2nd Samuel chapter 6 is the story of the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David from where it had rested for the past 70 years in the home of Abinadab (a Levite and probably a Priest) located in Kirath Jearim. Kirath Jearim was also known as Baalah and Ba’al Judah; it was less than a day’s journey northwest of Jerusalem.
Now that David had selected and captured the stronghold of Zion that occupied but a small portion of the land known as Jerusalem (a place he intended as his capital), he turned his attention to reinstituting and reviving the proper worship of the God of Israel which had steadily declined since the death of Eli (Samuel’s mentor) to the point of being an afterthought among the tribes.
As we wind our way through the Samuel Scroll, which has been divided into the two books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, we find fewer and fewer instances of the words Torah, Law, and Moses appearing in the ancient texts. And this is because we see less and less interest in following the true religion as given to God’s people on Mt. Sinai. Their preference was for a mixed group of Middle Eastern social customs, pagan worship practices, and developing Hebrew Traditions, all of which was accomplished in the name of YHWH.
It is evident by what we have seen occurring in earlier chapters and here now in this Chapter that neither the authorized religious leadership of Israel (the Levites and Priests) nor the civil headship (David and his court) had any actual working knowledge of the Torah.
But I suspect if we could go back in time and ask them if they did, they would display surprised (and probably offended) looks on their faces and respond vehemently that not only did they know the Torah, but they were following the Torah. Such is the nature of what happens in only a few generations after the Lord has declared His true and perfect Word to mankind, and Christianity has not been immune.
Before we resume with the story of the Ark’s arrival at Jerusalem there is a question that needs to be asked: why didn’t David FIRST bring the Tabernacle to Jerusalem so that the Ark could then be reunited with its God-ordained dwelling place?
For this, we’ll have to speculate to a degree, but I think the answer is fairly evident. The original Tabernacle (a grand tent made of cloth and animal skins) had long ago worn out. We know that in Eli’s day when it was located in Shiloh, it had been highly revamped and added onto, but Shiloh had been burned out and the Tabernacle likely destroyed. It is questionable whether whatever form it now held was even portable.
But there was another and more thorny problem involved: there were at this time two High Priests and thus two independent sets of priesthoods (at the least), each with its loyal following divided along tribal lines. David was in the process of unifying the 12 tribes and had to find a politically palatable solution to determining WHICH priesthood would preside.
Each set of priesthoods had some sanctuary and furnishings for it, some of which were undoubtedly original and others being replicas. David’s solution was not to use the sanctuaries or the furnishings of either priesthood (at least not for now).
Read 2 Samuel 6:6-23.
We saw last week that David and his entourage had committed at least three severe violations of the Torah Law as they journeyed with the Ark to Jerusalem.
- First, they put the Ark into an oxcart instead of having it carried on the shoulders of Levites from the clan of Kohath.
- Second, one of the Levites accompanying the Ark touched it when the oxen stumbled, causing the cart to lurch, and believing that the Ark might tumble onto the ground, Uzzah instinctively put out his hand to steady it. He died instantly for this infraction against God’s holiness.
- And third, David and the 30,000 participants held a wrong attitude in their minds about the nature of this occasion. We find that they celebrated the return of the Ark in a frivolous party-like atmosphere, rather than with a more appropriate solemn and reverent mindset.
But ultimately it was Uzzah’s shocking death that unnerved David, causing him to postpone the completion of the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem.
In verse 8 we’re told that Uzzah’s death at God’s hand, made David “upset.” The Hebrew word is charah; it means to be hot, to be angry. As we have gotten to know David, I think a good word would be “frustrated.”
Despite what many women may think, men do have many emotions; but although the array of inner feelings is substantial the outward display of emotions (especially for warriors and strong leaders like David) is often reduced merely to anger.
What, exactly, was David so “hot” under the collar about? It was that upon Uzzah’s death he knew he could not possibly risk bringing the Ark into his private compound, the City of David, as he had his heart set upon doing because the cause of God’s fatal outburst was a total mystery to him.
In the opening part of the lesson, we learned that David had no working knowledge of the Torah and here is yet another proof. If David knew the Law, he would instantly have recognized why Uzzah died because he touched the Ark.
And if the Levites had known the Law they could have explained to David why Uzzah died and that this need not reoccur. But since ignorance was running rampant at the moment, an abundance of caution was the wisest course of action.
This death occurred at a place that is described as goren nakhon, meaning “the threshing floor of the stroke.” After the incident, the place was memorialized and given a formal name: Perez-Uzzah, meaning “bursting out against Uzzah.”
David decided that while he wouldn’t send the Ark back to Kirath Jearim, he would put it into someone else’s charge for the time being. Although it doesn’t say why he chose this course of action the reason is apparent: he’d let someone else be the guinea pig and then see what happens.
Verses 10 and 11 explain that the person and family who would take the risk of housing the Ark was Obed-Edom the Gittite (or more probably, the Gathite). Quite a bit of strange commentary has been written about Obed-Edom, usually centering on his being a gentile resident alien in Israel.
Therefore David wasn’t going to risk a Hebrew life should the Lord breakout in wrath again (for some unknown reason), but that isn’t the case at all. If we merely look to the parallel account of this event as recorded in 1 Chronicles 26, we find that not only was Obed-Edom a Hebrew; he was a Levite. It is true that Oved-Edom is not a typical or necessarily appropriate name for someone of Hebrew descent, but the reason could easily have been from intermarriage.
The reason that we should translate Gittite as Gathite is somewhat self-evident. First, both words are spelled identically in Hebrew, so it’s just a matter of how the word is vocalized. But second, Gath-Rimmon was a Levitical city; it was located in Dan’s former territory (Joshua 21:24). And residents of Gath-Rimmon were called Gathites.
As ignorant as David was as to Torah protocols, he indeed would have known better than to intentionally turn the holiest object on earth over to a typical foreigner for safe-keeping (especially after considering what had just happened). It seems probable that this Levite, Obed-Edom, lived in greater Jerusalem, outside the walls of the City of David because later we’ll see that it was only a brief journey from his house to David’s compound.
After three months, word came to David that not only had this Levite and his family not been harmed; they had been much blessed. What was the blessing they received? Well as we discover in 1 Chronicles 26 a list of 8 sons is assigned to Obed-Edom’s household, so likely this great fruitfulness of male children was regarded as a spiritual blessing due to the presence of the Ark.
That was enough for David; he wanted that blessing to fall in his household. I also suspect that during the three months some Torah study was accomplished as well because, in David’s next attempt to bring the Ark into the City of David, the earlier errors were remedied.
Verse 12 explains that this time David “joyously” went to bring the Ark home. The Hebrew word is simchah, and it speaks of an inner, reverent joy. Thus we have the context for what comes next: that David danced before the Ark wearing only a priest’s ephod.
In other words, when we picture the procession with the musical instruments, the singing, and the dancing the attitude was appropriately pious. Even if we modern Believers might have some personal inhibitions and feelings about various kinds of outward displays of worship and praise, it is the intent and attitude of the worshipper that matters to the Lord; the rest is only about our hang-ups.
Verse 13 explains that the Ark was “borne” by people (that is, it was carried) instead of transported in an oxcart as cargo. Further that after going only six paces David sacrificed an ox and a fattened sheep.
There are some differences of opinion about what is meant by this. Some say that after EVERY 6 paces another ox and sheep were sacrificed; therefore however far the journey was a substantial number of oxen and sheep slaughtered.
And since many of these same folks advocate a goodly distance to Obed-Edom’s house, it could easily have been thousands of animals involved. And since the passage seems to imply that it was David who presided over the sacrifice, then the procession took quite some time as it would stop and wait for David to sacrifice and then begin again. Others say there was only one sacrifice and it happened after the first six paces and not repeated.
Tom Bradford concludes that Obed-Edom’s house was in Jerusalem, and so the distance would have been relatively short. Further, saying that “David sacrificed” is probably merely a standard way of speaking. In other words all throughout the Bible we’ll read how people brought their sacrifice to the altar and “they” sacrificed their animal. But in actuality, it was the Priest who did the sacrificial procedure because only the Priest could approach the altar.
So it was probably not David himself who performed the sacrifice, but instead, it was a sacrifice that he both provided and ordered to occur. I also think it highly unlikely that David would consider it a great thing to sacrifice a total of one ox and one sheep.
Therefore I do not doubt that the number of sacrifices was to be representative of every six steps that David took. Since the Ark was in Jerusalem, it likely wasn’t more than 600 paces or so, so it’s easily imaginable that something on the order of 100 oxen and 100 sheep may have been sacrificed in the process. Even double that is not an enormous undertaking.
Were informed that David danced in an ephod and that there was shouting at the sound of the trumpet. It was quite the spectacle! But just for the record, it was not a metal “trumpet” that was blown; it was a Ram’s horn (a shofar).
Further, when we read of the “shouts” (that is a poor translation), the word is teruah and teruah is a specific kind of shofar blast. A shofar was used like a bugle; it was the means of communicating a signal from the leadership to the troops. The teruah was one of those signs, and it demonstrated that people needed to pay attention.
So depending on the circumstance, it could be used as a victory signal, or it could be used to signal that it was time to assemble for battle.
As the Ark of God made its way into the City of David, David’s wife Michal was watching from a window, and what she observed sickened her. There was her husband, the king, whirling and twirling and apparently in a way that was (to her thinking) quite immodest if not downright embarrassing. But even more, to her mind, it was not appropriate for a king to behave in such a manner, especially so very publically.
The Rabbis have noticed (quite rightly) that the Scriptures don’t refer to Michal as “David’s wife”; rather she is called the “daughter of King Saul.” We’ll pick up that thought again momentarily.
Some commentators prefer to translate this verse as tabernacle instead of a tent, and then say that this is proof that either the remnants or some facsimile of the Wilderness Tabernacle were brought previously to the City of David, and this is what the Ark was placed in.
The term tabernacle is used in the KJV, and other older European era produced versions, and it ought not to be. The Hebrew word is ohel, and it means “tent.” Ohel is a generic term, and it indicates a standard tent that a shepherd might use. The word for the Tabernacle (in the sense of a holy place) is mishkan, and that word is nowhere present here.
We’ll get a little clearer sense of the structure and nature of this tent in the next chapter, but it is entirely clear that this was not a Tabernacle; this was not a mishkan.
Next, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. This sentence, when addressed in Hebrew, tell us a lot.
- First, the phrase “before the Lord” means “before the place where the Ark is present.”
- Second, there were two distinctly different categories of sacrifices offered in this passage; the ‘Olah and the Shelamim.
The ‘Olah is mostly the highest sacrifice, and of this kind, all the meat is cut-up and thrown onto the altar to be burned up into ashes. Nothing is left over; the idea is that it is all given to God.
The other kind of sacrifice mentioned is the Shelamim, the so-called peace offering. For our purposes the importance is that only some of the meat is burned upon the altar; the bulk of it goes to the worshippers and the Levites. Originally, NO meat could be eaten that was not the first part of a sacrifice (later this command was relaxed).
Thus if a person wanted the meat to eat, they indeed wouldn’t offer an ‘Olah sacrifice whereby all the meat was to be burned up. So Hebrew history shows that Shelamim sacrifices were overwhelmingly provided more frequently than any other kind because the person who offered it received most of the meat back for a planned banquet.
This understanding of the sacrifices helps us with the next verse, which says that (to commemorate the day) David distributed a loaf of bread, a raisin cake and a portion of meat to every last Israelite in attendance.
There would have been thousands of people involved. Where would the meat have come from to give to all these folks (since meat was a reasonably precious commodity and not at all a part of the daily diet)? From the Shelamim sacrifices; in fact, there was no other liturgical reason for the peace offerings than to supply the meat for a happy feast to celebrate the arrival of the Ark.
Another interesting tidbit is unearthed when we look at the original Hebrew; the bread that was baked and given away in great quantity was unusual. Various translations say it was a ring of bread, or a cake of bread, or even a cake made in a pan.
The words are challah lechem; Challah Bread. And this is the traditional bread used on Shabbat or as bread reserved for festive occasions.
As the celebration was winding down David went to his palace (or at least to the building that housed his harem) to offer a traditional blessing over his household; immediately an incensed Michal confronted him.
In the most sarcastic tone, she verbally attacks David for what she sees as his unseemly behavior as the leader of the procession of the Ark. She is particularly upset because he supposedly exposed himself to even his servants’ slave girls as he danced in a Priest’s ephod. There are many things we can take from this section of chapter 6.
First: there is some modern-day argument as well as some rabbinical commentary that says that David didn’t really expose himself; instead it was that he was merely immodest (for a king, anyway).
Unfortunately, that interpretation doesn’t hold any water because the Hebrew used the word to describe his “immodesty” is galah. And galah means to uncover nakedness. It is a term with built-in sexual overtones and so to say his private parts became exposed at times during his dancing is inescapable.
Second: when Michal said he exposed himself to the servant’s slave girls, two things are communicated.
Notice: that these slave girls belong to the servants; a servant’s servant so to speak. So these are the lowest class of people possible to serve in the palace.
And the idea is NOT that these are the only people who saw David’s nakedness. It’s just that as bad as it is that the tribal elders and leaders might have seen David like this and that some of the ordinary townspeople might also have had a glimpse, nothing could be more demeaning than for a servant’s slave girls also to have such a privilege. That, after all, should have been reserved only for the eyes of David’s wives.
Third: Michal wasn’t so concerned for David’s modesty as she was for herself. She was humiliated because she was the daughter of a King.
Notice: not the WIFE of a king (David), but the DAUGHTER of a king (Saul). She more identified herself with her father (dead and gone for many years) than with her husband. And Biblically speaking this is a spiritually wrong attitude and a breaking of the commandment for a married couple to leave their mothers and fathers and be joined together as one.
But it also shows that Michal had retained that certain arrogance that most family members of a king have; one that we saw Saul especially exhibit at every turn (his daughter had learned well). And this compares to David’s attitude, who as Israel’s king (regardless of his other faults), did not seem to harbor the usual level of entitlement and better-than-thou attitude of royalty.
Fourth: Michal evidently resented being part of a harem. She was David’s 1st wife, given to him by King Saul. Not only that but if we were to take the time to revisit the occasion when Michal was forcibly returned to David, there is no hint that Michal was happy for this reunion.
The reality is that many of the girls that she resented for getting a view of David’s anatomy (a look that she regarded as one that was for her alone) were the mothers of many of David’s children. But she didn’t accept her position as one among many; she saw herself as privileged, and above it, all, and this whole dancing-in-the-ephod episode reflected poorly on her (as she saw it).
David didn’t respond meekly to Michal’s outburst. The first thing David does is to put Michal in her place by telling her that she is not the daughter of a king, but somewhat of a man who was deposed of kingship by Yehoveh. In fact, the Lord took Saul’s Kingship and gave it to David.
Bottom line: whatever claim to royalty that you may have, Michal, it is through me (who was chosen by God) not through your thoroughly disgraced father (who was abandoned by God).
Further, David’s goal in his dancing in the ephod was not to show off for the people, but rather to show his humility before Yehoveh. Even if some of David’s people (including Michal) saw his antics as contemptible; also if David himself FELT contemptible by his actions, those pure slave girls who have no such arrogance or position among men will honor him as King of Israel, and that’s sufficient.
Here’s the thing: David took off his royal clothes and donned an ephod before the Lord. An ephod, being the undergarment of a Priest, was an outward demonstration of David’s inner being. A Priest is first and foremost a servant of God.
By David refusing to wear his kingly clothes, and preferring instead the simplest of Priestly garments, he showed that when the Lord is present, there is only one king that matters. The Lord God is the supreme king of heaven and earth and for a man to stand before Him even as a limited earthly king is most inappropriate (especially for this occasion).
So David presented himself as God’s humble servant, and then in some ways compared his lowly position before God as approximately equal to the servant’s slave girl’s position before David. The comparison is that there is no comparison. God is supreme and unchallenged.
And of course, it would be difficult from a prophetic perspective not to notice that David, as the precursor to Messiah, wore the mantle of a priest (however briefly) that overlaid his role as king, just as Christ would. And even more, it mimicked the person of Melchizedek, the mysterious king, and priest of Shalem, the very place where David had donned the ephod and now ruled from.
The last verse of this chapter explains that Michal remained childless until the day she died. There are a couple of essential aspects of this statement. One is that being barren in the Bible is always seen as a curse from God. The Hebrew belief (and with good reason since it is very much in line with Biblical principle) is that a woman’s primary duty in life is to renew life. A woman was created to bear children, and this fulfills God’s commandment to be fruitful and fill the earth.
Thus for a woman NOT to bear children is humiliating and she carries great shame because its seen as a divine curse (often for reasons she does not know). Whether you subscribe to this or not doesn’t matter: the women in the Biblical era certainly did, and that is at least part of the meaning of this verse. We see Michal’s sinful and rebellious attitude against God and His anointed, and she pays the ultimate price for it by having no children.
However, there is another aspect to this; the Talmud says that the meaning is that Michal had no OTHER children after this event. It claims that she did indeed provide David with one child. And this conclusion comes from a statement in 2nd Samuel 3:5:
2 Samuel 3:5
And the sixth, Yitre’am (Ithream), whose mother was ‘Eglah David’s wife. These were born to David in Hevron.
The ancient Sages say that ‘Eglah was Michal, and there is at least some possibility that this is true. ‘Eglah is NOT a name; it is a term of endearment. ‘Eglah means “little heifer.” And while that may not be a title any modern Western woman would be fond of, it was quite a loving thing in the old times. I’ll leave that up to you to decide if ‘Eglah was merely a nickname for Michal. The evidence is too incomplete to come to any definite conclusion.
Let’s move on to chapter 7. You can set your Bibles down as we won’t read 2nd Samuel chapter 7 in this blog post, but I’d like to say a couple of things about it as preparation and in hopes that you will read it thoroughly before our next gathering. 2nd Samuel chapter 7 is one of those where entire books have been written about it. No doubt it is the theological pinnacle of the whole Samuel Scroll.
So the academics that follow the literary criticism discipline of Bible exposition (which just might be the majority of modern Bible scholars) have significant misgivings about it. There are many reasons in their repertoire of good sense to claim is that this chapter is very nearly (if not an outright) fraud.
Some say that that this was a very late insertion (well after the Babylonian exile) done by a Deuteronomist. A Deuteronomist is a theoretical writer from ancient times, who found various reasons to prove a point on a variety of theological positions, so he (or they) rewrote some of the old Scriptures to their suiting, or merely added or deleted entire sections.
Now to a Bible scholar of the literary criticism school of discipline, a Deuteronomist is not a theory it is a reality. Of course, the only proof of such a thing ever existed is among themselves.
How do the literary critics decide when such treatment of Holy Scripture has occurred? They decide through their intellect. A critical literary scholar does not accept mystery or miracle. They approach Bible texts no differently than any other ancient literature. They determine that there are things that an ancient Biblical author could not have known, so someone else must have written it at a later date after the fact.
Or perhaps to their way of thinking there are too many coincidences about things that work too neatly together, so someone must have doctored it up to make it appear that way (or as they would say, to harmonize the Scriptures).
Or they decide that a specific ancient writer wouldn’t use a particular word or a specific style of writing, and thus they conclude that somebody else fiddled with the text. Proof? None; only their own opinion. But since they usually have the Ph.D. title and are much admired in their field, what they say is taken as an indisputable fact.
Tom Bradford, the author of this excellent text, read a great deal of material formulated by Bible scholars who are of the literary critical ilk, he uses some and discards a great deal more. Often they have great insight on the meaning of certain obscure Hebrew words and phrases or open a line of thought that no one else would dare to (and it can be quite fruitful).
But if you could offer one general characterization of the literary critical method of Bible scholarship it would be that it is soul-less. As a general principle, literary critics do not see any spiritual element in the Bible texts. They do not believe in the divine hand.
Therefore if what a Prophet like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel prophesies comes true decades or centuries after it was supposedly uttered, it was all a trick. If what seems to be a prophetic oracle in a Psalm eventually comes to pass, it was a fraud. Because what happened was that after something important occurred (such as Babylon destroying Jerusalem), a later writer with an agenda (a Deuteronomist) would go back and put words into a Prophets mouth. (A Prophet who lived long before the actual fulfillment) by altering the text to make it appear that there was a valid prophecy and then a real achievement.
In other words, there is no such thing as spirit. There is no such thing as a miracle. There is no such thing as divine prophecy except as a category of literature. Of course, there are a handful of exceptions to the rule, but my description of literary critical Bible scholars is apt.
As we delve into 2nd Samuel 7, you will quickly understand why literary criticism Bible scholars say that this chapter was inserted in its entirety after the Babylonian exile; or it existed earlier but has been so extensively altered at a later date as to bear no truth.
Or that it has been changed to a small degree but at significant points to make it appear to be something that it is not. And their line of thinking goes in this direction because if it IS real and true, then it is utterly breathtaking in its impact; it proves the sovereignty of God, the infallibility of Bible prophecy, and the reality of God’s plan of redemption through David’s royal line.