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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.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

6:19 men of Beth-shemesh. Even though these men were Levites (Joshua 21:16) they had indicated their complete lack of respect for God’s ark by looking into it, which they had no right to do.

6:19 fifty thousand and threescore and ten men. This number seems inordinately large, probably larger than the whole population of this town, or that could possibly have looked into the ark. The Jewish historian Josephus, as well as a few Hebrew copies of I Samuel, indicate the number may have originally been only “seventy men.” It is also possible, of course, that all the men of the Beth-shemesh region were morbidly curious about the ark, and selected 70 representatives to examine it. Thus God could have considered them all guilty.

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