The scripture reading for today is 1 Samuel 6:13.
“Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight.”
Here we learn about the ark of the Lord which was in the country of the Philistines for seven months. The Philistines asked the priests what they should do with the ark of the God of Israel, and they were told to return it with a guilt offering of five golden tumors and five golden rats, symbols of what was destroying their people. It is likely the rats were carriers of a disease which may have been a form of the plague. They were told to prepare a new cart, to yoke two of their milk cows to pull it, and to put a chest at its side containing the figures of gold. This was done to pay honor to Israel’s God.
The men did so, and the cows went straight in the direction of Beth Shemesh. The rulers of the Philistines went only as far as the border of Beth Shemesh. When the people of Beth Shemesh looked up from their harvesting, they saw only the ark, with the cart and the cows as it came into the field of Joshua and stopped there. They used the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Levites took the ark and the chest, in which were the gold objects, and set them upon a great stone. When the five rulers of the Philistines saw this, they returned that day to Ekron.
This was an experiment to discover whether the cause of the Philistines’ troubles was a natural event (coincidence) or a supernatural one (it is he who has done us this great harm). Untrained milk cows would not do well at pulling a cart, and if they went anywhere, it would be home to their calves. Therefore, if they pulled the cart uphill toward Israel, it must be the work of the Lord.
Thus, the five rulers went home to each of their five Philistine territories. They had the results of the experiment and hoped that Israel’s God would lift the wrath caused by the rats and the tumors. In our assessment of this scenario we might see it as a guilt trip (no pun intended) which means: Remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense, self-reproach.
The Philistines had repented, and the Levites were happy to have the ark back in their possession. Today we would call this a win-win situation. To the Philistines, it brought hope for relief from the diseases that ravaged them, and to the Levites, it was the long-awaited return of the ark. Today we don’t do burnt offerings, so the question is, what would you sacrifice and how would you celebrate?
Maureen D. Baldwin firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayer Concern: Help us to understand the lessons of the Old Testament and how they shaped the teachings of the new testament.