1. The ark of Yahweh was in Philistine territory for seven months.
2. The Philistines then called for their priests and diviners and asked, 'What shall we do with the ark of Yahweh? Tell us how to send it back to where it belongs.'
3. They replied, 'If you send the ark of the God of Israel away, you must certainly not send it away without a gift; you must pay him a guilt offering. You will then recover and will realise why he continually oppressed you.'
4. They then asked, 'What guilt offering ought we to pay him?' They replied, 'Corresponding to the number of Philistine chiefs: five golden tumours and five golden rats, since the same plague afflicted your chiefs as the rest of you.
5. So make models of your tumours and models of your rats ravaging the territory, and pay honour to the God of Israel. Then perhaps he will stop oppressing you, your gods and your country.
6. Why should you be as stubborn as Egypt and Pharaoh were? After he had brought disasters on them, did they not let the people leave?
7. Now, then, take and fit out a new cart, and two milch cows that have never borne the yoke. Then harness the cows to the cart and take their calves back to the byre.
8. Then take the ark of Yahweh, place it on the cart, and put the golden objects which you are paying him as guilt offering in a box beside it; and then send it off on its own.
9. Watch it; if it goes up the road to its own territory, towards Beth-Shemesh, then he was responsible for this great harm to us; but if not, we shall know that it was not his hand that struck us, and that this has happened to us by chance.'
10. The people did this. They took two milch cows and harnessed them to the cart, shutting their calves in the byre.
11. They then put the ark of Yahweh on the cart, with the box and the golden rats and the models of their tumours.
12. The cows made straight for Beth-Shemesh, keeping to the one road, lowing as they went and turning neither to right nor to left. The Philistine chiefs followed them as far as the boundaries of Beth-Shemesh.
13. The people of Beth-Shemesh were reaping the wheat harvest in the plain when they looked up and saw the ark and went joyfully to meet it.
14. When the cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-Shemesh, it stopped. There was a large stone there, and they cut up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to Yahweh.
15. The Levites had taken down the ark of Yahweh and the box with it containing the golden objects and put these on the large stone. That day the people of Beth-Shemesh presented burnt offerings and made sacrifices to Yahweh.
16. The five chiefs of the Philistines, having witnessed this, went back to Ekron the same day.
17. The golden tumours paid by the Philistines as a guilt offering to Yahweh were as follows: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron;
18. and golden rats to the number of all the Philistine towns, those of the five chiefs, from fortified towns down to open villages: still to this day the large stone in the field of Joshua of Beth-Shemesh, on which they put the ark of Yahweh, is a witness.
19. Of the people of Beth-Shemesh the sons of Jeconiah had not rejoiced when they saw the ark of Yahweh, and Yahweh struck down seventy of them. The people mourned because Yahweh had struck them so fiercely.
20. The people of Beth-Shemesh then said, 'Who can stand his ground before Yahweh, this holy God? To whom shall he go, so that we are rid of him?'
21. So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-Jearim, to say, 'The Philistines have sent back the ark of Yahweh; come down and take it up to your town.'