Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This chapter contains a condensed narrative of the bringing up of the ark to Jerusalem, of which a much more full account is given in 1 Chronicles 13-16. It was the impulse of David’s piety to desire that the ark might be in the royal city, and the dictate of wise policy that his capital should become the centre of the national worship. The question may be asked, Why he did not at the same time bring up the Tabernacle? Two reasons may be suggested: (1) That by the force of circumstances there were now two high-priests, neither of whom could well be displaced—Abiathar, the companion of David in his trials and outlawry, and the heir to the high-priesthood, as son of the murdered Ahimelech; and Zadok, the high-priest in the later years of Saul, whom David found in office when he came to the throne, and who had joined him at Hebron (1Chronicles 12:28). It may have been wiser, therefore, for the present, to leave a necessity for high-priestly ministrations in different places. Zadok exercised his office at the Tabernacle at Gibeon (1Chronicles 16:39), and Abiathar was probably with the ark. (2) It might have been too great a change and shock to the people to concentrate everything at once in the new capital. The removal of the Tabernacle from Gibeon might have been resisted.
There is no sufficient reason to doubt that Psalms 68 was composed and chanted on this occasion, its martial tone being very natural in connection with the recent victories over the Philistines. Psalms 101, 15 were probably sung at the removal of the ark from the house of Obed-edom (2Samuel 6:12-16), while Psalms 24 was undoubtedly the triumphant chant with which the ark entered the city. All these should be studied in connection with this narrative. Psalms 132 is also, more doubtfully, referred to this period.
Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.(1) Again, David gathered.—The word “again” should be transposed: “David gathered together again”—referring to the former military musters. In 1Chronicles 13:1-4, mention is made of the consultations with the leaders of Israel which preceded this gathering, and the gathering itself is there (2Samuel 6:5) said to be of “all Israel.” But “all Israel” was evidently represented by the thirty thousand (the LXX. reads seventy thousand) of its more prominent men.
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.—There is either a textual error here, so that instead of from should be read to, or else the historian is so occupied with his main subject that he omits the mention of the journey to Baale. In Joshua 15:9 and 1Chronicles 13:6, Baale is said to be another name for Kirjath-jearim. This was the place to which the ark was carried after its removal from Bethshemesh (1Samuel 7:2), and it had remained here ever since. It has been generally identified with Kuryet-el-enab, about eight miles a little north of west from Jerusalem. More recent opinion places it at ‘Erma, about eleven miles a little south of west from Jerusalem, and four miles east of Bethshemesh. In either case it was three or four hours’ march from the capital.
Whose name is called.—Neither the text nor the margin of the English represents the original quite accurately. Translate, which is called by the name, the name of Jehovah of hosts. The ark is thus described as being the visible symbol of God’s presence and of His covenant with His people.
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) Upon a new cart.—The new cart, one which had been used for no other purpose, was doubtless intended as a mark of respect (comp. 1Samuel 6:7); yet it was a violation of the law (Numbers 7:9), requiring that the ark should be borne by the Levites. It is not necessary to suppose that David intended to violate the law; but the ark having been left neglected for more than two generations, the exact requirements in regard to it may easily have passed out of mind.
Abinadab that was in Gibeah.—Rather, in the hill, as the same word is translated in 1Samuel 7:1. Abinadab himself may have been long since dead, and Uzzah and Ahio may have been either his sons, now advanced in life, or his grandsons.
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.(4) And they brought it.—The text has undoubtedly suffered here through the repetition of a line by the scribes. The whole verse is omitted in the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 13, and the first half of it (which is a repetition of 2Samuel 6:3) in the LXX.
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.—This word means dancing accompanied by music. (See 1Samuel 18:7; 1Samuel 21:11, 1Chronicles 13:8; 1Chronicles 15:29, &c.)
On all manner of instruments made of fir wood.—Instead of this strange expression, the parallel passage in 1Chronicles 13:8 has “with all their might and with songs.” The difference between the two is very slight in the Hebrew, and it is generally thought that the latter is the correct reading. The variation, however, mast have been ancient, since the LXX. combines the two.
Cornets.—This word occurs only here, and is thought from its etymology to mean some kind of metal instrument with bells or rings, which gave forth its sound on being shaken. The Vulg. translates sistra. Instead of it Chronicles has “trumpets.”
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.—This place is entirely unknown. 1Chronicles 13:9 has “the threshingfloor of Chidon; “but it may be doubted whether the word is a proper name at all. The name, whatever it was, was now superseded by Perez-uzzah (2Samuel 6:8). The turning aside of the oxen to snatch the scattered grain of the threshingfioor may have caused the trouble.
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 original is hero very obscure: 1Chronicles 13:10 has “because he put his hand to the ark.” (Comp. 1Samuel 6:19.) Especial sacredness was by the law attached to the ark, and it was strictly commanded, that when it was to be moved it should be first covered by the priests, and then borne by the Levites by means of its staves; but until it was covered, the Levites might not look upon it, and might not touch it, upon pain of death (Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:19-20). Uzzah was probably a Levite, or, at any rate, had been so long in the house with the ark that he ought to have made himself familiar with the law in regard to it. What may seem, at first thought, an exceeding severe penalty for a well-meaning, though unlawful act, is seen on reflection to have been a very necessary manifestation of the Divine displeasure; for this act involved not only a violation of the letter of the law (of which David also was guilty), but a want of reverence for the majesty of God as symbolised by the ark, and showed a disposition to profane familiarity with sacred things. “Uzzah was a type of all who, with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God, from the notion that they are in danger, and with the hope of saving them” (O. von Gerlach). Judgments of this kind were, however, temporal, and give in themselves no indication of the treatment of the offender beyond the grave.
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.—More exactly, was angry. The cause of his vexation was the Divine judgment upon Uzzah; yet it does not follow that he was angry with God, but rather was simply vexed and disturbed at this most untoward interruption of his plans.
Made a breach.—Comp. Exodus 19:22, where the same word is used of a sudden Divine visitation upon irreverence. The phrase “to this day” is extremely indefinite, and might have been used either ten years or centuries after the event.
And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?(9) David was afraid.—The immediate effect of the judgment was to produce in David, and doubtless in all the people, that awe of the majesty of God in which they had shown themselves deficient. If this was at first excessive, it was soon moderated.
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.—He was a Levite, but whether of the family of Kohath or of Merari is uncertain, since at this time the name appears in both these families (see for Merari, 1Chronicles 15:17-18, and for Kohath, 1Chronicles 26:1; 1Chronicles 26:4; 1Chronicles 26:8; 1Chronicles 26:13-15). The one hero mentioned was a Gittite, i.e., born at, or belonging to, Gath-rimmon, a Levitical city on the confines of Dan and Manasseh (Joshua 21:24-25). One of these Levites is described as “the son of Jeduthun” (1Chronicles 16:38, where both are mentioned), and as Jeduthun probably belonged to the family of Merari, it is probable that the one here mentioned was called “the Gittite” for distinction’s sake, and belonged to the family of Kohath, to which Gath-rimmon belonged (Joshua 21:20). Moreover, it is said of the Obed-edom of 1Chronicles 26:4-5, that “God blessed him,” which seems to refer to this passage. The name, although a singular one (servant of Edom) was not uncommon, and was also borne by one having charge of the vessels of the sanctuary in the days of King Amaziah (2Chronicles 25:24). The Obed-edoms of David’s time were porters of the Tabernacle, Levitical musicians, and took an active part in bringing the ark to Jerusalem, and afterwards in ministering before it (1Chronicles 15:16; 1Chronicles 15:18; 1Chronicles 15:21; 1Chronicles 15:24; 1Chronicles 16:4-5; 1Chronicles 16:37-38; 1Chronicles 26:1; 1Chronicles 26:4; 1Chronicles 26:13-15).
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) Went and brought up.—The immediate reason for David’s action was the knowledge of the blessings which had come to Obed-edom through the presence of the ark, in contrast to the punishment of Uzzah; yet this implies neither jealousy nor a wish to deprive his subject of a blessing. It had been his original purpose to carry the ark to Jerusalem, and he had only desisted in a fit of vexation and then of fear. He now saw that such fear was groundless, and went on to the completion of his unfinished action. The word “with gladness” means with festal shouts and rejoicings.
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.—David no longer presumed to violate the law, but took care that the ark should be borne by the proper persons. In 1 Chronicles 15 a detailed account is given of the sanctification of the priests and Levites for the purpose, and of the musical arrangements.
Had gone six paces.—As soon as the removal of the ark had been successfully begun, David offered sacrifices of thanksgiving and of prayer; and again, when the journey was completed, “they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God” (2Samuel 6:17, 1Chronicles 16:1). The work was begun and ended with solemn sacrifice. It is quite unnecessary to suppose that offerings were made at each six steps of the way, for although this might have been possible, it is not recorded. Of course, David offered these sacrifices, like all Israel” in 1Kings 8:62, through the ministration of the priests whom he had called together.
And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.(14) David danced.—The religious dances on occasions of great national blessing were usually performed by women only (Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 11:34; 1Samuel 18:6). The king, by now taking part in them himself, marked his strong sense of the importance of the occasion, and his readiness to do his utmost in God’s honour.
Girded with a linen ephod.—This is usually spoken of as if David were arrayed in a distinctively priestly dress; but it is remarkable that the ephod was not prescribed as a part of the priestly dress—the ephod of the high-priest (Exodus 25:7, &c.) being quite a different thing—and was worn by others, as Samuel (1Samuel 2:18). The wearing of the ephod, however, is spoken of in 1Samuel 22:18 as characteristic of the priests, and in Judges 8:27; Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14-20, it is connected with idolatrous worship. It is also to be noted that the high priest’s ephod (Exodus 28:6; Exodus 28:8, &c.) was made of shesh, while the garments of the ordinary priests, as well as the ephods of Samuel and David, were of bad. The explanation seems to be that the ephod of bad was simply a garment worn by any one engaged in a religious service, and it is used in 1Samuel 22:18 to describe the priests, because such service constituted their ordinary life. It was not, therefore, a peculiarly priestly dress, though naturally more worn by them than by any one else.
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) She despised him.—The contrast is here strongly brought out between the spirit of Saul’s house in which Michal had been brought up, and that of David. In Saul’s time the ark had been neglected, and true religion was uncared for. Michal, therefore, who had fallen in love with David as a brave hero, could not understand the religious enthusiasm which led him to rank himself among the common people before the Lord.
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.—Not the tabernacle made for it in the wilderness, and which seems to have been now at Gibeon, but a special tent which David, as is immediately added, had prepared for it.
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) Peace offerings.—While the “burnt offerings” were dedicatory, the peace offerings were eucharistic, and were also intended here, as in 1Kings 8:62-65, to supply the wants of the people by a religious feast of communion with God.
He blessed the people.—As Solomon did at the dedication of the temple (1Kings 8:14; 1Kings 8:55), and in both cases this was eminently fitting; but such blessing is by no means to be mistaken for the peculiar priestly blessing for which the form was prescribed in Numbers 6:22-26.
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) A good piece of flesh.—A peculiar word, used only here and in 1Chronicles 16:3, but the context shows that it is rightly interpreted in the English. The phrase “a flagon of wine” (used also in 1Chronicles 16:3; Song of Solomon 2:5; Hosea 3:1) should be translated “a cluster of grapes or 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) Returned.—Michal had seen David from the window as he passed by his house on his way with the ark to its tent. Now, having dismissed and blessed the people, he returns to bless those members of his household whom eastern custom had not allowed to take part in the ceremonies, and is met by Michal with her cutting irony. The account of this is omitted from the narrative in Chronicles.
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) Therefore will I play.—Rather, have I danced. (See 2Samuel 6:5.)
Before the Lord.—David first gives the true and sufficient reason of his conduct—what he had done was before the Lord, in honouring whom no man can be really humbled; and then he turns with a reproof to Michal, which should have shown her the utter unworthiness of her objections. God had set aside her father and his house for this very spirit of pride in which she was now indulging, and had chosen him instead.
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) Base in mine own sight.—The LXX., not understanding this expression, has changed it to “in thine eyes.” But the meaning is, that while Michal had charged him with making himself base in the eyes of the maidservants (who were no fit judges of such matters), he was ready to abase himself in his own eyes, to do anything, however humbling it might seem even to himself, which should be for the honour and glory of God.
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.(23) Had no child.—The severest privation to an Oriental woman. It is quite possible that during Michal’s long separation from David, while he was an outlaw, and she was married to Phaltiel (who was deeply attached to her, 2Samuel 3:16), they had become somewhat alienated from each other; and when the totally different spirit by which they were animated was brought out on this occasion, David determined to have no further intercourse with her.