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King David's major post-coronation accomplishments over Israel and Judah (1003 B.C.)
David began immediately to seek a new and more strategic location for the capital of his kingdom. Because of his military background, his eyes were drawn to Jerusalem (which was then known as Jebus), the city of the Jebusites.6 It was a natural location, strategically situated near the border of Judah and Benjamin, centrally located for most of his people. Its location on a hilltop was ideal from the standpoint of military defense. However, there was a problem; the city was already inhabited by the Jebusites and they held an almost impregnable position. Verse 65 describes the situation: "Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, which spake unto David, saying, 'Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither.'" The Jebusites were arrogantly taunting David, claiming that their walls were so impregnable that even their blind and crippled could successfully defend them.
When the Israelites had moved into the land possessed by the Canaanites (including the Jebusites), God promised to drive them out (Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 23:23; 33:2; 34:11). When the spies were sent into the promised land to check it out, among those inhabitants of the land the spies named the Jebusites (Numbers 13:29). God not only promised to drive out the Canaanites (Joshua 3:10), He commanded the Israelites to do so (Deuteronomy 7:1ff.; 20:17). When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, the Jebusites were among those Canaanite peoples who joined forces to oppose Israel's entrance into the land (Joshua 9 & 11; 24:11). The city of Jerusalem had been inhabited by the Jebusites for at least four hundred years and we gain an insight into the impregnability and fortitude of the city by reading Joshua 15:635:
As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.
So, for all this time, the tribe of Judah had looked up at the city on its protective hill and been reminded of their failure for, even during Joshua's time, lack of faith on their part had prevented them from driving out the Jebusites as God had commanded. In the Book of Joshua, Jebus was first described as one of the cities belonging to the sons of Judah, who were not able to drive them out (Joshua 15:63). In Joshua 18:28, Jebus is named amongst the Benjamite cities, but the Benjamites were not able to drive out the Jebusites, either (Judges 1:21). This lead to a kind of co-existence, which resulted in the Israelites embracing the sins of the Jebusites (Judges 3:1-7). The result of this was oppression from their neighbors as a divine chastening (3:8ff.). In Judges 19:10-12, the city of Jebus is still portrayed as non-Israelite. There may have been times when Jebus was under Israelite control (cf. 1 Samuel 17:54), but the victory was far from complete. It is not until now, in David's day (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:15), that Jebus falls to the Israelites once and for all as Israel's anointed king calls on his great talent as a military strategist and sends his men up through the water tunnel (v8) to take the city from the inside. In I Chronicles 11:6-75, we are given additional insight into its capture:
And David said, Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain. So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up, and was chief. And David dwelt in the castle; therefore they called it the city of David.
Joab had been Commander-in-Chief of the army since the early years, although there is no record of an official appointment. Perhaps David's disapproval of Joab's methods, following his independent act of revenge in assassinating Abner (2 Samuel 3:39), was behind his pronouncement. It could have been an attempt to set Joab aside, hoping that some other valiant man would be the first in capturing the city of the Jebusites. But Joab was a very determined man. He captured the city, thereby maintaining and solidifying his position as Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Israel under King David and we read (5:95):
So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. 10 And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts [was] with him.
Verses 11 & 12 reveal how Hiram, the king of Tyre, and a man who could easily have viewed David as his enemy, chose wisely to seek him as an ally. When God made His Abrahamic Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), He promised him that those who cursed him, He would curse, and that those who blessed him, He would bless. The Jebusites and the Philistines cursed David but Hiram blessed him and sought to provide David with materials he would need to build himself a palace in the city he had just defeated, and which he proceeded to strengthen and fortify. Hiram offered David the materials and the workmen who could build for him a great palace, and David gratefully accepted. Hiram's friendship with David.
But there was a second part to the building of David's house, and that was the establishment of his family. While David had wives and children before moving to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 2:2; 3:2-5), it was there in Jerusalem that he added a number of other wives and concubines and they bore him other children. In the minds of those in the Ancient Orient, many wives and many children meant prosperity. Measured by this standard, David truly prospered in Jerusalem! The problem was that, in adding a number of wives, David was disobedient to God's warning concerning multiplying wives, an admonition given to Israel's kings (Deuteronomy 17:172):
"He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself".
Following the capture of Jerusalem, which was the first thing David did to establish his position as king, he went out to battle against the Philistines. They had come up against him when they heard he had been anointed king of Israel. Perhaps they wished to avenge his duplicity when he served Achish, or perhaps they feared him because of his military reputation and hoped to defeat him before his position was solidified. Achish probably bore the brunt of the criticism for his role in offering David sanctuary among them (1 Samuel 21:10-15; 27:1-28:2; 29:1-11). David was actually a part of the Philistine army for a short time, and this would give him knowledge that could now be used against the Philistines. Consequently the Philistines chose to go on the offensive, hoping to break the back of David's army, and to rid themselves of a formidable foe.
We read in Chapter 5 how David defeated them in two separate encounters after first seeking counsel of the Lord in both cases before engaging them in battle (5:19-20,255):
19 Then David inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?" And the LORD said to David, "Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand." 20 So David came to Baal-perazim and defeated them there; and he said, "The LORD has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters." Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim. . . 25 Then David did so, just as the LORD had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.
We also learn that the Philistines abandoned their idols, and David's men gathered them (v21). From 1 Chronicles 14:12 we learn that they were gathered in order to be burned. All of this further endeared him to the people of Israel, since the Philistines were longtime enemies and, of course, it had been the Philistines who had slain Saul, their former king, and his sons. The manner of this defeat was again brought about by a supernatural 'attack' by our infinite God who seems to delight in bringing military victory to His people in an endless array of means. We have seen Him use a thunderstorm, with bolts of lightning and heavy rain, to destroy those whose weapons are made of iron, and whose chariots are bogged down in the resultant mud (ref. 1 Samuel 7:10). He later employed an earthquake to shake up the enemy (1 Samuel 14:15) and gave Israel victory over the Amorites by stoning the enemy with hailstones (Joshua 10:11). In 2 Kings chapter 7, God frightened off the Syrian army by causing them to hear the sounds of a great army, when there was none (v6-7). Here our text (2 Samuel 5:24) gives another report of a great "multimedia presentation" by God, which served to unnerve the enemy and to pave the way for their defeat at the hand of David. This defeat was such that David pursued the Philistines back to their own territory (Gezer is virtually on the border of Philistine territory). The defeat of the Philistines is decisive. Though it was Saul's task to deliver Israel from the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16), he was killed and Israel was defeated by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31). It was the anointed, obedient, King David who gave Israel relief from the Philistines (2 Samuel 19:9).
Chapter 6 records the third thing David did which demonstrated his theocentricity. As a spiritual man, versed in the law of Moses, David knew there was no place in Jerusalem where God could be worshipped. The tabernacle and the altar were still in Gibeon. In fact, II 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 132:1-85, 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, the symbol of His throne, was abandoned in the woods. Even Samuel and Saul never tried to return it; and David had not been able to return it because he was not in an official position to do so. But now, after becoming king over Israel, he 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. Unfortunately, rather than following the regulations Moses had set down for transporting the Ark by means of poles through its rings, they designed and built a cart on which to return it to Jerusalem. We find their error by going back in Israel's history to the time God gave Israel the Law, when He gave instructions concerning the construction and transporting of the ark. These are the words God spoke to Moses concerning the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant.
8 "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. 9 "According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it. 10 "They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. 11 "You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it. 12 "You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. 13 "You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 "You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 "The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. 16 "You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. 17 "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 "you shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 "Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 "The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 "You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 "There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel" (Exodus 25:8-222).
God gave very clear instructions about the ark of God. He not only gave specific instructions about how it should be made, He indicated who should carry it and how it should be transported from one place to another. In Numbers 5, God tells us exactly how the tabernacle should be taken down and carried to its next resting place and we note especially the words of verse 15:
15 "When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry" (Numbers 4:15; cf. 7:92).
Exodus 25:14-15 informs us that the ark had rings, through which poles were inserted, and these poles were the means by which the Kohathites were to transport the ark. Thus God was displeased with the disobedience of their method of transportation, and when it began to tilt and upset the Ark, His anger burned against the man who reached out his hand to steady it. Verse 75 records, "and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God". David was very disturbed at this turn of events. In Exodus 25, God told Moses He would meet with him and speak to him from above the ark, between the cherubim (25:22). God chose to manifest His presence in the tabernacle, specifically from the ark. When God's glory first filled the tabernacle, even Moses was not able to enter (Exodus 40:34-35). Sinful men cannot get too close to a holy God.
No wonder Uzzah was struck dead for having laid hands on the ark. The ark was holy and could not be touched, for anyone who touched it would die. By using poles, men could transport the ark without touching the ark itself and these men, walking in step with each other, gave the ark stability. Putting the ark on that ox cart made it susceptible to the movements of the cart and less stable, and thus more likely to fall off the cart. The only way to keep this from happening was to grab hold of the ark, as Uzzah did, and thus to suffer his fate. David, and those involved in transporting the ark, erred in several ways: First, they had already lost the awe and reverence one should have for the holiness of God. Second, they had forgotten the clear instructions God set down in the law for the transporting of the ark and, third, they had forgotten a hard lesson Israel had learned in their not-too-distant past. The ark had accompanied the Israelites wherever they went while they were in the wilderness. It went before the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14-17). We find the ark mentioned quite often in 1 and 2 Samuel. Samuel slept near the ark as a child (1 Samuel 3:3). When the Israelites were being beaten by the Philistines, they unwisely took the ark into battle with them as a kind of magic charm. They not only lost the battle but lost the ark as well (1 Samuel 4). The next two chapters (5-6) of 1 Samuel are the account of how God plagued the Philistines, so that they finally decided they did not want the ark among them. What is most interesting is the method they chose to transport the ark back to Israelite territory. The Philistine priests and diviners gave the Philistine leaders instructions concerning how the ark should be removed:
7 "Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8 "Take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9 "Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance." 10 Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors. 12 And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:7-122).
When the ark was returned to the Israelites by the Philistines, carelessness on the part of some Israelites also cost them their lives:
19 He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20 The men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up to you" (1 Samuel 6:19-212).
It is ironic to see the Israelites imitating the Philistines rather than obeying God. The irreverence of the Philistines brought plagues upon their cities. They came to fear the Lord and particularly His ark, and sought to send it away to others. Now, when the ark is returned to the Israelites, they are irreverent and are stricken by God so that they too wished to send the ark to someone else. It is probable that the instructions given by God in the law were simply forgotten rather than willfully ignored or disobeyed. The ark had not been carried for many years. It had remained out of circulation, out of use, in the home of Abinidab for a good 20 years before it was put back into any kind of use (ref. 1 Samuel 7:2; 14:18-19). It is easy to see why no one paid any particular attention to the instructions given to Israel by God for its transportation in the wilderness, for the lesson of 1 Samuel 6 was already forgotten by 2 Samuel 6 and, of course, in the original text these two books are really one. A few years, or a few chapters, and lessons learned the hard way are all too quickly forgotten. Why do we find it easier to re-live history rather than learn from it?
In fear, David left the Ark at the nearby house of Obed-edom the Gittite for the next three months and, because it was there, "the Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household"(v11). People heard about it, and word reached David as well. It was a sign of sorts. If David concluded the ark was a kind of curse on those close to it he certainly would not want the ark there in Jerusalem with him. That is probably why he had it kept a safe distance away in the home of Obed-edom. But now it became apparent that the ark was really a source of blessing. What went wrong that brought about the death of Uzzah? How could this be rectified so that the ark and its accompanying blessings could come to Jerusalem? These questions must have been heavy on David's mind, and on the minds of other Israelites as well.
David probably spent those months re-studying the instructions of Moses (Numbers 4:4-6), because when he went back to resume taking the Ark to Jerusalem, he followed the correct methods (v13) and brought it into the city with great rejoicing. David was afraid of the Lord because of this event, but he would have discovered the truth that it was presumptuous recklessness that caused the death of Uzzah. In the book of Leviticus there were very specific and detailed instructions on how the Ark was to be moved. Only the Levites were to touch it and it was really David's fault that the Levites had not been asked to move the Ark. He was presumptuous enough to assume that God was so strongly for him that he could get away with almost anything. David had to learn the lesson that sincerity in serving God is never enough. Things must be done God's way in accomplishing God's will. We all have similar experiences - but often we do not recognise this fact and blunder on making the same mistakes. Often in our churches we come up with a favourite project which we feel, in the earnestness of our hearts, would be a wonderful thing to glorify God, and we set about it, determined to bring it to pass. But God fails to bless the project and the whole thing crumbles to pieces. The death of Uzzah stands as a constant testimony that it is not God's responsibility to carry out our program; it is rather our responsibility to be in such a relationship to Him that He may carry out His program. In 2 Samuel it seems that we are expected to know how David came to the correct answer, which is the reason the author does not spell it out for us, but the author of the Chronicles does not assume that we know how David now followed the correct procedure for moving the ark, but tells us directly:
1 Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 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." 3 And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place which he had prepared for it. 4 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. 11 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. 13 "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." 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. 15 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 (1 Chronicles 15:1-152).
Thus the Ark of God arrived in Jerusalem carried in the God-approved manner and a special tent was made for it ( I Chronicles 15:1; II 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 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).
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