2 Samuel 6


The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

      • Again David assembled all the choice men of Israel, numbering 30,000. David and all the men with him traveled to Baalah in Judah to bring back the ark of God, which is called by the name of Yahweh of Hosts, who sits enthroned between the cherubim.

      • HCSB notes a textual discrepancy here, “Ancient manuscripts give different totals for the soldiers involved in moving the ark of the covenant. The Hebrew MT reads 30,000 while the Septuagint figure is 70,000. Either total is possible, but there is no way to know which agrees with the original manuscript.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “Baalah in Judah is another name for Kiriath Jearim (cf 1 Sam 6:21). If the site has been correctly identified, then the journey from Baalah to Jerusalem would have been seven to eight miles…”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible calls our attention to the following, “Except for the brief reference in 1 Sam 14:18…the Ark of the Covenant has not been mentioned since 1 Sam 7:1-2, when the Philistines returned the captured Ark to Beth-shemesh and then to Kiriath-jearim, where it was placed in Abinadab’s home. The Ark’s virtual absence during Saul’s forty-year reign highlights that Saul, in his spiritual insensitivity, did not seek the Lord (see 1 Chron 10:13-14; 13:3). David brought the Ark into Jerusalem, effectively acknowledging and enthroning…Yahweh as the true king over Israel in the new capital.”

      • Guzik refreshes our memories of the ark, “This was the Ark of the Covenant, which God commanded Moses to make more than 400 years before David’s time. It was a wood box (the word ark means ‘box’ or ‘chest’) completely covered with gold and with an ornate gold lid or top known as the mercy seat. The ark of God was 3 feet 9 inches…long, 2 feet 3 inches… wide and 2 feet 3 inches…high. In it were the tablets of the law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded as a confirmation of his leadership. The ark of God represented the immediate presence and glory of God in Israel. David considered it a high priority to bring the ark out of obscurity and back into prominence. David wanted Israel to be alive with a sense of the near presence and glory of God.”

      • They loaded the ark of God onto a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Abinadab’s sons, Uzzah and Ahio, were guiding the cart and they brought it with the ark of God, with Ahio walking in front of the ark.

        • In his series on 2 Samuel, Bob Deffinbaugh explains how this passage describes the setting of the stage for an unintentional disaster:

        • We find what went wrong here by going back in Israel’s history to the time God gave Israel the Law, when He gave them instructions concerning the construction and transporting of the ark. These are the words God spoke to Moses concerning the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant.”

        • The relevant passages are Exodus 25:12-15 and Numbers 4:4-6, 15:

          • Exodus 25:12-15 (ESV): 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.

          • Numbers 4:4-6, 15 (ESV): 4 This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles…15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

        • Deffinbaugh summarizes the proper procedure, “God gave very clear instructions about the ark of God. He not only gave specific instructions about how it should be made, He indicated who should carry it and how it should be transported from one place to another…the ark had rings, through which poles were inserted, and these poles were the means by which the Kohathites were to transport the ark.”

        • Deffinbaugh contintues, “The problem is that the Israelites imitated the Philistines [referencing how the Philistines had returned the ark in 1 Sam 6:7-12] rather than to obey God. I believe the instructions given by God in the law were simply forgotten rather than willfully ignored or disobeyed. The ark had not been carried for many years. It had remained out of circulation, out of use, in the home of Abinidab for a good 20 years before it was put back into any kind of use (see 1 Samuel 7:2; 14:18-19). It is easy to see why no one paid any particular attention to the instructions given Israel by God for its transportation in the wilderness.

      • David and the entire house of Israel were enthusiastically celebrating before Yahweh with singing, and playing all kinds of musical instruments- lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “The term translated ‘castanets’ [rendered ‘sistrums’ above] appears only here in the OT and comes from a verb meaning ‘to shake, tremble, sway, swing.’ It may refer to a sistrum- a U-shaped rattle with several crossbars on which small metal disks or rings were strung. It produced a jingling or clanking sound when shaken. In a wall painting from a thirteenth-century BC Egyptian tomb, a woman is depicted playing such an instrument…”

Wall painting from Egypt depicting a woman holding a sistrum

      • When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God. Yahweh’s anger burned against Uzzah and He struck him down because of this. He died right there beside the ark of God.

      • Most English translations add that Uzzah was struck down because of his “irreverence,” however I have not included this addition since it is not present in the LXX or in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      • This is certainly a hard passage to read and many cannot help but feel the penalty Uzzah paid seems to be extremely harsh. However HCSB explains the magnitude of Uzzah’s action, “Uzzah was only trying to stabalize the ark of the covenant; why did God kill him? The ark was the earthly throne of the living God (Ex 25:22; Nm 7:89; 1 Sm 4:4; 2 Sm 6:2; 2 Kg 19:15), or more properly, the footstool of His invisible throne. It was the holiest object in Israelite religion. As with ancient Asian kings (see Est 4:11), the Lord promised death to any unauthorized person who closely approached His throne (Nm 4:15). Uzzah was not an Aaronic priest and had no authority to touch the ark. He was not slain for his good intentions, but because he violated a command and trespassed into ‘territory’ reserved for consecrated priests. The tragedy could have been avoided if Uzzah and Ahio had insisted that David move the ark in the way the law of Moses required…”

      • David was angry because of Yahweh’s outburst against Uzzah so he named that place Perez Uzzah and it is still called that to this day. David was afraid of Yahweh that day and he said, “How can the ark of Yahweh ever come to me?” So he was no longer willing to bring the ark of Yahweh to be with him in the city of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of Yahweh remained in Obed-Edom’s house for 3 months and Yahweh blessed Obed-Edom and his entire household.

      • ESV Study Bible writes, “This incident was a dramatic reminder to David of God’s holiness and of the necessity of approaching God only according to his revealed instruction, so much so that David was afraid to even bring the ark back to Jerusalem.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Similarly, Moses trembled trembled at the display of divine wrath (Deut 9:19) and at the dramatic display of God’s fiery presence (see Heb 12:21).” On Yahweh blessing Obed-Edom the same source notes, “Obed-edom must have taken care to preserve the Ark’s sanctity.”

      • HCSB answers a common question, “This passage identifies Obed-edom as a Gittite, but throughout 1 Ch he is a Levite (1 Ch 15:17-25; 16:4-5, 37-38; 26:1-5). ‘Gittite’ is a geographical designation referring to one living in the region of Gath; ‘Levite’ is a tribal designation. Obed-edom could have been both.” Guzik adds, “David did this in fulfillment of God’s word. Obed-Edom was a Levite of the family of Koath (1 Chronicles 26:4). This was the family within the tribe of Levi that God commanded to carry and take care of the ark (Numbers 4:15).”

      • King David was told, “Yahweh has blessed Obed-Edom’s household and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought the ark of God up from Obed-Edom’s house to the city of David with great rejoicing. When those carrying the ark of Yahweh took six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf. While he and all of Israel were bringing up the ark of Yahweh with shouting and blowing trumpets, David was wearing a linen ephod and dancing before Yahweh with all of his might.

      • ESV Study Bible notes, “…The text may indicate that only one sacrifice was offered at the beginning of the journey, when they had gone six steps. But some interpreters think it means that David sacrificed every six steps. There are references to repeated sacrifices in relation to processions in Near Eastern literature. Solomon also sacrificed a huge number of animals when he dedicated the temple (1 Kings 8:63)…”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible lists a specific example, “…When restoring the image of Marduk to Babylon, the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal offered a sacrifice every two miles…over a distance of 250 miles…David would have made the same number of sacrifices as Ashurbanipal within a half mile…”

      • On David wearing a linen ephod Poole’s Commentary writes, “A linen ephod; the usual habit of the priests and Levites in their sacred ministrations, yet sometimes worn by others, as it was by the young child Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:18, before he was come to those years in which the Levites were allowed to minister; and so hereby David, who laid by his royal robes, and put on this robe, to signify and declare, that although he was king of Israel, yet he willingly owned himself to be the Lord’s minister and servant.”

      • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers adds, “…It is also to be noted that the high priest’s ephod (Exodus 28:6; Exodus 28:8) was made of shesh, while the garments of the ordinary priests, as well as the ephods of Samuel and David, were of bad. The explanation seems to be that the ephod of bad was simply a garment worn by any one engaged in a religious service, and it is used in 1Samuel 22:18 to describe the priests, because such service constituted their ordinary life. It was not, therefore, a peculiarly priestly dress, though naturally more worn by them than by any one else.”

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible includes the following:

        • It took two attempts for David to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem…In the second attempt, there was a notable change in David’s mode of celebrating. Three Hebrew terms for ‘danced/dancing’ are found in the account of the second procession of the Ark (see also 1 Chr 15:25-29): karar (2 Sam 6:14, 16), pazaz (NLT ‘leaping,’ 6:16), and raqad (1 Chr 15:29, ‘skipping about’). All three words refer to vigorous physical expression beyond the meaning of the Hebrew ‘celebrate’ (2 Sam 6:5). Thus, in the first procession, David celebrated; in the second procession he engaged in exultant dancing and extravagant merrymaking with intensified musical expression through the addition of shouting and trumpets.”

        • Musical instruments played a significant role in Temple worship. In 1 Chr 25:1-31, David assigned various groups to the ministry of music. Many psalms refer to playing musical instruments in praise and worship of God (see Pss 33:2-3; 57:8; 81:2; 92:1-3; 98:4-6). In Pss 149 and 150, dance and music were combined as a praise offering. Similarly, music and dancing were heard in the father’s house in the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:25), as the son’s return was a truly joyful occasion.”

        • All these instances demonstrate that God welcomes exuberant expressions of joy and delight from those who worship and praise him (Isa 30:29; Jer 30:19; 31:13; Zeph 3:17; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).”

Michal’s Contempt for David

      • As the ark of Yahweh entered the city of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before Yahweh, and she was filled with contempt for him. They brought the ark of Yahweh in and set it in its place inside the tent that David had set up for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before Yahweh. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Yahweh of Hosts. Then he gave a portion of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake to each one of the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women. Then all the people left and went back to their homes.

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes says, “ The Hebrew word used here (‘espar) is found in the OT only here and in the parallel passage found in 1 Chr 16:3. Its exact meaning is uncertain, although the context indicates that it was a food of some sort (cf. KJV ‘a good piece of flesh’; NRSV ‘a portion of meat’). The translation adopted here (‘date cake’) follows the lead of the Greek translations of the LXX, Aquila, and Symmachus (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT).”

      • When David went home to bless his own household, Saul’s daughter Michal came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today- shamelessly exposing himself in the sight of his servants’ female servants just as any vulgar fellow would do.”

        • HCSB says, “Did David expose his nakedness while dancing before the Lord? Though Michal accused David of this, she was probably exaggerating in her anger. David was wearing a linen ephod, a garment worn by priests of the Lord (Ex 28:4). If he was properly dressed as a priest, he would have also worn a linen undergarment (Ex 28:42-43). His modesty would have been preserved even while dancing exuberantly. Michal despised David and, moreover, seems to have not fully committed herself to the worship of the Lord; she avoided the religious ceremony, even though other women attended (see vv. 19-22). Her spurious charges against David were only symptomatic of her deeper spiritual problems.”

      • David replied to Michal, “I was dancing before Yahweh who chose me over your father and your entire family, appointing me over Yahweh’s people Israel. I am willing to be even more undignified than this and I will be humiliated in your eyes. But those servant girls you mentioned will hold me in honor.” Now Saul’s daughter Michal had no children to the day she died.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “David’s response to Michal might hint at the real reason for her indignation- that she resented David’s success in light of the tragic decline of her father’s family. David would not restrain his enthusiasm in celebrating before the Lord. In fact, he would exceed the enthusiasm he had shown thus far.”

      • The same source continues, “Michal was the only one of David’s many wives who did not bear him at least one child. Either God was punishing her (cp Gen 20:17-18) for her disdainful attitude toward David’s exuberant praise, or David and Michal’s relationship had become so strained that they never again shared the marriage bed. Because Michal remained childless, yet another aspect of Saul’s dynasty was cut off…”

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