1 Samuel 4-6 New Century Version (NCV)
4 So, news about Samuel spread through all of Israel.
The Philistines Capture the Ark of the Agreement
At that time the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek. 2 The Philistines went to meet the Israelites in battle. And as the battle spread, they defeated the Israelites, killing about four thousand soldiers on the battlefield. 3 When some Israelite soldiers went back to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord let the Philistines defeat us? Let’s bring the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord here from Shiloh and take it with us into battle. Then God will save us from our enemies.”
4 So the people sent men to Shiloh. They brought back the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord All-Powerful, who sits between the gold creatures with wings. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the Ark.
5 When the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord came into the camp, all the Israelites gave a great shout of joy that made the ground shake. 6 When the Philistines heard Israel’s shout, they asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”
Then the Philistines found out that the Ark of the Lord had come into the Hebrew camp. 7 They were afraid and said, “A god has come into the Hebrew camp! We’re in trouble! This has never happened before! 8 How terrible it will be for us! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They are the ones who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of disasters in the desert. 9 Be brave, Philistines! Fight like men! In the past they were our slaves. So fight like men, or we will become their slaves.”
10 So the Philistines fought hard and defeated the Israelites, and every Israelite soldier ran away to his own home. It was a great defeat for Israel, because thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were killed. 11 The Ark of God was taken by the Philistines, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
12 That same day a man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battle. He tore his clothes and put dust on his head to show his great sadness. 13 When he arrived in Shiloh, Eli was by the side of the road. He was sitting there in a chair, watching, because he was worried about the Ark of God. When the Benjaminite entered Shiloh, he told the bad news. Then all the people in town cried loudly. 14 Eli heard the crying and asked, “What’s all this noise?”
The Benjaminite ran to Eli and told him what had happened. 15 Eli was now ninety-eight years old, and he was blind. 16 The Benjaminite told him, “I have come from the battle. I ran all the way here today.”
Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”
17 The Benjaminite answered, “Israel ran away from the Philistines, and the Israelite army has lost many soldiers. Your two sons are both dead, and the Philistines have taken the Ark of God.”
18 When he mentioned the Ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair. He fell beside the gate, broke his neck, and died, because he was old and fat. He had led Israel for forty years.
The Glory Is Gone
19 Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and was about to give birth. When she heard the news that the Ark of God had been taken and that Eli, her father-in-law, and Phinehas, her husband, were both dead, she began to give birth to her child. The child was born, but the mother had much trouble in giving birth. 20 As she was dying, the women who helped her said, “Don’t worry! You’ve given birth to a son!” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 She named the baby Ichabod,[a] saying, “Israel’s glory is gone.” She said this because the Ark of God had been taken and her father-in-law and husband were dead. 22 She said, “Israel’s glory is gone, because the Ark of God has been taken away.”
Trouble for the Philistines
5 After the Philistines had captured the Ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 They carried it into Dagon’s temple and put it next to Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next morning, they found that Dagon had fallen on his face on the ground before the Ark of the Lord. So they put Dagon back in his place. 4 The next morning when they rose, they again found Dagon fallen on the ground before the Ark of the Lord. His head and hands had broken off and were lying in the doorway. Only his body was still in one piece. 5 So, even today, Dagon’s priests and others who enter his temple at Ashdod refuse to step on the doorsill.
6 The Lord was hard on the people of Ashdod and their neighbors. He caused them to suffer and gave them growths on their skin. 7 When the people of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The Ark of the God of Israel can’t stay with us. God is punishing us and Dagon our god.” 8 The people of Ashdod called all five Philistine kings together and asked them, “What should we do with the Ark of the God of Israel?”
The rulers answered, “Move the Ark of the God of Israel to Gath.” So the Philistines moved it to Gath.
9 But after they moved it to Gath, there was a great panic. The Lord was hard on that city also, and he gave both old and young people in Gath growths on their skin. 10 Then the Philistines sent the Ark of God to Ekron.
But when it came into Ekron, the people of Ekron yelled, “Why are you bringing the Ark of the God of Israel to our city? Do you want to kill us and our people?” 11 So they called all the kings of the Philistines together and said, “Send the Ark of the God of Israel back to its place before it kills us and our people!” All the people in the city were struck with terror because God was so hard on them there. 12 The people who did not die were troubled with growths on their skin. So the people of Ekron cried loudly to heaven.
The Ark of God Is Sent Home
6 The Philistines kept the Ark of God in their land seven months. 2 Then they called for their priests and magicians and said, “What should we do with the Ark of the Lord? Tell us how to send it back home!”
3 The priests and magicians answered, “If you send back the Ark of the God of Israel, don’t send it back empty. You must give a penalty offering. If you are then healed, you will know that it was because of the Ark that you had such trouble.”
4 The Philistines asked, “What kind of penalty offering should we send to Israel’s God?”
They answered, “Make five gold models of the growths on your skin and five gold models of rats. The number of models must match the number of Philistine kings, because the same sickness has come on you and your kings. 5 Make models of the growths and the rats that are ruining the country, and give honor to Israel’s God. Then maybe he will stop being so hard on you, your gods, and your land. 6 Don’t be stubborn like the king of Egypt and the Egyptians. After God punished them terribly, they let the Israelites leave Egypt.
7 “You must build a new cart and get two cows that have just had calves. These must be cows that have never had yokes on their necks. Hitch the cows to the cart, and take the calves home, away from their mothers. 8 Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart and the gold models for the penalty offering in a box beside the Ark. Then send the cart straight on its way. 9 Watch the cart. If it goes toward Beth Shemesh in Israel’s own land, the Lord has given us this great sickness. But if it doesn’t, we will know that Israel’s God has not punished us. Our sickness just happened by chance.”
10 The Philistines did what the priests and magicians said. They took two cows that had just had calves and hitched them to the cart, but they kept their calves at home. 11 They put the Ark of the Lord and the box with the gold rats and models of growths on the cart. 12 Then the cows went straight toward Beth Shemesh. They stayed on the road, mooing all the way, and did not turn right or left. The Philistine kings followed the cows as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the Ark of the Lord, they were very happy. 14 The cart came to the field belonging to Joshua of Beth Shemesh and stopped near a large rock. The people of Beth Shemesh chopped up the wood of the cart. Then they sacrificed the cows as burnt offerings to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the Ark of the Lord and the box that had the gold models, and they put both on the large rock. That day the people of Beth Shemesh offered whole burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 After the five Philistine kings saw this, they went back to Ekron the same day.
17 The Philistines had sent these gold models of the growths as penalty offerings to the Lord. They sent one model for each Philistine town: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 And the Philistines also sent gold models of rats. The number of rats matched the number of towns belonging to the Philistine kings, including both strong, walled cities and country villages. The large rock on which they put the Ark of the Lord is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.
19 But some of the men of Beth Shemesh looked into the Ark of the Lord. So God killed seventy of them. The people of Beth Shemesh cried because the Lord had struck them down. 20 They said, “Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Whom will he strike next?”
21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the Ark of the Lord. Come down and take it to your city.”
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