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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-11

The first move 6:1-11

Baale-judah (2 Samuel 6:2) may have been the later name of Kiriath-jearim (cf. Joshua 15:9-10). [Note: Ibid., p. 869.] This was where the ark had evidently rested since the Israelites had moved it from Bethshemesh in Samuel’s days (1 Samuel 6; cf. Psalms 132:6-8). [Note: Joseph Blenkinsopp, "Kiriath-jearim and the Ark," Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969):146-47.]

David wanted to bring the ark into his capital because it symbolized the Lord’s presence. As we have seen, David did not believe superstitiously that the ark for its own sake would bring blessing wherever it went. He viewed Yahweh as the real source of blessing. However, he wanted the people to see that it was important that Israel’s God, and what represented Him, should be at the center of national life. Unfortunately he did not move the ark according to the specifications of the Mosaic Law but according to customary practice (cf. 1 Samuel 6:7-8). Priests were to carry it on poles (Exodus 25:14; Numbers 4:1-15), not on a cart. Furthermore no one was to touch it (cf. Numbers 4:19-20). This incident is a striking illustration of the spiritual truth that God’s work must be done in God’s way to secure God’s blessing.

God’s symbolic entrance into Jerusalem was a cause for great celebration. David was apparently angry because he expected God to bless his efforts. God taught him that obedience is more important than good intentions and religious ritual (1 Samuel 15:22). David learned a lesson about God’s holiness too.

"He who had experienced wonderful protection over the years from the Lord his God, and had known unusual intimacy with him, had to come to terms with the fact that he had overstepped the mark, and presumed upon the relationship, by failing to observe the regulations laid down to safeguard respect for God’s holiness. Though Jesus taught us to call God our Father, he also taught us to pray ’hallowed be thy name,’ implying the need to pay careful attention lest privilege becomes presumption." [Note: Baldwin, p. 208. Cf. Gordon, p. 232.]

The death of Uzzah was a lesson similar to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2), Achan (Joshua 7), and Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11). All these people failed to take God seriously at the beginning of a new phase of His kingdom program. What we do is important, but how we do it is also important. Coming close to doing God’s will is not enough even though we have the best of motives; David wanted to honor God. We need to practice radical obedience; we need wholehearted commitment to God’s will as His disciples.

During the three months the ark stayed with Obed-edom, David evidently did some Bible study and discovered how God had said His people should move it (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:1-13). Obed-edom probably came from the Levitical town of Gath-rimmon in Dan (Joshua 21:24; Joshua 19:45). It is unlikely that he was a Philistine from the Philistine town of Gath. His house appears to have been on the southwestern hill of Jerusalem. [Note: R. A. Carlson, David the Chosen King, p. 79.]

Verses 12-23

The second move 6:12-23

David also observed that the ark’s presence in Obed-edom’s house resulted in blessing for its host. This made him more eager than ever to install the ark in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 6:13 probably means: after the priests had taken six steps, other priests sacrificed an ox and a fatling (a fat, i.e., choice, calf). This happened every time the priests carrying the ark took six steps. [Note: See McCarter, "The Ritual . . .," pp. 273-74, 277, n. 1; or Carlson, pp. 80, 86, for the Assyrian parallel custom.]

David wore a priestly garment (2 Samuel 6:14; cf. 1 Samuel 2:18) as he praised the Lord (2 Samuel 6:13). Some scholars believe the ephod David wore was a brief loincloth and that Michal despised him for exposing himself inappropriately. [Note: E.g., Anthony Phillips, "David’s Linen Ephod," Vetus Testamentum 19:4 (October 1967):485-87. For a rebuttal of this view, see N. L. Tidwell, "The Linen Ephod: 1 Sam. II 18 and 2 Sam. VI 14," Vetus Testamentum 24:4 (October l974):505-7.] Why did God not express his wrath over David functioning as a priest? Were not the priests the only individuals who could offer sacrifices to the Lord?

"The white ephod was, strictly speaking, a priestly costume, although in the law it is not prescribed as the dress to be worn by them when performing their official duties, but rather as the dress which denoted the priestly character of the wearer (see at 1 Sam. xxii. 18); and for this reason it was worn by David in connection with these festivities in honor of the Lord, as the head of the priestly nation of Israel (see at 1 Sam. ii. 18)." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 336.]

"The suggestion has been offered that David assumed ’something of the role of priest-king’ when, wearing a linen ephod, he danced before the ark as it was brought into Jerusalem, and also ’sacrificed oxen and fatlings’ (2 Samuel 6:13-19). [Note: Footnote 11: "For a study of non-Levites functioning as priests in Israel, see Carl E. Armerding, "Were David’s Sons Really Priests?" in Current Issues in Biblical Patristic Interpretation, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, pp. 75-86. . . ."] This episode is unusual, but it need not be interpreted in this way, and to do so is contrary to other factors soon to be noticed. David’s dancing should be thought of only as an expression of holy enthusiasm for the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, and as an attitude of humility as king before almighty God. . . .

"That David wore a linen ephod-which was ordinarily worn only by priests, true enough (see 1 Samuel 22:18)-can be explained as a way of showing his association with the priests and Levites who were officiating in carrying the ark and in performing the sacrifices. It may also have been a further way of showing humility, since a linen ephod was a modest dress in comparison with David’s ordinary royal robes. As for the sacrificing of oxen and fatlings, one need not think that David offered these himself. It was he who ordered this done, but the work certainly was performed by priests and Levites that he had invited to be on hand. After all, considerable work is involved in sacrificing, and a large number of animals were sacrificed. The work of many men would have been required [cf. 1 Kings 3:4]." [Note: Wood, pp. 61-62.]

Priestly kingship was not uncommon in the ancient Near East. [Note: Sidney Smith, "The Practice of Kingship in Early Semitic Kingdoms," in Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, pp. 22-73.] Note that David’s radical obedience resulted in his experiencing and expressing great joy, as seen in his celebrating. Whereas people often think that complete obedience to God will make them less happy, the opposite is true. We only experience full joy when we follow God’s will completely (cf. Romans 12:1-2). David felt anger and fear the first time he tried to bring the ark into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:8-9), but when he observed the Mosaic Law carefully, the second time, he felt great freedom and joy.

Michal apparently did not understand David’s reasons for bringing the ark into Jerusalem. She seems to have regarded kingship in Israel as her father had. [Note: Gordon, p. 234.] He had believed the human king was the ultimate authority and that everyone should honor him. By referring to Michal as "the daughter of Saul" (2 Samuel 6:16), the writer linked her attitude with her father’s.

"Her idea seems to have been that the king should avoid mixing with the people, and be aloof and inaccessible. As it was, she despised him for the very qualities that made him great, namely, devotion to the Lord and spontaneity in worship." [Note: Baldwin, p. 209.]

The tent David had pitched for the ark in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17) was not the tabernacle of Moses (1 Chronicles 21:28-30; 2 Chronicles 1:3-6). The writer did not explain why David did not move this central sanctuary from Gibeon to Jerusalem. Probably he did not want to offend the northern tribes. His blessing the people (2 Samuel 6:18) and giving them cakes made with fruit (2 Samuel 6:19) was a sign to them that their God, who was now in their midst, would bless them as He had promised. Fruit was a common symbol of fertility in the ancient Near East. [Note: Martin, p. 38.] Solomon later decorated his temple with figures of fruits. Cake also connoted plenty, prosperity, and blessing.

"The bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem was an event of major theological significance. . . . David wanted to make the Jebusite city not only the center of his rule but also the center of the worship of the Lord.

"By bringing the Ark to his new Jebusite capital, David was attempting to bind the tribes and the central government more firmly." [Note: Homer Heater Jr., "A Theology of Samuel and Kings," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 126.]

Whereas the people responded to David’s leadership enthusiastically, David’s own wife rejected it. She despised her husband for his humility before the Lord. He had behaved as a servant of God. She thought he should have behaved in a more distinguished manner. David promised her that the Lord would give him distinction. He did not need to claim that for himself. The honor of Yahweh was more important to David than his own dignity. In this he set us all a good example. As a result of her attitude toward God and His anointed, Michal suffered barrenness the rest of her life. This was, of course, the opposite of fruitfulness and fertility that result from responding properly to God and His anointed.

"While the Lord’s blessing on Obed-Edom resulted in a large number of descendants for him . . ., David’s intended blessing on his own household (2 Samuel 6:20) was effectively nullified by Michal’s tragic criticism of her husband." [Note: Youngblood, p. 878.]

"The final sentence of the chapter, which may imply some sort of judgement [sic] on Michal for her sarcasm, forecloses any possibility that David and Michal will produce an heir who will be able to unite Davidide and Saulide loyalties." [Note: Gordon, p. 230.]

It may be that God shut Michal’s womb as a judgment on her for her attitude (2 Samuel 6:20). One writer believed God judged her for her negative attitude toward the ark. [Note: Carlson, p. 93.] Others have felt that she did not respect her husband or the Lord. Perhaps all these opinions are true. I think it is more probable, in view of the record of antagonism that precedes 2 Samuel 6:23, that we should infer that David had no more intimate relations with her. [Note: Fred E. Young, "First and Second Samuel," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 296.] He had other wives and concubines, and he could have fulfilled his sexual desires without Michal. If this interpretation is correct, we have here another instance of David failing God in his family relations. He should have taken the initiative to heal the breach in his relations with Michal that this chapter records and not to have allowed them to continue. Even when we are right, as David was, we must be sensitive to the feelings of those who are wrong, as Michal was, and seek to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

"The writer . . . does not question the historically crucial fact of David’s divine election, so prominently stressed by the king himself at the beginning of his speech; but theological rights do not necessarily justify domestic wrongs, and the anointed monarch of Israel may still be a harsh and unfeeling husband to the woman who has loved him and saved his life." [Note: Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, pp. 124-25. Cf. 1 Samuel 18:20, 28; 19:11-17.]

The writer emphasized that those who follow God’s covenant prosper, but God cuts off those who do not. The Philistine idols could not deliver the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:21), but the ark of God brought blessing to His people (ch. 6).

Most scholars have placed David’s bringing the ark into Jerusalem near the beginning of his reign. [Note: E.g., J. R. Porter, "The Interpretation of 2 Samuel VI and Psalm CXXXII," Journal of Theological Studies N.S. 5 (1954):161-73.] They have done so because of where the writer placed this incident in the text. However, a few have argued that this event occurred toward the end of David’s reign. [Note: E.g., Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., pp. 239, 262-63.] The basis for this view is 1 Chronicles 15:1 that says David pitched a tent for the ark after he built houses for himself. Those who hold this second view believe-properly, I think-that the houses in view were David’s palace structures that Hiram helped him build (2 Samuel 5:11). Since Hiram reigned in Tyre only during the last nine years of David’s reign, the building of his palace must have occurred late in David’s reign (ca. 980-978 B.C.). After that, David built a tent for the ark and brought the ark into Jerusalem, as the writer recorded in this chapter (ca. 977 B.C.). However, these houses may have been David’s original dwellings in Jerusalem that his palace complex later replaced. If so, 1 Chronicles 15:1 may describe conditions at the beginning of David’s reign. This seems unlikely to me. Porter also believed David introduced a Canaanite New Year type festival at his coronation that this chapter describes, but this view has no textual support. [Note: Porter, pp. 161-73.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-6.html. 2012.
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