New Defender's Study Bible Notes
6:4 number of the lords. These five were presumably the chieftains of the five main cities of the Philistines—Ashdad, Gaza, Askelon, Gath and Ekron (I Samuel 6:16-17; also Joshua 13:3).
6:7 milch kine. That is, “milk-cows.”
6:12 lowing as they went. The cows had been separated from their calves (I Samuel 6:10) and so kept up a perpetual lowing as they were impelled in spite of themselves to head straight for Beth-shemesh just across the Philistine border in Israel. This surely made a profound impression on all the Philistine people who were observing them.
6:19 men of Beth-shemesh. Even though these men were Levites (Joshua 21:16) they had indicated their complete lack of respect for God’s ark by looking into it, which they had no right to do.
6:19 fifty thousand and threescore and ten men. This number seems inordinately large, probably larger than the whole population of this town, or that could possibly have looked into the ark. The Jewish historian Josephus, as well as a few Hebrew copies of I Samuel, indicate the number may have originally been only “seventy men.” It is also possible, of course, that all the men of the Beth-shemesh region were morbidly curious about the ark, and selected 70 representatives to examine it. Thus God could have considered them all guilty.