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We jumped seven months into the future, alighting at the tomb of Samson. Sippore flew high into the sky, while we walked the short distance to the house of Manoah. We were greeted by Dogma, who informed the rest of the household of our arrival. The door opened, and Azzah and Nahum met us.
“Shalom!” Nahum said brightly. “I see you have come to celebrate our wedding, but you are a day late!”
“We were married yesterday,” Azzah added. “We now live here.” Her eyes were filled with love and optimism. Gone was any remaining trace of sadness over the events of the past.
“Well, that is good news,” Sipporah replied. “But we were unaware of the wedding plans and have brought no gift for you.”
“You gave us a priceless gift already,” said Azzah. “You gave us a great companion.” She pointed to Dogma, who stood there looking happy but slightly embarrassed.
“I believe Dogma is blushing under that face full of hair,” I said. “I am glad to know that he has found a good home that is full of love.”
“Come in,” Azzah said, stepping aside and holding the door open for us to enter.
“How is Naamah? Is she well?”
A slight shadow fell on Azzah’s face. “She died soon after you left us the last time,” she said sadly. “I think that her heart was broken after burying her son. Being childless, Manoah’s inheritance passed to his brother, Bocheru, who gave it to Nahum, so we now live here.”
“No doubt you will drive away the spirit of sorrow from this place, and I am sure that the two of you will be good stewards of the land,” I said, looking at Nahum. “Congratulations! But how is your father?”
“My father is old, but he is doing well,” he replied. “The servants take care of him, and, of course, he still has my brother Micah.”
We spent the rest of the day and evening catching up on recent events. By this time they knew of Eli’s death and the death of Hophni and Phinehas. They told how the Philistines has raided Shiloh shortly after defeating the Israelite army. Having taken the Ark, they had the confidence to make war on the priests themselves and to destroy the sanctuary. The new High Priest, Ahijah, son of Ahitub, had escaped to Nob, along with his younger brother, Ahimelech, they said. Ahijah was now the High Priest at the new altar. 135
Nahum and Azzah had been married at the feast of Pentecost, which they celebrated at the house of Bocheru, since they could no longer go to Shiloh. Israel was without a formal religious center where the people could gather to keep the feasts.
The next day we rested and continued to enjoy the fellowship. Micah brought his elderly father with him, who blessed God for allowing him to meet us at Ashdod many years earlier. “That day changed my life,” he said, “and restored me to my family. See how blessed I have been! I will now soon have grandchildren!”
Early in the afternoon, Sipporah heard a light tap on the window and saw Sippore sitting on the ledge. She went to the window, and the dove hopped upon her shoulder, whispering in her ear.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It seems that the Philistines have returned the Ark to Israel,” she said. “They sent it on a cart from Ashdod to Beth-shemesh, the House of the Rising Sun— above the Valley of Sorek. 136 It is the town for which Samson was named. Perhaps we should investigate this happy event.”
“Then let us go immediately!” Nahum said.
“Such a trip is too far for me,” Bocheru said, “but please return as quickly as possible and tell me the news.”
Nahum and Azzah quickly harnessed the donkey to the cart and followed Sipporah and I on the horses. Dogma ran ahead of us with his nose to the ground. Sippore flew into the trees and disappeared from our sight.
We made our way down the hill on the road to Timnah, but we turned left at the bottom of the hill, riding into the Valley of Sorek. It was not long before we began to approach Aphek and Beth-shemesh, which stood on the ridge above Aphek.
We made our way to the town, and the donkey strained to pull the wagon up the long hill as Nahum urged him onward. When we arrived, we were surprised to see only devastation around us. The cows that were hitched to the cart stood still, and the Ark stood on the cart. Dozens of dead bodies lay around it. Survivors peeked out from their shuttered windows, too fearful to come out of their houses.
“What has happened here?” Nahum asked. “What shall we do?”
“Stay here,” I said. “It appears that some of the men opened the Ark to see if the tables of the law were still there. They should not have touched the Ark. I believe that the Ark gave them an electrical shock.”
“Electrical shock?” Nahum asked. “What is that?”
“It is what we call the power of God,” I explained. “The Ark is built as a capacitor.”
“What is a capacitor?” Nahum asked, still puzzled.
“I cannot explain it to you properly,” I replied. “I can say only that it gathers the power of God to itself. That power is released upon those who touch it.”
I went to one of the nearby houses and knocked on the door. The door opened just a crack, and the occupants told me that the men had been harvesting their wheat when they saw the Ark approaching in the valley. When the cart came up the hill, they rejoiced and opened the Ark, checking to see if the Philistines had removed its contents.
The Ark, they said, seemed to explode with thunder and lightning, and suddenly, the men lay dead all around the cart. The rest of the people were too frightened to emerge from their houses—even to check on their dead family members. They desperately wanted to get rid of the Ark, but only priests were allowed to carry it, and there were no priests in Beth-shemesh.
“Our town is not worthy of the Ark, so we have sent a runner to Kirjeath-jearim 137 to fetch some priests and servants of the tabernacle to remove it,” the voice said through the cracked door. “He is a swift runner, and so we hope that priests will come as quickly as possible to remove the danger from our town.”
I returned to the group and reported what the people had said. There was nothing to do but wait for the priests to come and fetch the Ark. Meanwhile, however, I decided to take a look at the Ark for myself. Riding Pegasus toward the cart, I stopped in front of it. The Ark rested on two poles, which had been thrust into the golden rings on either side. The poles extended from either side of the cart, suspending the Ark above the floor of the cart itself.
Above the Ark were two golden cherubim, winged figures hovering over the mercy seat and facing each other from the long ends of the Ark. The door on the front side of the Ark was open, and I could see the tables of the law inside next to a container of manna. I could not see if there was yet any manna in the container.
“Close the door,” a voice said from between the cherubim. I looked up and saw that the two golden cherubim above the Ark had come to life. They were now standing erect upon the Ark, and they held flaming swords that crossed each other over the center of the Ark. Their eyes pierced deep within my heart, yet I felt no fear, though all things were laid bare before their relentless gaze.
I reached out and closed the door of the Ark.
“The time has not yet come to open the Ark,” one of them continued. “It is not to be opened at the Shavuot, the feast of wheat harvest, but only when the feast of Sukkoth is fulfilled.” 138
“I understand,” I replied, “but the people of Beth-shemesh do not.”
“Their ears are dull,” the cherub explained, “and they fail to see that their inability to hear and to know My law prevents them from entering My presence. That is why Yahweh dwells behind veils. It is not that He wants to separate Himself from them, but that their hearts are hardened. Since the days of Moses, when their forefathers rejected His voice at the first Shavuot, they have been unable to draw close to Him. Yet this separation began long before that time.”
“It seems,” I replied, “that they do not understand the reason Yahweh withdrew behind curtains.”
“The cause has not yet been revealed to them,” the cherub said. “Only when they repent of their rejection of Yahweh at Mount Horeb and overcome their fear of His presence will they be able to look into the Ark and live.”
“So what will happen now?” I asked. “Who can take the Ark from this place?”
“Priests now come from Kirjath-jearim, and their humble servants with them. These servants have been faithful for many years and represent the Melchizedek Order that has touched Yahweh’s heart. Tell the priests of Levi to sacrifice these two cows as a burnt offering to cleanse themselves from their iniquity. But do not let them carry the Ark, for I have given the Despised Ones this honor.”
“Despised Ones? Who are these people?”
“They are the descendants of those Canaanites who made a covenant with Joshua. 139 Although their fathers deceived Joshua, and have paid the penalty for such deception, it was Yahweh’s will from the beginning that they would fulfill the prophecy of Noah. Noah cursed them to be servants of Yahweh, the God of Shem. 140 Hence, they have been faithful servants in His house and are part of His household of faith, the seed of Abraham.”
“And since Shem was the original Melchizedek,” I added, “they are of the Melchizedek Order.”
“That is so,” the cherub said, “but they are also the Despised Ones, for few in Israel understand these things. The people of Kirjeath-jearim are considered to be perpetual slaves of the tabernacles, unworthy of Yahweh’s esteem. But the priests of Levi have corrupted themselves, and for this reason Yahweh removed the Ark from their jurisdiction for a season. Now the Despised Ones are called to bring the Ark back to Israel.”
“I will instruct them,” I promised. “But some in Israel may grumble when the Shekinah is carried by people who are not descendants of Aaron.”
“Tell them to carry the Ark to their home town and to place it in the house of Abinadab, a righteous Levite, for he and his son Eleazar have shown themselves willing to hear and to do Yahweh’s will. 141 They have already built a house for the Shekinah, not knowing why. They heard the Voice of the Spirit to build this house, and their faith shall be rewarded.”
“It was never His will that Israel should think that His presence was only for them,” the cherub said. “They have already seen how Yahweh gave the Ark to the Philistines, and now they will see that He also honors Canaanites who serve Him with their whole heart.”
“I will tell them,” I said, “but no doubt they will soon forget. Yet a generation will rise up who will understand Yahweh’s universal love for men and women of every nation.”
Toward the end of the day, the priests from Kirjeath-jearim arrived. I instructed them according to the word of Yahweh, putting the Despised Ones in charge of the Ark, with the Levitical priests as their servants, as instructed by the cherub. The Despised Ones carefully removed the Ark from the cart and placed it on the large stone at Beth-shemesh that overlooked the valley. 142 A tent was placed over the Ark until it could be carried away.
Then the priests of Levi offered the cows in sacrifice, and the wood of the cart was used to kindle the fire. Female sacrifices, I noted, were offered for the congregation, while male sacrifices are offered on behalf of leaders—Kings or High Priests. This was a sacrifice of cows, female offerings to cleanse the people.