Following on from yesterday’s reading….The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. And they put the ark of the LORD on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumours. 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. 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. 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. 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. And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.
These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
Comment: It is a bit amazing that the cows weren’t drawn back by the bellowing of their calves, but apparently still returning the noises (mooing) for their calves. They weren’t diverted and headed straight into a field of Joshua, an Israelite and stopped at or at least near a large rock, having travelled about 30 km. The Philistines followed, no doubt at a distance, to see what would happen. When the cows stopped the local townspeople recognized the load on the cart for what it was, probably by the size and shape, and having lifted off the ark used the wood of the cart to offer the cows as a sacrifice on the great rock. It doesn’t say it here, but according to the custom of sacrifices, the people probably celebrated by eating the meat not used in the thankful worship. Apparently a number of others in the area, offered sacrifices as well. The golden gifts sent from the Philistines were left on the stone, no doubt for all to see. At the time of the writing of this book this stone stood, and probably for years after, as a witness to this event. The Philistines who were watching, as the Ark went away, departed, thankful to be rid of what was to them a problem. Against their hopes and expectations the cows didn’t go back to their calves. They saw this as an act of the Hebrews’ God.The Israelites rejoiced when the same Ark was returned.
Prayer: Life has its times of gladness. Let us rejoice in them, O Lord, for tomorrow may bring sadness.