References: 2 Samuel 6:1-7; 1 Chronicles 13:9-12.
Heart of the Story: Uzzah, a Levite, touched the Ark of the Covenant with his hand. God killed him.
When God gave Moses instructions for moving the Ark of the Covenant, He said that holy relic should be covered and carried by the Kohathites. The Kohathites were one of Aaron’s sons. When the Kohathites carried the Ark they were to lift it using the long poles inserted in golden rings at each corner of the Ark.
After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Ark was at Shiloh. While Eli was chief priest his sons took the Ark into a battle against the Philistines. The Israelites lost the battle and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. The Philistines had one calamity after another while they retained the Ark; so they put it on a cart pulled by cows and sent it down the road. The Ark ended up at the home of Abinadab, a Levite.
King David desired to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. He and 30,000 soldiers went to Abinadab’s home to escort it. Uzzah and Ahio, two of Abinadab’s sons, placed the Ark on an oxen-pulled court and walked with it on the road to Jerusalem. The population of Israel was singing and playing musical instruments. It was like a grand parade. On the way, one ox stumbled. Uzzah who was walking beside the Ark reached out his hand and touched the Ark to steady it. Immediately, God killed Uzzah for touching the Ark. David was alarmed and feared the power of the God in the Ark. He left the Ark at Nacon’s threshing floor where the incident occurred.
When the Levite priest sent the Ark to Jerusalem with his two sons, he sent it on an ox cart. Perhaps he did so because he remembered that the Philistines moved the Ark in a cart pulled by cows. Abinadab and sons were Levites, and priests; consequently, they should have known the original Mosaic requirements for transporting the Ark of the Covenant. Abinadab and sons forgot or ignored God’s commandment that the Ark be carried by the Kohathites when it was moved.
The Ark of the Covenant had been in Abinadab’s home for about 20 years. In that time period Uzzah may have gotten used to seeing it. Perhaps familiarity bred a lessening of respect (contempt) from him for the sacredness and power of the Ark. During the time in Abinadab’s home, the Arks presence did nothing miraculous. Uzzah may have forgotten God’s words that the Ark not be touched. When an ox stumbled, he reached out his hand to prevent the Ark from falling. God really did not need Uzzah’s help to stabilize the Ark when the ox stumbled. God was powerful enough to protect the Ark of the Covenant.
At first I felt sorry for Uzzah. After all, he was just trying to be helpful. Then, I thought deeper about his disobedience. Just as fear of the Ark was no longer present in Uzzah, so fear of God has left American Christians. We have become too familiar in our attitude toward God as perhaps Uzzah became too familiar with the presence of the Ark. Often Christian’s think about and talk about God as if he was an indulgent grandfather in the sky. He’s not! True God loves each and every one of us; but he is also just. As a just God, He expects us to obey his commands.
Copyright October 28, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth