Updated: Feb 7
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
This is an optional Old Testament selection from Episcopal Lectionary for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 10. It will next be read aloud in a church by a reader on Sunday July 15, 2018. This is important it shows the ark’s presence in Israel is symbolic of God’s presence in one’s heart, thus worthy of celebration by songs, dance, and sharing the blessings that come from offerings to the LORD.
In this reading it is important to realize that David has been King of Israel for over seven years. He has taken the stronghold of Jebus from the Jebusites and renamed it Jerusalem, with his area called the City of David. He has then made arrangements for this stronghold to be the home of the ark. One can presume some time took place preparing a location for the ark to rest, as well as preparations for moving the ark (a new cart, minimally), so at least six months has passed since Jebus fell.
The ark was under the control of Levites in the “house of Abinadab,” as well as in Gibeon. While the ark was in Kiriath Jearim, the ancient tabernacle was kept in Gibeon. The Levites would have overseen the consecration of all priests who would attend to the ark. Uzzah and Ahio are called “sons of Abinadab, but “sons” (“bə·nê”) were “descendants” of that “house” (“mib·bêṯ” as “family”).
The ark had been moved there after the prophet Eli’s death, as Samuel became the judge of Israel and shortly before the elders of Israel asked Samuel for a king.
After seven months, the Philistines had been punished enough for having the ark and they left it on a rock in Beth-Shemesh so it was up to the Israelites to deal with. It caused 50,070 to die there, so they asked for it to be removed. It was then taken to Kiriath jearim.
The ark stayed in Kiriath Jearim for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2), when Saul ordered the ark moved, without permission (1 Samuel 14:18). One can then presume the ark was returned, after God stopped answering Saul, in an attempt to make amends. By the time David went to move it to the City of David, the ark had been back in Kiriath Jearim around thirty additional years (fifty in all).
When the translation says, “gathered all the chosen men of Israel,” the operative Hebrew word is “bā·ḥūr,” which leans one to “young men,” even “vigorous young men.” Thirty thousand is a symbolic number that states the importance David saw in this move. The youth factor was so all those accompanying the ark would be energetic and enjoying the festivities surrounding God being moved.
The name Uzzah means “Strength,” while the name Ahio means “Brotherly,” or “Brother/Friend of the LORD.” The place named as the “house of Obed-edom,” can also be read as a family residence named for a “Servant of the Red One,” or “Servant of Edom,” where Edom was a kingdom south of Judah. This can equally be read as “Servant of Strength,” where it held the strategic advantage of height on a hill. It is believed the path of the ark was forced to shift to an easier path downhill.
The omitted verses address the near fall of the ark from the cart. Uzzah attempted to stop its slide and was killed. The symbolism there could be no human strength can force its will upon the power of the LORD. Because of the death of Uzzah, David turned the cart around and returned to the “house of Obed-edom and left it there for three months. During that time, the family at Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the ark, so David returned to continue the move of the ark to his city.
[Back to the reading]
When we read, “he sacrificed an ox and a fatling,” this was a priestly act performed by David. After the ark was returned to Israel by the Philistines, Samuel had become elevated to the judge of Israel and he made burnt offerings to the LORD also. This says David was more than the King of Israel, as he was also the one who could perform holy ritual. By doing this after the ark carriers had walked six steps into his city; he sacrificed an ox and fatling as the head of the family that was the house of David. This is then repeated when we read, “They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord.” Finally, David “blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts,” which was a priestly act.
David danced and rejoiced mightily as a sign of his complete devotion to God. His displays, as well as those of the Israelites, were to show their happiness to have the LORD welcomed with fervor into their midst. That celebration was followed by more ceremonial burnt offering, which had to have been enough for thousands of Israelites. We know this because we read how David, “distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.” This act of blessing and feeding a multitude would much later be seen by Jesus.
To myself, the element of this reading that sticks out and stays in my mind is when I read, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” When David and Michal were younger, when David was living as an adopted member of Saul’s royal family, “Michal loved David,” and Saul “was pleased” to hear that news. Saul planned to use that love to get David killed by Philistines. Because David was poor, Saul set the dowry as “a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” David brought back two hundred and was given Michal as his wife. However, soon after, Saul forced David into exile, trying to kill him.
David and Michal were then separated for many years. After Saul was dead and his son Ish-Bosheth was King of Israel, David sent a demand to send his wife Michal to him in Hebron (he was then King of Judah). Ish-Bosheth forced Michal from her husband to go to David, while David had taken on other wives while in exile and they bore him children. Still, this story tells how Michal “despised [David] in her heart” because he acted in an unroyal manner before the ark. Her “contempt” shows how she had been coddled as a princess and seeing David playing the fool before God disgusted her.
As a reading option for the eighth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry to the LORD should be underway, the lesson is to fear the LORD and only Him. That was the commandment stated in Deuteronomy 6:13 and it was restated in 1 Samuel 7:3, after the ark was returned by the Philistines. The fear of the ark was the fear of God, and the lesson of this reading is delight in that power.
The ark had remained in one house on a hill for the most part of half a century. It was not in the tabernacle Moses had the Israelites construct, which could be taken down and moved in their travels. David prepared a tent for the ark in the City of David. The entire time Saul ruled over Israel, the LORD did not have a proper place to rest; and, in return, Israel did not benefit from the power of the LORD. This story is about how David returned that power to a proper home.
The symbolism is the struggle that one of faith has in mistaking a fear of the LORD as the fear one has to find a proper home for God. A minister to the LORD has prepared a place for God to reign, which is the tabernacle-tent covering one’s heart. Many people have difficulty making the sacrifice that makes one appear publicly foolish, as that has the effect of bringing contempt and disdain from those who see the rewards of the world come freer and more frequently when they act in ways that attract wealth. This means Michal, whose name means “What’s God Like?” questioned how God could bless anyone as wildly foolish as David. A minister to the LORD is no longer worried about how the self is seen by other human beings, as the only eyes that matter are God’s.
It can take many years of one’s life to dare to move the ark of God from some external resting place (like a church building, a religious denomination, or a surrogate minister) into one’s heart.
There may be setbacks, like the death of Uzzah and the testing of the presence of God in another (like David leaving the ark at Obed-edom), but one needs to see how God being kept external does not save one’s soul in the end.
The marriage of David to Micah, when David was too poor to pay a dowry, symbolizes one’s marriage to the world and the inheritance of worldly goods. When Micah saw David had chosen God, she saw him as returning to earthly poverty, even though he was the king of all Israel. Her love of a young, self-assured David, who had so much potential for capturing the booty and spoils of war, dissipated to nothing, once she saw his Spiritual choice. So too does the world reject a high priest, a holy judge, and a servant to God. Just as did Michal turn on David, a minister can expect to find the same rejection of past friends and business partners. Simply by changing from self-promoting, soul-selling, run-of-the-mill typical people, those people who one was just like feel disdain being around someone so changed. When one has fallen in love with God and married into His house, then there can be no turning back – because one sees the true love of God and the false love of those too weak to sacrifice immediate gratification for eternal peace.
The lesson in this optional Old Testament reading is ministry requires one become a Brother of Jesus Christ, just as Ahio led the ark in its return. To be a Brother is to become a reproduction (a rebirth) of the Son of God. A Brother comes in both male and female human bodies. As Christians, who profess to have the Strength of the LORD at their beck and call (the spirit of Uzzah), that consecration as a high priest of the ark leads one to think you can control God. One’s lineage and pedigree makes one thing one can reach out and touch the LORD whenever one pleases. While omitted from today’s reading, we find that Uzzah’s attempt to keep the ark from coming off the cart was not seen by God in his favor. Instead, we read, “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:7)
That lesson says to be careful that one does not think God obeys one’s commands. That is irreverent and causes God to burn such selfish souls from anger. One has to fear the power of the LORD and bow down before that magnificence. Bowing down might be seen as foolish and weak; but foolish and weak is much better than fried to a crisp, having God raised God’s ire.