FOLLOWING THE LORD’S DIRECTIVES, DAVID USED THE LEVITES TO SUCCESSFULLY TRANSFER THE ARK TO JERUSALEM IN CELEBRATORY FASHION
August Konkel: In Samuel, bringing the ark up to Jerusalem is the immediate sequel to the failed attempt to restore the ark (2 Sam 6:12b-19). The motivation for David to return to the ark is the blessing that comes to the house of Obed-Edom because of the presence of the ark there (2 Sam 6:12a). The Chronicler omits this half verse; blessing to David is shown in the description of the rise of his kingdom. The three-month interval when the ark was with Obed-Edom provides time to make the proper preparations for the ark as well as for the ordering and purifying of those who would carry it. First Chronicles 15:25–16:3 draws on this record of Samuel to feature the inauguration of worship in Jerusalem, including the function of the Levites in relation to the ark.
Eugene Merrill: At last David prepared once more to relocate and house the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. Though he planned to place the ark in a substantial temple (17:1-4), for the present he set up a tent (15:1), perhaps similar to the Mosaic tabernacle. Then, careful to observe proper protocol (vv. 2, 13, 15), he gathered the priests and Levites and commanded them to transport the ark from the house of Obed-Edom (cf. 13:14) to its new shrine in Jerusalem. . .
One cannot … understand the theology of Chronicles without understanding the centrality of worship and its formal apparatus to the life of the theocratic people.
J.A. Thompson: The most arresting feature of this narrative is not obvious to the modern reader. The Chronicler was devoting great time and attention to describing incidents surrounding the ark and the need to treat it as a holy object even though by the time of the Chronicler it had already ceased to exist. In other words, the original readers of this book had no more opportunity to worship God before the ark than we do. Why would the Chronicler stress the joy and holiness associated with it if his readers would never have opportunity to emulate David’s obedience?
The answer must be that for the Chronicler it was not the object itself but what the object represented that mattered. The ark represented two great truths.
– First, God was with them and would go with them wherever they went. The ark traveled with the exodus generation, was with Joshua’s generation as they entered Canaan, and had been in various locations now in their land.
– Second, the ark represented the holiness of God. It contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments—the essence of the law—and they had seen for themselves that God’s ark was not to be trifled with (13:10).
These two truths, that God is with us and that God is holy, are what really mattered to the Chronicler. We need to keep this in mind lest we think of the Chronicler simply as one full of nostalgia for the good old days. Finally, the chapter teaches God’s compassionate forgiveness in allowing Israel a second chance. Israel’s initial failure was not final and God’s judgment was not just positive but instructive.
I. (:1-3) PREPARATIONS FOR TRANSFERRING THE ARK TO JERUSALEM
A. (:1) Overview of David’s Main Priorities
1. Building Royal Compound
“Now David built houses for himself in the city of David;”
2. Preparing a Place for the Ark
“and he prepared a place for the ark of God,”
3. Pitching a Tent for the Ark
“and pitched a tent for it.”
B. (:2) Ordinance Regarding the Role of the Levites in Carrying the Ark
“Then David said, ‘No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites;
for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God,
and to minister to Him forever.’”
Frederick Mabie: While David’s previous attempt to move the ark was well-intentioned, it ultimately fell short of God’s will and did not appropriately respect God’s holiness. On this occasion, however, David is careful to make appropriate preparations (v.1; cf. v.12) and consult the covenantal teachings revealed through Moses (cf. v.15) that specified that Levites had the special responsibility of carrying the ark (cf. Nu 4:15–33; Dt 10:8–9).
C. (:3) Organization of Israel to Transfer the Ark to Jerusalem
“And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem,
to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it.”
Frederick Mabie: While David appropriately involves the Levites in their covenantal role in moving the ark of the covenant (v.2), the Chronicler is also careful to stress that this spiritually significant step is an activity that involved the whole community (“all Israel”).
II. (:4-15) PURIFICATION OF THE LEVITES WITH THE GOAL OF TRANSFERRING THE ARK
Frederick Mabie: In addition to the involvement of “all Israel” (v.3), David summons key individuals representing the priests and Levites. A similar group will be convened by Solomon to bring the ark to the newly constructed temple (2Ch 5:4–6). The Chronicler’s emphasis is that the individuals who had particular responsibility in the holy things of God (priests and Levites) needed to be consecrated (vv.12–13), reflecting the Chronicler’s broader work that deeper internal issues such as faithfulness, obedience, and personal purity must coincide with external acts of worship (cf. 2Ch 29:11; 35:5–6; Eph 4:1).
A. (:4-10) Summons of the Different Levitical Groups
“And David gathered together the sons of Aaron, and the Levites: 5 of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, and 120 of his relatives; 6 of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, and 220 of his relatives; 7 of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, and 130 of his relatives; 8 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, and 200 of his relatives; 9 of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, and 80 of his relatives; 10 of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, and 112 of his relatives.”
J.A. Thompson: The three Levitical groups—Kohath, Merari, and Gershon, and the numbers of their families—are mentioned along with descendants of three other families—Elizaphan, Hebron, and Uzziel, who must have attained sufficient numbers or prestige to gain independent status. They all derive from Kohath (Exod 6:18, 22). This sixfold division of Levites is otherwise unknown and may represent an updated statement nearer to the time of the Chronicler.
B. (:11-15) Instructions Regarding Consecration and Purification
1. (:11-12) Charge to Carry Out Their Responsibility to Transfer the Ark
“Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, 12 and said to them, ‘You are the heads of the fathers’ households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.’”
Andrew Hill: The word “consecrate” (15:12, 14) means to set things or persons apart from impurity and profane use and dedicate them to the service of God in holiness. Chronicles records the similar consecration of the Levitical priesthood during the reigns of Solomon (2 Chron. 5:11), Hezekiah (29:5), and Josiah (35:6). In each case, Selman has noted, God subsequently blesses the nation. The act of consecration included ritual washing and abstinence from sexual relations (Ex. 19:14–15). Elsewhere we learn that priests and Levites are to avoid contact with corpses (Lev. 21:1–4) and are subject to more stringent requirements concerning marriage (21:13–15).
2. (:13) History Lesson Regarding Past Failure and Judgment
“Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.”
Mark Boda: David is clear about the fact that it was inappropriate cultic procedures that led to the judgment upon Uzzah. David is first and foremost a figure who learned his lesson on cultic matters and rectified the situation with precision.
3. (:14-15) Faithful Obedience to David’s Instructions
a. (:14) Consecration
“So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel.”
b. (:15) Carrying of the Ark in Accordance with God’s Instructions
“And the sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders, with the poles thereon as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.”
III. (:16-24) PERFORMANCE ROLES FOR MUSICAL CELEBRATION
“Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah, 18 and with them their relatives of the second rank, Zechariah, Ben, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, the gatekeepers. 19 So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan were appointed to sound aloud cymbals of bronze; 20 and Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with harps tuned to alamoth; 21 and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah, to lead with lyres tuned to the sheminith. 22 And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful. 23 And Berechiah and Elkanah were gatekeepers for the ark. 24 And Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, blew the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah also were gatekeepers for the ark.”
Frederick Mabie: In addition to their role as carriers of the ark of God (vv.2, 15), the Levites have responsibilities in areas of song and music to facilitate the worshipful atmosphere surrounding the movement of the ark of the covenant (“sing joyful songs accompanied by musical instruments”.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown: These eminent Levites were instructed to train the musicians and singers who were under them for the solemn procession. The performers were ranged in three choirs or bands, and the names of the principal leaders are given, 1 Chron 15:17-18, 21, with the instruments respectively used by each [psalteries, and harps, and cymbals. Josephus says that these instruments were made of electrum, a precious alloy of gold, of a pale yellow color].
Andrew Hill: The concluding section of the report summarizing David’s extensive preparations for the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem (15:16–24) showcases the priests and Levites as musicians, another theme in Chronicles. The purpose in David’s appointments is simple: The Levitical corps is to provide appropriate music for the processional (15:16). The occasion of installing the ark in Jerusalem is to be celebratory and festive—the ark and God are to be “serenaded” into the city with joyous music. The king instructs the leaders of the Levites to divide their group into singers and musicians (15:16). The musicians are sorted into divisions on the basis of the instrument played (lyre, harp, or cymbal). The citation of Kenaniah as a musical director of sorts references his “skill” (or perhaps “musical knowledge”), suggesting the appointments of the Levites as singers and musicians may have been based on some type of audition (15:22). . .
It was customary in the ancient world for doorkeepers to attend the various entrances of the palace complex, both to serve as guards and to welcome and announce those passing through the doors as part of the royal protocol. This may have been another way for David to show proper reverence to God as king as the ark enters the city of Jerusalem and is installed in the tent-sanctuary. On a more practical note, since the Levitical porters are carrying the ark on poles hoisted on their shoulders, the gatekeepers can see to it that another tragedy was averted by carefully directing the Levites as they crossed the thresholds of gates and doorways.
IV. (15:25 – 16:3) PLACEMENT OF THE ARK IN JERUSALEM
A. (15:25-28) Transfer of the Ark Accompanied by Joyful Sacrifices
1. (:25) Joyful Participation of Israel’s Key Leaders
“So it was David, with the elders of Israel and the captains over thousands, who went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-edom with joy.”
2. (:26) Offering of Sacrifices
“And it came about because God was helping the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.”
3. (:27) Identification of David with the Levites Carrying the Ark and Singing
“Now David was clothed with a robe of fine linen with all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the singing with the singers. David also wore an ephod of linen.”
J.A. Thompson: The question about who offered the sacrifices may be asked. This was normally a priestly act. The fact that David was clothed in “a robe of fine linen” (v. 27), which is also described as a “linen ephod,” as did the Levites who carried the ark, has raised the question of whether David had assumed priestly garments. The wearing of the ephod was restricted to the high priest in the Chronicler’s day (Exod 28:4ff.; Lev 8:7). In the parallel text in 2 Sam 6:14, 20 the reference may be to a loin cloth, which would explain Michal’s rebuke. The occasion was special, and the full temple rituals were yet in the future when the rituals and offices could be regulated.
Probably we should see some priestly function for David here, but not as a pretext for Israelite kings to assume Levitical prerogatives. This was, in the history of Israel, an exceptional but significant event. David functioned as the type for the Messiah as a king who is also a priest.
Thomas Constable: How could David, clothed in a priestly garment (15:27), offer sacrifices to God since he was not an Aaronic priest? Evidently he did so as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, fulfilling the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant, rather than as an Aaronic priest serving under the Mosaic Covenant. David realized he was the king promised to the patriarchs (Gen. 17:6; 49:10; et al.) for whom Israel had been looking (cf. 1 Sam. 2:10).
4. (:28) Summary of Musical Celebration
“Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the horn, with trumpets, with loud-sounding cymbals, with harps and lyres.”
B. (15:29) Treachery of Michal
“And it happened when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and making merry; and she despised him in her heart.”
C. (16:1-3) Transfer of the Ark Completed
Hugh Williamson: 16:1-3 follows 2 Sam. 6:17-19 without significant change; the successful conclusion of the undertaking, the unity of the people and David’s provision for them all coinciding with the Chronicler’s own understanding.
John Schultz: Quoting The Pulpit Commentary which suggests that these verses actually belong to the close of the last chapter, and they carry on the parallel of 2 Samuel 6. in its verses 17-19.
1. (:1a) Positioning Inside the Tent
“And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent
which David had pitched for it,”
2. (:1b) Offering of Sacrifices
“and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God.”
3. (:2) Blessing the People
“When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD.”
4. (:3) Feasting Celebration
“And he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman,
to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.”
Pulpit Commentary: Each little clause of this verse is replete with interest. The royal giver, who now dealt to every one of Israel, was, after all, but a channel; yes, and only one channel, through which the fullness and the bounty of the royal Giver of every good and perfect gift, of all good whatsoever, of all things necessary to life and godliness, are supplied to every one of his creature-subjects. But it is highest honor, as servant and instrument alone, to figure forth him in any way.
The second little clause tells us either that women took a recognized place on occasion of this joyous festival, or that the hospitality of such an occasion did not forget them and their homes.
And the following three little clauses require closer examination. The word here translated ‘loaf’ in the expression loaf of bread is kikar, for which in this sense we may turn to … Exodus 29:23; … Judges 8:5; … 1 Samuel 2:36; 10:3; … Proverbs 6:26; … Jeremiah 37:21. The corresponding word, however, in the parallel place is challah (for which see Exodus 29:2, 23; … Leviticus 2:4; 7:12, 13; 8:26; 24:5; … Numbers 6:15, 19; 15:20). The essential meaning of the former word is a circle, hence applied to the cake because of its shape, and of the latter word perforation, hence applied to the cake because it was perforated. A good piece of flesh. This is the Authorized Version rendering of eshpar, which occurs only in the parallel place and here. … And a flagon. This is the Authorized Version rendering of the original ‘ashiyshah, found in the parallel place as well as here, and also in the only other places (two in number, and in the plural) where it occurs… Song of Solomon 2:5; Hoses 3:1). But there is no doubt, or but little, that the rendering should rather be ‘dried, pressed cakes of raisins or grapes.’ … The substantive has both masculine and feminine form in plural. The Vulgate translates similam frixam oleo, which means a ‘baked cake of flour and oil;’ and the Septuagint, laganon apo tegavou in the parallel places. But here the Septuagint reads apton ena aptokopikon kai amoriten as the whole account of the loaf, the good piece of flesh, and the flagon.
August Konkel: As the ark approached the citadel, Michal the daughter of Saul disdained the whole event (1 Chron 15:29). In Samuel, her response is that of an offended aristocrat who feels that she has been compromised. Samuel has no mention of the garments worn by David; Michal charges him with being exposed in his leaping and dancing (2 Sam 6:20). Michal has a tragic history. She was caught in the conflict between Saul and David. Her marriage to David was encouraged by her father in a sinister scheme to end David’s life (1 Sam 18:20–27). She rescued David when her father plotted to kill him (19:11–14), was forcibly separated from David by her father (25:44), and then was victimized in being separated from her second husband in order to be restored to David (2 Sam 3:14–16). The Chronicler makes no mention of any of these details. Michal is portrayed as a member of the house of Saul, which neglected the ark. This is the first and only comment the Chronicler makes about her. In Chronicles, David is the divinely appointed king, acting in a fully appropriate manner with proper dedication, so that he deserves to receive nothing but uncompromised affirmation.
Andrew Hill: By contrast, David earns the disapproval of his wife Michal (15:29), Saul’s daughter. She “despises” (bzh) him for his joyous abandon in celebrating the transfer of the ark of God—to her own detriment, for as a result of rebuking the king, she is barren (2 Sam. 6:23). According to Selman, Michal is out of sympathy with David’s and all Israel’s concern for the ark. In one sense she represents the last vestige of King Saul’s “unfaithfulness,” and her story provides yet further justification for God’s rejection of Saul’s dynasty.