*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
This verse belongs more properly to 1 Sam. 6. Abinadab and his sons were probably of the house of Levi. The catastrophe at Bethshemesh must inevitably have made the Israelites very careful to pay due honor to the ark in accordance with the Law: but to give the care of the ark to those who were not of the house of Levi would be a gross violation of the Law.
Fetched up the ark - When these people received the message of the Beth-shemites, they probably consulted Samuel, with whom was the counsel of the Lord, and he had encouraged them to go and bring it up, else they might have expected such destruction as happened to the Beth-shemites.
Sanctified Eleazar - Perhaps this sanctifying signifies no more than setting this man apart, simply to take care of the ark.
And the men of (a) Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.
(a) A city in the tribe of Judah, called also Kirjathbaal, in (Joshua 15:60).
And the men of Kirjathjearim came and fetched up the ark of the Lord,.... From Bethshemesh, which was near unto them, as Josephus (g) says; they made no difficulty of fetching it, but gladly received it; for if they knew of what happened to the men of Bethshemesh, they knew it was not owing to the presence of the ark among them, but to their irreverent behaviour to it; and though Kirjathjearim was not a Levite city, and so the men of it could not bear the ark themselves, yet they might have proper persons from Bethshemesh to do this service:
and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill; which; hill was within the city of Kirjathjearim, and is mentioned either to distinguish this Abinadab that dwelt on it from another of the same name in the city, as Kimchi observes; or else to remark the propriety of the place, and the reason of the choice of it for the ark to be placed in; hills and high places being in those times accounted fittest for sacred services to be performed in, as well as places of safety; who this man was is not certain. Josephus (h) says he was a Levite, but if so he could only be a sojourner in this place; however he might be, as he suggests he was, a man of great esteem for religion and righteousness:
and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord; not only to watch it that it might not be taken away, but to keep persons from it, from touching it, or using it irreverently; and such as were not allowed to come nigh it; as well as to keep the place clean where it was put; and for this he was appointed by the priests, or the elders of the city; and was set apart for this service, and prepared for it by washings and sacrifices; and the rather he and not his father was invested with this office, because he was a young man, and his father might be old and decrepit; and this his son also a holy goodman, wise and prudent, and active and zealous for God, and true religion; and on all accounts a fit person for this post.
(g) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 1. sect. 4. (h) Ibid.
God will find a resting-place for his ark; if some thrust it from them, the hearts of others shall be inclined to receive it. It is no new thing for God's ark to be in a private house. Christ and his apostles preached from house to house, when they could not have public places. Twenty years passed before the house of Israel cared for the want of the ark. During this time the prophet Samuel laboured to revive true religion. The few words used are very expressive; and this was one of the most effectual revivals of religion which ever took place in Israel.
THE ARK AT KIRJATH-JEARIM. (1-Samuel 7:1-2)
the men of Kirjath-jearim--"the city of woods," also Kirjath-baal (Joshua 15:60; Joshua 18:14; 1-Chronicles 13:5-6). It was the nearest town to Beth-shemesh and stood on a hill. This was the reason of the message (1-Samuel 6:21), and why this was chosen for the convenience of people turning their faces to the ark (1-Kings 8:29-35; Psalm 28:2; Daniel 6:10).
brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill--Why it was not transported at once to Shiloh where the tabernacle and sacred vessels were remaining, is difficult to conjecture.
sanctified . . . his son--He was not a Levite, and was therefore only set apart or appointed to be keeper of the place.
The inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim complied with this request, and brought the ark into the house of Abinadab upon the height, and sanctified Abinadab's son Eleazar to be the keeper of the ark. Kirjath-jearim, the present Kuryet el Enab (see at Joshua 9:17), was neither a priestly nor a Levitical city. The reason why the ark was taken there, is to be sought for, therefore, in the situation of the town, i.e., in the fact that Kirjath-jearim was the nearest large town on the road from Bethshemesh to Shiloh. We have no definite information, however, as to the reason why it was not taken on to Shiloh, to be placed in the tabernacle, but was allowed to remain in the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, where a keeper was expressly appointed to take charge of it; so that we can only confine ourselves to conjectures. Ewald's opinion (Gesch. ii. 540), that the Philistines had conquered Shiloh after the victory described in 1 Samuel 4, and had destroyed the ancient sanctuary there, i.e., the tabernacle, is at variance with the accounts given in 1-Samuel 21:6; 1-Kings 3:4; 2-Chronicles 1:3, respecting the continuance of worship in the tabernacle at Nob and Gibeon. There is much more to be said in support of the conjecture, that the carrying away of the ark by the Philistines was regarded as a judgment upon the sanctuary, which had been desecrated by the reckless conduct of the sons of Eli, and consequently, that even when the ark itself was recovered, they would not take it back without an express declaration of the will of God, but were satisfied, as a temporary arrangement, to leave the ark in Kirjath-jearim, which was farther removed from the cities of the Philistines. And there it remained, because no declaration of the divine will followed respecting its removal into the tabernacle, and the tabernacle itself had to be removed from Shiloh to Nob, and eventually to Gibeon, until David had effected the conquest of the citadel of Zion, and chosen Jerusalem as his capital, when it was removed from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It is not stated that Abinadab was a Levites; but this is very probable, because otherwise they would hardly have consecrated his son to be the keeper of the ark, but would have chosen a Levite for the office.
Fetch up - That is, by the priests appointed to that work. Hill - This place they chose, both because it was a strong place, where it would be the most safe; and an high place, and therefore visible at some distance, which was convenient for them, who were at that time to direct their prayers and faces towards the ark. And for the same reason David afterwards placed it in the hill of Sion. Sanctified Eleazar - Not that they made him either Levite or Priest; for in Israel persons were not made but born such; but they devoted, or set him apart wholly to attend upon this work. His son - Him they chose rather than his father, because he was younger and stronger, and probably freed from domestic cares, which might divert him from, or disturb him in this work. To keep the ark - To keep the place where it was, clean, and to guard it that none might touch it, but such as God allowed to do so.
*More commentary available at chapter level.