What does 1 Samuel 6:18 mean?The first part of this verse appears to summarize the official listing of the five major Philistine cities in the previous verse (1 Samuel 6:17). Some commentators believe the guilt offering sent by the Philistines included ten golden items, five shaped like tumors and five shaped like mice or rats. Others believe the mice mentioned in this verse to be the representations of the tumors, meaning only the golden figures of the mice or rats were in the box sent along with the ark of the Lord.
Whether two sets of five golden items—both tumors and mice—or one set of five items—tumors represented by mice—there is an item representing each of the five major Philistine cities (1 Samuel 6:17). If the mice are in addition to the tumors, perhaps the second set of five is understood to represent each of the five lords more broadly. Many towns, large and small, fortified and unwalled, were under the control of the five lords of each of the five cities. A golden item was included for each lord and all his cities (1 Samuel 6:4).
The final part of the verse may be meant to show that the ark (Exodus 25:10–16) was officially received by Israel from the Philistines. The great stone upon which the ark was set and the sacrifices made stands as the witness that the Israelites received what was sent by the Philistines.
It's also possible that the great stone in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh is meant to serve as a witness of the sad and terrible events of the verses that follow this one (1 Samuel 6:19–21).