Dancing Like David Danced

The History Channel is releasing “The Bible” (by Mark Burnett) tonight as part of a five part, 10 hours series. Its being promoted everywhere. There is plenty of excitement about this series. The problem is…I’m guessing it will be a let-down like so many other “Bible-esque” specials on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc. These folks just can’t seem to get things right (nor Hollywood for that matter). Sensational: Yes! Accurate: Not so much.*

So why did I choose THIS picture? Because it is based on the VERY inaccuracy I was sharing in my lectures this last Wednesday from 2 Samuel 6. The photo shows King David  leading the cheerful throng before the ark of the LORD up to Jerusalem. So what is wrong with the photo, you ask? David is exposed (and I’m guessing wearing a sort of loin-cloth) as he leads the procession (others have shown the same). What’s wrong with that (I mean I’ve heard a TON of preachers say as much…and there’s several songs about how we want to “dance like David danced“)?

The text of Scripture actually says he was wearing a “linen ephod” (אֵפוֹד בָּד Sam.6:14) and doing so among the priests made him to be like the priests who carried the ark (1 Chron.15:27). This is the very same term as 1 Samuel 2:18 where Samuel wears a “linen ephod” as he ministers before the LORD. Its the same as the “linen ephod” that the priests at Nob were wearing when they were put to death by King Saul (1 Sam.22:18). In fact, the Hebrew “ephod” (which is just a transliteration into English) has cognates in other ancient languages with reference to priestly garments (most notably in Ugaritic).

It was not a sort of underwear. It was priestly and intended to be worn in public view. So why in the world is David depicted in this photo this way, and why have so many said as much? Quite simply because no care is taken in interpreting Scripture. Too many have taken the derisive words of David’s wife, Michal, as if they are the truth (“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself this day! He has exposed himself today before his servants’ slave girls the way a vulgar fool might do!”- 2 Sam.6:20 NET). The narrator has told us otherwise (it was a linen ephod – 2 Sam.6:14). So should we take the word of Michal, or the word of the narrator? Was he looking priestly as he led the procession, or was he dancing in his tighty-whiteys. The text is clear…are we?

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* As much as I don’t want to admit this Jim West is right. 😉

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4 thoughts on “Dancing Like David Danced

    • I think the narrator may (and that is only “may”) have given us a clue in his statement in 1 Sam.3:2-5 (six sons born to David while at Hebron…none to Michal) and then 1 Sam.5:13-16 (more wives and concubines…and 11 more sons). The story in 1 Sam.6 concludes with “And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death”. Is this the reason…perhaps. It may also be because (as the narrator reminds us repeatedly) she was the “daughter of Saul”. Is this a critique on her patronage?

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