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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Samuel 6

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 6. David And His House Are Established And He Is Promised That His Kingship Through His Seed Will Be For Ever (5:6-10:19).

In this section we will see how David’s rule is established far and wide as the nations come in submission to him, some voluntarily, others as a result of being overcome. It covers the whole of his reign in a series of vignettes which demonstrate his widespread glory, and builds up to YHWH’s promise that the kingship of his house will last for ever. But their order is not chronological, but topical. They are a depiction of David’s growing greatness and power, leading up to the guarantee that the kingship of his house will last for ever, and a description of the defeat of his most powerful enemies. Thus:

1). David initially purified Israel. He removed the one remaining specifically Canaanite bastion which was situated right in the middle of his kingdom, thus making clear the triumph of Yahwism, and the fact of the purifying of the land. At the same time he replaced the idolatrous king-priest of Jerusalem by establishing himself as YHWH’s priest-king over Jerusalem. He would see this as what Mechi-zedek had been before him when he had been ‘the priest of the Most High God’ who had ministered to Abraham. The idea was therefore based on a hallowed tradition (see Genesis 14:18-20). Like Judah previously (Judges 1:7) David had already shown his reverence for Jerusalem when he had brought the head of Goliath there (1 Samuel 17:54). This would either have been because he was patterning his behaviour on that of Abraham who had paid tithes to Jerusalem after his victory (Genesis 14:18-20) or because the tradition had grown up that saw Jerusalem as having been built on the mountains of Moriah, where Abraham had offered up Isaac (see 2 Chronicles 3:1). This reception of an ancient, traditionally respectable, priesthood would add a new religious dimension to his reign. Now David could be seen as lord over the whole land and as the nation’s intercessory priest, with the priests and Levites fulfilling their duties in accordance with the Law subject to his priestly control as priest of the Most High God (see 1 Chronicles 9:10-34; 1 Chronicles 15:16-24), something which he took advantage of in setting up the worship at the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting (e.g. 1 Chronicles 9:23; 1 Chronicles 15:16).

2). David’s Kingship was seen as established because he dwelt in a house of cedar. David’s palace was built for him by the ‘princes’ of palace building, the Tyrians, in a clear act of treaty friendship from the greatest maritime nation in the world, which was thereby demonstrating its respect for David. Like the greatest of kings David now dwelt in a house of cedar. YHWH had upraised him so that he might join them in their glory. But we should recognise that this is symbolically preparatory for the even better ‘house’ that YHWH has destined for David (2 Samuel 7).

3). David produced a prolific number of sons and daughters. This was something seen in those days as very necessary to a great king, and as demonstrating the blessing of YHWH. David thus had a quiver full of children demonstrating that he was blessed by God (Psalms 127:5).

4). David triumphed over the Philistines twice, driving them back and routing them, while at the same time seizing their gods which he himself takes possession of (and burns), thus demonstrating to all the superiority of YHWH. It fully avenges the time when the Philistines had previously seized the Ark of God, and had publicly displayed it (1 Samuel 5-7). Now David was again the Smiter of the Philistines.

5). Having taken Jerusalem David brought the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the Ark of The Name of Him Who sits between the Cherubim, into Jerusalem and established it in its own special Tent as an indication that from now on this was to be where YHWH symbolically dwelt and ruled, making Jerusalem YHWH’s royal city with David as His intercessory priest-king. David was thus revealed as YHWH’s triumphant War-leader and Prince who by YHWH’s power had established YHWH as King in Jerusalem.

6). The house of Saul loses its final opportunity of participating in the blessing as a result of Michal’s barrenness resulting from her attitude towards David’s worship of YHWH.

7). David’s ‘House’ (his dynasty) was to be established for ever in its place in the purposes of God, something which will culminate in the everlasting king over the everlasting kingdom (e.g. Genesis 49:10-12; 1 Samuel 2:10; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-4; Ezekiel 37:25; Daniel 7:13-14; Psalms 2:7-12). The reign of David’s house was thus to be everlasting.

8). David exercises his priestly ministry in a prayer of thanksgiving to YHWH.

9). Through the help and power of YHWH David triumphs over all who oppose him bringing wealth into the Tabernacle and greatness to his name.

10). David’s sons themselves become priests.

11). David fulfils his promise to Jonathan and establishes his son both in his ancestral lands and at the royal court, thus showing favour to the house of Saul for Jonathan’s sake as he had promised. In contrast with Michal Mephibosheth has a son, demonstrating YHWH’s compassion on what remains of the house of Saul.

12). David defeats the greatest current threat to Israel by defeating the Aramaean Empires and rendering their kings harmless.

It must be noted that underlying what is described here, and indeed underlying the whole Davidic narrative, are the words, ‘And the Spirit of YHWH came on David from that day forward’ (1 Samuel 16:13). That was the reason why David was so continually successful and what enabled him to glorify YHWH in all aspects of life. (And it was that same Spirit Who would later empower the everlasting King).

We can thus analyse this Section as follows:

Analysis.

a David Reacts To Taunts And Captures Jerusalem Thus Purifying And Uniting The Land (2 Samuel 5:6-10).

b Hiram Builds David A House Of Cedar Which Demonstrates the Establishment Of His House And Kingship On Behalf Of God’s People (2 Samuel 5:11-12).

c David Bears Many Sons (2 Samuel 5:13-16).

d David Utterly Defeats The Philistines Releasing Their Grip For Ever On Israel (2 Samuel 5:17-25).

e David Brings The Ark Of God Containing the Covenant Into Jerusalem With Rejoicing Expressing His Love For And Dedication To YHWH (2 Samuel 6:1-19).

f Michal Expresses Her Disgust At David’s Behaviour Resulting In The Barrenness Of The House Of Saul (2 Samuel 6:20-23).

g David Wishes To Build A House Of Cedar For YHWH And Learns That YHWH Is Above Houses Of Cedar (2 Samuel 7:1-7).

f The House Of David Is To Be Fruitful Result In An Everlasting Kingship (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

e David’s Prayer Expresses His Gratitude To YHWH For All His Goodness (2 Samuel 7:18-19).

d David Utterly Defeats All His Enemies Round About Freeing Israel From The Threat Of Invasion (2 Samuel 8:1-15).

c David’s Sons Become ‘Priests’ (2 Samuel 8:16-18).

b David Establishes The House Of Saul By Receiving Jonathan’s Son At Court and Giving Him Back His Ancestral Lands (2 Samuel 9:1-13).

a David Reacts To Taunts And Defeats The Greater Powers Who Threaten His Borders Thus Establishing The Land (2 Samuel 10:1-19).


Verses 1-3

David Seeks To Bring The Ark Of God Into Jerusalem And Is Eventually Successful But Is At First Thwarted By The Premature Death Of Uzzah, Which Emphasises The True Holiness Of The Living God (2 Samuel 6:1-19).

The bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem would almost certainly have occurred once he and his men were settled in Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles 15:1 tells us that it was once he had ‘made for himself houses in the City of David’. But these houses would have had to be built in readiness for David’s initial settlement in the city and therefore could not be speaking of his palace of cedar which, as it was built by Hiram of Tyre, must have been built towards the end of his reign.

His action required careful thought. Israel had already learned from what had occurred in chapters 1 Samuel 5-7 that the Ark of God was not to be treated lightly. Thus when David planned to transfer it to Jerusalem he should possibly have been more aware of the dangers, and have recognised the unique holiness of the Ark. Not that the move was not carefully planned. We may assume that the Ark was properly covered up so that the people could not gaze on it, and that those who bore it to the new cart that had been made especially for it were suitably qualified. Abinadab was almost certainly of a priestly family, as, of course, must have been his sons, otherwise the Ark would never have functioned at his house or been watched over by his sons. And it was his sons (or grandsons) who were given responsibility for watching over the Ark on its journey. So all should have been satisfactory.

But the problem was that such a long time had passed since the Ark had been used in worship that many had forgotten just how holy it was, or what its significance was. And that comes out in the action of Uzzah. Uzzah himself should, in fact, have known better. He had had the care of the Ark for a long time. And he should have known (and did know) that he did not have to protect YHWH, and that the Ark was not to be touched under any circumstances. When moved it was always to be by means of the special carrying poles which slotted in without the need to touch the Ark, precisely so that no one would touch the Ark. And the Levites had been warned from the beginning that to touch it meant death. Thus his action in reaching out to touch it was both foolish and blasphemous. It suggested to all who saw it that YHWH was unable to care for it, while giving the impression that he, Uzzah, could. It suggested that as priest he was to be seen as having proprietary rights over the Ark as something that required his protection. But above all it took away from its sacredness. It cancelled out the ides of what it was, the very representative throne of the invisible God. It made it just another image, a tool of man. It misrepresented all that the Ark stood for.

The reinstatement of the Ark was a hugely important, almost incalculable, moment in Israel’s history. It represented the reinstatement of the very invisible presence of YHWH among His people. At last His kingdom was being set up in accordance with His promises. Anything that detracted from that had to be severely dealt with because it affected how Israel would see things far into their future. Had Uzzah been able to touch the Ark and escape unharmed it would no longer have been seen as what it was. It would have lost its most important element, the fact that it was seen as genuinely representing the untouchable ‘other’ world, the fact that God was really involved with His people. But when Uzzah was struck down it provided the lesson to all that the Ark was indeed wholly untouchable and did indeed represent the living presence of YHWH, the eternal God. It revealed that that was not just a symbolic presence, but that there was there among them, through the Ark, the very real if invisible presence of the living God.

(To those of us who see life on this earth as the one thing that matters what happened here may appear to have been unnecessary, even vindictive, but to the One Who sees the end from the beginning, and to Whom the spirit returns after death, and Who decides the fate of the spirits of all men, death is merely an interval, a nothing. It is what happens after death that matters. That especially comes out in Hebrews 11, where it is not the wicked, but God’s favourites who die prematurely. We have to remember that to God it is not death that is important but what follows it. And there is no suggestion that Uzzah was to be punished in any way in the afterlife for what he had done. His eternal future would not depend on this incident, but on whether his faith was truly in God. Indeed in the same way God may take anyone of us whenever He will, and it is therefore incumbent on us to be ready).

Analysis.

a And David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand (2 Samuel 6:1).

b 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, even the name of YHWH of hosts who sits between the cherubim (2 Samuel 6:2).

c And they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was in the hill, and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart (2 Samuel 6:3).

d And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was in the hill, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark (2 Samuel 6:4).

e And David and all the house of Israel played before YHWH with all manner of instruments made of fir-wood, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with tambourines, and with castanets, and with cymbals (2 Samuel 6:5).

f 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 YHWH was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God (2 Samuel 6:6-7).

g And David was deeply disturbed, because YHWH had broken forth on Uzzah, and he called that place Perez-uzzah, to this day (2 Samuel 6:8).

h And David was afraid of YHWH that day; and he said, “How shall the ark of YHWH come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9).

g So David would not remove the ark of YHWH to him into the city of David, but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (2 Samuel 6:10).

f And the ark of YHWH remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and YHWH blessed Obed-edom, and all his house. And it was told king David, saying, “YHWH has blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all which pertains to him, because of the ark of God.” And David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with joy (2 Samuel 6:11-12).

e And it was so, that, when those who bore the ark of YHWH had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling (2 Samuel 6:13).

d And David danced before YHWH 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 YHWH with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet (2 Samuel 6:14-15).

c And it was so, as the ark of YHWH came into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before YHWH, and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of YHWH, and set it in its place, in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it, and David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before YHWH (2 Samuel 6:16-17).

b And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of YHWH of hosts (2 Samuel 6:18).

a And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, both to men and women, to every one a cake of bread, and a portion of flesh, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed every one to his house (2 Samuel 6:19).

Note than in ‘a’ David brought together the representatives of all Israel, and in the parallel all Israel take part in the celebrations. In ‘b’ the Ark which represented ‘the Name of YHWH of Hosts’ was to be brought up, and in the parallel David blesses the people in ‘the Name of YHWH of Hosts’. In ‘c’ special preparations were made for the bringing up of the Ark., and in the parallel special offerings were made once it had reached its place. In ‘d’ the Ark was brought forth out of the house of Abinadab on a new cart, and Ahio went before it, and in the parallel the Ark was brought up to its place and David danced before it. In ‘e’ all kinds of instruments celebrated the movement of the Ark, and in the parallel special sacrifices celebrated the movement of the Ark In ‘f’ the one who touches the Ark is smitten down and in the parallel the one who gives it shelter is blessed. In ‘g’ David was deeply distressed at what had happened, and in the parallel he was so distressed that he would not allow it to continue on its journey. Centrally in ‘h’ David was filled with awe at YHWH and asked, ‘How shall the Ark of YHWH come to me?’ He was learning something of the awesomeness of YHWH and that He was not to be treated lightly, even by him (a lesson most of us need to learn).

2 Samuel 6:1

And David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.’

The bringing of the Ark up to Jerusalem was such a special event that David ‘again’ gathered together the ‘thirty thousand’ chosen men of Israel. The ‘again’ probably has in mind 5:3 when the ‘elders of Israel’ gathered to anoint David as king. If that be so then these were the chosen men of Israel responsible before YHWH for the oversight of the tribes, sub-tribes and wider families in Israel and Judah. In their persons they represented the whole of Israel. ‘Thirty thousand’ indicates a complete (multiple of three) and large number.

1 Chronicles 13:1 speaks of his consulting ‘the captains/head persons/rulers of thousands and the captains/head persons/ rulers of hundreds and every leader’, which indicates very much the same thing. Compare Deuteronomy 1:15, ‘so I took the chief of your tribes, wise man and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands (the largest units), captains over hundreds (smaller units which together made up the larger units), captains over fifties (even smaller units) and captains over tens (the smallest size of unit)’.

In the end all Israel would be involved (1 Chronicles 13:2), but clearly all Israel could not accompany the Ark on its initial journey, although they would be there to welcome it into Jerusalem

2 Samuel 6:2

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, even the name of YHWH of hosts who sits between the cherubim.’

Then David went with the chief men of Israel from Baale-judah (to which they had made their way) in order to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem. In doing so the absolute holiness of the Ark is described, because of the One Who was invisibly present on it, and in order to prepare for what follows. It was ‘the Ark of God which is called by ‘the Name’, that is, ‘by the Name of YHWH of hosts’. (For the use of ‘the Name’ by itself in this way compare Leviticus 24:16 c where there is mention of ‘blaspheming the Name’). To be called by ‘the Name’ was to have imputed to it the whole character and nature of the One Whose Name it bore. In other words it was to be seen as the place where the invisible God could be met with, because His Name was there, His invisible presence. And that Name was the Name of YHWH of hosts who sits between the cherubim, and thus on the Mercy Seat. YHWH ‘of Hosts’ is called that because He is Lord of all the host of Heaven and earth, and also Lord of the host of His people. In other words He is the Creator and Lord of Heaven, and the God Who causes His people to triumph in battle. He is regularly seen as accompanied by, and often borne up by (compare Samuel 22:11; Ezekiel 1), cherubim (‘living creatures’) who are seen as His servants and as the protectors of His holiness (compare Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:18-22; Psalms 80:1; Psalms 99:1; Ezekiel 1; Ezekiel 10; Revelation 4-5).

Baale-judah is another name for Kiriath-jearim (‘city of the woods’) which was where the Ark had been kept (1 Samuel 7:1-2). In Joshua 15:9-10 it is called Baalah, and being in Judah could thus be distinguished from other Baalah’s by being called Baale-judah. In Joshua 15:60 it is called Kiriath-baal (‘city of the Lord’). The gradual tendency to get rid of or change names containing the name of Baal may help to explain the gradual change of name.

2 Samuel 6:3

And they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was in the hill, and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart.’

The Ark of God was then set on a new cart. The bearing of the Ark on a cart was an idea first conceived by the Philistines. They may well have borne their own gods on such carts. It was on such a ‘new cart’ that it had been returned to Israel (1 Samuel 6:7). So this was treating God in accordance with Philistine ideas. Note that any such cart had to be new so that it had not been soiled by any earthly activity. No cart that had been used for earthly purposes was acceptable. To use a second hand cart would have been an insult, even blasphemy, for such a cart would have been seen as defiled. But the way that YHWH had prescribed for the bearing of the Ark was not by such a cart but by Levites using long travelling poles which slotted through rings on the Ark. We should therefore remember that had the correct method been used in obedience to God, all that followed would have been avoided. It stresses the need to obey God in all things.

The cart was driven by Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab. Whether Uzzah was the Eliezer mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:1 we do not know (it could easily be an abbreviation of Eli-ezer by dropping the Eli-. Compare how Jehoshuah could also be called Hoshea). For Eliezer was the one who had primarily been the keeper of the Ark. Alternatively it may be that he had died and that Uzzah as the next in line, or as his son, had taken his place.


Verse 4

And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was in the hill, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.’

Once the journey had commenced Ahio went before the Ark as a kind of herald and forerunner, in order to prepare people for the coming of that sacred object. It was necessary to give advanced warning for all had to beware lest in some way they come in contact with or desecrate the Ark, and he may well at the same time have spoken out aloud concerning the glory of God (note Numbers 10:35-36). Compare how David would later dance before the Ark.

Thus it was left to Uzzah to drive the cart. This is important in the context of the story because it demonstrates that his attention was on the cart and the oxen. While all the others were looking at the covered Ark, he was watching the oxen. Thus when the oxen stumbled his first concern would be the control of the oxen. What had happened to the Ark would only come to his perceptions once he was sure that he had control of the cart.


Verse 5

And David and all the house of Israel played before YHWH with all manner of instruments made of fir-wood, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with tambourines, and with castanets, and with cymbals.’

While the cart was making its journey it was accompanied by the ecstatic crowds, who played on all kinds of musical instruments before YHWH. It was the celebration of a great occasion, and there would be much singing and dancing. All would be filled with joy at the thought that YHWH’s throne would once more be among them. David never forgot Who the real King was.


Verse 6

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.’

But as they were coming to the threshing-floor of Nacon (or ‘a certain threshing-floor’) a misfortune occurred. The oxen stumbled on the no doubt rough road. There is in fact no suggestion that the Ark was in danger of falling off the cart, although it may well have moved slightly from its place. But what we can be sure of was that initially all Uzzah’s attention would be on the oxen, for he was driving the cart.

Thus his reaching out to the Ark was not the involuntary action of someone who was walking beside it and did not want it to fall off. That would have been far better accomplished by the people surrounding the cart, even though they were probably avoiding touching even the cart, because they recognised the holiness of the Ark. Rather Uzzah’s act was almost proprietary, as though God needed him to look after Him. It seems clear that through familiarity he had lost his awe of the Ark, and probably had the same attitude towards God, for he reached out, possibly to set it back in its place, as though it had just been a common object. He was treating it as if it was his own possession. Indeed he was probably the only one in the large excited crowd who was not totally in awe of it. And that was his undoing. What he should have done, of course, if the Ark needed adjusting, was to call for the travelling poles which were normally used for bearing the Ark (which must have been used in order to put the Ark on the cart and would be required at the end of the journey). But everyone without exception knew that it was forbidden to touch the holy furnishings of the Tabernacle, including the Ark. Thus he was without excuse.

Note that the attention of the writer (and the future listener) was concentrated on those fatal words, ‘Uzzah reached forth to the ark of God, and took hold of it’. He was not interested in any other detail. His whole attention was on the awfulness of what Uzzah had done. To him it would have been almost unbelievable, and whenever those words were read out later the listening crowds would have shuddered.

It is difficult in modern times to even begin to appreciate what his action must have meant to all who saw it. Touching the Ark was something that was, and had always been, strictly forbidden. No priest or Levite would ever have dared to touch it (Numbers 4:15). Even the act of curiously and sacrilegiously gazing on it while uncovered had brought great suffering on those who did so (1 Samuel 16:19; compare Exodus 19:21). Yet this was an even greater act of sacrilege. Indeed it was so great an act of sacrilege, that all who saw it must have been stunned to silence at what they saw. They would have considered that it was treating the Holy One of Israel with undue familiarity. And apart from everything else it suggested that the living God could not look after Himself. It was to treat Him like a helpless image. But even worse it was to desecrate the most holy object of Israelite worship with the defiled fingers of man, and behave towards it as though it was a common thing. It was to trivialise God. And it was unquestionably done deliberately, as Uzzah’s position as driver makes clear.

God had clearly seen it as of great importance that man should recognise the barrier between man and Himself. He had demonstrated this at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12; Exodus 19:24). To trespass on the holy meant death. It was a vital lesson. Man has always been too prone to think that God can be treated lightly, and at such an important moment the lesson had to be taught that God had to be feared as well as loved. This was why such a thing as this happened. It made clear to all the absolute holiness and ‘otherness’ of God. It is a reminder that there are times in history when what could at other times be treated more leniently must be treated with the utmost severity. For this was not just some private mistake. It had occurred openly before all the people, and to an object seen as so holy that none apart from the High Priest would ever look on it again, and even he only in a darkened room. As YHWH’s ‘mercy seat’ (His propitiatory) it represented the presence of God Himself. It was as close as man could ever physically get to physically approaching the living God. It bore the holy Name of YHWH.

We do not know what went through Uzzah’s mind when he did it (the realisation of what he had done may well have been what gave him the stroke from which he died), but one thing is clear and that is that it revealed that he had lost his supreme awe of the Ark. His act of reaching out and touching the Ark unquestionably demonstrated that. It was the act of one to whom the Ark had become just another object, of one who had lost the realisation that God was fully represented there. It may well be that he wanted the people to see that he himself was on especially good terms with the Almighty. Or he may have wanted them all to be in awe of him as ‘the man who could touch the Ark’. But it was certainly not just the involuntary action of an innocent man. The holiness of the Ark (and of all the Temple furniture) had been too deeply imbued into God’s people for that to be a probability. No other would even remotely have considered the possibility of touching the Ark. Had it fallen off the cart they would have drawn back to avoid it, not tried to save it. So to do what Uzzah did required someone who had grown grossly careless about spiritual things.


Verse 7

And the anger of YHWH was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God.’

God knew what was in Uzzah’s heart, even if we do not. And what happened next would have surprised no one who saw what he had done. Indeed they would have expected it. Had it not happened it could have caused great harm and confusion to them in their inner thinking. It would have decreased the significance of the Ark. (We must remember that this was in a day when to approach a king incorrectly could lead to the death penalty, and when to touch the king’s person could be seen as treason). There are some things the effects of which are considered to be so enormous that they must be prevented at all costs, and this was one of them. In fact we can truly say that for God not to have acted would probably have debased the whole religion of Israel in the eyes of Israel and have reduced it to idolatry. For the Ark bore the Name, and thus bore the One Who invisibly sat on it between the cherubim (the writer reminded us of that quite deliberately in 2 Samuel 6:2). So for there to be no reaction to its being touched would have debased the idea of the true fear of God and the reality of His invisible presence. It would have been a barrier in the future to man’s true appreciation of the ‘otherness’ and holiness of God, and yet of His closeness to His people. (Spiritual conceptions in those days were very tied up with physical things). It would have contradicted the idea that in some unique way God was present where His Ark was. Idolatrous images could be touched precisely because of the nature of their gods. So by his action Uzzah was simply demoting God to having the same nature as an idol.

God knew all that and acted. His wholehearted antipathy to what Uzzah had done was revealed by His smiting him in such a way that he died. It was an indication that God was ‘angry’ (reacting against Uzzah) because He knew Uzzah’s thoughts and the effect that Uzzah’s action could have had on men’s thinking and approach to Him, and no doubt also because He knew what it revealed about Uzzah’s own innermost attitude of heart. He had committed a ‘sin unto death’.

YHWH’s action here may appear extreme to us but it settled in men’s hearts from this moment on the recognition that He was not in any way of this world, that no priest or other personage, not even the ‘keeper of the Ark’, could fully act in His Name, or usurp His rights, or claim special privilege in dealings with Him. All must for ever be obedient, and subservient to His will, and act as He revealed, and not the other way round, and it emphasised that He stood alone because He was ‘wholly other’. The dead body lying sprawled on the cart thus became a permanent warning for the future that God was such that He was not to be trifled with, and of what happened to any who ignored His strict requirements. As a result the holiness of the Ark was enhanced, and its continuing significance emphasised. Indeed had Israel learned the lesson that was taught here the new kingdom would have progressed and grown and all that followed would never have happened. That was how important the lesson was. They were to recognise that the Holy One of Israel was truly among them. (The failure to learn that lesson did not just result in one man being struck down, it finally resulted in many being struck down and Jerusalem and the Temple being totally destroyed).

What happened to Uzzah here can be compared with what happened to Nadab and Abihu when the initial covenant had been established under Moses, something which had also commenced a new beginning for God’s people (Leviticus 10:1-2); with what had happened to Achan at the new entry into the land when God’s kingly rule was initially being established in Canaan (Joshua 7), and with what would one day happen to Ananias and Saphira at the commencement of an even greater Kingly Rule (Acts 5:1-11). In all these cases they were people who failed to obey God implicitly at the commencement of a new phase in His kingly rule, and treated lightly their response towards Him, and discovered the consequences.


Verse 8

And David was deeply upset, because YHWH had broken forth on Uzzah, and he called that place Perets-uzzah, to this day.’

Understandably David was ‘deeply upset’ (or ‘smouldered’) at what had happened (the root of the verb is ‘to glow, be on fire’). It is doubtful if in context we should translate it as ‘angry’ here although it can undoubtedly mean that on other occasions. If we do we must see the anger as directed against Uzzah for daring to touch the Ark, or against those who had failed to inform him of the special arrangements necessary for bearing the Ark. For in his religious soul he would have been as appalled as anyone else at what Uzzah had done. He certainly would not have blamed YHWH, (Whose instructions, when looked into, were perfectly clear). The thought here is rather of the deep, overwhelming effect that what had happened had had on him. Indeed he was so deeply troubled and perplexed that he was unsure of what to do next. His question was, ‘What should I do now?’

And that deep disturbance at the fact that YHWH had ‘broken forth’ (perets) on Uzzah was reflected in the fact that he gave a new name to the spot where it had happened, naming it perets-uzzah, ‘the breaking forth on Uzzah’.


Verse 9

And David was afraid of YHWH that day; and he said, “How shall the ark of YHWH come to me?” ’

But it also pulled David up short. It gave him a deeper recognition of what he himself was doing. It made him recognise that even he had been treating the coming of YHWH in a new way to Jerusalem too lightly, failing to consider the fact of what the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem would undoubtedly have as it transformed people’s views about Jerusalem from then on. And he had not asked, Was that what YHWH really wanted? Now he could no longer be sure. Perhaps YHWH did not want the Ark carried into Jerusalem? The result was that he was filled with ‘the fear of YHWH’. He began to realise exactly what he had been doing. He began to recognise that he had been manipulating YHWH and bringing YHWH ‘to him’ for his own convenience. He had not been thinking of what would be honouring to YHWH. It was a salutary reminder to him that God was not at his disposal. We should note that even the Chronicler gives no hint that he had ‘enquired of YHWH’ before deciding to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem, rather than to the place which most would have expected, to the Tabernacle in Hebron (or Gibeon). Rather it is emphasised that he had ‘consulted with’ all the important people (1 Chronicles 13:1), and had discovered that ‘the thing was right in the eyes of all the people’ (1 Chronicles 13:4). But there is no hint anywhere of his having any consideration for what YHWH had thought or of His being consulted.

Thus with smitten conscience David brought proceedings to a halt. He would no longer take the Ark up to Jerusalem. Rather he would wait on God’s instructions and on God’s will. He himself had thus been given a new appreciation of the significance of the Ark, and of what its presence meant. It was clear from what had occurred that YHWH was displeased. So he cried, ‘How shall the Ark of YHWH come to me?’ This may have been signifying that he now recognised that he was unworthy that the Ark of YHWH should come to his capital city, or that the capital city was unworthy to receive the Ark (after all the place to which he was taking it had until recently been a pagan citadel) or it may have been questioning what method should be used in order to make it possible in a way that was pleasing to God, if it were even possible.


Verse 10

So David would not remove the ark of YHWH to him into the city of David, but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.’

On this basis David was unwilling to move the Ark into the City of David. He did not want YHWH’s anger to fall on the City of David as well. So instead he arranged for it to be carried to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. Obed-edom was a Levite of the family of the Korahites, which sprang from Kohath (compare 1 Chronicles 26:4), and belonged to the class of Levitical doorkeepers whose duty it was, in cooperation with other Levites, to watch over the Ark in the sacred tent (1 Chronicles 15:18; 1 Chronicles 15:24). Thus he was a very suitable person for the task. He was probably called the Gittite or Gathite from the fact that his birthplace was the Levitical city of Gath-rimmon in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 21:24; compare Joshua 19:45), although some have argued that he was from the Philistine Gath.


Verse 11

And the ark of YHWH remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and YHWH blessed Obed-edom, and all his house.’

The Ark of YHWH remained where it had been placed in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the consequence was that Obed-edom and the whole of his house enjoyed special blessing. We are not told the form that the blessing took. They may have experienced a greater than usual sense of great joy and worship because of a sense of the presence of YHWH, or their harvests may have been unusually fruitful. Whatever it was, however, it was something that was apparent, even to outsiders.


Verse 12

And it was told king David, saying, “YHWH has blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all which pertains to him, because of the ark of God.” And David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with joy.’

The result was that David was eventually informed that YHWH had blessed the house of Obed-edom the Gittite and all that pertained to him, and that convinced David of the fact that YHWH was not against what he had been planning, and that His ‘anger’ was now appeased. And as a consequence David brought up the Ark of God from Obed-edom’s house into the City of David with great joy (and celebration). But this time, the Chronicler especially emphasises, he went about it more carefully.


Verse 13-14

And it was so, that, when those who bore the ark of YHWH had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before YHWH with all his might, and David was girded with a linen ephod.’

The writer summarises the longer account used by both him and the Chronicler. He does not mention the elaborate preparations made to ensure that the Ark was being conveyed correctly (see 1 Chronicles 15), although it is certainly made clear that the Ark was now borne on the shoulders of bearers, for their paces are measured. He does, however, emphasise the recognition that continual atonement and worship were required, in the form of offerings and sacrifices, as the Ark was brought into the city and the fact that David personally took a full part in it in a kind of priestly capacity, for he ‘danced before YHWH with all his might’, girded with a linen ephod.

The sacrificing of an ox and fatling every six paces would be carried out by priests on David’s orders, while the bearers of the Ark would be Levites. The idea is probably of continuing sacrifices as they went along, the facilities for which would previously have been set up in six step stages (after all huge amounts of flesh would be required for the final distribution to the assembled multitudes - 2 Samuel 6:19). It is doubtful if the bearers stopped while the sacrifices were being offered. On the other hand it may be that the offerings only took place as an inauguration of the march at the end of the first six paces. ‘Six’ being the number of intensified completion (2 x 3) could have symbolised the whole march. This would tie in with the fact that there were also special offerings at the end of the journey because YHWH had helped the Levites to carry the Ark safely (1 Chronicles 15:26).

Meanwhile David performed what was probably a ritual dance before the Ark, wearing a linen ephod. Ritual dances of this kind were common among the Canaanites, and as David now considered that he was a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4) he may well have wanted the Jebusites to associate the Ark with themselves That would explain why he wore the linen ephod, the garment exclusively for priests and Levites (1 Samuel 2:28; 1 Samuel 22:18), as the boy Samuel had worn one when serving in the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:18). He would quite possibly have been shown the steps of the dance by Jebusite religious leaders. If that was so he was Yahwifying the worship of Jerusalem and bringing the remaining Jebusites within the orbit of Yahwism. Alternatively his dancing may have been in sheer exuberance. The fact that he did it with all his might emphasises his desire that all should be made right for YHWH, and the joy that he had on the occasion. Normally, however, in Israel it was the women who danced before YHWH (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 18:6). This might help to explain why Michal was later so upset by it.


Verse 15

So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of YHWH with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.’

So this was the way in which David and all the house of Israel brought up the Ark of YHWH. And they did it with shouting and the blaring of ram’s horns. It was to be seen as the procession of a King even greater than David. From now on YHWH would reign in Zion.


Verse 16

And it was so, as the ark of YHWH came into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before YHWH, and she despised him in her heart.’

But amidst all the rejoicing there was one dissentient heart, the heart of Saul’s daughter, Michal. She had been brought up as the daughter of a king who laid great stress on his royal status, and when she saw her husband David, to whom she may well have felt somewhat bitter because he had taken her away from Paltiel, leaping and dancing like any common Canaanite worshipper before the Ark of YHWH she despised him in her heart. This was not what she was used to, nor how she saw kingship. In her eyes kings kept themselves aloof, and certainly did not participate in Canaanite dances.

Note the emphasis on ‘as the Ark of YHWH came into the city of David’. For David this was the climax of all that he had done related to Jerusalem. It was the moment when YHWH was entering it and taking possession. We can almost hear the cries, ‘Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up you everlasting doors, and the King of Glory will come in’ (Psalms 24:7). And it was at such a moment that Michal could think of nothing else than David’s dancing. It is a deliberate anticlimax.


Verse 17

And they brought in the ark of YHWH, and set it in its place, in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it, and David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before YHWH.’

At last their destination was reached without any further incident. It was the Tent which David had had set up, probably modelled on the Tabernacle. And into that Tent they bore the Ark, still covered, and put it in the equivalent of the Holy of Holies (the Most Holy Place). It was only then that the priests would remove its covering, probably being in almost total darkness, but being careful not to touch the Ark itself. Then travelling poles would remain in the Ark and would protrude slightly through a curtain into the outer sanctuary, while they themselves departed from the Most Holy Place never to enter it again. After that was accomplished many burnt offerings and peace offerings were offered before YHWH. This would be done by the priests who were allocated to the task. (David neither pitched the tent, nor offered up the burnt offerings and peace offerings. It would all have been done for him on his orders. Compare 1 Kings 3:4 where ‘Solomon’ offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar. If we took that literally it would have kept him busy for quite a few weeks, or even months!).

Note On The Davidic Tent.

This Davidic Tent in Jerusalem was not the Tabernacle, nor was it considered to be the Tabernacle. In fact the ancient Tabernacle had probably been destroyed early in the lifetime of Samuel, otherwise he would have been bound by his mother’s oath to remain there and serve within it. The fact that he lived in Ramah and ministered at different places brings this out. But at some stage another Tabernacle was set up (much later) because Ahimelech ministered there (1 Samuel 21). Once, however, Abiathar fled to David for his life and David was settled in Hebron, David would probably set up another Tabernacle (without the Ark) initially at Hebron. It was later then presumably transferred to Gibeon and united with the Tabernacle set up under Saul, where it was in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 3:4-5). For the situation with regard to the Tabernacle had in fact become pretty complicated. When Saul had slain the priests of Nob the official High Priest who followed Ahimelech was Abiathar his son, descended from Ithamar the fourth son of Aaron, and he had fled to David with the ephod. Thus many would see him as the only one who could establish the Tabernacle. Saul, however, would eventually have had to appoint and have consecrated another High Priest, which was presumably Zadok, descended from Eliezer the third son of Aaron (although he is not actually mentioned until after Saul’s death. But it would explain why later there were two High Priests). Both High Priests would probably arrange for worship in tabernacles, but neither would be the true Tabernacle, for that had probably been destroyed by the Philistines (Jeremiah 7:12). That that was so comes out in that Samuel appears to have been relieved from his duty of lifelong service to it which could only have signified that it had been destroyed.

When David was anointed as king over all Israel the two Tabernacles would, undoubtedly eventually be brought together (that was possibly when it moved to Gibeon), and there would therefore be two High Priests, an anomaly partly solved by David as a result of setting up the Tent in Jerusalem. So until the Tabernacle and the Tent in Jerusalem were united in the form of the Temple of Solomon the two tents would operate in parallel, the Tabernacle in Gibeon containing all the ‘original’ holy furniture, while the Tent in Jerusalem possessed the Ark which had been lost to the Tabernacle since the time when it was stolen by the Philistines, and then returned, ending up at the house of Abinadab in Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel chapters 5-7). It is probable that Zadok officiated at Gibeon, while Abiathar officiated at Jerusalem in order to be near David.

Abiathar was eventually replaced by his son, who like his grandfather was named Ahimelech (2 Samuel 8:17), and he also officiated in parallel with Zadok. Abiathar’s early replacement may have taken place because Abiathar himself had contracted a long term ritual uncleanness or disability (possibly skin-disease) which may have eventually cleared up, for he was still around when David died and Solomon was crowned. He would still be a High Priest because High Priesthood was lifelong, and indeed he is described as ‘a Priest’ (a High Priest) in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:4), even though not officiating (1 Kings 2:26).

(End of Note.)


Verse 18

And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of YHWH of hosts.’

Following the offering of the burnt offerings and peace-offerings, the people were blessed in the Name of YHWH of Hosts the Name connected with the Ark of YHWH (2 Samuel 6:2). This blessing may have been performed by David himself in his office as priest after the order of Melchizedek, or it may have been done in his name by Abiathar (see Numbers 6:22-27). The genuineness and whole-heartedness of the blessing is brought out in that having blessed the people David will proceed towards his palace in order to bless all who are in the palace (verse 20a).


Verse 19

And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, both to men and women, to every one a cake of bread, and a portion (of flesh? or wine?), and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed every one to his house.’

Finally the whole celebration was completed by the whole of assembled Israel, both men and women, each receiving a cake of bread, ‘a portion or measure’ (probably of flesh from the numerous peace-offerings, or alternatively of wine) and a cake of raisins. This was the equivalent of eating before YHWH (Exodus 24:11; Deuteronomy 12:7). Then all the people left Jerusalem and returned home to their houses. The celebration was over. The worship of YHWH had been established in Jerusalem where not long before Canaanite gods had reigned supreme. It need hardly be pointed out that David did not distribute all this personally. The numbers involved would have been enormous.


Verses 20-23

Michal Expresses Her Disgust At David’s Behaviour And Forfeits For Ever The Hopes Of The House Of Saul (2 Samuel 6:20-23).

On returning to his household full of elation at all that had happened, and at its significance for all concerned, with the firm intention of blessing his household, David was met by his wife, ‘Michal the daughter of Saul’ who came out to meet him. Instead of being thrilled at the thought that YHWH head been enthroned in Jerusalem, she immediately declared what she thought of David’s behaviour. Sarcastically she referred to how gloriously he had behaved in uncovering himself in the eyes of the servant maids of his courtiers when he was dancing before the Ark, just as though he was a common drunkard. (What a condemnation of many, even in the church, lies behind these words. How often we are subconsciously simply looking for something to criticise, rather than seeking to find in what happens the glory of God. Like David, our hearts should always be concentrated on the thought of God Himself being glorified, rather than our own ideas of precisely how it should be done).

David’s reply was to point out the significance of the occasion. He explained that what he had done he had done before YHWH, the One Who had chosen him above her father, and above all Saul’s house, and had appointed him War-leader (nagid) over the people of YHWH. And that was why he was so willing to let himself go in celebration before YHWH. It was a reservation of the heart towards YHWH that had been the downfall of her family. He did not want that to happen to him.

Indeed he would be happy to be made even humbler, making himself base in his own eyes, if it would please YHWH and enable him to show Him how much he loved Him. For he was not concerned for his own glory, but for YHWH’s. However, let her recognise this. The maid servants of whom she spoke would certainly not despise him. Rather they would hold him in honour, because of what YHWH would do for him.

The result of Michal’s attack was that instead of being blessed, which had been David’s intention for her, she became permanently barren. Some have seen this as a polite way of saying that David chose no longer to have sexual relations with her because in his eyes she had insulted YHWH and was not worthy. He had after all many wives and concubines to satisfy him. But such mean-mindedness was not typical of David. Rather the main emphasis is on the fact that the daughter of the house of Saul was to be barren for life, in total contrast with the house of David (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13-14). As a result the opportunity for the house of Saul to participate in the establishment of the everlasting kingship by producing a son was lost for ever. The house of Saul had lost its final opportunity.

Analysis.

a Then David returned to bless his household (2 Samuel 6:20 a).

b And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the servant-maids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:20 b).

c And David said to Michal, “It was before YHWH, who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of YHWH, over Israel, therefore will I play before YHWH” (2 Samuel 6:21).

b “And I will be yet more vile than this, and will be base in my own sight, but of the servant-maids of whom you have spoken, of them will I be had in honour” (2 Samuel 6:22).

a And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:23).

Note that in ‘a’ David’s intention was to bless his household, whereas in the parallel Michal was decidedly unblessed. In ‘b’ Michal sarcastically suggests how ‘glorious’ his behaviour has been, and how the serving maids will have seen him, and in the parallel David says that he will yet be more vile if it will please YHWH, but that one thing is certain, and that is that because YHWH is so good to him all the serving maids will honour him. Centrally in ‘c’ he declares that all he had done he had done before YHWH who had done so much for him, which was why he would behave freely before him.

2 Samuel 6:20

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the servant-maids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” ’

Entering his palace in order to especially bless his household (who would have been very busy preparing for the provision of the food and drink that had been passed around), David found himself confronted by a proud and contemptuous Michal. Note the emphasis on the fact that what she did she did as ‘the daughter of Saul’. Saul had always sought to be religiously correct, but had failed when it came to genuine obedience and true response to YHWH, and his daughter reveals very much the same attitude.

Speaking with withering sarcasm she chided David for his behaviour when he was in front of the crowds. Did he really think that that was how a king should behave, dancing like monkey before the servant girls? Did he not realise that he had uncovered himself before the very lowest, the serving maids of his servants, uncovering himself like the drunken riff-raff in the streets. It was certainly true that his robes would have been lifted up to some extent in the dancing, so that there was some truth in her statement. But the point of the writer is that Michal’s problem was that, in contrast with David, she was more concerned about etiquette than she was about the wonder of what was happening as the Great King YHWH entered Jerusalem before His people. Her spiritual heart was barren, which would therefore be reflected in her physical barrenness.

2 Samuel 6:21

And David said to Michal, “It was before YHWH, who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of YHWH, over Israel, therefore will I play before YHWH.”

David calmly reminded her that the reason for his exuberance had been precisely because YHWH had chosen him above her father, above Saul, and above all Saul’s house, appointing him as His war-leader and prince (nagid) over His people, even over Israel. And that was why he had behaved so exuberantly before YHWH, and had shown his appreciation. He realised what the event meant for his people even if she did not (the piel of sachaq - ‘play’ - means ‘to joke, jest, be hilarious, make sport, play an instrument’).

Note the emphasis on the fact that he was YHWH’s Nagid (prince, war-leader). In the Old Testament the term ‘nagid’ in the singular is used initially only of kings of Israel/Judah (as seen as anointed and in submission to King YHWH), and later of important Israelite officials, who were, of course, the same. The only exception is when it was once sarcastically used of the ‘prince of Tyre’ when he was prophetically seen as claiming to be a divinely anointed figure who had a unique position before the gods (Ezekiel 28:2). It was thus given a special meaning Scripturally, something that should be carefully borne in mind when interpreting Daniel chapter 9.

2 Samuel 6:22

And I will be yet more vile than this, and will be base in my own sight, but of the servant-maids of whom you have spoken, of them will I be had in honour.”

David then assured her that when it came to YHWH he did not consider his own glory and honour as of much significance. Why, he was ready to be even more vile and to be base in his own sight, if only he could please Him. But let her be sure of one thing. He knew that YHWH would so bless him that all the serving maids of whom she had spoken would hold him in great honour. For he who humbles himself before YHWH would be exalted. In contrast none would hold her in honour, for she would be barren.

2 Samuel 6:23

And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.’

Having previously emphasised the fruitfulness of David, the writer now brings out how the opposite would apply to Michal. She would be barren until the day of her death. By the time he was writing that was a known fact, and seen as a judgment on her. In fact, she may well have been permanently barren naturally, for it is significant that as far as we know she had had no children by either David or Paltiel, and there had certainly been time plenty of time for her to conceive. However, as the writer could have pointed out, that barrenness would not have prevented YHWH from blessing her, like he had Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1), had He chosen to do so. And David had actually arrived in order to ‘bless his house’ Thus to the writer her barrenness indicated YHWH’s displeasure, and the loss of the last opportunity for the house of Saul to have their part in the everlasting kingship. At that time for a first wife not to produce a son was seen as a thing of great shame, thus it was she who was shamed before the serving girls, not David.

To suggest that David simply abstained from having relations with her is probably to do an injustice to David. He was not mean minded, and he would be aware of the duty that he had towards a daughter of Saul. Besides a son of David and Michal would have been seen as uniting the two lines even more than her marriage to him. It is not likely that that would not have passed through David’s mind. It is no accident that this incident is then followed by the glorious establishment of the house of David.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-samuel-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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