David's Dance: Reflections on 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

As a result of the death of Uzzah, David delays his ready use of the Ark, and leaves it for three months at the house of Obed-Edom (literally "servant of Edom," a clearly non-Israelite place) to see whether YHWH intends good for David. In those three months Obed-Edom is richly blessed, so David concludes that the Ark can indeed come into his care. Once that decision is made, David employs his second clever political move, arranging a vast parade of his followers, accompanied by loud music and joy, winding its way up the trail leading to Jerusalem, the recently captured former city of the Jebusites. And David himself leads the procession, "leaping and dancing" before the Ark of YHWH, dressed scantily in an ephod, perhaps something like an ancient G-string. It is David's coming out party as the would-be king of a united Israel.

Michal, daughter of Saul, and nearly forgotten wife of David, observes her husband's wild dance, and "despises him in her heart" (2 Sam. 6:16). She accuses him of "dishonoring himself before the eyes of your slave girls" (2 Sam. 6:20), but what she more certainly means is that David's greatness is now fully on display and she, Michal, will have no part in it. David responds to her taunt by saying, "It was before YHWH, who chose me in place of your father and all of his household (David could not resist grinding his moment of triumph into the face of his now-hated wife) to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of YHWH, that I have danced" (2 Sam.

6:21). And David may indeed think he has danced for YHWH that day. But he has just as surely danced for David, cementing his power over Israel with the Ark of YHWH and with the certainty of his greatness on full display.

There can be little doubt that David loves YHWH in these wonderful stories. But there can also be little doubt that, at times at least, he loves himself more. We need always remember that 2 Samuel 11 is coming, where the fuller measure of David will be on full and terrible display. And just how are we more than a little like this ancient king?

12/2/2022 9:10:31 PM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.