The Ark in Philistine Hands

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer(A) to Ashdod,(B) brought it into the temple of Dagon[a](C) and placed it next to his statue.[b] When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord.(D) So they took Dagon and returned him to his place. But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. This time, Dagon’s head and both of his hands were broken off and lying on the threshold. Only Dagon’s torso remained.[c] That is why, still today, the priests of Dagon and everyone who enters the temple of Dagon in Ashdod do not step on Dagon’s threshold.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod.(E) He terrified(F) the people of Ashdod and its territory and afflicted them with tumors.[d][e](G) When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of Israel’s God must not stay here with us, because his hand is strongly against us and our god Dagon.” So they called all the Philistine rulers together(H) and asked, “What should we do with the ark of Israel’s God?”

“The ark of Israel’s God should be moved to Gath,” they replied. So they moved the ark of Israel’s God. After they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against the city of Gath,(I) causing a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, from the youngest to the oldest, with an outbreak of tumors.(J)

10 The people of Gath then sent the ark of God to Ekron, but when it got there, the Ekronites cried out, “They’ve moved the ark of Israel’s God to us to kill us and our people!” [f]

11 The Ekronites called all the Philistine rulers together.(K) They said, “Send the ark of Israel’s God away. Let it return to its place so it won’t kill us and our people!” [g] For the fear of death pervaded the city; God’s hand was oppressing them.(L) 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.(M)

The Return of the Ark

When the ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory for seven months, the Philistines summoned the priests and the diviners(N) and pleaded, “What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we can send it back to its place.”

They replied, “If you send the ark of Israel’s God away, do not send it without an offering.(O) Send back a guilt offering to him,(P) and you will be healed. Then the reason his hand hasn’t been removed from you will be revealed.”[h]

They asked, “What guilt offering should we send back to him?”

And they answered, “Five gold tumors and five gold mice(Q) corresponding to the number of Philistine rulers,(R) since there was one plague for both you[i] and your rulers. Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel’s God,(S) and perhaps he will stop oppressing you,[j](T) your gods, and your land.(U) Why harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened theirs?(V) When he afflicted them, didn’t they send Israel away, and Israel left?(W)

“Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked.(X) Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects that you’re sending him as a guilt offering in a box(Y) beside the ark.(Z) Send it off and let it go its way. Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh,(AA) it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn’t, we will know that it was not his hand that punished(AB) us—it was just something that happened to us by chance.”

10 The men did this: They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and confined their calves in the pen. 11 Then they put the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the box containing the gold mice and the images of their tumors. 12 The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh.(AC) They stayed on that one highway,(AD) lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left. The Philistine rulers were walking behind them to the territory of Beth-shemesh.

13 The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed to see it. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord.(AE) 15 The Levites(AF) removed the ark of the Lord, along with the box containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. That day the people of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 When the five Philistine rulers(AG) observed this, they returned to Ekron that same day.

17 As a guilt offering to the Lord, the Philistines had sent back one gold tumor for each city:(AH) Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The number of gold mice also corresponded to the number of Philistine cities of the five rulers, the fortified cities and the outlying villages.(AI) The large rock[k](AJ) on which the ark of the Lord was placed is still in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh today.

19 God struck down the people of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the Lord.[l](AK) He struck down seventy persons.[m] The people mourned because the Lord struck them with a great slaughter. 20 The people of Beth-shemesh asked, “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord this holy God?(AL) To whom should the ark go from here?”

21 They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim,(AM) saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and get it.”[n]

Footnotes

  1. 5:2 A Philistine god of the sea, grain, or storm
  2. 5:2 Lit to Dagon
  3. 5:4 LXX; Hb reads Only Dagon remained on it
  4. 5:6 LXX adds He brought up mice against them, and they swarmed in their ships. Then mice went up into the land and there was a mortal panic in the city.
  5. 5:6 Perhaps bubonic plague
  6. 5:10 DSS, LXX read “Why have you moved... people?”
  7. 5:11 DSS, LXX read “Why don’t you return it to... people?”
  8. 6:3 DSS, LXX read healed, and an atonement shall be made for you. Shouldn’t his hand be removed from you?”
  9. 6:4 Some Hb mss, LXX; other Hb mss read them
  10. 6:5 Lit will lighten the heaviness of his hand from you
  11. 6:18 Some Hb mss, LXX, Tg; other Hb mss read meadow
  12. 6:19 LXX reads But the sons of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the men of Beth-shemesh when they saw the ark of the Lord.
  13. 6:19 Some Hb mss, Josephus; other Hb mss read 70 men, 50,000 men
  14. 6:21 Lit and bring it up to you

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