The Philistines had the Ark of the Covenant for seven months. As discussed yesterday, the hand of God was upon them in judgement during that time. They sought wisdom from their priests and diviners as to how to send the Ark back to Israel. They told them to send it with gifts, five golden tumors and five golden rats, according to the number of lords among the Philistines. They reminded them of the error of the Egyptians when God acted upon them, so they hitched two milk cows, never yoked before, to a cart and took their calves from them. Then they pointed the cart toward Israel, containing the ark and the gifts. They presumed that if the cows turned toward Hebrew territory, Beth Shemesh, that it was truly God who afflicted them. If not, it was just a chance disease. The cows went up the road to Beth Shemesh, lowing while they went, and the Philistines followed the cart all the way to the border. When the people of Beth Shemesh saw the Ark, they rejoiced, broke up the cart to make a fire, and offered the cows as a sacrifice to God. However, they looked into the Ark, so God struck them, 50,070 men.
The remaining men of Beth Shemesh felt helpless to keep the Ark, and asked the men of Kirjath Jearim to come and take the Ark back with them. So they came and took the Ark to the house of Abinadab, on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the Ark.
The presence of the Lord is a wonderful and awesome thing. However, one cannot be in the presence of the Lord in a sinful or disobedient manner, or His presence will judge those sins or actions. While we long to be in His presence, and should glory in His presence, we should not disrespect or dishonor His presence. God is a holy God, and those who come into His presence should not do so frivilously or without regard for His holiness. God is worthy of worship, not just observation. Worship him, and bless His holy name!