For the last 7 months, the Philistines (people in Philistia) had tried to control the sacred box called the ark. Really however, they were trying to control God. They imagined that they could force him to accept their authority, or the authority of their false gods.
The result was that, first, God acted against the image of their false god called Dagon. Then he acted against the Philistines themselves. He allowed the animals called rats to attack their country. He permitted an awful disease, and then death, to spread through their towns.
When the rulers of the Philistines decided to return the ark, they did not try to control God. They had seen that they must behave in a humble manner towards him. God is very powerful; he does not need human help to carry out his work.
So, the rulers did not take the ark back to Israel themselves. Instead, they allowed God to do his work. They themselves simply prepared everything in the proper manner. They placed the ark on a new cart. Next to the ark, they placed another box that contained their gifts. The purpose of those gifts was to confess that they were guilty of wrong actions against Godís holy ark.
The two cows that they selected to pull the cart had never done that before. The rulers of Philistia did not allow any person to guide the cows. Instead, the rulers themselves would follow the cart. If God really was God, he himself would direct that cart back to Israel.
But if Israelís God was too weak to do that, then clearly he could not be responsible for the Philistinesí troubles.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.