who had received their cure by the virtue of the saint! It is true the crutches are such as no man or woman could ever walk with; and the barrows are such as most evidently never carried any human being. But they serve the purpose of superstition, and keep up an idolatrous reverence for the well and the legendary virgin.
on 1-samuel 6 :21
Kirjath-jearim - See Joshua 9:17 note. It has been thought that there was a high place at Kirjath-jearim (the hill, 1 Samuel 7:1), the remnant of its old pagan sanctity when it was called Kirjath-Baal, "the city of Baal" (see Joshua 18:14; 2 Samuel 6:2); and that for this reason it was selected as a proper place to send the ark to.
on 1-samuel 6 :21
6:21 Kirjath - jearim - Whither they sent, either because the place was not far off from them, and so it might soon be removed: or because it was a place of eminency and strength, and somewhat farther distant from the Philistines, where therefore it was likely to be better preserved from any new attempts of the Philistines, and to be better attended by the Israelites, who would more freely and frequently come to it at such a place, than in Beth - shemesh, which was upon the border of their enemies land.