The ark at Beth-shemesh (1 Sam 6:13-6:19)

“Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. When they looked up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to meet it. The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. It stopped there. A large stone was there. So they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to Yahweh. The Levites took down the ark of Yahweh and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden objects. They set them on the great stone. Then the people of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and presented sacrifices on that day to Yahweh. When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.”

Now it was the harvest season in Beth-shemesh, a town about 15 miles west of Jerusalem, close to the Philistine town of Ekron. A man named Joshua saw the cart with the Ark of the Covenant. He immediately sacrificed two cows on a stone altar there. Since this was a Levite town, they took the Ark of the Covenant and the box beside it. The 5 lords of the Philistines were satisfied that they were rid of the ark, so they returned to Ekron.

“These are the golden tumors, which the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to Yahweh: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, and one for Ekron. The golden mice represented the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and un-walled villages. The great stone, beside which they set down the ark of Yahweh, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. The descendents of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-shemesh when they greeted the ark of Yahweh. Yahweh killed seventy men of them. The people mourned because Yahweh had made a great slaughter among the people.”

The 5 gold tumors and golden mice represented the 5 major cities of the Philistines. That altar was still around when the author of this work wrote this book. However, one group was not happy about the ark, so Yahweh wiped them out. There is a minor dispute about this passage since the Septuagint used the name Jeconiah, but the Hebrew Bible seemed to indicate that some people looked into the ark, showing disrespect so that they were killed, without mentioning any name. Here is the real problem, some have translated this as 50,000 people, which would be outrageous. However, even 70 people sounds like a large number of people to die for some sort of disrespect for the Ark of the Covenant.

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