1 Samuel 6:1-7:1

The Philistines give back God's Covenant Box

1 The Philistines had the Lord's Covenant Box in their country for seven months. 2 Then they called their priests and their magicians to meet with them. The people asked them, ‘What must we do with the Lord's Covenant Box? Tell us how we should send it back to its home.’

3 The priests and magicians answered, ‘Send the Covenant Box of Israel's God back with a special offering. You must not send it back without anything. Send an offering so that their God will forgive you. Then you will get well again. You will understand why he has continued to punish you.’

4 The people asked, ‘What offering should we send to their God, so that he will forgive us?’

The priests and magicians replied, ‘You must send gold images of five tumours and five mice. You must make five images of each one because the Philistines have five rulers. They have the same disease that all of you have. 5 Make images of the tumours and the mice that are destroying everything in the country. Do that to give honour to the God of Israel. Maybe then he will stop punishing you, your gods and your land. 6 Do not be like the Egyptians and Pharaoh, their king. They did not agree to obey God. So God punished them a lot until they let the Israelites leave Egypt.

6:4A tumour is a lump that grows in your body. It makes you very ill. See 1 Samuel 5:6.

7 You must make a new cart. Find two cows that have just given birth to calves. It must be the first time that those cows have pulled a cart. Tie them to the cart with ropes so that they can pull it. Then take their calves away from them. 8 Put the Lord's Covenant Box on the cart. Put another box on the cart with the gold images inside it. Those are your offerings to their God so that he will forgive you. Then send the cart away. 9 But continue to watch it carefully. The cows may pull it across our border to Beth Shemesh in Israel. If that happens, we will know that the God of Israel has punished us with this great trouble. But if the cart goes somewhere else, we will know that it was not their God who did this to us. We will know that our disease happened only by chance.’

10 So the Philistines did what the priests and magicians told them. They took two cows that had just given birth to calves. They tied the cows to a cart. They took away their calves and they kept them at home. 11 They put the Lord's Covenant Box on the cart. They put the other box beside it on the cart. That box contained the gold images of the mice and the tumours. 12 The cows pulled the cart straight along the road towards Beth Shemesh. They did not turn off the road at all, to the left side or the right side. As they went, they made a lot of noise. The Philistine rulers walked behind the cart all the way, as far as the edge of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people who lived in Beth Shemesh were working in their fields in the valley. They were cutting their wheat at harvest time. They looked up and they saw the Lord's Covenant Box. It made them very happy. 14-15 The cows pulled the cart into a field. It belonged to Joshua, who 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 images on the rock. The people from Beth Shemesh cut up the cart. They used the wood to make a fire. Then they killed the cows. They burnt them on the fire as a burnt offering to the Lord. That day the people of Beth Shemesh offered many burnt offerings and other sacrifices to the Lord. 16 The five Philistine rulers watched them as they did that. Then they returned to Ekron on the same day.

6:13The people took in their wheat in the months of May and June.

17 The Philistines had sent the gold tumours as an offering to the Lord. They wanted him to forgive them. There was one gold tumour for each of their five towns: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 The Philistines also sent five gold mice. There was one gold mouse for each of the five towns that had a ruler. Those were strong cities that had walls around them. Each town also had villages near to it. The large rock where the Levites put the Lord's Covenant Box is still there. So we remember what happened that day 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 the Lord had punished them so much. 20 The people of Beth Shemesh said, ‘The Lord is a holy God! Nobody can go near to him! We must send his Covenant Box away from us. But who can ever take care of it?’

21 So they sent people to Kiriath-Jearim with a message. They said, ‘The Philistines have sent the Lord's Covenant Box back to Israel. Please come and take it from us. Take it to your town.’

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

1 Samuel 7

1 So men came from Kiriath-Jearim to fetch the Lord's Covenant Box. They took it to Abinadab's house. His house was on a hill. They chose his son, Eleazar, to take care of the Lord's Covenant Box as his special job.