The ark of the covenant was the most sacred object in Israel. It was a special box that God told Moses to make (Exodus 25:10-22). That box was evidence of Godís covenant with Israel. The covenant was the agreement that established the special relationship between God and Israel.
The ark went with Israelís people as Moses led them through the desert called Sinai. It went with them when they crossed the river Jordan to enter Canaan (Joshua 3:1-4). It was with them as they fought to gain possession of that country. Then Joshua set up the sacred tent, which was Godís house, in Shiloh. From that time, it seems that the ark remained in its most holy room. During Israelís many battles with foreign armies in the Book of Judges, there is no mention of the ark.
So, it was a bold and foolish decision, after perhaps 400 years, to take the ark back into a battle. The leaders who made that decision were not, like Moses and Joshua, holy men. God did not guide those leaders to make that decision; and Israelís people were not even loyal to God. Israelís soldiers were not humble in front of God. In fact, they even shouted proudly when the ark entered their camp.
Their army leaders thought that they could force God to fight on their side. In fact, God had already shown clearly what must happen. The two priests who brought the ark, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked men. God had already issued his judgement against their unholy acts: both men would die on the same day (2:34). The events of that day would cause a terrible shock to everyone who heard about them (3:11).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.