| || |The Berean Expositor Volume 53 - Page 198 of 215 Index | Zoom | |
was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt
offering unto the Lord" (I Sam. 6: 10-14).
Bethshemesh means "house of the sun", and as one of the cities given to the Levites
by the tribe of Judah. It was thus a priestly city, a fitting place for the Ark to come to,
and especially to a farm owned by a man with the name of Joshua. The Philistines must
have watched it all the seven miles from Ekron to the border in amazement, but now
quite sure that they could return to their homes knowing that they had removed the cause
of all their recent sufferings.
Bethshemesh is today identified with a village called Ain Shems in the valley of
Sorek, on the slopes of the mount of Judah. On the western side there are ancient ruins
which shows that the place was once a town of considerable size. The fruitful plains still
yield their harvests of wheat. When the cart appeared most people were apparently in
their fields reaping, and their joy must have been great when they recognized the Ark
upon it. The day probably turned into one of sacrifices, offerings and feasting. Perhaps
the people feasted too well and lost all sense of reverence for the sacred Ark, for they
took the opportunity of lifting the lid and peering inside. They looked upon those
contents which no profane eyes in Israel had done since the day it was sealed up in the
wilderness. The judgment of the Lord was swift:
"And He smote the men of Bethshemesh, 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.
And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and
to whom shall He go up from us? And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of
Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; come ye
down, and fetch it up to you" (I Sam. 6: 19-21).
The number of slain here, 50,070, has been the subject of considerable research
among commentators. The translators of the Greek O.T. (LXX) wrote, "and the Lord
smote among them seventy men, and fifty thousand men". The Jewish Chaldee writers
explain that the odd 70 were elders, and the 50,000 ordinary people. Josephus, the
Jewish historian, in his account of this incident does not mention the larger number, but
records that 70 men died. Bible scholars have asked, would this be counted as a great
slaughter? Apparently the original texts are not quite clear, but there are some who
believe that there are two smitings recorded, as follows:
(1) And He smote the men of Bethshemesh, 70 men.
(2) And He smote the people, 50,000 men.
The first judgment fell upon the men of Bethshemesh who had profaned the Ark, and
the second upon the whole nation because there was no national humiliation, no
confession of sin or entreaty of the Lord's forgiveness: no national prayer for His
gracious Presence to return and dwell among them. This could well be so. It is not to be
marveled at that when God Himself seeks His people, and they reject Him and disobey
His commands, that there should come punishment from Him "Who is a consuming fire".