They returned the sacred chest to the Israelis
1 The people of Philistia kept God's sacred chest in their area for seven months. 2 Then they summoned their priests and their ◄diviners/men who practice rituals to find out what would happen in the future►. They asked them, “What should we do with the sacred chest of Yahweh? Tell us how we should send it back to its own land.”
3 Those men replied, “Send with it an offering to show Yahweh that you know that you are guilty for having captured the chest, in order that the plague will stop. If you do that, and then if you are healed, you will know that Yahweh is the one who caused the plague to strike you.”
4 The people of Philistia asked, “What kind of offering should we send?”
The men replied, “Make five gold models of the tumors on your skin, and five gold models of rats. Make five of each because that is the same number as the number of your kings, and because the plague has struck both you people and your five kings. 5 Make models that represent the rats and the tumors that are ruining your land. Make them in order to honor the god of the Israeli people. If you do that, perhaps he will stop punishing [IDI] you, and your gods, and your land. 6 Do not be [RHQ] stubborn [IDI] like the Egyptians and their king were. They did not do what the Israelis' god told them to do, so he punished them. After the Israelis'god finished punishing them very severely, they were glad to allow the Israelis to leave their country [RHQ].
7 So you must build a new cart. Then get two cows that have very recently given birth to calves. They must be cows that have never been hitched to a cart [MTY]. Hitch those cows to the new cart, and take the calves away from their mothers. 8 Put the Israelis' god's sacred chest on the cart. Also put in the cart the five gold models of the tumors on your skin and the five gold models of rats. Put them in a small box alongside the sacred chest. They will be an offering to show that you know that you deserved to be punished for capturing the sacred chest. Then send the cows down the road, pulling the cart. 9 Watch the cart as the cows pull it. If they pull it to Beth-Shemesh town in Israel, we will know that it was them Israelis' god who brought this plague on us. But if they do not take it there, we will know that it was not the god [MTY] of the Israelis who has punished us. We will know that it just happened.”
10 So the people did what the priests and men who predicted what would happen in the future told them to do. They made a cart, and hitched two cows to it. They took the calves from their mothers. 11 They put in the cart Yahweh's sacred chest and the box with the models of the gold rats and the tumors. 12 Then the cows started walking, and they went straight toward Beth-Shemesh. They stayed on the road, and were mooing all the time. They did not turn to the left or to the right. The five kings of the Philistia area followed the cows until they reached the edge of Beth-Shemesh.
13 At that time, the people of Beth-Shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley outside the city. When the cows came along the road, they looked up and saw the sacred chest. They were extremely happy to see it. 14-15 The cows pulled the cart into the field of a man named Joshua, and they stopped alongside a large rock. Several men from the tribe of Levi lifted from the cart the sacred chest and the box containing the gold models of the rats and the tumors, and they put them all on the large rock. Then the people smashed the cart and kindled a fire with the wood from which the cart had been made. They slaughtered the cows and burned their bodies/carcasses on the fire to be an offering for Yahweh that would be completely burned. That day the people of Beth-Shemesh offered to Yahweh many sacrifices that were completely burned, and other sacrifices. 16 The five kings from the Philistia area watched all this, and then they returned to Ekron, that same day.
17 The five gold models of tumors that they sent to be an offering to Yahweh to show that they knew that they deserved to be punished were gifts from those five kings who were rulers of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron cities. 18 The models of the five gold rats were gifts from the people of those five cities and the surrounding towns. The large rock at Beth-Shemesh, on which the men of the tribe of Levi set the sacred chest, is still there in the field that belonged to Joshua. When people see it, they remember what happened there.
19 But seventy men from Beth-Shemesh looked into Yahweh's sacred chest, and because of that, Yahweh caused them to die. Then the people mourned very much because Yahweh punished [IDI] those men like that. 20 They said, “No one [RHQ] can ◄resist the power of/stand in the presence of► Yahweh, our holy God, and remain alive Where can we send the sacred chest?”
21 They sent messengers to the people of Kiriath-Jearim city to tell them, “The people of Philistia have returned Yahweh's sacred chest to us! Come here and take it away!”