1 Samuel 6: Return of the Lost Ark

Wouldn’t you love to see John Williams compose the soundtrack to this chapter?

The Philistines have had a rough go the last few months.

Sure, they won a great and decisive victory over Israel. Sure, they captured the most important object in Israelite culture. But that doesn’t mean life has been rainbows and lollipops.

Tumors and terror have plagued their cities. Their god, Dagon’s capa was detated. Some victory celebration, right?

I know the Philistines are villains (or Vill-istines) in this story, but I gotta hand it to them, they know when they are beat. They know they have to get rid of the ark of God before something worse happens. They’ve heard what God did to Egypt and they do not want to go the way of Pharaoh.

What do they do? They repent.

They send the ark back with a guilt offering to the LORD. They know they were wrong. They admit it and make amends.

Israel’s Response

One day, in the border town of Beth-Shemesh, the people were out collecting the wheat harvest. They looked up and saw the ark come over the ridge pulled in a cart by a couple of cows.

They joyously ran out to meet it. The Levites took it down and made sure it was cared for. The people sacrificed the cows on a large stone.

It was a happy day.

Both Israel and Philistia responded to God appropriately.

But then (and this is where it will get weird if you are reading from a different version of the Bible) this guy, Jeconiah and his family decided to be crabby pooh-heads about the whole thing. They didn’t celebrate the return of the ark.

So God killed seventy of them.

That sucks. And just so you know I’m not being flippant about it, that is a disturbing passage.

Party or DIE!

What’s It Say in Your Bible?

I am studying from the NRSV. Here is what 1 Samuel 6:19 says:

“The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-Shemesh when they greeted the ark of the LORD; and he killed seventy men of them.”

But here is what it says in my NIV:

“But God struck down some of the men of Beth-Shemesh, putting seventy* of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.”

There is no note in my Bible about a discrepancy in translations or manuscripts. So I am very confused. Which is it? Does anyone have any answers for that?

I’m looking at you, David Lamb.

Well, either way, those men who looked into the ark or chose not to party didn’t respond as well as the Philistines. And when that happens, you know you have a problem.

What does your translation say? What do you make of God killing those men?

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3 responses

  1. Here it is in the venerable King James:
    1 Samuel 6:19 KJV

    And he smote the men of Beth–shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord , even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

    The text of the ESV says 50, but the text note says of the 70, 50,000.

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