The carrying up of the Ark of the Covenant

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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
The answer to how that account fits within the rest of the Bible is multi-sided and multi-layered, of course. I think it helps to read it alongside Psalm 24, which in turn is helped by Zechariah 9 and 14 especially. Having done that, we can start to see all kinds of connections to key (or surprising) events in the life of Jesus: his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his being taken outside the gates and up Golgotha, his eventual return to rule and to dwell in the midst of his people.

That's just a start, but it will give us much to ponder.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
I would love to see commentary or hear a sermon on this re: Psalm 68, if you have that.
I don't have anything definite that I can think of, aside from standard commentaries on Psalm 68 and Ephesians 4:8. Matthew Poole on Psalm 68 might be the most helpful of those in connecting the psalm to the translation of the ark.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
What is the carrying up of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem under David a picture of in New Testament terms?
I got nothing. And I'm not saying that is the answer. I just think of the first failed attempt and the extreme joy of the final. The account in 1 Chronicles 15 & 16 is awesome. David is portrayed as a prophet and priest. And it ends with Michal despising David in her heart for his zeal for the Lord.

1 Chronicles 15:29
And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.

Here Michal, the daughter of King Saul, shows her true colors as has been the case between the righteous and the wicked since Cain and Abel.

Proverbs 29:27 (KJV)​
An unjust man is an abomination to the just: And he that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.​
 
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Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks. Not disagreeing at all, but how does carrying up of the Ark to Jerusalem illustrate Christ's ascension to heaven or his return to rule? And what does one make of the failed first attempt in these pictures or analogies?
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks. Not disagreeing at all, but how does carrying up of the Ark to Jerusalem illustrate Christ's ascension to heaven or his return to rule? And what does one make of the failed first attempt in these pictures or analogies?
Concerning the first failed attempt, I would just view that as a point of dissimilarity between the type and antitype: David is a sinner; Christ does all to perfection.

As for the procession itself, I would say that it is a great victory for the presence of God to come to his house and be at rest, now that all the enemies have been conquered, and for a kingdom of peace to rule. There is an ascension to the mount where the ark will be laid. Moving the ark, as noted by commentators, was done with the understanding that God would arise and scatter his foes from before him. There are dissimilarities here too of course: the ark comes to rest in a tent until Solomon the king of peace builds the temple and moves the ark there; David is still ruling for some 40 years (if I remember correctly), whereas Christ rules from heaven without interruption. The picture though is of a great victory and a great work being completed, ushering in a kingdom of peace.
 
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Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks. I think that this must be on the right track but I am still missing something. Perhaps I am not grasping the place of triumphal processions in human life. I don't remember ever taking part in one.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
I am wondering if the finding and carrying up of the Ark isn't more of a picture of the place that true religion has in the nation? And perhaps the failed attempt illustrates how not to promote true religion.
 

Vernon

Puritan Board Freshman
I am wondering if the finding and carrying up of the Ark isn't more of a picture of the place that true religion has in the nation? And perhaps the failed attempt illustrates how not to promote true religion.
For the three months that the ark was in the house of Obed-Edom, his house was blessed. David’s motivation for moving it to Jerusalem is clear, according to 2 Sam. 6:12. One might say David’s action was, therefore, selfish: but no. He wanted the presence of God to fill the national life.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
As one privileged to preach through various OT books over the years, I suppose a lesson that has come to me has been the importance of taking in the widest possible consideration of context and history before settling on what seems like a true, proper, and fruitful NT trajectory from a particular OT event.

It seems important to me to realize that the lesson (in NT terms) of the ark-of-the-covenant movement in this case, cannot truly be reckoned with apart from thinking of the (actually rather long) historical movement of that ark. The ark is given shape and physical form in Exodus. It starts to move with the people in the wilderness. It goes into the land with the people, even figuring prominently in the story of crossing the Jordan.

It stays in the Tabernacle, which tent (theoretically movable, a "temporary" shelter) ends up in something of a fixed location in Shiloh--centrally located to the 12 tribes--during the centuries of the Judges. But there's a moment when the ark is moved, is taken away actually by the Philistines. This event is most likely what is referred to in Jdg.18:30 as "the captivity of the land," (see the following v31 as explanatory; cf.1Sam.4:22). This event, recorded in 1Sam.4, does not get as much interest as it should in studying the OT period (the time of the judges generally does not, compared to the events of the Pentateuch+Joshua and then the monarchy). But there are repeated (if brief and isolated) references to the moment involving the burning of Shiloh (and loss of the ark) elsewhere in the OT.

Samson's adult activity as judge probably begins around that time, and he labored 20yrs (Jdg.16:31). The time the ark was in Philistine hands was relatively short, 7 months per 1Sam6:1. It came back to Israel, and stayed in "the house of Abinadab" in Kirjath Jearim for 20yrs, 1Sam.7:2 (K-J was a city at the juncture of tribes Judah, Dan, and Benjamin); so it was there until (and long afterward!) Samson brought the house (of Dagon) down. And in the aftermath of Samson, Samuel rose up to judge Israel (see 1Sam.7:6,15,17) and to liberate Israel from the Philistine (see vv13).

But the ark did not move, not until the 8th year of King David at the earliest. The ark did not return to the Holy of Holies, when next we know the Tabernacle was situated in Nob, 1Sam.21:1. in the land of Benjamin to the NE of Jerusalem 5-7 miles by road, halfway to Anathoth (Jeremiah's hometown). People who travel mostly by foot don't typically make trips of even a few miles, given the time and preparation involved (the ease with which we travel long distances today makes us think of a 2-3 mile journey as extremely short). The ark and the Tabernacle proper apparently remained separated by a distance of +10miles (as the crow flies) and for over 3/4 of a century.

Then, David sought to reunite them, once with an abortive attempt (2Sam6:2ff) then after 3 months (vv11ff) all the way to the environs of Jerusalem, which he had shortly before made his new capital city for the united tribes (N+S) after expelling the Jebusites. The LORD still dwelt in a tent, and his ark-throne would not move (slightly) to king Solomon's newly built Temple (at Jerusalem) for another +40yrs. The ark remained there until the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's forces. The physical item, and its immediate symbolism, seem to pass out of view (destroyed or lost), with the loss of a king of David's line to sit on the throne.

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In thinking about the movement of the ark in those OT times, and the association of the throne of the LORD and of David, his bringing the ark to Jerusalem was a visual sign of the uniting of the thrones. David wanted his reign to symbolize the return of Israel (under a king of human nature) to actually being under the true King of Israel, the LORD. The reign of Saul was the reign of Man. The people wanted a king "like the nations" around them had, and God gave them a taste of just that. Man from the day of the fall in Eden has wanted to be his own authority. Saul epitomized that, even to ordering the slaying of the priests at Nob, 1Sam.22.

From Sinai, God meant his Tabernacle and ark-throne to symbolize his dwelling in the midst of his people. What did it mean for the people of God to have to grapple with the fact that He was "estranged" for a long time from his throne-room? He obviously had not abandoned his people, but hadn't they abandoned him? He was not being united with his Tabernacle. David brought that situation to an end. His son built the LORD a permanent house in which the LORD might dwell gloriously with his people.

I think a lot more can be said, more connections made. But this would be the beginning for me.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thanks very much for this. So might one summarise by saying that the ark symbolises the Divine presence
with his people?
That is generally true. You asked specifically about David's desire to bring the ark to Jerusalem and his eventual accomplishment of it. The moment also seems to have reunited the ark with the Tabernacle. This all points to David's understanding of his typical role as mediatorial king, as a sign of a future Son who would even more perfectly combine the thrones. Solomon, the very next (yet imperfect) son of David, takes his father's intention one step further symbolically, building the permanent Temple; and alongside that finished edifice building his own palace in such a way that the structures' courtyard walls integrated the projects.

Looking at the dominant skyline of Jerusalem, one's eyes would be drawn to the gleaming Temple, and in the same vision would be captured sight of the king's palace--there was really just one throne for Israel: the divine throne secure behind many barriers in the Temple's inner sanctum; combined with the throne of his earthly vicegerent, the humanly accessible king, the adopted son and heir, "this day have I begotten you," Ps.2. The former represented an intersection, upon Zion (the highest mountain in the world) where heaven touched earth. The latter was more earthy, where the human anointed one was the divine analogue, and the people accessed their king as he represented the LORD to them.

Again, this latter templar-complex is a bit further along the timeline, an "improvement" (if you will) on the signs that David makes use of. He makes Jerusalem his capital, then brings the ark to where he is, and re-establishes the Tabernacle and it's altar as the ark's residence right outside of his city gates. Israel's human king deliberately makes the effort to centralize and relocate and reorient the nation not on himself but on God; or at least to indicate that by devoting themselves to his throne, Israel would also be devoting themselves to the LORD.

The NT believer is fully aware that there has been an even greater step to the realization of the signs and types in Christ, the Son of David, who has combined the throne of God and David, and elevated the latter into the heavenlies with his ascension. There is no more mere-human analogue to the divine King, but the King is divine, Emmanuel, God having taken on man's flesh, one Person in two natures. This is the Mediatorial King, whose residence is not in a palace whose walls are integrated to the Temple's, but who resides in the Temple itself as its owner and rightful occupant, where the barriers have all fallen to those who have been granted a general access to their Monarch.

Jack K (2nd post above) earlier indicated some other ideas along the line, when he mentioned various OT texts and the Triumphal Entry. Jesus goes straight to the Temple, and on most days during the Holy Week returns there as if asserting ownership (never mind chasing out the moneychangers and the like). Of course, he also mentions how the whole place, so admired by the disciples (as they argue over who will get the coolest corner-office), will be thrown down--an idea that they cannot get their head around, unless... "Maybe Jesus means the end of the world!"

Back to David. This is the OT age, the age of the symbol writ large. In David the people have been rescued by a king after God's own heart. Their foolish idea: that their spiritual problems will be solved if they only have the benefits of a king (when they had a King all along, but not "like the nations"), is turned to divine advantage. The people need more than political unity. They need more than a battlefield hero. They need more than leadership and faithful judgment according to the law. They need a king who purifies worship in the land, who maintains the Mosaic ordinance and Levitical priest, and who leads the people in worship. He is the first to bow his own knee to the true Sovereign.

But where shall he do that? Shall he travel many miles from his stronghold to find the Tabernacle? If he does, the ark-throne isn't even there! Shall he travel additional miles in the other direction to find the ark-throne? There is no altar there beside it! Why should there be any distance between his citadel and either the divine ark-throne or the altar? Bring them together. And let the king of Israel humiliate himself in the dance before the LORD! David's monarchy is not about his personal exaltation, and the relative humiliation of all the plebes who should know to doff their hats when he comes in the room.

The ark is about God ruling in the midst of his people. The saying was, "there is no king in Israel," meaning there is no human monarch fit to rule this free people. Gideon rejected the idea that he or his son should be so raised, when the honor was offered him. But the saying became a lament, that there should be such a good king, because the people could not be as free as that; they had degenerated, and did as they pleased ignoring or ignorant of the Law, "every man doing that which was right in his own eyes." If the people would have admitted "Israel has one King, Jehovah, forever!" they would not have needed that sign of a mediatorial king. Yea, even a redeemed people need a king/King.

David settles his earthly throne in the shadow of the heavenly. He celebrates his King coming to the Zion David has taken possession of, in preparation for receiving his LORD. Someday (Mt.21), there will be Another who enters Jerusalem, One who unites the throne of earth and heaven; not by an earthly visual sign, but by raising the former into the latter, where only the spiritual people can find it, and enter. Which they will.
 
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