Bible, Main, Teaching, z34
Comments 15

Why did King David set up the Tabernacle of David?

King David moving the Ark of the Covenant from Gibeon to the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem. Painter unknown

King David moving the Ark of the Covenant from Gibeon to the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem. Painter unknown

Perhaps one of the most controversial articles I have written is “King David’s deep dark secret.” I have had more comments on that article than any others I have written and I have easily had more people disagreeing with me.

In the article I contend that King David was illegitimate. When he said in the Psalms that he was conceived in sin — he meant it quite literally. His mother conceived him in an act of sin.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5 NASV)

This explains what happened when God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel, replacing Saul (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

The Bible tells us the elders were trembling when the prophet showed up (v 4). Samuel terrified the elders, so when God’s prophet asked for all the sons, the elders would make sure they were there.

But they excluded David. Some suggest this happened because he was the youngest, but considering the fear they had of Samuel, that doesn’t make sense. However, if David was not a true son (illegitimate), the elders could rationalize not including David.

Nevertheless when Samuel realized that none of the sons before him was the one God chose, the prophet asked if there were any others. The elders quickly brought David in from the fields and Samuel anointed him as king.

But a comment on the article by Dr. J. Watson got me thinking, he wrote in part:

“For one thing, you are giving Jewish commentaries far too much credibility. Plus, if this totally groundless theory were true, then David would have been a bastard and would not have been allowed to enter into the congregation of the Lord (Deut. 23:2), which he did do, of course, many times with great delight (Ps.42:4)… — Dr. J. D. Watson, pastor/author”

Dr. Watson respectfully makes a very good point.

When David became King, the Tabernacle of Moses was at Kiriath-jearim (2 Samuel 6). It had been originally set up at Shiloh but after the Philistines destroyed Shiloh and temporarily captured the ark of the Covenant  (1 Samuel 4:11 Samuel 6:1-2,  1 Samuel 7:1), the Tabernacle was moved Kiriath-jearim.

The Tabernacle contained the Ark of the Covenant on which the presence of God rested inside the Holy of Holies, a place only the High Priest could enter.

It was where the congregation gathered and where the priests performed the sacrifices on behalf of Israel. Illegitimate children were forbidden (Deuteronomy 23:2).

After he became king, David made what was certainly a controversial decision. He decided to move the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle of Moses to a tent set up in Jerusalem — called the Tabernacle of David (see also 1 Chronicles 16).

16 Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.17 So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house. (2 Samuel 6:16-19 NASV)

They did not dismantle the Tabernacle of Moses and move it. They just removed the Ark of the Covenant. In fact, the priests stayed behind and continued sacrificing at the Tabernacle of Moses even after the Ark was gone (1 Chronicles 16:37-40).

David made this unusual move because he realized when Samuel anointed him king this meant despite his bastard status God accepted David just as he was. God had shown mercy. God approved of him.

David deeply desired to be in God’s presence, but he couldn’t do it at the Tabernacle of Moses because of his illegitimacy. But he could do it, if he moved the Ark of the Covenant to a different location and different home. And despite one glitch (2 Samuel 6:6-7), the move had God’s approval.

At the Tabernacle of David, King David had full, free access to God’s Presence. Further, there was no veil separating people from Ark of the Covenant, as there was in Moses’s tabernacle.

Everyone could come before God’s Presence at this simple tent.

Many of the Psalms were written for worship in the Tabernacle of David. The move sparked a different type of worship than what typically occurred at Moses’s tabernacle. At David’s tabernacle, the people:

They had glory times in God’s presence.

Aside from these expressions of worship, the psalmists also wrote several time of gentiles coming into the Kingdom of God (Psalm 18:49; Psalm 117:1; Psalm 47:8-9). They would have the same access to God’s presence as the Jews.

The Tabernacle of David existed for a brief time between the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple that David’s son Solomon constructed. After the temple was completed, the priests transported the Ark of the Covenant from David’s tent into the Temple’s Holy of Holies and the Glory of God fell (2 Chronicles 5:14).

But after the temple’s construction, some strange prophecies started surfacing. The prophet Amos talked about the restoration of David’s Tabernacle — not the Tabernacle of Moses or even the Temple — but rather David’s small tent.

“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth [Tabernacle] of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,”
Declares the Lord who does this. (Amos 9:11-12 NASV)

But notice the reference to the Gentiles. They would become a big part of the restoring of David’s tabernacle. In fact, it seems the restoration would be primarily for this purpose — to bring in the gentiles.

Everyone, Jew or gentile, would have equal access to God’s Presence.

This passage is mentioned again by leaders of the early church when controversy erupted after the gentiles became Christians and were filled with the Holy Spirit. The church called a meeting to decide what to do with these outsiders.

Some of the Judaizers thought the church needed to circumcised the gentiles. Essentially they needed to become Jews before becoming Christians.

But others disagreed.

At the conference, James quoted the Amos passage (Acts 15:13-20), and said it was being fulfilled before their eyes. Further he added gentiles did not need to be circumcised, they would come in as equal partners in faith with the Jews.

The Tabernacle of David was a symbol or foreshadow of the church. In the Book of Hebrews, we are told to come boldly into the Throne Room of God (Hebrews 4:16). Because of the redeeming work of Jesus, we have full access to God’s presence, just like they did in the Tabernacle of David.

The New Testament writers described Jesus as head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). The prophet Isaiah described this in a slightly different way. He said the Messiah would rule from the “tent of David” (Isaiah 16:5).

The Tabernacle of Moses had its purpose. It showed the perfection needed to come before the Presence of God. No sin. No illegitimacy.

But the Tabernacle of David showed the mercy of God. He was going to make a way so all would have equal access to God’s Presence because of Jesus’ cleansing blood (1 John 1:7).

Illegitimate sons would become “children of God” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26 NASV)


FINAL NOTE: As King David was transporting the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem, an incident took place that stopped the procession (2 Samuel 6:6-15).  The Ark of the Covenant slipped and Uzzah reached out steady it.

As soon as his hand touched the Ark of the Covenant, he was immediately struck dead by the Presence of God.

Stunned, the procession stopped. No doubt at this moment David thought he had made a huge mistake moving the Ark out of the Tabernacle of Moses. He may have even thought it wasn’t God’s will.

They quickly arranged to store the Ark at the farm of Obed-edom. He was a Gittite — a gentile. Probably fearing for their lives, David and his entourage headed back to Jerusalem.

The Ark sat at the farm for three months. But something bizarre began to happen God blessed this gentile farmer. It was so noticeable that the news even reached King David at his palace.

It revealed one important thing. God was not angered by the Ark being moved out of the Tabernacle of Moses. If He was, Obed-edom would have been cursed, not blessed. Emboldened by what was happening, King David realized his plan to set up the Ark in Jerusalem was God’s will, but that it needed to be done properly.

A plan was quickly developed to transport the Ark to the Tabernacle of David.



  1. Teresa Light says

    I am flabbergasted by your wonderful article on the Tabernacle of David! Awesome work, I am blessed beyond words by it.


    • Shirl says

      When King David brought the Ark to Jerusalem, it was located at the house of Obed-edom. However, the Tabernacle of Moses was located at Gibeon at this time. After the Ark was captured by the Philistians, it was never placed into the Tabernacle of Moses again.


  2. John Sakyi says

    Very insightful expository writing on the Tabernacle of David. My understanding is enlightened. Thank you for sharing and it was a timely read. Blessings.


  3. Shawna says

    Dean, thank you for your article and emphasis on the value of the Tabernacle of David as the forerunner to the church we are now part of. I wanted to know why you assert that the Ark of the Covenant was taken from Gibeon? In 2Samuel 6 it says that David went to retrieve it from the House of Abinidab and in 1 Samuel 7, the House of Abinidab is in Kireath-Jearim. Is there another scripture that indicates the Ark was in Gibeon? Thanks!


    • Thanks very much for your comment. I had corrected that mistake earlier, but I missed my second mention of Gibeon later in the article. Thanks very much for pointing it out. God Bless


      • Jackie Mok says

        Everyone is born a sinner. It pass down from the first man Adam. David
        understand the Torah. Before he came into the presence of God, he needed
        an animal (goat, Lamb) to make atonement for his sins. He is not a
        illegitimate child. You have misunderstood the scripture.


      • Thanks for your comment Jackie. I realize that we have traditionally used this verse to prove the sin nature of man, which I wholeheartedly agree with this. But when David said I was conceived in sin, was he talking about his sin nature or are we to take this verse literally?


  4. Shawna says

    Oh okay. Thanks for writing! It’s great that you are sharing your insights. God Bless!


  5. Dale Hankins says

    Great article. One point you might want to look at. The ark was taken to war and captured by the philistines. David was bringing it back to Jerusalem. He did not take it from the wilderness tabernacle. He just brought it back to Jerusalem instead of returning it to the wilderness tabernacle.


  6. Dimitar Luchev says

    Thank you for your enlightening article, Dean. It answers so many questions! For example, I could never figure it out how come that Ashaph who was a levite and a leaders of the worship could enter the “sanctuary” and receive apocalyptic visions (see Ps.73:17-20). Now it’s clear. He was allowed to serve before the Ark in the Tabernacle that had no curtain (1 Chron. 16:37).
    But things become even more interesting when you start considering David’s actions as restoration of yet another order and sanctuary – the Melchizedekian. Because David obviously acts as a High Priest while transporting the Arc and latter on says about his son Solomon that he is installed as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Ps.110). Melchizedek was a king-priest of Salem (). He was a gentile, yet, Abraham payed him a tribute (Gen.14:17-20).


    • Thanks for your comment. I have been wondering about how Melchizedek fits into all this as well. He is a very interesting Old Testament figure.


  7. BreAnna Teschendorf says

    Thanks for this insightful article. Whether David was illegitimate or not, I think you have really captured the heart and intention of God – expounded beautifully on the prophecies – and wrapped it all up in a way that makes me celebrate His goodness. And that is REALLY the point of it all, isn’t it?
    Finally, your wonderfully brief but comprehensive history of the Ark was fun to read. And you gave really good examples of how David’s Tabernacle was different from Abrahams.
    I am not at all offended by the suggestion that David was illegitimate. Your theory really absolutely makes perfect sense! I have never understood why David was not be brought before the prophet. This is a great explanation for that. It also gives a little bit more insight into David’s heart and his deep love affair with Adonai.
    Thanks for the article! It was an enjoyable read.


    • Hi BreAnna thanks for your comme nt. Certainly many don’t agree, but I think like you said it helps explain what was happening to David. It also shows that God is not a respector of persons. No matter what your background is God will use you.


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