How the Ark of the Covenant Was Stolen

Now the Philistines and the Israelites went to war. When they met in battle 4,000 Israelites were killed. So their leaders met together and said, "Why did the Lord let the Philistines win? Let us bring the ark of the Covenant from Shiloh, so that he will save us from our enemies." They seemed to think that the Ark was a magical box that had God in it. But God was not with them because they kept sinning so even when they brought the ark from Shiloh, he would not help them.

When they brought the ark into the camp, everyone shouted. When the Philistines heard the shout and learned that the ark of God was in the camp, they were afraid. "Let us fight like men," they said, "so that we will not become the Israelites' slaves."

So the Philistines fought hard and won again. This time they killed 30,000 Israelites, and the rest ran away. The two wicked sons of Eli the priest were killed, and the Ark of the Covenant was captured. A man ran to Shiloh to tell the news. When the people heard it, they started crying. Now Eli the priest was sitting near the gate. He was now an old man, ninety-eight years old, who was almost completely blind. When he heard the crying, he asked what it was about. So the man came to tell him, "I have run away from the battle today," he said. Eli asked him, "What happened, my son?" he answered, "The Philistines beat us; your sons were killed, and the ark of God has been Captured. " When Eli Heard that the ark had been captured, he fell over backwards from his seat and broke his neck and died. He had been a judge for the Israelites for 40 years.

Now the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant to the city of Ashdod and put it in the temple of their god Dagon. They thought they had captured it because Dagon was stronger than the Lord. But they were soon to find out different. The next morning when they came to Dagon's temple they found the statue of Dagon had fallen on the floor in front of the ark like it was bowing down before God. So they set it up right again. But the next morning, it had fallen down again, and this time its head and both arms had broken off. The people in the town began to have sores on them and mice were running everywhere. So they sent the ark off to another Philistine city, Gath. But when the ark came to Gath, the people began to have sores and the mice appeared there. So they sent the ark to Ekron. But the people there started shouting, "They have brought the ark of God here to kill us." For seven months the ark stayed in the land of the Philistines and the sores and mice spread through the whole land.

Finally the Philistines decided to send it back to the Israelites. They made gold images of the sores and mice that had troubled them as an offering to God. Then they put the ark and the gold images in a wagon and had two milk cows pull it. Instead of returning to the shed where their calves were, the cows started down the road toward the land of Israel, and did not stop until they came to Beth Shemesh. When the Israelites at Beth Shemesh saw the ark, they were very happy. They used the wagon for firewood and offered the cows as a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving. But seventy men there looked into the ark, a thing that God had said to never do, and so they died. So the people of Beth Shemesh sent the ark away to the town of Kiriath Jearim and there it stayed for twenty years.

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