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Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

2 Samuel 6

Verse 1

DAVID BROUGHT THE ARK OF GOD TO JERUSALEM

The religious situation in Israel at this time was deplorable. Due to the divided condition of the nation, there were actually two High Priests. Abiathar, David's friend, served in that capacity during the seven years of David at Hebron, and Zadok was the High Priest at Gibeon.[1] Saul's murder of the priests of Nob, the capture of the ark of God by the Philistines, and the indifference of Saul to the true religion of the Lord had left the whole nation in a state of disastrous ignorance of God's Word!

The unification of Israel required the concentration of religious authority in one place, the unification of the two rival priesthoods and the moving of the ark of God to the nation's capital. David was not only a great warrior but a great statesman also, and his activity recorded in this chapter was one of his most important actions in the unification of Israel.

Another matter of exceedingly great importance in this chapter is that of the priestly functions exercised by David. He wore an ephod as did Samuel. David offered sacrifices. David blessed the people. This combination of the functions of the priesthood with that of the kingship was especially appropriate in David as the Type of the Christ, as prophetically stressed in Psalms 110. No other king of Israel ever served God's people in this dual capacity of priest and king. Saul had committed sin in offering a sacrifice, and David himself was permitted to do so only in the extreme situation of Israel's religious condition at the time he came to the throne.

Willis pointed out that parallel accounts of what we have in this chapter are also found in 1Chronicles;

David brought the ark to the household of Obed-Edom ... 1 Chronicles 13:1-14

David brought the ark to Jerusalem ... 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:3.[2]

DAVID REMOVED THE ARK FROM KIRIATH-JEARIM

"David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals."

"Again" (2 Samuel 6:1) This word is presumably a reference to a previous gathering of David's men (2 Samuel 5:6). The parallel account explains that David had consulted all of the leaders of Israel before the journey to Baale-judah.

"David ... went ... with all the people ... from ... Baale-Judah" (2 Samuel 6:2). From 1 Chronicles 13:6 we learn that the word "from" in this verse should be "to". David and his men went to Baale-judah to get the ark where it had rested for twenty years or more following the removal of it to that place at the request of the men of Bethshemesh (1 Samuel 6:19-7:2). "Baale-judah in this verse is only another name for Kiriath-jearim."[3] It is actually the old pagan name of the place as indicated in Joshua 15:9,60.

"Called by the name of the Lord of hosts" (2 Samuel 6:2). This cannot be limited to God's being the "Lord of the armies of Israel," although it includes that. As Willis noted, "This means that God is Lord of the angelic armies of heaven, of the sun, moon and stars, of the armies of the nations of the world, and of the armies of Israel."[4]

"And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart" (2 Samuel 6:3). This was in direct violation of the rules laid down in the Pentateuch regarding the transporting of the ark of God. True, the Philistines had moved it in that manner, but they were ignorant of the Law. No such excuse was available for David. Oh yes, the scholars have often tried to diminish David's guilt in this action by declaring that, "David clearly knew of no such rules,[5] or that because, "The exact way of bearing the ark had long been dismissed from their memories, and their remembering how the Philistines had moved it in a cart would justify their also using a cart."[6] All such efforts to excuse David's sin in this are futile.

God had fully revealed that, when the ark was moved it should be carried by Levites on poles (Exodus 25:12-15; 37:1-5; Numbers 7:9); also that it should always be covered with a goatskin (Numbers 4), and that even the Levites were not to touch it lest they die (Numbers 4:15). Yes, the Philistines had moved it on a new cart pulled by milch cows; and, as Willis said, "The Israelites thought the Philistines had a better way of moving it than the Lord."

Did David know any better? Certainly! He himself admitted it. David called together the heads of the house of Levites and said, "You are the heads of the father's houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke forth upon us, because we did not care for it in the way that is ordained (1 Chronicles 15:12-13). These words make it impossible to accept the critical dictum that, "It is now generally conceded that David shows his ignorance of the Levitical restrictions."[7]

Note that David here said that the Levites did not carry the ark the first time. Although Jamieson designated Uzzah as a Levite,[8] he could not have been a Levite because his father (or grandfather) Abinadab was "of the tribe of Judah."[9] Josephus also flatly declared that, "Uzzah was not a priest, and yet he touched the ark."[10] H. P. Smith analyzed the situation perfectly. He wrote that, "The whole transaction was contrary to the provisions of the Law which gives specific instructions for the transport of the ark."[11]

Note the words "whole transaction" in Smith's quotation. That new cart was not all that was wrong. We have already noted that there was no covering on the ark and that the Levites were not bearing it on their shoulders as commanded. In fact, as far as the record reveals, there were no Levites even present. And then there was that grand cacophony of lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. That was also contrary to God's will; and at a later time Amos the prophet indicated David's sin in thus introducing mechanical instruments into the worship of God. Also, the near-naked dancing engaged in by David and others was expressly forbidden, as we shall see.

Oh, but it was a "NEW cart" never contaminated by any other use. "It mended the matter very little that it was a new cart; old or new, it was not what God had appointed."[12]

"Uzzah and Ahio sons of Abinadab" (2 Samuel 6:3). "Due to the omission of Eleazar's name and the lapse of time, `sons' in this place may mean grandsons,"[13] a usage frequently found in the O.T.

Verse 6

UZZAH WAS STRUCK DEAD FOR TOUCHING THE ARK

"And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased because Jehovah had broken forth upon Uzzah. And he called that place Perez-Uzzah, unto this day. And David was afraid of Jehovah that day; and he said, "How shall the ark of Jehovah come to me"? So David would not remove the ark of Jehovah unto him into the city of David, but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. And the ark of Jehovah remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And Jehovah blessed Obed-Edom and all his house."

The death of Uzzah here is certified to us in the sacred narrative as an act of God, a punishment of Uzzah for his touching the ark, contrary to God's commandment. It was not merely a sudden heart-attack understood and designated by men as such a judgment. Some have dared to describe this judgment against Uzzah as something far beyond what the trespass justified; but all such complaints ignore the simple lesson that, "None of God's commandments are trivial; and none of them may be violated with impunity." It would be difficult to imagine any smaller "sin" than that of Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden tree, but from that one little sin, all of the sorrows, wretchedness, bloodshed and misery of all mankind for millenniums of time was the result. Israel needed that lesson to be emphasized in their day, and God emphasized it in the judgment against Uzzah.

"And David was angry because the Lord had broken forth upon Uzzah" (2 Samuel 6:8). It was Keil's opinion that David's burning anger here was not directed against God ... but against the cause of the calamity, which he attributed to himself."[14] We admit such a view could be correct, but to us it appears to be overly apologetic for David. Matthew Henry stated that, "David was angry and out of humor ... David did not now act like himself, like a man after God's own heart."[15]

"Perez-Uzzah" (2 Samuel 6:8). "This means `the breaking forth upon Uzzah', just as Baal-Perazim means `the Lord of breakings forth' (2 Samuel 5:20)."[16] In this last example, Baal is not the Lord who did the breaking forth. It is the Lord's breaking forth against Baal that is meant.

"And the place is called Perez-Uzzah, to this day" (2 Samuel 6:8). "Such expressions as "to this day" might have been added by the original compiler, but more probably by some subsequent scribe. Many such remarks are supposed to have been inserted by Ezra."[17]

Verse 12

FINALLY DAVID SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT THE ARK TO JERUSALEM

"And it was told King David, "The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God." So David went and brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the horn."

We read from the parallel account in First Chronicles that on this second attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, David honored the requirements laid down in Moses' Law for doing so. Well, at least he honored some of them. If the Pentateuch had not even been written (when David was king), as the late-daters of the Law of Moses falsely allege, where did David learn how to move the ark? As a matter of certainty, the Pentateuch had already existed since the times of Moses, and the specific directions for moving the ark of the covenant were followed by Joshua and the Israelites during the conquest, long centuries prior to the times of the monarchy.

"So David went and brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom" (2 Samuel 6:12). The use of the word `so' in this place prompted H. P. Smith to write that, "The blessing conferred upon Obed-edom is the reason why David renewed his effort."[18]

"When those who bore the ark had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling" (2 Samuel 6:13). This appears to have been a test by David to find out if the Lord would allow the ark to proceed. The parallel account mentions the sacrifice of `seven' of the animals, indicating that this test was repeated.

"And David danced before the Lord with all his might ... girded with a linen ephod" (2 Samuel 6:14). The linen ephod was the garment of a priest, another indication of David's priestly services. The ephod was, "A small apron used on ceremonial occasions ... David obviously wore nothing else, for this was the cause of Michal's contempt."[19] We read from the parallel account that David also wore a fine linen robe as did all of the Levites who carried the ark (1 Chronicles 15:27); however, the robe might very well have been laid aside during the dancing. There seems to be little doubt that David exposed himself by this dancing. Willis wrote that, "Michal despised David because she assumed that his purpose was to expose himself in some sort of orgiastic sexual gyrations before the maids of his servants."[20]

This writer finds no way to justify this dancing ritual. If he was dressed as the text seems to indicate, his indecent exposure was almost a certainty. "The scantiness of his dress was the grounds of Michal's contempt."[21] "The word used for `dancing' in 2 Samuel 6:14 is found nowhere else in the Bible and seems to mean whirling like the devotional dancing of the dervishes."[22]

This type of conduct was forbidden to the priests of God who were specifically commanded to wear "breeches" for the specific purpose of concealing their nakedness when they were offering sacrifices (Exodus 28:40-43). "The purpose of those breeches was specifically to prevent the exposure of their private parts."[23] Why this instruction? "Ritual nakedness, especially for priests, was a feature of some ancient pagan religions; it was to be quite otherwise in Israel."[24] To say the least, David was offering sacrifices without the prescribed breeches which God commanded.

Verse 16

MICHAL DESPISED DAVID

"As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."

Most of the commentators we have consulted take a very negative view of Michal, accusing her of pride, irreligion, lack of love for David, of dishonoring him and failing to show proper respect for him. In view of the very high place which King David occupies in the Holy Scriptures, we cannot contradict those views rashly, but we pray that this writer will be forgiven for a different viewpoint which we feel should be injected into our consideration of this episode.

In the first place it was sinful for David to take back Michal as his wife (Deuteronomy 17:17). Michal and Paltiel evidently loved each other, and David's sinful act in taking her away from her husband was probably never forgiven by Michal. A lonely and extremely competitive place in David's godless harem was a mighty poor substitute for the happy home she had been sinfully forced to leave behind her.

We cannot believe that David really loved Michal. All of his marriages seem to have been founded upon political, financial or other motives, none of which demanded his re-marrying Michal. Yes, some commentators say it re-enforced his claim on Saul's throne, but we do not accept that. It appears to this writer as having been motivated more by spite than by anything else. Added to all this was that pagan dance in which David shamelessly exposed himself and which was sinful, certainly in one aspect - that of his not wearing the required breeches.

Verse 17

THE ARK ENTERS JERUSALEM; ALL ISRAEL REJOICES

"And they brought in the ark of the Lord, 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 Lord. And when David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed among all the people, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people departed, each to his house."

"He blessed the people in the name of the Lord" (2 Samuel 6:18). Here is further evidence of David's acting in the capacity of a priest of God. When the ark was housed among the Philistines, it brought death and destruction, but in the midst of Israel, God's representative in the person of King David assured them of the blessings of the Lord.

The critical comment of Caird that, "The fact that David wears an ephod, offers sacrifices and blesses the people shows that priestly functions had not yet been restricted to a class of ordained men."[25] David, however, came to the throne of Israel somewhere in the vicinity of 1010 B.C., and God had restricted the priestly function in the Mosaic Law about four centuries earlier. Caird's comment seems to ignore this, although it is a fact Moses' Law had not been strictly obeyed for centuries.

Verse 20

MICHAL CONFRONTS DAVID; THEIR ESTRANGEMENT

"And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, "How the king of Israel honored himself today before the eyes of his servant's maids, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself? And David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord - and I will make merry before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes, but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor." And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child till the day of her death."

It is significant that David did not deny Michal's charge against him, referring to his conduct as "contemptible," and promising to be even more so in the future, his only justification of it being simply that he did it "before the Lord."

Some have suggested that Michal's going forth to meet David and her reproach of him in the presence of others constituted a major insult of the king. However, that might very well have been the only opportunity that Michal had to speak with her husband. It should be remembered that she dwelt in the king's harem and would never have any kind of personal contact with him unless he sent one of his eunuch's to summons her and bring her to his bedroom. There is no evidence whatever that she ever had any other opportunity to speak with David except this one.

"And Michal, Saul's daughter, had no child to the day of her death" (2 Samuel 6:23). This may not mean that Michal died childless, but merely that she had no child after her return to David. Her five sons are mentioned in 1 Samuel 21:10. The RSV identifies them as sons of "Merab," Saul's oldest daughter, but certain old manuscripts, the Hebrew text, and the Greek (LXX) identify them as the sons of Michal, as indicated in the footnote of the RSV. Josephus declares that, "She bare five children."[26] Porter stated that the natural way of understanding 2 Samuel 6:23 is that, "Michal's barrenness was for the rest of her life due to her estrangement from David, and not that she was stricken by Jehovah with barrenness."[27] H. P. Smith also supported that same understanding of the passage.[28] A comparison of various versions will show that a great deal of uncertainty clouds many passages in these historical books. However, that uncertainty does not pertain to anything of vital importance to Christians.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-samuel-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.