Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 2 Samuel 6:1-23. The Translation of the Ark to Mount Zion
= 1 Chronicles 13, 15, 16
This chapter records an important episode in David’s reign. After restoring the political unity of the nation, and consolidating it by the establishment of his new capital, his next care was to make that capital the centre of the national worship. With this object he prepared to convey thither the Ark, which had been left neglected at Kirjath-jearim since its return from Philistia (1 Chronicles 13:3). But why did he not also bring the Tabernacle into Jerusalem, and place the Ark in it? The reason is perhaps to be found in the double high-priesthood which had arisen during the latter years of Saul’s reign. Abiathar officiated in David’s camp: Zadok, it would seem, ministered at Gibeon, whither the Tabernacle was removed in all probability after Saul’s massacre of the priests at Nob. For the present David may have found it wisest to recognise the two priests as of equal authority, and to acquiesce in the separation of the Tabernacle and the Ark, allowing Zadok to continue the sacrificial service at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:40), while he established another service in Jerusalem before the Ark (1 Chronicles 16:37).
2 Samuel 6:1-19 are the Haphtarah or lesson from the prophets appointed to be read in the synagogue in connexion with Leviticus 9:1 to Leviticus 11:47. The judgment upon Uzzah repeats the warning of the judgment upon Nadab and Abihu.
Psalms 101, 15, 68, 24, 132, should be studied as illustrating and supplementing the history. See Introd. Ch. VIII. p. 46.
Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.1–11. Removal of the Ark from Kirjath-jearim. Uzzah smitten for his irreverence
1. Again, David gathered together] And David gathered together again. “Again” refers either to the assembly convened for David’s coronation (ch. 2 Samuel 5:1-3), or to the muster for the Philistine war recorded in the verses immediately preceding (ch. 2 Samuel 5:17-25).
A more elaborate account of David’s preparations for this ceremony is given in 1 Chronicles 13:1-5. We are there told how David consulted with the representatives of the people, and gathered a general assembly of the whole nation. This important step towards the re-establishment of religious worship must be a national act. The Chronicler’s object in writing leads him to give special attention to details of religious organization, where the writer of Samuel is content to condense his account into a single sentence. See Introd. Ch. III. p. 22.
thirty thousand] The smallness of the number may be explained if we suppose it to refer only to the “captains of thousands and hundreds and every leader” mentioned in 1 Chronicles 13:1. A general assembly of the people would have been much more numerous.
And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.2. from Baale of Judah] Baale of Judah is generally supposed to be another name for Kirjath-jearim, which is called Baalah in Joshua 15:9; 1 Chronicles 13:6, and Kirjath-Baal in Joshua 15:60. Here the Ark had remained since its return from the country of the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:1-2). If the preposition “from” is correct, we must assume that the narrator passes over the journey to Kirjath-jearim, and speaks of the return only: but this seems improbable, and most commentators emend the text in accordance with 1 Chronicles 13:6, and read “to.”
The ancient versions however do not take the words as a proper name, but render them “of the rulers” or “of the men, of Judah,” the word being the same as that translated “men” in ch. 2 Samuel 21:12. If this is right, the name of the place has dropped out from the text and must be restored, so that the verse would read, “And David and all the people that were with him of the rulers of Judah arose and went to Baalah to bring up, &c.” This appears to have been the reading found by the LXX., though partly misunderstood by them, and has strong claims to be considered as the true text.
The usual identification of Kirjath-jearim with Kuryet-el-enab (see note on 1 Samuel 6:21) has lately been called in question by Lieut. Conder, who proposes to place it at ’Erma, four miles E. of Ain Shems (Beth-shemesh), on the edge of the Wady-es-Surar or Valley of Sorek. The name ’Erma corresponds to the form Arim, which took the place of the original Jearim in later times (Ezra 2:25); the dense brushwood still clothing the hills agrees with the meaning of the name “city of forests;” and the position suits the data much better than the Kuryet-el-enab site. See Pal. Expl. Fund Quart. Paper for Oct. 1881, p. 261.
whose name, &c.] Better, which is called by the Name, the name of Jehovah of Hosts, who sitteth enthroned upon the cherubim. Cp. Deuteronomy 28:10; 1 Kings 8:43. “The Name” is first written absolutely, as at the end of Leviticus 24:16, and then more fully defined as “the name of Jehovah of Hosts.” In later Jewish writings “the Name” is commonly used to signify God, and especially as an equivalent for the sacred name Jehovah which might not be pronounced.
The Ark is specially said to be “called by the name of Jehovah of Hosts,” because it was the symbol of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel, and because it was the place where He chiefly chose to manifest Himself by visible tokens to His people. Cp. notes on 1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Samuel 4:21; and for the meaning of the title “Jehovah of Hosts” see Additional Note I. to 1 Sam. p. 235.
And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.3. set the ark] Lit. made the ark to ride.
upon a new cart] Not desecrated by common uses. Cp. 1 Samuel 6:7. This was however a breach of the Levitical law, which prescribed that the Ark should be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites (Numbers 3:29-31; Numbers 7:9).
in Gibeah] Rather, on the hill, as the same word is correctly translated in 1 Samuel 7:1. Some eminence in or near Kirjath-jearim is meant.
Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab] The Ark had been in the house of Abinadab for seventy or eighty years—twenty during the Philistine oppression, forty or fifty under Samuel and Saul, and perhaps ten of David’s reign. See the Chronological Table in the Introd. to 1 Sam. p. 24.
As Eleazar the son of Abinadab was old enough to be entrusted with the charge of the Ark when it was placed in his father’s house, we must clearly understand “sons” here in the wider sense of “descendants,” grandsons or great-grandsons. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 9:9.
3, 4. The text of these verses is corrupt. Some words have been accidentally repeated by a scribe in copying the Hebrew, and should be struck out, on the authority of the LXX., and the end of 2 Samuel 6:3 and 2 Samuel 6:4 read thus: “Now Uzzah and Ahio the sons of Abinadab were driving the cart with the Ark of God, and Ahio was going before he Ark.” 2 Samuel 6:4 is omitted altogether in 1 Chr. It is doubtful moreover whether Ahio is a proper name at all. The same consonants with different vowels would mean his brethren, as the Sept. renders the word here, or his brother, as the Vulg. renders it in 1 Chronicles 13:7.
And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.
And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.5. played] The word denotes a dance accompanied by music, such as frequently formed part of a religious festival. Cp. 1 Samuel 18:7.
on all manner of instruments made of fir wood] The expression is a strange one, and the text seems to be corrupt. Probably we should adopt the reading of the parallel passage in 1 Chron., with all their might and with songs. The Hebrew words are very similar, and the Sept. text here, though interpolated in its present form, supports the change.
even on harps, &c.] The harp (Heb. kinnôr) and psaltery (Heb. nebel) were stringed instruments, the exact form of which is unknown; the timbrel, also called the tabret, (Heb. tôph) was a tambourine or hand drum. The etymology of the word translated cornet, which occurs here only, shews that it denotes some kind of instrument which was played by being shaken, perhaps similar to the sistrum of the Egyptians, which consisted of rings hung loosely on iron rods, so as to make a tinkling sound when shaken. See the engravings in Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, Vol. 1. p. 497 ff. Chron. reads “trumpets” which probably suggested the misrendering of the E. V. Cymbals were plates of metal, held in each hand, and played by being clashed together.
And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.6. Nachon’s threshingfloor] There is nothing to shew where this place was. It is called in 1 Chronicles 13:9, the threshingfloor of Chidon. It may have been known by both names, but more probably one of the two forms is due to corruption of the text.
for the oxen shook it] This is the most probable explanation of an obscure word. The Ark seemed to be on the point of falling from the cart, owing to some sudden start or stumble of the oxen, or the roughness of the road.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.7. for his error] The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else, but if genuine, may best be rendered thus, or as in the margin, for his rashness. The reading of Chronicles, “because he put his hand to the ark,” sounds like a substitution for an expression which had already become obscure.
God smote him there for his error] As before at Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:19), an act of irreverence towards the Ark was punished with death. Such a penalty for a well-meant and natural action seems to us at first sight strangely severe. But it must be remembered that one of the great lessons which the nation of Israel had to learn was the unapproachable Majesty of the holy God. The Ark was the symbol of His presence, and the Levitical ordinances were designed to secure the strictest reverence for it. It was to be carried by the Levites, but they might not come near until it had been covered by the priests, nor touch it except by the staves provided for the purpose, upon pain of death (Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:19-20). It is probable that Uzzah was a Levite, and if so, he ought to have known these injunctions: but in any case, as the Ark had been under his charge, he ought to have made himself acquainted with them. Perhaps he had come to regard the sacred symbol which had been in his house so long with undue familiarity. Nor was David free from blame in allowing such a neglect of the Law. The occasion was an important one. It was the first step in the inauguration of a new era of worship, in the newly established capital of the kingdom; and if these breaches of the divine ordinances had been left unpunished, the lessons they were intended to teach might have been neglected. Uzzah’s death was necessary for a solemn warning to David and the people. “By this severe stroke upon the first violation of the law, God impressed a dread upon the hearts of men, and gave a sanction to His commands that no man should attempt upon any pretence whatever, to act in defiance of his Law, or boldly to dispense with what God has established.” (Bp. Sanderson, quoted by Bp. Wordsworth.)
If such reverence was due to the symbol, with how much greater reverence should the realities of the Christian Covenant be regarded? See Hebrews 10:28-29.
And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.8. was displeased] The same word is used in 1 Samuel 15:11 (E. V. it grieved Samuel) to denote vexation akin to anger.
made a breach] Broke forth upon Uzzah: the same verb as in ch. 2 Samuel 5:20 : used in a precisely similar sense of a sudden divine judgment in Exodus 19:22; Exodus 19:24.
And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?
So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.10. Obed-edom the Gittite] Obed-edom was a Levite belonging to the family of the Korahites, who were descended from Kohath (1 Chronicles 26:1; 1 Chronicles 26:4-8; Numbers 16:1). He is called a Gittite probably because he was a native of the Levitical city of Gath-rimmon, in Dan or Manasseh, which was assigned to the Kohathites (Joshua 21:24-25). Thus there was an appropriateness in his being chosen to take charge of the Ark, since he belonged to the family which was originally appointed to carry it from place to place (Numbers 4:15). The site of Gath-rimmon is not determined, but it seems to have been further from Jerusalem than Kirjath-jearim, and this appears to indicate either that Obed-edom had removed from his native place and was living near Jerusalem, or that “Perez-uzzah” was not far from Kirjath-jearim, and that the special fitness of Obed-edom to take charge of the Ark induced David to take it to his house, though at a greater distance from Jerusalem.
The name Obed-edom (= servant of Edom) is peculiar. It may possibly refer to the servitude of some member of the family to the Edomites.
And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.
And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness.12–19. Removal of the Ark from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem
12. So David went] Some Latin and a few Greek MSS. soften the abruptness of the text by inserting before this sentence the words, “And David said, I will go and bring back the Ark with blessing unto my house;” but they are in all probability only a gloss.
with gladness] i.e. festal rejoicings; jubilant shouts and songs.
And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.13. they that bare the ark of the Lord] The requirements of the law were now duly observed, as is recorded at length in 1 Chronicles 15, where further details are given about the preparation of a tent to receive the Ark, the number of Levites who took part in the ceremony, and the arrangements for the music which accompanied the procession.
had gone six paces] As soon as the procession had started on its way, without any sign of the divine displeasure, David offered a sacrifice as a thank-offering for the prosperous commencement, and an intercession for the successful completion, of his undertaking. Cp. 1 Chronicles 15:26, “And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the Ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams.”
And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.14. David danced] The dances which were the usual expression of rejoicing on occasions of national thanksgiving (Exodus 15:20-21; Jdg 11:34) and religious festivals (Psalm 149:3; Psalm 150:4) were generally performed by women only. David’s enthusiasm did not fear to transgress the limits of conventional propriety.
before the Lord] For the Ark was the symbol of Jehovah’s presence.
a linen ephod] David laid aside his royal robes and appeared in the distinctive dress of a priest. As the head and representative of “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), the king possessed a priestly character; and David on this occasion exercised priestly functions in directing the sacrifices, even if he did not offer them himself (2 Samuel 6:17-18), and in blessing the people (2 Samuel 6:18). See Introd. ch. VII. p. 43.
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
And 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 dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.16. leaping and dancing] Two peculiar words, the first found here only, the second only here and in 2 Samuel 6:14, are used to denote the special modes of dancing anciently employed in religious solemnities. In 1 Chronicles 15:29 two verbs in ordinary use have been substituted, shewing that these distinctive terms had become obsolete.
she despised him] The proud daughter of the house of Saul was incapable of appreciating the honour of humility.
And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.17. the tabernacle] Rather, the tent, as in 1 Chronicles 15:1. The tabernacle proper was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39).
And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.18. burnt offerings and peace offerings] The “burnt offerings” were dedicatory, the “peace offerings” eucharistic. The latter furnished the festival meal for the assembled people (Leviticus 7:15). Compare Solomon’s sacrifices at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:62-65).
he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts] As Solomon did (1 Kings 8:14; 1 Kings 8:55). “The name of the Lord” signifies “Jehovah as He has revealed Himself to men,” and “to bless in the name of the Lord” signifies ‘to invoke from Jehovah such blessings as He covenants to give in accordance with His revelation of Himself.’ Cp. Psalm 129:8.
And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house.19. dealt] In the old sense of divided or distributed, from A. S. dælan, to distribute, from which comes dole, a portion dealt out. Cp. Isaiah 58:7; Romans 12:3.
a cake of bread] The Heb. word for cake occurs elsewhere only in the Pentateuch, and is always applied to cakes prepared for sacrificial purposes.
a good piece of flesh] The word is only found elsewhere in the parallel passage of 1 Chr., and is of uncertain meaning. The most probable conjectures are (1) a piece of roast meat (Vulg.); (2) a portion of flesh; (3) a measure of wine.
a flagon of wine] More probably, a cake of raisins.
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 to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!20–23. Michal’s contemptuous pride rebuked by David
20. And Michal, &c.] The account of David’s meeting with Michal is omitted in 1 Chr.
How glorious, &c.] Better, How honourable did the king of Israel make himself to-day. The E. V. weakens the point of David’s answer in 2 Samuel 6:22 by translating the same Hebrew word differently in the two verses.
who uncovered himself, &c.] Stripped off his royal robe, and appeared in a plain ephod, as a worthless buffoon strips off his outer garment to play immodest antics.
vain] = ‘empty,’ ‘worthless.’
And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD.21. It was before the Lord] Before the LORD, who chose me rather than thy father, &c. … yea I will play before the LORD. “Before the Lord” stands emphatically at the beginning of David’s answer. No service offered to the God to whom he owed all his advancement could be degrading. Thus he defends his own conduct, and at the same time he humbles Michal’s pride by alluding to Saul’s rejection.
The Sept. (B) reads, “Before the Lord will I dance: blessed be the Lord who chose, &c.”
It is related of Sir Thomas More that he used, even when Lord Chancellor, to put on a surplice and sing in his parish church at Chelsea. The Duke of Norfolk one day found him doing so, and expostulated with him: “A parish clarke, lord chancellour, a parish clarke! you dishonour the King and his office.” “Nay,” quoth Sir Thomas, smiling upon the duke, “your grace may not thinke that the King, your maister and myne, will be offended with men for serving of God his Maister; or by this my present behaviour account his office dishonoured.” Wordsworth’s Eccles. Biogr. II. p. 68.
ruler] See note on “captain” in ch. 2 Samuel 5:2.
And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.22. And I will yet, &c.] And I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and will be humble in mine own eyes. Michal had taunted David with degrading himself in the eyes of the meanest servants. He replies that even if he humbled himself yet more deeply, instead of priding himself on his royal dignity, they would continue to honour him.
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.23. Therefore Michal] Simply, And Michal. She was condemned to the reproach of childlessness, the sharpest privation to an Oriental woman. Cp. Genesis 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:5.