David Transports the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem

2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13

Perhaps no other event in David’s life demonstrates his zealous love for God than his efforts to move the Ark from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem. The story takes place about twenty years after the Ark had been captured by the Philistines but was later returned to Israel, where it was kept at Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 6:1-7:2; see “The Ark of the Covenant Is Captured and Returned” map). The Tabernacle and altar appear to have been relocated to the High Place of Gibeon/Gibeah after the Philistines overran Shiloh as well (1 Kings 3:4; 1 Chronicles 16:39-40; 21:29). By this time David had secured his grip on the throne of all Israel and had established Jerusalem (also called the City of David) as his new capital, and he wished to bring the Ark into it. So David called together all the leaders of Israel and placed the Ark on a new cart, and they all danced before the Lord as the Ark was brought from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem. When the Ark reached the threshing floor of Nacon (1 Chronicles 13:9 calls him “Chidon”), the oxen stumbled, and a man named Uzzah, who was helping to move the Ark, reached out to steady the Ark. The Lord immediately struck Uzzah dead for touching the Ark, and after this David was angry and afraid of the Lord. David called the place Perez-uzzah, meaning “bursting forth against Uzzah”. This parallels an earlier instance (or perhaps later; see 2 Samuel 5:20; 1 Chronicles 14:11) when David named a place Baal-perazim, meaning “the Lord of bursting forth,” because the Lord had enabled him to win a battle against the Philistines (2 Samuel 5; 23:13-17 ; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 14:10-17; also see map “David Defeats the Philistines in the Valley of Rephaim”). In both cases, David may have been using the term for “bursting forth” as a double entendre to describe both the actions of the Lord and the presence of springs in the area. If so, this author has found that a good candidate for Perez-uzzah is located just to the north of what was likely ancient Mozah, because there are multiple springs in the area, including one at the top of the hill that may have been the location of the threshing floor of Nacon. After Uzzah’s death, the Ark was temporarily taken to the house of Obed-edom, presumeably located nearby, for three months. Though the Lord’s actions against Uzzah might seem harsh to the modern reader, especially given David’s desire to honor the Lord through his efforts, the biblical writers provide clues as to why the Lord must have responded as he did. By noting that the Ark was put on a “new cart,” just as the Philistines had done when they returned the Ark (1 Samuel 6:7), the writers were likely indicating that David was going about his efforts in a pagan way instead of in accordance with God’s commands for transporting the Ark, which required that it be carried with poles (Numbers 4:15; also see 1 Chronicles 15:12–15). This is underscored by David’s renewed–and successful–efforts to transport the Ark again, this time using poles (note “those who bore the Ark of the Lord” in 2 Samuel 6:13) and making sacrifices along the way. David and all Israel danced and shouted as the Ark made its way to Jerusalem, with David wearing only a linen ephod, essentially an undergarment. After the Ark arrived in the city, David placed it in a tent and offered sacrifices to the Lord. But David’s wife Michal sarcastically noted that David had “honored” himself that day by uncovering himself before all the young servant girls. David responded by insisting that he was willing to abase himself even further to worship the Lord.

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