The city of Beth-shemesh was given to the Levites when they were given their possession by lot in the days of Joshua, following the Conquest of Canaan (Josh. 21:16). Years later, during the days of the Judges, the Philistines captured the ark in battle with Israel (1 Sam. 4), but when they were divinely punished they allowed the ark to return. The two cows pulling the cart from Philistian Ekron “headed straight for the road to Beth-shemesh” (1 Sam. 6:12).
Later, in the days of the Divided Kingdom, King Amaziah (Judah) challenged King Jehoash (Israel) to battle. This may have been in retaliation for the destruction and looting carried out by the Israelite mercenaries Amaziah had hired, but then sent back home (2 Chron. 25:6-13). Beth-shemesh was the meeting point of the two armies, which resulted in Amaziah being soundly defeated. The theological reason is given by the inspired historian: “But Amaziah would not listen, for it was from God, that He might deliver them into the hand of Joash because they had sought the gods of Edom.” It was because of Amaziah’s idolatry that God orchestrated events to punish Amaziah. Ironically, it was after God had given Amaziah victory in battle against Edom that Amaziah then decided to worship the gods of Edom!
Ferrell Jenkins and I had the opportunity to briefly see Beth-shemesh this past March.
Click images for larger view.