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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 13

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 3-6

1 Chronicles 13:3-6

And let us bring again the ark of our God to us.

The ark in the royal city

A place of honour, influence, and right, as:--

The centre of unity.

The source of religious life. This act:

1. Purified religious life.

2. Unified religious life.

3. Organised religious life.

The sign of God’s presence. (J. Wolfendale.)

The ark’s progress to Mount Zion

One of the Psalms composed by David to be sung on the removing of the ark (Psalms 68:1-35.) is quoted by Paul (Ephesians 4:7-8) as having foretold what this procession itself foreshadowed, viz., the ascension of Christ, and the blessings which should flow therefrom upon every member of His Mystical Body. We see in all this great procession nothing less than the Universal Church of Christ, partaking with the Divine David in the glory of His ascension into the Heavenly Zion. From the narrative of which the text forms a part we may learn:--

General lessons.

1. That periods of reformation, after past neglect, are those in which we need more than ordinary caution, lest we mar the work which is designed to promote God’s glory.

2. That all religious reformation which is the work of man can scarcely fail to be blemished and disfigured more or less by human infirmities.

3. That the effects of those infirmities are not to be acquiesced in, but to be confessed and corrected, if ever we would hope to obtain the Divine approval, or even to escape the Divine chastisement.

4. Not to abandon our good intentions because we have been checked and hindered in our efforts after amendment, but still to hold on and persevere in our exertions; only taking heed to profit by the instruction which the experience of past failure was designed to give.

5. “God will be sanctified in all them that come nigh Him,” by obedience to His holy laws (Leviticus 10:2).

6. That ignorance and neglect, even when allowed to pass unchastised in others, may bring upon His ordained ministers the severest punishment.

Particular lessons.

1. That every Christian has his place in that great procession, which is occupied in conveying the Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 11:19) up to its final resting-place in Mount Zion; but every Christian has not the same place.

2. That it is not enough that we do, whatever we do, with a good intention unless what is done be also good, good in itself, and good in us. (Bishop Chris. Wordsworth.)

Verses 9-11

1 Chronicles 13:9-11

And when they came unto the threshing-floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark.



If God be absent from a people and the ark be long in obscurity, that people will lose a sense of reverence.

That God, mindful of His honours, often singles out guilty men to be monuments of His displeasure.

That by such examples of terror God warns others. (J. Wolfendale.)

Uzza’s transgression


The importance of ritual and positive institutions, with the punctual observance which God expects to them. Amongst all the trials which have been made of human nature, in the way of worshipping a superior power, there hath been no instance of a pure and holy worship without somewhat of institution to fix the forms of it. Even a state of innocence did not subsist without a positive law for trial of our first parents’ obedience. The first recorded act of worship after the Fall was apparently of a ritual and positive nature; since human reason doth no more direct to those sacrifices which we find offered to God by Cain and Abel, than it directs us to baptism or the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The gross superstitions of the heathen world were manifestly owing to the want of an authorised ceremonial in their worship.

The enclosure of the sacerdotal or priestly function, with the danger of invading or throwing it open.

The respect which is due to a relative holiness.

The insufficiency of a good or innocent intention to warrant an irregular or forbidden action.

The reverence and preparation of heart wherewith we should approach the solemn offices of Divine worship.

The danger of an unauthorised, officious zeal. (N. Marshall, D. D.)

Touching the ark, and touching the Saviour

(1 Chronicles 13:10 with Matthew 9:21):--How characteristic are these two incidents of the two dispensations under which they respectively occurred? What a comment upon the declaration, “The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life.”

I observe that the Old and New Testaments present many such instructive contrasts, serving to illustrate the different spirit of the legal as compared with the evangelical economy--the one being mostly miracles of judgment, the other almost exclusively miracles of mercy. For instance, there is the confusion of tongues at Babel--the gift of tongues at Pentecost; the water turned into blood in Egypt--the water turned into wine at Cana; the darkness of Egypt issuing in the death of the first-born--the darkness of Calvary bringing many sons to glory. And so in the text: the death of Uzza on touching the ark--the healing of the sufferer that touched our Lord. It was in either case a touch; but the one was fatal, the other a cure. The one was a case of presumption, if not of unbelief; the other a case of humility and of the deepest faith. The Lord, the heart-searcher, saw a difference in the intrinsic similarity of the acts which man saw not. It was not altogether the difference in the dispensations, but the difference in the persons. Uzza not only overlooked the law that prescribed the Kohathite as the ark-bearer, but sacrilegiously intruded his hand to support an emblem which had vindicated the sufficiency of its self-reliance by its superhuman inflictions in the house of Dagon, and by its miraculous over-rulings of natural instincts in the leading of the kine from their calves when its mystic pilgrimage lay in an opposite direction; whereas the woman in the Gospels ascribed merit and virtue even to the hem of the Redeemer’s garment, and much more therefore to Himself. Hence the two, Uzza and the woman, enacted in type the Pharisee and the publican, whereof the one “went down to her house justified rather than the other.” Both intrinsically were slight, inconsiderable acts in themselves--A mere touch externally in either case; the one touching the sign, the other the thing signified. But the one brought his support to the covenant ark, the other drew her support from the Ark; the one approached in self-sufficiency, and was smitten for his presumption, the other drew nigh in self-abasement, and was healed for her faith. Upon the one, therefore, fell the terrible anathema of “the letter” that “killeth”; upon the other descended as the dews of heaven “the Spirit” that “giveth life.”

In their contrast is presented the light and shade of the profession-life in the church. It is more agreeable to our natural pride to feel our personal hand to be the stay of a declining Church, than to creep with a poor, dejected sinner to the hem of the garment, the lowest place, the door-keeper’s post in the house of our God. The pride of ecclesiastical office is in various shapes and degrees the besetting sin of clergy and laity. It leads the former to rest upon functional relations, those pretensions and reliances due only to the endowments of grace, to the conscientious cultivation of gifts, and to the exercise of personal influence. It tempts the priest alike to supersede the man and lose sight of God. Alas! for this thrusting the unbidden hand of the creature upon the ark of God! It displays itself among the laity, too, in the love of office in the Church, for the mere office sake, as a platform for self-parade. It escapes even in the mode and amount of contributions to the Church, in laying them like the corban on the altar, not for the glory of God, but as the price of redemption from some unpalatable duty. There are men who can be brought to church with the idea of playing the patron, to indulge the vanity of their sense of being necessary to her standing and well-doing, who thus lay unhallowed hands on her altar, like an Uzza, but who would disdain to be indebted to that lowly touch of her spiritual garment, for the feeling that it was that, and not their presumptuous handling of the ark of her strength, that made them whole.

The doctrine of the contrast is twofold--namely, the peril of the least sin, and the peace of the least act of faith. As to the first: you are always in danger so long as you allow yourselves in any known sin under the plea of Lot, who, by the side of the enormities of Sodom, contended “is it not a little one?” The effect of that friction with the world into which men’s eagerness in business or pursuit of pleasure leads them, is to rub off the bloom from the fruits of the Spirit, and to rub off, though in minutest particles, the fine gold, and turn it dim in lustre and less in substance. The little sin, as you imagine it, of putting your hand, say, upon a portion of the Sabbath, to do something in your business, or to spend it in recreation, or in reading the news, or in secular gossiping, leaving the sound of the service chimes to die away among the graves of the dead, who are no more insensible to its calling than yourselves--in these supposed little sins begins the course, that deceiving and being deceived, waxes worse and worse, until the man’s life becomes at last a mere chapter of practical Atheism, without prayer, without faith, without obedience. Or suppose the little sin take another direction, confining its action to within the sanctuary, and the moral delinquent lays his hand upon the ark in another shape. Perhaps he does not realise Christ’s sufficiency as to an atonement or a justifying righteousness, and must have a hand in the satisfaction of the one, and the completeness of the other, and therefore looks to a baptism, or a eucharist, or to his social charities, or moral duties, or evangelical sentiments, or enthusiastic feelings and sensations, or the suffrages of fellow-sinners, or even fellow-saints, if the phrase be more acceptable. If by these, by all of them or by any of them, the man looks to commend himself in the sight of God, and supplement that which was lacking, in his theory, in the finished work of Christ, his hand is on the ark, and unless it be removed betimes, the hand of an indignant God will be upon him, and he that “sinneth with a high hand,” for whom neither, law nor Gospel provided an atonement, “shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy.” On the other hand, the contrast exhibits the peace and advantage of the least act of faith, even if the faith be so weak and feeble as to be likened to “a grain of mustard seed, which is the least of all seeds.” Faith as little as that, like the woman’s touch, has strength to remove mountains. A spark of Omnipotence is struck out of the rock by its feeblest blow. (Joseph B. Owen, M. A.)

Verse 13

1 Chronicles 13:13

But carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom

The “asides” of God

How much we owe to the “asides” of God.

Obed-edom owed the benediction which descended upon his house to this “aside.” God’s way through life is thus wondrous: always indeed one great line of progress, yet who can count the detours which He makes, the asides, the incidental variations, the small things which men regarded as unworthy of notice,--who can tell how all these are wrought up into a comprehensive revelation of wisdom and love. If we only took the things which came to us on the great main thoroughfares of life, some people would hardly be blessed at all. A study of the “asides” of life would confirm us in our general Christian faith. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 14

1 Chronicles 13:14

And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had.

The selection of the house of Obed-edom

Why was the house of Obed-edom selected for the three months’ sojourn of the ark? The choice of the ark’s resting-place was David’s first-fruits of repentance. He was terrified at the judgment upon their act of disobedience to the law, which enjoined that none but the Levites of the family of Kohath should bear it, and that upon their shoulders, too; and they at once retraced their steps, so far as they could by conveying the sacred emblem to the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite, that is of Gath. This city was distinguished from several other towns of the same name by the addition of Gath-rimmon (Joshua 24:21). It was not only one of the cities of the Levites in general, but of the Kohathites in particular, the very family to whom was specially assigned the post of “bearing the ark upon their shoulders.” From 1 Chronicles 15:18 we find that Obededom was actually one of the “porters” employed to bear upon their shoulders, instead of in a cart, after the manner of the idolatrous Philistines, the sacred symbol of the presence of the Lord of hosts on the occasion of its final translation to Jerusalem. (Joseph B. Owen, M. A.)

The house of Obed-edom

The service which Obed-edom rendered.

The spirit in which he performed the service.

The reward which he gained.

1. A personal blessing.

2. A social blessing.

3. An extensive blessing.

None suffer whose guest is the ark of God. Piety is the best friend to prosperity. (J. Wolfendale.)

Churches blessing or a curse

What was this ark of God?

1. It was a sign of the covenant God had made with His people.

2. It was a record of God’s dealings with them under all their rebellions.

3. It was an instrument of communion between Him and them.

How was this ark to be treated, and what was the consequnce of its presence?

1. See what it was amongst the heathen (1 Samuel 5:4; 1 Samuel 5:11).

2. See what it was amongst God’s own people, when they made themselves like unto the Gentiles and learned their works (1 Samuel 6:19; 1 Samuel 7:8). In the sight of these judgments we may plainly see that the mere having among them the appointed sign and instrument of God’s presence was no blessing, but the having it for a lawful use, and the treating it after a godly manner. God’s ark was a blessing where it was duly prized; its presence was a blessing or a curse according to the character of those it visited.

Those churches which adorn our land are the signs of God’s presence, as the ark was of old. What blesses any district as thus bringing home to it the presence of God? What is the effect on ungodly and irreverent men of seeing and attending churches? It brings down on them God’s heavy judgments. (Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)

The blessing of God upon those who honour His institutions

The ark was a small elegant chest, which contained the two tables of the law--the Hebrew Bible--written by the finger of God. This was probably the first alphabetical writing in the world. Though the Egyptians and other heathen nations used to employ hieroglyphics, to record past events, and denote the actions and intellectual and moral qualities of men, yet they were totally ignorant of letters which compose words and sentences by their particular sounds. Obed-edom knew that the ark contained the written Word of God, and esteemed it, as David did, “better unto him than thousands of gold and silver.” The subject is that God will bless those families who treat His Word with proper respect. I shall show:

That they ought to treat it with proper respect. Observe--

1. That every family ought to have the Word of God in their house.

2. Parents should read it seriously every day in their families.

3. The Bible ought to be read in a family with a view to understand it.

4. The Bible is to be read and heard in a family with a sincere desire and intention to do whatsoever God has commanded.

That if they do read and hear the bible with such proper respect God will bless them.

1. Because such pious families are the preservers of the Word of God.

2. Because they lay the greatest check and restraint upon every species of irreligion and impiety. No evil practices can be found in any family who daily read and love and obey the Bible.

3. God will bless pious families because they are the important instruments of promoting and transmitting pure religion from generation to generation.


1. It is the wisdom as well as duty of every family to pay a cordial and sacred regard to the Bible.

2. Those families that neglect these duties have reason to expect the frowns of Heaven upon them.

3. If those families only are religious who pay proper respect to the Word of God, then there is ground to conclude that there are many families in this place who are not religious.

4. How important it is that heads of families should be truly religious.

5. The great criminality of irreligious children who have been religiously educated. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

The house of Obed-edom

The ark was the symbol of God’s presence. Every truly Christian household now had the blessing that so enriched the home of Obed-edom. The subject is--Religion in the home.

It is a power of fulfilment. Religion is the sole power of fulfilment in regard to the very purpose and idea of home. A house may be full of persons who are very dear to each other, very kind to each other; full of precious things--affections, hopes, living interests; but if God is not there as the Ruler and Father of the house, the original and true idea of home will not be realised; vacancy and need will still be at the heart of all. Good things will grow feebly and uncertainly, like flowers in winter, trying to peep out into the sunshine, yet shrinking from the blast. Evil things will grow with strange persistency. Little things will produce great distresses. It will be as when a man of ingenuity tries in vain to put together the separated parts of a complicated piece of mechanism. He tries it this way and that, puts the pieces into every conceivable mode of arrangement, then at last stops and says, “There must be a piece wanting.” Home without the Divine presence is at best a moral structure with the central element wanting.

It is a principle of harmony. Religion is the only principle of harmony in the endeavour after this highest and best home life. It supplies the missing element which unites and quickens all the rest. It conducts its progress as a regulative force. It is hot contended that the principle bears all its proper fruits, and that every Christian home is a scene of unbroken harmony. Some Christian homes are very peaceful. One enters them with the same kind of soothed and comforted feeling with which a traveller, after a toilsome walk over the breezy hills, comes down on a little placid lake, hardly ruffled by the breeze, and fringed with freshest green. Others again are more troubled. But we must not hastily conclude that the uniformly placid house is really further advanced in the harmonies of Christian living than some others which are less serene. It may be so; but it may also be quite the reverse. Sometimes the jarrings are brought out just by the endeavours after the higher harmonies. Failures are more apparent if the efforts are high. The dearest harmonies in all the social life of men are sounding only in the Christian home; and those imperfections of which some make so much, and of which no one ought to make too little, are, after all, but like the flitting shadows of a sunny day--but like the chafing of the stream as it rushes against the rocky barrier on its passage to the peaceful plains which it will fertilise, or to the depths of ocean where it will rest.

Religion in the house is a source of prosperity. Life in the present day is more complex; it has greater interests, heavier tasks and higher prizes. The Lord still blesses the house of Obed-edom and all that he has.

1. Character.

2. Plans of usefulness.

3. Controversies with evil principles and with evil men.

4. Reverses. A thoughtful, earnest man now feels himself connected with politics--law--battles--civilisation--churches--religion--life in all its phases. He has some stake, some property in all these things, and in proportion to the earnestness and greatness of his mind, he will feel that these are the real interests of his life, for which he needs “blessing” from the Lord.

Religion in the house of a good man, is likely to be a legacy to his children. In the piety of the living, and in the laws of Christian family life, he makes provision for what we may call the transmission of religion to those who shall come after. In the rule of their house, and in the spirit of their life, godly parents are casting the forms which will be peopled and animated with the future “families of Israel.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 13". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/1-chronicles-13.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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