The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Kings
Thus, for seven months, the ark of the Lord remained in the country of the Philistines;
and at the end of them the Philistines summoned their priests and diviners. What are we to do with the ark of the Lord? they said. How best can we send it back whence it came? And their answer was,
Why, if you mean to send the ark of Israel’s God home again, you must not send it back without a gift. An offering must be made in amends for the fault you have committed; and if, after that, you recover from your sickness, you will trace his hand in the calamities that now afflict you.
What offering, then, must we make for our fault? they asked;
and this was the answer given: You must make five little mounts of gold, and five golden mice, one for each of the Philistine provinces; it was the same divine punishment that afflicted all the provinces, all the chiefs alike. When they are ready, these emblems of your shame, these figures of the mice that have ravaged your land, make amends with them to the God of Israel, and ask relief for yourselves, and your gods, and your lands.
What avails it, to harden your hearts against repentance? So Pharao and Egypt with him hardened their hearts, and would not let his people go till they had felt all his plagues, but in the end they went.
A waggon, newly made, you must have in readiness, drawn by two heifers in milk such as never yet bore the yoke, and the calves of these must be left behind.
Lift the ark of the Lord on to this waggon, and put in a casket, at the side of it, the golden offerings you would make in amends for your fault; then let it go on its way,
and see what befalls. If it goes up towards Bethsames and its own land, then be sure this grievous plague of ours came from the Lord; if not, we shall know it was an evil chance, and no visitation of his.
This advice they followed, yoked to the waggon two heifers that were in milk, and left their calves stalled at home;
put the ark of God on the waggon, and the casket with the five golden mice and golden mounts beside it.
And the heifers went straight along the road that leads to Bethsames, and kept ever the same course, without swerving to right or left; lowing for their calves, but going on still; with the Philistine chiefs following them all the way to Bethsames.
The Bethsamites were out in the valley, reaping their wheat, when they looked round and saw the ark coming, and they were glad men at the sight.
It reached the land of Josue the Bethsamite, and there came to a stand, close by where a great stone was. So they broke up the waggon for fire-wood, and laid the heifers on it as a burnt-sacrifice to the Lord.
Levites set down the ark of God, and with it the casket that contained the golden emblems, on the great stone, while the men of Bethsames, that day, brought the Lord burnt-sacrifice and offered him victims.
So the five chiefs of the Philistines returned, reaching Accaron that same day.
The golden mounts which the Philistines gave to the Lord in amends for their fault came from the five cities of Azotus, Gaza, Ascalon, Geth and Accaron;
and there were golden mice to match the whole number of cities, walled or unwalled, in the five Philistine provinces, (right up to Abel the Great, where they put down the ark of the Lord, that had been till that day in the lands of Josue the Bethsamite).✻
And the Lord smote some of the Bethsamites themselves, for prying into the ark of the Lord. (And he smote seventy men out of the people, and fifty thousand of the common folk.✻ ) Over this visitation the Lord had brought on them there was great grief among the people;
Who can stand his ground, the Bethsamites asked, before a God so holy as this? To whom can we pass it on?
And they sent messengers to the men of Cariathiarim, telling them that the Philistines had brought back the Lord’s ark, and bidding them come and take it into their charge.
The Holy Bible