The Return of the Ark of Covenant
1Now the ark of Yahweh had been in the territory of the Philistines for seven months, 2and the Philistines called to the priests and to those who practiced divination, saying, “What should we do with the ark of Yahweh? Inform us how we should send it to its place.” 3They said, “If you are sending the ark of the God of Israel away, you must not send it away empty, but by all means return it with a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will become known to you why his hand is not turned aside from you.” 4And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we should return to him?” They said, “The number of the rulers of the Philistines is five. Therefore send five gold tumors#The Masoretic Hebrew text (Kethib) reads “boils”; the reading tradition (Qere) has “tumors” and five gold mice, because one plague was on all of you and all your rulers. 5You must make images of your tumors#The Masoretic Hebrew text (Kethib) reads “boils”; the reading tradition (Qere) has “tumors” and images of your mice that are ravaging the land, and you must give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand on you and on your gods and on your land. 6Why should you harden your hearts like the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their heart? Is it not just like when he dealt with them wantonly so that they sent them away and they left? 7So then, prepare#Literally “take and make” one new utility cart and two milking cows that have never had a yoke on them, and you must harness the cows to the utility cart and then turn their calves from following them to their stall. 8And you must take the ark of Yahweh and place it on the utility cart with the gold objects that you are returning to him as a guilt offering. You must place them in the container#Or perhaps “chest” or “bag” beside the ark and then send it off so that it goes away. 9You must watch; if it goes up by the way of its territory to Beth Shemesh, he has caused this great disaster to come on us. But if not, then we will know his hand has not struck us; it was by chance that this happened to us. 10So the men did so; they took two milking cows and harnessed them to the utility cart, but they shut up their calves in the stall. 11Then they put the ark of Yahweh on the utility cart with the container#Or perhaps “chest” or “bag” holding the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12The cows went straight on the way on the road to Beth Shemesh, on the one main road, lowing as they went.#Literally “they went going and lowing” They did not turn aside to the right or to the left, and the rulers of the Philistines were walking after them up to the border of Beth Shemesh.
13Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping the wheat harvest in the valley. They lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and they were glad to see it. 14The utility cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped there where there was a large stone. They split the wood of the utility cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to Yahweh. 15Then the Levites took down the ark of Yahweh and the container#Or perhaps “chest” or “bag” that was beside it, in which were the gold objects, and they set them on the large stone.#The Masoretic Hebrew text reads “Abel” here; some Hebrew manuscripts and LXX read “stone” (see 6:14–15) Then the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings, and they made#Literally “sacrificed” sacrifices to Yahweh on that day. 16The five rulers of the Philistines saw it and returned to Ekron that same day.
17Now these are the gold tumors which the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to Yahweh: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron. 18And the gold mice according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines, for their five rulers, from the fortified city to the unwalled village of the open country as far as the great stone, where they set#Literally “which they set down on it” the ark of Yahweh until this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. 19He#That is, Yahweh struck seventy men#Though the MT has “seventy men, fifty thousand men” (= 50,070), it is likely the original was “seventy men” among the men of Beth Shemesh because they looked into the ark of Yahweh. So the people mourned because Yahweh had struck a great blow among the people. 20Then the men of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God? And to whom shall it#That is, the ark of the covenant (alternatively read as “he,” referring to Yahweh) go up from us?” 21So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath Jearim saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of Yahweh. Come down and take it up to yourselves.”