The story of Uzzah’s death for touching the Ark of the Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 6:6-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-10. Here is a summary:
King David had the Ark of the Covenant brought from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem on a new cart. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart. When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark and was struck dead by God for touching it. This angered and confused David, who was afraid to move the Ark any further.
To understand why Uzzah was struck dead, we need to examine several key factors:
The Ark was sacred
The Ark represented God’s presence and glory among His people. It was located in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple and was not to be touched by unauthorized people. God had given strict instructions for transporting the Ark using poles placed through rings on its sides – it was not to be touched directly (Exodus 25:12-15).
Touching the Ark showed disregard for God’s holiness
By putting the Ark on a cart, Uzzah and Ahio were not following God’s instructions. When Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, he was essentially treating it like a common object rather than the sacred dwelling place of God’s presence. This disregard for God’s holiness merited instant judgment.
Uzzah’s motives were noble but his actions wrong
Uzzah’s instinct to steady the Ark when it tottered showed his desire to protect it from falling. However, his actions directly contradicted God’s commands. Noble motives do not justify disobedience in matters related to worshiping God as He desires.
God is sovereign and His judgments are just
While Uzzah’s death seems harsh, God is always just in His judgments. All people are sinful before Him (Romans 3:23). That any of us live is due to His mercy and patience. When God does bring swift judgment, He is completely justified in doing so.
Approaching God demands reverence and obedience
This incident reminds us that drawing near to the holy God is not to be done casually. We must approach Him as He prescribes, with reverence and awe of His glory, power and holiness.
In summary, Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark due to:
- The Ark’s sacredness as God’s dwelling place
- His disregard for God’s instructions on handling the Ark
- God’s sovereignty and just judgments
Though it seems harsh, Uzzah’s death displays God’s uncompromising holiness. He requires all who draw near to do so on His terms, not theirs. Reverence and obedience are essential in worshiping the holy God.
Additional Biblical Background
Here are some additional biblical details that help explain this incident:
Clear commands were given concerning the Ark
God had clearly commanded how the Ark was to be transported (Exodus 25:12-15; Numbers 4:5-6, 15). The priests were to carry it using poles placed through rings on the sides – they were not to touch the Ark itself. Uzzah’s actions blatantly disregarded these instructions.
The Ark had just been restored to Israel
The Ark had been captured by the Philistines and was returned to Israel just prior to this incident. There was excitement and celebration surrounding its return. However, God desired for the Ark to be treated with holiness and reverence, not carelessness.
David’s response shows God’s judgment was justified
David was angry when Uzzah was struck dead but did not protest or accuse God of wrongdoing. Rather, David feared the Lord and did not move the Ark any further (1 Chronicles 15:13-15). David understood God was just in His actions.
High priesthood duties were being neglected
The Kohathites of the tribe of Levi were charged with moving, maintaining and protecting the holy objects (Numbers 4:4-15). But David entrusted the Ark transport to non-Levites, leading to this breach.
David later corrected his mistake
David brought the Ark to Jerusalem in the proper manner by having the Levites carry it with poles on their shoulders (1 Chronicles 15). He had learned from his earlier carelessness.
These additional facts help set the context and explain the factors surrounding this sobering incident involving Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant.
This account has several important theological implications:
God desires exclusive devotion
God does not tolerate rivals or treatment of holy things as common. He wants His people’s full reverence and obedience.
God’s holiness demands proper worship
Approaching God requires meticulous adherence to His instructions. Attempting to worship Him in an unauthorized manner provokes judgment.
Reverence is key in worship
Casual attitudes when dealing with holy things are dangerous. Maintaining an awe of God is crucial.
God’s justice is uncompromising
While God is loving and merciful, He also judges sin swiftly at times. His justice is always righteous.
Obedience brings blessing and protection
Obeying God’s commands positions us to receive His blessing and protection. Disobedience makes us vulnerable.
This sobering incident highlights essential spiritual principles concerning reverence for God and doing things His way. These truths remain highly relevant for believers today.
Later History of the Ark
After this incident, David brought the Ark to Jerusalem in the prescribed manner (1 Chronicles 15). It remained there until Solomon’s reign when it was placed in the Most Holy Place of the newly built temple (1 Kings 8:1-13). The Ark’s later history is uncertain, but some key details are:
- The Ark was almost certainly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he besieged Jerusalem in 586 BC.
- The Ark is last mentioned during Josiah’s reforms around 622 BC (2 Chronicles 35:3).
- The Ark was not present in the second temple, built after the Babylonian exile.
- Its absence was one reason the second temple did not have God’s glory cloud (Shekinah) like Solomon’s temple.
So the Ark, this most sacred object of the tabernacle and first temple, was likely destroyed in judgment for Judah’s idolatry. Despite its tragic end, it powerfully symbolized God’s presence with His people throughout Israel’s early history.
Lessons for Us Today
What lessons can we learn from Uzzah’s story that apply to our worship of God today?
Reverence for God’s glory and presence
Do we approach God flippantly? Or do we truly revere Him and give Him glory as exalted King?
Obedience to God’s instructions
Are we careful to worship God based on His word versus our own innovations and preferences?
Acknowledging God’s holiness
Do we casually treat sacred things as common? The holy God calls us to live differently.
God’s justice and our response
Do we wrestle with God when He brings judgment or repent and show Him honor?
Guarding our hearts and motivations
Are our hearts right before God? Noble motives don’t justify disobedience in worship.
May this sobering incident increase our awe of the holy God and commitment to worship Him as He desires and deserves.