|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:1-5 God is present with the souls of his people, when they want the outward tokens of his presence; but now David is settled in the throne, the honour of the ark begins to revive. Let us learn hence, to think and to speak highly of God; and to think and speak honourably of holy ordinances, which are to us as the ark was unto Israel, the tokens of God's presence, Mt 28:20. Christ is our Ark; in and by him God manifests his favour, and accepts our prayers and praises. The ark especially typified Christ and his mediation, in which the name of Jehovah and all his glories are displayed. The priests should have carried the ark upon their shoulders. Philistines may carry the ark in a cart without suffering for it; but if Israelites do so, it is at their peril, because this was not what God appointed.
Verse 3. - And they set the ark of God (Hebrew, made it ride) upon a new cart. This was contrary to the Levitical Law, which required that only Levites should bear the ark, and that it should be veiled even from their eyes (Numbers 4:15). But this mistake is not surprising. It is easy enough for us to turn to our Bibles, and see what the exact letter of a command was. But such reference was no easy matter when the Law was contained in manuscripts which were rare and costly. We cannot imagine that David or even Abiathar carried a manuscript about with them in their wanderings. David very probably had a considerable knowledge of the Pentateuch, gained in Samuel's schools, and stored up in his memory, as was the custom in old days when books were scarce. But this knowledge would be chiefly of its narratives and doctrines, and would comprise such portions as Samuel thought most fitting to influence the lives of his scholars. Abiathar probably added to this a knowledge of all such ritual as was in daily use in the sanctuary at Nob. He had fled thence in terror, escaping alone from the cruel destruction of the priests by Saul's decree; but even there the restoration of the Levitical services had been too recent to have given time for much study of the old Law. We can quite believe that the murder of the priests at Nob, following upon the catastrophe at Shiloh, had reduced the knowledge of the priests to a very low ebb. Now, the exact way of bearing the ark was a matter that had long been dismissed from their memories, but they would call to mind that it had been brought to Abinadab's house in a new cart drawn by oxen; and they would take this as a precedent, which would justify them in acting in the same manner a second time. But in so solemn a matter the priests ought to have made diligent search, and have gone for instruction to the copies which they possessed of the Divine Law. David did so subsequently (1 Chronicles 15:2), but possibly there was no such copy at present in Jerusalem, and they would have to go to Ramah, where Samuel would deposit whatever records he had saved from the ruin of Shiloh, and where the great work of the prophets was to study the sacred books, and even copy them. But this want of inquiry and easy assumption, that as the ark was brought in a cart to Abinadab's house, so in a cart it should be carried away, was an act of great irreverence, and all the guilty were punished. The heaviest blow fell on the house of Abinadab, which lost a dear son. Entrusted for seventy years with the care of so sacred a symbol of Jehovah's presence, Abinadab and his family ought to have made a special study of the taws concerning it. Apparently they left it very much to itself; for it is never said that God blessed them for their care of it as he did Obed-Edom. And David also was in fault; for he ought to have commanded the priests to make diligent search. His punishment was the breaking out of the Divine wrath, terrifying the people, and turning the joy of the day to mourning. The house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah; really, that was upon the hill. Uzzah and Able, the sons of Abinadab. "Sons" in Hebrew is used in a large sense, and these two men were probably the grandsons of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, who had been set apart to keep the ark. For seventy years, as it seems, lind passed since the ark was hurriedly put in Abinadab's house, namely, twenty during the Philistine supremacy up to the battle of Ebenezer, forty during the reign of Saul, and about ten since. As Eleazar must have been thirty years of age for his consecration to be legal, he must have died long ago, and his sons would be old and decrepit men. His grandsons would be in the prime of life.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart,.... Which was a great mistake, since it ought not to have been put upon a cart, old or new; it was to be borne upon men's shoulders, and carried by Levites only, and those of the family of Kohath, to whom no wagons were given, when others had them, for the above reason, Numbers 7:9; it is strange that so many priests and Levites, and of the people of Israel gathered together on that account, and David also, so well versed in the law of God, should not refer to it; perhaps they were led by the example of the Philistines, who put it in a new cart, and set it forward towards Bethshemesh, and were not punished for it; but it should have been considered they were an ignorant Heathen people, and who had no proper persons among them to bear it, and so might be dispensed with. This mistake was afterwards seen by David, and rectified, 1 Chronicles 15:2; wherefore there is no reason to charge the text with an error or escape, and that the word "Kirjathjearim" is wanting, and to be supplied, as Spinosa (d) suggests:
and brought it out, or "after they had brought it out" (e):
of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah; or which was on the hill in Kirjathjearim, 1 Samuel 7:1,
and Uzzah and Ahio the sons of Abinadab drew the new cart; perhaps not only Abinadab himself was dead, but Eleazar also, his eldest son, who was sanctified to keep the ark, as in 1 Samuel 7:1; and these might be his younger sons who at this time had the care of it, and it may be especially Uzzah.
(d) Tractat. Theol. Politic. c. 9. p. 176. (e) "quum extulissent", Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. they set the ark of God upon a new cart—or a covered wagon (see on 1Sa 6:7). This was a hasty and inconsiderate procedure, in violation of an express statute (see on Nu 4:15 and see Nu 7:9; 18:3).
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