Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Return of the Ark

The Philistines, who had won such a brilliant victory, and had secured such a fine prize, were beside themselves with joy. But when they again entered their temple, this joy was changed into amazement; for they found their god lying in fragments at the foot of the Ark.

Soon after, all the men of the city became ill, and hosts of mice overran the land, causing great damage. They soon blamed the Ark for these misfortunes, and carried it elsewhere; but wherever it went, plagues and calamities went with it. Weary of suffering, the Philistines finally made up their minds to send the Ark back to the Israelites.

Under the direction of their priests, they made golden emblems of their plagues, placed them in a coffer of precious wood, and set it with the Ark upon a new cart, to which they harnessed two young cows that had never yet borne the yoke.

These animals were allowed to go as they pleased, and soon turned into the road leading to Bethshemesh, slowly followed by five Philistine lords, who wished to see what would happen. The cart passed near some harvest fields, where the Israelites were working, and when they saw the Ark they rejoiced aloud.

Then the Levites came forward and took possession of the treasure. They used the cart for firewood and the cows for victims, and offered up a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the miraculous return of the Ark which they had lost.

But some of the men, having ventured to peer into the Ark in idle curiosity, were slain. When the people of Beth-shemesh saw this, they were afraid to keep the Ark among them, and begged the men of Kirjath-jearim to take it into their city. This request was cheerfully complied with, and the Ark remained there for many years, causing many blessings to fall upon the house under whose roof it had found shelter.

The Israelites had failed to shake off the Philistine yoke as easily as they expected; so they now gladly listened to Samuelís advice, and began to repent of their sins. To recover the favor of God, they set aside the idols which they worshiped. Then they came together at Mizpeh and implored Samuel to pray aloud in their behalf.

In the very midst of this prayer, their old enemies, the Philistines, fell upon them. But this time the Lord was with his people, and he sent a sudden and timely thunderstorm, which filled the hearts of the Philistines with superstitious dread. They were so terrified that they turned and fled, and thus the Israelites won an easy victory.

This battle put an end to the Philistine oppression, which had lasted forty years; and Samuel, growing old, now judged Israel with the help of his two sons. The prophet dwelt at Ramah, where the people often came to consult him, because they knew that he could give them very good advice.

The end of Samuelís long life was clouded on account of the bad behavior of his sons, and because of the persistent request of the elders that he would give them a king. They said that they wanted such a ruler to defend them in case of new attacks on the part of their enemies.

Samuel vainly tried to convince the elders that God was the best king, and that the theocracy under which they lived was the very best system of government for them; they would not believe him. So Samuel, warned by God that it would be well to give the people their own way, finally told them that he would soon choose a king for them.

A few days later, a young man named Saul came to the prophet to ask where he could find his fatherís asses, which had wandered out of their pasture and were lost. Advised by God, Samuel led the man into his own house, told him that the asses were already found, and, after detaining him over night, started out with him on his homeward journey on the morrow.