24 June 1 Samuel 6:1-21,7:1

24 June. The Ark of the Covenant is returned to the Israelites

“The Philistines kept the Ark of God in their land seven months. Then they called their priests and magicians and said, ‘What should we do with the Ark of the LORD? Tell us how to send it back home!’”

“The priests and magicians answered, ‘If you send back the Ark of the God of Israel, don’t send it back empty. You must give a penalty offering. If you are then healed, you will know that it was because of the Ark that you had such trouble.’”

“The Philistines asked, ‘What kind of penalty offering should we send to Israel’s God?’ They answered, ‘Make five gold models of the growths on your skin and five gold models of rats. The number of models must match the number of Philistine kings, because the same sickness has come on you and your kings. Make models of the growths and the rats that are ruining the country, and give honour to Israel’s God. Then maybe he will stop being so hard on you, your gods and your land…’”

“You must build a new cart and get two cows that have just had calves. These must be cows that have never had yokes on their necks. Hitch the cows to the cart, and take the calves home, away from their mothers. Put the Ark of the LORD on the cart and the gold models for the penalty offering in a box beside the Ark.’”

“’Watch the cart. If it goes towards Beth Shemesh in Israel’s own land, the LORD has given us this great sickness. But if it doesn’t, we will know that Israel’s God has not punished us. Our sickness just happened by chance.’”

“The Philistines did what the priests and magicians said. They took two cows that had just had calves and hitched them to the cart, but they kept their calves at home. They put the Ark of the LORD and the box with the gold rats and models of growths on the cart. Then the cows went straight towards Beth Shemesh…’”

“Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the Ark of the LORD, they were very happy. The cart came to the field belonging to Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped near a large rock. The people of Beth Shemesh chopped up the wood of the cart. Then they sacrificed the cows as burnt offerings to the LORD.’”

“The Levites took down the Ark of the LORD and the box that had the gold models, and they put both on the large rock. That day the people of Beth Shemesh offered whole burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD. After the five Philistine kings saw this, they went back to Ekron the same day...’”

“But some of the men of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark of the LORD. So God killed 70 of them. The people of Beth Shemesh cried because the LORD had struck them down. They said, ‘Who can stand before the LORD, this holy God? Whom will he strike next?’”

“Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, ‘The Philistines have brought back the Ark of the LORD. Come down and take it to your city.’ The men of Kiriath Jearim came and took the Ark of the LORD to Abinadab’s house on a hill. There they made Abinadab’s son Eleazar holy [set apart] for the LORD so he could guard the Ark of the LORD.”

          (1 Samuel 6:1-21 & 7:1)

 


 

After seven months of death and disease in the five Philistine cities, the Ark of the Covenant (together with gifts to placate the God of Israel) was put on a new wagon drawn by two oxen. It was driven out of Ekron and left to go on its own. It arrived at Beth Shemesh (meaning the ‘Temple of the Sun’) where the Israelites were overjoyed to welcome it back (see 6 on the map on 23 June).

Some of the Israelites, however, disobeyed the religious laws by looking inside the Ark of the Covenant. As a result, seventy men of Beth Shemesh died.

Fearful of further deaths, the men of Beth Shemesh arranged for the Ark to be moved to Kiriath Jearim (see 7 on the map) where it stayed for twenty years until it was moved to Jerusalem by King David in c.1004BC (see 8 on the map & 2 Samuel 6).

Before the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites in c.1406BC, Kiriath Jearim (meaning 'city of woods') was known as Kiriath Baal (the 'city of Baal'), Baalah or Baal Judah. It was a Hivite settlement associated with the people of Gibeon (see Joshua 9:17) and a centre of Baal worship. The re-naming of the city by Joshua indicated his intention to wipe out the worship of local deities in the 'promised land'.

After the conquest of Canaan, Kiriath Jearim became a landmark identifying the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (see Joshua 15:9 & 18:14). It gained prominence as the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant for twenty years after the Ark was returned from Ekron by the Philistines in c.1024BC (see 1 Samuel 6:21-7:1).

The photo (by Ian Scott) shows the view looking east along the Sorek valley from Beth Shemesh towards Kiriath Jearim.

You can read more about Kiriath Jearim @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/29-the-journeys-of-ruth-and-samuel/the-ark-is-returned-to-the-israelites/


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