We have already read about several unholy acts in the Book of 1 Samuel. However, this passage still gives us a shock.
Hophni and Phinehas had died because they dealt with Godís holy gifts in a wicked manner (2:12-17). At the same time, Israel suffered the loss of its most holy object: the sacred box called the ark (4:11).
Then the people in Philistia would not respect God or his ark. First God acted against their false god called Dagon. Then a terrible illness spread through their country (1 Samuel chapter 5).
Now, at last, the ark was back in Israel. The people in Beth Shemesh received it with great joy. However, they then carried out a very terrible act. They opened the sacred ark and they looked inside. That was a very unholy thing to do.
The men in Beth Shemesh were priests (Joshua 21:16). They would know how God expected them to behave. We cannot be sure why they did it. Perhaps they were checking whether the inhabitants of Philistia had removed anything from the ark. Perhaps they had seen the gold from Philistia, and they were looking for more precious things. Perhaps they were just curious.
God had not told them to do such a thing. They were carrying out this unholy act on purpose. The result was that many of them died. Then, at last, the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh understood that God is holy. They saw that they must respect him properly. They decided that Godís ark should not remain in their town.
So, they asked the inhabitants of Kiriath Jearim to take the ark from them. The people in that town understood that it was a sacred task to look after the ark. It became the duty of the family of Abinadab to keep the ark in their house. That was where the ark remained for many years.
Next part: The ark in Kiriath Jearim (1 Samuel 7:1)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.