Let’s notice the verse in question: “And He smote the men of Beth-shemesh, 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” (King James Version).
This verse states that God killed 50,070 Israelites for looking inside the Ark of the Covenant at the time the Philistines returned it. However, this number is spurned by many Bible translators and commentary writers. They feel that this number is unreasonably high. Instead, they propose that God slew only 70 men that day.
But their suppositions are wrong. God does not embellish. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). These Bible “students” do not accept the original Hebrew, which states, “seventy men, fifty thousand men.” They claim that the “seventy men” appearing before the “fifty thousand men” is an uncommon configuration of the Hebrew. But this “backwards” order—the larger number written after the smaller—can be found elsewhere in the Bible. Another point to consider is the lack of the word “and.” But this does not preclude one from logically adding them together.
Further, recognize the last two words of the verse—“great slaughter.” But what constitutes a great slaughter?
We must always let the Bible interpret itself. Read I Samuel 4:10 and 4:17. The Philistines killed 30,000 Israelite men, which is described as a “great slaughter.” Joshua 10:10, Judges 11:33, and II Samuel 18:7 also reveal that a “great slaughter” involves the death of thousands and thousands.
Despite this abundant evidence, mistaken scholars will not be convinced. Their ideas serve only to discredit the gravity of this account. But, as you can see, the Bible clearly indicates that over FIFTY THOUSAND died for their brash disrespect towards God.
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