2 Samuel 5:1-12; 6:1-19: Bringing up the Ark
David was now king. At first after he was king he made his home in Hebron. This was an old city among the hills in the southern part of the land, the old city where Abraham had lived. Afterward, King David made his home in Jerusalem nearer the middle of the land. Jerusalem stood strong on its hills, and the strongest hill of all, Mount Zion, had perhaps never been taken by the children of Israel from the native people, the Jebusites. It was a hard place to take, but David was now a strong soldier and he had brave men. The Jebusites thought their fort was too strong for anyone to take; they said that the blind and the lame could defend it. But one of David's men climbed up "by the gutter" and the strong city was taken. The "gutter" was some water course and may have been a passage cut through the rock of the hill to bring the water of a spring inside the fort. David made the strong hill his home, and Mount Zion was called the city of David; and there a house was built for him by carpenters and masons sent by Hiram, king of Tyre, the strong and beautiful city on the seashore away to the north.
When David was settled as king in Jerusalem, one of the first things that he did was to bring the ark of the Lord and put it in a tent that he spread for it on Mount Zion. Who remembers the ark, the little chest covered with gold, to hold the two stone tables of the commandments? There were rings in the sides or ends of the ark and poles run through the rings by which it could be carried on the shoulders of the priests. Do you remember the tabernacle, the little building in which the ark was kept on the journey from Mount Sinai? It was set up at Shiloh after the people came into the land, and it was there when little Samuel lived at the tabernacle.
The ark was taken from the tabernacle in Shiloh in the hope that it would bring help in a battle with the Philistines, but it was taken captive. Do you remember how it was sent home, on a new cart drawn by two cows? The cart stopped at Beth-shemesh, in the edge of the hills of Judah, and from there the ark was taken up to Kirjath-jearim, "city of the woods." And there it stayed a long time, until David and his men went to this little town to get the ark and to bring it up to Zion.
They started from Kirjath-jearim with the ark on a cart drawn by oxen. At a threshing-floor (one of the flat spots near a village where the people heaped their grain to thresh it out by driving cattle around and around over it) the oxen stumbled and shook the ark. Uzzah put out his hand and took hold of the ark, and he died. David was afraid to bring the ark to Zion, and they turned aside and left it in the house of Obed-edom. There it stood three months and brought blessings to the house of Obed-edom and to all that he had. So once again David went with his men for the ark. This time they took it on their shoulders as the priests of old time used to carry it, and brought it up to Zion. They brought it up with gladness, with sacrifices, with shouting and the sound of the trumpet, and David himself danced before the ark. As it came to the city gates, we may think of the people with the ark singing, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates!" and people from the gate replying, "Who is this King of glory?" So the ark came to its place in Zion, David's strong city. We must read the story. (2 Sam. 6:1-19)
After David had been king seven years and a half in Hebron, ruling over Judah, the people of the north also were ready to be ruled by him, and he was made king of the whole country. Now something important happened. David moved from Hebron to Jerusalem. Jerusalem became the capital of the country and began to be the important city that we find it from this time on. Jerusalem was spoken of as taken in the days of Joshua when the land was conquered, but it is doubtful if the strong citadel of the town had ever been taken from the native Jebusites. The position was a strong one, as you will see if you look at a map which shows you the hills of Jerusalem. The Kidron valley is on the east of the city separating it from the Mount of Olives. The valley of Hinnom is on the west of the city and it bends around the city on the south to join the Kidron. The high ground between these two valleys was divided by another valley, the Tyropoeon, which was once much deeper before it became filled up with rubbish and ruins from the city. On the east of the Tyropoeon valley was the hill of Moriah where the temple was afterwards built. On the west was a higher hill which at its southern end stood out rough and bold above the valley. Here probably the Jebusite fortress stood with walls and a moat about it, and this strong citadel was afterwards Mount Zion.
You realize the strength of the position if you have a picture taken in the Kidron valley looking up toward the city, and imagine yourself climbing the hill to take it, when the hill was much rougher and steeper than it is now and strong forts stood on top of it. Notice the boast of the Jebusites who thought that their fortress could not be taken, and how it was taken. See what I have said to the little children about the meaning of "the gutter." So David was established in Jerusalem, and a house was built for him. Who were the skillful builders in those days who built the house for David, and who by and by helped Solomon in building the temple?
The ark, the sacred ark of the commandments, comes again into our story. Do you remember the ark - how it was made, and covered with gold, the two golden cherubim on the golden cover called the mercy-seat? Where was the ark made? What signs of power attended it at the entrance into the land of Canaan? Where did it find a resting-place in the land? How did it fall into the hands of the Philistines? How did it come back to the land of Israel? Since then where had it rested? Kirjath-jearim was probably where we find the ruin Arma, quite near to Beth-shemesh, some twelve miles southwest of Jerusalem. The ark remained there a long time. Twenty years are mentioned in 1 Sam. 7:1-2, and many more years followed, making perhaps seventy or eighty years in all. (For possible exceptions see 1 Sam. 14:18; A. 1453.)
The ark was at Kirjath-jearim when David and his men went for it to bring it up to Zion. There is probably reference to this place, the "city of the woods," in Ps. 132:6. We see them taking the ark from its long resting-place. Gibeah means "the hill," the hill in Kirjath-jearim where the ark stood. They started on their journey with the ark, but at this first attempt they did not reach Jerusalem. Why were they discouraged? Why did they turn aside? It was irreverent for Uzzah to touch the ark so boldly. Remember the experience of the people of Beth-shemesh when some of them looked into the ark. (1 Sam. 6:19) But now after three months David came again and took the ark with gladness to Jerusalem. Perhaps among the songs which they sang that day was the beautiful Psalm, "The earth is the Lord's . . . Lift up your heads, O ye gates . . . and the King of glory shall come in." (Ps. 24) There was not yet any temple in Jerusalem, but David had spread a tent for the ark on Mount Zion, and there it rested until the temple of Solomon was built. You can read the particulars of the story for yourself, and let us say together the whole of the Psalm about the King of glory.
You see that it was right, now that David was king, for him to think of the ark of the Lord's commandments and to bring it to a strong place in his city. You see that if we are to be kings and are to rule our faculties and all our life wisely and successfully, we must remember the Lord's commandments, and not in any careless way, but must give them the central place. We must make them the central and ruling power in our kingdom.
1. Where did David rule as king of Judah? How long?
2. What did he make his capital when he became king of all Israel? Who were the native inhabitants of this place?
3. Where had the ark been for many years? To what place did David bring it?
4. What happened by the way which delayed the bringing of the ark to Zion?
5. What signs of gladness marked the bringing up of the ark?
Before we study the meaning of the bringing of the ark to Zion, let someone go back and remind us what it meant to have the ark captive in the hands of the Philistines, and to have it returned again to the land of Israel upon the new cart drawn by cattle. The ark is with the Philistines when the Lord's commandments are held as mere matters of knowledge with no effort to obey them. It is returned upon the new cart when effort is made to obey the commandments, when the natural affections are brought under their yoke and compelled to go as the commandments guide. (T. 203)
But even when the commandments are obeyed, there are still different kinds and degrees of obedience; they may be given a secondary place in life or the chief and central place. In the course of regeneration the place of the commandments changes; they become more and more important and central in the life. This is represented by the bringing up of the ark to the citadel of Zion. Three stages on this progress are especially described, represented by the resting of the ark in Kirjath-jearim, in the house of Obed-edom, and in Mount Zion. Briefly these stages are first, when the commandments are kept not intelligently but dutifully in a simple way; second, when they are kept with intelligent understanding of their meaning and purpose; and third, when they are kept with love with all the heart. (A. 2831; R. 612)
You notice the more reverent manner of carrying the ark in the latter part of the journey. You notice how the oxen stumbled at a threshing-floor by the way. The threshing-floor represents an experience of temptation, and the shaking of the ark the faltering of our obedience in such an experience of trial. Uzzah's putting forth his hand and taking hold of the ark represents a self-confident effort lacking in true reverence and humility. Uzzah died, and this self-confidence must die before we can go farther. The music with which they accompanied the ark represents the happiness of receiving the commandments more and more deeply into the life. We shall learn more, as we go on, of Mount Zion the stronghold of Jerusalem as the type of the heart's inmost love. (A. 878, 8339)
"The bringing up of the ark signified the progression of the church with humanity from its lowest to its inmost, and this because those progressions are effected by Divine truth, which was signified by the ark. For the man of the church advances from the natural to the spiritual and through this to the celestial. In a similar progression are the kinds of good of the three heavens, wherefore the ascent through them in their order was also represented." Find a full interpretation of the whole story in E. 700.