2 Samuel 6 – David Brings the Ark of God into Jerusalem
Psalm 132 is commonly associated with the events of this chapter.
A. The failed first attempt.
1. (1-2) Bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem.
Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. 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, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.
a. David gathered all the choice men of Israel: David gathered so many of his best soldiers because bringing the ark to Jerusalem was an important step towards providing a central place of worship for all of Israel.
b. To bring up from there the ark of God: This was the ark of the covenant, which God commanded Moses to make more than 400 years before David’s time. It was a wood box (the word ark means “box” or “chest”) completely covered with gold and with an ornate gold lid or top known as the mercy seat.
i. The ark of God was 3 feet 9 inches (1.15 meters) long, 2 feet 3 inches (.68 of a meter) wide and 2 feet 3 inches (.68 of a meter) high. In it were the tablets of the law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded as a confirmation of his leadership.
c. The LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim: The ark of God represented the immediate presence and glory of God in Israel. David considered it a high priority to bring the ark out of obscurity and back into prominence. David wanted Israel to be alive with a sense of the near presence and glory of God.
i. The last mention of the ark of God was when it came back from the land of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 7:1. It sat at the house of Abinadab for 20 years. David had a great motive – to emphasize the presence and glory of God in Israel.
2. (3-5) The ark is brought out with great joy.
So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.
a. So they set the ark of God on a new cart: Transporting the ark on a cart was against God’s specific command. The ark was designed to be carried (Exodus 25:12-15) and was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath (Numbers 4:15).
i. God wanted the ark to be carried because He wanted nothing mechanical about the ark representing His presence. “The ark was nothing less than the burden of the Lord, and the burden of the Lord was to be carried on the hearts of the Levites.” (Redpath)
ii. We can imagine what these men thought. “Look – we have a new cart for the ark of God. God will be very pleased by our fancy new cart.” They thought that new technology or luxury could cover over their ignorant disobedience.
iii. “We want God’s presence very much, don’t we? But we like to hitch His presence to some of our new carts. We like to add Him to our list of organizations, to load Him on top of the mechanics of a busy life, and then drive. How much of our service is really in the energy of the flesh, I wonder! So often we put forth our hands, but not our hearts.” (Redpath)
iv. “It is not new things we need, but new fire.” (John Wesley)
v. The Philistines transported the ark on a cart in 1 Samuel 6:10-11. They got away with it because they were Philistines, but God expected more from His people. The Israelites were to take their example from God’s word, not from the innovations of the Philistines.
b. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart: The meaning of the names of these sons of Abinadab paints a meaningful picture. Uzzah means “strength” and Ahio means “friendly.”
i. Much service for the LORD is like this – a new cart, a big production, with strength leading and a friendly image presented out front – yet all done without inquiring of God or looking to His will. Surely David prayed for God’s blessing on this big production, but he didn’t inquire of God regarding the production itself. This was a good thing done the wrong way.
c. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD: Judging from the importance of the occasion and all the instruments mentioned, this was quite a production. The atmosphere was joyful, exciting, and engaging. The problem was that none of it pleased God because it was all in disobedience to His word.
i. We are often tempted to judge a worship experience by how it makes us feel. But when we realize that worship is about pleasing God, we are driven to His word, so we can know how He wants to be worshipped.
ii. It is hard to receive it in our consumer-oriented culture, but worship isn’t all about what pleases us. It’s all about what pleases God.
3. (6-7) Uzzah is struck dead for touching the ark.
And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
a. When they came to Nachon’s threshing floor: At a threshing floor the whole stalks of wheat were gathered, and the chaff was separated from the wheat. There was a lot of chaff in this production, and God blew away the chaff at Nachon’s threshing floor.
b. Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it: This was strictly forbidden. Regarding the transporting of the ark Numbers 4:15 says, they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.
i. Uzzah made a decision in a moment to disregard God’s command and to do what seemed right to him. Even decisions made in a moment matter before God.
c. God struck him there for his error: God fulfilled the ominous promise of Numbers 4:15 and struck Uzzah. David wanted Israel to know the presence of the LORD and God showed up at Nachon’s threshing floor– but not in the way anyone wanted.
i. Uzzah’s error was more than just a reflex action or instinct. God struck Uzzah because his action was based upon a critical error in thinking.
· Uzzah erred in thinking it didn’t matter who carried the ark.
· Uzzah erred in thinking it didn’t matter how the ark was carried.
· Uzzah erred in thinking he knew all about the ark because it was in his father’s house for so long.
· Uzzah erred in thinking that God couldn’t take care of the ark Himself.
· Uzzah erred in thinking that the ground of Nachon’s threshing floor was less holy than his own hand.
ii. “He saw no difference between the ark and any other valuable article. His intention to help was right enough; but there was a profound insensibility to the awful sacredness of the ark, on which even its Levitical bearers were forbidden to lay hands.” (Maclaren)
4. (8-9) David reacts with anger and fear.
And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?”
a. David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak: David’s anger was based upon confusion. He couldn’t understand why his good intentions weren’t enough. God cares about both our intentions and actions.
b. How can the ark of the LORD come to me? David knew it was important to bring the ark of the LORD into the center of Israel’s life. He wanted all Israel to be excited about the presence and glory of God. Because of what happened to Uzzah, David felt he couldn’t do what God wanted him to do.
i. David’s response in the rest of the chapter shows that he found the answer to his question. He answered the question with the thought later expressed in Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony! David found the answer in God’s word.
B. The successful second attempt.
1. (10-12a) David leaves the ark with Obed-Edom.
So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.”
a. David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom: David did this in fulfillment of God’s word. Obed-Edom was a Levite of the family of Korah and Kohath (1 Chronicles 26:4). This was the family within the tribe of Levi that God commanded to carry and take care of the ark (Numbers 4:15).
b. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household: When God’s word was obeyed, and His holiness was respected, blessing followed. God wanted the ark to be a blessing for Israel, not a curse. We might say that the curse didn’t come from God’s heart but from man’s disobedience.
2. (12b-15) The ark successfully comes to Jerusalem.
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.
a. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness: David was glad to know that the presence and glory of God could bring blessing instead of a curse. He was also glad to see that when they obeyed God they were blessed.
i. David explained to the priests why God struck out against them in their first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 15:13: 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.
ii. When the worship was in the proper order it was still filled with gladness and joy. It is a mistake to feel that “real” worship must be subdued, solemn, or only in a minor key.
b. When those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep: This was elaborate, excessive, over-the-top sacrifice. This excess of sacrifice communicated atonement, consecration, and longing for fellowship.
i. 1 Chronicles 15:11-15 shows us that David specifically commanded the priests to carry the ark the right way – on their shoulders. We often think that a “new cart” or “strength” or a “friendly” manner is the way to bring the presence and glory of God. But God always wants His presence and glory to come on the shoulders of consecrated, obedient, praising men and women.
ii. It also showed 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 God.
c. David danced before the LORD with all his might: 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 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. We don’t think that dancing is strange when the baseball player rounds the bases after the game-winning home run or the winning goal is scored. We don’t think it is strange when our own child scores a goal. We think nothing at hands raised at a concert or a touchdown. We should not think them strange in worship to God.
d. David was wearing a linen ephod: It is a mistake to think that David was immodest. 1 Chronicles 15:27 indicates that David was dressed just like all the priests and Levites in this procession.
i. From our knowledge of ancient and modern culture, we can surmise that David’s dance wasn’t a solo performance. He probably danced with simple rhythmic steps together with other men in the way one might see Orthodox Jewish men today dance. In this context, David’s linen ephod means he set aside his royal robes and dressed just like everyone else in the procession.
ii. We might also point out that David’s dancing was appropriate in the context. This was a parade with a marching band, a grand procession. David’s dancing fitted in. If David did this as the nation gathered on the Day of Atonement, it would be out of context and wrong.
3. (16-19) David brings everyone present into the worship experience and the fellowship meal.
Now as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.
a. She despised him in her heart: David’s wife Michal didn’t appreciate David’s exuberant worship. She felt it wasn’t dignified for the king of Israel to express his emotions before God.
i. “No doubt, there are particularly nice and dainty people who will censure God’s chosen if they live wholly to his praise, and they will call them eccentric, old-fashioned, obstinate, absurd, and I don’t know what besides. From the window of their superiority they look down upon us.” (Spurgeon)
b. They brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle: After many years – since the ark was lost in battle – the ark was returned to the tabernacle and set in the Most Holy Place. The emblem of God’s presence and glory was set in its proper place in Israel.
c. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD: The burnt offerings spoke of consecration. The peace offerings spoke of fellowship. This was a day of great consecration and fellowship with God. It was also a great day of grilling meat.
4. (20) Michal’s complaint.
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, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
a. David returned to bless his household: After this day of great victory, David came home to bring a blessing to his whole family.
b. How glorious was the king of Israel today: With biting sarcasm, Michal’s criticism could have ruined this whole day for David. He might have expected such an attack after such a remarkable day of victory. “Pirates look out for loaded vessels.” (Spurgeon)
c. 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.
5. (21-23) David’s rebuke of Michal.
So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
a. It was before the LORD: David didn’t let Michal’s sarcastic criticism ruin his day. He simply explained the truth: “I did it for God, not for you.”
i. This is not a justification for everything in the context of worship. When David considered the context of the procession and the whole setting, his conscience was clear. He knew his dancing wasn’t inappropriate to the setting or context. Someone who acts inappropriately to the setting or context of a meeting can’t simply justify it by saying, “It was before the LORD.”
b. To appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD: “David did not say, ‘Over my people’: he acknowledged that they were not his people, but Jehovah’s people. He was only lieutenant-governor; the Lord was still the great King of Israel.” (Spurgeon)
c. 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.
i. “David would more and more abase himself before the Lord. He felt that whatever Michal’s opinion of him might be, it could not be more humbling than his own view of himself. Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” (Spurgeon)
d. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death: Michal’s barrenness was not necessarily the result of Divine judgment. It may be that David never had marital relations with her again. Nevertheless, the principle stands: there is often barrenness in the life and ministry of the overly critical.