1 Kings 8:3–4 (ESV)

3 And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark.

The manner in which the writer has phrased verse 3 sets this incident apart from the previous time when David moved the ark of the covenant as recorded in 2 Samuel 8:1–18. Those verses tell us the sad story of the execution of God’s anger against Uzzah the Levite, when he reached out to protect the ark from falling from the oxcart on which it rode. The Lord executed judgment upon Uzzah partly because the ark of the covenant was not to be transported on an ox cart but carried on poles by the Levitical priests.

King Solomon had learned from his father’s mistake and arranged that the transportation would be proper. Some have wondered why it was the priests and not the Levites, who were not priests, that were transporting the ark, since, generally speaking, the Levites were the ones who had been assigned to transport the furniture of the tabernacle. The to this question we find in Deuteronomy 31:9 in which we are told that it was the priests who carried the ark of the covenant.

We might ask, Why the distinction between the ark and the other furniture? The answer is that this was God’s will, and he is free to command anything that he desires. But since the ark was closely tied to the presence of the Lord, it deserved special handling.