|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:4-20 The Kohathites were to carry the holy things of the tabernacle. All the holy things were to be covered; not only for security and respect, but to keep them from being seen. This not only marked the reverence due to holy things, but the mystery of the things signified by those types, and the darkness of the dispensation. But now, through Christ, the case is altered, and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.
Verse 20. - They shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered. This translation is disputed. The word rendered "are covered" is the Piel infinitive from bala, to swallow, and so to destroy. It may signify the extreme rapidity with which the most holy things were hidden from sight and removed from touch, so as to become, as it were, non-existent for the time. So the Syriac, Arabic, Samaritan, and the Targums of Onkelos and Palestine. On the other hand, it may be a proverbial expression, "in a swallow, at a gulp," i.e., "for an instant," as in Job 7:19. And so the Septuagint, ἐξάπινα, and most modern scholars. Whichever way, however, we take it, the phrase, "they shall not go in to see," seems to limit the prohibition under pain of death to the deliberate act of entering the tabernacle out of curiosity during the process of packing up the holy things. The case of the men of Bethshemesh, therefore (1 Samuel 6:19), does not fall within the letter of this law, although it does within its spirit. The command, thus limited, is no doubt an addition to the previous command not to touch, but it is altogether in keeping with it. If it was the will of God to hedge about these sacred symbols of his presence and his worship with an awful sanctity, it is obvious that he was as much bound to defend them against the irreverent prying of the eye as against the irreverent touch of the hand; and the prying here prohibited would have been distinctly willful and inexcusable.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered,.... They were not to be present while they were packing up, test they should see any of them with their eyes; they were not to go in until they were quite covered out of sight; which may signify the hiding of the mysteries of grace in those things under the former dispensation, when even the Levites themselves were not admitted to a sight of them; see Ephesians 3:4,
lest they die; by the immediate hand of God.
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