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The Ark Is Returned to Israel

The ark of Yahweh had been in Philistine territory seven months when the Philistines called for priests and people skilled in explaining omens. The Philistines asked, “What should we do with the ark of Yahweh? Tell us how to return it to its proper place.”

The priests answered, “If you’re returning the ark of the Elohim of Israel, don’t send it away empty, but by all means return it to its proper place with a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and you will know why he would not turn his anger away from you.”

The Philistines asked, “What kind of guilt offering should we give him?”

The priests answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice for the five Philistine rulers because all of you and your rulers suffer from the same plague. Make models of your tumors and your mice which are destroying the country, and give glory to the Elohim of Israel. Maybe he will no longer be so hard on you, your gods, and your country. Why should you be as stubborn as the Egyptians and their Pharaoh were? After he toyed with the Egyptians, didn’t they send the Israelites on their way? Now get a new cart ready for two dairy cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart. Take their calves away, and leave them in their stall. Take the ark of Yahweh, and put it on the cart. Put the gold objects which you’re giving him as a guilt offering in a box beside the ark. Send the cart on its way, but then watch where it goes. If it goes up the road to its own country toward Beth Shemesh, then this disaster is Yahweh’s doing. But if not, we’ll know it wasn’t his hand that struck us, but what happened to us was an accident.”

10 The people did this. They took two dairy cows, hitched them to a cart, and shut the calves in the stall. 11 They put the ark of Yahweh and the box containing the gold mice and the models of their hemorrhoids on the cart. 12 The cows went straight up the road to Beth Shemesh. Continually mooing, they stayed on the road and didn’t turn right or left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped there by a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to Yahweh. 15 (The Levites had already taken down from the cart the ark of Yahweh and the box which contained the gold objects and put them on the large rock.) The people of Beth Shemesh presented burnt offerings and sacrifices to Yahweh that day. 16 After the five rulers of the Philistines saw this, they went back to Ekron that same day.

17 The gold hemorrhoids which the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to Yahweh were for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 And the number of gold mice was the same as the number of Philistine cities belonging to the five rulers, including walled cities and farm villages. The large rock on which they put the ark of Yahweh is a witness.[a] It is still there today in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

19 Elohim struck down some of the people from Beth Shemesh because they looked inside the ark of Yahweh. He struck down 70 people.[b] The people mourned because Yahweh struck them with such a great blow. 20 The people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand before Yahweh, this holy Elohim? And to which people will he go when he leaves us?” 21 They sent messengers to the people living at Kiriath Jearim to say, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of Yahweh. Come and take it back with you.”


  1. 1 Samuel 6:18 Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  2. 1 Samuel 6:19 “70 people” is found in a few Hebrew manuscripts and the writings of the ancient Jewish historian Josephus. Masoretic Text and Greek read “50,070 people.”