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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 6

Verses 1-23

The Ark at Jerusalem (6:1-23)

The last mention of the Ark was in 1 Samuel 7:2, where it was said to be left at Kiriath-jearim. Its fate in the interval is unknown. It had been the divine rallying center for the northern group of tribes at the sanctuaries at Shechem and Shiloh and had been the symbol of God’s presence in their midst, his visible throne (vs. 2). If Jerusalem was to be truly David’s capital, it must be so religiously as well as politically, and placing the Ark there would attract the northern tribes religiously to the new capital to a degree that no other means could accomplish. So the symbol for the unity of the northern tribes, with its religious implications, became a symbol for the unity of the nation as a whole. The ancient and sacred chest gave to the new capital a religious sanction.

Attended by a chosen band of warriors, David went to Baaljudah, probably another name for Kiriath-jearim (Joshua 15:9-10), where the Ark had been left. It was placed on a new cart, drawn by oxen and driven by Uzzah and his brother (see margin), the sons of Abinadab, at whose house the Ark had been kept. The Ark was brought back with music and rejoicing. At the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah did something to steady the Ark, perhaps involuntarily. Exactly what he did the Hebrew text does not make clear, but the sequel is clear — Uzzah died. Remembering the early Hebrew understanding of holiness as a quasi-physical quality which pervaded all objects and persons associated with the Deity, an idea the Hebrews shared with many other peoples, we can understand that Uzzah may have been paralyzed and even struck dead by the fear aroused when he touched the holy object. Similar reactions still occur today among primitive peoples and are exploited by witch doctors. Such seems the best explanation.

David shared in the primitive reaction to the presence of a divine quality in holy objects and was unwilling to proceed further with the transportation of the Ark, so it was left at the house of Obed-edom the Gittite, presumably a Philistine resident alien. After three months, the manifest blessing attending Obededom was regarded as a sign that the divine wrath had abated, therefore the Ark was taken on to Jerusalem. As it moved forward, David, wearing the linen ephod — the priestly garb in this case and not the oracle (see comment on 1 Samuel 2:18) — sacrificed and danced before the Lord. That he should perform priestly functions and wear priestly dress is a reminder that these functions were not confined to the priestly caste as such, their chief task in early days being to consult the oracle rather than to sacrifice. It is also an indication that the king was regarded as a holy person. On arrival at Jerusalem, the Ark was housed in a tent, possibly a replica of the wilderness Tabernacle, and a series of offerings was made, culminating in a sacrificial meal. The burnt offerings were wholly offered to the Lord, but the peace offerings were communion offerings in which the broiled flesh of the sacrificial victims was shared amongst the worshipers, the blood alone being offered to God. Thus, through the life of a third party, that of the slaughtered beast, the worshipers communed with one another and with God.

David’s dancing, stimulated doubtless by his religious zeal, aroused the scorn of Michal. Her ironic greeting was parried by a contemptuous reply and by a permanent estrangement which meant that the house of Saul was not continued through the house of David.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 6". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-6.html.