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Two Cows and an Ark

Read 1 Samuel 6:1-18

“Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen. Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want. If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the Lord who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance.”

So these instructions were carried out. Two cows were hitched to the cart, and their newborn calves were shut up in a pen. Then the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors were placed on the cart. And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went. The Philistine rulers followed them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:7-12)


The Philistine priests and diviners devised a test to see if the God of the Hebrews was really the one who had caused their recent troubles. Two cows that had just given birth were hitched to a cart and sent toward Israel’s border carrying the Ark of the Covenant. For a cow to leave her nursing calf, she would have to go against all her motherly instincts. Only God, who has power over the natural order, could cause this to happen. God sent the cows to Israel, not to pass the Philistines’ test, but to demonstrate his mighty power.

The Philistines acknowledged the existence of the Hebrew God but only as one of many deities whose favor they sought. Thinking of God in this way made it easy for them to ignore his demand that people worship him alone. Many people “worship” God this way. They see God as just one ingredient in a successful life. But God is far more than an ingredient—he is the source of life itself.


Ask God to purge you of any “Philistine” attitudes, seeing God’s favor as only an ingredient of the good life. Stay true to the one true God and he will stay true to you.

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