2 Samuel 6 Commentary

The ark brought to Jerusalem (6:1-23)

Part of the reason for Israel’s weakness during Saul’s reign was the king’s lack of interest in the nation’s religious life. David was determined to correct this state of affairs. He began by restoring the ark, symbol of God’s presence, to its rightful position as the centre of Israel’s religious life. (During Saul’s reign the ark had remained in a country house in Kiriath-jearim, also known as Baal-judah or Baalah; 1 Sam 7:1-2; 1 Chron 13:5-6.) In bringing the ark to Jerusalem, David was aiming to make Jerusalem the religious centre of Israel as well as the royal city and administrative capital (6:1-5).

David’s plans suffered an early setback when a person who touched the ark was killed. Apparently thinking that God was angry with him for moving the ark, David feared to take it any further. He left it in the nearby house of a man named Obed-edom (6-11).

God’s blessing on the house of Obed-edom during the next three months made David realize that God’s anger was not because of the removal of the ark. Rather it was because of the lack of respect for


God that had characterized the operation. For example, the Israelites had copied the Philistines (who knew no better) by transporting the ark on a cart, instead of carrying it on the shoulders of the Levites (see

  1. 3; cf. Num 4:15; 7:9; 1 Sam 6:7). Therefore, when David decided to move the ark again, he was careful to do things properly (1 Chron 15:2,13-15). He was so relieved when no one was struck dead, that he stopped the procession after it had gone only six paces and offered sacrifices of thanksgiving (12-15).

At this time the tabernacle was in Gibeon (1 Chron 16:39). David made no attempt to shift it to Jerusalem, possibly because it was too old to move without causing major damage, or possibly because David was thinking of building a new and more lasting structure. When he brought the ark to Jerusalem, he placed it, to begin with, in a special tent that he had prepared for it. He and the people celebrated the great event with a sacred ritual of music, dancing, sacrifice and feasting (16-19; see 1 Chron 15:16-28). The psalm sung on this occasion praised God for giving the people of Israel their homeland, and contrasted the power of this glorious God with the weakness of heathen idols (1 Chron 16:8-36).

Michal did not share David’s enthusiasm, and rebuked him for his unashamed display of joy during the procession. She thought his behaviour unfitting for a king (20-23). But David was determined to lift the spiritual life of the people. He appointed suitable men to be with the ark and guide the worship at Jerusalem, apparently under the direction of the senior priest, Abiathar. The other chief priest, Zadok, was in charge of the tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chron 16:4-6,37-42).

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