Containing The Interval Of Forty Years.
From The Death Of Saul To The Death Of David.
That When David Had Conquered The Philistines Who Made War Against Him At Jerusalem, He Removed The Ark To Jerusalem And Had A Mind To Build A Temple.
1. WHEN the Philistines understood that David was made king of the Hebrews, they made war against him at Jerusalem; and when they had seized upon that valley which is called The Valley of the Giants, and is a place not far from the city, they pitched their camp therein; but the king of the Jews, who never permitted himself to do any thing without prophecy, (6) and the command of God and without depending on him as a security for the time to come, bade the high priest to foretell to him what was the will of God, and what would be the event of this battle. And when he foretold that he should gain the victory and the dominion, he led out his army against the Philistines; and when the battle was joined, he came himself behind, and fell upon the enemy on the sudden, and slew some of them, and put the rest to flight.
And let no one suppose that it was a small army of the Philistines that came against the Hebrews, as guessing so from the suddenness of their defeat, and from their having performed no great action, or that was worth recording, from the slowness of their march, and want of courage; but let him know that all Syria and Phoenicia, with many other nations besides them, and those warlike nations also, came to their assistance, and had a share in this war, which thing was the only cause why, when they had been so often conquered, and had lost so many ten thousands of their men, they still came upon the Hebrews with greater armies; nay, indeed, when they had so often failed of their purpose in these battles, they came upon David with an army three times as numerous as before, and pitched their camp on the same spot of ground as before.
The king of Israel therefore inquired of God again concerning the event of the battle; and the high priest prophesied to him, that he should keep his army in the groves, called the Groves of Weeping, which were not far from the enemy's camp, and that he should not move, nor begin to fight, till the trees of the grove should be in motion without the wind's blowing; but as soon as these trees moved, and the time foretold to him by God was come, he should, without delay, go out to gain what was an already prepared and evident victory; for the several ranks of the enemy's army did not sustain him, but retreated at the first onset, whom he closely followed, and slew them as he went along, and pursued them to the city Gaza (which is the limit of their country): after this he spoiled their camp, in which he found great riches; and he destroyed their gods.
2. When this had proved the event of the battle, David thought it proper, upon a consultation with the elders, and rulers, and captains of thousands, to send for those that were in the flower of their age out of all his countrymen, and out of the whole land, and withal for the priests and the Levites, in order to their going to Kirjathjearim, to bring up the ark of God out of that city, and to carry it to Jerusalem, and there to keep it, and offer before it those sacrifices and those other honors with which God used to be well-pleased; for had they done thus in the reign of Saul, they had not undergone any great misfortunes at all. So when the whole body of the people were come together, as they had resolved to do, the king came to the ark, which the priest brought out of the house of Aminadab, and laid it upon a new cart, and permitted their brethren and their children to draw it, together with the oxen.
Before it went the king, and the whole multitude of the people with him, singing hymns to God, and making use of all sorts of songs usual among them, with variety of the sounds of musical instruments, and with dancing and singing of psalms, as also with the sounds of trumpets and of cymbals, and so brought the ark to Jerusalem. But as they were come to the threshing-floor of Chidon, a place so called, Uzzah was slain by the anger of God; for as the oxen shook the ark, he stretched out his hand, and would needs take hold of it. Now, because he was not a priest (7) and yet touched the ark, God struck him dead. Hereupon both the king and the people were displeased at the death of Uzzah; and the place where he died is still called the Breach of Uzzah unto this day.
So David was afraid; and supposing that if he received the ark to himself into the city, he might suffer in the like manner as Uzzah had suffered, who, upon his bare putting out his hand to the ark, died in the manner already mentioned, he did not receive it to himself into the city, but he took it aside unto a certain place belonging to a righteous man, whose name was Obededom, who was by his family a Levite, and deposited the ark with him; and it remained there three entire months. This augmented the house of Obededom, and conferred many blessings upon it.
And when the king heard what had befallen Obededom, how he was become, of a poor man in a low estate, exceeding happy, and the object of envy to all those that saw or inquired after his house, he took courage, and, hoping that he should meet with no misfortune thereby, he transferred the ark to his own house; the priests carrying it, while seven companies of singers, who were set in that order by the king, went before it, and while he himself played upon the harp, and joined in the music, insomuch, that when his wife Michel, the daughter of Saul, who was our first king, saw him so doing, she laughed at him. But when they had brought in the ark, they placed it under the tabernacle which David had pitched for it, and he offered costly sacrifices and peace-offerings, and treated the whole multitude, and dealt both to the women, and the men, and the infants a loaf of bread and a cake, and another cake baked in a pan, with the portion of the sacrifice. So when he had thus feasted the people, he sent them away, and he himself returned to his own house.
3. But when Michal his wife, the daughter of Saul, came and stood by him, she wished him all other happiness, and entreated that whatsoever he should further desire, to the utmost possibility, might be given him by God, and that he might be favorable to him; yet did she blame him, that so great a king as he was should dance after an unseemly manner, and in his dancing, uncover himself among the servants and the handmaidens. But he replied, that he was not ashamed to do what was acceptable to God, who had preferred him before her father, and before all others; that he would play frequently, and dance, without any regard to what the handmaidens and she herself thought of it. So this Michal, who was David's wife, had no children; however, when she was afterward married to him to whom Saul her father had given her, (for at this time David had taken her away from him, and had her himself,) she bare five children. But concerning those matters I shall discourse in a proper place.
4. Now when the king saw that his affairs grew better almost every day, by the will of God, he thought he should offend him, if, while he himself continued in houses made of cedar, such as were of a great height, and had the most curious works of architecture in them, he should overlook the ark while it was laid in a tabernacle, and was desirous to build a temple to God, as Moses had predicted such a temple should be built. (8) And when he had discoursed with Nathan the prophet about these things, and had been encouraged by him to do whatsoever he had a mind to do, as having God with him, and his helper in all things, he was thereupon the more ready to set about that building.
But God appeared to Nathan that very night, and commanded him to say to David, (9) that he took his purpose and his desires kindly, since nobody had before now taken it into their head to build him a temple, although upon his having such a notion he would not permit him to build him that temple, because he had made many wars, and was defiled with the slaughter of his enemies; that, however, after his death, in his old age, and when he had lived a long life, there should be a temple built by a son of his, who should take the kingdom after him, and should be called Solomon, whom he promised to provide for, as a father provides for his son, by preserving the kingdom for his son's posterity, and delivering it to them; but that he would still punish him, if he sinned, with diseases and barrenness of land.
When David understood this from the prophet, and was overjoyful at this knowledge of the sure continuance of the dominion to his posterity, and that his house should be splendid, and very famous, he came to the ark, and fell down on his face, and began to adore God, and to return thanks to him for all his benefits, as well for those that he had already bestowed upon him in raising him from a low state, and from the employment of a shepherd, to so great dignity of dominion and glory; as for those also which he had promised to his posterity; and besides, for that providence which he had exercised over the Hebrews in procuring them the liberty they enjoyed. And when he had said thus, and had sung a hymn of praise to God, he went his way.
(6) It deserves here to be remarked, that Saul very rarely, and David very frequently, consulted God by Urim; and that David aimed always to depend, not on his own prudence or abilities but on the Divine direction, contrary to Saul's practice. See Sect. 2, and the note on Antiq. B. III. Ch. 8. Sect. 9; and when Saul's daughter, (but David's wife,) Michal, laughed at David's dancing before the ark, 2 Samuel 6:16, &c., and here, Sect. l, 2, 3, it is probable she did so, because her father Saul did not use to pay such a regard to the ark, to the Urim there inquired by, or to God's worship before it, and because she thought it beneath the dignity of a king to be so religious.
(7) Josephus seems to be partly in the right, when he observes here that Uzzah was no priest, (though perhaps he might be a Levite,) and was therefore struck dead for touching the ark, contrary to the law, and for which profane rashness death was the penalty by that law, Numbers 4:15, 20. See the like before, Antiq. B. VI. Ch. 1. Sect. 4. It is not improbable that the putting this ark in a cart, when it ought to have been carried by the priests or Levites, as it was presently here in Josephus so carried from Obededom's house to David's, might be also an occasion of the anger of God on that breach of his law. See Numbers 4:15; 1 Chronicles 15:13.
(8) Josephus here informs us, that, according to his understanding of the sense of his copy of the Pentateuch, Moses had himself foretold the building of the temple, which yet is no where, that I know of, in our present copies. And that this is not a mistake set down by him unwarily, appears by what he observed before, on Antiq. B. IV. Ch. 8. Sect. 46, how Moses foretold that, upon the Jews' future disobedience, their temple should be burnt and rebuilt, and that not once only, but several times afterward. See also Josephus's mention of God's former commands to build such a temple presently, Ch. 14. Sect. 2, contrary to our other copies, or at least to our translation of the Hebrew, 2 Samuel 7:6, 7; 1 Chronicles 17:5, 6.
(9) Josephus seems, in this place, with our modern interpreters to confound the two distinct predictions which God made to David and to Nathan, concerning the building him a temple by one of David's posterity; the one belongeth to Solomon, the other to the Messiah; the distinction between which is of the greatest consequence to the Christian religion.