1 Samuel 6:20
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?
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(20) Who is able to stand?—There is some superstition involved in this exclamation, “Whither shall we send this awful visitant?” The men of the priestly city of Beth-shemesh strangely connected their invisible King with that golden Ark, which, sacred though it was, was but a lifeless chest of wood and gold.

Yet through their superstition we can discern a deep consciousness of sin and shortcoming, which argued well for the future reformation of the religious life of the people—a grand work, which we shall soon sec Samuel the prophet labouring so faithfully and so successfully to bring about. These poor sinners, discerning the cause of the fatal stroke which had fallen upon their brethren, felt too surely that they were none of them any better really than those who had fallen victims to their impiety, and were fully sensible that sinners could not dwell in the presence of God. Carried away by this feeling of awe before the purity of the invisible King, they cried, “To whom shall He go up from us?”

These poor Hebrews felt the same fear as John was sensible of centuries later, when at the feet of the glorified Son of Man he fell as dead; but they, less blessed than John and the children of the kingdom, had no Redeemer there to raise them up with the loving whisper: “Fear not; I (whom thou dreadest) am He that liveth and was dead.” (Sec Revelation 1:17-18.)

1 Samuel 6:20. Who is able to stand? &c. — That is, to minister before the ark, where the Lord is present. Since God is so severe to mark what is amiss in his servants, who is sufficient to serve him? They seem by this to have been made sensible of their rashness, and brought to acknowledge the holiness of God to be such that they were not worthy of his divine presence among them, and therefore they desired that the ark might be placed elsewhere. And to whom shall he go up from us? — Who will dare to receive the ark with so much hazard to themselves? Thus when the word of God works with terror on men’s consciences, instead of taking the blame to themselves, they frequently quarrel with the word, and endeavour to put it from them.6:19-21 It is a great affront to God, for vain men to pry into, and meddle with the secret things which belong not to them, De 29:29; Col 2:18. Man was ruined by desiring forbidden knowledge. God will not suffer his ark to be profaned. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Those that will not fear his goodness, and reverently use the tokens of his grace, shall be made to feel his justice. The number smitten is expressed in an unusual manner in the original, and it is probable that it means 1170. They desire to be rid of the ark. Foolish men run from one extreme to the other. They should rather have asked, How may we have peace with God, and recover his favor? Mic 6:6,7. Thus, when the word of God works with terror on sinners' consciences, they, instead of taking the blame and shame to themselves, quarrel with the word, and put that from them. Many stifle their convictions, and put salvation away from them.Fifty thousand and three score and ten - Read "three" score and "ten", omitting "fifty thousand", which appears to have crept into the text from the margin. It is not improbable that in their festive rejoicing priests, Levites, and people may have fallen into intemperance, and hence, into presumptuous irreverence (compare Leviticus 10:1, Leviticus 10:9). God had just vindicated His own honor against the Philistines; it must now be seen that He would be sanctified in them that come near Him Leviticus 10:3. It is obvious to observe how the doctrine of atonement, and its necessity in the case of sinners, is taught in this and similar lessons as to the awesome HOLINESS of God. 19. he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark—In the ecstasy of delight at seeing the return of the ark, the Beth-shemesh reapers pried into it beneath the wagon cover; and instead of covering it up again, as a sacred utensil, they let it remain exposed to common inspection, wishing it to be seen, in order that all might enjoy the triumph of seeing the votive offerings presented to it, and gratify curiosity with the sight of the sacred shrine. This was the offense of those Israelites (Levites, as well as common people), who had treated the ark with less reverence than the Philistines themselves.

he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men—Beth-shemesh being only a village, this translation must be erroneous, and should be, "he smote fifty out of a thousand," being only fourteen hundred in all who indulged this curiosity. God, instead of decimating, according to an ancient usage, slew only a twentieth part; that is, according to Josephus, seventy out of fourteen hundred (see Nu 4:18-22).

To stand before this holy Lord God, i.e. to minister before the ark where the Lord is present. Since God is so severe to mark whatsoever is amiss in his servants, who is sufficient and worthy to serve him? who dare presume to come into his presence? It seems to be a complaint, or expostulation with God, concerning this last and great instance of his severity.

To whom shall he go up from us? who will dare to receive the ark with so much hazard to themselves? And the men of Bethshemesh said, who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?.... The Targum is,"before the ark of this holy Lord God;''which is said either by way of complaint of the severity of God, and the strictness of his justice; or in reverence of his holiness, acknowledging their imperfection, sin, and guilt, by reason of which they could not stand before him; nor can any, but on account of the mercy seat over the ark, or through Christ, his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice:

and to whom shall he go up from us? that is, the ark, the symbol of God's presence, which they seem to be desirous of parting with; being unworthy of it, and conscious of their impurity in comparison of God that dwelt in it; and of their weakness to give the honour and reverence that was due unto it; and yet they knew not who were fit for it, or would choose to receive it, because of the danger they were liable to through every inadvertency in them, and irreverence of that.

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?
20. Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?] Before Jehovah this holy God. Holiness is an especial attribute of Jehovah, demanding a corresponding holiness on the part of the people among whom He promised to dwell (Exodus 29:45-46; Leviticus 11:44-45). Chastisement was necessary to teach the men of Beth-shemesh that their sinfulness could not stand before the holiness of God (cp. Malachi 3:2; Luke 5:8): but instead of fitting themselves for His Presence, they desired to free themselves from the harden of it. Cp. Matthew 8:34.

We should compare the judgment upon Uzzah, after which David feared to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:7-9.)

to whom shall he go up from us?] They regard the Presence of Jehovah as inseparable from the Ark.Verses 20, 21. - Who is able, etc. Literally, "Who is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God?" A punishment so severe following upon their unhallowed temerity made the inhabitants of this city of priests eager to pass the ark on to others. They therefore sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim to request them to fetch it away. Kiryath-yarim - for so it ought to be pronounced - means the city of forests - Woodtown, softened among us into Wooton. It was chosen apparently simply because it was the nearest town of any importance, and was therefore identified in early Christian times with the modern Kuriet-el-'anab, grapetown, the woods having given way to vines, and which is about ten miles off, on the road to Mizpah. Conder, however, doubts the correctness of this view, and places Kirjath-jearim at Soba (see 'Tent Work,' 1:18 22).

The inhabitants of Bethshemesh were busy with the wheat-harvest in the valley (in front of the town), when they unexpectedly saw the ark of the covenant coming, and rejoiced to see it. The cart had arrived at the field of Joshua, a Bethshemeshite, and there it stood still before a large stone. And they (the inhabitants of Bethshemesh) chopped up the wood of the cart, and offered the cows to the Lord as a burnt-offering. In the meantime the Levites had taken off the ark, with the chest of golden presents, and placed it upon the large stone; and the people of Bethshemesh offered burnt-offerings and slain-offerings that day to the Lord. The princes of the Philistines stood looking at this, and then returned the same day to Ekron. That the Bethshemeshites, and not the Philistines, are the subject to ויבקּעוּ, is evident from the correct interpretation of the clauses; viz., from the fact that in 1 Samuel 6:14 the words from והעגלה to גּדולה אבן are circumstantial clauses introduced into the main clause, and that ויבקּעוּ is attached to לראות ויּשׂמחוּ, and carries on the principal clause.
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