HILE the old priest Eli was still the judge, though he was now very feeble, the Philistines. came up against Israel from the plain beside the sea. A battle was fought, and many of the Israelites were slain. Then the chiefs of the people said: "We have been beaten in the battle, because the Lord was not with us. Let us take with us against our enemies the ark of the covenant from the Tabernacle, and then the Lord will be among us." So they went to Shiloh, and they took out from the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle the ark of the covenant, and the two sons of Eli the priest went with the ark to care for it. When the ark was brought into the camp of the Israelites all the men of war gave a great shout, so that the earth rang with the sound. And when the Philistines heard the shouting they wondered what caused it, and some one told them that it was because the God of the Israelites had come into their camp. The Philistines were afraid, and they said to each other: "Woe unto us, for such a thing as this has never been seen! Who shall save us from this great God who sent plagues on the Egyptians? Let us be bold, and act like men, and fight, so that we may not be made servants to the Israelites, as they have been to us!" The next day there was a great battle. The Philistines overcame the Israelites and slew thousands of them. They killed the two sons of Eli, and they took the ark of the Lord away with them into their own land.
Then the rulers of the Philistines resolved to send back the ark of God into the land of Israel. They placed it upon a wagon, and before the wagon they yoked two cows. The cows had calves, but they tied the calves at home, in order to find whether the cows would go home to their calves or would take the ark away. But the cows took the road which led away from their own calves, straight up the hills toward the land of Israel, and they turned neither to the right hand nor the left. The cows drew the ark up to the village of Bethshemesh, where the people were reaping their wheat harvest on the hillsides. They saw the ark, and were glad. The cows stopped beside a great stone in the field. Then the men of Bethshemesh cut up the wagon, and with it made a fire, and on the stone as an altar offered the two cows as an offering to the Lord. But the men of Bethshemesh opened the ark and looked into it. This was contrary to Godís command, for none but the priests were allowed to touch the ark. God sent a plague upon the people of that place, and many of them died, because they did not deal reverently with the ark of God. They were filled with fear and sent to the men of Kirjathjearim, asking them to take the ark away. They did so, and for twenty years the ark stood in the house of a man named Abmadab in Kirjathjearim. They did not take the ark back to Shiloh, for after the death of Eli the place was deserted, the Tabernacle fell into ruins, and no man lived there again.