1 Chronicles 15 – The Ark Is Brought to Jerusalem
A. The assembly of the priests and the Levites
1. (1-2) David’s directions for bringing in the Ark.
David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.”
a. David built houses for himself…he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it: At this moment of great triumph – bringing the ark into Jerusalem – the Chronicler reminds us that David lived in a house (or several houses) and the ark of the covenant was in a tent.
i. Significantly, this tent David prepared for the ark of God was not the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle of Moses was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39-40). There were several reasons to explain why David did not bring the tabernacle from Gibeon to Jerusalem:
· He may have believed if the tabernacle was there the people would be satisfied with that and they would lose the passion and vision for the temple God wanted to be built.
· It may be that the tabernacle was only moved when it was absolutely necessary – as when disaster came upon it at Shiloh or Nob.
· It may be that David simply focused on building the temple, not continuing the tabernacle.
b. No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites: This shows that David learned from his past mistake when Uzza was struck dead at the first attempt to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.
2. (3-10) A list of the priests and Levites who supervised the coming of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.
And David gathered all Israel together at Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it. Then David assembled the children of Aaron and the Levites: of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, and one hundred and twenty of his brethren; of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, and two hundred and twenty of his brethren; of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, and one hundred and thirty of his brethren; of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, and two hundred of his brethren; of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, and eighty of his brethren; of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, and one hundred and twelve of his brethren.
a. “A major problem for many readers is the way that the narrative is interrupted by repetitious lists. For example, just at the moment when the ark is raised on to the Levites’ shoulders, apparently unrelated lists of musicians and gatekeepers occur…the lists actually have an important function in anticipating the next section of narrative. The Levites who sanctified themselves are shown to have had a valid ancestry; this was a live issue in post-exilic Israel.” (Selman)
3. (11-15) The ark is brought to Jerusalem in the right way.
And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites: for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.” So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.
a. Sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it: This demonstrates David’s commitment to bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem in the right way. He had learned the lesson that the process also matters to God, not only the result.
i. It also demonstrates that David understood that it was not only a matter of doing the right things in the process but in having sanctified men to carry the ark. Ministry that pleases God is done the right way, by sanctified men, for the right end result.
ii. “Sanctification required separation from every form of ‘uncleanness’ (Leviticus 16:19; 2 Samuel 11:4), and in the Old Testament might include temporary abstinence from sexual intercourse (Exodus 19:15), dirty clothing (Exodus 19:14), or contact with corpses (Leviticus 21:1-4), or more permanently for the priests, not marrying a divorcee, prostitute, or even a widow (Leviticus 21:13-15).” (Selman)
b. For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order: 1 Chronicles 13:1-4 makes it clear that David consulted with his leaders and with the people in a highly democratic way. What he did not do was consult Him [God] about the proper order.
B. The celebration at bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.
1. (16-24) Names of the musicians at the ceremony.
Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of their brethren, the sons of Merari, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; and with them their brethren of the second rank: Zechariah, Ben, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Elipheleh, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, and Jeiel, the gatekeepers; the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound the cymbals of bronze; Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with strings according to Alamoth; Mattithiah, Elipheleh, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah, to direct with harps on the Sheminith; Chenaniah, leader of the Levites, was instructor in charge of the music, because he was skillful; Berechiah and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark; Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, were to blow the trumpets before the ark of God; and Obed-Edom and Jehiah, doorkeepers for the ark.
a. David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers: King David knew a lot about music and singing, but he did not over-manage this ceremony. He delegated responsibility and allowed the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers.
i. Chenaniah: “This appears to have been the master singer; he gave the key and the time, for he presided in the elevation, probably meaning what is called pitching the tune, for he was skilful in music, and powerful in his voice, and well qualified to lead the band: he might have been precentor.” (Clarke)
b. By raising the voice with resounding joy: The several musical instruments mentioned were important, but not more important than these joyful voices. The singing was loud and joyful.
i. “The phrase ‘according to alamoth’ occurs also in the title to Psalm 46. Since the noun means ‘maidens, virgins,’ such as are mentioned as beating tambourines in ceremonial processions of singers and other musicians (Psalm 68:25), it may indicate music produced in a soprano register.” (Payne)
ii. “The phrase ‘according to sheminith’ occurs also in the titles to Psalm 6 and Psalm 12. The word is derived from the root for ‘eight’ and is usually thought to indicate music in a lower octave, in contrast to the preceding verse, though it might indicate an instrument that had eight strings.” (Payne)
iii. Berechia and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark: “They were appointed to keep the door of the tent, in which the ark was to be put and kept, that no unallowed person might press in and touch it; and in like manner they were to attend upon the ark in the way, and to guard it from the press and touch of profane hands.” (Poole)
2. (25-28) The ark comes into Jerusalem.
So David, the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom with joy. And so it was, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bulls and seven rams. David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn, with trumpets and with cymbals, making music with stringed instruments and harps.
a. To bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with joy: David was glad to know that the presence and glory of God could bring a blessing instead of a curse. He was also glad to see that when they obeyed God they were blessed.
i. When the worship was in the proper order it was filled with joy and gladness. It is a mistake to feel that “real” worship must be subdued or solemn or only in a minor key.
b. God helped the Levites who bore the ark: It wasn’t so much that the ark of the covenant was so heavy that they needed God’s help to carry it. Rather, there was considerable pressure and stress in bearing a burden that had recently resulted in a sudden death. They needed God’s help to deal with the spiritual pressure of this ministry.
c. They offered seven bulls and seven rams: David was careful not to neglect the institution of sacrifice in this second attempt to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.
i. 2 Samuel 6:13 says that they sacrificed every six steps in the procession, “Because Uzzah perished when he had gone but six paces, say some. Every man that seeth another stricken, and himself spared, is to offer sacrifices, yea, to keep a passover for himself.” (Trapp)
d. David also wore a linen ephod: It is a mistake to think that David was immodest. As were all the Levites indicates that David was dressed just like all the other priests and Levites in this procession.
e. Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting: This shows that David brought the ark to Jerusalem with a big production – bigger than the first attempt. David was wise enough to know that the problem with the first attempt wasn’t that it was a big production, but that it was a big production that came from man and not from God.
i. This is essentially the same account recorded in 2 Samuel 6, except in 2 Samuel the leadership of David is emphasized, and in 1 Chronicles 15 the participation and support of all Israel is emphasized. Both accounts are correct; David was the leader, but it wasn’t a one-man show; all Israel brought up the ark.
ii. “The primary change is that the homecoming of the ark…has become a corporate act of all Israel rather than an expression of David’s personal faith.” (Selman)
3. (29) David’s wife Michal despises David.
And it happened, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the City of David, that Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David whirling and playing music; and she despised him in her heart.
a. Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David whirling and playing music: David didn’t hold back anything in his own expression of worship. He didn’t dance out of obligation but out of heartfelt worship. He was glad to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD into Jerusalem according to God’s word.
i. This expression of David’s heart showed that he had a genuine emotional link to God. There are two great errors in this area – the error of making emotions the center of our Christian life and the error of an emotionally detached Christian life. In the Christian life, emotions must not be manipulated and they must not be repressed.
ii. From our knowledge of ancient and modern culture, we can surmise that David’s dance wasn’t a solo performance. The context clearly puts him together with the priests and Levites, and he probably danced with simple rhythmic steps together with other men in the way one might see Orthodox Jewish men dance today. In this context, David’s linen ephod means he set aside his royal robes and dressed just like everyone else in the procession.
iii. It should also be observed that David’s dancing was appropriate in the context. This was a parade with a marching band, a grand procession. David’s dancing fit right in. If David did this as the nation gathered on the Day of Atonement it would be out of context and wrong.
b. And she despised him in her heart: 2 Samuel 6:20-23 tell us more of Michal’s complaint and of David’s response to her. She sarcastically said to him, How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today. Michal seemed to indicate that she didn’t object to David’s dancing, but to what David wore when he set aside his royal robes and danced as a man just like the other men celebrating in the procession. David acted as if he were just another worshipper in Israel, and this offended Michal.
i. In response, David told Michal that his actions were before the LORD. In simple terms, David told Michal: “I did it for God, not for you.” He went on to explain, and will be humble in my own sight. What David did was humbling to him. He didn’t dance to show others how spiritual he was.
ii. “The incident illustrates the perpetual inability of the earthly minded to appreciate the gladness of the spiritual.” (Morgan)