II Samuel 6

 

 

(vs. 1-11)  The facts are:

 

1. David, deeming the time to be come for reorganizing the religious

services, raises a select force wherewith to bring the ark from its obscurity

at Kirjath-jearim.

2. Providing a new cart, the ark is set thereon, and brought out of the

house of Abinadab under charge of his two sons.

3. David and the people move in joyous procession before the ark to music

from all manner of instruments.

4. Arriving at a certain place, Uzzah, putting forth his hand to steady the

ark, is smitten for his rashness, and dies before the ark.

5. Thereupon David’s spirit is much troubled, and is filled with dread at the

thought of taking charge of so sacred and terrible a treasure.

6. David is restrained by this apprehension from his purpose, and

meanwhile leaves the ark in the house of Obed-Edom.

7. The sojourn of the ark in the house of Obed-Edom for three months

proves an occasion of great blessing to him and his family. The remarkable

events of this section naturally arrange themselves in a threefold order:

 

  1. the bringing up of the ark;
  2. the judgment on Uzzah; and
  3. the suspension of the undertaking.

 

 

1 “Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty

thousand.”   And David gathered together. The long subjection to the

Philistines was at an end, and David’s first care is to bring the ark of

Jehovah from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem. In this he had a twofold object.

For, first, it was an act of piety, testifying David’s gratitude to God, who

had so quickly raised him from the condition of a despairing fugitive hiding

away in the cave of Adullam to that of a victorious king reigning over an

independent and free people. But David had also a political purpose. The

weakness of Israel in the past was the result of its divisions, he would heal

this by giving it a capital, whither the tribes would come up for worship,

and where they would feel that they formed one nation. David had seen the

evils of a divided sovereignty, when he and Ishbosheth were wasting the

strength of Israel in civil war. For more than half a century he remedied

this, but before there had been time for the union of the tribes to be

cemented by the gradual influence of religion. Solomon’s oppressive levies

of unpaid workmen, forced to labor in his costly buildings, and the

despotic stupidity of Rehoboam, broke up united Israel into two feeble

states, which henceforward had to struggle hard for a mere existence. The

condition of Israel was very similar to that of the United States of North

America before their great civil war; except that their president, elected by

all the people, and their Congress at Washington, were far stronger bonds

of union than any that were possessed by the Israelites. But when there

was danger of even these failing to keep them together as one people, the

statesmen of the north put forth their utmost powers, and spared neither

life nor treasure, because they saw clearly that the victory of the south

meant the breaking up of their empire into a multitude of feeble

governments, which, by their mutual jealousies, would paralyze and thwart

one another. With equal discernment David endeavored to counteract the

jealousy and separate action of the tribes, which was bringing about the

disintegration of Israel, by giving them a point of union. Had he gone

further north for his capital, he might, perhaps, have overawed the

stubborn tribe of Ephraim, which was always the most unmanageable of

the sections of Israel. But the situation of Jerusalem upon the borders of

Benjamin and Judah, on a hill-top which neither had really possessed, and

which was marked out for noble use by its wonderful natural conformation,

fully justified David’s choice; and it has had the assent of mankind ever

since. David then made this unrivalled spot his capital, and placed there,

first of all, his royal residence, whereby it became the center of all public

business and of the administration of law; and, secondly, as a matter of still

higher importance, he made it the headquarters of their national religion

and the abode of their God. We see the weight of this religious influence in

the anxiety of Jeroboam to counteract it, and in the strength given to

Rehoboam by the migration into Judah of those who valued the temple

services more than their worldly prosperity. Even Saul had valued the

national religion, and had established its headquarters at Nob; but, giving

way to the ungoverned anger of a despot, he had destroyed his own work.

It was left to one who to the bravery of a soldier added the discernment of

a statesman to consolidate the tribes into a nation by establishing their

religion upon a sure and influential basis. For this reason also he made their

services full of delight and enjoyment by the institution of choral chants and

the use of instruments of music; while the psalms which his singers recited

were so spiritual and ennobling that we to this day use them in our solemn

worship. Granting that there are expressions in them harsher and more

intolerant than a disciple of the loving Jesus would now apply to any

earthly enemy, yet, as a whole, the Psalms, written in these rough far off

times, still form our best book of devotion! (It is the most quoted book from

the Old Testament in the New Testament.  CY – 2018)  In the parallel place in

the First Book of Chronicles we have the narrative of this re-establishment of

the Mosaic Law given as looked at on the Levitical side, and with many

interesting additions. Here the narrator looks at it with the eye of a

statesman. We must not, however, suppose that the history there given is

arranged in chronological order, as, if so, the two victories in the Valley of

Rephaim would have both taken place in the three months during which the

ark was resting in the house of Obed-Edom. If this were so, then David

would first have had more than three hundred and forty thousand warriors

with him at Hebron to anoint him, and with their aid would have captured

Jerusalem. He would next have assembled thirty thousand picked men to

bring the ark up to Zion; and yet would have had only his body guard of

mighty men” wherewith to fight Israel’s battles and win its independence.

Most probably the order, both here and in Chronicles, is not chronological,

and the course of events was as follows. With the help of the men gathered

at Hebron David captures Jerusalem. As soon as it is made safe they

withdraw, and leave him occupied with planning out and building his city.

Alarmed at the vast concourse at Hebron, and made angry by David’s

seizure of a strong fortress, the Philistines hastily pounce upon him in

numbers too vast for him to resist. He escapes, leaving but a few men to

defend Jerusalem, and hides in his old fastness. Encouraged there by

finding three of his mighties more than a match for the garrison at

Bethlehem, he gathers the mere valiant spirits, and makes a sudden attack

upon the Philistines, who were engaged in ravaging the country as a

punishment for its rebellion. They are defeated, but with no great loss; and

so with unbroken strength they again invade the country, and march up

once more to Jerusalem, prepared to fight a pitched battle, and seize that

fortress as the prize of victory. Again, David, with far larger forces,

surprises them, and, driving them from ridge to ridge, so utterly vanquishes

them that the power of Philistia was destroyed forever. It was after this

double victory that Hiram, King of Tyre, whose dominions bordered upon

the Philistines, and who had found them disagreeable neighbors, made a

close alliance with David; and so at length, free from all fear at home, and

honored abroad, he was able to turn his thoughts to the consolidation of

his kingdom and the establishment of Jehovah’s worship. And in the Book

of Chronicles we have the details of that spiritual service of psalmody

which David added to the Levitical routine of sacrifice, and which bears the

significant name of “prophecy,” as being the expression of the moral and

spiritual side of the Mosaic Law (I Chronicles 25:1). Instead of “Again

David gathered,” the words of the Hebrew are” And David gathered

together all the chosen men of Israel.” The first gathering was at Hebron

(ch. 5:1), and before they came David must have given his

consent to their wishes, and invited their presence at his anointing. They

soon gather together a second time to endow their new kingdom with the

safeguards necessary for their spiritual welfare, and the maintenance among

them of morality and virtue and the fear of God. Chosen men. This usually

means picked men fit for war. But doubtless on this occasion the elders and

all good men possessed of power and influence would be present to

strengthen the king’s hand. Thirty thousand. A large number, but not too

large. David probably chose one of the great feasts for the occasion, and by

the presence of a large number of warriors, and the display of much

military pomp, he would impress upon the minds of the people the value of

religion. They would thus learn also to respect their new capital as being

the place where was the presence of their Deity, and where they were to

come to worship Him.

 

2 “And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him

from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God,

whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that

dwelleth between the cherubims.”   From Baale of Judah. We learn from

Joshua 15:9, 60 that Baalah, or Kirjath-Baal, “the city of Baal,” was the old

Canaanite name of Kirjath-jearim, the “city of woods.” It lay about eight miles

westward from Jerusalem (see I Samuel 6:21; 7:1-2). The preposition “from” is

very startling, as really David went to Baale. Yet all the versions have it, but

they put on Baale an incorrect meaning. Baal means “lord,” “master,” and

they render, “David went with all the people that were with him from [or,

of] the citizens of Judah,” understanding by “master” a householder, one

who was master of a family. The real explanation probably is that the

narrator wrote according to the sense, and not according to the grammar.

The thought in his mind was the bringing up of the ark from its long resting

place, and not the prior physical necessity of going down to the place

where it was. With all the people. David had consulted with “the captains

of thousands and hundreds, and every leader” (I Chronicles 13:1), and

it was with their good will that he drew the ark of God out of its long

concealment. A select body of these nobles, or sheiks, would accompany

the king, while the rest, with their attendants, would be posted along the

eight miles of road. Whose name is called by the name. In the Hebrew,

the word “name” is twice repeated, the words literally being, the ark of

Elohim, whereon is called the Name, the Name of Jehovah of Sabaoth.

Most of the versions omit the second Name, and the translators of the

Authorized Version also felt it to be a difficulty, which they have tried to

escape by inserting words between the two. Really it is a most interesting

sign of the existence at this early date of a special reverence for the name

with four consonants” which we call “Jehovah.” Subsequently it was

never pronounced, but the word “Lord” was read instead, in the Revised

Version, the importance of the passage is well brought out by the first

Name being written with a capital, of the use of which the Revisers are

very suspicious. With their usual inconsecutiveness, they retain Lord for

Jehovah, though this is “the Name,” and though they have restored the

word Jehovah in several less important places.

 

3 “And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the

house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of

Abinadab, drave the new cart.”  And they set the ark of God (Hebrew, made

it ride) upon a new cart. This was contrary to the Levitical Law, which required

that only Levites should bear the ark, and that it should be veiled even from their

eyes (Numbers 4:15). But this mistake is not surprising. It is easy

enough for us to turn to our Bibles, and see what the exact letter of a

command was. But such reference was no easy matter when the Law was

contained in manuscripts which were rare and costly. We cannot imagine

that David or even Abiathar carried a manuscript about with them in their

wanderings. David very probably had a considerable knowledge of the

Pentateuch, gained in Samuel’s schools, and stored up in his memory, as

was the custom in old days when books were scarce. But this knowledge

would be chiefly of its narratives and doctrines, and would comprise such

portions as Samuel thought most fitting to influence the lives of his

scholars. Abiathar probably added to this a knowledge of all such ritual as

was in daily use in the sanctuary at Nob. He had fled thence in terror,

escaping alone from the cruel destruction of the priests by Saul’s decree;

but even there the restoration of the Levitical services had been too recent

to have given time for much study of the old Law. We can quite believe

that the murder of the priests at Nob, following upon the catastrophe at

Shiloh, had reduced the knowledge of the priests to a very low ebb. Now,

the exact way of bearing the ark was a matter that had long been dismissed

from their memories, but they would call to mind that it had been brought

to Abinadab’s house in a new cart drawn by oxen; and they would take this

as a precedent, which would justify them in acting in the same manner a

second time. But in so solemn a matter the priests ought to have made

diligent search, and have gone for instruction to the copies which they

possessed of the Divine Law. David did so subsequently (I Chronicles

15:2), but possibly there was no such copy at present in Jerusalem, and

they would have to go to Ramah, where Samuel would deposit whatever

records he had saved from the ruin of Shiloh, and where the great work of

the prophets was to study the sacred books, and even copy them. But this

want of inquiry and easy assumption, that as the ark was brought in a cart

to Abinadab’s house, so in a cart it should be carried away, was an act of

great irreverence, and all the guilty were punished. The heaviest blow fell

on the house of Abinadab, which lost a dear son. Entrusted for seventy

years with the care of so sacred a symbol of Jehovah’s presence, Abinadab

and his family ought to have made a special study of the laws concerning

it. Apparently they left it very much to itself; for it is never said that God

blessed them for their care of it as he did Obed-Edom. And David also was

in fault; for he ought to have commanded the priests to make diligent

search. His punishment was the breaking out of the Divine wrath, terrifying

the people, and turning the joy of the day to mourning. The house of

Abinadab that was in Gibeah; really, that was upon the hill. Uzzah and

Ahio, the sons of Abinadab. “Sons” in Hebrew is used in a large sense,

and these two men were probably the grandsons of Eleazar, the son of

Abinadab, who had been set apart to keep the ark. For seventy years, as it

seems, had passed since the ark was hurriedly put in Abinadab’s house,

namely, twenty during the Philistine supremacy up to the battle of

Ebenezer, forty during the reign of Saul, and about ten since. As Eleazar

must have been thirty years of age for his consecration to be legal, he must

have died long ago, and his sons would be old and decrepit men. His

grandsons would be in the prime of life.

 

4 “And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at

Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the

ark.”   Accompanying (Hebrew, with) the ark. The verse is evidently

corrupt, and we have no aid from the parallel place in Chronicles, except

the fact that it is omitted there. The most probable explanation is that the

first half of the verse has been repeated from v. 3 by the error of some

copyist, and that the original words were “Uzzah and Ahio drove the new

cart with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.” While Uzzah

walked at the side, Ahio went before the oxen to guide and manage them,

as the Basques may be seen at the present day doing in the south of France.

 

5 “And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on

all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on

psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.”

Played. The word does not mean “played on a musical

instrument,” but “danced and rejoiced.” On all manner… of fir wood.

The Hebrew literally is, with all cypress woods. In I Chronicles 13:8

we find “with all their might, even with songs,” etc. Gesenius, in his

‘History of the Hebrew Language,’ describes this as a mere guess at a

misunderstood text, and Maurer ridicules it as a stupid emendation. More

sensibly Thenius regards it as the right reading, and the words here as a

corruption of it, caused by some scribe misspelling the words, which are

nearly identical. In our version the ambiguous meaning of the word

played” makes the passage less startling. For “they danced with all cypress

woods” is unintelligible. The musical instruments mentioned here are the

harp, Hebrew chinnor, a guitar; the psaltery, Hebrew nebel, a kind of harp

of a triangular shape, with the point downwards; the timbrel, Hebrew tof,

a tambourine or small drum; the cornet, Hebrew mena’na’, a bar on which

were a number of loose metal rings, which were shaken in time to the

music, but others think that “castanets’’ are meant, which are pieces of

wood beaten in time. The Revised Version adopts this rendering. And

finally cymbals. For “cornets” we find in the parallel place “trumpets,”

whence the translators of the Authorized Version took their rendering; but

the Hebrew word means “things to shake.”

 

6 “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth

his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook

it.”   Nachon’s threshing floor. In the parallel place (I Chronicles 13:9) we

find “the threshing floor of Chidon,” and “Chidon” is proved to have been a

proper name by the feebleness of the attempts made to find for it a meaning.

We therefore gather that Nachon is also a proper name, but otherwise we

should certainly have translated it “a fixed threshing floor.” The people did

indeed thresh or trample out their corn often on summer threshing floors

(Daniel 2:35), that is, on fitting spots in the fields themselves. But as a large

quantity of earth was sure in this case to be mixed with the corn, they preferred

to use places with solid floors or pavements, which lasted for many generations,

and often became well-known spots (Genesis 50:10). Even if “Nachon” be a

proper name, this would be a permanent floor, paved with stones, the approaches

to which would be worn and made rough by the tracks of the carts bringing

the corn. Here the oxen shook it; Hebrew, stumbled, and so the Revised

Version. Nothing is said of the ark being in danger. Uzzah’s act was one of

precaution. The ground was rough, the oxen stumbled, and he put forth his

hand to hold the ark till the cart had reached level ground. If the threshing

floor was formed in the natural rock, those who have been in Spain, and

seen how the tracks in the Pyrenees are worn by the native carts into deep

ruts in the solid stone, can well understand that the neighborhood of this

much-frequented spot would need very careful driving.

 

7 “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God

smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.”

Error. The word so translated is one quite unknown, and Ewald

renders it “unexpectedly.” The Revised Version puts “rashness” in

the margin. But all three alike are mere guesses, of which “error” is that

approved by Keil and others. The Syriac has the same reading here as that

found in I Chronicles 13:10, namely, “because he put his hand to the

ark.” This would require the insertion of four or five letters in the Hebrew.

By the ark. The word translated “accompanying the ark” in v. 4.

 

8 "And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach

upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this

day."  David was displeased; Hebrew, David was angry. Neither

David nor his people had intended any disrespect, and so severe a

punishment for what was at most a thoughtless act seemed to him unjust.

Uzzah’s death was probably caused by apoplexy, and the sudden effort of

stretching forth his hand and seizing the ark had been its immediate cause.

So tragic an event spoiled the happiness of the day, filled all present with

disappointment, made them break off in haste from the grand ceremonial,

and placed David before his subjects in the position of a malefactor. He had

prepared a great religious festival, and Jehovah had broken in upon them as

an enemy. In his first burst of displeasure he called the place Perez-Uzzah,

the word “Perez,” or “Breach,” conveying to the Hebrews the idea of a

great calamity (Judges 21:15) or of a sudden attack upon a foe (ch. 5:20).

The historian adds that the place bore this name unto his

day; but we cannot tell whether these are the words of the original

compiler of the Book of Samuel, or, as is more probably the case, those of

some subsequent editor or scribe. Many such remarks are supposed to

have been inserted by Ezra and the men of the great synagogue.

 

Ponder

 

The effort to restore religious life by bringing up the ark of the covenant. Leaving

out of view the particular form of religion, and the symbolism appropriate to that

stage in the development of God’s revelation, we can see how profoundly wise

David’s judgment was.  The human activities developed in national civilized life

can only be counted on to run into right and safe channels, and to avoid mutual

destruction, when they are pervaded by the spirit of true godliness. Wealth,

art, science, commerce, military display, free and easy interchange of

thought, — these are not self-preservative, these do not give rest to the

heart, these do not check the tendencies that carry in themselves the germs

of decay and death. Only when the national mind is purified, rendered calm,

self-restrained, and God-like in feeling by knowledge and worship of the

Holy One is there a guarantee that all will go well and endure. This is

taught in the history of Greece, Rome, and other lands where God was not

honoured by proper worship, and his Spirit not cherished in daily life; and

it is the strenuous teaching of prophets and apostles, and especially of the

Saviour, who makes clear what is the light of the world and the healing of

the nations.

 

  • INDIFFERENCE TO DIVINE LAWS IS PROGRESSIVE. The

disregard of the well-known injunction in this case was probably the

culmination of an indifference which had been growing for a long time. An

evil tendency or mental habit may be in process of formation, and may

constitute a state of actual spiritual degeneracy, a long time before an

occasion occurs for its manifestation in any overt act that is distinctly in

violation of positive law. The degeneracy which was far too common

during the reign of Saul doubtless had penetrated to the home of Uzzah,

and the neglect of honor paid to the ark during those long years of its stay

in his father’s abode, together with the kind of familiarity with it bred of its

presence as a relic of a former elaborate ritual, could not but have resulted

in a rather decided insensibility to the sacredness of minute regulations.

The act of touching the ark may have been a consequence of this condition,

and the “error,” or “rashness,” spoken of (v. 8) may indicate that there

was not in him that quickness of spiritual sensibility which would at once

have seen that no casual circumstance can set aside a command based on a

great and Divine order of things. There is not a more subtle evil of our life

than this gradual deepening of indifference arising from neglect of spiritual

culture and encouraged by unthoughtful familiarity with sacred things. The

conscience passes through stages of degeneration till we come to do things

without compunction which once would have caused us anguish of spirit.

How far our children are in danger from constant familiarity with religious

phrases and usages is a serious question. The same applies also to ordinary

worshippers in our sanctuaries.

 

  • THERE IS POSITIVE IMPIETY IN DISTRUSTING GOD’S

PROVISION FOR THE SAFETY OF HIS OWN GLORY. The ark was

the visible symbol of God’s presence. His glory was there, so far as it could

be manifested in visible form to man at that stage of his religious education.

The command that no Levite should ever touch it was among the

arrangements made for its stay among the people. All such arrangements of

God are made on full prevision of every possibility. To say that

circumstances might arise when the command would he inadequate to the

maintenance of the ark in its integrity among men, would be an

impeachment of the Divine wisdom and power. The command had

reference solely to human action, and did not reveal what reserve of power

and appliance there might be for securing the safety of the ark at all times.

Common sense, to say nothing of religious faith, ought to have taught that

the Eternal would take care of His own if He declined the aid of man, or at

least that it was His will that His own should suffer temporary injury now

and then. It was irrational and impious, therefore, to distrust His provision

for securing His own ends. The putting forth of the hand in contravention

of the command may have been the expression of this. The same applies

equally to the New Testament manifestation of the glory of God in Christ.

For times of danger and of seeming safety He has enjoined on us certain

conduct in relation to the kingdom of Christ, which proceeds on the

presupposition that He has means of securing the integrity of that kingdom

on the basis of our restricting our conduct to that prescribed order. By

prayer, by truthfulness, by spirituality of mind, by love, by persuasive

words, by blameless, meek lives, by quiet faith in the invisible power of the

Spirit, we are to do our part in relation to the preservation of the integrity

of the kingdom, and to its processional march to final triumph. If, when

supposing it liable to suffer, or when observing a great shock arising from

the circumstances of its position in our time, we depart from the order laid

down, and trim to the world and become unspiritual and untruthful, or

depend less on faith in the invisible power of the Holy Spirit than on mere

human science and social influences, then we virtually fall into this view of

the sin of Uzzah, we distrust God’s provision for securing in the world

those interests that are bound up with the work and Person of Christ. Man

is responsible for the observance of what is enjoined, not for imaginary

temporary consequences that will ensue from an observance of what is

enjoined. Here is the clue to hosts of failures of duty and wretched

expediencies.

 

  • PROFOUND REVERENCE AS AN ELEMENT OF CHARACTER

IS OF PRIME IMPORTANCE IN PERSONAL AND NATIONAL LIFE.

No great character is formed without profound reverence as a chief

feature. Men are mean, weak, morally low, in so far as they are trifling and

destitute of awe. The spirit of levity, which treats all things as common and

fit subjects for free and thoughtless handling, never reads the great lessons

of existence, and never wins respect. A reverent man alone forms a true

estimate of himself in relation to the vast order of things of which he is but

a part. An irreverent nation lacks the strong, sober qualities which alone

grow out of reverence as their root, and which alone can produce noble,

strenuous actions. Now, the whole drift of the Mosaic ritual and commands

was to develop and foster reverence in the people. The solemnities and

details in reference to the ark, the sanctuary, the altars, the sacrifices, the

cleansings, and assemblies were rational in their specific relations. The

great gathering at the foot of Sinai, and the solemn restrictions there laid

down (Exodus 19.), were evidently designed to develop a becoming “fear

of the Lord” and profound regard for sacred things. The judgment on

Dathan and Abiram was a check on a tendency to irreverence. (Numbers

16)  The very hope of the people depended on the due maintenance of this

reverent spirit.  All had understood the command not to touch the ark in that

light, and the judgment on Uzzah for the violation of that command was only

another solemn way of impressing the people with the prime importance of

this feeling. Hence, also, our care to encourage such forms of worship as best

foster reverence of spirit, and such styles of teaching as exhibit the facts

and principles from the recognition of which reverence will naturally arise.

Hence, again, our appreciation of those providential events, such as

sickness, bereavement, and stupendous manifestations of untraceable

wisdom and power, which awaken or strengthen the feeling, “Great and

holy is the Lord: who shall stand in His presence?”  (Psalm 145:3; 24:3)

 

9 "And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall

the ark of the LORD come to me?"  David was afraid. This was his next

feeling. Neither he nor Uzzah had offended willfully, and so severe a

punishment for an “error” made him dread the presence of so dangerous a thing

as the ark seemed to be. Instead, therefore, of taking it into “the city of David,”

he turns aside and leaves it in the house of the nearest Levite. In both his anger

and his dread David manifests himself to us as one whose ideas about God were

somewhat childish. He regards Jehovah as a powerful and capricious

Being, who must be appeased. He had attained to trueer views in Psalm 16.

and other such trustful hymns.

 

10 "So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the

city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom

the Gittite."  Obed-Edom. We find two Levites of this name among

David’s officials — one belonging to the family of Merari, a singer and

doorkeeper for the ark (I Chronicles 15:18, 21, 24); the other of the

family of Korah (ibid. ch. 26:4-5). And as it is there said that “God

blessed him,” he probably it was into whose house the ark was taken. He is

called a Gittite, because he belonged to Gath-Rimmon, a Levitical city in

the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:45; 21:24).

 

11 "And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the

Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his

household."  Jehovah blessed Obed-Edom. So far from there being

anything unlucky in the ark, its presence brings with it a manifest blessing,

and thus David’s fears are allayed. But before he returns to his purpose, he

commands that proper inquiry be made. The priests must examine the holy

book, and, having learned from it where his former conduct was wrong, he

assembles the people once again to carry the ark to its home (I Chronicles

15:2, 12-15).

 

(vs. 12-23)  The facts are:

 

1. David, learning the blessing that had come upon the house of Obed-

Edom, resolves to bring up the ark to Jerusalem.

2. Having made arrangements in accordance with the Law for the proper

bearing of the ark, he inaugurates the procession by a sacrifice.

3. Girded with a linen ephod, he dances before the ark, and with music and

shouting it enters Jerusalem.

4. Placing the ark in the tabernacle he had provided for it, he offers burnt

offerings and peace offerings before the Lord, pronounces a blessing on the

people, and distributes to them meat and drink.

5. Returning to his house, he is met by his wife Michal, who, having

witnessed his dancing before the ark, now reproaches him with having

demeaned himself in the eyes of the people.

6. With mildness of temper, but great firmness, he not only admits the fact,

but glories in it as due unto God, and affirms his readiness to again debase

himself in the same manner, being sure of winning the esteem of others less

prejudiced.

7. Michal his wife remains childless. We have here a great change in

David’s religious condition; an event of supreme national interest; and the

domestic sorrows of a devout man. The topics suggested may be taken in

succession.

 

12 "And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of

Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So

David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into

the city of David with gladness." With gladness. The words mean, “in a joyful

procession with music and dancing.”

 

13 "And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had

gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings."  Hebrew, an ox and a fatling.

Many suppose that David sacrificed an ox and a fatling every six paces

along the whole way from the house of Obed-Edom, which was probably

near or even in Jerusalem, unto the tent prepared for the ark in Zion.

“Evidently the way to the holy city was a way of blood. The stained streets

of Zion, the rivers of blood, the slaughtered heaps and the blaze of altar

fires formed a strange contrast to the dancing, the singing, and the harping

of the multitudes who crowded the city” (Sime, ‘Kingdom of All Israel,’ p.

288). It is not necessary to suppose, with some objectors, that the ark

waited till each sacrifice was completed, or that the road thus lined with

victims was many miles in length. The ark did not remain at Perez-Uzzah,

but was carried in silent awe to the house of a Levite; and such a house

probably was not to be found until they were inside the city walls. There

were no country houses in a region lately twice ravaged by the Philistines.

But there is an objection to this view, namely, that it is not the sense of the

Hebrew. What is there said is that at starting, after stepping six paces,

David sacrificed an ox and a fatling (by the hands, of course, of the

priests), to ask a blessing upon the removal of the ark, and avert all

misfortune. In Chronicles we read nothing of this, but of a sacrifice of

seven bullocks and seven rams, offered by the Levites. The one was

David’s offering made at the beginning, to consecrate the removal; the

other was made at the end, and was a thank offering of the Levites,

because they had carried the ark safely (I Chronicles 15:26). The

Vulgate has a remarkable addition to v. 12, taken doubtless by Jerome

from manuscripts which existed in his day. It is as follows: “There were

with David seven choruses and a calf as victim.” The fact is not in itself

improbable, and means that the musicians and dancers were divided into

bands which mutually relieved one another. And as a sacrifice was also a

feast, each band had a calf provided for it. The Septuagint omits the thirteenth

verse altogether, and substitutes for it, “And seven choruses accompanied

him. bearing the ark, and a calf and Iambs as a sacrifice.”

 

14 "And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David

was girded with a linen ephod.  15  So David and all the house of Israel

brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the

trumpet."   And David danced. The word used means the springing

round in half circles to the sound of music. Conder has given a very

interesting account of the dancing of the Malawiyeh, which consisted in

turning round in whole circles, resting on the heel of the left foot (‘Herb

and Moab,’ p. 65, etc.). As David danced with all his might, he was

evidently strongly excited with religious fervor. We have the expression

of his feelings in the psalm composed for this occasion (I Chronicles

16:7-36); subsequently it seems to have been rearranged for the temple

service, as it is broken up into Psalm 96 and 105:1-15. Dancing was

usually the office of the women (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 21:21;

I Samuel 18:6); but men may also have often taken part in it, as

Michal’s objection was that it was unbefitting a king. David was girded

with a linen ephod. David wore this as a tightly fitting garment, which left

him free to exert himself in the dance. So far from the use of it being an

assumption of the priestly office, it was regarded by Michal as an act of

humiliation, as it was a dress worn even by a child when admitted to

service in a priest’s family (I Samuel 2:18). Probably David did mean

to rank himself for the time among the inferior servitors of the ark. He

might have claimed more. In the theocracy he was the representative of

Jehovah, and his anointing was a solemn consecration to a religious office.

To have burned incense or offered sacrifice would have been to invade the

priestly office, an office parallel to “the administration of the Word and the

sacraments,” denied, in the Thirty-Seventh Article of the Church of

England, to princes. To wear the garb of a servitor was to do honor both

to Jehovah and to his priests.

 

16 "And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal

Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David

leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her

heart."  Michal Saul’s daughter. Possibly these words are merely to

identify Michal, but they suggest the thought that, as a king’s daughter, she

valued her royal dignity. The procession evidently passed near David’s

palace, and his wives and children would be eager spectators.

 

17 "And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in

the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David

offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD."

In the midst of the tabernacle (i.e. tent). This tent would he

arranged as nearly as possible like that erected by Moses in the wilderness.

The ark would be placed in the holy of holies, a shrine probably of cedarwood,

and the burnt offerings and peace offerings would then be offered

and would consecrate the whole. When it is said that David offered them,

it means that the sacrifices were at his cost and by his command.

 

 

The Ark and the Bible (v. 17)

 

The ark of the covenant has been taken as representative of religion, of

Christ, of the Church, or of the sacraments and means of grace. It may also

be compared with the Bible (or Scriptures of the old and new covenants),

which is of even greater value to us than the ark was to Israel. The

resemblance appears in their:

 

  • Supernatural origin. The ark was made according to the pattern shown

(in vision) by God to Moses in the mount (Exodus 25:9), by Bezaleel,

who was “filled with the Spirit of God” (ibid. ch. 31:3), and other wise

hearted men; and the tables of stone which, it contained were “written with

the finger of God” (ibid. ch. 34:1). The Bible is the product of Divine

inspiration (II Timothy 3:16), though, like the ark, in connection with

the (literary) skill of man. “It is a Divine-human book.”

 

  • External characteristics, such as choice and precious materials (acacia

wood and pure gold), durability, painstaking workmanship (“beaten

work), simplicity, compactness, beauty (“a crown of gold round about”),

practical utility (rings and staves), which are all apparent in the Scriptures.

 

  • Spiritual significance — the presence of God, the Law (as a testimony

against sin and a rule of life), atoning mercy, Divine fellowship and favor.

“In the words of God we have the heart of God.” The ark was a sign of

these sublime realities, “not the very things themselves.”  (Hebrews 10:1)

With the Bible, wherein they are so much more clearly and fully set forth,

it is the same.

 

  • Wondrous achievements; not, indeed, by their inherent virtue, but by the

Divine might of which they were appointed instruments; in blessing or bane

according to the diverse moral relationships of men. By the ark:

 

Ø      the Israelites were led through the wilderness,

Ø      their enemies scattered,

Ø      the waves of the Jordan arrested,

Ø      the walls of Jericho demolished,

Ø      the land subdued,

Ø      Dagon destroyed,

Ø      the rebellious punished,

Ø      the irreverent smitten, and

Ø      the obedient blessed.

 

Who shall describe the achievements of the Word of

God? What enemies it has overcome! what reformations effected! what

blessings conferred!

 

  • Varied fortunes:

 

Ø      after long wanderings finding rest;

Ø      misunderstood and superstitiously perverted,

Ø      lost for a season to its appointed guardians,

Ø      persistently striven against,

Ø      treated with irreverent curiosity,

Ø      buried in obscurity and neglect,

Ø      eagerly sought after and found,

Ø      cherished in private dwellings, and

Ø      exalted to the highest honor.

 

  • Transcendent claims on human regard:

 

Ø      attention,

Ø      reverence,

Ø      faith,

Ø      love, and

Ø      obedience.

 

  • Preparatory purpose and temporary duration. At the destruction of

Jerusalem by the Babylonians the ark perished or was lost beyond

recovery; in the new dispensation there is no place for it (Jeremiah

3:16); but the mercy and judgment which it symbolized cannot fail

(Revelation 11:19). The Bible is necessary only in a state where “we

see by means of a mirror obscurely” (I Corinthians 13:12-13), not

where we see “face to face.” But, though in its outward form it vanish

away, yet in the spiritual realities of which it testifies, the efforts which it

produces, the fulfillment of its promises and threatenings, “the Word of the

Lord endureth forever.”  

 

18 "And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings

and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the

LORD of hosts."  David... blessed the people in the name of Jehovah of

hosts. Blessing the people was an important priestly function, for which a

special formula was provided (Numbers 6:22-26). But this did not

deprive the king, who was Jehovah’s anointed representative, of the right

of also blessing them, and Solomon, at the consecration of the temple,

followed his father’s example in a very solemn manner (II Chronicles 6:3).

 

19 "And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole

multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a

cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So

all the people departed every one to his house."  A cake of bread, and a good

piece… and a flagon. Of the first of the three gifts there is no doubt. It was the

round dough cake baked for sacrificial meals (Leviticus 8:26). So, too, there is no

doubt of the third; it means “a cake of raisins” (see Song of Solomon 2:5; Hosea

3:1, in which latter place raisins, or dried grapes, are expressly mentioned,

boldly rendered in the Authorized Version “wine”). The Revised Version

has given the correct rendering of the passage. The second word occurs

only here, but the rendering of the Authorized Version is that of the Jews;

and as it is some common domestic term not likely to be found in

literature, but well known in every kitchen, they are most probably right.

On the same sort of local authority Jerome renders it in the Vulgate “a

piece of beef for roasting.” As it is coupled with the bread and the raisin

cake, we may feel sure that it was a portion of the flesh of the animals

which had been killed in Sacrifice, and which the people were now

permitted to take to their homes.

 

20 "Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the

daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious

was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the

eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows

shamelessly uncovereth himself!"  To bless his household. David, in the

midst of his public duties, was not forgetful of the nearer claims of his own

family. Doubtless there also a joyful feast would be prepared, and all be gathered

together to praise God and rejoice with one consent. Who uncovered himself

 ... as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! David’s offence

in the eyes of Michal was, not his dancing, but his divesting himself of his

royal robes, and appearing before his subjects clad in the dress of an

inferior class. The Levites were to occupy a humble social position (see

Deuteronomy 14:29; 26:12), and Michal’s words are a proof that such

was in David’s time the case. The language of Michal is that of a woman

vexed and irritated. After reminding David of his high office as “King of

Israel,” she reproaches him for appearing on a grand public occasion

without the upper and becoming robe in which an Oriental enwraps

himself. And this he had done before the female slaves of his own servants,

with no more self-respect than that shown by the “vain fellows.” “Vain” is

the raca of Matthew 5:22, and means “empty,” void of virtue, void of

reputation, and void of worldly means. The Hebrews, when expressing the

greatest possible contempt for a man, called him an “empty,” and no word

could be found better conveying the meaning of thorough worthlessness.

 

21 "And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose

me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler

over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play

before the LORD."  It was before the Lord. The Hebrew is much more forcible

than the confused rendering of our version. “Before Jehovah, who chose

me above thy father, and above all his house, to appoint me prince over

Jehovah’s people, over Israel, yea, before Jehovah I have rejoiced”

(Authorized Version, “played;” but see notes on v. 5). The preference of

David over Saul was proof that that king’s affectation of royal state, and

his self-importance, were not pleasing in God’s eyes.

 

22 "And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own

sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them

shall I be had in honor." And of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of

them shall I be had in honor. These words have been variously

interpreted, but their simplest meaning is also the best; that even the most

uneducated women, though surprised at first at David’s want of stateliness,

would, on reflection, be led to a right understanding of the greatness of

God; and would then feel that even a king was right in owning himself to

be nothing in God’s presence.

 

23 "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of

her death.  Therefore Michal. The Hebrew is, and Michal had no child,

Michal’s barrenness was long antecedent to this outburst of pride, and was

not a punishment for it. It is noticed as a proof that the blessing of God did

not rest upon her; and as such it was regarded by the people, and doubtless

it lessened David’s affection for her. We must not, however, suppose that

he imposed upon her any punishment further than this verbal reproof. Nor

does the interest lie in Michal’s conduct, but in the glimpse which the

narrative gives us of David’s tender piety towards God, so exactly in

agreement with the feelings which animate very many of the psalms. To

unite with this a harsh bitterness to the woman who was his first love, who

had so protected him in old time, and whom he had summoned back at the

first opportunity because of his affection for her, is a thing abhorrent in

itself, and contrary to David’s character. His fault in domestic matters

rather was that he was over fond, not that he was unfeeling. A little more

sternness towards Amnon and Absalom would have saved him much

sorrow. As for Michal, the story sets her before us as caring a great deal

for David, and not much for Jehovah. She could not have approved of such

a number of rivals in David’s household, but she had not lost her love for

him. And the narrative represents her as not having Jehovah’s blessing in a

matter so greatly thought of by Hebrew women, and as valuing too highly

royal state, and forgetting that above the king was God. But she did David

no great wrong, and received from him nothing worse than a scolding. In

the parallel place (I Chronicles 15:29) the matter is very lightly passed

over; and the reason why it holds an important place in this book is that we

have here a history of David’s piety, of his sin and his punishment. In itself

a slight matter, it yet makes us clearly understand the nature of David’s

feelings towards Jehovah. It is also most interesting in itself. For David is

the type of a noble character under the influence of grace. Michal, too, is a

noble character, but she lacked one thing, and that was “the one thing

needful.”  (Luke 10:41-42)

 

The removal of the ark is a matter so important as to call for careful

consideration. For the time it established two centers of worship — one

with the ark at Zion, the other at Gibeon. The ark in Saul’s days had been

forgotten (I Chronicles 13:3). It had long lain in the house of a simple

Levite in the city of woods, and Saul’s religious ideas were too feeble for

him to be capable of undemanding the importance of establishing a national

religion. Still, such as they were, they made him summon Ahiah, the

grandson of Eli, to be his domestic priest (I Samuel 14:3); and

subsequently he even set up at Nob the tabernacle with its table of

shewbread, and other holy furniture, saved somehow from the ruin of

Shiloh, with Ahimelech as high priest (ibid. ch. 21:1). But when in a

fit of senseless jealousy he destroyed his own work, the nation was left for

a time without an established religion. Gradually, however, this primary

necessity for good government and national morality was supplied — how

we know not; but we find a tabernacle at Gibeon, with the altar of burnt

offerings, and the morning and evening sacrifice, and apparently the same

service as that erewhile set up at Nob; only Zadok of the line of Eleazar is

high priest (I Chronicles 16:39-40). He thus belonged to the senior

line, while the last survivor of the race of Ithamar, Abiathar, Eli’s great-

grandson, was with David. Gibeon was in the center of the tribe of

Benjamin, some few miles from Jerusalem, with Nob lying halfway

between; and probably Saul had permitted this restoration of Jehovah’s

worship at Gibeon, both because he half repented of his deed, and because

the worship there was ministered by priests not allied to Ahimelech and

Abiathar. But now the ark, which was Jehovah’s throne, had been brought

out of its obscurity, and solemnly placed in a tabernacle in Zion, with

Abiathar, David’s friend, the representative of the junior line, as high

priest; and probably the only difference in the service was that David’s

psalms were sung to music at Zion, while the Mosaic ritual, with no

additions, was closely followed at Gibeon. There was thus the spectacle of

two high priests (ch. 8:17), and two rival services, and yet no

thought of schism. Zadok had been one of those foremost in making David

king of all Israel (I Chronicles 12:28); he and Abiathar were the two

who moved Judah to bring David back after Absalom’s revolt (ch. 19:11).

The whole matter had grown out of historical facts, and probably David always

intended that Zion should absorb Gibeon, and be the one center required by the

Levitical Law. But he was content to wait.  Had he acted otherwise a conflict

would necessarily have arisen between the rival lines of the priesthood, and

between Abiathar and Zadok, the two men who represented them, and who were

both his true friends. We find even Solomon doing great honor to the tabernacle

at Gibeon (II Chronicles 1:3, etc.), but after the temple was built it passed away;

and the race of Ithamar, weakened by the calamity at Shiloh, and still more by

the cutting off of so many of its leading members at Nob, never recovered

itself after Abiathar was set aside by Solomon for taking part with

Adonijah. The line continued to exist, for members of it returned from

Babylon (Ezra 8:2); but though it produced a prophet, Jeremiah, it

never again produced a high priest, and therefore only the line of Eleazar,

to which Ezra himself belonged, is given in 1 Chronicles 6.

 

Thus Abiathar’s misconduct and the growing fame of Jerusalem put an end

to all fear of schism. We easily trace in the Psalms the increase of the

nation’s regard for Zion. In Psalm 24., written probably by David to

celebrate the entry of the ark thither, it is simply “the hill of Jehovah… His

holy place.” In Psalm 9. it is “His dwelling,” but in Psalm 20. a higher note

is struck. Zion is “the sanctuary” whence Jehovah sends “help” and

strength;” and in Psalm 48., written at a later date, Zion is found installed

in the very heart of the people’s love. Thus the Divine blessing rested fully

upon David’s work. To Jehovah’s worship he gave a grand and noble

center, which from his day has had no rival, unless it be in some respects

Rome. The city of David’s choice has been, and continues to this hour to

be, the most holy spot upon earth alike to the Jew and to the Christian,

though to the latter it is so because of David’s Son. At Zion, moreover,

David’s spiritual addition to the Mosaic ritual has given the Church its best

book of devotion and the brightest part of its services; for every hymn sung

to God’s glory, and every instrument of music played in God’s house, is

but the continuance of the prophesying with harp, psaltery, and cymbal

(I Chronicles 25:1), first instituted by David, though, like all that was

best in David personally and in his institutions, it grew out of Samuel’s

influence and the practices of his schools (I Samuel 19:20). Finally, the

temple services were doing much to weld the discordant tribes into one

nation, and would have succeeded in so doing but for the unhappy

degeneracy of Solomon’s latter years, and the obstinacy of his son. Yet

even so, Jerusalem remains forever a memorial of the genius and piety of

this extraordinary man, and the symbol of Jerusalem the golden, the home

of God’s elect.”