1 Samuel 6

The Philistines give back God's covenant box to Israel

1 The Philistines had the LORD's covenant box in their country for 7 months. 2 Then they asked their priests and their men who did magic to come to them. The Philistines asked them, ‘What can we do with the LORD's covenant box? Tell us how to send it back to its home.’

3 The priests answered, ‘Send it back to Israel. But you must not send it back without an offering. You must send an offering to God because he is angry with you. Then you will get well. You will find out why God punished you.’

4 The Philistines asked, ‘What offering should we send to God?’

The priests and the men who worked magic replied, ‘You should send 5 tumours and 5 mice of gold. You should make 5 of each because you have 5 rulers. Your rulers and your people have all been ill. 5 Make the tumours and mice out of gold. They must be like those that are destroying your country. And give honour to the God of Israel. Maybe then he will stop punishing you and your gods and your country. 6 Do not be like the people from Egypt and Pharaoh their king. They would not change their minds and obey God. So God punished them with great power until they let the Jews leave Egypt.

7 You must make a new cart. Find two cows that have just given birth to little cows. You must use cows that nobody has ever tied to a cart before. Tie them to the cart. Then take their little cows away from them. 8 Put the covenant box of the LORD on the cart. Put the gold tumours and mice in a box. These are your offerings to their God because you made him angry. Put this box next to the covenant box on the cart. Then send the cart away. 9 But continue to watch it. God's covenant box came from Israel. The cart may go to the town called Beth Shemesh in Israel. That would show that the LORD sent this great trouble to us. If the cart does not go there, the LORD has not punished us. We will know that our illness happened for another reason.’

10 So the Philistines did this. They took two cows that had just had little cows. They tied them to a cart. They took away their little cows and they put the little cows in a building. 11 They put the LORD's covenant box on the cart. Then they put their box next to the covenant box. Their box contained the mice and the tumours of gold. 12 The cows went in a straight path towards Beth Shemesh. They kept on the road and they did not turn to the right or to the left. All the way, they made a lot of noise. The Philistine rulers followed them all the way to the edge of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people from Beth Shemesh were in the valley. They were taking in their wheat. They looked and they saw the LORD's covenant box. They were very happy. 14-15 The cows pulled the cart into a field. The field was Joshua's. He lived in Beth Shemesh. The cows stopped next to a large rock. The Levites took the LORD's covenant box off the cart. They put it on the large rock. They also put the box, which contained the gold tumours and mice, on the rock. The people from Beth Shemesh cut up the wood from the cart and they made a fire with it. Then they killed the cows. They burnt them on the fire as an offering to the LORD. That day they sacrificed whole cows as burnt offerings. 16 When the 5 Philistine rulers saw this, they returned to Ekron.

6:16The people took in their wheat in the months of May and June.

17 The Philistines sent the gold tumours as a gift to the LORD. They sent one from each of their 5 towns. The names of these towns are Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 The Philistines also sent 5 gold mice. They sent one from each of the 5 towns. Each town had walls round it. Each town included the country villages near to it. The large rock that the Israelites put the LORD's covenant box on is still there. It is in Joshua's field in Beth Shemesh.

19 But some of the men from Beth Shemesh looked inside the LORD's covenant box. So God killed 70 of them. The people were very sad because God had punished them so strongly. 20 The men at Beth Shemesh said, ‘When God is present, people cannot stand. The LORD is a holy God. We do not know what place we can send the box to.’

21 So they sent people to Kiriath Jearim with a message. They said, ‘The Philistines have given the LORD's covenant box back to us. Come and take it from us. Take it to your town.’

6:21Kiriath-jearim was about 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Beth-shemesh.