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Ark Carried Properly; Michal's Contempt

(1 Chronicles 15:1-16:3; 2 Samuel 6:12-19) November 25

When David hears that those of the house of Obed-Edom have been blessed due to their possession of the ark, he is once again encouraged to bring it to Jerusalem. The account in 1 Chronicles 15 reveals that David is now aware that the ark had not been transported according to God's instructions: "Then David said, 'No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever'" (verse 2). And to them he says in verse 13, "For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order" (Hebrew mishpat, "judgment, law, decree, charge").

Again, God's law, charge or decree concerning the transport of the ark can be found in Exodus 25:14-15 and Numbers (4:5, 15; 7:9; 10:21). The ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites, through the use of poles that were inserted through rings. That is now done "as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD" (1 Chronicles 15:15).

The account in 2 Samuel 6 reveals the deep respect and care that David takes in carrying out God's instructions concerning transportation of the ark. Sacrifices are offered to God after those bearing the ark have "gone six paces" (verse 13). It is unclear whether this means just once, after the first approximately 18 feet traveled, or if it implies once every 18 feet that the ark is carried, all the way to Jerusalem.

David once again rejoices with shouting, music and dancing as the ark is carried into Jerusalem. This is not just loud "noise," because those appointed to perform are skilled musicians and singers. David is a skilled musician and composer himself. His manner of celebration, however, earns the contempt of his wife Michal. We will see more about the specifics of her derision in this instance when we read soon of David's return home, but it is apparent that Michal despised him for much more than his actions on this occasion.

Michal's is a terribly tragic story. She was very much in love with the young heroic David in his earlier years (1 Samuel 18:20, 28). And when he bravely killed 200 Philistines to marry her (verse 27), she must have loved him even more. But her love for David estranged this young princess from her father King Saul. Indeed, when Saul sought to kill David, Michal put her own life on the line to help her husband escape (19:11-18). But his escape only resulted in her separation from him as David spent at least 10 years fleeing from Saul. In fact, Saul annulled her marriage to David and had Michal wed to another man named Palti (25:44). While in this new marriage, her father and Jonathan, her brother, died in battle.

David, now recently established with the full regal power of Israel, had demanded that Michal be restored to him. So she was forcibly taken from her husband, Palti. As he wept uncontrollably (2 Samuel 3:15-16), it is apparent that he sincerely loved her—and perhaps she had come to love him in return. Yet here she was back with David—no longer the young hero but king in her father's stead (a position no longer disputed since the assassination of her brother Ishbosheth shortly after her return to David). Worse, she could expect no monogamous devotion from her husband. David now had a harem—and she had to compete with at least six other women for whatever attention she might receive from him.

As The Nelson Study Bible concludes: "It is not likely that these mere actions of David, as he celebrated before the Lord at the return of the ark, brought about Michal's hatred of him (6:16). Her hatred had probably grown over the years. Her sarcastic words [which we'll soon read] on David's great day of religious and spiritual joy came from a lifetime of pain (6:20). Unlike her brother Jonathan, Michal did not accept her God-given lot and trust God for her future happiness (1 Sam. 23:16-18). Instead, she became bitter not only at David, but also toward God [which appears evident in that she was not joyful over the return of the ark and the restoration of tabernacle worship—even staying home instead of participating in the celebration]. Tragically, Scripture gives no indication that there was any healing for Michal. She died childless ([2 Samuel] 6:23)" ("A Love That Turned to Hate," p. 517).

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