II Samuel 5–6. How Not to Bring Home the Ark.

Key Notes: The tribes unite behind David. How Joab conquered Jerusalem. Two victories over the Philistines. The placing of the Ark of the Covenant--aborted and successful. David was dancing before the Lord. Religious expression then and now.

In these two chapters David is crowned king over all Israel, conquers Jerusalem, twice defeats the Philistines, moves the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem after a major setback, and alienates a wife. God is supernaturally involved, yet He allows his people to make mistakes with serious consequences. David completed a project , but it did not go smoothly.

5:1–5 The tribes came to David at Hebron. It was a formidable army from the various tribes (IChron.12) arrayed as if for battle—more than 300,000 men. They said “We are your flesh and bone. In times past when Saul was king over us, it was you that led out and brought in Israel; and the Lord said to you ‘You shall be shepherd of My people Israel and and you shall be prince over Israel.’" [They all knew that. (IISam.3:12,17,18) Why did they, and Abner, go the other way for more than seven years, fighting a civil war to no purpose?] David made a covenant with the elders. He was 37 years old and reigned over Israel until age 70.

For a heart-warming window into the meeting of the tribes with David in Hebron, read I Chronicles 11,12.

Comment: David made a covenant with them, not the opposite as Abner proposed: ”…that they may make a covenant with you.” (IISam.3:21).

“The fact that David concludes the covenant with them, and not they with him signifies that David takes pledges of their loyalty; in other words that there is here an act of homage as … they recognize him as king.” (First and Second Samuel. H.W.Herzberg; Westminster Press,’64; p.267)

There were also covenants between equals where there was mutual agreement, for example, David and Jonathan. However, OT covenant is typically between God and His people, and is unilateral with God as the maker and people such as Abraham or Israel or David as the recipient. David’s covenant with Israel is “before the Lord” and he is acknowledged to be their shepherd. In a sense, God is again ruler over Israel, represented by His anointed servant.

This would be a great time to discuss monarchy and the divine right of kings vs. democratic government. Suffice to say that David was king by delegation of the leaders of Israel, making a covenant with them and operating under the Law of Moses. He might be called a constitutional monarch, under the consent of the governed.

5:6–10 His first task was to conquer Jerusalem. The Jebusites jeered: "The blind and the lame will ward you off ". That is, anyone can push stones over the wall and drive off soldiers trying to scale the high walls. David offered a reward to anyone who would capture this formidable citadel.. He advised his men to go into Jerusalem through the water-tunnel and the impregnable fortress was soon in Israel’s possession for the first time since Israel entered the Promised Land roughly six-hundred years before. Joab was the first to go in and he became the commander of David’s armies. (IChron.11:4–9). David set up his official residence in the Millo, and called it the city of David. This is the tongue of land that lies south between the Kidron and Hinnom valleys. Joab repaired the rest of the city. (I Chron.11:8). Eventually the city grew much bigger, spreading out north and then east and west.

Comment: The water tunnel under the City from the Gihon spring to the Pool of Siloam is the subject of much archaeological study and controversy. From the deep horizontal water tunnel, the warriors would have to ascend a vertical shaft of about 40 feet to reach another steep subterranean passage to the surface—probably in total darkness. They would overwhelm the gate-keepers and let in the army. It was a spectacular feat, done in a relatively bloodless way. Climbing the vertical shaft has been duplicated in recent years with good lighting.
(Bibl. Arch. Rev. Vol.25, #6,’99; p.31. Vol.43,#5, 2008; p.50).

5:11–12 Hiram of Tyre sent cedar, carpenters and masons to build David’s palace. Lebanon had the best timber in the region and it could be shipped in rafts down the Mediterranean. Similar timber-rafts will be used to build Solomon’s temple. (IK.5:9). David now had the friendship of a foreign ruler and was aware that God had established him as king and had exalted his kingdom for Israel's sake.

5:13–16 More wives and concubines, and 11 more sons were added to the royal family. (David ignored the Law in Deut.17:17 about a king's polygamy.) The first four sons are Bathsheba’s; the two of interest are Nathan and Solomon. Solomon’s line would carry the dynasty of David to the Exile in 586BC when the last kings died out. The line of Nathan would survive and continue to Jesus’ family. Lk.3:31

5:17–21 Now the Philistines saw David as a threat. When he was head of a town, he was no concern of theirs. But as king of all the Canaanite territories, and with Jerusalem as his citadel, he loomed large. They spread out their forces in the valley of Rephaim just southwest of Jerusalem. David went “down” to the hold, presumably Adullam. God gave him the go-ahead and his men burst through the Philistine lines from the south. The site is called Baal-perazim (“The Lord of breaking through.”). The Philistines left their idols behind and David and his men later burned them. (IChron.14:12). The idols could not save the Philistines.

5:22–25 The Philistines came back a second time to the Valley of Rephaim. and God instructed David to go around and wait behind the balsam (?mulberry) trees for the sound of marching in the tops of the trees. This was a sign that God had gone before him. He ambushed them probably from the north and chased them west to Gezer.

6:1–5 David now took 30,000 picked troops to bring the ark back to Jerusalem from Kirjath-Jearim, perhaps 10 miles west of the City. The ark had been kept at the house of Abinadab for 20 years after it was returned by the Philistines. (ISam.7:1). Israel had neglected it in Saul’s day. (IChron.13:3). He may have needed an army because the Philistines still occupied much of the heartland of Israel. Priests and levites were invited to the march but did not take an active role. (IChron.13:2). With a new cart, Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, brought the ark out to the road, Ahio going in front. They were having a huge happy parade with songs, lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

6:6–8 At the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached for the ark when the oxen stumbled and died instantly.
“The Lord had broken forth upon Uzzah.”

Comment:. Num. 4:5–15 instructions are tthat the articles of the Tabernacle Holy Place and Holy of Holies were to be covered and not seen or touched even by the sons of Kohath, lest they die. The ark was constructed with carrying poles that were to remain in place. (Ex.25:15). They were to carry the ark under cover, on their shoulders with poles. Num 7:9

6:9–11 David was angry and afraid of God, crestfallen. The parade stopped. Thirty thousand went home in a sorry state. The parade had become a funeral. The ark was left in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (from Gath of the Philistines) for three months. But David learned from his mistake.

6:12–15 Those in Obed-edom’s household were blessed for guarding the ark. After three months David recovered his courage and this time followed the law. (IChron.15:1-). The tribe of Levi was in front and the ark was carried on the shoulders of the priests. An ox and a fatling was offered at every twenty feet as they came on into the city. David was dancing with all his might, wearing a linen ephod. They brought up the ark with shouting and the trumpet.

Comment: David’s joy was complete. His strong City was the house of his family, his government and the ark of God. His people were united; his enemies were put down. A foreign government gave him assistance. God had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

Psa 24 is in celebration of the entrance to Jerusalem.

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hand and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord.” (Psa.24:3,4)

Psa. 15 is similar. Another processional psalm of David is Psa. 68.

6:16–19 He brought the ark into the City to a tent made for it {perhaps a copy of the original}, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. He blessed the people, and gave to each a cake of bread, some meat and a cake of raisins. But Michal looked at David’s exuberant dancing and was disgusted.

6:20–23 When everybody went home, Michal told David what she thought of him dancing with abandon in front of young women. David said he was merry before the Lord who had chosen him over her father's house and he would be honored by the young women if not by her. He ignored her after that.

Poor Michal. She was a king’s daughter. She was no doubt bitter because of her hard life, having been taken away from the husband who loved her (IISam.3:16), to be the “trophy wife” of a king who already had too many other women, stuck in a harem for the rest of her life.

Uzzah is an example of those who good-heartedly do the work and worship of God in ignorance. Sincerity is not enough. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” We are not accustomed to thinking that God operates in precise ways, especially over the long haul of history. It was now hundreds of years since the laws were recorded by Moses, plenty of time to forget the details. ("He [Moses] was instructed by God saying, See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain." Heb. 8:5)

From all we know, salvation is acquired in a precise way and sustained in prescribed ways. Like Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira in New Testament times suffered for what some would consider a misdemeanor—in their case, a lie. There is a sin unto death. (I Jn.5:16–17) There is an unforgiveable sin. (Lk.12:10). We have to walk circumspectly. Eph.4:15

David was exuberant bringing the ark into Jerusalem. He was rejoicing, shouting, dancing and singing with all his might—spins, cart-wheels, great jumps, yelling--a big, handsome warrior, waving his arms, dressed in something like a long T-shirt— we staid Midwesterners would probably have been shocked at such a display. No other king ever did such a thing again.

But spiritual exercises may look carnal to some people while they are holy to others. Some churches have no musical instruments — even to keep the rhythm. Dancing on Sunday morning? A jazz quintet? It is a problem for all our churches to find worship expression that has enough acceptance so that people are comfortable, and at the same time expresses spontaneity and true worship. Some of our church services appear to be entertainment rather than worship. But music and singing can be a form of exhortation, a kind of cheer-leading. We also use prayer and singing to educate people and confirm faith. But perhaps our words do not reflect truth in our hearts. Whatever we may think of David’s performance, his heart is right before God, full of love and praise. Let us,too, offer Him the sacrifice of praise, not looking down on those who do their worship differently from ours.

“…thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb.12:28–29)