If our inward lives do not bear witness to our faith then our outward pretense will not save us. Better to be genuinely sinful than religiously disingenuous.
An examination of 2 Samuel 6:1-23
6:1 Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baalah-Y’hudah--lords of Judah, to bring up from there the ark of Elohim—G-d—which is called by HaShem—the Name, the very name of YHVH Tz’vaot--L-rd of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.
We know from the 1 Chronicles 13 account of these events that David gathered together the whole community of Israel to bring up the ark, including the priests and Levites. This is significant because the ark had not had a primary place in Israel’s collective consciousness for many years.
“For we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” – 1 Chronicles 13:3
Baalah-Y’hudah (Lords of Judah) or Keriyat Ye’arim (Among the Forest)—as referenced in the 1 Chronicles account—is situated north west of Jerusalem on the boarder of the territories of Dan and Judah: given the name we can assume that Judah held some influence upon the town and that it was situated close to a forested area.
From every town in Israel the people must travel up to get to Jerusalem, hence “to bring up from there the ark of Elohim.” This gives geographical foundation for the spiritual reality of Aliyah—going up—which in modern terms is used to describe a diaspora Jew’s returning to the land of Israel.
The use of the generic term for G-d, Elohim in conjunction with the protective anti-blasphemy nomenclature of HaShem—the name—suggests a distanced relationship to the worship of YHVH at this point in David/Israel’s faith journey. The ark had not been sought after until now, having previously been wrenched from Israel’s hands at the time of Eli the priest and mishandled back and forth by the Philistines until finding a resting place in Baalah-Y’hudah.
YHVH here is called YHVH of Hosts, affirming the fact that He is not only a personal G-d but He is also G-d over all gods. He is said to dwell either above or between the Cherubim—angelic beings, probably shaped somewhat like those described in the book of Daniel, more Babylonian in appearance than the humanoid angelic depictions of modern Christianity.
“Dwelling either above or between the Cherubim” is a way of saying that the ark and the mercy seat represent G-ds footstool, the contact point of His manifest presence--Shekinah glory—on earth. This was the way the ark was perceived by David and Israel at this time. Psalm 132:7, a Psalm probably written to describe this or some similar event, calls the ark “His—G-d’s—footstool.” The point is that it should not be seen as a magic box that gives armies luck in battle but rather a symbol of relational communication between G-d and His chosen people.
3 They placed the ark of G-d on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab--father of generosity—which was on the hill; and Uzzah--strength—and Achio--brother, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. 4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab--father of generosity, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. 5 Meanwhile, David--loving/beloved—and all the house of Israel--overcomes in G-d—were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of cypress wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
David, along with the priests and Levites and all of Israel decide to follow the example of the Philistines—1 Samuel 6:7—and place the ark of the L-rd on a cart. Exodus 25:12-15; Numbers 4:5-6, 15 clearly require the ark to be carried on poles on the shoulders of the Levites. Perhaps this shows the lack of knowledge held by the priests and Levites at the time? It certainly indicates great neglect at best and at worst a great distance between David, Israel and her spiritual leaders and the G-d who Israel claimed to be theirs.
This echoes as a sobering warning through history to those of us who call ourselves followers of YHVH but neglect to observe--shamor—and remember--zakhor—His past, present and future word at work among us. In the past the ark was our point of contact, now the Son Himself is present to speak directly to all who would keep a place for Him in the tents--sukkot—of our lives. We must be intentional and on guard against a apathetic practice because practiced complacency stems from a dying relationship. Un-watered plants don’t grow and without sunlight all things perish.
All the singing, instruments and so called worship bands in the world do not compensate for the desecration of that which symbolizes G-d’s sovereign holiness. If our inward lives do not bear witness to our faith then our outward pretense will not save us. Better to be genuinely sinful than religiously disingenuous.
6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon--prepared, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of G-d and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. 7 And the anger of HaShem--YHVH--burned against Uzzah, and G-d struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of G-d.
It seems tragic that Uzzah had to suffer for the ignorant actions of David and Israel. Uzzah’s name means strength, perhaps he thought himself strong and able to save the ark of the L-rd? Maybe his motive for reaching out was a prideful one? We can’t know for sure. Regardless of Uzzah’s personal standing, David and all Israel were responsible for his death to some degree. Uzzah and his brother are not listed among the names of Levites and priests therefore they should not have been involved at all in the transportation of the ark. This is affirmed by 1 Chronicles 13:13.
The anger of G-d is justly manifest here, He is being gravely misrepresented both by and to Israel herself and to the surrounding nations who might be looking on. I do feel for Uzzah, if his action was a natural reflexive attempt to stop the ark getting damaged, it resulted in great loss. I suspect that someday he and I will be able to discuss this in the Olam haba.
8 David became angry because HaShem broke out against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah--breaking strength—to this day. 9 So David was afraid of HaShem that day; and he said, “How can the ark of HaShem come to me?” 10 And David was unwilling to move the ark of HaShem into the city of David with him;
I suspect David’s anger was directed at himself. We are told that he became angry because of what happened and not that he was angry at or with G-d. His original desire to give the ark a place to rest was a good one however he went about it rashly and without consulting the L-rd. As a result a man had died and Israel was still without an appropriate relational symbol of YHVH. Thus king David must take full responsibility for what has happened, therefore he is angry with himself.
Once David had taken time to think on what had happened he became terrified. This doesn’t seem like a relational awe inspired fear of G-d but rather a frightened response of alienation. This terror is perhaps likened to the terror one faces at the realization of a holy G-d, we are born with an evil inclination and stand in G-d’s common grace with the realization that we have wronged Him, at this point we are children of creation but we are not children of G-d. David’s statement here is a truthful acknowledgement of his present standing before HaShem, “How can the ark of HaShem come to me?” Rav Shaul the apostle reminds us of the Psalmist when he says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d.” This is a terrifying thought, how then could I possibly have G-d speak to me personally? Perhaps this account is revealing David’s personal journey toward reconciliation with G-d.
but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom--worker of Esau—the Gittite--inhabitant of Gath. 11 Thus the ark of HaShem remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the HaShem blessed Obed-edom and all his household. 12 Now it was told King David, saying, “The HaShem has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.”
Finally David makes a wise decision and takes the ark to the house of a Levite, Obed Edom. Obed Edom is listed among the Korahites, a sub group of the Levites who were gatekeepers of the Mishkan—tent of meeting in 1 Chronicles 26:4. He is clearly blessed, being a man with eight sons to carry on his family line. This is a profound form of blessing in the tribal culture of Israel which places great importance on continued paternal bloodlines.
I see Obed Edom as the hero of this story. His willingness to receive the ark after what has just taken place shows his deep trust in HaShem. He is not afraid of the same fate that befell Uzzah and the Philistines because he is aware of the Torah and its requirements regarding the ark. He knows that G-d blesses those who love Him and keep His precepts. The fact that the ark remains three months is a sign of completeness and unity within the home of Obed Edom and reminds those who hear of it that the G-d of Israel is to be held in awe filled relationship and not in subjugated terror.
By simply receiving the ark of G-d Obed Edom shows great faith and is rewarded. It is his faith that inspires David to seek a way of reconciliation. G-d has provided the means for that very thing and is waiting to bless David and all Israel when they approach Him in repentance and treat the symbol of His uniqueness with respect. No longer seeing the ark as a magical relic but holding the G-d that it represents in fearful awe.
David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the HaShem had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.
What was different this time? Why do we not hear of anyone dying on this occasion? 1 Chronicles 15 greatly illuminates the 2 Samuel narrative. David is filled with hope at the news that G-d has blessed the home of the man that has cared for the ark these last three months and he wants to do things properly this time. He has read up on the Torah requirements and has prepared the Levites and priests accordingly. This time it is the Levites who carry the ark on poles thus fulfilling the requirements of G-d’s instruction to Israel.
14 And David was dancing before the HaShem with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod--priestly garment. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the HaShem with shouting and the sound of the shofar--ram’s horn.
David is pictured here uniting the Kingship and the priesthood. He is the G-d appointed king of Israel wearing a priestly ephod. Too much attention is given to the fact that one of the garments he wore was linen and possibly a loin cloth. The point here is not that he is scantly clade, the point is that he is wearing that which is only lawful for the priest to wear and yet he is not struck down, just as he was not struck down when he and his men ate the show bread that was only lawful for the priests to eat. Why? Because G-d had placed upon David the prophetic representation of David’s greater son, the Messiah. Messiah Yeshua would later refer to David as the king who united the kingship and priesthood of Israel, the king who foreshadowed Yeshua Himself.
David and all Israel are dancing and shouting and blowing shofrot. David is dancing with all his might, these are joyous actions born of grace. Israel is tasting and delighting in G-ds grace and mercy toward her. This is not the same as the celebration of the previous attempt to bring up the ark, that celebration was born of superstition and a desire for power. This was different, it was the weightless dancing of freedom.
16 Then it happened as the ark of the HaShem came into the city of David that Michal--brook—the daughter of Saul--inquire—looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before HaShem; and she despised him in her heart.
Michal had every reason to despise David, she had loved him, protected him from her father, and then after years of separation and having developed love for a new husband she had been abruptly torn away from her new husband and taken back to live among David’s many wives and concubines. Now as one of many and a daughter of the deposed Saul to boot, she was probably not on the Kings top ten list. Add to this her scantly clade husband dancing with reckless abandon for all to see and it only seems natural that she would despise him.
Michal’s perspective on these events is clouded by her hatred and unforgiveness toward David. David is surely guilty of neglecting her and she has every right to be hurt, but her choice to gaze through the lens of unforgiveness clouds her ability to see the wonder in what G-d is doing among the people of Israel. We would do well to learn from this, there are times when by justified hatred we too miss what G-d is doing among us.
17 So they brought in the ark of the HaShem and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the HaShem.18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of YHVH Tz’vaot--L-rd of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a challah loaf and piece of meat and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.
David had pitched a tent for the ark, it may have been the Mishkan of old or it may have been a new tent designed to match the original Mishkan, either way David was showing the proper respect for the Instruction of HaShem. The generic Elohim is not mentioned here, David blesses the people in the name of YHVH of hosts the unmistakably relational One true G-d of all things who has chosen Israel for His own.
David then distributes a loaf of challah, a piece of meat or cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each one. It is possible that this food is part of the priestly offerings, if so then it is food that only the priests should eat, it is therefore another prophetic action acknowledging Israel as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to G-d.
Some versions of the text render the gifts of food as “bread, meat and wine.” If this is correct then the bread may retrospectively represent the people of Israel—given that it is made with yeast it cannot in this case represent Messiah—and the meat and wine the body and blood of Messiah
20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before HaShem, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of HaShem, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before HaShem. 22 I will humiliate myself further and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.” 23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
As mentioned earlier Michal’s vision was clouded by unforgiveness and hatred. David on the other hand saw only the great joy and freedom that G-d’s grace had brought to Israel at the celebration of His mercy, seated between the Cherubim.
Angered by Michal’s reaction to what had taken place David rebukes her harshly but truthfully. Her father, whose name meant inquirer had not inquired of G-d except when he was in dire straits and even then only through an intermediary conjured up by a medium. David rightly concludes that G-d desires a broken spirit and a contrite and humble heart, one that he is willing to give unreservedly to HaShem.
Many have said that the reason for Michal’s barrenness is because of a curse placed upon her womb by G-d but the text in no way infers that G-d is punishing Michal here. Michal’s childless position is simply meant to convey the fact that Saul’s bloodline had no direct link to the Davidic Kingdom. Michal’s barrenness is probably best attributed to the fact that she and David did not continue to have intercourse, thus leaving her with no other righteous means of procreation.
Finally, it is interesting to note the parallels between this account and Psalm 132, a Psalm of David which may well have been written to commemorate this very event.
Psalm 132 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
132 (0) A song of ascents:
(1) Adonai, remember in David’s favor
all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to Adonai,
vowed to the Mighty One of Ya‘akov,
3 “I will not enter the house where I live
or get into my bed,
4 I will not allow myself to sleep
or even close my eyes,
5 until I find a place for Adonai,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Ya‘akov.”
6 We heard about it in Efrat,
we found it in the Fields of Ya‘ar.
7 Let’s go into his dwelling
and prostrate ourselves at his footstool.
8 Go up, Adonai, to your resting-place,
you and the ark through which you give strength.
9 May your cohanim be clothed with righteousness;
may those loyal to you shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
don’t turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 Adonai swore an oath to David,
an oath he will not break:
“One of the sons from your own body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my instruction, which I will teach them,
then their descendants too, forever,
will sit on your throne.”
13 For Adonai has chosen Tziyon,
he has wanted it as his home.
14 “This is my resting-place forever,
I will live here because I so much want to.
15 I will bless it with plenty of meat,
I will give its poor their fill of food.
16 Its cohanim I will clothe with salvation,
and its faithful will shout for joy.
17 I will make a king sprout there from David’s line
and prepare a lamp for my anointed one.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him there will be a shining crown.”
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.