The Meaning of 1 Samuel 6:19 Explained

1 Samuel 6:19

KJV: 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.

YLT: And He smiteth among the men of Beth-Shemesh, for they looked into the ark of Jehovah, yea, He smiteth among the people seventy men -- fifty chief men; and the people mourn, because Jehovah smote among the people -- a great smiting.

Darby: And he smote among the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah, and smote of the people seventy men; and the people lamented, because Jehovah had smitten the people with a great slaughter.

ASV: And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah, he smote of the people seventy men, and fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because Jehovah had smitten the people with a great slaughter.

What does 1 Samuel 6:19 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Not all the people who later assembled to view the returned ark were as careful as those from Bethshemesh, however. The Mosaic Law specified that no one was to look into the ark or that person would die ( Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:20; cf. 2 Samuel 6:6-7). The number of the slain (50 ,070 , 1 Samuel 6:19) may represent an error a scribe made as he copied the text [1] , though there is strong textual support for the large number. Several Hebrew manuscripts omit50 ,000 , and Josephus mentioned only70 fatalities. [2] Perhaps70 men died, as the NIV and several other modern translations state.
"The basic point at issue in this verse is that God will brook no irregularity in his people"s treatment of the sacred ark (cf. 2 Samuel 6:6 f.). [3]
"The power of God was not something that Israel somehow tamed and confined in a box, any more than modern man can banish God to the churches, chapels and cathedrals they take care never to frequent." [2]
Why did God strike dead some Israelites who touched the ark inappropriately ( 1 Samuel 6:19; 1 Chronicles 13:10; cf. Leviticus 10:2) and not deal with the Philistines in the same way ( 1 Samuel 4:17)? God was merciful to the Philistines. He will be gracious to whom He will be gracious, and He will show compassion on whom He will show compassion ( Exodus 33:19). The reason for His patience with the Philistines was partially to teach the Israelites and the Philistines His omnipotence. Also, the Israelites" greater knowledge of God"s will placed them under greater responsibility to do His will.
The Israelites came to a fresh appreciation of Yahweh"s holiness because these men died ( 1 Samuel 6:20). The last part of this verse indicates that they wished God would depart from them, because they were sinful and He was holy (cf. Isaiah 6:5). Thus the capture of the ark resulted in the Philistines recognizing that Yahweh was the true source of fertility and blessing. The Israelites" also rededicated themselves to investigating and following the revealed will of God in the Mosaic Covenant.
Archaeologists believe they have located the remains of Kiriath-jearim about10 miles east and a little north of Bethshemesh. Why did the Israelites not return the ark to the tabernacle at Shiloh? One possibility is that the Philistines had destroyed Shiloh (cf. Psalm 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12; Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 26:9). The ark did not reside in an appropriate place of honor until David brought it into his new capital, Jerusalem ( 2 Samuel 6). Kiriath-jearim was not a Levitical city nor is there any reason to believe Abinadab and Eleazar were priests or Levites. Perhaps the Israelites kept the ark there for convenience sake. It evidently remained there for many years (cf. 2 Samuel 6:2). Wood calculated that it was there about seventy years. [5] Baale-judah ( 2 Samuel 6:2) may be a later name for Kiriath-jearim. [6]
"The certainty of God"s presence is always a sign of hope, however dark the circumstances may be." [7]
This whole major section of1Samuel ( 1 Samuel 4:1 b to 1 Samuel 7:1) advances the fertility motif. Dagon, the chief god of Israel"s chief rival, proved incapable of preventing Yahweh"s curse from falling on the Philistines. Yahweh Himself appears as sovereign and all-powerful. Whereas the ark was the symbol of God"s presence, it was not a talisman that would secure victory for its possessor. The Israelites" attitude reveals that they did not appreciate the importance of obeying the Mosaic Law. Some individuals probably perceived that God"s presence was essential to Israel"s blessing. Perhaps Eli and Phinehas" wife did. When God"s presence was near again, there was rejoicing. In spite of Israel"s unfaithfulness, God gave the nation some blessing and returned the ark to His people. He evidently did this so they would be able to rediscover the true nature of worship at a future time, under David"s leadership.
In this second major section of Samuel, as in the others, there are conflicts and reversals of fortune. These include Israel and the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 4:1-22), Dagon and the ark ( 1 Samuel 5:1 to 1 Samuel 6:9), and the people who did not rejoice and those who did ( 1 Samuel 6:10-16). [8]

Context Summary

1 Samuel 6:13-21 - Rashness Punished Reverence Blessed
The new cart, with its precious burden, must have come upon the men of Beth-shemesh like an apparition. The Ark was welcomed by them, after its seven months of absence, with great joy. But privilege entails responsibility; and their wanton curiosity and irreverence could not be permitted. Reverence for God Himself demanded the most careful behavior toward the Ark of His Presence, and when this was lacking, swift judgment ensued. See Numbers 1:50-51; Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:16-30.
It is interesting to notice that when the Israelites were weaned from the Ark, their hearts lamented after the Lord, 1 Samuel 7:2. We cannot be permanently happy without God. Seasons of apathy and irreligion will sooner or later be succeeded by faith and love, as the frost of winter yields to the touch of spring. In this case, the revival was due to the patient labor of Samuel, and he did splendid service in urging the people to deal drastically with the idols of Canaan, which had cut them off from God as clouds hide the sun. [source]

Chapter Summary: 1 Samuel 6

1  After seven months the Philistines take counsel how to send back the ark
10  They bring it on a new cart with an offering unto Beth Shemesh
19  The people are smitten for looking into the ark
21  They send to them of Kiriath Jearim to fetch it

What do the individual words in 1 Samuel 6:19 mean?

And He struck the men of Beth Shemesh because they had looked into the ark of Yahweh of the people [and] seventy men fifty thousand men and lamented the people because had struck Yahweh the people with a slaughter great
וַיַּ֞ךְ בְּאַנְשֵׁ֣י בֵֽית־ שֶׁ֗מֶשׁ כִּ֤י רָאוּ֙ בַּאֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֔ה בָּעָם֙ שִׁבְעִ֣ים אִ֔ישׁ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים אֶ֖לֶף אִ֑ישׁ וַיִּֽתְאַבְּל֣וּ הָעָ֔ם כִּֽי־ הִכָּ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה בָּעָ֖ם מַכָּ֥ה גְדוֹלָֽה‪‬

וַיַּ֞ךְ  And  He  struck 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Hifil, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָכָה  
Sense: to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill.
בְּאַנְשֵׁ֣י  the  men 
Parse: Preposition-b, Noun, masculine plural construct
Root: אֱנׄושׁ 
Sense: man, mortal man, person, mankind.
שֶׁ֗מֶשׁ  Beth  Shemesh 
Parse: Proper Noun, feminine singular
Root: בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ  
Sense: a town in southwest Judah.
כִּ֤י  because 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: כִּי 
Sense: that, for, because, when, as though, as, because that, but, then, certainly, except, surely, since.
רָאוּ֙  they  had  looked 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person common plural
Root: רָאָה 
Sense: to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider.
בַּאֲר֣וֹן  into  the  ark 
Parse: Preposition-b, Noun, common singular construct
Root: אֲרֹון  
Sense: chest, ark.
יְהוָ֔ה  of  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
בָּעָם֙  of  the  people 
Parse: Preposition-b, Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: עַם 
Sense: nation, people.
שִׁבְעִ֣ים  [and]  seventy 
Parse: Number, common plural
Root: שִׁבְעִים  
Sense: seventy.
אִ֔ישׁ  men 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: אִישׁ 
Sense: man.
חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים  fifty 
Parse: Number, common plural
Root: חֲמִשִּׁים 
Sense: fifty.
אֶ֖לֶף  thousand 
Parse: Number, masculine singular
Root: אֶלֶף 
Sense: a thousand.
אִ֑ישׁ  men 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular
Root: אִישׁ 
Sense: man.
וַיִּֽתְאַבְּל֣וּ  and  lamented 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Hitpael, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine plural
Root: אָבַל 
Sense: to mourn, lament.
הָעָ֔ם  the  people 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: עַם 
Sense: nation, people.
כִּֽי־  because 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: כִּי 
Sense: that, for, because, when, as though, as, because that, but, then, certainly, except, surely, since.
הִכָּ֧ה  had  struck 
Parse: Verb, Hifil, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָכָה  
Sense: to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill.
יְהוָ֛ה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
בָּעָ֖ם  the  people 
Parse: Preposition-b, Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: עַם 
Sense: nation, people.
מַכָּ֥ה  with  a  slaughter 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular
Root: מַכָּה  
Sense: blow, wound, slaughter.
גְדוֹלָֽה‪‬  great 
Parse: Adjective, feminine singular
Root: גָּבֹול 
Sense: great.