The Davidic Monarchy in Jerusalem (II): Bringing the Ark Up To Jerusalem (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion


THe Davidic monarchy in Jerusalem (II)

Bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem (part I)

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem was David's first significant royal act following his conquest of the city and turning it into the capital of the Israelite kingdom. Last year we noted two novelties connected to this action: first, the daring itself that was expressed in the interest in and moving of the Ark; and second, the bringing of the Ark to the capital, Jerusalem, rather than to the Mishkan, alongside the great altar in Giv'on. In this shiur we wish to discuss the relationship between the two descriptions of the incident, the one in the book of Shemuel and the other in the book of Divrei Ha-yamim, and try to understand David's sin.

 

I.          THE DIFFERENCE IN THE ORDER OF THE STORIES BETWEEN SHEMUEL AND DIVREI HA-YAMIM AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT DIFFERENCE.

 

We saw in the previous shiur that in the book of Shemuel, the bringing up of the Ark from Kiryat Ye'arim is described following a description of the establishment of David's kingdom in Jerusalem, the expansion of his family, and his two victories over the Philistines. In Divrei Ha-yamim, on the other hand, the two stages in the bringing up of the Ark are described in two separate chapters – bringing the Ark up from Kiryat Ye'arim to the house of Oved-Edom of Gat in chapter 13, and bringing it up from the house of Oved-Edom to the city of David in chapter 15 – and between them there is the description of the establishment of David's kingdom in Jerusalem, the expansion of his family, and his victory over the Philistines.

 

What is the significance of this difference? In a certain sense the question is what is the proper order with respect to the establishment of the kingdom and the determination of the site of the Temple. In the Baraita in Sanhedrin (20b), the order is "to establish for them a king, to destroy the seed of Amalek, and to build for them a Temple." That is, like the order in Shemuel: establishing the kingdom in Jerusalem, victory over the Philistines, and only then bringing up the Ark to that city. This also stands to reason. The kingdom is the foundation upon which, following its establishment, the Temple can be built. For this reason, David first establishes his kingdom and defeats the Philistines, and only upon completion of this course of events does he bring the Ark up to Jerusalem.

 

The order found in Divrei Ha-yamim has a different logic. Even before the kingdom is firmly established, the perfect and ultimate goal is already set – the building of the Temple in Jerusalem – and this is what dictates and guides the establishment of the kingdom and the victory over the enemies. David, therefore, brings the Ark up to Jerusalem immediately after he is crowned king, out of a desire that Jerusalem should be the site of the future Temple, and thereby the kingdom should be blessed and established from heaven. However, his failure regarding the Ark (which will be analyzed below) returns David to the course described in the book of Shemuel, and in the end, he completes his mission of bringing the Ark up to the City of David only after establishing his kingdom in the city and routing his enemies. Moreover, the failed attempt to bring the Ark up to the City of David may in fact have stirred up the Philistines to consider the possibility of preventing the process and trying, as it were, to exploit a weakness that manifested itself.

 

However, in order to understand more deeply the fundamental difference between the two descriptions, we must first understand what is the root of the sin that brought the process to a halt.

 

II.        WHAT WAS THE SIN THAT BECAME MANIFEST IN THE ATTEMPT TO BRING THE ARK UP TO JERUSALEM?

 

The description itself of the bringing up of the Ark differs from one book to the next. In Shemuel the event is described concisely, without specifying the reasons for the sin and its repair, whereas in Divrei Ha-yamim the event is described in great detail.[1] We shall, therefore, focus on explaining the repair of the sin according to Divrei Ha-yamim.

 

Let us first take a look at the two descriptions. Let us start with II Shemuel 6:

 

And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Ba'alei-Yehuda, to bring up from there the Ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim. And they set the Ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Avinadav who was in Giv'a. And Uzza and Achyo, the sons of Avinadav, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Avinadav which was at Giv'a, accompanying the Ark of God: and Achyo went before the Ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of cypress wood, on lyres, and on lutes, and on timbrels, and on rattles, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nakhon's threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to the Ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzza; and God smote him there for his error: and there he died by the Ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had burst out against Uzza: and he called the name of the place Peretz-Uzza to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me? So David would not remove the Ark of the Lord to him into the City of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Oved–Edom of Gat. And the Ark of the Lord continued in the house of Oved-Edom of Gat three months: and the Lord blessed Oved-Edom, and all his household. And it was told to King David, saying, The Lord has blessed the house of Oved-Edom, and all that he has, because of the Ark of God. So David went and brought up the Ark of God from the house of Oved-Edom into the City of David with gladness. And when they that bore the Ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David leaped about before the Lord with all his might, and David was girded with a linen efod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the shofar. And as the Ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Mikhal, Shaul's daughter looked through a window, and saw King David dancing and leaping before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the Ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. And he made a distribution among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to everyone a cake of bread, and a good piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed everyone to his house. Then David returned to bless his household. And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the King of Israel today, in that he uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the low fellows shamelessly uncovers himself! And David said to Mikhal, It was before the Lord, who chose me before your father, and before all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore will I play before the Lord, and I will yet be more lightly esteemed than this, holding myself lowly. And of the maidservants of whom you have spoken, of them shall I be had in honor. And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul had no child to the day of her death. (II Shemuel 6:2-23)

 

            And this is the two-part description of the bringing up of the Ark in Divrei Ha-yamim:

 

And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said to all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good to you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad to our brethren everywhere, who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites who are in their cities that have pasture lands that they may gather themselves to us. And let us bring back the Ark of our God to us. For we did not inquire at it in the days of Shaul. And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing seemed right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shichor of Egypt as far as the entrance of Chamat, to bring the Ark of God from Kiryat-Ye'arim. And David went up, and all Israel to Ba'ala, that is, to Kiryat-Ye'arim which belonged to Yehuda, to bring up from there the Ark of God the Lord, who dwells above the keruvim, by whose name it is called. And they carried the Ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Avinadav: and Uzza and Achyo drove the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with lyres, and with lutes, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzza put out his hand to hold the Ark, for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzza, and He smote him, because he put his hand to the Ark; and there he died before God. And David was vexed, because the Lord had broken out upon Uzza: so that place is called Peretz–Uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the Ark of God home to me? So David did not bring the Ark to himself to the City of David, but carried it aside into the house of Oved-Edom of Gat. And the Ark of God remained with the family of Oved-Edom in his house for three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Oved-Edom and all that he had. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:1-14)

 

And David made houses for himself in the City of David, and prepared a place for the Ark of God, and pitched for it a tent. Then David said, None ought to carry the Ark of God but the Levites. For the Lord has chosen them to carry the Ark of God, and to minister to Him forever. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David assembled the children of Aharon, and the Levites: of the sons of Kehat; Uriel the chief, and his brethren 120; of the sons of Merari: Asaya the chief, and his brethren 220; of the sons of Gershom: Yoel the chief, and his brethren 130; of the sons of Elitzafan: Shemaya the chief, and his brethren 200; of the sons of Chevron: Eliel the chief, and his brethren eighty; of the sons of Uziel: Aminadav the chief, and his brethren 112. And David called for Tzadok and Evyatar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaya, and Yoel, Shemaya, and Eliel, and Aminadav, and he said to them, You are the chiefs of the fathers' houses of the Levites. Sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the Ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. For because you did not do so at first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, because we did not seek him according to the prescribed form. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the Ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the Ark of God upon their shoulders the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord. And David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, lutes and lyres and cymbals, playing loudly to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Yoel; and of his brethren, Asaf the son of Berekhyahu; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Etan the son of Kushayahu; and with them their brethren of the second degree, Zekharyahu, Ben, and Yaaziel, and Shemiramot, and Yechiel, and Unni, Eliav, and Benayahu, and Maaseyahu, and Mattityahu, and Elifelehu, and Mikneyahu, and Oved-Edom, and Yeiel, the gatekeepers. So the singers, Heman, Asaf, and Etan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass; and Zekharya, and Aziel, and Shemiramot, and Yechiel, and Unni, and Eliav, and Maaseyahu, and Benayahu, with lutes to Alamot; and Mattiyahu, and Elifelehu, and Mikneyahu, and Oved-Edom, and Yeiel, and Azazyahu, with lyres to the Sheminit to lead. And Kenanyahu, chief of the Levites, was over the song: he was master in the song, because he was skillful. And Berekhya and Elkana were gatekeepers for the Ark. And Shevanyahu, and Yoshafat, and Netanel, and Amasay, and Zekharyahu, and Benayahu, and Eliezer, the priests, did blow on the trumpets before the Ark of God: and Oved-Edom and Yechiyya were gatekeepers for the Ark. So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over the thousands, went to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of the house of Oved-Edom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites who bore the Ark, and the singers, and Kenanya the master of the song with the singers. David also had upon him an efod of linen. Thus all Israel brought up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the shofar, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with lutes and lyres. And it came to pass, as the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Mikhal the daughter of Shaul looking through a window saw King David dancing and playing; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the Ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had set up for it. And they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God. And when David had made an end of offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. And he distributed to every one of Israel both men and women, to every one a loaf of bread, and a good piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the Ark of the Lord, and to invoke, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel… So he left there before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord Asaf and his brethren, to minister before the Ark continually, as every day's work required. And Oved-Edom with their brethren sixty-eight; and Oved-Edom, the son of Yeditun and Chosa to be doorkeepers; and Tzadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle for the Lord in the high place that was at Giv'on, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Torah of the Lord, which He commanded Israel. And with them Heman and Yedutun, and the rest who were chosen, who were expressly named, to give thanks to the Lord, because His steadfast love endures forever. And with them Heman and Yedutun with trumpets and cymbals for making a loud sound, and with musical instruments of God. And the sons of Yedutun were posted at the gate. And all the people departed every man to his house: and David returned to bless his house. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:1-16:43)

 

            Before we examine in detail the various understandings regarding the sin committed in the first attempt at bringing up the Ark, it is important to emphasize several points.

 

            The initiative itself to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem was a blessed and desirable initiative, as is indicated by the blessing that came to the house of Oved-Edom of Gat on account of God's Ark. This is also attested to by the Divine assistance that accompanied the second attempt at bringing up the Ark, as it is stated: "And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:26).

 

            Following Uzza's death in the wake of his attempt to lessen the disgrace of the Ark falling to the ground, David mends his ways, and apparently also his inner attitude regarding the significance of bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem. Scripture seems to allude to this in the parallel that is drawn between David's criticism of Shaul, "And let us bring back the Ark of our God to us: for we did not inquire at it in the days of Shaul" (Ibid. 13:3), and his self-criticism in the wake of Uzza's death, in his words to the chiefs of the fathers' houses of Levites, "For because you did not do so at first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, because we did not seek him according to the prescribed form" (Ibid. 15:13). David, as it were, compares the failure to seek the Ark in the days of Shaul, when it was in Kiryat-Ye'arim, to his own seeking of the Ark not according to the prescribed form, and he painfully accepts upon himself the responsibility. Also the expression, "And David was displeased" (Ibid. 13:11), which the Malbim understands to mean, "He was displeased with himself, in the manner of one who is distressed and frightened," and the following verse, "And David was afraid of the Lord that day" (Ibid. v. 12), teach us that David recognized his wrongdoing. As stated, David's primary virtue lies in the manner in which he improved the way that the Ark was brought up from the house of Oved-Edom of Gat to Jerusalem, as will be explained in detail below.

 

            The story of the attempts to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem are interpreted at length in Bamidbar Rabba 5, 8 and in Sota 35a. The Abravanel in his commentary to Shemuel counts four major transgressions that were committed in this context. The rest of this shiur will be devoted to a discussion of these sins.

 

III.       TRANSPORTING THE ARK ON A CART, RATHER THAN CARRYING IT ON THE LEVITES' SHOULDERS.

 

God instructed the Levites, the descendants of Kehat, to carry the Ark on their shoulders, as it is stated: "Because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them; they bore it on their shoulders" (Bamidbar 7:9), but David set the Ark on a new cart.

 

This action fits in with the parallel between David's bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem and the Philistines' return of the Ark to Bet-Shemesh. When it is brought up from Kiryat-Ye'arim, the Ark is designated "the Ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim" (II Shemuel 6:2), and when it is brought out to the battle at Even-Ha-ezer, it is called "the Ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who sits upon the keruvim" (I Shemuel 4:4). The Philistines return the Ark to Israel on a new cart (Ibid. 6:7), and David sets the Ark on a new cart (II Shemuel 6:13). The significance of this correspondence is not clear. Did David wish to continue, in a certain sense, the Philistines' attempt to return the Ark to its rightful place by way of means that had never been involved in work "on account of the sanctity of the Ark" (see Radak, I Shemuel 6:7)? Or perhaps his intention was to repair in some way the Philistines' attempt and to establish a more correct attitude toward the Ark?

 

In any event, the fact that transporting the Ark on a cart was a sin clearly follows from what is stated regarding the second attempt at bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem: "And the children of the Levites bore the Ark of God upon their shoulders the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:15).

 

What is the meaning of the command to carry the Ark upon the Levites' shoulders?[2]

 

The Chinukh (commandment 379) explains the root of the mitzva as follows:

 

Since the essence of Israel's glory is the Torah by virtue of which they were set apart from the rest of the nations and became God's portion, it is therefore fitting and proper that it be carried on the shoulders of the most venerated and sanctified people among us. There is no need to speak at length about that which is evident to school children.

 

            The Chinukh seems to be relating here primarily to the identity of the Ark's bearers, rather than the manner in which they bore it. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 5, 8) explains the significance of carrying the Ark on the shoulders (as opposed to the way in which the rest of the Mishkan was transported, i.e., by cart) in a manner that explains the sin committed during the attempt to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem:

 

And the noblest among the tribe of Levi was the family of Kehat. For [any other] Levite would place his load or the boards or the middle bars or the sockets or anything else on a cart, but the family of Kehat bore [their load] on their shoulders. For they were not permitted to set the Ark on a cart, as it is stated: "But to the sons of Kehat he gave none" (Bamidbar 7:9)… You see then that even though they were greater than the other families, and needless to say greater than [ordinary] Israelites, they were not arrogant, but rather subservient before the Ark. Why so? Because there is no greatness before God. You see then that even though the family of Kehat served as palace guards, when they came to bear the Ark, they carried it like servants.[3]

 

            There is an essential difference between transporting the Ark by cart and carrying it on one's shoulders. He who operates a cart – whatever its load may be – leads and directs it, and to a certain degree controls it. Carrying something on one's shoulders, on the other hand, expresses subservience.

 

            The prophet seems to be alluding to this idea when he cites David's reaction to the falling of the Ark: "And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?" (II Shemuel 6:9) The words "to me" may allude to excessive possessiveness in David's attitude toward the Ark. David is asking, as it were: Did I in fact take the Ark to Jerusalem – the royal city that will one day serve as the foundation of God's house – or perhaps I was taking it to me, for my benefit and in service of the kingdom?

 

            David repaired this sin in his second attempt at bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem: by sanctifying the Levites, carrying the Ark on the shoulders, offering sacrifices, and involving the entire people. It seems, however, that the true repair of the sin will have to wait for Avshalom's rebellion. When David leaves Jerusalem in order not to confront Avshalom in the city, he decides to leave God's Ark in Jerusalem, with Avshalom, against the simple understanding of Tzadok the Priest who wanted to take it with him, and despite the great public benefit that would follow from the presence of the Ark, the resting place of the Shekhina, with David in exile. Thus, David clearly expresses the idea that the Ark does not follow after the king – as was the case when he himself brought the Ark up from Kiryat Ye'arim to Jerusalem ("How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?"). Rather, the king must follow after the Ark; and if Jerusalem was chosen as the royal city that is joined to the Mikdash, then the Ark's place is in Jerusalem, even if now the rebellious Avshalom will benefit from it. David said all of this in his response to Tzadok: "If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back, and show me both it, and His habitation. But if He thus says, I have no delight in you; behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seems good in His eyes." (II Shemuel 15:25-26). It was only here that David internalized the full significance of his total dependence upon God, and his kingdom's dependence upon God's assent, and therefore he never took nor tried to control the Ark again.[4]

 

            In conclusion, the question may be raised: How could David have been mistaken about an explicit Torah law? The Radak, in his commentary to II Shemuel 6:6, proposes the following explanation: "Because he said, God issued that commandment for that time in the wilderness. Since the Mishkan was transported by carts, He commanded that the Ark be carried on the shoulders, to demonstrate that the Ark's sanctity is greater than the sanctity of the Mishkan. But when there was no Mishkan, [David] thought that there would be no sin if the Ark were transported by cart." The idea that the Torah's commandment to carry the Ark on the shoulders applied only during the period of Israel's wandering in the wilderness may perhaps follow from the notion that the carrying of the Ark on the Levites' shoulders was a miraculous act, and therefore it does not belong in Eretz Yisrael, where God reveals Himself in earthly reality.[5]

 

IV.       TOUCHING THE ARK

 

The second sin noted by the Abravanel is touching the Ark:

 

For even the Levites should not have touched God's Ark. They did not carry [the Ark] itself, and thereby touch it, but rather they carried it on poles. Therefore it was sinful for the Levites to touch the Ark itself, and all the more so for the rest of Israel.[6]

 

There are those who understand that through the prohibition of "The poles shall be in the rings of the Ark: they shall not be taken from it" (Shemot 25:15), the Torah tries to guarantee that the Ark not be touched unnecessarily, for carrying the Ark by means of the poles does not require any contact with the Ark itself.

 

This may also be alluded to in the words, "Uzza put out his hand (vayishlach yado) to the Ark of God." The term shelichut yad is an active expression that has a negative connotation.[7] While Uzza's intentions were good, i.e., to prevent the Ark from falling, a sin was nevertheless committed here, because the putting out of his hand was based on the assumption that man has the power to control the Ark and its stability.[8] The oxen's stumbling was not by chance,[9] and it was not his place to put out his hand and try to support the Ark – and thus in effect try to control it. This action was a violation of the extreme caution that is required when drawing near and into contact with the holy, and it gave expression to a crossing of the boundary between man's territory and that of God. Carrying the Ark on the shoulders, with poles and rings, without having to touch it, symbolizes not only the sanctity of the Ark as a vessel, but also, and in great measure, the prohibition to express human control over anything connected to the holy, and the distancing that is needed in order to draw near to the holy in a fitting manner.

 

V.        CARRYING OF THE ARK BY THE LEVITES AND NOT BY ISRAELITES.

 

The first attempt to bring up the Ark to Jerusalem was given over to Uzza and Achyo the sons of Avinadav[10] who were not priests, and in the entire story there is not the slightest hint to any type of role played by the priests and the Levites.

 

David's repair of this teaching finds expression on various levels. First, he directs the Ark to the house of Oved-Edom of Gat, who was also a Levite (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:18, 21, and 24).[11]

 

Afterwards, before he brings the Ark up to Jerusalem, “Then David said, None ought to carry the Ark of God but the Levites: for the Lord has chosen them to carry the Ark of God, and to minister to Him forever" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:2), as it is stated, "They shall bear the Mishkan, and all its vessels, and they shall minister to it, and shall encamp round about the Mishkan… And the stranger that comes near shall be put to death" (Bamidbar 1:50-51), and it is stated, "At that time the Lord separated the Tribe of Levi, to bear the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord" (Devarim 10:8).

 

And indeed, regarding the second attempt at bringing up the Ark, Scripture describes at length the great change that took place regarding the role of the priests and the Levites. David assembles them and asks them to sanctify themselves, "So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the Ark of the Lord, God of Israel" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:14). In the continuation, various roles are cast upon them. Upon the Levites falls the obligation to carry the Ark on their shoulders with poles (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:2, 26); to play musical instruments in order to magnify the joy (Ibid. vv. 15-21); to sing in a choir for the sake of the celebration (Ibid. v. 16); and to serve as gatekeepers for the Ark in the new tent (Ibid. vv. 23-24). Upon the priests falls the obligation to blow the trumpets (Ibid. v. 24).

 

The importance of having the Levites carry the Ark is understandable. The Levites were set apart from the rest of Israel to minister in the Mikdash, they did not receive a portion of the land, they do not go out to war and do not share in the spoils – "The Lord God is their inheritance" (Yehoshua 13:33). The Levites are servants of God in their very essence, and as such they are entrusted with the proper attitude towards the Mikdash and its various vessels. They alone can execute the Divine command in the most precise manner, with the knowledge that they are God's ministers and servants.

 

VI.       DIMINISHED FAITH (THE ARK CARRIES ITS CARRIERS AND ITSELF)

 

The Abravanel counts one more sin. When Uzza sent out his hand to support the Ark, he diminished its sanctity, in that he demonstrated, as it were, that the Ark could not stand on its own, without human support. As the Gemara says: "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Uzza, it carried its carriers, itself all the more so" (Sota 35a). In other words, if the Ark is capable of carrying those who carry it (as was stated earlier in the Gemara, ad loc.), then certainly it is capable of carrying itself.

 

This Midrash expresses an important point that was already mentioned above: the Ark leads its bearer – and not the other way around. The Ark, as it were, requires no human assistance. When a person begins to think the opposite that he can lead the Ark – on a cart and not on his shoulders, with direct contact and not by means of poles, with ordinary Israelites and not Levites, God's chosen ministers – then the Ark begins to slip, and the matter requires repair.

 

SUMMARY

 

            We have examined the different descriptions of David's attempts to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem in the books of Shemuel and Divrei Ha-yamim. We then reviewed the various sins committed in the first attempt, as understood by the Abravanel, and tried to support his positions with the plain meaning of the biblical text. In the next shiur, we shall complete our examination of the sin and relate to other aspects of the event.

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] A comparison between the books of Shemuel and Divrei Ha-yamim with respect to everything related to the Mikdash in general, and with respect to this story in particular, deserves significant expansion. This may be connected to the way that the Mikdash was conceived by Ezra, author of Divrei Ha-yamim (according to Bava Batra 15a), but we cannot expand upon this hypothesis here. An interesting analysis of this story in found in A. Malkhiel's "Ha'ala'at he-Aron mi-Kiryat Ye'arim al yedei David," in Sefer Zeidel, Kitvei ha-Torah le-Cheker ha-Mikra be-Yisra'el, pp. 119-141.

 

[2] The Rambam brings this mitzva in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot, positive precept 34, and in Hilkhot Kelei ha-Mikdash 2:12; Sefer ha-Chinukh brings it in commandment 379; and the Ramban brings it in the third principle of his critique of Sefer Ha-mitzvot. They deal at length with the questions when does the mitzva apply and upon whom – upon the priests or the Levites – but we will not expand on these matters here. In our context, we shall bring the words of the Rambam in Sefer Ha-mitzvot: "And when David commanded to carry the Ark the second time, it says in Divrei Ha-yamim: 'And the children of the Levites bore the Ark of God upon their shoulders the bars being upon them, as Moshe had commanded according to the word of the Lord' (Divrei Ha-yamim 15:15). And so too when Divrei Ha-yamim mentions the division of the priests into twenty-four watches, it is said: 'These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the Lord, according to the form prescribed to them by the hand of Aharon their father, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them' (Ibid. 24:19). The Sages have explained that this alludes to the fact that it is priests' job to carry the Ark on their shoulders. This is 'as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them.' And the wording of the Sifrei: 'According to the form prescribed to them… as the Lord God of Israel had commanded them.' Where did He command them: 'But to the sons of Kehat he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them; they bore it on their shoulders' (Bamidbar 7:9)."

 

[3] A similar idea appears in Midrash Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer, p. 185 (cited in Torah Shelema, Bamidbar 7:9, no. 59): "Great is the humility of the sons of Kehat, for they were the most select of the Tribe of Levi and they carried the poles on their shoulders, as it is stated, 'But to the sons of Kehat he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them; they bore it on their shoulders.'"

 

[4] Instructive in this context is the view of Chazal that connects the replacement of Evyatar with Tzadok to the story of David's running away from Avshalom: "Any kohen who does not speak with the holy spirit, but the Shekhina rests upon him – should not be asked, for Tzadok asked and succeeded, wheras Evyatar did not succeed. As it is stated: 'And Evyatar went up until all the people had finished passing out of the city' (II Shemuel 15:24)." One of the problems with the house of Eli was their attitude toward the Ark as a magical instrument, that is not at all dependent upon the actions of the people – an attitude that found expression when the Ark was brought to the battle of Even-Ha-ezer based on the confidence that it would lead to their victory (I Shemuel 4:3-4). The first attempt to bring up the Ark to Jerusalem – "How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me" – might be regarded as a continuation of this attitude. There might be a delicate allusion here that David is bringing the Ark to Jerusalem in an attempt to benefit from its powers. This fits in especially well with the description in Divrei Ha-yamim, according to which the first attempt preceded the establishment of David's kingdom and construction of the royal buildings in Jerusalem, as was mentioned at the beginning of this shiur. The replacement of Evyatar, of the house of Eli (descendants of Itamar, who received the High Priesthood after Pinchas the son of Elazar was rejected following the incident of the concubine at Giv'a), with Tzadok, a descendant of Elazar, is part of the change in David's attitude regarding the Ark. In light of this, we can understand why it was precisely the family of Tzadok that was established as the family that would remain forever in the High Priesthood, and would serve in that position in the future Temple as well (Yechezkel 44:15).

 

[5] Rav Stiskin expanded on this point in his "Le-Darkho shel David 'Erdof Oivai va-Asigenu' – le-Fesher Parashat Ha'ala'at he-Aron," Nitzanei Aretz VII (5750). There are also other explanations that try to deal with this problem. For example, in the wilderness the Ark was meant to drive away the enemies and guide Israel on their journey, and it is possible that David thought that the commandment about the carrying the Ark on the shoulders only applied during times of war. As is our practice, we have tried to follow the plain meaning of the scriptural text.

 

[6] Most of the Rishonim do not count touching the Ark as a separate prohibition. Rabbeinu Saadya Gaon, however, in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot counts such touching as a separate negative commandment (no. 212). See at length Rav Perla's comments, ad loc.

 

[7] Compare, for example: "Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do anything to him" (Bereishit 22:12).

 

[8] This is independent of the question of the weight of the Ark, which we shall not deal with here.

 

[9] The proof for this is the fact that the oxen did not stumble when the Philistines sent the Ark from Ekron to Bet-Shemesh in a cart (the argument that the difference stems from the fact that the Philistines were not commanded whereas Israel was, does not seem to suffice).

 

[10] Many have already commented that the name Aminadav alludes to the names Nadav and Avihu, whose deaths also stemmed from improper drawing near to the holy. Moreover, in both places the sin involved doing some act that God had not commanded. This is not the forum to discuss this correlation at greater length.

 

[11] There is a similarity between the bringing of the Ark to the house of Oved-Edom, following the smiting of Uzza, to the bringing of the Ark – after the blow to the people of Bet-Shemesh when it returned from the field of the Philistines – to the house of Avinadav in Giv'a, "And they sanctified Elazar his son to keep the Ark of the Lord" (I Shemuel 7:1).

 

(Translated by David Strauss)