The Ark’s Ascension

The Chronicler’s account of David bringing the ark of the covenant to Zion takes up several chapters of 1 Chronicles. Chapters 13-15 describe two ark processions, and chapter 16 describes the organization of the ark tent and its worship in Jerusalem. The first section, chapters 13-15, is chiastically organized:

A. First, abortive attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, 13:1-14.

B. David builds a house and household, 14:1-7

C. David’s wars with the Philistines, 13:8-17

B’. David’s house, 15:1

A’. Second, successful attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, 15:2-19 (possible 15:2-16:3)

The last section (15:2-16:3) is itself a modified chiasm:

A. David intends to bring the ark to Jerusalem, 15:2

B. David assembles all Israel, 15:3

C. Priests and Levites, 15:4-11

D. David’s speech to priests and Levites, 15:12-15

C’. Organization of the Levites, 15:16-24

A’. Procession of the ark to Jerusalem, 15:25-29

B’. David blesses and dismisses the assembly, 16:1-3

Chapter 16 describes David’s arrangements for the care of the ark after it has arrived in Jerusalem. 16:1-3 functions as both the conclusion to the account of the ark’s ascent in chapter 15, and as the beginning of the following chapter. Chapter 16 has a roughly chiastic structure:

A. David places the ark in the tent, 16:1-3

B. David appointed Levites to minister to the ark, 16:4-6

C. Psalm of thanks sung by Asaph and Levites, 16:7-36

B’. David’s arrangements for the ark and the Mosaic tabernacle, 16:37-42

A’. David dismisses the assembly, 16:43

These chapters initiate a pattern that is replicated, with variations, in later parts of 1 Chronicles. In chapters 13-16, the sequence is this: David plans to bring the ark into Jerusalem; David attempts and fails; David’s house is built and Yahweh wins battles; then David successfully brings the ark, organizes the priests and Levites, and installs the ark in Jerusalem. With the temple, the sequence is similar: David plans to build a house for Yahweh; Yahweh sends Nathan to arrest the plan; through Nathan, Yahweh promises to build David a house; then David organizes the priests and Levites in preparation for the temple. In the first sequence, David eventually achieves his plan; in the second, he prepares for a project that will be left to Solomon. David brings Yahweh’s throne to Zion; Solomon builds a palace for the throne.

William Johnstone (1 & 2 Chronicles, 1.175) notes an overlapping pattern involving house-building and international recognition. The sequence first appears in chapters 14-15: David installs the ark with Obed-edom, and then Hiram of Tyre helps him build a palace. It is replicated on a larger scale over the reigns of David and Solomon: David intends to build a temple (1 Chronicles 17), and then he is recognized by the nations (1 Chronicles 18-20). David prepares and Solomon builds the temple (1 Chronicles 21-2 Chronicles 7), and then Solomon is recognized by Gentiles (2 Chronicles 8-9). At a very general level, we can see a figure of the two-generation establishment of the new covenant and the Christian temple. First the greater David takes the throne; then the apostles, playing Solomon, build a house for the throne.

The theology of this sequence is a Sabbatical theology. Yahweh commanded Israel to take rest every week, but in taking rest they were also to give rest – to their manservants and maidservants and children and cattle. Yahweh follows His own Sabbatical regulations. He will eventually take His rest when He occupies His ark-throne in the temple. But before He takes His rest, He gives rest to David. Before He occupies His own house, He builds a house for David.

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