The Ark Returned to Israel
1Now the ark of the Lord had been in the country of the Philistines for seven months. 2And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners (seers), saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Let us know how we can send it back to its place.” 3They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty [without a gift]; but be sure to return [it] to Him [together with] a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” 4Then they said, “What shall the guilt offering be which we shall return to Him?” They answered, “#It was customary in some ancient cultures to make replicas of injured or diseased body parts as offerings to gods for healing. These were called votive offerings. Moreover, worshipers of pagan gods often were not adverse to acknowledging the existence of other, powerful gods outside their own cultures, and in this case the exploits of the God who was inflicting their punishment were already well known (v 6).Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords (governors) of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5So you shall make replicas of your tumors and of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten His hand [of judgment] on you and your gods and your land. 6Why then do you harden your hearts [allowing pride to cause your downfall] just as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them and mocked them, did they not allow the people [of Israel] to go, and they departed? 7Now then, make a new cart and prepare two #Here this refers to cows still nursing their calves.milk cows on which a yoke has never been placed; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves back home, away from them. 8Then take the ark of the Lord and put it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a guilt offering in a box beside it. Then send it away [without a driver]. 9But watch, #The nature of the milk cows would be to turn back toward their calves, not proceed forward, as they did, toward Beth-shemesh.if it goes up by the way of its own territory to #A town belonging to the tribe of the sons of Judah.Beth-shemesh, then [you will know that] He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; this disaster happened to us by chance.”
10And the men did so, and took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and corralled their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box containing the golden mice and the replicas of their tumors. 12And the cows went straight toward Beth-shemesh along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn away to the right or the left. And the Philistine lords (governors) followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh.
13Now the men of Beth-shemesh were gathering their wheat harvest in the valley, and they looked up and saw the ark and rejoiced to see it. 14The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A large stone was there; and the men split up the wood of the cart [for firewood] and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15The Levites had taken down the ark of the Lord and the box beside it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices that day to the Lord. 16When the five lords of the Philistines saw what happened, they returned to Ekron that day.
17These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath and one for Ekron [the five chief cities of the Philistines]; 18also the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and [unwalled] country villages. The large stone on which the Levites set the ark of the Lord remains a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
19The Lord struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck down 50,070 men among the people, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” 21So they sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”