When the ark of the Lord had been in the land of the Philistines for seven months,
the Philistines summoned the priests and the diviners and pleaded, "What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we can send it back to its place."
They replied, "If you send the ark of Israel's God away, you must not send it without [an offering].a You must return it with a guilt offering, and you will be healed. Then the reason His hand hasn't been removed from you will be revealed."b4
They asked, "What guilt offering should we send back to Him?" And they answered, "Five gold tumors and five gold mice [corresponding to] the number of Philistine rulers,c since there was one plague for both youd and your rulers.
Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel's God, and perhaps He will stop oppressing you,e your gods, and your land.
Why harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened theirs? When He afflicted them, didn't they send Israel away, and Israel left?f7
"Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked.g Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.
Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects in a box beside it, which you're sending Him as a guilt offering. Send it off and let it go its way.
Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh,h it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn't, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us-it was just something that happened to us by chance."
The men did this: They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and confined their calves in the pen.
Then they put the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the box [containing] the gold mice and the images of the tumors.
The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on that one highway, lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left. The Philistine rulers were walking behind them to the territory of Beth-shemesh.
The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed to see it.
The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.i15
The Levitesj removed the ark of the Lord, along with the box containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. That day the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord.
When the five Philistine rulersk observed [this], they returned to Ekron that same day.
As a guilt offering to the Lord, the Philistines had sent back one gold tumor for each city: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
The number of gold mice also [corresponded] to the number of Philistine cities of the five rulers, the fortified cities and the outlying villages. The large rockl on which the ark of the Lord was placed is in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh to this day.
God struck down the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the Lord.mnHe struck down 70 men [out of] 50,000 men.o The people wept because the Lord struck them with a great slaughter.
The men of Beth-shemesh asked, "Who is able to stand in the presence of this holy Lord God?p Who should the ark go to from here?"
They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and get it."q