1 And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, "What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place." 3 And they said, "If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but certainly return him a trespass-offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand is not removed from you." 4 Then they said, "What shall be the trespass-offering which we shall return to him?" They answered, "Five golden emerods and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on you all and on your lords. 5 Therefore, you shall make images of your emerods and images of your mice that mar the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel. It may be that he will lighten his hand from off you, from off your gods, and from off your land. 6 Why then do you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? 7 Now therefore, make a new cart and take two milch-cows on which there has come no yoke, tie the cows to the cart, and bring their calves home from them. 8 And take the ark of the LORD, lay it upon the cart, and put the jewels of gold which you return to him for a trespass-offering in a coffer by its side, and send it away so that it may go. 9 And behold, if it goes up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he has done us this great evil, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us. It was a chance that happened to us."
10 And the men did so, and took two milch-cows, tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods. 12 And the cows took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth-shemesh.
13 And the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And they lifted up their eyes, saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14 And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there where there was a great stone. And they cleaved the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt-offering to the LORD. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the coffer that was with it, in which were the jewels of gold, and put them on the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day to the LORD. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.
17 And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass-offering to the LORD: for Ashdod, one; for Gaza, one; for Askelon, one; for Gath, one; for Ekron, one; 18 And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages, even to the great stone of Abel on which they set down the ark of the LORD—which stone remains to this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
19 And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He even smote of the people fifty thousand and seventy men. And the people lamented because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up from us?" 21 And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD. Come down and bring it up to you."
[v.4] - "mice" - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "In the field of the Philistines (so it is in the original), from which some gather that, having tried it in all their cities, and found it a plague to the inhabitants of each, at length they sent it into the open fields, upon which mice sprang up out of the ground in great multitudes, and destroyed the corn which was now nearly ripe and marred the land. With that judgment they were plagued (v. 5), and yet it is not mentioned in the foregoing chapter; so God let them know that wherever they carried the ark, so long as they carried it captive, they should find it a curse to them. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed in the field, Deuteronomy 28:16."
[v.6a] - "did they not let the people go" - Reference, Exodus 12:33.
[v.6b] - "and they departed" - Reference, Exodus 12:51.
[v.20] - Reference, Psalm 76:7; Malachi 3:2; Revelation 6:17.