Today we return to our study of the Old Testament Historical Books. We are in the midst of looking at the reign of David, and we are picking up the narrative in 1 Chronicles 16. In 1 Chronicles 15:1–16:3, we saw how David finally brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem with much rejoicing. Today’s passage indicates that David established structures to ensure that rejoicing before the Lord would continue after the ark was in place.
First, we read of how David “appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (16:4). Clearly, David was concerned to uphold the worship of the one true God, and as the prototypical king, he modeled the monarch’s proper role in guaranteeing that the Lord would be praised. The focus in verses 5–7 is on music and not on sacrifice, for at that time the altar of sacrifice was in Gibeon, not in Jerusalem (v. 39; 21:29). David chose Asaph from among the Levites to be the chief of the musicians, and he led the others in worshiping the Lord through singing and by playing instruments such as harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets (16:4–7).
Second, today’s passage records the first part of the song of thanks that David sang after the ark was placed in Jerusalem. The song is actually a composite of Psalms 96, 105, and 106, with 1 Chronicles 16:8–22 drawing from Psalm 105:1–15. Neither today’s passage nor the psalms from which David’s song is drawn tell us that David wrote this hymn or its constituent psalms. Thus, it seems that David took this song from psalms that were already in circulation at the time or perhaps that had been recently commissioned.
The song begins with a brief recounting of Israel’s history, focusing particularly on the promise God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring them into Canaan, the land He swore to give them (Ex. 6:8). It was appropriate to recount this promise on that occasion, for as we have seen, David had recently taken the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, one of the peoples whom God said the children of Abraham would displace (2 Sam. 5:6–10; 1 Chron. 11:4–9; see Gen. 15). This promise was made to the patriarchs, who were few in number, so, from a worldly perspective, it seemed unlikely that they would ever get the land. But the Lord protected them, and that protection had continued as the people finally captured the entire land (1 Chron. 16:14–22).