Established as king over Israel and victorious over the Philistines (2 Samuel 5), David thought it prudent to bring the ark from Baale-judah to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1). Someone who is following the flow of redemption history may be struck by the fact that David initiated moving the ark to Jerusalem. In the battle scenes that immediately precede, David set out only after inquiring of the Lord (see 2 Sam 5:19, 23). Should not David have sought God’s permission before moving the ark to Jerusalem? The ark was no ordinary object: “The ark is called by the Name, the name of the LORD of Hosts who dwells between the cherubim” (2 Sam 6:2). Yet when he left Baale-judah, “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals” (2 Sam 6:5). Israel’s celebration encompassed musical worship as described in Psalms 149 and 150.
Yet, when the ark tottered on the cart, Uzzah reached out to stabilize it and was struck dead by the Lord (2 Sam 6:6-7). The parallel account in 1 Chronicles pejoratively attributes fault to both David and the Levites because the Levites did not carry the ark on their shoulders using poles (1 Chron 15:13, 15). David’s countenance quickly fell. He was both angry and afraid (2 Sam 6:8-9). David discontinued the celebration and sent the ark of God to Obed-Edom the Gittite (2 Sam 6:10).
When David heard that the Lord blessed Obed-Edom’s family and household “because of the ark of God” (2 Sam 6:12), he gave orders for it to be brought to Jerusalem. David was rejoicing and dancing as the ark entered Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:12, 14), “and the whole house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of the ram’s horn” (2 Sam 6:15). Upon setting the ark in the tent David had prepared, he offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord and blessed the people, even distributing “a loaf of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake to each one of the whole multitude of the people of Israel, both men and women” (2 Sam 6:19). There was one amongst Israel who did not share such a passion for God’s presence and the arrival of the ark into the city of David. When Michal looked down from her window and saw her husband “leaping and dancing before the LORD” as the ark was entering Jerusalem, “she despised him in her heart” (2 Sam 6:16). David was vindicated by a clear conscience saying, “I will celebrate before the LORD, and I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself” (2 Sam 6:21b-22a). The Lord dealt with Michal by preventing her from having children (2 Sam 6:23).
The events of 2 Samuel 6 emphasize the significance of the ark of the covenant at this point in Israel’s history. As the storyline of Scripture progresses, the prominence of the ark both waxes and wanes. The eminence of the ark reached its zenith at the dedication of Solomon’s temple when the priests placed it beneath the cherubim and the Lord filled the temple with glory (1 Kings 8:10-11//2 Chron 5:13-14). As grand and wonderful as the ark was, the author to the Hebrews pointed out that its magnitude was limited in that it was man made. He considered it part of the old order, inadequate for true worship. Contrasting the inferiority of the old in light of the new, he wrote, “Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11-12).