I Chronicles 13

The Word Made Fresh

1David met with the leaders of the people and the army commanders of platoons and battalions. 2He told them, “If you agree and if the LORD our God approves, let’s invite all our relatives throughout all of Israel to join us here, including priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands. 3Then let’s bring again the covenant chest of our God here. We did not consult it during the reign of Saul.” 4All of them were pleased with the suggestion and agreed that it should be done.

5Then David gathered the people of Israel from the Shihor River of Egypt to the gates of Hamath and brought the covenant chest of God from Kiriath-Jearim. 6He and all Israel went to Baalah at Kiriath-Jearim in Judah to bring the covenant chest of God, the LORD, whose throne is between the cherubim on the covenant chest seat. 7They carried the chest on a new cart from the house of Abinadab. Uzzah and Ahio drove the cart. 8David and the people danced before the LORD with all their strength, accompanied by songs and lyres and harps, tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.

9When they reached the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the covenant chest because the oxen were causing it to shake. 10The LORD was angry with Uzzah and struck him down because he put his hand on the chest. He died on that spot before God. 11David was angry because of it. That place is called Perez-Uzzah (the fate of Uzzah) to this day.

12Then David was afraid of God. He said, “How can I take the LORD’s covenant chest under my care?” 13So, he took the chest to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite instead of bringing it to the city of David. 14It remained there for three months, and the LORD honored his household and all he had.


1-4: David gathered his leaders and suggested that the ark of the covenant be brought from Kiriath-Jearim to Jerusalem. He wanted his administration to be more firmly founded on the worship of the LORD than had been the case with Saul. I suspect that bringing the ark from Kiriath-Jearim in the territory of Judah, David’s tribe, to Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin, Saul’s tribe, was calculated to solidify David’s authority. They all agreed to the plan.

5-8: It was a grand occasion, with lots of singing and dancing as they carried the ark towards Jerusalem, with Uzzah and Ahio driving the cart containing the ark.

9-14: This is one of the strangest stories in the Bible. Uzzah touched the ark and God struck him down in anger. Why? No explanation is given; it seems to be a completely capricious act on God’s part. Some scholars suggest that Uzzah was not a Levite and therefore not authorized to handle holy objects, but if that were the case you would think it would be mentioned. In the account in 2 Samuel 6, Uzzah and Ahio were sons of Abinadab. Abinadab was a fairly common name, but it could be that he was one of David’s brothers (see 1 Chronicles 2:13), which would make Uzzah David’s nephew. In any case David was justifiably angry and afraid, and decided not to bring the ark into Jerusalem. He left it at the home of a man named Obed-Edom, who apparently was a Levite (see 16:5). Obed-Edom’s household prospered noticeably for the three months the ark was there.

This chapter repeats the account in 2 Samuel 6:1-11 with some changes in the details.


The covenant chest (ark of the covenant), which held the original stones inscribed with the Ten Commandments, hasn’t been mentioned for quite some time. Bringing it to Jerusalem was a smart move on David’s part; it solidified his position as the king of all of Israel, not just Judah and Benjamin. It was a sacred symbol for the people in much the same way as the family Bible is in many of our homes today.