The Ark Among The Philistines
In those days the Israelites went out to meet the Philistines, and in a
hard-fought battle the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines.
When the people returned to the camp, the leaders of Israel said, "Why
has Jehovah let us be beaten to-day by the Philistines? Let us bring the
ark of our God from Shiloh. He may then go out with us and deliver us
from our enemies."
So the people sent to Shiloh and took from there the ark of Jehovah of
hosts. When it came to the camp, all the Israelites shouted so loud that
the earth resounded.
The Philistines heard the sound of the shouting and said, "What does
this sound of great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" When they
knew that the ark of Jehovah had come to the camp, they were afraid, for
they said, "Their god has come to their camp. Woe to us! for it has
never been so before; but be strong and act like men." So the
Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and each fled to
The same day a Benjamite from the ranks ran to Shiloh with his clothes
torn and with earth on his head. As he came, Eli was sitting on his seat
by the gate watching the road, for his heart was trembling for the ark
When the man came and told the people of the city, they all cried out.
Eli heard the sound of crying and said, "What is this uproar?" So the
man came quickly and told Eli, "I am the man who came from the battle,
for I fled from the ranks." Eli said, "How did it go, my son?" The
messenger answered, "Israel fled from the Philistines, and many people
were killed, and your two sons are dead, and the ark of God has been
captured." When he spoke of the ark of God, Eli fell off his seat
backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken, for he was old and
heavy, and he died.
The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the temple of
Dagon in Ashdod and set it up by the side of Dagon. When the people of
Ashdod rose early the next day and came to the temple of Dagon, there
was Dagon on the ground flat on his face before the ark of Jehovah. Then
they raised up Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they rose
early on the following morning, there was Dagon on the ground flat on
his face before the ark of Jehovah. The head of Dagon and both his hands
were broken off on the door sill, and only his body was left.
Jehovah severely punished the people of Ashdod, for he punished them
with boils. When the men of Ashdod saw this, they said, "The ark of the
god of Israel shall not stay with us, for he is severely punishing us
and Dagon our god." So they sent for all the rulers of the Philistines
and asked, "What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?" They
answered, "Let it be carried around to Gath."
So they carried the ark of the God of Israel around to Gath. Then
Jehovah punished the men of that city, both young and old, with boils.
Therefore they sent the ark of the God of Israel to Ekron; but when it
came to Ekron, the Ekronites cried out, "They have brought around the
ark of the god of Israel to kill us and our people!" They sent,
therefore, and gathered all the rulers of the Philistines and said,
"Send the ark of the god of Israel back to its own place, so that it
will not kill us and our people!"
Then the Philistines called the priests and diviners and asked, "What
shall we do with the ark of Jehovah? Tell us with what we shall send it
to its place." They said, "If you send back the ark of the god of
Israel, you must not send it away empty, but must return to him an
offering to repay him for all that you have done to the ark. Then you
shall be healed, and you shall know why he has continued to punish you."
They said, "What offering shall we send back in order to repay him?"
They said, "Five golden boils and five golden mice, the same number as
the rulers of the Philistines; for one plague was upon you as well as
upon your rulers. Now therefore prepare a new cart and two milch cows
that have never worn a yoke, and fasten the cows to the cart, but leave
their calves behind them at home. Then take the ark of Jehovah and place
it upon the cart and put in a box at its side the golden objects which
you are sending to them as an offering to repay him. Then send it away.
If it goes on the way to its own border, to Bethshemesh, then it is
Jehovah who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know
that it is not he who has punished us; it was only an accident."
The men did so, and the cows took a straight course along the
Bethshemesh road. They went along the highway, lowing as they went, and
did not turn aside to the right nor to the left. The rulers of the
Philistines also went after them as far as Bethshemesh.
The inhabitants of Bethshemesh were harvesting their wheat in the
valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the
sight. When the ark came into the field of Joshua, the Bethshemeshite,
it stood still there. And a great stone was there; so they split up the
wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt-offering to Jehovah.
When the five rulers of the Philistines saw it, they returned to Ekron
the same day.
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