They answered, "If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it away empty,1 but by all means send a guilt offering2 to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand3 has not been lifted from you."
The Philistines asked, "What guilt offering should we send to him?" They replied, "Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number4 of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague5 has struck both you and your rulers.
Make models of the tumors6 and of the rats that are destroying the country, and pay honor7 to Israel's god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land.
Why do you harden8 your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When hea treated them harshly,9 did they10 not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?
"Now then, get a new cart11 ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked.12 Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.
Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way,
but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh,13 then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance."
So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves.
They placed the ark of the LORD on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors.
Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat14 in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight.