One day, during the time of Samuel the prophet, the Philistines carried out a bold incursion into Israel's land. They attacked God's people and won a decisive victory (see 1Samuel 4).
Baffled as to why they were beaten, Israel's elders make the hasty and foolish decision to bring the Ark of the Covenant onto the battlefield (1Samuel 4:3 - 5). The Ark, which contained the Ten Commandments written by God's finger, was a national religious treasure. Israel's hopes, however, of its mere presence insuring a victory were quickly dashed. The Philistines defeated them yet again and captured the cherished Ark.
Israelite hopes that the mere presence of the Ark would insure a military victory quickly fell apart. The Philistines soundly defeated them, yet again, and captured their symbol of God's covenant as a spoil of war. Israel's hated and feared enemy, however, would soon learn a quite painful (and to us, humorous) lesson that the Lord is second to none and can creatively punish those who disrespect him!
The Ark is taken to the Philistine city of Ashdod. It is soon laid in front of a large idol of Dagon, the people's primary deity, as a symbol that it was mightier than the Eternal (1Samuel 5). God, however, causes the statue of Dagon to fall down in each of the first two nights it is in the presence of the Ark. The second time the idol falls it breaks into several pieces (verses 2 - 4).
What proceeds next is perhaps the most humorous punishment in the Bible! Scripture states the Philistines were punished with the following, "And the hand of the Lord was heavy upon the people of Ashdod, and He destroyed them and struck them with (painful) hemorrhoids . . ." (1Samuel 5:6, HBFV).
The torment of the hemorrhoids drives those in Ashdod to transfer the Ark to another Philistine city named Gath (1Samuel 5:8). When it arrives, all the people are made to suffer the same punishment as Ashdod! As one would imagine, it did not take long for this prized war trophy to be hurried out of Gath to yet another city (Ekron).
The curse of the hemorrhoids, however, also strikes all those in Ekron. They, too, demand the Ark be taken away.
The Philistine leadership finally comes to its senses and decides to send the Ark BACK to Israel (1Samuel 6).
In order to appease the true God they so readily mocked, they are advised by their priests to drop it off in Israelite territory with some rather unique offerings (1Samuel 6:2 - 5). What were these special guilt offerings? They were five pieces of gold shaped like mice and five other offerings of gold shaped like, you guessed it, the hemorrhoids that inflicted them (verses 4 - 5, 11)!