2 Samuel 5B-6: The Devil is in the Details!

2 Samuel 5B-6: The Devil is in the Details!

After David has been crowned King of all Israel, his first action was to establish his capital. David, guided by the Lord, selects Jerusalem for several reasons. As king of Judah, David had made Hebron his home. Meanwhile, Abner and King Ish-Bosheth had made Mahanaim their capital city located by the Jordan River. As a new ruler of all Israel, David wanted a new city for the new throne. David wisely chose Jerusalem, the Jebusite city which bordered both Benjamin and Judah. Political considerations were important. But also David being a military man saw Jerusalem’s location as a very secure city, easy to defend.  Jerusalem rested on the high grounds. Built on a rocky hill and surrounded on three sides by valleys and deep ravines, the city was vulnerable only on its north side. David would strengthen the fortress by building walls.


Jerusalem was known previously as Salem and Jebus.  It is mentioned first in Genesis 14, when Abraham meets King Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem.  In Genesis 22, it is on the actual mount where the Solomon’s temple would be built in Jerusalem, where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. 

Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC.  Later, Nehemiah the cupbearer to Persian King Artaxerxes would rebuild the temple and walls of the 2nd temple, called Zerubbabel’s temple. It was this temple which Herod the Great was remodeling when Jesus visited there as a 12 year-old boy and later He taught in the temple and turned over the tables of the moneychangers.  In 70 A. D. the temple was destroyed and the Jewish people scattered once again. The only thing left of the temple mound was the western wall.

In the 7th and 8th century the religion of Islam began to grow and build shrines and mosques. During this period they built the Dome on the Rock on the location of the previous temple mount.  The Muslims believe it was Ishmael which Abraham offered on Mount Moriah and thus the name is derived from the rock outcropping which is there in Dome of the Rock. Muslims and Christians lived in peace during this period.

In the 11th century, the ruler of the Islam Dynasty destroyed all the churches in the city. This started the first of the Crusades to retake the temple mound.

After Word War II, in which 6 million Jews were slaughtered, Israel was recognized on May 14, 1948, as an independent state and given territory which they occupy today. There is a very interesting story regarding President Harry S Truman and United States’ recognition of Israel as an independent state. General George Marshal, who was a brilliant man who was in charge of the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-torn Europe, was a fierce critic of Truman’s decision to recognize Israel. Many other leaders were also wary of the consequences of recognizing Israel and endangering their relationship with the oil-rich Arab countries which were predominantly Muslims and anti-Israel. It was feared this would cut us off from our supply of oil.  In his book, “Truman”, historian David McCullough writes of the visit of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isaac Herzog who came to visit Truman at the White House for the express purpose of getting his support. David Niles was Truman’s chief of staff and gives this eyewitness account of the meeting.  Herzog said: “President Truman, God put you in your mother’s womb so you could be the instrument to bring about the birth of the nation Israel after 2000 years.” Niles said his first thought was Herzog overdoing his appeal.  “I turned to see what President Truman’s response would be and tears were streaming down his face.” Harry S Truman was a Christian, a Southern Baptist. He was a blunt man given to profanity. But he had read the Bible cover to cover three times before he was 14 years old. He was fascinated with Jewish history and prophecy. He had worked for a Jewish boss in the men’s clothing business and had a great respect for him. 

Jerusalem is a city loved and revered by three major religions: Islam, Jewish, and Christian. A city where David united the kingdom of Israel and made it a great nation. Where Solomon built a magnificent temple. Where Jesus walked, taught, preached and performed miracle. Also where he was crucified buried and rose again.  And one day He is returning to Jerusalem and will rule and reign from Jerusalem.

In 1995, the Congress of the United States pass the Jewish Embassy Act which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and required the US Embassy to be moved there. It was not until the current adminstration that this actually happened.


David began to build political alliances and make Israel a prosperous nation, expanding their territory and becoming an important trade route.  As King David united Israel and they grew stronger, the Philistines felt threatened by his presence and power. Notice in 2 Samuel 5: 19 and 23, what David was careful inquire of the Lord what to do before each battle with the Philistines.  In their first encounter, David and his men rout the enemy and carried away their idols. In the first encounter the Lord told David to go up and I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.  Sound familiar?  This is what David said to Goliath when he faced him as a teenager with a sling shot: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…” (I Samuel 17)

On the second encounter the Lord instructed David upon his inquiry, God told David, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.

David did as instructed and drove the enemy back to Gezer. Another great victory.


David then decided it was time for the Ark of the Covenant to have it rightful place of honor. He wanted to bring it back from the house of Abinadab where it had been housed since the Philistines stole the Ark from Israel in a battle then returned it because of the curses it had brought upon their people. The Philistines placed the Ark in a new cart pulled by a yoke of oxen. When the Ark made its way back to Israel territory, the Levites took down the Ark and we are told the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and offered sacrifices to the Lord the same day. They set the Ark on a large stone in a field.  The Ark was treated almost like a tourist attraction and men looking into the Ark and were struck dead.  This caused them to move the Ark to the house of Abinadab where it had been until this time described here when David decides to move it to the new capital of Israel, Jerusalem.

Now David decided the Ark of the Covenant should be honored in the new capital of Jerusalem and has set up a tent where it is to be housed.  “So they set the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinidab, and the sons of Abiniadab drove the cart.” 2 Samuel 6:3)

  • Did you notice something missing?  David did not inquire of God how to do this.

In fact, he is following the method the pagan Philistines used- by employing a new cart driven by oxen.  A common mistake we make today- trying to God’s will using the world’s methods.

Verse 5 tells us David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments. It is a celebration. And everyone is on board with David’s plan. Everyone thinks this is the right thing to do. They are all pleased with what is happening.

But God, as we shall see, is not pleased. Watch what happens:

“And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah, put out his hand to the Ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.” (2 Samuel 6: 6)  Uzzah was just trying to steady the Ark to keep it from tumbling to the ground.

Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead for his error. And David became angry because of the Lord’s striking Uzzah dead.   Now David asked the question, he should have asked before:  “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?”

David’s intentions were to honor God, but he had not inquired how to do so. May I insert two well- known clichés?  ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And also,’ the devil is in the details.’

First and Second Chronicles cover the same period of Jewish history as 2 Samuel through 2 Kings, but from a different point of view. These books were written by the priests and repeat the same history but offer a divine editorial on the history of God’s people. Scholars believe Ezra may have been the author of these books. They represent the priestly viewpoint. So let’s look at what I Chronicles 15 says about this attempt to move the Ark.


God wants to move His people in the right direction, the right way, with the right people. David was a pragmatic man. He looks at the goal he wants to accomplish and sets out to do it in the most expedient manner. To David, his desire to move the Ark to the new capital was part of his plan to unite the people as one nation under God. Who cares how you get the Ark to the capital, just do it. I tell you who cares how we do it:  God cares how we do it. We do it His way.

David stopped the procession of the Ark after Uzzah’s death. The account in 2 Samuel 6 tells us they left the Ark a t the house of Obed-Edom for 3 months. In those 3 months we read the house of Obed-Edom was blessed by the Lord.  The account in 2 Samuel 6: 12, 13 gives us little detail of this process. Verse 13 tells us: “And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep.”

Now in 1 Chronicles 15 we read the details. “Then David said, ‘No one may carry the Ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the Ark of God and to minister before Him forever.” ( I Chronicles 15:2)  

“For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult with Him about the proper order.” ( I Chronicles 15: 13) If you go back and read the instructions for how the Ark was to be transported, God gave very specific details in how to build the Ark, which included four gold rings and the poles which were to be inserted in those rings and then the poles would be carried on the shoulders of the Levite priests. No hand was to touch this Holy object.  In Exodus 25 God’s details for the construction of the Ark cover from verse 10 to verse 28.  

Now you have heard the saying, ‘the devil is in the details’; but you realize God is in the details also. This is why the devil is there also.  Paul wrote in Romans 7, whenever he wanted to do good, evil was always present. 

When God’s work is done in God’s way, it will be blessed. Let’s look at two instances, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. All the commands and details which God has given us through His prophets in His word show us there is a proper way to worship Him. In Leviticus 10 we read what happened to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, when they took a censer and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offer “profane (strange) fire before the Lord which He had not commanded.”  Fire went out from the Lord and devoured them both.  God must always be treated as holy, especially when we serve Him.   We told to be faithful in little things.  God is a God of details. He knows the enemy can get us to ignore the details, even with good intentions, and we will be on slippery slope which involves false or counterfeit worship. This offends the Holy Spirit.  The New Testament incident is found in Acts 5 where Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold some possessions and gave part of it to the Lord but held back the other part for themselves. The problem was they lied and presented themselves as having given it all to the Lord. Peter said you have not lied to men but to God. They were struck dead.  Now we are saved by grace through faith. But we must never forget God is Holy and we are told to be Holy and we are to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

David made a common mistake- he forgot the read the instructions. If David had inquired of the Lord first: “how can the Ark of the Lord come to me?”  He would have found the detailed instructions of how to transport the Ark the way Holy God had instructed them to transport it.


David’s pursuit of his duties and ambitions as king of Israel, caused him to neglect his family. He violated God’s principles of multiple wives and lost control of his family. No pursuit is more important that building a godly family.

David also indulged himself in his passions. He was also prone, as a man of many talents, to be self-sufficient, which is a form of pride. These faults would cause him great heartaches. May we learn from his failures as much as from his successes.

As a member of Christ’s body, the church may we learn also from this lesson, to do things God’s way. Did you notice when David presented his plan to bring the Ark of God to their new capital, everyone was on board with the idea. It does not matter if the leadership and the majority think this is a good idea, it doesn’t make it right if it is not the way God wants it to be done.

The crowds may increase when you do it the world’s way for wide is the gate and broad is the way and many enter the world’s way.   We know where this way which seems right ends- in death. Ask Ananias and Sapphira-ask Aaron’s two sons. When God’s work is done in man’s way- we imitate the world instead of obeying God’s word- we forfeit the blessings of God. We also end up with dead churches.

David got it right the second time. He danced with all his might. He was footloose and free. Where did this freedom come from? Obedience.  What does disobedience bring? Bondage. Have you ever noticed the people who live in sin, all they talk about is the freedom to do as they want to do?  When you are free because of obedience to God, then you are free indeed. And like Michal criticized David for his freedom to dance, there will be those who criticize you. f

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