The first invasion of the Philistines was followed by a second. For David had put them to flight but had not pursued and smitten them. Rallying their scattered forces they came up again and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim. David again sought the Lord’s counsel and received as answer, “Thou shalt not go up.” These words suppose the question, “Shall I go up?” The Lord now demanded the employment of a different stratagem. For the Philistines would be guarding against another surprise attack from the same direction. So the Lord instructed David to “fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And let it be when thou hearest the sound of going—the sound produced by marching troops by which the Lord would terrify the enemy— that thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee to smite the host of the Philistines.” David did as the Lord commanded and smote the Philistines from Geba to Gezer. The Chronicler observes in connection with these victories that the “fame of David went out unto all lands; and (that) the Lord brought the fear of him upon all the nations” ().
Having expelled the Jebusites from Mt. Zion, and having made this stronghold his royal residence, David now made preparations for removing thither the ark of God. “Again David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand” (). The chronicler states that “David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds and with every leader” ( ). “All the chosen men” were not the “captains of thousands and hundreds”. The former were the military men (as in ; ; ); the latter were the leaders of the people. That David had need of the protection of his army on this occasion shows that the events of this period followed one another in the order given them by the Chronicler ( . According to this order the war with the Philistines had yet to be fought. If so, the Philistines at this time were still a menace. But would David undertake the removal of the ark in the presence of such a danger? The unlikeliness of this is the one objection against the view that the Chronicler was narrating the events in question in their chronological order. But though the adversary had already been vanquished and expelled from the borders of Israel, David would still desire the presence of his men of war to head the procession. It was through them that the Lord had wrought.
With the princes of the people—the captains of thousands and hundreds—David consulted. He said “unto all the congregation of Israel”, that is, to the princes of the people, “if it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren everywhere, that are left in the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they gather themselves unto us; and let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.” What David proposed pleased all the congregation. It was right in their eyes. And they said they would do so. So David gathered all Israel together, from Sihor of Egypt to the entering in of Hemath for the purpose of bringing the ark from Kirjath-jearim (). These notices indicate that it was a great multitude of people with which David went “from Baale of Judah to bring up the ark of God. . . .” From we learn that Baale was Kirjath-jearim. At the place is called Kirjath Baal and at chapter 18:14 of the same book simply Baalah. This name was Canaanitish and its association with Kirjath doubtless reveals that the place was originally a center of pagan worship. This Canaanitish name had continued along with the Israelitish. As to the location of Kirjath, it was situated perhaps about eight miles west of Jerusalem on the border between Benjamin and Judah. The reason that the people were instructed to assemble in this place perhaps lay in the difficulty of the way of approach to Mt. Zion. The reason was not that the Jebusites had not yet been expelled from that stronghold.
In giving the reason for his contemplated undertaking David says to the people that “we inquired not at it in the days of Saul” (). Had he gone more into detail he would have said that it was about 70 years ago that the people had last sought the Lord at the ark, His throne. During all this time there was not a place, a tabernacle of the Lord, where the people could enquire at the ark. The Lord used to dwell in the tabernacle of Shiloh. There in the holiest place atonement was made for sins, and on the ground thereof the congregation blessed. There the Lord had satisfied the poor with bread and there the saints had shouted with joy.
But a cloud had settled upon the tabernacle of Shiloh, and its glory had departed. For Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and was serving Baalim. “They forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and followed after other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. . . . and they were greatly distressed.” So we read in the book of the Judges. The narrator continues, “Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken” (Judges, chapter 2).
Besides the incursions of the enemy the nation was torn by internal strife. Chaos reigned. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes, there being no king in Israel. The climax was reached when in a war with the Philistines the ark was removed from its resting place in the tabernacle of Shiloh and born to the scene of battle, where it was captured by the Philistines who placed it in the house of Dagon.
But the psalmist wants us to understand that this was God’s doing. To quote his own words, “They had provoked him to anger with their high places and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When he heard this he was wroth and greatly abhorred Israel; so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloli, the tent which he had placed among men; and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand; and he gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage. Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation” ().
The glory had departed from Israel indeed; it had departed permanently from the tabernacle of Shiloh. In all likelihood the city itself had been destroyed by the Philistines on the day of their capture of the ark of God.
“Then,” to quote once more the psalmist, “The Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man shouted by reason of wine. And he smote his enemies in their hinder parts: and he put them to perpetual reproach.” This has reference to the calamities that befell the Philistines in punishment of their vain imagining that with the help of Dagon they had triumphed over Israel’s mighty God whose ark they were holding as a trophy of war. With His hand upon the neck of His enemies the Lord returned to Canaan. However, He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, the sanctuary of Shiloh,” and chose not the tribe of Ephraim; but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.” (). Here then it is expressly stated that the Lord had permanently done with the tabernacle of Shiloh. Returning from captivity he set His face toward Zion. Jerusalem at the time was occupied by the heathen. But instead of giving orders that the ark of the covenant be restored to. the holiest place of the tabernacle of Shiloh that after the likely destruction of the city of Shiloh had been reared at Nob, He terrified by His judgments the men of Israel to place it in the house of Abinadab in Kirjath. Here it remained for some seventy years, twenty years up to the victory of Ebenezer ( sq.), forty years under Samuel and Saul, and about ten years under David. This doing of the Lord with the ark of the covenant was significant. It indicated a breach between Him and His people. The grief of God’s believing people was great. They could not seek the Lord at His throne. There was no way of approach. For the altars of God and the blood of the atonement were not there in the house of Abinadab. Communion with him there at the ark through the priesthood was therefore only a memory to be cherished; it was not a reality to be enjoyed. The Lord, so to say, was holding His people at arm’s length. The nation deserved this stroke. It had rejected the Lord. It had asked for a king to rule it in the room of the Lord. The Lord had given them Saul. But he was a self-willed and rebellious king. He died a suicide in battle and a new Philistine oppression began. Though Israel merited destruction, the Lord sware truth unto David. Once established in the throne, he undertook to bring back the ark of God to him and his people. Had he consulted with God? Was he acting under divine direction? The answer is that He perceived that it was the Lord’s will as he had perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel. For “the Lord had chosen David His servant, and taken him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance” ( ).
The text in this connection describes the ark. It states that the name of the Lord who dwells with the cherubim was upon it. Through the ark as His instrument He revealed His glory. The cover of the ark was His mercy seat, and this seat was His throne. Here He was present with His word and His ruling power in the midst of His people. “And thou shalt put the mercy-seat upon the ark—such had been His instruction to Moses—and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat. . . .” (). With the name of the Lord thus upon it the ark was a holy thing. The law contains a detailed instruction for its conveyance. It was always to be born by the Levites on their shoulders. (). David did not see to it that this was done. The ark was set on a cart and so brought out of the house of Abinadab. The cart, it was true, was new; it had not been desecrated by common use. Yet, they were acting contrary to the legal requirement just cited. They may have been following a pagan custom. The Philistines and the Phoenicians carried about their gods on carts. The text at I Sam. 7 sq. reveals that Abinadab’s son Eleazar was entrusted with the care of the ark. Here we find Uzzah and Ahio mentioned as Abinadab’s sons and as “driving the new cart”, that is, the oxen by which it was drawn. According to verse 4 Ahio went before the ark and Uzzah alongside of it. “And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of fur wood,” says the text, and continues, “even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. The text in ( ) omits the expression “on all manner of fur wood”. If states that David and all Israel played before the Lord with all their might and then names the various instruments of music. Thus did the procession as headed by David move forward with song and dance and music.
Then they came to the threshing-floor of Chidon, or as some, who maintain that Chidon is not to be taken as a proper name, translate, “And when they came to a fixed threshing-floor,” and still others, “threshing-floor of the blow”. Here the oxen shook the ark perhaps by their stumbling or because of the condition of the way. It seemed to Uzzah that the ark was in danger of falling. For he stretched out his hand and took hold of it, and was instantly killed as if he had touched a live wire. God was angry with Uzzah and smote him on account of his error or rashness, which consisted in touching the ark, that none could even look at. (; ). The Levites; appointed to the task of bearing the ark, must not go in to see when the holy things were covered, lest they die. They must not touch any holy thing lest they die. ( ). These things are plainly stated. It is hard to see why they were not done.
The reaction of David to the Lord’s doing is perplexing. “And David was angry—thus reads the text in the original—because the Lord had broken upon Uzzah. . . .” But the statement is not the effect that David was angry with the Lord; yet with whom was he angry, if not with the Lord? He perpetuated the memory of the Lord’s doing by naming the place, “The break of the Lord”. Further “David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” David was perplexed, genuinely and greatly perplexed. If so, he must have been ignorant of the precepts of the law for the transportation of the ark. But the priests must have known. David dared not remove “the ark of the Lord unto the city of David.” He had it borne into the house of Obededom the Gittite. The question of who he was cannot be decided with certainty. Here the ark of the Lord remained for three months. The Lord blessed Obededom and his household. It was told David, and he brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom with gladness. “And when the bearers of the ark had gone six paces or steps, he caused to be sacrificed an ox and a fat calf, that is, he consecrated the procession with a sacrifice. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. There was again shouting and the sound of the trumpet. With the ark placed in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it on Mt. Zion, he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. It was a great day in Israel. Of this David and God’s believing people were fully aware. The refusal of the Lord to be joined to David in Jerusalem would have spelled everlasting doom for the nation. But the Lord could not refuse. For He had chosen Zion. He had sworn to bless abundantly her provision, to satisfy her poor with bread, to clothe her priests with salvation, to make the horn of David to bud, to ordain a lamp for His anointed, to clothe His enemies with shame, but to cause upon his anointed His crown to flourish. ().