1. When the Philistines had taken the ark of the Hebrews captive, as I said a little before, they carried it to the city of Ashdod, and put it by their own god, who was called Dagon, 1 as one of their spoils; but when they went into his temple the next morning to worship their god, they found him paying the same worship to the ark, for he lay along, as having fallen down from the basis whereon he had stood: so they took him up, and set him on his basis again, and were much troubled at what had happened; and as they frequently came to Dagon and found him still lying along, in a posture of adoration to the ark, they were in very great distress and confusion. At length God sent a very destructive disease upon the city and country of Ashdod, for they died of the dysentery or flux, a sore distemper, that brought death upon them very suddenly; for before the soul could, as usual in easy deaths, be well loosed from the body, they brought up their entrails, and vomited up what they had eaten, and what was entirely corrupted by the disease. And as to the fruits of their country, a great multitude of mice arose out of the earth and hurt them, and spared neither the plants nor the fruits. Now while the people of Ashdod were under these misfortunes, and were not able to support themselves under their calamities, they perceived that they suffered thus because of the ark, and that the victory they had gotten, and their having taken the ark captive, had not happened for their good; they therefore sent to the people of Askelon, and desired that they would receive the ark among them. This desire of the people of Ashdod was not disagreeable to those of Askelon, so they granted them that favor. But when they had gotten the ark, they were in the same miserable condition; for the ark carried along with it the disasters that the people of Ashdod had suffered, to those who received it from them. Those of Askelon also sent it away from themselves to others: nor did it stay among those others neither; for since they were pursued by the same disasters, they still sent it to the neighboring cities; so that the ark went round, after this manner, to the five cities of the Philistines, as though it exacted these disasters as a tribute to be paid it for its coming among them.
2. When those that had experienced these miseries were tired out with them, and when those that heard of them were taught thereby not to admit the ark among them, since they paid so dear a tribute for it, at length they sought for some contrivance and method how they might get free from it: so the governors of the five cities, Gath, and Ekron, and Askelon, as also of Gaza, and Ashclod, met together, and considered what was fit to be done; and at first they thought proper to send the ark back to its own people, as allowing that God had avenged its cause; that the miseries they had undergone came along with it, and that these were sent on their cities upon its account, and together with it. However, there were those that said they should not do so, nor suffer themselves to be deluded, as ascribing the cause of their miseries to it, because it could not have such power and force upon them; for, had God had such a regard to it, it would not have been delivered into the hands of men. So they exhorted them to be quiet, and to take patiently what had befallen them, and to suppose there was no other cause of it but nature, which, at certain revolutions of time, produces such mutations in the bodies of men, in the earth, in plants, and in all things that grow out of the earth. But the counsel that prevailed over those already described, was that of certain men, who were believed to have distinguished themselves in former times for their understanding and prudence, and who, in their present circumstances, seemed above all the rest to speak properly. These men said it was not right either to send the ark away, or to retain it, but to dedicate five golden images, one for every city, as a thank-offering to God, on account of his having taken care of their preservation, and having kept them alive when their lives were likely to be taken away by such distempers as they were not able to bear up against. They also would have them make five golden mice like to those that devoured and destroyed their country 2 to put them in a bag, and lay them upon the ark; to make them a new cart also for it, and to yoke milch kine to it 3 but to shut up their calves, and keep them from them, lest, by following after them, they should prove a hinderance to their dams, and that the dams might return the faster out of a desire of those calves; then to drive these milch kine that carried the ark, and leave it at a place where three ways met, and So leave it to the kine to go along which of those ways they pleased; that in case they went the way to the Hebrews, and ascended to their country, they should suppose that the ark was the cause of their misfortunes; but if they turned into another road, they said, "We will pursue after it, and conclude that it has no such force in it."
3. So they determined that these men spake well; and they immediately confirmed their opinion by doing accordingly. And when they had done as has been already described, they brought the cart to a place where three ways met, and left it there and went their ways; but the kine went the right way, and as if some persons had driven them, while the rulers of the Philistines followed after them, as desirous to know where they would stand still, and to whom they would go. Now there was a certain village of the tribe of Judah, the name of which was Bethshemesh, and to that village did the kine go; and though there was a great and good plain before them to proceed in, they went no farther, but stopped the cart there. This was a sight to those of that village, and they were very glad; for it being then summer-time, and all the inhabitants being then in the fields gathering in their fruits, they left off the labors of their hands for joy, as soon as they saw the ark, and ran to the cart, and taking the ark down, and the vessel that had the images in it, and the mice, they set them upon a certain rock which was in the plain; and when they had offered a splendid sacrifice to God, and feasted, they offered the cart and the kine as a burnt-offering: and when the lords of the Philistines saw this, they returned back.
4. But now it was that the wrath of God overtook them, and struck seventy persons of the village of Bethshemesh dead, who, not being priests, and so not worthy to touch the ark, had approached to it. 4 Those of that village wept for these that had thus suffered, and made such a lamentation as was naturally to be expected on so great a misfortune that was sent from God; and every one mourned for his own relation. And since they acknowledged themselves unworthy of the ark's abode with them, they sent to the public senate of the Israelites, and informed them that the ark was restored by the Philistines; which when they knew, they brought it away to Kirjathjearim, a city in the neighborhood of Bethshemesh. In this city lived one Abinadab, by birth a Levite, and who was greatly commended for his righteous and religious course of life; so they brought the ark to his house, as to a place fit for God himself to abide in, since therein did inhabit a righteous man. His sons also ministered to the Divine service at the ark, and were the principal curators of it for twenty years; for so many years it continued in Kirjathjearim, having been but four months with the Philistines.
1. Now while the city of Kirjathjearim had the ark with them, the whole body of the people betook themselves all that time to offer prayers and sacrifices to God, and appeared greatly concerned and zealous about his worship. So Samuel the prophet, seeing how ready they were to do their duty, thought this a proper time to speak to them, while they were in this good disposition, about the recovery of their liberty, and of the blessings that accompanied the same. Accordingly he used such words to them as he thought were most likely to excite that inclination, and to persuade them to attempt it: "O you Israelites," said he, "to whom the Philistines are still grievous enemies, but to whom God begins to be gracious, it behooves you not only to be desirous of liberty, but to take the proper methods to obtain it. Nor are you to be contented with an inclination to get clear of your lords and masters, while you still do what will procure your continuance under them. Be righteous then, and cast wickedness out of your souls, and by your worship supplicate the Divine Majesty with all your hearts, and persevere in the honor you pay to him; for if you act thus, you will enjoy prosperity; you will be freed from your slavery, and will get the victory over your enemies: which blessings it is not possible you should attain, either by weapons of war, or by the strength of your bodies, or by the multitude of your assistants; for God has not promised to grant these blessings by those means, but by being good and righteous men; and if you will be such, I will be security to you for the performance of God's promises." When Samuel had said thus, the multitude applauded his discourse, and were pleased with his exhortation to them, and gave their consent to resign themselves up to do what was pleasing to God. So Samuel gathered them together to a certain city called Mizpeh, which, in the Hebrew tongue, signifies a watch-tower; there they drew water, and poured it out to God, and fasted all day, and betook themselves to their prayers.
2. This their assembly did not escape the notice of the Philistines: so when they had learned that so large a company had met together, they fell upon the Hebrews with a great army and mighty forces, as hoping to assault them when they did not expect it, nor were prepared for it. This thing affrighted the Hebrews, and put them into disorder and terror; so they came running to Samuel, and said that their souls were sunk by their fears, and by the former defeat they had received, and "that thence it was that we lay still, lest we should excite the power of our enemies against us. Now while thou hast brought us hither to offer up our prayers and sacrifices, and take oaths [to be obedient], our enemies are making an expedition against us, while we are naked and unarmed; wherefore we have no other hope of deliverance but that by thy means, and by the assistance God shall afford us upon thy prayers to him, we shall obtain deliverance from the Philistines." Hereupon Samuel bade them be of good cheer, and promised them that God would assist them; and taking a sucking lamb, he sacrificed it for the multitude, and besought God to hold his protecting hand over them when they should fight with the Philistines, and not to overlook them, nor suffer them to come under a second misfortune. Accordingly God hearkened to his prayers, and accepting their sacrifice with a gracious intention, and such as was disposed to assist them, he granted them victory and power over their enemies. Now while the altar had the sacrifice of God upon it, and had not yet consumed it wholly by its sacred fire, the enemy's army marched out of their camp, and was put in order of battle, and this in hope that they should be conquerors, since the Jews 5 were caught in distressed circumstances, as neither having their weapons with them, nor being assembled there in order to fight. But things so fell out, that they would hardly have been credited though they had been foretold by anybody: for, in the first place, God disturbed their enemies with an earthquake, and moved the ground under them to such a degree, that he caused it to tremble, and made them to shake, insomuch that by its trembling, he made some unable to keep their feet, and made them fall down, and by opening its chasms, he caused that others should be hurried down into them; after which he caused such a noise of thunder to come among them, and made fiery lightning shine so terribly round about them, that it was ready to burn their faces; and he so suddenly shook their weapons out of their hands, that he made them fly and return home naked. So Samuel with the multitude pursued them to Bethcar, a place so called; and there he set up a stone as a boundary of their victory and their enemies' flight, and called it the Stone of Power, as a signal of that power God had given them against their enemies.
3. So the Philistines, after this stroke, made no more expeditions against the Israelites, but lay still out of fear, and out of remembrance of what had befallen them; and what courage the Philistines had formerly against the Hebrews, that, after this victory, was transferred to the Hebrews. Samuel also made an expedition against the Philistines, and slew many of them, and entirely humbled their proud hearts, and took from them that country, which, when they were formerly conquerors in battle, they had cut off from the Jews, which was the country that extended from the borders of Gath to the city of Ekron: but the remains of the Canaanites were at this time in friendship with the Israelites.