The Philistines kept the Ark of God in their land seven months.
Then they called for their priests and magicians and said, "What should we do with the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how to send it back home!"
The priests and magicians answered, "If you send back the Ark of the God of Israel, don't send it back empty. You must give a penalty offering. If you are then healed, you will know that it was because of the Ark that you had such trouble."
The Philistines asked, "What kind of penalty offering should we send to Israel's God?" They answered, "Make five gold models of the growths on your skin and five gold models of rats. The number of models must match the number of Philistine kings, because the same sickness has come on you and your kings.
Make models of the growths and the rats that are ruining the country, and give honor to Israel's God. Then maybe he will stop being so hard on you, your gods, and your land.
Don't be stubborn like the king of Egypt and the Egyptians. After God punished them terribly, they let the Israelites leave Egypt.
"You must build a new cart and get two cows that have just had calves. These must be cows that have never had yokes on their necks. Hitch the cows to the cart, and take the calves home, away from their mothers.
Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart and the gold models for the penalty offering in a box beside the Ark. Then send the cart straight on its way.
Watch the cart. If it goes toward Beth Shemesh in Israel's own land, the Lord has given us this great sickness. But if it doesn't, we will know that Israel's God has not punished us. Our sickness just happened by chance."
The Philistines did what the priests and magicians said. They took two cows that had just had calves and hitched them to the cart, but they kept their calves at home.
They put the Ark of the Lord and the box with the gold rats and models of growths on the cart.
Then the cows went straight toward Beth Shemesh. They stayed on the road, mooing all the way, and did not turn right or left. The Philistine kings followed the cows as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the Ark of the Lord, they were very happy.
The cart came to the field belonging to Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped near a large rock. The people of Beth Shemesh chopped up the wood of the cart. Then they sacrificed the cows as burnt offerings to the Lord.
The Levites took down the Ark of the Lord and the box that had the gold models, and they put both on the large rock. That day the people of Beth Shemesh offered whole burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord.
After the five Philistine kings saw this, they went back to Ekron the same day.
The Philistines had sent these gold models of the growths as penalty offerings to the Lord. They sent one model for each Philistine town: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
And the Philistines also sent gold models of rats. The number of rats matched the number of towns belonging to the Philistine kings, including both strong, walled cities and country villages. The large rock on which they put the Ark of the Lord is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.
But some of the men of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark of the Lord. So God killed seventy of them. The people of Beth Shemesh cried because the Lord had struck them down.
They said, "Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Whom will he strike next?"
Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the Ark of the Lord. Come down and take it to your city."