1 Samuel 6:19 Commentary: The Ark’s Perilous Return

And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow.

1 Samuel 6:19, ESV

1 Samuel 6:19 Commentary

1 Samuel 6:19 narrates a sobering event as the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred symbol of God’s presence, returns to Israel after being captured by the Philistines.

As the Ark arrives in Beth Shemesh, the people, overcome with curiosity and perhaps a sense of entitlement, look inside it. This act leads to a tragic consequence: God strikes down some of the men of Beth Shemesh for their irreverence (1 Samuel 6:19), as this event occurs within the broader narrative of God’s relationship with Israel, where respect for the divine and adherence to His commandments are paramount.

The historical setting of this verse is critical to understanding its gravity:

  • The Ark was not just a religious artifact but a tangible representation of God’s covenant and presence with Israel. It was to be treated with utmost reverence and handled according to specific divine instructions.
  • The people’s act of looking inside the Ark was a direct violation of this sacredness, reflecting a deeper issue of disregarding God’s holiness and commands.

Theologically, this verse highlights the seriousness with which God views the sanctity of His presence and the obedience of His people, serving as a stark reminder of the consequences of taking God’s holiness lightly and the need for reverence in approaching the divine. This incident is not just about punishment – but about reinforcing the need for a proper attitude towards God’s sacredness, a theme echoed throughout the Bible (Leviticus 10:1-3).

The ethical and moral implications challenge readers to consider their approach to the sacred and the consequences of irreverence and disobedience while also raising questions about communal responsibility and the repercussions of individual actions on the broader community.

For the contemporary Christian, the verse speaks to the importance of respecting what is sacred, whether in religious or moral contexts and urges a thoughtful approach to matters of deep significance and the consequences of disregarding boundaries and commands.

Cross-referencing this event with the tragedy of Nadab and Abihu offering unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3) provides additional insight into the seriousness with which God views the sanctity of worship and obedience.

1 Samuel 6:19 is a somber reminder of the need for reverence and obedience to God.

It challenges contemporary readers to reflect on their attitudes toward what is sacred and the implications of their actions. As we navigate modern life, the principles underlying this verse encourage a thoughtful and respectful approach to matters of deep significance.

Read 1 Samuel 6:19 in Additional Translations

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.

1 Samuel 6:19, KJV

But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them.

1 Samuel 6:19, NIV

But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done.

1 Samuel 6:19, NLT

Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.

1 Samuel 6:19, NKJV

God struck down the people of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the Lord. He struck down seventy persons. The people mourned because the Lord struck them with a great slaughter.

1 Samuel 6:19, CSB