The Book of II Shmuel
Rav Amnon Bazak
LECTURE 71: CHAPTER 6 (II)
THE TRANSFER OF THE ARK AND MIKHAL’S LAUGHTER
“WITH SHOUTING AND WITH SOUND OF THE HORN”
As may be recalled, following the tragic death of Uzza, David brought the
process of transferring the ark to Jerusalem to a halt, and the ark remained in
the house of Oved-Edom the Gittite.
David wanted to know whether the entire process was a mistake, or perhaps the
problem was limited to the way in which it was carried out. Indeed, before long, David learned
that the process itself was fitting, and that it was appropriate to move the ark
to a more respectable place:
And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Oved-Edom the Gittite three
months; and the Lord blessed Oved-Edom, and all his house.
God's blessing of Oved-Edom and his house
proves that the ark need not bring about harm to anyone who is in possession of
it. From here, David understands
that he can correct that which needs correction and proceed onward to Jerusalem:
And it was told to King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of
Oved-Edom and all that pertains unto him because of the ark of God.” And David
went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Oved-Edom into the city of
David with joy.
Were the necessary lessons really learned? The answer to this question is
found in the parallel passage in I Divrei Ha-yamim (chapter 15). As may be recalled, there were two
main problems in the first attempt to move the ark to Jerusalem: carrying the
ark 1) in a cart and 2) by people who were not of the tribe of Levi. These two faults are corrected in the
David said, “None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for them
has the Lord chosen to carry the ark of the Lord, and to minister unto Him for
ever…” And David called for Tzadok and Evyatar the priests, and for the Levites,
for Uriel, Asaya, and Yoel, Shemaya, and Eliel, and Aminadav, and said unto
them, “You are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites; sanctify
yourselves, both you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the
Lord, the God of Israel, unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because you
[bore it] not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that
we sought Him not according to the ordinance.” So the priests
and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God
of Israel. And
the children of the Levites bore the ark of God upon their shoulders
with the bars thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 15:
the second attempt, the ark was carried upon shoulders, and specifically upon
the shoulders of the Levites. The
book of Shmuel, on the other hand, emphasizes less the practical
correction, and more the correction of the general atmosphere which underlay the
halakhic problems that arose in the first attempt (as we explained in the
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with
shouting, and with the sound of the horn.
note the similarity between this description and the description of the first
attempt, as well as the difference between the two:
And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord with all
manner of instruments made of cypress-wood, and with harps, and with psalteries,
and with timbrels, and with sistra, and with cymbals.
The two verses begin
with the same words – but what a difference between them in the continuation!
The second attempt was undertaken out of fear and out of recognition of the
enormity of the event – "brought up the ark of the Lord" – as opposed to the
first attempt, which was undertaken in an atmosphere of gaiety and with the
accompaniment of "all manner of instruments made of cypress-wood, and with
harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with sistra, and with
cymbals." This atmosphere totally changed in the second attempt, which was "with
shouting and with the sound of the horn."
The second attempt was undertaken in an atmosphere of reverence that
precedes gladness. After clear
boundaries were set up, there was room for joy as well, and David expressed the
quality of love with great intensity: "And David danced before the Lord with all
his might" (v. 16). But this joy
stemmed from the recognition of the boundaries of reverence and observance of
the mitzvot, and for this reason it was fitting joy.
This may find expression in the twofold mention of the sacrifices that
were offered on that day:
and David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord. (18) And when David had made
an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings…
peace-offerings are two different kinds of sacrifices that express two different
ways of understanding the connection between God and man. The burnt-offering is entirely for
God; man has no part in it. It
expresses the quality of fear – the distance between God and man. In a peace-offering, on the other
hand, there is a part for God, a part for the priests, and a part for the person
bringing the sacrifice, and it expresses the quality of love; man merits eating
from God's table. But the
burnt-offering always precedes the peace-offering, and the emphasis of this
point in our chapter expresses the idea that the fear of God must always come
first, and only at a later stage is there place for expressions of the quality
Another difference between the two attempts to move the ark is the
special role that David plays in the second attempt, which is strongly
emphasized in the verses:
And it was so, that when they that bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces,
he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.
(14) And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and
David was girded with a linen efod.
(15) So David and all the house of Israel brought up the
ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
First of all, the threefold repetition of David's name stands out, as it
testifies to the fact that this time David assumes responsibility and is the
dominant figure in the entire process.
Second, it is interesting that in many ways David serves here like a
1) David is "girded
with a linen efod," like the priests (see I Shmuel 22:18).
2) David himself
offers sacrifices: "And David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before
the Lord" (v. 17).
3) David blesses the
people, like the priests:
And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the
peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.
Scripture seems to be emphasizing that David is not acting here like a
king, who is concerned about his personal interests, but like a priest, who
serves as God's agent and is concerned about his obligations toward Him. In this way, David adds a dimension
of sanctity to the process of transferring the ark to Jerusalem, which
contributes to a more appropriately balanced atmosphere, as was noted above.
end, David allows the rest of the people to participate in the joy:
And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel,
both to men and women, to every one a loaf of bread, and a cake made in a pan,
and a sweet cake.
So all the people departed every one to his house.
David acts here as if it were his own celebration and thereby expresses
his deep fidelity to God.
WHY DID MIKHAL LAUGH AT DAVID?
now move on to another dimension of the story: the clash between Mikhal and
David. Mikhal sees David's
merrymaking, and not only does she not identify with his joy, but she regards
David with contempt:
And it was so, as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, that Mikhal
the daughter of Shaul looked out at the window and saw king David leaping and
dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
When David comes home in order to bless the members of his household,
Mikhal unloads her negative feelings about his conduct:
Then David returned to bless his household.
And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul came out to meet David, and said, “How
did the king of Israel get him honor today, who uncovered himself today in the
eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly
According to their
plain sense, Mikhal's words express the position that a king must conduct
himself in a restrained and respectable fashion, and not like an ordinary
person. David does not hold his
tongue, but rather fires back at Mikhal:
And David said unto Mikhal, “Before the Lord, who chose me above your father and
above all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of the Lord, over
Israel, before the Lord will I make merry.
I will hold myself even more lightly esteemed
than this and be humble in my eyes; and with the handmaids whom you have
spoken of, with them will I get me honor.”
David responds to
Mikhal by saying that he does not see any diminution of his honor in the way he
acted, for as long as this conduct is performed "before the Lord," it expresses
the service of God in the most perfect manner, without any intermingling of
personal honor. David's words
eventually became a symbol for serving God in joy:
The happiness with which a person should rejoice in the
fulfillment of the mitzvot and the love of God who commanded them is a
[In contrast,] anyone who lowers himself and thinks lightly
of his person in these situations is [truly] a great person, worthy of honor,
who serves God out of love. Thus,
David, King of Israel, declared [II Shmuel 6:22]: "I will hold myself
even more lightly esteemed than this and be humble in my eyes," because there is
no greatness or honor other than celebrating before God, as [II Shmuel
6:16] states: "King David was leaping and dancing before the Lord."
(Rambam, Hilkhot Shofar Sukka Ve-Lulav 8:15)
David also alludes to Mikhal that she is continuing in the path of her
father Shaul, who in the end was deposed by God and whom David was chosen to
replace. Indeed, we find that on
various occasions, Shaul gave priority to his personal honor over obedience to
God. One of the striking examples of
this is found in Shaul's conduct during the war against Amalek. Shaul did not fulfill God's command
in its entirety, but rather spared Agag's life
and allowed the people to take spoil, and acted in a way to increase his
personal honor: "And it was told to Shmuel, saying, ‘Shaul came to Carmel, and,
behold, he is setting him up a monument’" (I Shmuel 15:12). Later in that same story, he gives
explicit expression to his concern about his own honor: "Then he said, ‘I have
sinned; yet honor me now, I pray you, before the elders of my people, and
before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God’" (ibid.
v. 30). When compared with Shaul's
behavior, David's humility and self-effacement before God is particularly
There seems, however, to be yet another layer to this clash between
Mikhal and David. We noted in
chapter 3 (lecture 63) the tortuous relationship between David and Mikhal, which
started with Mikhal's one-sided love, and ended with a total rift between them. Despite everything, David made sure
that Mikhal was returned to him, to the great sorrow of her husband, Palti ben
Layish. We noted that Scripture does
not describe Mikhal's feelings at that juncture, and this may indicate some
hidden hope that still nested in her heart that past experience notwithstanding,
David might still grow to love her.
We see from our chapter that this was not the case. David seems to have remained distant
from Mikhal. When she saw David's
great zeal in his service of God, which stood in such sharp contrast to his
attitude towards her, an argument broke out about the proper conduct of a king,
the basis of which was Mikhal's frustration regarding David's relationship with
allusion to this may be found in a unique expression appearing in our story:
"That Mikhal the daughter of Shaul looked out at the window (be'ad
ha-chalon)." This expression previously appeared at the high point of
Mikhal's love for David: "So Mikhal let David down through the window (be'ad
ha-chalon); and he went, and fled, and escaped" (I Shmuel 19:12). Mikhal's entire life moved between
these two windows: between the window that she had opened for David, based on
her absolute commitment to save her beloved husband, and the window through
which she now looks down upon David with a sense of alienation, and thus
effectively closes the last window of opportunity to create a meaningful
relationship between them.
The chapter ends with a note that for once and for all seals the
disconnection between the house of Shaul and the house of David:
And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul had no child unto the day of her death.
The emphasis placed here on the fact that Mikhal is the "daughter of
Shaul" further sharpens the message lying in our verse: Since Mikhal chose to
walk in the ways of her father and prefer the honor of the king to the honor of
God, she did not merit giving birth to a son to David, and no trace of the house
of Shaul remained in the royal house of the people of Israel.
Thus, the connection between the house of Shaul and the house of David
came to an absolute end. Previously
we noted that the possibility existed of continuing the connection between the
two houses, based on Yehonatan's vision in his last meeting with David: "You
shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto you" (I Shmuel
23:17). We also noted the reason
that this vision was not realized: Yehonatan's decision to remain with his
father during his lifetime, and thus also in his death. Not a trace remained of the two
possibilities that had existed to integrate scions of the house of Shaul in the
kingdom of the house of David.
Nevertheless, Chazal provided this story with a positive end:
women died in childbirth: Our matriarch Rachel, the daughter-in-law of Eli, and
Mikhal the daughter of Shaul… "And Mikhal the daughter of Shaul had no child
unto the day of her death" – R. Yehuda bar Simon said: Unto the day of her
death, she had no child, [but] on the day of her death she had a child. This is what is written: "The sixth,
Itre'am by Egla his wife" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 3:3). Why was she called Egla? R. Yuda bar
R. Simon said: Because she bleated and died like a calf (egla). (Midrash Shmuel, parasha 11)
The idea that Mikhal died in childbirth seems to stem from the great
similarity between the story of David and Mikhal and the story of Yaakov and
Rachel, a similarity which we noted at length in our lectures on I Shmuel
(especially chapters 18-19; lectures 36-37).
But in addition to the continuation of the correspondence, there is here
an optimistic message, which expresses a positive change on the part of Mikhal,
in the wake of which she merited giving birth on the day of her death, and thus
leaving a remembrance of the house of Shaul in the house of David.
(Translated by David