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18 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 13-15
These chapters tell of the two-stage journey of the Ark of the Covenant from its previous resting place to a new home in David’s new capital of Jerusalem. The capture of Jerusalem had been the last major objective in the occupation of the Holy Land (Canaan), and it had been many generations, perhaps a few hundred years, since the people of Israel had first crossed the Jordan to being the process.
So it is understandable that David wanted to consolidate this victory. When one tribe or ethnic group overcomes another and establishes control if its territory, capturing its strongholds, it is usual to strengthen defences, build a palace and so on. David certainly built his “house” which was no doubt a luxury compared with the dwellings of ordinary people, but probably nowhere near as large as Solomon’s later palace. Likewise, it was to be another generation before Solomon built the Temple; yet David thought it important that his new capital should house the Ark, as a symbol of God’s presence, even if for the time being it had to be kept in a tent.
This Ark (not to be confused with Noah’s floating zoo) reputedly held nothing other than the stones inscribed with the Law of Moses, plus Aaron’s staff, and a sample of the miraculous manna from the desert. These represented, in terms of what we would now call the sociology of religion, the relationship between God and his people being expressed through ethical standards, organised worship and shared meals.
But there was also the element of the miraculous: God had given the laws to Moses in a series of awesome appearances; Aaron’s staff had produced buds from a dry stick and even turned into a snake; and the manna had appeared from heaven every morning (apart from the Sabbath) for years. Any community can be identified and sustained by certain standards, rituals and meals, but what set the Israelites apart was that they believed theirs were all given by God.