Relocating the Ark – 2 Samuel 6
Read the Passage: 2 Samuel 6
Relocation Begun (6:1–8)
2 Sam. 4 records the death of Ishbosheth and David’s subsequent execution of Ishbosheth’s murderers. 2 Sam. 5:1–5 reports David’s inauguration as king over all of Israel. Note that David had earlier been inaugurated before his family (cf. 1 Sam. 16:13) and before Judah (cf. 2 Sam. 2:1–7). 2 Sam. 5:6–16 details David’s conquest of Jerusalem and 2 Sam. 5:17–25 records David’s defeat of the Philistines. 2 Sam. 6:1–2 reports that David purposed to bring the ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The ark of the Covenant is mentioned 32 times in 1 Sam. 1–7, but interestingly is only mentioned one time by Saul (cf. 1 Sam. 14:18; 1 Chron. 13:3). Since being returned by the Philistines, the ark had been at Kirjath Jearim for roughly twenty years (cf. 1 Sam. 7:1–2). Kirjath Jearim, which was also called Baale Judah or Baalah, was ten miles west of Jerusalem.
The text reports, “They set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Adinadab” (2 Sam. 6:3). This act, however, reveals the fact that David, his men, and all of the gathered people (cf. 1 Chron. 13:2–4), had more zeal than knowledge, for the Mosaic law prescribed specific means for the transportation of the ark—namely, it was to be carried by hand by the Levites, specifically by the sons of Kohath, utilizing prescribed poles (cf. Exod. 25:12–15; Num. 3:30–31; 4:15; 7:9). Indeed, while the text does not indicate why David chose to put the ark on a new cart, it may have been because this was how the Philistines had transported the ark some twenty years earlier (cf. 1 Sam. 6:7–8). While David and those with him were certainly sincere, as is evidenced by their procession (cf. 2 Sam. 6:4–5), they were sincerely wrong in their handling of the ark.
As the ark of the Covenant was being moved from Kirjath Jearim to Jerusalem it is recorded that the oxen stumbled and “Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it . . . . [Then] the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his irreverence, and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:6–7). While many have viewed the death of Uzzah, who is only mentioned in this narrative in Scripture, to be overly harsh, it must be noted that in addition to his action being a violation of the ceremonial law (cf. Num. 4:15), more importantly it displayed his misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of God’s holiness. The text notes this event provoked anger in David, probably rooted in frustration over his own carelessness. David then named the location where this occurred Perez Uzzah, which literally means “outburst against Uzzah.”
Relocation Delayed (6:9–15)
The anger and frustration that David felt upon the death of Uzzah was accompanied by fear or reverence of the Lord. Ironically, the same event that caused the death of Uzzah prompted David to repent. Note that Jesus later exhorted and taught his hearers that an appropriate reaction to tragedies is introspection and repentance (cf. Luke 13:1–5). Like Job (cf. Job 40:1–5; 42:5–6) and Peter (cf. Luke 5:8), when David gained a new and proper perspective of God, it caused him to re-evaluate himself. Indeed, the relocation of the ark was temporarily delayed, as at 2 Sam. 6:9 David asked the rhetorical question, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” The ark of the Covenant, then, was placed in the house of Obed-Edom, a Levite (cf. 1 Chron. 15:17–25). Consequently, the Lord blessed Obed-Edom, for this is the result of God’s presence among his followers.
Relocation Completed (6:16–23)
The blessing of God upon the household of Obed-Edom was confirmation to David that, with a proper understanding of His nature, it is possible to dwell in the presence of God. Therefore, David set out again to bring the ark to Jerusalem. This time, however, David did not allow his zeal to trump his knowledge, as he made sure that the ark was carried properly by the Levites (cf. 1 Chron. 15) and did so with appropriate sacrifices (cf. 2 Sam. 6:13). Additionally, David confessed his sin of not consulting Scripture regarding the proper way to transport the ark (cf. 1 Chron. 15:13). The ark was brought in to Jerusalem, then, with great fanfare and dancing. 2 Sam. 6:20–23 notes David’s wife Michal was offended by his actions—specifically what she viewed to be his undignified public worship. Providentially, this resulted in Michal being childless until the day of her death.
- What is the significance of the ark of the Covenant? What did the ark of the Covenant represent? Why did it need to be treated with respect?
- Why did king Saul neglect the ark of the Covenant? Why did David desire for the ark to be brought to Jerusalem?
- Do you think those in the modern church are more focused upon knowledge or zeal? What dangers arise when knowledge and zeal are unbalanced in the church?
- What parallels are there between the account of Uzzah and the narrative of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu (cf. Lev. 10:1–2)?
- What was it about David’s public worship that offended his wife Michal? Have you ever been offended by the public worship of another?