1 Samuel 4-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
The Ark of God Captured
In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel,[a] and Israel went out to battle against them;[b] they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined,[c] Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid; for they said, “Gods have[d] come into the camp.” They also said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”
10 So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Death of Eli
12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line, and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with earth upon his head. 13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting upon his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. When the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man came quickly and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set, so that he could not see. 16 The man said to Eli, “I have just come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” He said, “How did it go, my son?” 17 The messenger replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli[e] fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. When she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth; for her labor pains overwhelmed her. 20 As she was about to die, the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or give heed. 21 She named the child Ichabod, meaning, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
The Philistines and the Ark
5 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod; 2 then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and placed it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold; only the trunk of[f] Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
6 The hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and struck them with tumors, both in Ashdod and in its territory. 7 And when the inhabitants of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy on us and on our god Dagon.” 8 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” The inhabitants of Gath replied, “Let the ark of God be moved on to us.”[g] So they moved the ark of the God of Israel to Gath.[h] 9 But after they had brought it to Gath,[i] the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic; he struck the inhabitants of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10 So they sent the ark of the God of Israel[j] to Ekron. But when the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “Why[k] have they brought around to us[l] the ark of the God of Israel to kill us[m] and our[n] people?” 11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic[o] throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there; 12 those who did not die were stricken with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
The Ark Returned to Israel
6 The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 Then the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us what we should send with it to its place.” 3 They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and will be ransomed;[p] will not his hand then turn from you?” 4 And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for the same plague was upon all of you and upon your lords. 5 So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps he will lighten his hand on you and your gods and your land. 6 Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had made fools of them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? 7 Now then, get ready a new cart and two milch cows that have never borne a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. 8 Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart, and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off, and let it go its way. 9 And watch; if it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.”
10 The men did so; they took two milch cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12 The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. When they looked up and saw the ark, they went with rejoicing to meet it.[q] 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there. A large stone was there; so they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the gold objects, and set them upon the large stone. Then the people of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and presented sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.
17 These are the gold tumors, which the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18 also the gold mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone, beside which they set down the ark of the Lord, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
The Ark at Kiriath-jearim
19 The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-shemesh when they greeted[r] the ark of the Lord; and he killed seventy men of them.[s] The people mourned because the Lord had made a great slaughter among the people. 20 Then the people of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? To whom shall he go so that we may be rid of him?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”