Beth Shemesh was a town on the border of Judah, that is, in the south of Israel. It was 7 miles (12 kilometres) from Ekron in Philistia, where the ark of God (the most sacred object from Godís house) had been. Beth Shemesh belonged to Israelís priests (Joshua 21:16) - so, the inhabitants came from Aaronís family.
The usual time to harvest grain in Israel is in the month of May. Many people joined in the work; there is a description in Ruth 2:2-9.
The harvest should be a happy occasion, but the people in Beth Shemesh had every reason to feel fear. The Philistines (people from Philistia) controlled Israel. At any moment, soldiers might come from Philistia to demand some, or all, of the grain. So, the workers would have watched the road from Philistia very carefully.
Suddenly, someone saw a cart which was moving quickly across the border from Philistia. Probably, the first thing that they saw was the ark itself. It was a wooden box, but gold covered the wood. The gold would reflect the bright sunlight.
After 7 months in a foreign country, the ark was back in Israel at last. God had not forgotten his people in Israel. The ark was evidence that he was present with them.
All work on the harvest stopped at once. It was more important to express joy because of the arkís return. The people used the wood from the cart to start a fire. They burnt the cows that had brought the cart as a special gift to God.
Levites (people from Leviís family) carried the ark onto a large rock in the field. That was a special duty that only the Levites could carry out: to carry the ark. The Levites placed the gifts from the Philistines near to the ark. That action showed that God had accepted these gifts. When the rulers of the Philistines saw this, they returned home.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.