Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
I CHRONICLES CHAPTER 13
At the conclusion of the previous chapter, we learned that with the acceptance of David as king by all the Twelve Tribes, "there was JOY in Israel " (I Chron 12:41).
The new king lost no time in taking advantage of the favorable national climate in order to try to bring the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem from the house of Avinadav in Kiryat Ye'arim, where it had remained since its return by the Philistines following the disasters that struck them after they captured it from the Sanctuary in Shilo in the days of Eli (I Samuel 4:11-7:1).
The taking of the Ark to Jerusalem to dwell in its eternal resting place - the Holy Temple on Mt Moriah - would be the fulfillment of Jacob's dream as he had slept on that very spot. ".and behold a LADDER (SOOLAM) was established on the earth" (Genesis 28:12). The SOOLAM alludes to SINAI (the Hebrew letters of the two words have the same Gematria). The Sinaitic Covenant would only be complete when the Torah that Israel received in the wilderness would be brought up to God's House in Jerusalem (symbolizing the "home" of the Shechinah in the heart of each one of us) - from there to shine out to all the world, "For the Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem " (Isaiah 2:3).
King David showed great humility: "And David CONSULTED with the captains." (v 3). He asked the people what they thought. He wanted them to be wholeheartedly with him. "And David said to all the assembly of Israel . let us BREAK THROUGH and send to our remaining brothers." (v 2). David fully knew that he wanted to accomplish nothing less than a BREAKTHROUGH - to reach out to those who were still outside the circle of Mashiach and to involve them too in the holy project of bringing the Ark , symbol of the Torah, to its eternal home. David turned this into a national event that was to be no less significant in its way than Moses' inauguration of the original Sanctuary in the Wilderness.
Our commentary on the parallel narrative of this event in I Samuel ch 6 discussed how David could have erred in having the Ark transported on a wagon when even little schoolchildren know that it was supposed to be carried on poles resting on the shoulders of the Levites (Numbers 7:9). Rashi (on verse 7 of our present text) states that David was impressed by the fact that when the Philistines returned the Ark from its captivity, they had put it on a new wagon (I Sam. 6:11).
When the oxen drawing the wagon caused the Ark to shift, making it seem as if the Ark was in danger of falling, Uzza's stretching out his hand to steady it was considered a deep affront to the holiness of the Ark - as if, despite the miracles with which it had returned safely from the Philistines, the Ark could somehow not take care of itself. The tragic death of Uzza (who was not a Levite, RaDaK on v 10) turned this national event into a day of mourning, just as the consecration of Moses' Sanctuary in the wilderness had been marred by the deaths of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who likewise showed disrespect for the holiness of the Sanctuary (Leviticus 10:1ff).
The revelation of the strict hand of God's Judgment brought David to a state of deep awe and fear (v 12): he repented of his error, and when he finally brought up the Ark from the house of Oveid Edom (who WAS a Levite, see Rashi on v 13) to Jerusalem , as described in I Chron. Ch 15, David publicly confessed that he had been wrong in allowing the Ark to be transported on a wagon rather than on the shoulders of the Levites (see ch 15 v 13).
"And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David. and David KNEW that HaShem had prepared him to be king over Israel ." (vv 1-2). Rashi (on v 1) notes that an ancestral love bound Hiram to the tribe of Judah - we find in Genesis that Judah had a friend called Hirah who came to his aid (Genesis 38 vv 1 and 20). It was when David saw how the kings of the nations were sending him gifts that he KNEW that God had prepared him to be His messianic king (see Rashi on I Chron. 14:2).
As noted in an earlier commentary, when David became king, it was the Philistines who were the major challenge to the people of Israel just as those who have chosen to bear their name in modern times remain the most immediate challenge to Israel today. Rashi (on verse 8) explains why the Philistines were so angry at the news that David had been anointed king over all Israel and went up precisely then to try to catch him. "The Philistines had been dominant for the whole time until the arrival of Saul and David (cf. Judges 15:11, 'and they said to Samson, Don't you know that the Philistines rule over us?'). The Philistines themselves had said, 'Be strong, and be men, O Philistines, lest you serve the Hebrews as they serve you' (I Sam. 4:9).. During the seven years when David ruled only in Hebron, the Philistines did not say a word and they were not concerned over the fact that David was ruling over Hebron because they thought that he had been appointed as nothing but a mere local official. But when he was anointed as king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David because they did not want there to be a king over Israel but that they should continue ruling over them." In other words, they feared a Messianic king over Israel , which would spell the end of their own rule over them. It was the deepest affront to their national pride to have to serve the Hebrews.
Before making any move of major significance, David "asked God" what he should do (v 10), i.e. he consulted the Urim ve-Thumim - these were the lights that appeared on the jewels of the breastplate of the High Priest, which were engraved with the names of the Tribes of Israel and whose flashing letters spelled out the answer to a question of national importance put by the king.
The striking defeat of the Philistines at Baal Peratzim where God "broke through" David's enemies (v 11ff) was a consolation after the breach with which He "broke through" against Uzza when he put his hand out to steady the Ark (previous chapter v 11). However the Philistines soon regrouped and were ready for another battle. When David again consulted the Urim ve-Thumim the answer came that this time he was not to confront his enemies but to turn aside, and he was not to engage them in battle until he heard "a sound of marching on the tops of the mulberry trees" (vv 14-15). (This would be the "sound" of the angels, who would be fighting the "real" battle on the spiritual plane.)
In the words of Rashi (on v 14): "The attribute of Judgment spoke before God: Why did You remove Saul in favor of David? He answered, Because he did not wait for Samuel seven days as the prophet had instructed him (I Sam.13:8-14). The Holy One blessed be He then said to the attribute of Judgment, I will now test David and instruct him to turn aside from the Philistines."
"And David did according to how God had commanded him." (v 16). Unlike Saul, David followed God's commands to the letter - and was blessed with success. With the decisive rout of the Philistines, all the surrounding nations were filled with fear of David, who was thereby in a position to prepare to achieve his greatest goal, the building of the Temple.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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