Following my sermon this past Sunday (which you can listen to by clicking here), Charlie Dunn emailed me some very interesting comments and questions last night regarding 2 Samuel 6:13 and the number of sacrifices David offered while bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. His insights and calculations are quite thought-provoking and certainly worth serious consideration, so I'm inserting excerpts from our email exchange here with his permission...
From: Charlie Dunn
Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 8:43 PM
To: Mark Brand
Subject: 2nd Samuel Sermon August 29, 2006
I found your sermon this Sunday to be very insightful and full of many great points. God truly speaks through you. You mentioned in your sermon that all of us are subject to human error, even the prophet Nathan as you discussed. In reading Chapter 6 of 2nd Samuel, I found that my translation (NIV) only mentioned that David "sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf" after the first six steps, and not after every six steps. Certainly David's sacrifice was of great significance as it re-consecrated the role of the Levites as the Lord's ministers and affirmed God's faithfulness to those who followed his Words. Furthermore, those first six steps were surely taken very tentatively in light of the recent death of Uzzah. With the first six steps completed, it was evident to David and to those in the procession, that God would bless this venture. Accordingly, David offered sacrifices of thanks to God. He would later offer "burnt offerings and fellowship offerings" once the Ark had been delivered to the tent, but from what I can understand, not repeatedly along the way.
It is possible that you are aware of some pertinent information that I am not, but according to what I can see, it would be nearly impossible for David to have offered sacrifices every six steps. As 1 Chronicles 13:13 informs us, Obed-Edom was a Gittite. Thus he was either from the Philistine city of Gath, located 30 miles from Jerusalem, or more likely from the Levitical city of Gath-Rimmon, located in the inheritance of Dan, a little more than 10 miles from Jerusalem. The latter option would make a great deal more sense, as it would place his home closer to the city, and would justify David's deposit of the Ark at the home of Obed-Edom, a Levite. Whether Gath-Rimmon or Gath, the distance would be no fewer than 10 miles. Therefore, if a mile is 5,280 feet, than each mile would take approximately 6,000 steps, or 1,000 sacrifices. Assuming only ten miles, the sacrifices would total over 10,000 bulls and 10,000 calves! Suffice it to say that time alone would not permit such an exorbitant method, nor would it be feasible to carry and consume all of the sacrificed meat.
I would like to reemphasize my appreciation of your service to God, and the open and bold way in which you and Hillcrest Church worship God and proclaim His Word. I took a great deal away from the sermon, and I look forward to attending again. I was just curious about this point, on which I may be lacking a critical piece of information. Otherwise, I thought you might benefit from this. God bless you and may he continue to use you for his kingdom.
On 8/29/06, Mark Brand <MBrand@hillcrestchurch.org> wrote:
Thanks so much for your very enlightening email and for the calculations! Wow! That is certainly thought-provoking!
To be honest with you, from my reading of the NIV, it seemed to my eyes to infer an ongoing process, but that certainly would be a lot of animals, and having re-read the verse carefully in light of your comments, you may well be right...!
In any event, your email caused me to do a quick check of the commentaries and dictionaries, etc., I have loaded on my computer to see which side they would come down on. I skimmed them quickly, since I have a lot of other work that I need to do before I go to bed tonight, but a superficial investigation brought a couple of interesting facts to light...
First of all, it appears that some commentators think there was some form sacrifice offered at some regular interval along the way, apparently in part because their take on the Hebrew words, etc., used in the phrase is such that they believe the part that speaks to the issue of "taking steps" implies a sort of military, ceremonial, or royal cadence that involves paces interspersed with stops. In their minds, this implies some sort of ongoing pattern of stops, accompanied by sacrifices. (What comes to my mind is the kind of "stutter-step" that brides sometimes do when coming down the aisle at a church wedding, i.e., taking a step or steps, then halting.) And I don't know that the passage actually states how many hours or even days or weeks or months the journey took.
The second thing I found is references to Solomon's displacement of the Ark from David's tabernacle to the Temple (obviously a much shorter distance...!) where 1 Kings 8:3-5 says, "When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, 4 and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, 5 and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.[emphasis mine]" Cf. also 2 Chronicles 5:6 where the same reference is made to an innumerable number of sacrifices.
Then, I looked at 1 Chronicles 15:25-26. It says of David's procession, "25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. 26 Because God had helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed." The question that then comes to my mind is, "Since 2 Samuel 6:13 mentions only one bull and one fattened calf (no rams), were the seven bulls and seven rams mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:26 sacrificed at some interval along the way or, as the text seems to indicate (apparently referring to the fact the God had helped the Levites complete the work of transporting the Ark), does 1 Chronicles only mention the sacrifices that were made upon arrival in Jerusalem, and not those offered after the first six steps or periodically, depending on what one thinks about 2 Samuel 6:13?"
Quite honestly, I do not have the answer to that, but it does seem to me that 1 Kings 8:3-5; 2 Chronicles 5:6; as well as 1 Chronicles 29:21 (where a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, and a thousand male lambs were offered simply because Solomon was acknowledged as king); 1 Kings 3:4 (where Solomon then appears to have personally offered a thousand burnt offerings to the Lord, separate from the inaugural event just referenced); and 1 Kings 8:64 (where the ground in middle part of the courtyard had to be consecrated because the bronze altar, though significantly larger than what had been in the Tabernacle of Moses, was still too small to contain all the sacrifices that were brought), all seem to indicate an extraordinary propensity among the Israelites for sacrificing very large numbers of animals on very important occasions.
So, I don't know that I have a definitive answer for you regarding 2 Samuel 6:13, Charlie. Taken at face value, apart from the other passages I mentioned such as 1 Chronicles 29:21 where at total of three thousand animals were sacrificed, a minimum of 20,000 does seem an like an awfully lot, and verse 13 taken all by itself sure does seem to read the way you interpret it, when I read it and think about it more. But, then I ask myself, "Is not '...so many...that they could not be counted...' a lot more than 20,000?"
At any rate, I want to thank for your very, very thought-provoking email and questions! I always love this kind of dialogue and I certainly do make many mistakes while preaching. May God give us more people like you and the Bereans in Acts who " were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, fore they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:10-12)
Blessings to you, my brother, and please do not hesitate to email again when you have a question about something I've preached. It does not offend me at all!
P.S. Would it be okay with you if posted your email and mine on the internet on my blog (hillcrestchurch.blogspot.com) so others in our church could read and benefit from our interaction?
From: Charlie Dunn
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 9:45 PM
To: Mark Brand
Subject: Re: 2nd Samuel Sermon
Pastor Brand, Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my email. You have certainly given me a new perspective to think about as well as a strong argument for the possibility of the ongoing sacrifice. Whether a one time event or a repeated process, David certainly invested his time and resources into his pursuit of the Living God, a point you well illustrated this Sunday.
I particularly appreciated your reference to the tone of the Hebrew as Biblical languages are of great interest to me. I will be a Freshman at Dartmouth this year studying Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and then hopefully relating them to God's Word in Seminary down the road. It is always exciting when God reveals new Truths as we study His Word.
I look forward to listening to your sermons over the Internet and viewing your notes on your Blog while I am away. I would be honored if you posted my email with yours, and may God continue to bless your ministry.