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The Philistines had finally had enough of the Lord; they were living in sin and his presence was a constant reminder because they suffered constant judgment. They were ready to get God out of their lives once and for all. They wanted to go back to the old ways they wanted to continue to live in sin and not be judged for it. Wouldn’t it be nice to never be judged and to just live in our sin?
On top of the Philistines’ judgment for harboring the ark, not a single Israelite tried to get it back. This puzzles me. It’s as though everyone is ok with just sitting in their sin. The Philistines tried everything to harness the Lord’s glory and the Hebrews were sitting in their pity party, upset that the Lord’s glory was gone but not doing anything to get Him to return. If you want the Lord’s glory on you, then you have to seek Him. Don’t just sit around moping about your miserable life, start seeking the Lord.
If you were taken captive and placed out in the wilderness, wouldn’t you want those who claim to love you to come and get you and bring you back to where you belong? No wonder the Lord is so willing to leave the 99 to go get the one that is lost. He knows what it feels like to not have your loved ones seek you.
For seven excruciating months, the Ark was passed around the nation. Then finally the Philistines agreed they needed some help deciding what to permanently do with the ark of God. Coming up with yet another brilliant idea, the government called in priests and diviners and asked them, “what shall we do to the ark of the Lord? How do we send it back to his place?”
Notice they did not ask if they should send it back, but they are asking “how” to send it back. They did not want to bring anymore destruction on themselves. They want to make things right, they want to smooth over their offense and try to gain any favor they possibly can. They sought out advice from priests, which is the same word for priests of the true God, and diviners cover their worship of idols and superstitions. In other words, they are covering all their bases to get the ark back into its land.
However, they still are not sure it is even God who caused the plagues. The discussion continued, the advice was given to not send it back empty. The Lord requires sacrifice, a trespass offering. It says in vs. 3 to offer a trespass offering then you will be healed. Repent and you will be healed, also, this would settle the question of where did the plagues originate.
Sickness doesn’t always mean you have sinned. Don’t just assume you are in the clear. It would be prudent to seek the Holy Spirit to make sure there isn’t something tucked away that you are unaware of, even if it is a generational curse or sickness you need to repent of it. Sometimes we partner with sin without even knowing it. What “we” consider to be sin and what God says is sin are often two very different things. We go with how we “feel”, “I’m not convicted so it’s not a sin”, we even blow people off by stating, “everyone has their convictions”. You’ve got to stop doing that, the enemy is not going to allow you to feel bad about going against the word of the Lord.
The offering seems strange to us, but in these ancient days, it was a general custom to present an offering to the deities from whom they believed they received healing. They would create a figurine in the likeness of the diseased part. For example, if they survived a shipwreck they would offer a ship statue to Neptune. Gladiators would off their arms to Hercules. In this case, it was five gold tumors and rats. The number five represents the number of Philistine lords, and tumors and rats represent the plagues.
Everyone agreed with this plan and got busy making all the preparations. The first on the list was building a new cart for the ark to travel on. This is something that is seen at other times in the Bible as a sign of reverence. They knew this would be ok with the Levites because they also used carts to carry their sacred artifacts on. Once the cart was built, they took two cows, took their calves from them, and tied them to the cart. They wanted to make sure the cows were directed by the Lord and not from training.
A cow that had already been yoked and trained to pull a cart would have tried to return to their calves. An unyoked cow, however, would wonder. On top of all that, these cows were momma’s, their calves were taken from them. The scriptures said they were lowing all the way. They were remembering their baby cows. The cow’s instinct would have been to turn around and go back to her babies, in this case, they did not do that because they were led by the Lord, they were on a divine mission.
The only thing left to do was to secure the gold tumors and rats in a chest and strap it on the cart next to the ark. All the preparations were now complete, they gave the cows a nice swat on the rump roast and they were off, they headed straight toward Beth-Shemesh. They followed the road the entire way, never once getting off course. This is what the Philistines were watching for as they followed the ark in complete amazement. The fact that the cows headed straight to Beth-Shemesh was the proof they needed to verify the plagues were done by God’s mighty hand and not just random circumstance.