Start at Part 1. Back to part 6. This is part seven of a talk I gave at Beit Yeshua in January 2017, or at least I got through what I could in the time limits available, and what I did get through was well received.
We return to David’s time. David wanted to build a permanent house for the ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:
Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.
However, God tells David it is not for him, but rather for his son, to build the Temple. This son would be God’s son, and his Throne would remain forever. That son was Solomon, but behind this is the greater promise of David’s greater Son – the one who would build the ultimate Temple, not of stone, but of living men and women, would be Jesus the Messiah. In 1 Chronicles 22, we are told that one of the reasons God had for not allowing David to build the Temple was as follows:
‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. (v8-9).
In fact, although the bible does not really record it, Solomon did apparently also engage in warfare on occasion, if not personally, then at least via his armies. It looks like he sent his special forces chariots to participate and turn the tide in a crucial battle, coming to the aid of his Egyptian allies in a great battle in Syria.
Back to David again, though. Scripture tells us that although he was denied by God the opportunity to build the Temple, he made as much preparation as he could by building up supplies for the Temple, and also making highly detailed plans for Solomon to follow. In particular 1 Chronicles 28.18 tells us that David designed a ‘chariot’ for the ark of the covenant. The ark had two cherubim with wings stretched over the mercy seat, but David’s chariot for the Temple involved having two giant cherubim with wings outstretched to overshadow the ark as a whole.
However, Obed Edom was not the only foreigner who showed more respect for the ark of the covenant than an Israelite did. In 2 Samuel 11 we find the infamous story of David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. This means that Uriah came from what is now Turkey, or at least his ancestors did, as little colonies of Hittites appear to crop up all over in that period. The Hittite nation was frequently a mighty empire during the early history of Israel, collapsing only sometime soon after the destruction of Troy, probably after the time of Solomon (there are all sorts of complex issues of chronology and archaeology there, which we won’t go into). When David gets Bathsheba pregnant, he calls back Uriah from the battlefront, gets him drunk and encourages him to go home and sleep with his wife. His response to David is this:
“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing.
We know the rest: Uriah, the foreigner whose loyalty and honourableness greater than that of his king, is rewarded by treachery and murder, whose consequences would haunt David to his dying day.
David probably recognized this. When some of his sons behave as badly as he did to women, leading eventually to the rebellion of Absalom, David has to flee Jerusalem for a time, and he refuses to let the ark travel into exile with him, sending it back to Jerusalem to await the arrival of the rebellious son. In 2 Samuel 15.25-6 he says to the priests:
If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him
David being David, though, he has a cunning plan alongside his humble piety. Sending the ark back to Jerusalem means he has loyal spies in or near the heart of the enemy camp, namely the priests of the ark.
Solomon built the temple according to his father David’s design, although he may well have added innovations of his own. He made the great cherubim for the Holy of Holies to overshadow the ark. We are told in both 1 Kings 8.8-9 and 2 Chronicles 5.9-10 that after the ark and its poles were put in the Holy Place that:
These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.
Now, Hebrews told us, as well as the books of Moses, that originally the ark had not just the two stone tablets but also the pot of manna and Aaron’s staff it, so the specific point that there was nothing in it but the two tablets at the time of Solomon is a pointed remark. It means that at some point the other items had been removed from the ark of the covenant (or decayed away as both were organic – but I think that is less likely – the gold pot in which the manna was held certainly wouldn’t decay away). It is possible that they were now kept with the ark, but not in it. It is also possible they were held in other locations, much as the bronze altar and tent of meeting were kept separately from the ark after the disasters at Shiloh and Nob. We just don’t know.
The other point is that when it says that the ark’s carrying pole ends poked through into the Holy Place, and are ‘still there today’ this starts to get us into the mystery of exactly where the ark of the covenant is today. You see, even at the time that both Kings and Chronicles were written down in their current form that was not true. Kings goes up to well into the time of exile when the Temple had been destroyed completely, and Chronicles to a little later, when the decree that ended the formal exile was issued. Thus all the readers must have known that it wasn’t true ‘to this day’ for them, so why is it there. Originally, the source material that both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles used must have included this language, as both use exactly the same wording here, which they don’t always do. However, the language from whatever the original source was has conspicuously retained by both accounts, and there must be some reason for that. I’m going to go out on a limb and say what my speculation as to the reason it is, and it can be summed up in the words confusion, propaganda and even deliberate deception of a sort – misdirection, in short. You see, it is clear that the ark of the covenant was associated with great power, which is why it was sometimes sent out to battle when the odds seemed overwhelming, as happened when the ark was captured by the Philistines. My suspicion is that the priests were a canny lot, and faced up to the political reality that the Temple at Jerusalem was intrinsically linked to the Kings of Judah, and thus vulnerable to their interference. The bible tells us of numerous occasions when the kings of Judah introduced idolatry into the Temple itself.