International Standard Version
1The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistine territory for seven months. 2The Philistines summoned the priests and diviners and asked, "What should we do about the Ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it back to its place." 3They said, "If you send the Ark of the God of Israel back, don't send it empty, but rather be sure to send back to him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and will know why his oppression has not been removed from you." 4They asked, "What is the guilt offering that we should send back to him?" "Five gold tumors and five gold mice," they answered, "according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, since the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5Make images of your tumors and images of the mice that are destroying your land, and you are to give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will remove his pressure from you, your gods, and your land. 6Why should you harden your hearts just as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? Isn't it true that after God toyed with them, they let Israel go, and off they went? 7"So make a new cart, and take two milk cows that have never had a yoke on them. Hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves away from them and back to the house. 8Take the Ark of the LORD, put it on the cart, and put the gold objects that you are returning to him as a guilt offering in a box beside it. Then send it away and let it go. 9Keep watching it. If it goes up along the road to its own territory to Beth-shemesh, it's the LORD who has done this great evil to us. But if it does not, then we will know that he wasn't pressuring us. It happened to us as a natural event."
10The men did this. They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and penned up their calves in the house. 11They put the Ark of the LORD, the box, the gold mice, and the images of their tumors on the cart. 12The cows took a straight path along the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn to the right or the left. The Philistine lords followed them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
13Now the people of Beth-shemesh were gathering their wheat harvest in the valley. They looked up, saw the Ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh, and stopped there. In that place there was a large stone. They broke up the wood from the cart, and offered up the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15The descendants of Levi took down the Ark of the LORD, along with the box that was with it, containing the objects of gold, and they put them on the large stone. The men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD that day. 16When the five Philistine lords saw this, they returned to Ekron that very day.
17These are the gold tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, and one for Ekron. 18The gold mice represented the number of all the Philistine towns belonging to the five lords, both fortified towns and unwalled villages. The large stone, beside which they put the Ark of the LORD, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
19God struck down the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the Ark of the LORD. He struck down 50,070 men among the people, and the people mourned because the LORD struck down the people with a great slaughter. 20The men of Beth-shemesh asked themselves, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? And to whom will the Ark go from here?" 21They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, who told them, "The Philistines have returned the Ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up with you."