We Left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s House Tonight

2 Samuel 5:17 – 6:11

Some thought the yoke of oxen much too frail

To draw the oxcart slowly up the grade;

Some thought the sun too hot or moon too pale

Or night too dark, when stars began to fade.

Some thought the path too long,

Or that the times were wrong,

Or else the fates too strong.

But tomorrow let us tell the tale aright:

We left the Ark[i] at Obed-Edom’s[ii] house tonight.

 

Thirty thousand gathered at break of dawn,

Called by the king, the crown still loose upon his head.

Not long ago the same had on field of battle drawn

The sword, and struck a thousand Philistines dead.

Peretz[iii] we called that place

Whereon we saw God’s face

Burst out before our race.

We danced our valor in the bonfire’s light.

But we left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

From Baale-judah, toward the rising sun,

We climbed the hill toward David’s town and throne,

In triumph of the sort Rome’s Caesars won

When bringing spoils of war to warrior’s home.

Climactic battle fought,

The victory ours, we thought,

And proud of what we’d wrought—

We clothed ourselves in tribute claimed as right…

But we left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

The path was rock-strewn, rutted, no easy trip;

Ox and human strained against the load.

The sun at zenith, Ahio plied the whip

On man and beast alike, a stinging goad.

We summoned up the will

To haul God up the hill,

Our goal in vision still:

To reach Jerusalem and the palace height.

Yet we left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

They say the oxcart shuddered, struck a rut,

Ark tottering like a child’s toy knocked aside;

And Uzzah, loathe to see God tumbled in the dust,

Reached up to save God’s now-imperiled pride.

God burst out again.

Did Uzzah see him plain,

As he died in brilliant pain?

The fire of God in blood and bone burns bright.

We left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

Why? Ah, who’s to say? It happened in a flash.

But which of us would not have done the same?

Had we but walked there, proud and rash,

By ours be known the place with Uzzah’s name:

Peretz-you, or –me,

God-burst-out, and we

Could not but Godstruck be

To serve a God unserved by human might.

We left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

Thirty thousand scattered to the wind,

As we in silence stood in gathering dusk,

And learned the harder lesson of Uzzah’s end:

The pride of God needs no defense from us.

Yet in gray light of dawn,

Though other doubts be gone,

The question lingers on:

Who is this God slays foe and friend alike?

 

We left the Ark at Obed-Edom’s house tonight.

 

 

[i] The Ark of the Covenant was a box of acacia wood (Ex. 25:10-22), traditionally understood to have been made by Bezalel ben Uri and Oholiab ben Ahisamach, at instructions from God given to Moses. It was said to have contained the tablets of the Commandments (Ex.25:22), and to have been covered by the golden kapporet, or “seat,” above which the spirit of God was thought to be present. The Ark became something of a battle talisman for Israelites until it was captured by Philistine forces at Aphek (1 Sam 4:1-22). The Philistines, however, sent the Ark back to Israel after it supposedly caused various disruptions in their temples (1 Sam 5:1 – 7:2). The Ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, also known in the 2 Samuel account as Baale-judah, for some twenty years, through the end of Saul’s reign and into the beginning of David’s. After having won a decisive victory over the Philistines at Baal-perazim (2 Sam 5:17-22), David resolved to bring the Ark into his newly captured capital of Jerusalem and to install it in the Temple, the royal chapel.

[ii] Obed-Edom is a Hebrew proper name translated, “Edom’s servant.”

[iii] Peretz is a place name derived from the Hebrew verb paratz, translated, “burst out.”