1 When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it back to him without a gift; by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:1-12)
In today’s passage we see that the Philistine’s plan actually worked. The cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road; they did not turn to the right or to the left.
This, of course, should not have happened. Milking cows don’t know how to pull a cart. Even cows that are trained to do so would need to be driven by a driver or follow a human leader; they wouldn’t instinctually stay on a road.
But these cows were sent on their way without any training, going directly to their destination. Obviously this is a miracle. God was controlling these animals in a way that goes against nature and common sense. This isn’t the only example of such a thing in the Bible.
When Balaam mistreated his donkey, the donkey spoke to him [Numbers 22:21-30]. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem He rode on a colt no one had ever sat on [Mark 11:1-11]. Moses saw a bush that was on fire but which did not burn up [Exodus 3:1-15]. The Red Sea parted [Exodus 14:21-29]. The sun stood still [Joshua 10:12-14]. Hungry lions did not eat Daniel [Daniel 6:16-23].
Let’s be honest… there’s a lot of strange stuff in the Bible.
Donkeys don’t speak. Unbroken animals can’t be ridden. The sun does not stand still. Such things go against nature. Many critics will claim, therefore, that these aren’t true stories; they must be fables. But not so fast.
While these things go against what we as humans understand they are not beyond what God can do. If there is a God then none of these things are out the question.
We are the creation. We were created by God [Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 2:10 et. al]. We are, therefore, limited in what we can do and understand. But God is not. He is greater than us.
So the question isn’t, “Are these things possible?”. The question is “Is there a God?”. If the answer to the second question is “Yes” then so must be the answer to the first question.
It’s interesting that the author of our passage today tells us that the cows were lowing all the way. Some commentators suggest the cows were crying for their calves. Obviously, we don’t know what they were thinking. But I like to think that they were actually praising God here.
So there’s no reason why these cows could not praise Him also. In fact, animals may very well understand more about God than we do.
Notice that the rulers of the Philistines followed the cows as far as the border of Beth Shemesh. They were curious. They wanted to know if these cows would actually go, unguided, to Beth Shemesh. They knew that if they did, it would be miraculous. And they did. This miracle was proof to the Philistines that God exists (although we are given no evidence that they acted upon this proof).
God created the universe and all that is in it [Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1-2; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11 et. al]. So obviously, He is in control of all nature [Psalm 65:9-13; Jeremiah 10:13; Mark 4:35-41].
We – the human race – are God’s ultimate creation [Ephesians 2:10]. God is always trying to communicate to us of His existence as well as His love for us.
As He did in today’s passage, it’s not out of the question for God to supernaturally use the natural world to communicate those truths to us.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.