1 Chronicles 13:1-16:43 – David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem


1 Chronicles 13:1-16:43


By bringing the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem, the Chronicler turns to his primary concern: the establishment of proper worship.


It is significant that David’s first act following his anointing as king is his transfer of the ark to the recently captured city of Jerusalem. This is at odds with the parallel in 2 Samuel 6, where David first needed to rebuild Jebus into Jerusalem and defeat the Philistines (2 Samuel 5) before he could transfer the ark to the Holy City. By placing the building of the palace (14:1-7) and the defeat of the Philistines (14:8-17) after the transfer of the ark, the Chronicler casts David in a new light. Unlike Saul, whose unfaithfulness had resulted in his neglect of religious duties, David’s very first act as king demonstrated his pious concern for the symbol of God’s presence. In fact, the account opens with an explicit statement of guilt in this regard (13:1-5). While in 2 Samuel David’s building activities and military success paved the way for the transfer of the ark, the Chronicler claims, in effect, that David’s success in these matters indicates God’s favorable response to his concern for the ark. Lest one suppose the Samuel account is any less theologically ordered than the Chronicler’s, it should be noted that historically, the defeat of the Philistines would necessarily precede both the taking of Jerusalem and the transfer of the ark.

In addition to the Chronicler’s juxtaposition of David and Saul, the account is greatly expanded from that in Samuel. The purpose of these expansions is to establish David’s concern for proper worship. In response to Uzzah’s death for an unintentional violation of a cultic regulation that resulted in a failed first attempt to move the ark (1 Chronicles 13:9-14), David orders that only the divinely appointed Levites carry the ark, in accordance with the Mosaic legislation (15:1-15; compare Deuteronomy 10:8), and organizes Israel’s worship attendants with priests, Levites, singers, and musicians who will accompany the ark in its joyous liturgical procession into Jerusalem. In so doing, the Chronicler seeks to validate the liturgical practices of his own day by ascribing them to David.

Embedded in this presentation of David’s care of the ark and establishment of the cult is a beautiful hymn of thanksgiving and petition constructed by the Chronicler in chapter 16 from Psalm 105:1-15 (1 Chronicles 16:8-22); Psalm 96 (1 Chronicles 16:23-33); and Psalm 106:1, 47-48 (1 Chronicles 16:34-36). Each of these Psalms brings a much needed message to the Chronicler’s postexilic community, living under the foreign domination of Persian rule. While the rehearsal of God’s saving work on Israel’s behalf in the past (vv. 8-22) reminds them of God’s covenantal loyalty, culminating in God’s “anointed ones” (that is, David and his line, v. 22), verses 23-33 encourage them to praise God as the true king of all the earth and his future appearance as judge (v. 33). But not yet. The brief conclusion (vv. 34-36) lifts up the community’s need to be saved, gathered, and rescued “from among the nations.” Thus, the prayer, as reframed by the Chronicler, pleads for a new act of deliverance, in the present generation of God’s people, as a testimony to the cosmic reign of God.