1 Samuel 6 Good News Translation (GNT)
The Return of the Covenant Box
6 After the Lord's Covenant Box had been in Philistia for seven months, 2 the people called the priests and the magicians and asked, “What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the Lord? If we send it back where it belongs, what shall we send with it?”
3 They answered, “If you return the Covenant Box of the God of Israel, you must, of course, send with it a gift to him to pay for your sin. The Covenant Box must not go back without a gift. In this way you will be healed, and you will find out why he has kept on punishing you.”
4 “What gift shall we send him?” the people asked.
They answered, “Five gold models of tumors and five gold mice, one of each for each Philistine king. The same plague was sent on all of you and on the five kings. 5 You must make these models of the tumors and of the mice that are ravaging your country, and you must give honor to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will stop punishing you, your gods, and your land. 6 Why should you be stubborn, as the king of Egypt and the Egyptians were? Don't forget how God made fools of them until they let the Israelites leave Egypt. 7 So prepare a new wagon and two cows that have never been yoked; hitch them to the wagon and drive their calves back to the barn. 8 Take the Lord's Covenant Box, put it on the wagon, and place in a box beside it the gold models that you are sending to him as a gift to pay for your sins. Start the wagon on its way and let it go by itself. 9 Then watch it go; if it goes toward the town of Beth Shemesh, this means that it is the God of the Israelites who has sent this terrible disaster on us. But if it doesn't, then we will know that he did not send the plague; it was only a matter of chance.”
10 They did what they were told: they took two cows and hitched them to the wagon, and shut the calves in the barn. 11 They put the Covenant Box in the wagon, together with the box containing the gold models of the mice and of the tumors. 12 The cows started off on the road to Beth Shemesh and headed straight toward it, without turning off the road. They were mooing as they went. The five Philistine kings followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
13 The people of Beth Shemesh were reaping wheat in the valley, when suddenly they looked up and saw the Covenant Box. They were overjoyed at the sight. 14 The wagon came to a field belonging to a man named Joshua, who lived in Beth Shemesh, and it stopped there near a large rock. The people chopped up the wooden wagon and killed the cows and burned them as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. 15 The Levites lifted off the Covenant Box of the Lord and the box with the gold models in it, and placed them on the large rock. Then the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt sacrifices and other sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five Philistine kings watched them do this and then went back to Ekron that same day.
17 The Philistines sent the five gold tumors to the Lord as a gift to pay for their sins, one each for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 They also sent gold mice, one for each of the cities ruled by the five Philistine kings, both the fortified towns and the villages without walls. The large rock in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, on which they placed the Lord's Covenant Box, is still there as a witness to what happened.
19 The Lord killed seventy of the men of Beth Shemesh because they looked inside the Covenant Box. And the people mourned because the Lord had caused such a great slaughter among them.
The Covenant Box at Kiriath Jearim
20 So the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who can stand before the Lord, this holy God? Where can we send him to get him away from us?” 21 They sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim to say, “The Philistines have returned the Lord's Covenant Box. Come down and get it.”
1 Samuel 6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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;[a] 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.[b] 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[c] the ark of the Lord; and he killed seventy men of them.[d] 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.”
1 Samuel 6 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
6 The ark of Adonai was in the country of the P’lishtim for seven months. 2 The P’lishtim summoned the priests and soothsayers and asked them, “What are we to do with the ark of Adonai? Tell us how to send it back where it belongs.” 3 They said, “If you do send off the ark of the God of Isra’el, don’t send it back empty, but return it with some sort of guilt offering for him. Then you will be cured, and you will learn why he has not stopped oppressing you.” 4 They asked, “What kind of guilt offering should we send him?” and they replied, “Five gold models of tumors and five gold rats, because that’s how many leaders the P’lishtim have, and you and your leaders all had the same illness. 5 So make models of your tumors and models of your rats that are infesting your land, and show respect to the God of Isra’el. Maybe he will stop oppressing you, your gods and your land. 6 Why be obstinate like the Egyptians and Pharaoh were? When he had done his work among them, didn’t they let the people go? — and they left. 7 Now take and prepare yourselves a new cart and two milk-cows that have never been under a yoke. Harness the cows to the cart, but put their calves back in the shed. 8 Then take the ark of Adonai and lay it on the cart. In a box next to it, put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Then send it away to go off by itself, 9 but watch to see if it goes up the road to Beit-Shemesh in its own territory. If it does, he is responsible for this great tragedy; if not, we will know that it is not his oppression which has been over us, but that what has been happening to us has been only by chance.”
10 The men did it. They took two milk-cows, harnessed them to the cart and confined their calves to the shed. 11 Then they put the ark on the cart, along with the box containing the gold rats and the models of their tumors. 12 The cows made straight for the road to Beit-Shemesh and took that route, mooing as they went and turning off neither to the right nor to the left. The leaders of the P’lishtim followed them as far as the border of Beit-Shemesh.
13 The people of Beit-Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley when they looked up and saw the ark. They were so happy to see it! 14 The cart entered the field of Y’hoshua the Beit-Shimshi and stood there by a big rock. They cut up the wood of the cart and offered up the cows as a burnt offering to Adonai. 15 Then the L’vi’im removed the ark of Adonai and the box that was with it, which contained the gold objects, and put them on the big rock. That same day the men of Beit-Shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to Adonai. 16 Upon seeing this, the five leaders of the P’lishtim returned that day to ‘Ekron.
17 The gold tumors which the P’lishtim sent back as a guilt offering for Adonai were one each for Ashdod, ‘Azah, Ashkelon, Gat and ‘Ekron; 18 and the gold rats also corresponded to the number of all the cities of the P’lishtim that belonged to the five leaders — fortified cities and country villages. [The rock] is a witness to this day of the great mourning [which resulted from] putting the ark of Adonai on it in the field of Y’hoshua the Beit-Shimshi; 19 for [Adonai] struck the people of Beit-Shemesh for looking at the ark of Adonai. He killed 50,070 of the people; the people mourned because Adonai had struck them with such a terrible slaughter. 20 The people of Beit-Shemesh asked, “Who can stand before Adonai, this holy God? To whom can we send it, to get it away from us?”
21 They sent messengers to the people living in Kiryat-Ye‘arim with this message: “The P’lishtim have returned the ark of Adonai. Come down and bring it back up with you.”
1 Samuel 6 The Message (MSG)
Gold Tumors and Rats
6 1-2 After the Chest of God had been among the Philistine people for seven months, the Philistine leaders called together their religious professionals, the priests, and experts on the supernatural for consultation: “How can we get rid of this Chest of God, get it off our hands without making things worse? Tell us!”
3 They said, “If you’re going to send the Chest of the God of Israel back, don’t just dump it on them. Pay compensation. Then you will be healed. After you’re in the clear again, God will let up on you. Why wouldn’t he?”
4-6 “And what exactly would make for adequate compensation?”
“Five gold tumors and five gold rats,” they said, “to match the number of Philistine leaders. Since all of you—leaders and people—suffered the same plague, make replicas of the tumors and rats that are devastating the country and present them as an offering to the glory of the God of Israel. Then maybe he’ll ease up and not be so hard on you and your gods, and on your country. Why be stubborn like the Egyptians and Pharaoh? God didn’t quit pounding on them until they let the people go. Only then did he let up.
7-9 “So here’s what you do: Take a brand-new oxcart and two cows that have never been in harness. Hitch the cows to the oxcart and send their calves back to the barn. Put the Chest of God on the cart. Secure the gold replicas of the tumors and rats that you are offering as compensation in a sack and set them next to the Chest. Then send it off. But keep your eyes on it. If it heads straight back home to where it came from, toward Beth Shemesh, it is clear that this catastrophe is a divine judgment, but if not, we’ll know that God had nothing to do with it—it was just an accident.”
10-12 So that’s what they did: They hitched two cows to the cart, put their calves in the barn, and placed the Chest of God and the sack of gold rats and tumors on the cart. The cows headed straight for home, down the road to Beth Shemesh, straying neither right nor left, mooing all the way. The Philistine leaders followed them to the outskirts of Beth Shemesh.
13-15 The people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley. They looked up and saw the Chest. Jubilant, they ran to meet it. The cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth Shemeshite, and stopped there beside a huge boulder. The harvesters tore the cart to pieces, then chopped up the wood and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to God. The Levites took charge of the Chest of God and the sack containing the gold offerings, placing them on the boulder. Offering the sacrifices, everyone in Beth Shemesh worshiped God most heartily that day.
16 When the five Philistine leaders saw what they came to see, they returned the same day to Ekron.
17-18 The five gold replicas of the tumors were offered by the Philistines in compensation for the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. The five gold rats matched the number of Philistine towns, both large and small, ruled by the five leaders. The big boulder on which they placed the Chest of God is still there in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, a landmark.
If You Are Serious About Coming Back to God
19-20 God struck some of the men of Beth Shemesh who, out of curiosity, irreverently peeked into the Chest of God. Seventy died. The whole town was in mourning, reeling under the hard blow from God, and questioning, “Who can stand before God, this holy God? And who can we get to take this Chest off our hands?”
21 They sent emissaries to Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the Chest of God. Come down and get it.”