Why? Because his priorities were wrong.
Having successfully transferred his kingly seat from Hebron to Jerusalem he decided that the time was right to bring the ark up as well. Although David consulted widely (1 Chron 13:1ff) throughout all levels of his kingdom, one thing he didn't do was to go down to Gibeon or Kiriath-jearim and enquire of the Lord. This is quite ironic as one reason he gave for bringing the ark back was that Israel had not enquired at it all the days of Saul. But David now took it for granted that the proper place for the ark was with him in Jerusalem.
Kiriath-jearim was on the border of Philistine territory (it was where the ark rested after the Philistines decided that it was too costly to keep it and sent it back, 1 Sam 6). David gathered precisely thirty thousand chosen men to bring the ark up. This was not an accidental number; it was the exact number of Israelites who died on the day that the Philistines captured the ark (1 Sam 4:10).
Although the law explained clearly how the ark was to be transported (Num 4) David preferred instead to put it on a new cart and parade it, along with his chosen men. This was simply the Philistine method (1 Sam 6:7-9). Naturally all the nation was excited and involved: the ark was an icon, and bringing it up to the king's stronghold, in the clear view of his enemies, made them all feel proud to be Israelites.
Think of the recent Ashes parades for a similar celebration of a national icon. But unlike the Ashes, the ark was an icon with real power, and David was rapidly to experience this power both for bad (in the death of Uzzah) and for good (in the blessing of a Gittite).
When Uzzah reached out a hand to steady the ark as the oxen stumbled, and was immediately struck dead for his error, David's immediate reaction was anger (unlike the AV, the text describes David's anger with exactly the same words as it describes the Lord's). His triumphant day was ruined. But his anger swiftly turned to fear as he realised what he had sought to do: "David was afraid of God that day, saying, How should I bring the ark of God home to me?" (1 Chr 13:12). "What can I have been thinking of?"
Three months later, David is ready to try again. But this time the focus is not on the triumph of David but on the triumph of God. David wears no kingly robes; a simple linen ephod will do. The thousands of warriors are missing, instead there are Levites. There is no fancy cart, there are the shoulders of the Kohathites. And there are burnt offerings and sacrifices. The journey pleases God (he "helps" the Levites 1 Chr 15:26). Psalms of praise are sung (Ps 105, Ps 96, Ps 106, all quoted in 1 Chron 16). And the ark arrives safely in Jerusalem.
But arriving there, we find another individual with their priorities wrong. Michal, Saul's daughter and David's wife, looks out of her window and sees what her husband is doing. She has seen him through a window before, as he fled from her father's assassins (1 Sam 19). She loved him then, and was described as "Michal, David's wife". But things are different now. She had been taken out of an affectionate relationship and isolated in the house of a king who now had many other wives and children. Royal dignity was perhaps all she had left, and now looking through her window her perspective is reduced to that aspect of the situation alone. It is notable that throughout the entire drama of the ark David is never referred to as king, other than when Michal is speaking or observing. She sees the man who would be king behaving in a very unkingly manner. Her words (2 Sam 6:20) paint a contrast between royal dignity (as exemplified in her, a king's daughter) and low-life trash (as exemplified in David, this "vain fellow"). She is her father's daughter, and like him she measures actions in terms of honour, prestige and pride. The text can only call her "Michal, daughter of Saul" now.
David's response actually highlights and even intensifies this contrast: "It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight" (2 Sam 6:21-22). David appreciates that genuine humility before God is what true royal dignity really is.
The tragedy for Michal is that her sullen reaction to David's joy served to finally sever the house of David from the family of Saul. She could have remained David's wife, she could have given him an heir, a prince who would come from the line of Saul and the line of David. But the gulf between the bloodlines proved too vast: "therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death." (2 Sam 6:23).
Edited by Tarkus, 02 October 2005 - 09:11 AM.