Timeline for Samuel, Saul, David, and the Missing Ark. The Ark of the Covenant was missing from the Tabernacle, having been taken to a battle without consulting the LORD*. When the Ark travelled it was to be covered, since it was only to be seen by the Aaronite priests. Numbers 4:5. and when the camp sets forward, Aaron and his sons will come and they will take down the covering veil and cover the Ark of Testimony with it, 6. and will put on it the covering of badgers’ skins and will spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and will put in its poles. Not even the Kohathite priests who carried the Ark were to see the Ark, only the Aaronite priests were given that privilege. Numbers 4:19. But do thus to them, so they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things: Aaron and his sons will go in and appoint them, each one, to his service and to his burden, 20. but they will not go in to see when the holy things are being covered, lest they die! When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, coming into the Promised Land for the first time, the Ark was not only covered but the people were not permitted to come with 3,000 cubits of the Ark – well over three quarters of a mile! (Joshua 3:3,4)
Going against the commandment to cover the Ark, the first and only time the Ark was taken to a battle is described in 1 Samuel 4:3. And when the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Why has the LORD* struck us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD* out of Shiloh to us, so when it comes among us it can save us out of the hand of our enemies. The result of this disobedience was the defeat of the Israel and the capture of the Ark by the Philistines. Since the Philistines were not supposed to have the Ark, their problems with it are described in 1 Samuel Chapter 5. God permitted the Ark to return to Israel uncovered, on a cart pulled by two milk cows. The Israelites put the Ark in the house of Abinidab where it remained for twenty years. Those twenty years are significant because they include the full judgeship of Samuel, the reign of Saul, and the first seven and half years of David’s reign.
1 Samuel 3:2 tells of Samuel’s first hearing the voice of the LORD*, And it was at that time when Eli was lying down in his place and his eyes began to grow dim, he could not see. 3. And the lamp of God had not yet gone out and Samuel was lying down in the Temple of the LORD*, where the Ark of God was. For Samuel to be in the Holy Place he had to be at least thirty years old, so he had been with Eli for a long time.
1 Samuel 13:1. In the first year of Saul’s reign, after he became king, and he reigned two years over Israel,.. There is a statement in Acts 13:21 that Saul reigned for forty years, but obviously that is not possible. The forty years must have been changed by an early copier, which did happen in early copies. See Greek New Testament Texts in the Glossary of the One New Man Bible. Paul who was speaking, and Luke who wrote the Book of Acts, had memorized the Hebrew Scriptures, so Paul could not have spoken nor could Luke have written forty years. While many say Luke was a gentile, Luke actually was a Hebrew. The Gospel of Luke has more Hebraic expressions than any other book of the New Testament.
2 Samuel 5:3. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron and king David cut a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD*, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, he reigned forty years. 5. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.
David’s being thirty years old when he began to reign means that he could not have been less then twenty-seven when he fought Goliath. And Saul said to David, You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him for you are a young man, and he has been a man of war from his youth. 1 Samuel 17:33. The Hebrew word Na’ar refers to a man from eighteen or nineteen to late twenties, used several times in Scripture regarding soldiers, who had to be at least twenty years old. Na’ar was translated into Latin with Puer, meaning child. Since early English translations were made from Latin some early English translations have child.
The key to the times of Samuel, Saul, and David is the twenty years that the Ark of the Covenant spent in the house of Abinidab. That works out to about ten years for Samuel’s judging Israel, two for Saul and seven and a half for David. Those numbers add up to nineteen and half, leaving six months to be distributed to the reign of one or more of the three men.