(Continued from page 568)The strange history of the Ark and the Tent of Meeting (1100 B.C.-959 B.C.)
There is a tendency by some Bible teachers to generalise on specific Old Testament events. Generalisation is the outgrowth of inadequate study and research which is normally required in the historical section of the Old Testament. There is no excuse for inaccuracy when the truth can be discovered, because eventually someone will find that an error has been made in some historical or Scriptural account and then, of course, the error must be corrected. Our attention is drawn especially to the prevalence among pastors and teachers to refer to the Temple in Jerusalem in David's time, and even in the first few years of Solomon's reign, because there was no Temple in Jerusalem during the time of David and the temple did not exist during the first 11 years of Solomon's reign.
From studying 1 Kings 6:1, we know that in the 4th year of Solomon's reign he began to build the temple and, since it took him 7 years to bring the project to completion, the temple was not fully functional in Jerusalem until 959 B.C. Thus there was no tabernacle in Jerusalem during David's time. The tabernacle which was constructed in Sinai and carried throughout the wilderness wanderings was placed in Shiloh during the time of Eli the priest and was then moved to Nob after the battle of Aphek, during which time the Ark was taken by the Philistines. Following the destruction of the priesthood by Saul, when he employed Doeg the Edomite as assassin, the Ark was moved from Nob to Gibeon and remained there throughout the time period of David and for the first 11 years of Solomon's reign. At the start of David's reign he found the Ark of God in the woods at Gibeon and brought it up to Jerusalem where he made a special tent for it. As a result we find that, throughout the time period of David (1010 to 970 BC), when anyone desired to go up to the tent of meeting to raise an altar, it was necessary to go up to Gibeon. If one wanted to worship at the Ark this could be done in Jerusalem. This was also true for the first 11 years of Solomon's reign because, following the completion of the temple in 959 BC, Solomon took the tent of meeting and the brazen altar and the Ark from Jerusalem, and placed all of these objects in the new temple. The tent of meeting was probably kept in the archives and the Ark of God placed in the holy of holies.1
We know that the tabernacle and the altar were in Gibeon and 2 Chronicles 1:3-4 records that they remained there until Solomon removed them to the new temple. However, the altar and tabernacle did not constitute the proper facilities for the worship of Jehovah. It was necessary to have the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God's throne, so that God could be worshipped. In Psalm 132:1-82, David recalled how he felt after becoming king and realized that the Ark of God was not present with him:
Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed, I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood. We will go into his tabernacles; we will worship at his footstool. Arise, O Lord, into thy rest, thou, and the ark of thy strength.
David looked for the Ark where it had been abandoned after the Philistines had returned it following its capture at the battle of Aphek in 1075 B.C. Saul had travelled down and tried to use it one time, but it was never returned to its rightful place. In fact, the Ark of God was abandoned in the woods. Now, after becoming king over Israel, David had defeated the Jebusites and acquired a place for worship, and defeated the Philistines and removed the possibility of invasion. Then, he went down into the woods, found the Ark of God, and brought it back up to Jerusalem with a great celebration, but not before the wrong method of transport on a cart of their own design had led to the death of Uzzah when he reached out his hand to steady the ark and was struck dead as 2 Samuel 6, verse 72 records: "and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God".
After the Ark of God arrived in Jerusalem, carried in the God-approved manner ((Exodus 25:8-22; Numbers 4:15; 7:9), a special tent was made for it ( I Chronicles 15:1; 2 Chronicles 1:4; 2 Samuel 6:17). Throughout David's reign, from 1010 B.C. to 970 B.C., when someone wanted to go up to the tent of meeting and sacrifice at the brazen altar it was necessary to go to Gibeon (I Kings 3:4; I Chronicles 16:29; 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3,5). But after about 1000 B.C., worship was possible in the presence of the Ark in Jerusalem. In 959 B.C., following the completion of the temple in the eleventh year of his reign, Solomon took the tent of meeting, the brazen altar, and the Ark, and placed them all in the new temple (I Kings 8:4; 2 Chronicles 5:5-9).
When not engaged in battle, David continued to perform those acts which drew him closer to the hearts of the people, especially those from the northern kingdom who had remained loyal to Saul and were David's former enemies. 2 Samuel, Chapter 9, recounts one of the acts of David which solidified his relationship with the tribe of Benjamin. The first mention of Mephibosheth occurred in 2 Samuel 4:4 where we learn that he was a son of Jonathan and about five years old when his father and grandfather were killed in battle. In the panic that followed this defeat, his nurse sought to flee with him but he was dropped and became lame. This occurred in 1007-1008 B.C. after the death of Abner and just prior to the time when Ish-bosheth was assassinated by the two soldiers of the tribe of Benjamin. Chapter 9 relates that, in 995 B.C., David further endeared himself to the relatives of Saul and the inhabitants of the northern kingdom through his kindness to Mephibosheth. There was a deeper motive than that, however, for David had made a promise and commitment to Jonathan to show kindness to his descendants, and had also assured King Saul that he would not cut off his descendants. This was an extraordinary promise in days when it was common practice for a monarch to completely annihilate any and all relatives of his predecessor if he had been deposed, assassinated, or otherwise displaced by one other than his natural heir. Mephibosheth would have been about twenty years old when David called for him and, as an heir of Saul and Jonathan, he was naturally filled with fear when the king summoned him. Verse 6 says "he fell on his face" and David had to reassure him, saying, "Fear not." Doubtlessly Mephibosheth expected to be killed on the spot but, instead, David turned Saul's entire estate over to him along with the lifetime services of one of Saul's former servants named Ziba. Mephibosheth was given the honour of eating continually at the king's table and being treated with all the deference accorded the king's own sons. We can see this as a picture of pure grace, for Mephibosheth had done nothing to earn this pardon and blessing. David's love for Jonathan, and his previous commitments to Jonathan and Saul, moved him to show this kindness, and Israel, understandably, loved him for it.
In chapter 10, we find David and the men of Israel deliberately insulted by Hanun, the king of the Ammonites. David had become friends with Nahash, the former king. When he died, David sent a delegation of officials to express David's respect for Nahash and his grief over this king's death. The princes of the Ammonites, probably out of fear of David, for they would have known of his famous exploits, advised king Hanun that his intentions were evil (2 Sam 10:3-42):
3 the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, "Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?" 4 So Hanun took David's servants and shaved off half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away.
This humiliation resulted in war between the Israelites, led by the two surviving nephews of David, Joab and his brother Abishai, and the Ammonites who recruited the Syrians as their allies against David. In their first conflict the Syrians fled, forcing the Ammonites to retreat to "the city," which is presumably Rabbah (10:14; cf. 12:26ff.). The Syrians were not content with their defeat and attempted a re-match, but David led additional soldiers into the battle and once again they were defeated. This caused the Syrians to give up any thought of backing up the Ammonites in their war with Israel in the future, as 2 Samuel 10:18-192 records:
"The Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen. Syria, therefore, made peace with Israel and served them and feared to help the children of Ammon any more".
(Continued on page 570)