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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
2 Samuel 6

 

 

Verse 1

2 Samuel 6:1. Again David gathered the chosen men of Israel — Having defeated the Philistines, and enjoyed some peace, he thought it a seasonable time to fetch up the ark, and settle it in an honourable place; and for that purpose summoned the principal persons in Israel to attend. For he was sensible that purity and sincerity in the worship of God was the best, and, indeed, only sure stay of his own power and of his people’s prosperity. And to settle the worship of God, in all its solemnity, was now his object.


Verse 2

2 Samuel 6:2. From Baale of Judah — The same with Kirjath-jearim, 1 Chronicles 13:6, called Baalah, Joshua 15:9, and Kirjath-baal, Joshua 15:60; Joshua 18:14. Some have apprehended a difficulty here, because it is said they went from Baale, whereas, 1 Chronicles 13:6, it is said they went to Baale. But there is no disagreement between these two places. They first went from Jerusalem and other places to Baale, where they assembled, and then from it to Gibeah. To bring up from thence the ark of God — Where it had been a long time in the house of Abinadab, whose son had been sanctified to attend it, 1 Samuel 7:1. Whose name is called by the name, &c. — This rendering is both obscure and inaccurate. The clause should either be translated, On which (ark) is called the name, even the name of the Lord of hosts; that is, which is named the ark of the Lord of hosts: or, At, by, or before which the name, even the name of the Lord of hosts is called upon; that is, by or before which they were to present their prayers to God for counsel and succour on all occasions. And this is mentioned here as the reason why David put himself and his people to so great trouble and charge; it was to fetch up the choicest treasure which they had; it was to convey to its appointed place the ark of the Lord of hosts; the symbol and token of his presence with them, and the medium and principal instrument of their whole worship and service.


Verse 3

2 Samuel 6:3. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart — Which ought to have been carried upon the shoulders of the Kohathites, Numbers 7:9; for which reason, no wagons, were allowed to them, as there were to the rest of the Levites, to carry several parts of the tabernacle. “It is matter of astonishment to me,” says Delaney, “how David and all the priests and people could fall into so great an error, and deviate so strangely from the plain precepts of the law of God in this point, which expressly prohibited any but the priest to touch the ark, upon pain of death, Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15; and any but the Levites to carry it. The best apology that can be made for them is, that David now succeeded to the throne after a long irreligious reign, in which the ark, and every thing relating to it, were utterly neglected; especially after the massacre of all those priests whose peculiar business it was to attend the tabernacle, (all but one young man,) and who were, in all probability, the only priests of that realm that had ever seen it, or knew any thing of its rituals; and there was not then, probably, any one priest or Levite alive who had ever seen it removed. In short, the public worship of God had long been discouraged and neglected in Israel; and with that the study of the Scriptures, except so much as was absolutely necessary for the administration of the civil affairs of the state. Would to God Israel were the only nation upon which this sad truth could at any time be pronounced! Add to all this, that David and his people had now been for many years immersed in wars; and the voice of religion, as well as reason, is often drowned in the din of arms. It is true, the Philistines had, about ninety years before, removed the ark with impunity, 1 Samuel 6:17, in the same manner as the Israelites did now; but they forgot, that what was pardonable in the Philistines might be highly criminal in the Israelites;” because the Philistines were ignorant of God’s laws; but the Israelites knew, or might have known, that the Lord commanded that the Levites should bear the ark upon their shoulders. But their present transports of joy, on account of the happy change of their affairs, and their greedy desire of having the ark of God removed, made them inconsiderate. In Gibeah — Or on the hill, as 1 Samuel 7:1.


Verse 4-5

2 Samuel 6:4-5. Accompanying the ark of God — That is, when it was brought out of the house of Abinadab, the people flocked together to attend it. It seems as if Eleazar, who had been sanctified to take care of the ark, was dead, or stayed at home to attend to his father, who was now grown old. David and all Israel played before the Lord — Who was present with the ark. Public joy should always be as before the Lord, with an eye to him, and terminating in him. Otherwise it is no better than public madness, and the source of all manner of wickedness.


Verse 6

2 Samuel 6:6. For the oxen shook it — There is perhaps no word about the signification of which commentators are more divided, than the word שׁמשׂו, shametu, here rendered shook it. Bochart and Waterland interpret it, The oxen stuck in the mire, or stumbled.


Verse 7

2 Samuel 6:7. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah — For his rashness in touching the ark. Some have thought it was because he was not a Levite, and therefore should not have touched it. But it is pretty plain he was, being the brother of Eleazar, who, as a Levite, was consecrated to take care of the ark, 1 Samuel 7:1. But, although a Levite, he was guilty of a double error; first, in not carrying the ark upon his shoulders, together with his brethren; which their neglecting to do, on this solemn occasion, and consulting their ease more than their duty, was an offence of no small aggravation. Secondly, in touching it, which even the Levites were prohibited from doing, under the express penalty of death, Numbers 4:15-20. And this penalty, being incurred by a violation of that prohibition, was justly inflicted by him that threatened it, as an example to others, and to preserve a due reverence to the institution; especially as this, it appears, was the first instance of such violation. Add to this, the infliction of the penalty in this extraordinary way, manifested the prohibition to be divine; and as David himself, and the whole house of Israel, by their heads and representatives, were present at this solemnity, the nature of the punishment, and the reason why it was executed, would be made very public. Some have observed, thirdly, that Uzzah discovered by this action his want of faith, in the presence of God with the ark, and in his power, as if he were not able to preserve that sacred symbol of his presence from falling without Uzzah’s helping hand. Uzzah, therefore, they say, was thus punished to teach and impress on the minds of the people, that God was peculiarly present with the ark, in order that they might be deterred from breaking any of his laws, or profaning sacred things. It may not be improper to add to the above the following observations from Poole. “God’s smiting Uzzah, so that he instantly died by the ark, may seem very severe, considering his intention was pious, and his transgression not great. But, besides that men are improper judges of the actions of God; and that God’s judgments are always just, though sometimes obscure; it is reasonable God should make some present examples of his high displeasure against sins seemingly small; partly for the demonstration of his own exact and impartial holiness; and partly for the establishment of discipline, and for the greater terror and caution of mankind, who are very prone to have slight thoughts of sin, and to give way to small sins, and thereby to be led on to greater; all which is, or may be, prevented by such instances of severity; and consequently there is more of God’s mercy than of his justice in such actions, because the justice is confined to one particular person, but the benefit of it is common to mankind in that and all future ages.”


Verse 8

2 Samuel 6:8. David was displeased — Or rather, grieved, both for the sin, and for God’s heavy judgment; whereby their hopes were dashed, and their joys interrupted. Because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah — He was sorry that there was any cause for such a breach or destruction, and perhaps was afraid also that he himself might suffer for not taking better care about carrying the ark. Perez-uzzah — That is, the breach of Uzzah. Thus he called the place in memory of this dreadful stroke, that thereby the Levites, and all others, might be admonished of their duty.


Verse 9

2 Samuel 6:9. David was afraid of the Lord that day — Apprehensive, it seems, that he himself was in danger. Hence he durst not bring the ark into his city; either thinking, in great humility, that he was unworthy to have it so near him; or that he did not sufficiently understand how to treat it. This, however, he understood better afterward, as we learn from 1 Chronicles 15:2-15.


Verse 10

2 Samuel 6:10. David carried it to the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite — He is not called a Gittite from his being born in, or dwelling at, that Gath which was a city of the Philistines, but from Gath-rimmon, a Levitical city, Joshua 21:24. For it is certain he was a Levite, 1 Chronicles 15:18-24; 1 Chronicles 16:5. Obed-edom knew what slaughter the ark had made among the Philistines and the Bethshemites; he saw Uzzah struck dead; yet invites it to his house, and opens his doors without fear, knowing it was a savour of death only to them that treated it ill. “O the courage,” says Bishop Hall, “of an honest and faithful heart! Nothing can make God otherwise than amiable to him; even his justice is lovely.”


Verse 11

2 Samuel 6:11. The Lord blessed, &c. — The same hand that punished Uzzah’s presumption, rewarded Obed-edom’s humble boldness. None ever had, or ever shall have, reason to say that it is in vain to serve God. Piety is the best friend to prosperity. His household too shared in the blessing. It is good living in a family that entertains the ark; for all about it will fare the better for it.


Verse 12

2 Samuel 6:12. That God had blessed the house of Obed-edom because of the ark — They could not tell to what to impute the extraordinary prosperity and happiness that attended him, but to his willing reception and care of the ark. And it is certain it was, under God, owing to this. David went and brought up the ark to the city of David — Hoping God would bless him and his city, as he had done Obed-edom and his house.


Verse 13-14

2 Samuel 6:13-14. He sacrificed oxen and fatlings — As a thanksgiving to God for his goodness, upon an altar erected on purpose on this extraordinary occasion. And David danced before the Lord — His joy increased as the procession went happily on. And God having filled his heart with gladness, he was not ashamed to show it, and to express his thankfulness to him by his outward carriage, according to the manner of those times; singing and shouting, and leaping and dancing before the Lord, according as the various measures of the music inspired and directed, till he arrived at the tabernacle, and fixed the ark in its place. Girt with a linen ephod — The usual habit of the priests and Levites in their sacred ministrations, yet sometimes worn by others, as it was by the young child Samuel; and so here by David, who laid aside his royal robes and put on this robe, to declare that although he was king of Israel, yet he willingly owned himself to be the Lord’s minister and servant.


Verse 15

2 Samuel 6:15. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark — Undoubtedly this was as solemn and magnificent a procession as can be imagined. The order of it is set forth Psalms 68:25, The singers went before, the players upon instruments after, in the midst (that is, between both) the damsels playing with timbrels; then followed, in all likelihood, the several tribes with their princes, elders, &c.; for this seems to be the meaning of that expression, (Psalms 68:27,) The princes of Judah and their council. This whole company, with David at the head of them, sung alternately the twenty-fourth Psalm, which was composed for this occasion; which is so noble a composition that scarce any reader can fail to be struck with the beauty and sublimity of it, and its propriety for the occasion.


Verse 16

2 Samuel 6:16. She despised him in her heart — Imagining that he debased himself by stripping himself of the ornaments of majesty, and dancing among the common people. She had no knowledge nor conception, it appears, of those emotions of divine love which David felt, and which he declared to her afterward.


Verse 17

2 Samuel 6:17. The tabernacle that David had pitched for it — For the ancient tabernacle made by Moses remained still at Gibeon, 1 Chronicles 16:39; 1 Chronicles 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3. From whence David did not think fit to fetch it, because he intended soon to build a temple to place it in. For the present, therefore, he only hung some curtains round about the ark, after the fashion of the tabernacle. See 2 Samuel 7:2. David offered burnt- offerings and peace-offerings — To implore the continuance of God’s mercies to them, and to thank him for those they had received.


Verse 18-19

2 Samuel 6:18-19. He blessed the people — That is, he heartily and solemnly prayed to God for his blessing upon them; which he did both as a prophet and as their king, to whom by office it belonged by all means to seek his people’s welfare. He also pronounced them blessed in God’s name. So all the people departed, every one to his house — Or rather, to his tent, pitched in or near Jerusalem on this occasion.


Verse 20

2 Samuel 6:20. David returned to bless his household — As he had done his people. Ministers must not think that their public performances will excuse them from family worship; but when they have blessed the public assembly they are to return and bless their own household. And none is too great to do this. It is the work of angels to worship God; and therefore certainly can be no disparagement to the greatest of men. How glorious was the king of Israel! — This she spoke ironically, by way of derision and contempt. Who uncovered himself to-day — Stripped himself of his royal robe, and put on a linen ephod. “The original word, נגלה, niglah, which we render uncovering himself, doth not mean exposing any part of the body to view, and is never used in that sense, without some other word to determine it to that meaning. And as in the parallel place (1 Chronicles 15:29) this circumstance is not at all taken notice of, but only that when she saw David dancing and leaping, (or, as the word should be rendered, playing on some musical instrument, as it is used, 2 Samuel 6:5,) she despised him; the meaning can be nothing more than that by dancing before the ark without his royal habit, (exchanged for the linen ephods) and playing on his harp, or some musical instrument, like the rest of the people, he appeared (that is, exposed himself in her eyes) as one of the vain fellows.” — Dodd. In the eyes of the handmaids of his servants — The women probably bore a part in this procession and solemnity, as they did Exodus 15., or, at least, were spectators of it; from which, indeed, none were excluded, though ever so mean. As one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself — Throws off his clothes, and cares not who sees him. The word shamelessly is not in the original, but injudiciously inserted by our translators, who have themselves put a better word, namely, openly, in the margin. The Hebrew words כנגלות נגלות, cheniggaloth nigloth, literally translated, are, as in uncovering he uncovereth. Michal doubtless spoke this by way of reproach, of his putting off his proper royal apparel, and mixing with the multitude. If she meant to intimate that he had exposed himself immodestly, she aggravated his action in a fit of passion; for it is not at all credible that he should do any thing of the kind. There can be no doubt but he kept himself within the bounds of modesty and decency, especially as he was employed in sacred work. He was acting according to the command of God, who required the Israelites to rejoice in their feasts, Deuteronomy 12:7; and Deuteronomy 16:14; but certainly not with a trifling, lascivious, and petulant mirth, but with a pious, holy, and moderate joy, becoming the presence of God. But as Michal judged of David, so do carnal and worldly-minded men judge of true piety, and of those who make a profession of it. It is all weakness and meanness of spirit, or it is enthusiasm and extravagance in their eyes. But David’s reply to Michal may teach us not to be ashamed of religion, or of any part of it, whatever reproach may be cast upon us for it. The erroneous judgment and sneers of ungodly men should be despised and disregarded when the honour of God is in question.


Verse 21-22

2 Samuel 6:21-22. It was before the Lord — In his presence and service, which, though contemptible to thee, is and ever shall be honourable in my eyes. Who chose me before thy father — Who took away the honour from him and his, and transferred it unto me, whereby he hath obliged me to love and serve him with all my might. I will yet be more vile than thus — The more we are vilified for well-doing, the more resolute therein we should be, binding our religion the closer to us, for the endeavours of Satan’s agents to shame us out of it. And will be base — I will always be ready to abase myself before God, and think nothing too mean to stoop to for his honour. Of them I shall be had in honour — So far will they be from despising me on this account, that they will honour me the more.


Verse 23

2 Samuel 6:23. Therefore — Because of her proud and petulant speech and carriage to David, which God justly punished with barrenness. Michal had no child — After this time.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-6.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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