Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 13

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-14



2 Samuel 6:1-7:29; 1 Chronicles 13:1-14; 15:1-17:27

The wars are now all over, and there has come a period of rest. The first thing that impresses David’s mind is this: "I have made Jerusalem the capital of the nation, and Mount Zion is the chief place in Jerusalem, but in order to keep this people unified, God must be present. Off yonder at Gibeon is the tabernacle and the brazen altar, a part of the people worshiping there, and there is an altar of sacrifice but no altar at Jerusalem. Ten miles off yonder at Kirjathjearim is the ark of the covenant; it has been there forty-eight years. Lost in the days of Eli to the Philistines, and returned by the Philistines and stopped at that place, and there another part of the people are worshiping." You can see how David’s mind would be fastened upon the thought that he must bring that ark with its symbol of divine presence to his capital, but in order to bring it he must have a place to put it, so he selects a site for it and builds a tent, something like the tabernacle which Moses built, which was still at Gibeon, and it remained there until Solomon built the Temple. After Solomon built the Temple, the tabernacle was no longer regarded. It passes out of history.

It has been a characteristic of this man’s life to consult God in everything that he does. Now the priest carried two jewels on his Ephod called the Urim and Thummim, and through the Urim and Thummim God answered questions propounded. That Ephod with the Urim and Thummim had been carried by Abiathar to David in the cave of Adullam. All along through life he had that with him, and through these brilliant jewels in some way, we do not know just how, God answered questions propounded. There was also instituted an order of prophets who became the mouthpieces of Jehovah, so that if a man wanted to know Jehovah’s will he would go to the seer, or prophet, as David went to Nathan, and as Saul went to Samuel. These were two ways in which God communicated with the people – the priest way, through the Urim and Thummim, and the prophet way, through their inspiration. It is the object of David to gather together at Jerusalem everything sacred – the ark, tent, and altar, and the precious Urim and Thummim, so that here now in every way he may hear from God.

Sometimes God communicated with individuals in dreams and visions, but ordinarily through the two ways I have pointed out. We see why he wanted to get the ark up there, and how important in order to perpetuate unity and solidarity of his kingdom; all who would confer with God must come to his capital.

While David was king it was not an absolute monarchy. There was what was called the Convocation of Israel – the general assembly. This section commences: "And David consulted with the captains of thousands and of hundreds, even with every leader." Notice that he did not settle matters by a mere ipse dixit – "words spoken by himself." It was not by mere royal edict. He wanted the people to see and commit themselves to it, that this was the best thing to do for the nation. Sometimes a pastor becomes arbitrary in deciding what to do when he could accomplish his object a great deal better if he would confer with his brethren. David was not just a boss; he wanted everybody committed. After this consultation it was decided that they would go for the ark, and our text tells us how they brought it from Kirjathjearim on a cart drawn by oxen and that when the oxen stumbled and the cart looked as though it were going to turn over, Uzzah, one of the men who had been guiding it, reached out his hand to stop it, and God struck him dead instantly. That made a deep impression upon David and the people – as deep as when Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire upon the altar and the lightning leaped from God and destroyed them; an impression as solemn as when at Peter’s words Ananias and Sapphira fell dead under the stroke of God. The question is, why? The answer is found in the Mosaic law, that while carts might be used to carry the external things, the posts of the enclosure, and the curtain of the enclosure, the things of the sanctuary had to be carried by men, and staves were fitted into each piece heavy enough to require it so that four men might carry it. They might put the other things in a cart, but these sacred things had to be borne by men. In the next place, only certain men could touch it without death. They must not only be of the tribe of Levi, but of the family of Kohath. In Numbers we have the order of the encampment of the twelve tribes, three on each of the four sides; the Levites made an inner circle, and the position of the Kohathites and their duties. Whenever the trumpet sounded the Kohathites had to pick up the ark to carry it. In this case the law was violated, and God, in order to show that there must be reverence for sacred things, and that his precise commands must be carried out, made the breach on Uzzah.

We now come to a question of David, and it is a great text – 1 Chronicles 13:12: "How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?" What a theme for a sermon! If I were to preach on that I would show that wherever the ark was there was safety and blessing. After it stopped at Kirjathjearim that place was blessed; after it stopped at the house of Obed-Edom that home was blessed. Since that ark was a symbol of divine presence and divine guidance, it was a supreme question, "How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?" How shall I get the ark of God into my family, so that there will be safety, guidance, peace, and love? You see what kind of a sermon could be made out of it.

The whole vast crowd went back to Jerusalem and left the ark there. It was a good thing to have, but a bad thing to touch. It stayed at the house of Obed-Edom three months, and every hour it brought a blessing to that home. Our text tells us that David had made him houses in the city of David and prepared a place for the ark, if he could ever get it there: "How shall I bring it home to me?" The house that David built for himself was a palace.

The riches that he had made, the commerce that he had instituted, culminated in a treaty with Hiram, king of Tyre. Tyre was the great naval power of that age – what England is now – and through his alliance with Hiram he obtained the best artificers in wood and metal, skilled workmen, and cedars from Lebanon. These huge trees were floated to Joppa, and from Joppa brought across the country to Jerusalem, and so David had a fine house. When he went into that house the day it was finished, he wrote a song – Psalm 30. I told you about his gratitude; whenever a blessing came, it brought immediately from him an expression of thanksgiving to God. He wrote Psalm 30 and sang it at the dedication of the house. He dedicated this house of his to God. The song commences: I will extol thee, O Jehovah; for thou hast raised me up, And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O Jehovah my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Jehovah, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol; Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

I told you that in studying the psalms, you would get the interpretation of the inner life of David, and that you could tell from the psalms what events of his life most impressed him. Arrange the Davidic psalms in order, as they express the life of David. You will commence, of course, with the twenty-third, then the eighth, etc. There was a great difference between the Gave of Adullam and this fine palace. Some people do not get a home until late in life. Lorenzo Dow used to sing that he never had a home, and when a friend made him a present of a home, he declined it because it kept him from singing his favorite hymn.

David, hearing that the blessings of God had been on ObedEdom, and wanting this blessing brought to Jerusalem, studied the law and the law told him how to handle the ark; that the Kohathites should bear it, the Levites only should come near it; so he set out again with a vast host – nearly 1000 singers – to go after the ark.

Three chief singers led with cymbals, then three more men led the lute or psaltery-crowd, and three more men led the harp-crowd, and the priests blew the trumpets for signals. On page 127 (1 Chronicles 15:19) we have: "So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed, with cymbals of brass to sound aloud; and Zechariah and Asiel, and Shemiramoth and Jehiel, and Unni and Eliab, and Maaseiah and Benaiah with psalteries set to Alamoth." "Alamoth" means female choir; "Sheminith," male choir. He started out to get the ark home, and when he got to the place they sang this song, Psalms 15:1: Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, And speaketh truth in his heart; He that slandereth not with his tongue.

Then when the Kohathites lifted up the ark, he said, "Let God arise, and his enemies be scattered," the song that Cromwell sang before battle. And now having picked up the ark, the priests with the trumpets gave the signals to the cymbal-band., the psaltery-band whose singers were maidens, and to the harp-band. When that vast host drew near to Jerusalem, they sang Psalms 24:7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates, And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors.

They marched in and deposited the ark in its place in the tent and then David repeated the words of Moses: "Return to thy rest, O Lord," then followed refreshments, and then followed the benediction.

I will not go over the pageantry, but will present this thought: The Harmony tells us (p. 128) "On that day David first ordained to give thanks unto the Lord, by the hand of Asaph and his brethren." In other words, as soon as he got the ark in its place, he instituted that remarkable worship which has never been equalled from that day to this; there was something every day, morning sacrifice and evening sacrifice. He appointed 24,000 Levites to various services around the sanctuary. There were twelve different bands, twenty-four pieces each, for each month of the year, and on great occasions these 288 pieces would be in one grand band with a choir of 4,000 voices; but every month of the year a certain band would know that it would have to go in. There were a great many singers, male and female; singers corresponding to cymbals, singers corresponding to harps, and singers corresponding to cornets. I do not suppose that history has a parallel to this organization of music. It became somewhat greater in Solomon’s time, but David was the organizer.

We now come to one of the most important lessons in the Bible (p. 131). You will understand that Deuteronomy 12:10-11, is the key passage for interpreting the present section. Here is the direction that after they get over into the Promised Land and their enemies are subdued, the kingdom is settled, all the wars ended, then God will designate a central place of worship for his house. David was familiar with the passage in Deuteronomy. He now believes that the provisional days are over, and that the time has come for God to have fixed habitation where all must come, in fulfilment of that passage, and he purposes in his heart to build the most magnificent house for God that the world has ever seen (2 Samuel 7:1-3). He was not mistaken in the divine purpose to have a central place of worship; he was not mistaken that Jerusalem was the place, but he was mistaken as to the time when, and the man by whom this glorious Temple of God should be erected. It is important for you to see wherein he was mistaken and wherein he was not mistaken. God commends him for his zeal: "It was well that thou didst purpose this in thine heart." "That is a good thing, but you are not the man to do it."

The Bible assigns two reasons why David was not the man. In 1 Kings 5:3, Solomon, who was the right man, uses this language: Thou knowest how that David, my father, could not build a house for the name of Jehovah his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until Jehovah put these under the soles of his feet. In other words, the military power of David had not fully given rest; the time of rest had not fully come; a partial rest had come, but not the full rest necessary to the establishment of this house. Solomon then adds: But now Jehovah my God hath given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence. That is the first reason.

We find another reason in 1 Chronicles. David is speaking: "But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build a house for my name, because thou art a man of war, and hast shed blood" (1 Chronicles 28:3). He refers to it again as follows: "But the word of Jehovah came to me saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight" (1 Chronicles 22:8).

Now go back to the passage in Deuteronomy: "When you have gotten over into that country and have obtained rest from all your enemies, then this permanent house of God shall be built." David mistook, (1) the time – the wars were not yet ended; (2) the person – he had been a man of war and had shed blood abundantly, and the builder of the house of God must be a prince of peace. We will have use for this thought when we come to consider the antitype. Whereupon the message to David, the message of our text (and I want you to see that this divine message to David made the deepest impression ever made upon his mind by any event of his life) made a stronger impression upon the Jewish mind after his time than any preceding thing. You will find the psalms full of references to it, and the prophets magnify it above every promise, particularly Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, and you will find that this message that Nathan, from God, delivered to David, thrilled the Jewish heart with marvelous expectation of the Messiah, David’s son, the Great King that was to come. Frequent reference is made to it in the New Testament, and Matthew’s whole Gospel was written on the thought of the coming of the King. This is his great theme.

In order to see how this impressed David, notice the exact words spoken to him (2 Samuel 7:4-7): "And it came to pass the same night, that the word of Jehovah came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith Jehovah, shalt thou build me a house for me to dwell in? for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even unto this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel, spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people Israel, saying, Why have ye not built me a house of cedar?" "During the period of the judges, when I selected a judge like Samson, or Gideon, or Barak, did I at any time say to any of these judges that the time had come to build me a permanent house?" (Read 2 Samuel 7:8-16.) That was the message and it is very easy to see from the context that at the time it made a most wonderful impression upon the mind of David, as you further note from his prayer following right after it. (Read 2 Samuel 7:18-19; 1 Chronicles 17:16-17.) Consider particularly these words: "And this too after the manner of men, ’O lord Jehovah." Luther translates that passage thus: "This is after the manner of a man who is God, the Lord." That is to say, such a promise cannot fulfil itself in a man of low degree. The Chronicles passage has it: "Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree." David does not understand that his son Solomon is to exhaust the meaning of this passage.

In order to prove the impression made on David’s mind, let us read all of Psalm 72 which closes with the words of David and ends a book of the Psalms. The subscription is: "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." You may easily gather from this psalm that when this promise was made through Nathan that God would build him a house – house meaning family – except the Lord build a house, they labor in vain to build it, since children are a heritage of the Lord. The King in his mind appears from Psalm 2. (Read Psalms 2:1-8.) Then again in Psalms 110:1 "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." This king is to be a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Then in Psalm 89. (Read Psalms 89:2-4.) Notice again in Psalm 45. (Read the entire psalm.) Now we want to know how this promise to David impressed the mind of the prophet. (Read Isaiah 11:1-10.)

The genealogies of both Matthew and Luke prove that Jesus was a descendant of David. (Read Luke 1:31-33; Luke 1:68-70.)

Another passage (Read Hebrews 1:5). "Again" here refers to Christ’s resurrection. His soul had gone up to God at his death on the cross to make atonement, and after the atonement returned for the body, and when the resurrection took place God said, "Let all the angels of God worship him." Again, in Hebrews, he says that Moses built a house, the tabernacle, and Solomon, the lineal son of David, built a house, the Temple. But the Temple that Solomon built was out of unfeeling rock, unthinking stone, quarried as rough ashlars from the mountains; then by certain processes smoothed and fashioned into things of beauty, to be fitted into the earthly Temple of the Lord, which is a type of human beings, quarried as rough ashlars from the mountains of sin; then by the marvelous works of regeneration and sanctification, they become smooth ashlars ready for fitting into the temple of God, the living temple, to be a habitation for God, through the Spirit, to the end of the world. See also the last chapter of Revelation.

My point is, that while this promise of God through Nathan rested for the time being on Solomon, who did build a house, that it looked to a higher than Solomon, to a more distant day. Let us read Luther’s translation again: "This is after the manner of a man who is God, our Lord." When you study the vast literature of the Old Testament – say such a series as Hengstenberg’s Christology or Hengstenberg’s Kingdom of God, or any good commentary on 2 Samuel 7 and parallel passages in Chronicles, you will find that they regard this promise made to David as the most remarkable ever made. The prophetic light grew brighter all the time. Way back yonder the seed of the woman, Abel, then Seth, Shem, Abram, Isaac, Jacob. . . David, but here the messianic light becomes most brilliant in this promise.


1. What are the general conditions of affairs at this point, and what prompted David to bring up the ark from Kirjathjearim?

2. In what three ways did God communicate with his people, and what was the bearing of these on the removal of the ark and tabernacle to Jerusalem?

3. What course did David pursue, and the lesson therefrom, what incident here shows the sanctity of the ark and the impression made by it, and what Mosaic law was violated here?

4. What text here for a sermon, and the line of thought suggested?

5. Give an account of the building and dedication of David’s house.

6. What course did David pursue before attempting again to bring up the ark?

7. Describe the procession that went after the ark. What psalm did they sing as they started?

8. What did David say when the Kohathites lifted up the ark, and what general sang it before battle?

9. What song did they sing as they approached Jerusalem, and what did David say when they deposited the ark in the tent?

10. Describe the course of worship instituted by David.

11. Cite the direction for the establishment of the central place of worship; what David’s purpose concerning it; wherein was he not mistaken, and wherein was he mistaken?

12. Why was not David the man to build the Temple?

13. What message brought to David by Nathan, what impression did it make on his own mind, on the Jewish mind, and what Old Testament and New Testament references to it?

14. What was Luther’s translation of, "And this too after the manner of men O Lord Jehovah," and what its meaning?

15. What was the impression made on David’s mind, and what was the proof?

16 How did this promise to David impress the mind of Isaiah?

17. Who was the immediate fulfilment of this promise to David, who the remote fulfilment, and what the New Testament proof?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 13". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-chronicles-13.html.
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