And see if it goeth up by the way of its own coast
The nearest city to the land of the Philistines, which lay on their borders, and the borders of the tribe of Judah, (See Gill on Joshua 15:10). Now the lords of the Philistines are directed by their priests to observe, whether these kine, that drew the cart on which the ark was, took the direct road to the borders of the land of Israel, and to Bethshemesh, the nearest city that lay on that coast: if so, they might conclude then,
he hath done us this great evil;
that is, the God of Israel, whose ark this was; he had inflicted the disease of the emerods on them, and sent such numbers of mice into their fields, that had destroyed the increase of them:
but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that
but that there is some other cause of it:
it was a chance that happened to us;
and so might have been the case if the ark had never been taken or detained, and to be imputed to fate, or to the stars, or some secret causes they know not of.