In the text its clear that the ark was captured & then kept afterwards at Kirjath Jearim before Saul had been anointed king & Saul went on to rule for about forty years.David came into power after Saul.

1 Samuel 7:2 ( KJV0

2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

So we are told that after twenty years at Kirjath Jearim when David had become king he brought the ark from the house of Aminadab(2 Samuel 6)

But we are also told that Saul had ruled for forty years just after the capture of the ark.

Acts 13:21 (KJV)

21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years

So how could the ark have been brought by King David after twenty years at Kirjath Jearim when he came into power after forty years of Saul's rule

3 Answers 3


I Samuel 6:1-21, 7:1-2.

The ark was sent from the Philistines and arrived at Bethshemesh where 50,070 men were slain because the ark had been looked into. Then it was brought up to the house of Abinadab in the hill and abode in Kirjath-jearim for twenty years.

I Samuel 14:18

And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.

The narrative affirms that the ark was not with the Philistines at this time but with the Israelites. So the twenty years had transpired and now Saul moved the ark.

II Samuel 6:2

And David arose and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah to bring up from thence the ark of God ...

II Samuel 6:4

And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah.

The ark had been moved, after twenty years, by Saul, from Kirjath-jearim to Gibeah, but Abinadab went with it and was still the custodian of it.

Gibeah is of the tribe of Benjamin and is in the hills of Judaea, see I Samuel 13:16 and I Samuel 14:16, for example.

I notice in the margin of the Authorised Version that one of the AV translators seems to think the ark was in Kirjath-jearim until David called it from there. This translator has added marginal notes in an attempt to 'correct' the text. For example, making reference to the fact that Gibeah (which means 'height') means, he says, 'hill'.

The location of Baale of Judah is unclear. Robert Young says it may be another form of Baalah, there being three cities of that name to choose from, but the word itself means 'possessor', so the text may not be referring to a specific city but to the authorities within Judah. I am not clear on this matter, myself.

But there is no need to correct the text. The main issue is, historically, quite clear from the narrative.

Thus the ark was in Kirjath-jearim for a good deal of Saul's reign but it then abode in Gibeah, of Benjamin, closer to Jerusalem for a further time after which Saul was killed and, shortly thereafter, David was made king and moved the ark to the city of David, just beside Jerusalem.

EDIT : I note the comment below and appreciate the Chronicles texts there supplied by @user 21676. I hope that the user will supply an answer. For now, my answer stands as it is supplied but there does seem to be more of a difficulty than I was, at first, aware of.

If I am given evidence that this, my answer, is incorrect, I shall immediately delete it. I have no desire to make incorrect statements.

  • The claim that it was moved to Gibeah of Benjamin is countered by claims of the Chronicler in 1 Chr 13:6, 2 Chr 1:4, where Kirjathjearim was said to be the place from which the ark was taken. As to how 'Gibeah' of 2 Sam. 6:3-4 should be interpreted, compare 1 Sam. 7:1(i.e. hill). As to the location of 'Baale' confer Joshua 18:14; it appears to be synonymous with Kirjathjearim.
    – user21676
    Jul 10, 2018 at 8:47
  • @user21676 I would be very interested indeed to see your own full answer to the question. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 10, 2018 at 13:23
  • @Nigel J - 1 Samuel 14:18 - Septuagint is "Bring the ephod", not "Bring the ark of God". I think Septuagint is more trustful. Consider if the ark of God was in Gibeah, why not Saul went to the ark, instead of asked the priests to bring him the ark? The Lord Spirit hadn't left him until 1 Samuel 16:14. He should still fear the Lord. Aug 12, 2022 at 19:37
  • @VincentWong I would never, ever, be 'trustful' of the Septuagint over against the Hebrew original. The Septuagint is not inspired. It is a translation. I am content to go with Robert Young's Literal on this. Also with Green's Literal. Also the Hebrew Interlinear of Biblehub
    – Nigel J
    Aug 12, 2022 at 20:29
  • 1
    @Nigel J - I would not say anything never, ever. We have to justify thing with an open mind. Can you justify if the ark was in Gibeah, Saul asked the priest bring him the ark was credible? Aug 12, 2022 at 21:18

Often in the Bible, a narrative will focus on one person and then "finish them off" by jumping into the details of the end of their life and "tying up loose ends' in any surrounding narratives, before jumping back in the chronological timeline to focus on a different main character.

An example is Abraham's death noted in Genesis 25:8-9. At this point in the Biblical text, we haven't been "introduced" to Abraham's grandchildren, the twins Jacob and Esau; Genesis 24 closed with Abraham's son Isaac getting his bride Rebekah. However, using the genealogies, we can know that the twins were not only born, but were about 15 years old when Abraham died. However, because the focus that was on Abraham in the Biblical timeline is shifting now to Isaac in Genesis 25, the literary style used in much of the Old Testament jumps ahead to Abraham's death, then re-focuses on Isaac, starting with his wife's barrenness.

It seems this same technique is used in the passage in question regarding the Ark, because the capture of the Ark is directly related to Eli's death. In "finishing off" Eli in the narrative, it was necessary to say what happened to the Ark. I concur with the other comment that the text clearly states David brought the Ark from Kiriath-Jearim, where it had been for the 20 years prior. Since we are told that Saul was king for 42 years, and David didn't get the ark until he established his kingdom in Jerusalem 7 1/2 years after becoming King, the capture of the Ark would have occurred in about the 29th year of Saul's reign.

The passage in 1 Sam. 14:18, in which Saul called for the Ark, is not a contradiction when we understand the technique used in "finishing off" characters or events before jumping back in the chronology to re-focus on another character. In the case of Eli and the Ark, after completing their part in the narrative the text jumps back chronologically to focus on Samuel and his role in overseeing the anointing of the first King of Israel, who was Saul. That's my take on it... :-)


Few thoughts:

1) When both 2Sam 6 & 1Chron 13 are placed side-by-side, it seems evident that Kiriath-Jearim & Baale/Baalah are the same town, the locale David retrieves the ark from. Here is an interwoven version of the two accounts: 'And David arose and all the people of Israel and went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to Judah, and those who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God the LORD...'

2) In 1Sam 14:18, the Septuagint states that it was the 'ephod' not the 'ark' that Saul requested Ahijah the priest to get, and a point is made in both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text that Ahijah had access to the ephod just 15 verses earlier (1Sam 14:3). The idea that Saul never had the Ark in his possession seems to be corroborated by 1Chr 13:3, David said, "Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul." Does 'we' mean all of Israel, or just David while he was on the run? I think it is the former (all of Israel).

3) When 1Sam 7:2-3 states that "From the day that the ark lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart..." The point seems to be that it was 20 years from the time the ark arrived at K-J until the people of Israel, corporately, got right with God, not 20 years until the ark departed.

So the Ark would be 20 years at KJ before the recommitment at Mizpah, another 30-40(?) yrs until Samuel is old and the people want a king. Most Bible scholars have Saul reigning for 40 years. Then David is at Hebron 7+ years. Then another 1-2(?) yrs at Jerusalem before seeking to move the Ark. All together that would put the Ark in K-J for just shy of a century.

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