Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The thread of the narrative dropped at 1Chronicles 13:14 is now resumed, and the subject of this and the following chapter is the solemn transfer of the Ark from the house of Obed-edom by the lawful ministry of priests and Levites. The elaborate account here presented corresponds to a brief section of eight verses in Samuel (2Samuel 6:12-20 a), which it incorporates, subject to certain variations, noticed in their place (1Chronicles 15:25 to 1Chronicles 16:3, and 1Chronicles 16:43).
1 Chronicles 15 relates—I. David’s preparations for the ceremony of the transfer: (1) by erection of a tent for the Ark (1Chronicles 15:1); (2) by assembling representatives of all Israel, and especially the priests and Levites, and consulting with the latter (1Chronicles 15:2-16); (3) by choice of individuals to conduct the proceedings (1Chronicles 15:17-24). II. The incidents of the procession (1Chronicles 15:25-29).
And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent.(1) And David made him houses.—Or, and he made (i.e., finished) a palace (plural, intensive) for himself, referring back to 1Chronicles 14:1. Others think of fresh buildings required for his additional wives, which is less likely. David had the example of Egyptian and Babylonian monarchs for his palace-building.
And prepared a place for the ark.—Comp. 2Samuel 6:17.
A place.—Probably within the palace precincts.
Pitched (or spread) for it a tent (or tabernacle).—The old one was at Gibeon, and Zadok ministered as high priest therein (1Chronicles 16:39). Abiathar, of the house of Ithamar, who had hitherto followed the fortunes of David, probably ministered before the Ark in the new tent.
Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever.(2) Then.—This word is here a real note of time. It seems to denote the end of the three months’ interval mentioned in 1Chronicles 13:14.
None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites.—See Numbers 4:5-15, where the Kohathite Levites are appointed to carry the Ark and other sacred objects; and the more definite Deuteronomy 10:8 : “At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.” David’s enunciation of the law is a tacit acknowledgment that on the former occasion (1Chronicles 13:7-10) it had not been observed. That the Ark was now duly carried by bearers is expressly stated in the older account (2Samuel 6:13), though their being Levites is not noticed.
And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD unto his place, which he had prepared for it.(3) And David gathered all Israel.—Comp. 2Samuel 6:15 : “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark.” Samuel does not mention Jerusalem as the meeting-place. Of course, only a full representation of the people is signified. (Comp. 1Chronicles 13:2; 1Chronicles 13:5.)
Unto his place.—The Ark’s. The neutral its is unknown to the Authorised version.
And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites:(4) And David assembled.—He confers separately with the priestly order respecting their part in the procession.
The children of Aaron.—The sons of Aaron, i.e., the high priests, Zadok and Abiathar (1Chronicles 15:11).
The Levites—i.e., the six chieftains—Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, heads of the clans of Kohath, Merari, and Gershom respectively; and Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, additional Kohathite chiefs: all the six being at the head of their clansmen (“brethren,” 1Chronicles 15:5-10). There were four Kohathite houses to one of Merari and Gershom, because the sub-tribe of Kohath was the elder house, and had special charge of the Ark and other most holy vessels of the sanctuary (Numbers 4:4).
Of the sons of Kohath; Uriel the chief, and his brethren an hundred and twenty:(5) Of the sons of Kohath.—Kohath comes first, as the senior clan, to which the priestly house of Aaron itself belonged.
Of the sons of Elizaphan; Shemaiah the chief, and his brethren two hundred:(8) Of the sons of Elizaphan; Shemaiah.—Elzaphan was son of Uzziel, the fourth son of Kohath (Exodus 6:18; Exodus 6:22). Of this Kohathite family, Shemaiah was chief in David’s time (1Chronicles 24:6).
Of the sons of Hebron; Eliel the chief, and his brethren fourscore:(9) Of the sons of Hebron.—Hebron was third son of Kohath (Exodus 6:18). (Comp. 1Chronicles 6:2, above.)
Of the sons of Uzziel; Amminadab the chief, and his brethren an hundred and twelve.(10) Of the sons of Uzziel.—Uzziel was fourth son of Kohath (1Chronicles 6:2). Exodus 6:22 names three sons of Uzziel—Mishael, Elzaphan, and Zithri. The family of Elzaphan has already been represented (1Chronicles 15:8). The term “sons of Uzziel,” therefore, in this verse represents the two other Uzzielite houses, which may have amalgamated in one. As Elzaphan is mentioned first, the elder line of Mishael may have become extinct. At any rate, 1Chronicles 23:20; 1Chronicles 24:24 imply the existence of only two Uzzielite stocks.
And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab,(11) David’s instructions to the eight spiritual chiefs.
Zadok and Abiathar the priests were of coordinate rank, as representing the two lines of Eleazar and Ithamar. (Comp. Notes on 1Chronicles 6:4, sqq., and 1Chronicles 24:3. ) On 1Chronicles 15:5 the meanings of three of these names have been suggested. Of the others, Zadok imports just, perhaps equivalent to Zedekiah, Jah is just; Abiathar, the Father (i.e., God) excels; She-maiah, Jah heareth; Eliel, God (and none else) is God (i.e., Divine); Amminadab, the Clansman (i.e., the Lord) is bounteous. Thus the very names of those who conducted this great religious event expressed to themselves and others the high spiritual truths that Jehovah the Lord is righteous, the Author and Bestower of all knowledge and excellence and working power; that He alone is God; and that He hears prayers, as being a gracious Father unto all His creatures.
And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it.(12) Chief of the fathers.—Heads of the father- houses. They were the heads of the chief divisions in each sub-group of the tribe.
Sanctify yourselves.—Special purifications appear to have been prescribed in connection with all sacrifice and worship. (Comp. Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10; Exodus 19:15; Exodus 30:17-21.) Bathing the person, and washing or changing the garments, and keeping oneself aloof from whatever was regarded as defiling, were the main requisites. And all this was needful to teach Israel that the All-pure requires purity in His worshippers. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:3.)
The ark of the Lord (Jehovah) God of Israel.—Contrast the simpler expression, “ark of God” (1 Chronicles 13 and 1Chronicles 14:1-2). Here David uses a specially solemn title, by way of warning. Further, the term “God of Israel” suggests that the undertaking is national, and that the nation’s future welfare depends on its due performance (1Samuel 2:30). Israel’s vocation was to be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), as the chronicler has well understood.
For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.(13) For because ye did it not at the first.—The Hebrew seems to mean, for because on the first occasion it was not you (that is, the heads of the Levitical houses)—scil., who carried up the ark, but Uzza and Ahio, sons of Abinadab (2Samuel 6:3). The phrase so rendered only occurs here (lĕmabbārîshônāh = “because at the first”).
We sought him not (1Chronicles 13:3) after the due order.—The Ark was carried on a cart, instead of being borne by the sons of Kohath “on their shoulders, with the staves thereon” (1Chronicles 15:15; Numbers 4:15). Even the Kohathites themselves were forbidden to “touch any holy thing,” as Uzza had ventured to do. It has been said that the “sanctity of institutions,” as opposed to the “sanctity of a people under the government of a righteous God,” is the leading idea of the Chronicles. It would be difficult to show how the sanctity of a people is to be secured, and how the government of a righteous God is to be realised, except in and through Divine institutions. As there is a “due order” by which God rules the physical world, so is there a corresponding order whereby His will is fulfilled in the spiritual sphere. There are positive institutions in Christianity as well as in Mosaism; and if we abolish the Divine authority of the one, why not of the other also?
And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD.(15) And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God.—The priests and Levites, having purified themselves (1Chronicles 15:14), duly and rightly discharged their sacred office of bearing the Ark. This statement anticipates 1Chronicles 15:25, sqq. Such brief anticipative summaries of a series of events afterwards described in detail are very common in Hebrew narrative.
Upon their shoulders with the staves there-on.—Literally, with their shoulder, with the poles upon themselves.
And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.(16) David spake to the chief.—Ordered the chiefs (sārîm).
To appoint their brethren to be the singers.—To station or assign places to their clansmen, the minstrels.
Psalteries and harps.—Harps and lutes, or guitars (nĕbālîm and kinnôrôth).
Sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.—So far as grammar goes, the participle sounding (Heb., causing to hear—i.e., making a loud noise) might refer to the musicians, or to all the instruments mentioned, or to the last kind (the cymbals) only. The third reference is the best, because of the special sense of the verb. (Comp. 1Chronicles 15:19 and Psalm 150:5 : “loud cymbals,” i.e., cymbals of sound or hearing.) Translate: “harps and lutes and clashing cymbals, in order to swell the sound for gladness:” that is, to express and enhance the rejoicing. (Comp. 2Chronicles 5:13.)
So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah;(17) Heman . . . Asaph . . . Ethan (or Jeduthun) were the precentors of David’s three choirs of Levitical minstrels (1Chronicles 6:31-44). Heman was of Kohath, and Asaph of Gershon, as Ethan of Merari.
And with them their brethren of the second degree, Zechariah, Ben, and Jaaziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, Eliab, and Benaiah, and Maaseiah, and Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, the porters.(18) And with them their brethren of the second degree.—So 1Chronicles 16:5 : “Asaph the leader, and his second Zechariah.” Fourteen minstrels of the second rank—that is, subordinate to the first three—are named here.
Ben (son) is not a proper name. That of Zechariah’s father may have fallen out after it (comp. the Syriac and Arabic: “Zechariah son of Ne’ael”), or it may be due to a scribe’s inadvertence. The LXX. omits it.
Shemiramoth.—This peculiar name resembles the Assyrian Sammurramat, the classical Semiramis. Delitzsch suggests that it is a compound of sammîm (“spices”), and râ’imat (“loving”): a suitable name for a woman, and actually borne by a lady of the court of Rammân-nirâri (B.C. 812), king of Assyria.
Jaaziel.—Called Jeiel by mistake in 1Chronicles 16:5.
So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass;(19-21) The minstrels named in 1Chronicles 15:17-18, classified according to their instruments.
(19) The cymbal-players.
Were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass.—Rather, with cymbals of bronze for clashing. Furnished with these instruments, the three chiefs were to lead and accentuate the music.
1Chronicles 15:19-25 give the order of the procession thus:—
I. The three master-singers, and two bands of seven each (1Chronicles 15:19-21).
II. Chenaniah, marshal of the bearers.
III. Two warders of the Ark.
IV. Seven priests, with trumpets.
V. Two warders of the Ark. VI. The king, with the heads of the nation.
V. Two warders of the Ark.
VI. The king, with the heads of the nation.
(20) The eight harpers. Perhaps Maaseiah or Benaiah belongs to the next verse. This would give seven (comp. 1Chronicles 15:24) in each band.
Aziel should be Jaaziel, as in 1Chronicles 15:18.
With psalteries on Alamoth.—“With harps after the mode of maidens:” that is, probably, of soprano compass or pitch. The same expression occurs in the heading of Psalms 46
And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel.(21) The six lute-players.
With harps on the Sheminith.—“With lutes (or lyres) in the bass.” Literally, after the mode of the eighth—i.e., an octave below the tenor—al ottava bassa.
To excel.—To lead the orchestra, to precent. (Comp. Psalms 6, heading.)
And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skilful.(22) Rather, And Chenaniah, captain (i.e., conductor) of the Levites in bearing (that is, the sacred vessels), was conducting the bearing, because he was skilled—scil., in the traditional regulations connected with bearing the Ark duly and rightly.
Chief of the Levites.—Not one of the six princes (1Chronicles 15:5-10), or heads of houses, but president of the carriage of the Ark.
Was for song.—So the LXX., which reads “leader of the songs;” but the Syriac has “bore the burden daily” and although the word massâ—i.e., “lifting up,” or “bearing”—might mean “lifting up the voice,” (1) the context is against that meaning here, for Heman, Asaph, and Ethan were conductors of the singing and music; (2) Chenaniah is nowhere else associated with music (see Note on 1Chronicles 26:29); (3) the word massâ, “bearing,” has the sense we have given it when used in relation to Levites (Numbers 4:19; 2Chronicles 35:3).
He instructed.—The Hebrew has an ambiguous form, which may be an infinitive—instructing, correcting (yāsar); or an imperfect of a different verb—was prince over, superintendent of (sārar).
And Berechiah and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark.(23) Doorkeepers for the ark.—“Porters” (1Chronicles 15:18). Warders are meant. Obed-edom and Jehiah were also warders of the Ark (1Chronicles 15:24). In the procession two may have walked in front of it and two behind. They would be responsible for the prevention of all unauthorised approach to the Ark of God.
And Shebaniah, and Jehoshaphat, and Nethaneel, and Amasai, and Zechariah, and Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, did blow with the trumpets before the ark of God: and Obededom and Jehiah were doorkeepers for the ark.(24) Seven priestly trumpeters.
The priests, did blow with the trumpets.—Were blowing. (Comp. Numbers 10:2.) A pair of silver clarions were blown by the priests “for the calling of the assembly, and the journeying of the camps.” (See also 1Chronicles 16:6.) The seven priests perhaps walked immediately before the Ark, as in Joshua 6:4.
of the Ark,
And Obed-edom and Jehiah were door-keepers for the ark.—Comp. 1Chronicles 15:23. It is hardly likely that these persons were identical with the minstrels Obed-edom and Jeiel of 1Chronicles 15:18; 1Chronicles 15:21, for (1) 1Chronicles 15:19-24 appear to describe the order of the procession, according to which two “doorkeepers” walked before and two behind the ark (1Chronicles 15:23-24), whereas Obed-edom and Jeiel the minstrels walked, playing their lutes, two places before even the first pair of doorkeepers (1Chronicles 15:21); (2) the name “Jeiel” is different in form and meaning from “Jehiah,” Jah liveth; (3) the recurrence of names has been too frequent to allow us to be much surprised at a second Obed-edom. (Comp. 1Chronicles 16:38.)
So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the house of Obededom with joy.(25) SO David, and the elders of Israel.—Literally, And it was David and the elders of Israel and princes of the thousands who were walking to bring up the Ark, &c. The preparations for the ceremony are now complete, and the procession starts. A slight change in the Hebrew (omission of the article; so Syriac and one MS. of LXX.) will improve the sense: “And it came to pass, David and the elders . . . were walking to bring up the Ark.”
To bring up the ark.—“Into the city of David” (Samuel).
The ark of the covenant of the Lord.—A special title of the Ark, which has not occurred before in this history. It is not read in the parallel passage of Samuel, where we find only “ark of God,” and “ark of Jehovah.” The phrase may therefore indicate that the chronicler had another source besides that book. (Comp. Joshua 3:3; Joshua 3:17.) The parallel (2Samuel 6:12) makes no mention of “the elders and captains,” but merely states in brief and somewhat abrupt fashion that David went and brought up the Ark, because he had heard of its bringing a blessing upon the house of Obed-edom.
With joy.—With set rejoicings and festal mirth.
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.(26) When God helped the Levites that bare the ark.—Comp. 2Samuel 6:13, “And it was so, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings” (sing. collect.). God had been adverse to those who conducted the Ark on the former occasion (1Chronicles 13:9), as was inferred from the sudden death of Uzza. Now, when the Levites had undertaken the work in due order, and no harm had befallen, it was understood that the Divine goodwill was with the enterprise. That they had borne the holy Ark six paces without any sign of wrath was enough to call forth the grateful offerings of hearts relieved from a dread which only ceased to haunt them when the event proved it to be groundless. Our text, more exact than Samuel, gives the number and kind of the victims then sacrificed. Others refer the two accounts to different sacrifices, taking Samuel to mean that at every six paces a bullock and a fat sheep were slain by priests stationed all along the course, while they suppose our text to refer to a final sacrifice, offered when the Ark had reached its destination. This solution of the difficulty appears incredible, especially as regards the supposition of priests not mentioned in the narrative. Another view understands our text in this sense, but makes the offering in Samuel an initial sacrifice of consecration. But it is not likely that the two sacrifices are really different: (1) because the narrative here is generally parallel with Samuel; and (2) the chronicler may have intentionally paraphrased the older text for the sake of explanation. (Comp. Numbers 23:1; Numbers 23:29 for the sacrifice.)
And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: David also had upon him an ephod of linen.(27) And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen.—Samuel reads, “And David was dancing before Jehovah with all might” (Heb.). The Hebrew of our text may be a corruption or intentional alteration of this. The word for “clothed” is the Aramaic (Daniel 3:21, mĕkurbāl), which might easily be, by inadvertence or design, substituted for the rare word mĕkarkēr (Sam.), “dancing.”
And all the Levites . . . and the singers, and Chenaniah.—Scil., were clothed with a me‘îl of byssus.
The master of the song.—Rather, the chief (overseer) of the bearing. (Comp. 1Chronicles 15:22.)
With the singers.—Omit, as an accidental repetition. The word “with” is wanting in the Hebrew, which is ungrammatical as it stands. The entire clause, “and all the Levites . . . with the singers,” is not read in the parallel account.
Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.(28) Thus all Israel brought.—And all Israel were bringing. Samuel has “and David and all the house of Israel,” and “ark of the Lord.”
The rest of this verse is wanting in Samuel, but all the additional instruments have already been mentioned (1Chronicles 15:16-21).
Trumpets.—Clarions, or straight trumpets.
The last clause should be rendered, “and with clanging cymbals, with harps and lutes.” (Comp. Psalm 150:3-4.)
And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.(29) And it came to pass.—The verse reads in the Hebrew like a modernised form of 2Samuel 6:16.
As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came.—Rather, The ark had come so far as to the city, and Michal had looked forth by the lattice, and she saw . . .
Dancing and playing.—In the Hebrew two common words have been substituted for the two obsolete ones occurring in Samuel.
She despised him.—Because he seemed forgetful of his royal and manly honour, in dancing like a woman.