The Apple Of God's Eye

February 22, 2011

Did Old Testament Disobedience Result In Great Slaughter From God?

all-history.org

The King James Version states that at the time the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel by the Philistines, God slew 50,070 men because they had looked inside the ark. Many Bible translations and commentaries reject the number 50,070 as inaccurate and unreasonable. They argue that this verse should read that only 70 men were actually killed.

This conclusion, however, is inconsistent with the second part of this verse. The Bible plainly states that “the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a “great slaughter.”

The term “great slaughter” is used many times in the Old Testament to describe military engagements where tens of thousands of soldiers were killed. Notice I Samuel 4, verses 10 and 17, where 30,000 Israelite soldiers died at the hands of the Philistines in a “great slaughter.” Compare also Joshua 10:10, Judges 11:33, and II Samuel 18:7.

Nevertheless, Bible students still find the account of I Samuel 6:19 difficult to accept. The original Hebrew clearly reads “seventy men, fifty thousand men.” Scholars point to the unusual arrangement of the numbers in that the 70 stands before the 50,000. The smaller number appearing first, however, is not an unprecedented arrangement in the Hebrew language. Even the omission of a conjunction between the two numbers does not change the meaning of the original text.

The Bible very precisely states that 50,070 men died in a great slaughter because of the irreverence and presumption of the men of Bethshemesh. The critical arguments of Bible scholars to dismiss the number 50,000 as a scribal error or a deliberate corruption of the text are a misguided attempt to diminish this dramatic account.

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