- Phone: 812-401-7494
- Mailing Address: PO Box 5082, Evansville IN 47716
12 And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.
The Philistines are tired of being punished for having the Ark of the God of Israel’s Covenant and so they send it back on some miraculously guided cows that shouldn’t even pull a cart. To the Philistines watching, it was a sign that the God of Israel was in control and wanted to be returned to His people.
A lot of people remember the guy that touched the Ark while it was on a cart that was struck dead. This isn’t that story. (That will happen later in the summer.)
The people of Beth-shemesh are out harvesting in their fields when along come two cows pulling a cart loaded with gold from the Philistines and, what’s that on the back? THE ARK OF THE COVENANT! The people rejoice that the glory of God has returned to Israel! After 7 months of mourning and grieving over the corruption of the priesthood and God turning His face away from Israel, He has returned His favor!
His favor has returned more than they realize.
Just like that they all run up, take apart the cart, kill the cows, pick up the Ark of the Covenant from where it rode, and offer sacrifices to God. The problem is the only people that can touch the Ark of the Covenant, and by law also be the only ones to offer up direct sacrifices to God, are not just Levites, but Levites that are descended from Aaron.
In Joshua chapter 21, 300 years earlier, there is a long boring section of the Bible that names off a lot of cities and who is going to live where and what mountain is the boundary and all of that. It would take 300 years for that chapter of the Bible to not be boring:
13 And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands, Libnah with its pasturelands, 14 Jattir with its pasturelands, Eshtemoa with its pasturelands, 15 Holon with its pasturelands, Debir with its pasturelands, 16 Ain with its pasturelands, Juttah with its pasturelands, Beth-shemesh with its pasturelands—nine cities out of these two tribes;
Joshua 21:13–16 ESV
God sprinkled the cities of the Levites all over Israel so that anyone could be close to a priestly town. Out of nine cities that were given to the descendants of Aaron, one of those was Beth-shemesh. Out of all of the cities of Israel, those two cows could only stop in 9 cities that would have descendants of Aaron qualified to touch the Ark and ceremonially cleanse the Philistine stank off of it. God sent those cows to Beth-shemesh. He wanted the priesthood to do things the right way again.
God really desires that we obey Him and follow His ways. Isaiah would say that God doesn’t speak in secret like we don’t know what He’s saying. He makes it possible and clear for us to follow Him and to obey His commands. Paul would say much later that whenever we are tempted, God gives us a way out. It is all true. God wants us to follow Him in the smallest, simplest ways, and He is actively helping us to do it.
Even if it takes 300 years to figure out why.