1After the Ark of the Lord had been in the country of the Philistines for seven months,
2the Philistines summoned the priests and fortune-tellers, and asked, “What should we do with the Ark of the Lord? Explain to us how to send it back to where it came from.”
3“If you're going to send back the Ark of the God of Israel, do not send it back empty-handedly, but make sure to send along with it a gift of a guilt offering to him,” they replied. “Then you will be healed, and you will understand why he has treated you like this.”
4“What kind of guilt offering should we send back to him?” asked the Philistines. “Five gold objects in the shape of the swellings, and five gold rats representing the number of rulers of the Philistines,” they replied. “The same plague attacked both you and your rulers.
5Make models to represent your swellings and the rats destroying the country, and honor the God of Israel. Perhaps he will stop punishing you, your gods, and your land.
6Why be stubborn like the Egyptians and Pharaoh? When he punished them, didn't they send the Israelites on their way as they left?
7So get a new cart ready, pulled by two milk cows that have never been yoked. Tie the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and put them in a stall.
8Pick up the Ark of the Lord, put it on the cart, and place the gold objects you are sending him as a guilt offering in a chest beside it. Then send the Ark away. Let it go whichever way it wants,
9but keep watching it. If it goes up the road to its home country, to Beth-shemesh, then it is the Lord who caused all this terrible trouble for us. But if it doesn't, then we'll know that it wasn't him who punished us—it just happened to us by chance.”
10So that's what the people did. They took two milk cows and tied them to the cart, and kept their calves in a stall.
11They put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, together with the chest containing the gold rats and models of their swellings.
12The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went, going directly on the main road and not turning either left or right. The Philistine rulers followed them all the way to the border of Beth-shemesh.
13The people of Beth-shemesh were reaping wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the Ark, they were so happy to see it.
14The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there beside a large rock. The people cut up the cart for wood and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.
15The Levites took down the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold objects, and put them on the large rock. The people of Beth-shemesh presented burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord that day.
16The five Philistine rulers saw all that happened this and then went back to Ekron the same day.
17The five gold models of swellings sent by the Philistines as a guilt offering to the Lord were from the rulers of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
18The gold rats represented the number of Philistine towns of the five rulers—the fortified towns and their surrounding villages. The large rock on which they placed the Ark of the Lord still stands to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh as a witness to what happened there.
19But God killed some of the people of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the Ark of the Lord. He killed seventy, and the people mourned deeply because the Lord had killed so many.
20The people of Beth-shemesh asked, “Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Where should the Ark go from here?”
21They sent messengers to the people of Kiriath-jearim to say, “The Philistines have returned the Ark of the Lord. Come down and take it home with you.”