Tuesday of Week 3 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 2 Samuel 6:12-15,17-19

Today’s reading describes a very joyful occasion as David has the Ark of the Covenant brought into Jerusalem. This was in fact a second attempt. The Ark had been in the house of Abinadab in Baala of Judah. From there, the Ark was mounted on a cart to be brought to the city. It was guided by Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, who walked beside it, while David and the people played instruments and sang songs. At one point, when the oxen seemed to be causing the cart to lose its balance, Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark to steady it. Immediately he was struck down for his sacrilegious act which caused great distress to David. He was even afraid now to bring it into Jerusalem. Reverence for God can so easily degenerate into superstition. For us Christians, that is also so true.

For three months the Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom, and this brought him many blessings from the Lord. It is at this point that our reading begins today.

Having seen how God had blessed the house of Obed-edom and that God’s anger had been appeased, David decided to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem with great fanfare and jubilation.

However, after the bearers of the Ark had only advanced six paces, David offered a sacrifice of an ox and a fatling. Thus, he showed his great reverence for the presence of God which the Ark symbolised.

We are told in the First Book of Chronicles, when speaking to the Levites, David says:

Because you did not carry it the first time [when the Ark was brought from Abinadab’s house], the Lord our God burst out against us because we did not give it proper care. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the Ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the Ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.
(1 Chron 15:13-15)

A little later we are told:

And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the Ark of the covenant of the Lord, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. (1 Chron 15:26)

As the Ark was brought up, David, in his great joy, danced before it “with abandon”, wearing just a linen loincloth. He had just offered sacrifice and was about to give a blessing. The garment he was wearing was a close-fitting, sleeveless pullover, normally of hip length and was different from the special ephod worn by the high priest.

In a verse omitted from today’s reading we are told that David’s wife, Michal, who was the daughter of Saul, was quite disgusted to see her royal husband making a show of himself, “leaping and dancing” before the Lord. His behaviour was quite unworthy of the dignity of a king.

After it had arrived in the city, the Ark was placed, for the time being, in a special tent prepared for it. David, as king, offered holocausts and peace offerings and then blessed the people in the name of God. Food was then distributed to all – for each one a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat and a raisin cake. At the end all returned to their homes.

The Ark represented the presence of God among his people. It was, to some extent, seen as a “real” presence and, in that sense, could be seen as a forerunner of our church tabernacles.

On the one hand, let us use every opportunity to spend some time before the special presence of Jesus in our church tabernacles (the word really means “tent”). At the same time, let us deepen our awareness of God’s very real presence in every single person, thing and event of our lives, a presence of which the Eucharist is the sacrament and sign.

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