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1 Samuel 6:20

ESV 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?”
NIV And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, 'Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?'
NASB And the men of Beth-shemesh said, 'Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom will He go up from us?'
CSB The people of Beth-shemesh asked, "Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord this holy God? To whom should the ark go from here? "
NLT Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?' they cried out. 'Where can we send the Ark from here?'
KJV And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?

What does 1 Samuel 6:20 mean?

The Lord has shocked the people of Beth-shemesh by killing seventy of their men. This is in response to their profane treatment of the ark, likely that they opened it an looked inside . They clearly violated commands about how to correctly handle the ark of God (Numbers 4), choosing to offer sacrifices before the ark in the open in a spirit of celebration instead of treating the holiness of God among them with humility and reverence.

It's likely the people had an overly simple view of the Lord. They might have assumed He was like the gods of the other nations, so they could treat the ark as they might some kind of idol. They certainly seemed to have such a mindset in their battle with the Philistines seven months earlier (1 Samuel 4). It becomes clear in the following chapter that the Israelites were participating in the worship of foreign gods during this time (1 Samuel 7:3).

It's not surprising in their mourning that they sound like the Philistine people of Ashdod when the Lord caused the tumors to break out (1 Samuel 5:8). Who can stand before the LORD, this set apart God? To whom can we send Him away from us? As was the case with those in each Philistine city the ark arrived in, the people wanted to move the ark of the Lord out of town rather than risk more affliction from Him for violating His holiness (1 Samuel 5:6–12).

Centuries earlier, the Israelites at the food of Mount Sinai had a similar reaction to God's presence. God instructed Moses to consecrate the people and warned Moses to keep the people away from the mountain where He would come and display His presence. That display would confirm that God was speaking through Moses (Exodus 19:9). "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled" (Exodus 19:16). God gave the Ten Commandments. "When all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin'" (Exodus 20:18–20). They understood the holiness of God. Rather than run from God or try to get God to move elsewhere, they recognized their need for a mediator (Deuteronomy 18:15–18; 1 Timothy 2:5–6) and promised obedience.
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