Bible Commentary: 1 Chronicles 16:37-43 and Related

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1 Chronicles 16:37-43 and Related

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Two Worship Places

We wrap up our reading of Psalm 105, the first part of which is taken from David's psalm of 1 Chronicles 16. Whereas the first part concentrated on God's covenant with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the second part continues beyond them with the story of Joseph, the enslavement of Israel in Egypt and God's deliverance of His people from there—all a testament to His faithfulness to the covenant He made. Interestingly, God's stated purpose for delivering His people and giving them a homeland was "that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws" (verse 45). That is also His purpose for us today.

In 1 Chronicles 16:37-43, further details are given of the service required in carrying out the tabernacle worship of that time. But here we learn something surprising. For bringing the ark to Jerusalem, as we saw in 1 Chronicles 15:11, David had summoned the high priest Abiathar, descendant of Eli of the line of Aaron's son Ithamar, as well as another leading priest, Zadok, of the line of Aaron's son Eleazar. It is apparent that David would leave the high priest, Abiathar, in charge at Jerusalem to preside over the rites of the tabernacle raised up here to house the Ark of the Covenant (compare 16:1). His son Ahimelech, or Abimelech, will be of major assistance in this (compare 18:16; 2 Samuel 8:17). Yet in this passage we find David assigning Zadok and his sons to officiate "before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place that was at Gibeon, to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Law of the Lord which He commanded Israel" (1 Chronicles 16:39-40).

This is easier to understand when we compare it with an event years later at the beginning of the reign of David's son Solomon recorded in 2 Chronicles 1: "Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for the tabernacle of meeting with God was there, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. But David had brought the ark of God from Kirjath Jearim to the place David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem. Now the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the LORD [which is now in Gibeon]; Solomon and the assembly sought Him there. And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it" (verses 3-6). And this is completely acceptable to God, as He blesses Solomon at Gibeon on the night that follows this offering (verses 7-12; 1 Kings 3:4-13).

Evidently, after Saul murdered the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:19), the tabernacle—that is, the original Mosaic tabernacle from the wilderness with its great bronze altar—had been moved to a hilltop at Gibeon, a few miles northwest of Jerusalem. Thus, David's restoration of tabernacle worship for the ark at Jerusalem does not include bringing the original tabernacle to house it. Instead, we see that he has had a new tabernacle built. As for why this is, or why he didn't have the ark returned to the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon instead, we are not told. Knowing that the dwellings of the ark would be blessed and holy (compare 2 Samuel 6:9-12; 2 Chronicles 8:11), perhaps he wanted it next to him simply for that reason—to bless him and his kingdom. Whatever the reason, it is evident that until Solomon's temple is built in Jerusalem, there are two legitimate places for national worship—the new tabernacle at Jerusalem with the ark, where Abiathar and his son Ahimelech officiate, and the original tabernacle at Gibeon, where Zadok and his sons perform the priestly duties.

Michal's Scorn

When David returns home after the festivities, Michal, her bitterness inflamed (see highlights on 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:3 and 2 Samuel 6:12-19), disdainfully mocks her husband (2 Samuel 6:20). "The scornful remark about David's uncovering himself no doubt refers to the priestly attire worn by the king instead of his royal robes (v. 14). Dancing about in this short garment, David had exposed more of himself than Michal [who had been raised a princess] thought appropriate" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 20). Indeed, in comparing him to "base fellows," perhaps she even considers him unworthy of kingship for having no royal sensibilities. It may also be that her particular circumstances of now having to compete with the rest of David's harem has made her focus in on this fault of his—and that she has convinced herself that it was actually his goal in the celebration to attract the attention of women.

David rebukes her, reminding her that God has chosen him in place of her father—perhaps implying that the royal ideas her father raised her with are incorrect. He goes on to say that he will be even more undignified if the situation calls for it, that he refuses to look upon himself as all high and mighty, and that this approach will be understood and respected by the women of the land—unlike her. According to Scripture, this episode is the reason Michal never has children—but whether this is due to a resultant estrangement from David or a direct punishment of barrenness from God is not made clear. In any case, there will be no possible successor to David's throne from the line of Saul.