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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 6:1 David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand-
"Thousand" may refer to families or squadrons. They were "chosen" or 'shown as tested / approved'. It was a reunion gathering of all those who had been faithful to David over the years. This was a huge number of people to gather together, given the problem of providing food and lodging for them. This was why battles were fought swiftly in those days, for the men were needed on their farms, and the supply of food was difficult to arrange over longer periods. So this huge effort reflects the importance David attached to bringing up the ark.

2Sa 6:2 David arose, and went with all the people who were with him, from Baale Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name, even the name of Yahweh of Armies who sits above the cherubim-
Baalah, or Kirjath-Baal, "the city of Baal" was the old Canaanite name of Kirjath-jearim (Josh. 15:9,60). David's bringing up / going up / ascending of the ark (2 Sam. 6:2) recalls how the ark did not go up into Canaan in Num. 14:44 (s.w.); for the land was not to be given to Israel. But when the time came, the ark was brought up into Canaan (Josh. 4:16,18 s.w.). And so now, the land was being given to them again. David felt as if he was as Joshua reconquering Canaan in fulfilment of the promises. This may explain why Paul in Acts 13:21 parallels the 40 years wandering of Israel with the 40 year reign of Saul; and he may speak of Saul reigning 40 years because of this, even if it was not literally true. It creates big chronological problems if we read that 40 year reign of Saul literally. Solomon imitated David's bringing up of the ark to Zion in 1 Kings 8:1,4. He lived out his father's faith and devotion, but only on an external level. He in due course was to turn away from Yahweh to idols, and descend into the nihilism of Ecclesiastes. 

I have discussed on 1 Sam. 4:3 how there was always a tendency to use the ark as a talisman; and God was against that. The religious eclipsed the spiritual as regards the ark, several times in Israel's history. And I suggest David was not immune to this. He brings the ark to Zion without any Divine command to do so and without consultation with Him [David earlier asks God for guidance about his decisions in 2 Sam. 5, but not in the context of the ark];  and there was the disaster with Uzzah the first time he attempted it. This is to be compared to Israel's defeat when they took the ark with them into battle against the Philistines in the time of Eli. David clearly also veered towards seeing the ark as a talisman. It was almost as if he wanted to underwrite his own enthronement in Jerusalem by having Yahweh enthroned there also over the ark. Likewise David's desire to permanently locate the ark in a physical temple in Jerusalem can be seen as a desire to legitimate the enthronement of his dynasty in that city. But on the other hand, David often 'gets it' about the lack of need for the ark's physical presence. His psalms speak of how he lived permanently beneath the shadow of the cherubic wings, as if he lived on the mercy seat, on the sprinkled blood. In 2 Sam. 15:24-29 he flees from Absalom, and refuses the suggestion he take the ark with him. But, so true to real spiritual life, he also had tendencies towards needing the physical and religious when it came to the ark. Just as we pine for the religious at times, whilst also rejoicing in God's presence in our hearts quite regardless of religious context. David wrote at least two Psalms about bringing the ark to Zion, Ps. 68 and Ps. 132. Ps. 68 clearly expects God to bring victory to Israel because of the ark's presence in Zion, and Ps. 132 seems to reason that once the ark is in Zion it will be there forever. This wasn't to be the case. But we see in David's reasoning that he still considered the ark as some kind of physical guarantee of God's presence, and the legitimization of his own enthronement in Jerusalem- and that of his dynasty after him, as he imagined. He was proven wrong- the ark disappeared, his dynasty was cut off, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. But God's spiritual presence in human hearts continued and became the stronger after these things. We marvel at how God works through human weakness to achieve His wider purposes.

2Sa 6:3 They set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in the hill: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart-
There were very specific laws about the transportation of the ark. It was to be carried on poles on the shoulders of not just Levites but specifically the sons of Kohath (Num. 4:15); and Abinadab's family were not the right people to carry it. David claims in Ps. 119 to have studied God's law all the day whilst on the run from Saul, reciting it to himself. Perhaps he forgot these details. But I suggest because he came to see that God wanted the spirit and not letter of the law to be followed, he came to totally place himself above Divine law. We face the same temptation. And it was this which led David into his sin with Bathsheba. Shaving off bits and pieces of God's laws and principles, on the basis that we are above His law, leads to the final catastrophe of David's sin with Bathsheba. Instead of following God's laws about the transportation of the ark, it seems David instead followed the pattern of the Philistines, who also transported the captured ark on a cart (s.w. 1 Sam. 6:10,11). And considered that having built a new cart, never used before, he was in his own way showing respect to it.

2Sa 6:4 They brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was in the hill, with the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark-
Uzzah walked at the side, whilst Ahio went before the oxen to guide them. The Divine cameraman is zoomed in close upon the scene.

2Sa 6:5 David and all the house of Israel played before Yahweh with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, castanets and cymbals-
The actual fact of making music and praise to God doesn't necessarily mean our acceptability before Him; the very experience of music and its effect can lead us to think that our participation means our acceptability before God. But all this praise was made whilst God was extremely angry with them for how they were treating the ark.

2Sa 6:6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon-
1 Chron. 13:9 has "the threshing floor of Chidon" and 2 Sam. 6:6 has "of Nacon". I suggest Nacon was the name of the owner, and Chidon was the location. A threshing floor has associations with Divine judgment, and this is what happened.

Uzzah reached for the ark of God and took hold of it-
We wonder if Paul has this in mind when he praises the Lord Jesus for not trying to grasp hold of equality with God (Phil. 2:6). In this case, Uzzah is being accused of playing God by what he did. And yet this appears to be a very harsh reading of motives into a quite simple and natural, well meaning reaction. But this is the point; we cannot judge or know human motivations or thoughts. Who knows what was really in Uzzah's mind. For all we know he was cussing the ark as it wobbled on the cart. Only God knows, and we should respect His judgment and our own inability to judge. The other possible issue which arises from this is that we are to accept that there are huge implications to our apparently harmless, surface level sins. Only God can judge them. But He does extrapolate the implications of human thoughts and actions. The whole incident is a test of our humility before God, a test David initially failed.

For the cattle stumbled-
Stumbled" is s.w. "threw down" (2 Kings 9:33; Ps. 141:6). It seems the ark itself was thrown down onto the ground, despite Uzzah trying to stop it.

2Sa 6:7 The anger of Yahweh was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God-
See on :6. Yahweh had likewise struck down (s.w.) those who had earlier failed to respect the ark (1 Sam. 5:6,9; 6:19). And they had imitated the transport of the ark upon a cart. The failure of man to learn from Biblical history is one of the greatest tragedies. We may consider this incident as parallel with the sin of Adam and Eve in Eden, whereby an apparently small failure lead to huge consequences. But these incidents are placed in Biblical history to help us humble ourselves before God, and not to fall into the assumption that God is not serious about His principles. Yahweh's anger being kindled is a phrase used multiple times about His anger with Israel for breaking the covenant. The sin of Uzzah personified all that was wrong with Israel. They had assumed that they could serve Yahweh on their terms and not His, and that this was just a mere surface level failure which He should overlook. All this is so challenging for us, who are tempted to think in just the same way.

Samuel appears to have slept next to the ark, and in 1 Sam. 5:1 the Philistines manhandled it on a long journey of 60 km. Uzzah was slain but they weren't. Again we see how boundaries of holiness are relative, and God looks at the heart; something clearly was very wrong in Uzzah's heart, in a way it was not wrong in the hearts of the child Samuel or these Philistines. Attitude and heart are paramount in God's judgment of men.  

2Sa 6:8 David was displeased, because Yahweh had broken forth on Uzzah; and he called that place Perez Uzzah, to this day-
David was “displeased” with God because He had slain a man who was trying to assist David’s pet project of bringing the ark to Zion (2 Sam. 6:8,9). Do we not again see the anger and irrational emotion of David flaring up? For the Hebrew for "displeased" really means "anger", and is the same word used of Yahweh's anger in :7. God was fiercely angry, and David was likewise fiercely angry with God for being angry. Whilst on one level this is a terrible example of human pride, David's response could be argued to reflect a closeness with God which enabled him to feel like this. The exiles were warned that all who are "incensed" against God must be humbled and ashamed before the ark could, as it were, come to Zion and Israel be restored (s.w. Is. 41:11; 45:24). The exiles, who were also angry with God for His anger with them, were to go through the humbling process David went through over the next three months.

2Sa 6:9 David was afraid of Yahweh that day; and he said, How can the ark of Yahweh come to me?-
There is a similarity, surely intentional, with the situation in 1 Sam. 6:20: "The men of Beth Shemesh said, Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God?". These were now David's feelings when Uzzah was slain for also not being respectful to the ark. Circumstances repeated, and David failed to learn the lesson. We wonder if indeed David consciously repeated the words of the men of Beth Shemesh. I suspect he didn't, but rather his words are recorded in a similar way, to show to us readers the similarity. We are intended to learn from history, even though so few do. This is why so much of the Bible is history. 

2Sa 6:10 So David would not move the ark of Yahweh to be with him in the city of David; but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite-
This was a huge showdown, for David had assembled a huge number of people to this ceremony; see on :1. And now he was revealed as a man who had not paid due attention to the requirements of the God whom he had invited all Israel to come to worship. It was very humbling for him. We note he "carried it aside", having it carried on poles as the law required and not on a cart.

2Sa 6:11 The ark of Yahweh remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months: and Yahweh blessed Obed-Edom, and all his house-
It took David three months to humble himself before God, and to perceive that His blessing is related to obedience and respect of Him, and not assuming we can serve Him on our terms and ride roughshod over His principles. David and his house had also been promised blessings, but he was being taught that these blessings were related to obedience and respect of God. And the fact a Philistine from Gath, perhaps an Edomite, indeed an Edomite servant [for so his name means] received these blessings... was to teach him that his pedigree counted for nothing compared to humble respect of Israel's God.

2Sa 6:12 It was told king David saying, Yahweh has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that pertains to him, because of the ark of God. David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom into the city of David with joy-
True joy can only come from repentance and humbling ourselves before God. A prouder man would have just given up with this apparently over sensitive, hard to please God of Israel. But Yahweh is not really like that; but He rightly requires our humility to Him and His principles. It was the Edomite servant, Obed Edom, who taught David this.

2Sa 6:13 It was so, that when those who bore the ark of Yahweh had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf-
David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam. 6:13-20; and 2 Sam. 19:21 = Ex. 22:28), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not. David had just been severely humiliated and punished for assuming he could put aside the letter of God's law regarding the transport of the ark. That David should now act as a Levite when he was not one, again following the spirit and not the letter of the law, would therefore not have been done by him quickly. It would have required sustained reflection on the situation. His actions should therefore never be taken as a quick justification for disregarding Divine laws and principles. For in the context of what had happened three months previously, he would have considered this matter very seriously.

If sacrifices were offered every six paces from the house of Obed Edom to Zion, the road to Zion would have been a stream of sacrificial blood, looking ahead to the way to Golgotha. I suggest on :17 that these were sin offerings. It demonstrated the deep sense of sin and need for atonement which David felt. It was this true repentance which was the basis for his ecstatic joy. LXX "And seven choruses accompanied him, bearing the ark, and a calf and lambs as a sacrifice".

2Sa 6:14 David danced before Yahweh with all his might-
I suggested on :13 that the massive number of sacrifices personally offered by David reflected his sense of repentance and need for atonement for his sin three months previously. It was this which was the basis for his ecstatic joy at his forgiveness.

And David was clothed in a linen ephod-
As we go through the life of David, it is evident he went along roads few others have travelled. For example, who else would offer his sacrifice upon the altar and then start strumming his harp in praise as he watched the animal burn (Ps. 43:4 Heb.)? This was a new paradigm in Israelite worship. Like Job, David had no precedents in past spiritual history from which he could take comfort (Job 5:1). David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam. 6:13-20; and 2 Sam. 19:21 = Ex.22:28), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not. He knew that the ideal standard for married life was one man: one woman, and yet he was somehow able to flout this and still be a man after God's own heart. He broke explicit Mosaic commandment by marrying Saul's wives and also his daughter, he airily waived the Mosaic law concerning bloodguiltiness (consider the implications of 2 Sam. 14:4-11), and the need to stone rapists (2 Sam. 13:21). When others tried to do these kind of things, they were severely punished by a God who insisted upon serious obedience to His Law. Consider how Saul was condemned for offering sacrifice instead of a priest (1 Sam. 13:10-13); and Uzziah likewise (2 Chron. 26:16-19). When the woman of Tekoah basically suggested that the Mosaic laws about the rights of the revenger of blood be repealed, David seems to have agreed. When Amnon seeks to rape his sister Tamar, she suggests that he ask David to allow them to marry- and surely, she says, he will agree. Yet this too would have been counter to the spirit of the Law about marriages to close relatives. Yet David went beyond the Law so often; and it is this which perhaps led him to commit the sin of presumption in his behaviour with Bathsheba. Right afterwards he comments about the man who stole his neighbour’s sheep, that it must be restored fourfold; whereas the Law only stipulated double, David felt he so knew the spirit of the Law that he could break the letter of it- in any context. And this was his [temporary] downfall.  

2Sa 6:15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Yahweh with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet-
David is portrayed as in religious ecstasy before the God whom three months before he had been furiously angry with (see on :8). This indeed reflects the almost bi-polar nature of David. But it also shows the power of true repentance and seeking to put things right with God (see on :13), and the joy of good conscience resulting from that.

2Sa 6:16 It was so, as the ark of Yahweh came into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the window and saw king David leaping and dancing before Yahweh; and she despised him in her heart-
As Goliath despised David (1 Sam. 17:42), so did Michal. The same word is used (2 Sam. 6:16). God reads the heart and what He finds there is so significant to Him. That woman's silent thoughts have been recorded for millennia in the record, and they are still in God's memory. We have a parade example here of the huge significance God attaches to our thoughts. Despising others for their spirituality is especially abhorrent to Him. We recall that Michal had an idol in her home soon after her marriage to David, and we wonder if it was Yahweh whom she also despised. And all this made her no better than Goliath.

2Sa 6:17 They brought in the ark of Yahweh, and set it in its place, in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Yahweh-
The usual pattern for the offerings was sin offering, burnt offering [dedication to God on the basis of being reconciled from sin] and then peace offerings, celebrating the resultant peace with God. I suggested on :13 that the mass of animals sacrificed on the road to Zion were sin offerings.

2Sa 6:18 When David had made an end of offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Yahweh of Armies-
As noted and discussed on :14, this was again David acting as high priest, blessing the people in Yahweh's Name. 

2Sa 6:19 He distributed to all the people, even throughout the whole multitude of Israel, both to men and women, to each one a portion of bread, dates and raisins. So all the people departed each one to his house-
We see here an ancient anticipation of the bread and wine [raisins] of the breaking of bread meeting. That meeting is essentially a peace offering, a celebration of the peace with God achieved through the Lord's sin offering, our promise of dedication to Him in the burnt offering, and then the celebration of the resultant peace with God. See on :17.

Israel’s mixture of Yahweh worship with Baal worship is demonstrated by the reference to their being “lovers of raisin cakes” (Hos. 3:1). According to 2 Sam. 6:19, these cakes appear to have been part of the legitimate worship of Yahweh- and yet in Song 2:5 they are referred to as an aphrodisiac. There was a heady mix of Yahweh worship with participation in the sexual rituals of the Baal cult. It was this mixture which was so abhorrent to God- and time and again, in essence, we likewise mix flesh and spirit.

2Sa 6:20 Then David returned to bless his household-
David is to be commended for not simply blessing Israel, but turning his attention privately to his own private household, and wanting to hold a private ceremony with them. But it was this which elicited the angry retort of Michal, whom I suggested on :16 may still have been an idolater and despised not only David but also Yahweh.   

Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious the king of Israel was today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!-
See on 1 Sam. 31:6. Perhaps she really loved her second husband Phaltiel as he loved her, and was bitter that David had broken up their marriage for political reasons. She disliked the way that David had put aside his royal robes to dance naked. She felt he ought to have always retained his royal dignity rather than apparently resign it before Yahweh as king. This would be why David responds that he is indeed the chosen king (:21). "Uncovered" does mean literally to make naked. We note the careful legislation about not revealing nakedness before Yahweh (s.w. Ex. 20:26). But David disobeyed the letter of this law to keep the spirit of it; and he did it at a time when three months before, he and Israel had been strongly punished for breaking the letter of the Divine law. His "uncovered" presence before Yahweh (2 Sam. 6:21) was not therefore done in the heat of the moment, but he would have carefully thought this through before doing it.      

2Sa 6:21 David said to Michal, It was in the eyes of Yahweh, who chose me before your father and before all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of Yahweh, over Israel-
See on :20. Here is a good example of “before” meaning ‘before’ in importance rather than time. David tells his wife: “The Lord chose me before your father [Saul]”. Actually, in terms of time, God chose Saul well before He chose David. But God chose David above Saul in terms of importance and honour. This helps us understand the Lord Jesus being "before" Abraham, in importance not in time (Jn. 8:58).

Michal was worried about what David looked like in the eyes of the young women; but David was totally focused upon his being in the eyes of Yahweh. Worry about what others think of us and all concerns about image evaporate before this sense- that we are in the eyes of Yahweh.

Therefore will I celebrate in the eyes of Yahweh-
When David danced “before / in the eyes of the Lord”, his wife mocked him, because he had embarrassed himself “before / in the eyes of Israel”. David’s response is that he had done this “in my own eyes” (2 Sam. 6:20-22). This play on the phrase “before / in the eyes of” is significant. David is highly perceptive here. He’s saying that if this is how he feels in his own eyes, then this is how he is before the eyes of God, and therefore this is how he will be before the eyes of Israel and the general public. David is saying: ‘Who I am, my real self, is the one God sees, and I’m not going to hide it from the world; let them see me how I see myself and how God sees me’. In this incident, there was no gap between the ‘real self’ of David and the image he projected to the world. There was complete congruence between how he felt about himself, how God saw him, and how the watching world saw him. And this incident ought to be programmatic for our entire lives.

2Sa 6:22 I will be yet more vile than this, and will be base in my own eyes. But of the handmaids of whom you have spoken, they shall honour me-
See on :21. This was true on one level, but it was a cruel thing for a husband to say to his middle aged wife; for it was to the effect that 'the attractive young women will think I'm wonderful and will give me the honour and respect a man craves from his woman, which you my wife don't give me'. Again we sense a harsher and quite unpleasant side in David, despite his softness and amazing grace. Such contradictions are sadly within us all.

2Sa 6:23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death
This may not have been judgment solely upon Michal. Once King, David decides to get back his ex-wife Michal, who was by now married to Phaltiel, who evidently loved her. Yet David takes her from Phaltiel, and we have the tragic image of the loving husband walking behind her weeping as she is led away from him (2 Sam. 3:15,16). This was not only a breach of Mosaic law, but displayed a sad elevation of politics above others’ relationships and marriages. It may be significant that her renewed marriage with David wasn’t blessed with any children (2 Sam. 6:23).

The statement that Michal loved David in 1 Sam. 18:20 is about the only example of love marriage in the Old Testament or a statement that a woman fancied a man. We note how by 2 Sam. 6:18 she watches David out of her window and "despising him in her heart". And she is punished for that by barrenness. She let him out of a window in loyalty to him (1 Sam. 19:12) but in 2 Sam. 6 she watches him from a window and despises him. The other women who watched from windows in the Bible are both bad- the bad woman of Proverbs 7 who watches a man from her window and goes out to seduce him; Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37) and Sisera's mother (Jud. 5:28,29). Infatuated love turned to hatred, and so again we see how psychologically credible are the Biblical histories. Her possession of teraphim and falsely telling her father that David had threatened to kill her... all suggest an unspirituality. We could assume that although her father was now dead by the time of 2 Sam. 6, Michal had moved from love of David to the love of her father Saul and what he stood for. Therefore in 2 Sam. 6:16 as she looks out from her window, Michal is described as being "Michal daughter of Saul". In the previous window scene she is called "David’s wife Michal" (1 Sam. 19:11). And again we see this so often- one partner with a mission becomes hated by the other partner when they no longer support the mission, and return to the loyalties of their youth. Both Michal and her brother Jonathan are described as loving David with the same Hebrew word ahab. But her love didn't abide the test of time; Jonathan's did. David may well have this in mind when he laments at  Jonathan's death that Jonathan’s love was more wonderful to him than the love of women (2 Sam. 1:26).

Michal has many similarities to Rachel in the book of Genesis. They each had an older sister who was set up to be their husband's wife. The fathers were both obsessive and unpleasant, and both fathers pursued after their husbands. Both women present as not very spiritual in that they had teraphim [household idols], which they both use to deceive their fathers to save their own skin, and to help their husbands save their lives from the murderous intent of their fathers. They both lie to their fathers. In the teraphim incident, Rachel claims to be sick and Michal claims David is sick. Both have husbands who work for their father, who deceives their husbands. Both had to chose their husbands over their fathers. Both had an older sister, Leah cp. Merab. The fathers of both women made an agreement with the sons in law [David and Jacob] to give them their daughters in marriage for a dowry [years of labour, killing Goliath], but deceived them. David effectively paid two dowries in order to marry Michal- slaying Goliath, and then 100 Philistine foreskins. Jacob also pays two dowries, each of seven years labour. Each woman had a time of infertility. In Michal's case this is recorded in 2 Sam. 6:23 "Michal, daughter of Saul, had no child to the day of her death". That could imply she had a child the die she died- she died in childbirth. Which would be another parallel with Rachel. This verse however stands in tension with 2 Sam. 21:8 "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel" (NEV). The translations squirm around this by translating "bore" as "brought up for", or by appealing to a changed text which read "Merab" for Michal. But the Hebrew is simply as NEV- that Michal had five children by the man whom her older sister was married off to rather than David, and then she marries David. All spaghetti junction in terms of relationships, and all reminiscent of the Jacob-Rachel-Leah mess. All so mixed up and intertwining it's hard to get any mental map of it. Apparently both Michal and Merab were at one point married to the same man, Adriel. By the intrigue of their father. Just as with Laban and his daughters Rachel and Leah.

Clearly Jacob, Laban and Rachel are reflected in David, Saul and Michal. All these connections cannot be mere coincidence. We naturally enquire why such similarities constantly occur between the lives of God's people. We see the same thing today, the deeper we engage with other believers and get to know them. The repeated circumstances occur over time [between us and earlier believers we meet in the Bible] and also horizontally between us and present believers whom we know. We see the same Divine hallmark and way of operating in our lives, as comfort that indeed man is not alone- not least because our apparently unique situations aren't in fact so unique.