on 1-samuel 6 :19
He smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men - The present Hebrew text of this most extraordinary reading stands thus: ויך באנשי בית־שמש - ויך בעם שבעים איש חמשים אלף איש vaiyach beanshey Beith-shemesh - vaiyach baam shibim ish, chamishshim eleph ish; "And he smote among the men of Beth-shemesh, (because they looked into the ark of Jehovah), and he smote among the people Seventy men, Fifty Thousand men."
From the manner in which the text stands, and from the great improbability of the thing, it is most likely that there is a corruption in this text, or that some explanatory word is lost, or that the number fifty thousand has been added by ignorance or design; it being very improbable that such a small village as Beth-shemesh should contain or be capable of employing fifty thousand and seventy men in the fields at wheat harvest, much less that they could all peep into the ark on the stone of Abel, in the corn-field of Joshua.
That the words are not naturally connected in the Hebrew text, is evident; and they do not stand better in the versions.
1. The Vulgate renders it thus: - Et percussit de populo Septuaginta viros; et Quinquaginta Milla plebis; "And he smote of the (chief) people Seventy men, and Fifty Thousand of the (common) people." This distinction, I suppose, St. Jerome intended between plebis and populus; which he might think was warranted by the אנשים anashim, and איש ish, of the Hebrew text.
2. The Targum of Jonathan is something similar to the Vulgate: - "And he smote בסבי עמא besabey amma, of the elders of the people Seventy men; ובקהלא ubekahala, and of the congregation Fifty Thousand men."
3. The Septuagint follow the Hebrew text: Και επαταξεν εν αυτοις ἑβδομηκοντα ανδρας, και πεντηκοντα χιλιαδας ανδρων; "And he smote of them Seventy men; and Fifty Thousand men." εκ του λαου, of the people, is added by some copies.
4. The Syriac has forty-five thousand less! It is as follows: wamacho Morio beamo chamesho alapin weshabein gabrin; "And the Lord smote among the people Five thousand and Seventy men."
5. The Arabic is nearly similar: "And the Lord smote among the people; and there died of them Five thousand and Seventy men." We have no other versions from which we can receive any farther light.
6. Josephus is different from all the rest, and has fifty thousand less, for he renders the place thus, Antiq. Jud. libe. vi., cap. i., sect. 4: Θργη δε και χολος του Θεου μετεισιν, ὡστε ἑβδομηκοντα των εκ της Βηθσαμης κωμησ-βαλων απεκτεινεν "But the displeasure and wrath of God pursued them so, that Seventy men of the village of Beth-shemesh, approaching the ark, which they were not worthy to touch, (not being priests), were struck with lightning." Here we find the whole fifty thousand is omitted.
7. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi, giving the opinion of other rabbins as well as his own, says, "Our rabbins say Seventy men, and each of them was worth fifty thousand men; or fifty thousand, every one of whom was worth the seventy of the Sanhedrin." This only shows embarrassment, but gives very little light.
All these discordances, together with the utter improbability of the thing, lead us to suppose there must be a corruption in this place, either by adding or omitting.
Dr. Kennicott has found three very reputable MSS. in which the words חמשים אלף איש chamishshim eleph ish, fifty thousand men, are wanting. The 1st, No. 84, a MS. from Holland; the 2d, No. 210, one of the Parisian MSS.; the 3d, No. 418, a MS. belonging to Milan; all three written about the beginning of the twelfth century, and numbered as above in Dr. K's Bible.
Perhaps the omission in these MSS. was occasioned by a mistake of the transcriber, which might have easily happened, because of the word איש ish, which occurs both after שבעים shibim and after אלף eleph; for, having written the first, and taking his eye off, when he recommenced he might have supposed he had written the latter, and so proceed, leaving the words in question out of his copy. Two, three, or more persons might have been thus deceived, and so produce the above MSS.; or the mistake once made, all the MSS. copied from that would show the same omission. The common reading may be defended, if we only suppose the omission of a single letter, the particle of comparison כ ke, like, as, or equal to, before the word חמשים chamishshim: thus כחמשים kechamishshim; the passage would then read: "And he smote of the people Seventy men, equal to Fifty Thousand men;" that is, they were the elders or governors of the people.
Some solve the difficulty by translating, "He slew Seventy men Out Of fifty thousand men." There are various other methods invented by learned men to remove this difficulty, which I shall not stop to examine; all, however, issue in this point, that only Seventy Men were slain; and this is, without doubt the most probable. The Fifty Thousand, therefore, must be an interpolation, or be understood in some such way as that mentioned above. But the omission of the particle of similitude solves every difficulty; and this would account for the reading in Josephus, who in his recital would naturally leave out such an explanation of the worth of the seventy men, as his Roman readers could not easily comprehend such comparisons.
on 1-samuel 6 :19
Fifty thousand and three score and ten - Read "three" score and "ten", omitting "fifty thousand", which appears to have crept into the text from the margin. It is not improbable that in their festive rejoicing priests, Levites, and people may have fallen into intemperance, and hence, into presumptuous irreverence (compare Leviticus 10:1, Leviticus 10:9). God had just vindicated His own honor against the Philistines; it must now be seen that He would be sanctified in them that come near Him Leviticus 10:3. It is obvious to observe how the doctrine of atonement, and its necessity in the case of sinners, is taught in this and similar lessons as to the awesome HOLINESS of God.
on 1-samuel 6 :19
6:19 Had looked - Having now an opportunity which they never yet had, it is not strange they had a vehement curiosity to see the contents of the ark. Of the people - In and near Beth - shemesh and coming from all parts on this occasion.