The full question:

Provide an exegetical paper on 2 Samuel 6:12-23.


2 Samuel 6:12-23, and the arrival of the ark in Jerusalem, is one of the most pivotal acts of David’s kingship.[1] Indeed, ‘this chapter describes David’s first steps in making Jerusalem his religious capital.’[2] It is a key passage in David’s narrative, and thus needs to be exegeted thoroughly.

Davis suggests dividing the passage as: Bringing up the Ark (12-13), Joy (14-15), Tragedy (16), David’s Reaction (17-19), and In the House of David (20-23).[3] The strength of this structure is that it highlights the shift of focus in the narrative to Michal in verse 16, the subsequent switch back to David and the ark in verses 17-19, and the switch again to David and Michal in verses 20-23. However, verse 12 seems to sit by itself as an introductory verse, with the narrative then shifting to the transfer of the ark in verses 13-15. While verses 14-15 do indeed seem to convey joy, it seems to be closely linked with the ark being brought up. Hence, verse 13 seems to be tied with verses 14-15.

Firth suggests splitting it into two segments: The Second attempt to bring the Ark (12-19) and David and Michal’s clash (20-23).[4] This seems to capture the two big movements in the passage: while verse 20 does begin with a waw-consecutive (וַיָּ֥שָׁב),[5] the shift of focus from David and the ark to David and Michal suggests that it is indeed a new section.[6] Thus, it is a helpful over-view structure.

The Arrival of the Ark (Verses 12-19)

Verses 12-19 recount the story of the ark arriving in Jerusalem. Verse 12 sets the foundation for why David has decided to bring the ark to Jerusalem, while verses 13-19 recount how it was done.[7]

2.1 The Foundation (Verse 12)

12 וַיֻּגַּ֗ד לַמֶּ֣לֶךְ דָּוִד֮ לֵאמֹר֒ בֵּרַ֣ךְ יְהוָ֗ה אֶת־בֵּ֨ית עֹבֵ֤ד אֱדֹם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ בַּעֲב֖וּר אֲר֣וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ דָּוִ֗ד וַיַּעַל אֶת־אֲר֨וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֜ים מִבֵּ֨ית עֹבֵ֥ד אֱדֹ֛ם עִ֥יר דָּוִ֖ד בְּשִׂמְחָֽה׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

Verse 12 begins with the Hophal waw-consecutive וַיֻּגַּ֗ד (‘was told to’), which makes the translation passive.[8] [9] This is significant because it suggests that David was not actively seeking knowledge of the situation,[10] but rather passively hears it. The waw-consecutive suggests that this might not actually be the start of a section. However, the waw-consecutive chain goes all of the way back to the start of chapter 6, and indeed beyond it. There is also a shift in focus: in verses 1-11 David is scared of bringing the ark to Jerusalem, but from verse 12 onwards he has a change of heart, which suggests that this is indeed its own section.[11] The verb וַיַּעַל (‘bought up’) is a Hiphil, and thus a causative,[12] which emphasises David’s active role in bringing the ark to Jerusalem.[13]

Following the Argument of the Passage:

Verse 12 sets the foundation for the narrative to follow: it was told (וַיֻּגַּ֗ד) to David that the ark has been a great blessing (בֵּרַ֣ךְ) to Obed-edom and his house. As such, David decides that he will bring it into the ‘city of David’ (עִ֥יר דָּוִ֖ד).

The fact that Obed-edom has been blessed because of the ark is significant. This is seen in the way that it is repeated in both verses 11 and 12.[14] While the Philistines are afflicted with curses because of the ark[15] those who are on God’s side are blessed greatly. But only if they handle the ark correctly. As Chester notes, ‘there is an unavoidable weight of glory [in God’s presence and in handling the ark] that demands to be taken seriously.’[16] And indeed, in the following verses it becomes clear that David is taking the ark – and God’s presence – seriously indeed.

David’s motive for bringing the ark to Jerusalem seems clear: ‘[David] was confident that if the ark could be a source of blessing for one family, then it could become a source of blessing for an entire…nation.’[17] The specific blessing that Obed-edom received is not explicitly stated in the passage. However, 1 Chronicles 26:4-8 indicates that Obed-edom had many sons, which suggests that this might have been the blessing referred to here.[18] This is particularly interesting when contrasted with the apparent curse that God causes to fall upon Michal in verse 23.[19]

2.2 The Transportation of the Ark (Verses 13-15)

13 וַיְהִ֗י כִּ֧י צָעֲד֛וּ נֹשְׂאֵ֥י אֲרוֹן־יְהוָ֖ה שִׁשָּׁ֣ה צְעָדִ֑ים וַיִּזְבַּ֥ח שׁ֖וֹר וּמְרִֽיא׃

14 וְדָוִ֛ד מְכַרְכֵּ֥ר בְּכָל־עֹ֖ז לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְדָוִ֕ד חָג֖וּר אֵפ֥וֹד בָּֽד׃

15 וְדָוִד֙ וְכָל־בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מַעֲלִ֖ים אֶת־אֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֑ה בִּתְרוּעָ֖ה וּבְק֥וֹל שׁוֹפָֽר׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

Verse 13 begins with the Qal verb וַיְהִ֗י (‘it was’), followed by a temporal clause,[20] which shows the ‘when’ of the sentence.[21] This is a common construction, and thus וַיְהִ֗י does not need to be translated.[22] It often marks a subsection within the text, and as such has been translated as ‘Thus it happened.’ The participle construct ‘carriers of the ark of the LORD’ (נֹשְׂאֵ֥י אֲרוֹן־יְהוָ֖ה) is functioning as the subject here.[23]

Verse 14 begins with an a-typical word order: the standard sentence structure[24] is not used, which places an emphasis on the one doing the action (David).[25] However, while the second half of the sentence also has an unusual word order, the ‘logical subject…is in reality [the linen ephod]’ that David is wearing.[26] The word מְכַרְכֵּ֥ר (‘whirling’)[27] appears only here[28] in the Bible.[29] [30] It is a Pilpel, which means that it is to be translated in a similar way to a Piel.[31] [32] Verse 15 also contains an unusual word order, with the sentence beginning with וְדָוִד֙ וְכָל־בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל (‘David and all of the house of Israel’), thus placing emphasis on the subject. מַעֲלִ֖ים (‘brought up’) is a Hiphil, meaning that they ‘caused’ the ark to be brought up:[33] there is an emphasis on their actions in bringing the ark up.

Following the Argument of the Passage:

The phrase ‘and it was’ (וַיְהִ֗י) marks the beginning of the new section.[34] Kleven suggests that verses 13 and 14 are the key to the whole section, due to their focus on the transportation of the ark.[35] David’s method for bringing the ark up differs greatly from other accounts in Samuel:[36] this time it is transported correctly, with reverence and respect.[37] There are also sacrifices (וַיִּזְבַּ֥ח), whirling (מְכַרְכֵּ֥ר) before the LORD, and ceremonial shouting. The change in mindset is also seen in the fact that the Levites are the ones carrying the ark.[38] [39] It is interesting that they are not mentioned here: perhaps this is to emphasise the priestly role that David is playing, or to show that the people as a whole are involved in the process.[40]

It is no wonder that there is great joy to be found in these verses, as the ark ‘was the most important symbol of God’s approval among the unified tribes of Israel. [It]…represented the most powerful sign of God’s support for David and his new capital city.’[41] While the arrival of the ark in Ekron brings panic and fear,[42] [43] its arrival here brings dancing and rejoicing. And yet there is a contrast to be found in these verses: while there is tremendous joy, there is also trepidation, which is seen in the sacrificing of the animals.[44] These sacrifices functioned in two ways: as a sign of thanksgiving for God’s presence and goodness, and as a prayer for the safe completion of the transporting of the ark.[45]

It is worth noting that David appears to take on an almost priestly function here: he is wearing a linen ephod (אֵפ֥וֹד בָּֽד), which is a priestly garment,[46] and he seems to be the one sacrificing the ox and fattened animals. While the text does not necessarily need to mean that David himself is the one sacrificing the animals, he is clearly the one in charge of the animals being sacrificed. The grammar used places an emphasis on the clothes,[47] making them the ‘real subject,’ thus demonstrating the priestly emphasis to these verses, and the priestly role that David is taking.

There is a discussion about whether David’s ‘whirling’ (מְכַרְכֵּ֥ר) in these verses is a positive thing or a negative thing.[48] Some speculate that David ‘participated in a Canaanite ecstatic dance that became something of an orgy,’[49] with the dance being a political move. But this does not seem to be the way that the text handles it: verses 21-22 suggest that it was in fact a good thing, that David’s whirling is a visible sign to everyone that the LORD is the true King.[50] [51] Thus it is clearly intended to be seen in a positive light.

McCarter suggests that the shofar (שׁוֹפָֽר) that is being played is being used here to announce the coming of the procession, rather than to make music and celebrate. This is because the shofar is usually used for signalling in battle,[52] signalling to call for action,[53] heralding the advent of a new king,[54] or for ritual purposes.[55] [56] [57] While Psalm 150:3 might seem like an exception to this, it could be suggesting that worship is wider than just temple worship: it is a wider, more inclusive celebration of God and His character.[58]

There is debate as to whether an oxen and fattened animal were sacrificed every six steps, or whether they were only sacrificed after the first six steps. As Keil and Delitzsch helpfully point out, it is entirely possible that there were sacrifices every six steps: the procession need not have stopped to wait, and the number of oxen is not beyond reason.[59] However, the text itself does not explicitly state one way or the other, and thus it is not clear.[60] Regardless, the point is clear: David is sacrificing animals as a sign of respect to the LORD. Thus, the overall impact of these verses is that the worship of God is central.[61]

2.3 Michal’s Response (Verse 16)

16 וְהָיָה֙ אֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֔ה בָּ֖א עִ֣יר דָּוִ֑ד וּמִיכַ֨ל בַּת־שָׁא֜וּל נִשְׁקְפָ֣ה׀ בְּעַ֣ד הַחַלּ֗וֹן וַתֵּ֨רֶא אֶת־הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ דָּוִד֙ מְפַזֵּ֤ז וּמְכַרְכֵּר֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וַתִּ֥בֶז ל֖וֹ בְּלִבָּֽהּ׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

The word נִשְׁקְפָ֣ה׀ (‘looked down’) is a Niphal: while Niphal verbs often have a reflexive meaning, it seems to be being used here in a purely passive sense.

Following the Argument of the Passage:

Verse 16 introduces Michal, David’s wife.[62] As David brings the ark into Jerusalem she looks down at him leaping (מְפַזֵּ֤ז) and whirling (וּמְכַרְכֵּר֙). Rather than feel pleasure at the sight of her husband worshipping God she feels contempt (וַתִּ֥בֶז) for him in her heart. This is only the fourth time that this word is used in Samuel: twice the LORD’s anointed was the one being despised. As such, the fact that Michal has contempt for the LORD’s anointed here indicates that she is to be seen in a negative light.[63]

It is interesting that Michal is described as ‘the daughter of Saul’ (וּמִיכַ֨ל בַּת־שָׁא֜וּל) rather than the wife of David. Bergen suggests that this is because of her attitude towards the LORD and his anointed.[64] [65] It does seem to create a distance between her and David: a distance that was not there earlier in the story when Michal ‘loved David.’[66] It also seems to show the contrast between whose side Michal is on: while David leaps and whirls in joyful worship of the LORD, Michal looks and despises this public worship in her heart, in much the same way that Saul did.[67] Therefore, it seems likely that the author’s intent here is to create distance between Michal and David.[68]

2.4 The Arrival of the Ark (Verses 17-19)

17 וַיָּבִ֜אוּ אֶת־אֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֗ה וַיַּצִּ֤גוּ אֹתוֹ֙ בִּמְקוֹמ֔וֹ בְּת֣וֹךְ הָאֹ֔הֶל אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָטָה־ל֖וֹ דָּוִ֑ד וַיַּ֨עַל דָּוִ֥ד עֹל֛וֹת לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה וּשְׁלָמִֽים׃

18 וַיְכַ֣ל דָּוִ֔ד מֵהַעֲל֥וֹת הָעוֹלָ֖ה וְהַשְּׁלָמִ֑ים וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם בְּשֵׁ֖ם יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃

19 וַיְחַלֵּ֨ק לְכָל־הָעָ֜ם לְכָל־הֲמ֣וֹן יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ לְמֵאִ֣ישׁ וְעַד־אִשָּׁה֒ לְאִ֗ישׁ חַלַּ֥ת לֶ֙חֶם֙ אַחַ֔ת וְאֶשְׁפָּ֣ר אֶחָ֔ד וַאֲשִׁישָׁ֖ה אֶחָ֑ת וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ כָּל־הָעָ֖ם אִ֥ישׁ לְבֵיתֽוֹ׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

Verse 17 begins with two Hiphil verbs: וַיָּבִ֜אוּ (‘brought’) and וַיַּצִּ֤גוּ (‘set’), meaning a literal translation would be ‘caused to be brought’ and ‘caused to be set.’[69] Verse 18 begins with the Piel verb וַיְכַ֣ל (‘finished’) which is being used in a factitive way, thus demonstrating the completeness of David’s sacrificing: it is finished, with no need to be continued.[70] The second Piel verb, וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ (‘blessed’), appears to be a denominative verb,[71] as it derives from the noun ‘blessing’ – David is giving a blessing to the people, hinting at the blessings associated with the ark.

Following the Argument of the Passage:

There is discussion as to what the tent (הָאֹ֔הֶל) is that David sets the ark in. Hertzberg argues that it is ‘not to be identified with the wilderness sanctuary (‘the tabernacle’).’[72] Rather, it is a tent that David has created for this purpose. Once the ark has been set in its place David again offers (וַיַּ֨עַל) sacrifices. This is significant because the journey of the ark begins and ends with sacrifices.[73] He then blesses the people in the name of the LORD of hosts (בְּשֵׁ֖ם יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת).

Once the formal proceedings have finished, David gives food to everyone.[74] While there is some discussion as to what this food is,[75] the main point is clear: David gives food to the people.[76] Blaikie suggests that this may be laying the foundation for the people of God giving food to the needy.[77] [78] While this is a good practice, there is no mention of the people being needy here, and thus it seems that this is not what the text is trying to show. Evans suggests that ‘the main motivation may have been to increase the popularity of…David’s government.’[79] While it is likely that a celebration like this would indeed have that effect, it is a somewhat cynical view of David and his devotion to God. Scripture is clear that David was a man after God’s own heart,[80] and thus it seems likely that David’s main motivation is to honour God. It also demonstrates the relationship between the LORD and His people: eating food in God’s presence is a sign of friendship and relationship.[81]

David and Michal (Verses 20-23)

Brueggemann argues that this section moves the reader towards the Yahwistic claim found in the middle of the story.[82] It follows the chiastic pattern of: honour, maids, shamelessly,[83] before Yahweh, chose me above…above, prince over Israel, before Yahweh,[84] contemptible, maids, honour.[85] [86] This rhetoric device works to establish that in the end David confidently refutes Michal’s words.[87] There does seem to be some truth to this pattern, with the passage revolving around the LORD and His anointed.

3.1 Michal Confronts David (Verse 20)

20 וַיָּ֥שָׁב דָּוִ֖ד לְבָרֵ֣ךְ אֶת־בֵּית֑וֹ וַתֵּצֵ֞א מִיכַ֤ל בַּת־שָׁאוּל֙ לִקְרַ֣את דָּוִ֔ד וַתֹּ֗אמֶר מַה־נִּכְבַּ֨ד הַיּ֜וֹם מֶ֣לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִגְלָ֤ה הַיּוֹם֙ לְעֵינֵ֨י אַמְה֣וֹת עֲבָדָ֔יו כְּהִגָּל֥וֹת נִגְל֖וֹת אַחַ֥ד הָרֵקִֽים׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

Both the Niphal verbs נִּכְבַּ֨ד (‘honour’) and נִגְלָ֤ה (‘uncover’) are reflexive, hence their translation of ‘honour himself’ and ‘uncovered himself.’[88] Interestingly, these key verbs are in the third person, rather than the first person as might be expected when addressing someone in a direct conversation. Perhaps this is to emphasis David’s position as King, to add distance between the two of them, and to add an element of scorn and derision to Michal’s comments.[89] The phrase כְּהִגָּל֥וֹת נִגְל֖וֹת אַחַ֥ד הָרֵקִֽים (‘as one of the empty ones shamelessly uncovers himself’) is an unusual Hebrew phrase. This combination of an infinitive construct and an infinitive absolute (כְּהִגָּל֥וֹת נִגְל֖וֹת) is unique in biblical Hebrew, with Firth suggesting that it is ‘an emphatic way of stressing David’s exposure.’[90]

Following the Argument of the Passage:

David returns (וַיָּ֥שָׁב) home after his triumphant exploits with the ark, ready to bless (לְבָרֵ֣ךְ) his house. The use of the word house (בֵּית֑וֹ) here is significant, preparing the reader for its important role in chapter 7.[91] The foundation is being laid for the blessing that will indeed come upon David’s house in the following chapter.

As David arrives, Michal comes out to meet him. While it might be expected that she will congratulate David on bringing the ark to Jerusalem, she instead ‘gives him a dressing down.’[92] Her issue becomes clear very quickly: the word for uncover (גָּלָה) appears three times in Michal’s confrontation with David.[93] Thus the point is clear: in Michal’s eyes, David has embarrassed himself through being uncovered.

But what is her issue with the way that David uncovered himself? Alter suggests that the word uncovered (גָּלָה) is being used in a sexual sense, and thus that Michal is experiencing a sense of sexual jealousy.[94] [95] While this is possible, the verb itself does not make clear the extent to which David exposed himself. Therefore, while it is possible that David danced naked, the fact that he was wearing a linen ephod earlier suggests that this is highly unlikely.[96] Thus, it seems that Michal’s issue with David’s ‘exposure’ is more likely that he has behaved in a way not befitting a king.[97] For Michal, ‘God was a social amenity, a political backer’[98] – He was not someone to rejoice in, but to use. Thus, seeing her husband, the king, dancing before Him was a dishonour of the highest order.

Nevertheless, despite Michal’s claims that David has dishonoured himself, it is clear that the people are actually positive towards David.[99] [100] Thus, Michal’s response seems to differ greatly from that of the general populace, and works to mar the proceedings somewhat.[101] This divide between Michal and David, and between Michal and the people of God, is emphasised further with the repeated reference to Michal as ‘the daughter of Saul’ (וּמִיכַ֨ל בַּת־שָׁא֜וּל) rather than the wife of David.[102] It is clear that Michal is not of the same mindset of the LORD, His chosen leader, or His chosen people.

3.2 David Responds (Verses 21-22)

21 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִד֮ אֶל־מִיכַל֒ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר בָּֽחַר־בִּ֤י מֵֽאָבִיךְ֙ וּמִכָּל־בֵּית֔וֹ לְצַוֺּ֨ת אֹתִ֥י נָגִ֛יד עַל־עַ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְשִׂחַקְתִּ֖י לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

22 וּנְקַלֹּ֤תִי עוֹד֙ מִזֹּ֔את וְהָיִ֥יתִי שָׁפָ֖ל בְּעֵינָ֑י וְעִם־הָֽאֲמָהוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמַ֔רְתְּ עִמָּ֖ם אִכָּבֵֽדָה׃

Grammatical Points of Interest

David’s response to Michal does not begin with a verb, and thus there is an implied ‘to be’ needed when translating.[103] Verse 22 begins with the Niphal וּנְקַלֹּ֤תִי (‘demean oneself’), hence the reflexive translation of ‘demean myself.’[104] The phrase שָׁפָ֖ל בְּעֵינָ֑י (‘lowly in my own eyes’) is disputed: the MT has ‘lowly in my eyes,’ with one Hebrew manuscript instead having ‘in his eyes.’ The LXX differs, having ‘in your eyes.’ There are differing opinions as to which is the correct translation, with no clear answer as to which is the most accurate.[105] [106] Verse 22 ends with the cohortative אִכָּבֵֽדָה (‘be honoured’), which could be to add ‘special emphasis.’[107]

Following the Argument of the Passage:

David now responds to Michal’s accusations. He begins by stating his claim to the throne: the LORD chose David above Michal’s own father to be the leader of His people. David’s choice of words here is interesting: he does not refer to himself as the ‘king,’ but rather as a prince (נָגִ֛יד). However, as Campbell notes, this is not being used in the prophetic sense, and thus does not mean that David is establishing himself as the ‘future-king’ or Israel.[108] If this were the case, then his claim over Saul would be much weaker. Instead it seems clear that, despite his unusual choice of words, David is showing himself to be the actual leader of Israel. Thus, because the LORD has chosen him, he will celebrate (וְשִׂחַקְתִּ֖י) before the LORD. Indeed, David will even ‘demean himself’ (וּנְקַלֹּ֤תִי) for the sake of the LORD. Bergen notes that this word is used elsewhere in the OT as a ‘virtue signifying proper humility before the Lord.’[109] [110] It is not, as Michal supposes, a dishonour to demean oneself in this way, but rather a great virtue.[111] [112] Indeed, David says that the slave girls,[113] will not look down on him for his actions, but he will be honoured (אִכָּבֵֽדָה) with them.

3.3 The Consequences for Michal (Verse 23)

23 וּלְמִיכַל֙ בַּת־שָׁא֔וּל לֹֽא־הָ֥יָה לָ֖הּ יָ֑לֶד עַ֖ד י֥וֹם מוֹתָֽהּ׃ פ

Grammatical Points of Interest

Verse 23 has an unusual word order, with Michal the daughter of Saul (וּלְמִיכַל֙ בַּת־שָׁא֔וּל) being at the start of the sentence, and thus drawing emphasis.[114]

Following the Argument of the Passage:

What is clear from verse 23 is that Michal remains childless ‘until the day of her death’ (עַ֖ד י֥וֹם מוֹתָֽהּ). What is less clear is why this is the case. Reid argues that the possible cause of Michal’s lack of children was that David did not ‘treat her as his wife’ from here onwards. He suggests that this is the case because of the reference to Michal as the ‘daughter of Saul.’[115] While this is certainly possible, the verse seems to be contrasting with verse 12, where the reader is told that Obed-edom was blessed[116] because of his treatment of the ark. This is an obvious contrast with Michal, who has no children, seemingly because of her attitude towards David and the ark. However, because the text does not explicitly say why she is childless,[117] while it may be reasonable to conclude that the curse of no children is from God,[118] it remains speculation.

Morse takes it one step further than Reid, arguing that Michal’s barrenness is actually a self-imposed act of defiance, aimed at robbing David of honour.[119] While Morse is to be commended for not wanting to assume anything that is not explicitly stated in the text[120] he seems to do just that in his attempt to explain how it is actually Michal’s choice: the text makes no mention of whether Michal chose to remain childless or not. Thus, again, the answer that the text seems to be suggesting, if not explicitly stating, is that Michal’s barrenness is a ‘punishment sent by Yahweh on account of her attitude to the Ark.’[121]

Regardless, Andrews and Bergen seem correct when they suggest that Michal’s childness would have indicated one of two things to the Israelites: either that David ceased to associate with her from that point onwards, or that God had cursed her with bareness.[122] These two concepts are not necessarily mutually exclusive: God often uses people to bring about His ends,[123] [124] [125] so perhaps He used David’s lack of association with Michal to leave her barren. Either way the point is clear: Michal is no longer in God’s favour.[126] The curse of barrenness echoes the statement of 1 Samuel 2:30, that God will bless those who honour Him, but disdain those who despise Him.[127] Thus it seems likely that God is actively at work here, cursing Michal for her attitude towards the ark.

The final exchange between Michal and David[128] brings an end in the narrative to all things related to Saul.[129] Indeed, the fact that Michal remains childless ‘to the day of her death’ seems to make it even stronger: Saul’s line is being shown to end, while David’s will continue to flourish from here onward. This is one of the results of Michal’s barrenness: God is preventing a possible claimant on the throne in future generations[130] [131] by ensuring that Michal has no children.

Relevance for Today

2 Samuel 6 has a great deal of relevance for today. Firstly, it shows the contrast between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and particularly the ease with which God’s people today may draw near to God. In 2 Samuel 6 the ark of God is a fearsome thing, with the slightest misstep resulting in death. However, in the New Covenant God’s people may draw near to Him with no fear of death, thanks to Jesus’ saving works.[132] [133] 2 Samuel 6 contrasts the difference in how God’s people experience his presence: then it was an ark, now it is God’s Son.[134] It also shows the importance of believers’ heart attitude: David was willing to humiliate himself for the sake of God, and so it must be for believers today. Paul expresses a similar sentiment when he talks about being shamed for the Gospel:[135] [136] Christians must be willing to lay aside their own honour for the sake of God’s.[137] They must think lowly of themselves, and highly of God.[138] This is because ‘we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’[139] Thus, David’s God-focused attitude is an important reminder to believers today. And finally, it shows the importance of feeling joy about, and enthusiasm for, God. David is contrasted with Michal: David dances and rejoices, while Michal despises Him for it. Thus, as Blaikie puts it, ‘can it be right to give all our coldness to Christ and all our enthusiasm to the world?’[140] 2 Samuel 6 works to remind believers that God is great, and one who is worth rejoicing in.


The arrival of the ark in Jerusalem is one of the high points in David’s reign,[141] and highlights the importance of treating the LORD with the reverence and respect due to Him. But David’s jubilation also shows the joy associated with knowing and being near to God. Thus, 2 Samuel 6 inspires both fear and joy, reverent awe and heart-felt praise.



  1. Karel van der Toorn and Cornelis Houtman, ‘David and the Ark’, Journal of Biblical Literature 113/2 (1994): 209.

  2. David F. Payne, I & II Samuel (Daily Study Bible–Old Testament; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982), 183.

  3. Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007), 72.

  4. David G. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary 8; Nottingham, England; Downers Grove, Illinois: Apollos ; InterVarsity, 2009), 376–378.

  5. Which might suggest that it is a continuation of the narrative from verses 12-19

  6. Or at least, a new section within the existing passage.

  7. Kenneth Chafin, The Communicator’s Commentary. 1, 2 Samuel (The Communicator’s Commentary Series 8; Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1989), 278.

  8. Hence the translation of ‘It was told to King David…’ For the usual translation of Hophal as passive see: C. L. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Rev. ed ed.; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 322.

  9. Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001), 219.

  10. As the more reflexive Niphal might suggest.

  11. Or at the least, a sub-section within a wider segment.

  12. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 181.

  13. Kevin Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (New Beacon Bible Commentary; Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012), 206.

  14. Incidentally, this is another sign that verse 12 begins a new section: if it was a continuation of the above narrative then there would be no need to repeat this information.

  15. See 1 Samuel 5:6. As Davis notes, ‘the presence of the ark had brought disease and death to Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron.’ Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007), 62.

  16. Tim Chester, I Samuel for You (UK: The Good Book Company, 2014), 52.

  17. Stephen Andrews and Robert Bergen, Holman Old Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Samuel (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2009), 231.

  18. Robert P. Gordon, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary (Exeter, Devon: Paternoster Pr, 1986), 233.

  19. For further discussion on this point see Section 3.3

  20. Shown through the use of the word כִּ֧י (when)

  21. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 163.

  22. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 139.

  23. John C. L. Gibson, Davidson’s Introductory Hebrew Grammar Syntax (4. ed ed.; Edinburgh: Clark, 1994), 134.

  24. verb-subject-object

  25. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 149–151.

  26. Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Volume 2) (Subsidia Biblica 14/1-14/2; Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblio, 1991), 416–417.

  27. Gerardo G Sachs, ‘David Dances — Michal Scoffs’, Jewish Bible Quarterly 34/4 (October 2006): 262.

  28. And in verse 16

  29. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel, 223.

  30. Henry Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Books of Samuel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1899), 295.

  31. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 330.

  32. Bonnie Pedrotti Kittel, Vicki Hoffer, and Rebecca Abts Wright, Biblical Hebrew: A Text and Workbook (Yale Language Series; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 209.

  33. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 213.

  34. David J Fuller, ‘A Comparative Discourse Analysis Approach Tot He Synoptic Ark Narratives of 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13-15’, Conversations with the Biblical World 35/ (2015): 146.

  35. Terence Kleven, ‘Hebrew Style in 2 Samuel 6’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35/3 (September 1992): 306.

  36. Such as 1 Samuel 6:19-7:2 and 2 Samuel 6:1-10

  37. Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (The New American Commentary v. 7; Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 331.

  38. While these verses do not identify them as such 1 Chronicles 15:1-15 gives additional details suggesting that it was the Levites.

  39. Robert B. Chisholm, 1 and 2 Samuel (Teach the Text Commentary Series; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2013), 213.

  40. Even if it is the Levites who are specifically carrying the ark.

  41. Bill T. Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text– to Contemporary Life (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), 459.

  42. See 1 Samuel 5:10

  43. Ralph W. Klein, 1 Samuel (Word Biblical Commentary; Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1983), 49.

  44. John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 187.

  45. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel, 223.

  46. Tim Chester, 2 Samuel for You (UK: The Good Book Company, 2017), 51.

  47. The ‘double construction of the active participle is also found with the passive participle,’ thus making the ‘real subject’ the clothes, not David. Joüon and Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Volume 2), 416.

  48. Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching; Louisville, Ky: John Knox Press, 1990), 250.

  49. Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching; Louisville, Ky: John Knox Press, 1990), 250.

  50. And that by extension, David is merely one of His subjects

  51. Sachs, “David Dances — Michal Scoffs,” 262.

  52. 2 Samuel 2:28; 18:16, Nehemiah 4:20, Job 39:24-25

  53. Judges 7:18, 2 Samuel 15:10

  54. 1 Samuel 13:3, 1 Kings 1:34, Isaiah 58:1

  55. Exodus 19:13, Judges 3:27, Leviticus 23:24

  56. Tony W. Cartledge, 1 & 2 Samuel (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary; Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Pub, 2001), 439.

  57. McCarter, II Samuel, 171–172.

  58. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72: Songs for the People of God (The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 285–286.

  59. It would have been at most a few thousand oxen and fattened animals. C. F. Keil and D. D. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on The Books of Samuel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), 335.

  60. Keil and Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on The Books of Samuel, 335.

  61. Eugene H. Peterson, First and Second Samuel (1st ed ed.; Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999), 164.

  62. Michal will be a big part of the narrative from verses 20-23

  63. Chisholm, 1 and 2 Samuel, 214.

  64. Meaning that she is thus linked with Saul rather than David.

  65. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 332.

  66. See 1 Samuel 18:17-30

  67. A. W. Pink, The Life of David (Swengel, Pa.: Reiner Publications, 1977), 318.

  68. By linking her with Saul.

  69. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 181.

  70. For the moment at least.

  71. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 196.

  72. H. W. Hertzberg, 1 & 2 Samuel (London: SCM Press LTD, 1964), 280.

  73. David G. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary 8; Nottingham, England : Downers Grove: Apollos ; InterVarsity, 2009), 378.

  74. Both men and women.

  75. See the discussion above concerning the translation of the words.

  76. Indeed, the use of לְאִ֗ישׁ has the ‘strong meaning of each one/every one.’ This it is clear that David gave food to all of the people in celebration, not just some of them. Joüon and Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Volume 2), 547.

  77. Although he does note that this is not to be a habitual and regular practice, but rather the occasional act of giving sustenance.

  78. W.G. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), 94–95.

  79. Mary J. Evans, The Message of Samuel: Personalities, Potential, Politics, and Power (The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 193.

  80. 1 Samuel 13:14

  81. Chester, 2 Samuel for You, 51.

  82. Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, 252.

  83. All verse 20

  84. All verse 21

  85. All verse 22

  86. Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, 252.

  87. Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, 252–253.

  88. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 189.

  89. Mellish, 1 & 2 Samuel, 208.

  90. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 373.

  91. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 378.

  92. Andrew Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel: Hope for the Helpless (Sydney South: Aquila Press, 2008), 175.

  93. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 378.

  94. On top of her political resentment.

  95. Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York: Norton, 2000), 229.

  96. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 378.

  97. D. M. Gunn, The Story of King David: Genre and Interpretation (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1978), 74.

  98. Eugene H Peterson, ‘Why Did Uzzah Die? Why Did David Dance’, Crux 31/3 (September 1995): 8.

  99. And are even joining him in his rejoicing.

  100. D. F. Payne, ‘1 and 2 Samuel’, in New Bible Commentary (eds. D. A Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, et al.; England: Inter Varsity Press, 2009), 324–325.

  101. Chafin, The Communicator’s Commentary. 1, 2 Samuel, 279.

  102. Fir a further discussion on the effect of this title see Section 2.3

  103. Or more accurately, ‘It was’.

  104. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew, 189.

  105. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 64.

  106. The MT has been followed in this essay, though not with a large amount of confidence.

  107. A. A. Anderson, 2 Samuel (Word Biblical Commentary; Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1989), 99.

  108. Campbell, 2 Samuel, 67–68.

  109. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 333–334.

  110. See also McCarter’s note. McCarter, II Samuel, 187.

  111. As the slave girls are not the true audience, but rather the LORD.

  112. Davis, 2 Samuel, 79.

  113. And by implication, any true follower of the LORD

  114. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 149–151.

  115. Reid, 1 & 2 Samuel, 175.

  116. With Children. See 1 Chronicles 26:4

  117. A. A. Anderson, 2 Samuel (Word Biblical Commentary; Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publisher, 1989), 107.

  118. Rather than due to David not sleeping with Michal from here onwards. It is worth noting that it may indeed be that the method that God used to curse Michal was by causing David to never sleep with her again. But either way, the underlying cause of this curse seems to be God.

  119. Benjamin Morse, ‘The Defence of Michal: Pre-Raphaelite Persuasion in 2 Samuel 6’, Biblical Interpretation 21/1 (2013): 30–32.

  120. And indeed, it does not state explicitly in the text why Michal is barren until the day of her death.

  121. R. A Carlson, David, the Chosen King: A Traditio-Historical Approach to the Second Book of Samuel (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1964), 93.

  122. Andrews and Bergen, Holman Old Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Samuel, 233.

  123. Rowland S Ward, The Westminster Confession for the Church Today (Melbourne: Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, 1992), 50–51.

  124. Rowland S Ward, The Westminster Confession and Catechisms in Modern English: A Modernised Text Commemorating the 350th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-49 (Wantirna, Vic.: New Melbourne Press, 2000), 19.

  125. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. (n.p.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2010), 152.

  126. And thus has been cursed with no children.

  127. Gordon J Keddie, Triumph of the King: The Message of 2 Samuel (Darlington, Co. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1990), 55.

  128. Seen in verses 20-23

  129. Campbell, 2 Samuel, 70.

  130. Indeed, a Son of David, who was also the grandson of Saul, would have had a strong claim to the throne.

  131. Payne, “1 and 2 Samuel,” 325.

  132. Hebrews 7:11-19

  133. R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 201–202.

  134. Woodhouse, 2 Samuel, 185.

  135. 1 Corinthians 3:18

  136. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, 334.

  137. David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2010), 61.

  138. Jean Calvin, Calvin’s commentaries: The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1960).

  139. Stephen T. Um, 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 66.

  140. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel, 96.

  141. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 373.

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