Why Did Uzzah Die When He Touched The Ark? (2 Samuel 6:6-7)

The account given in 2 Samuel 6:6-7 is one in the Bible which really stands out for me; where Uzzah died because he touched the ark.

This account mind sound harsh at first reading. All we are told is the following:

“And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

“And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:6-7)

While God’s reaction to Uzzah might surprise us, it’s important to note that only certain priesthood holders (Levites) were allowed to touch the ark. God had given specific commandments about this. Uzzah must not have been one of those who would have been allowed to touch it.

Even so, we know that God is all-knowing, kind and merciful. We are told that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is the same God who, when suffering the excruciating pain and shame of a public crucifixion asked that his executioners be forgiven.

If that is the case, how then can we reconcile His reaction to Uzzah’s apparently good deed?

On the surface it doesn’t make sense, however, I think the reason for this is that the account is very brief and we don’t have all the details. I also think we make some assumptions.

One of those assumptions is that Uzzah’s actions helped stop the ark from falling off the oxen cart. The account makes no mention of this. We are told that the oxen shook it, but we don’t know how badly it was being shaken.

An oxen cart is not going to be a smooth ride. There will be some inevitable shaking going on. The question is, how badly was it shaking, and was there any real danger of it falling off the cart or being damaged in some other way?

Another assumption we make is that Uzzah had good intentions. We assume that he had no desire at all to break God’s commandments by touching the ark. The account doesn’t say this.

It could very well be that Uzzah (a non Levite) was envious of the fact that he couldn’t touch the ark. I’m sure all of us can identify with this. We always want the things which are forbidden.

There is another assumption we make; that Uzzah was the only one next to the ark. If the ark was shaking so badly that it was in grave danger, there would have been other Levites close by, most likely even more close to the ark than Uzzah was. These other Levites could have easily steadied the ark if it needed it. It is unlikely that Uzzah was the only one who could have done this service. It is logical that there would have been a lot of Levites around for this important transportation of the ark from Shiloh to Jerusalem.

My belief is that God was angry with Uzzah because even though the ark was shaking, it was not at any real risk of falling off the cart it was being transported on, but if it was there were others there to take care of it. Uzzah was virtual signalling by steading the ark; he knew it really didn’t need it. The only reason he put his hand on the ark to steady it was because he wanted to touch it.

It’s the only thing that makes sense to me of the whole situation.

Even so, some might say, “Well, that’s still harsh on Uzzah, don’t you think?”

It might seem that way, but because we know that God is just and merciful, I wouldn’t question God’s judgement. We must remember too that the ark was most holy. This is God’s throne. It’s not a trivial thing to approach the throne of God, especially when you’ve been explicit told not to.

God doesn’t care about ‘furniture’, but what He does care about is having a way to communicate with this children and to bless them. Allowing unauthorized people to do as they wanted with the ark would jeopardize that.

That’s just my interpretation. What do you think?

Uzzah and the Ark

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