And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great blow. Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up to you.”
And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the LORD. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
Comment: The Philistines were not part of the chosen people. Not that God hated them but they were not Hebrews. So the rules of handling the Ark did not extend to them. For the people around Beth-shemesh, however, they did apply. The Ark was seen as the place where God showed Himself as dwelling, although He inhabits the whole Universe. People who should have known better apparently stood staring at the Ark. Maybe we see God’s reaction in smiting seventy of them with a mighty blow as harsh. It was done because otherwise liberties, which were not to be taken in worshipping God, would have become normal practice. So the locals sent the Ark, no doubt out of shame and fear to Kiriath-jearim, where it was treated properly and put under the care of a Levite Eleazor, son of Abinadab. While we did not use these names for our sons, I am glad the Bible does name individuals to fix the events in time and space. It means that these are not ‘fairy tales’.
Prayer: Sovereign God, although we do not always understand your ways, we humbly bow to You.