Why Uzzah was struck down when he tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant.

It had always confused me that God would strike Uzzah down when he put his hand out to steady the ark, when he was only doing what you or I would have done to preserve it.

I had never been given a satisfactory answer for this account in Samuel…, until a couple of days ago when I heard a sermon by Michael Youseff where he identified a very important detail in the text that I had never noticed before.

Here is the Bible Reference for the story.

2 Samuel 6 verses 1-11. David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. He and all his men went to Baalah[a] in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name,[b] the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it,[c] and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets,[d] harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.[e]

David was afraid of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.

I would like to present an illustration before I go on.

Electricity is very beneficial to us.  It can be used to provide warmth and light, heat water, cook meals and to power tools etc. and it is a great thing when used correctly, but if used carelessly it WILL kill us!   My husband’s field of work is in electronics and he has to be very careful, as he is working with electricity all day long. He has a very healthy respect for it, always approaching everything he does in the correct manner so that he will not be electrocuted!  My husband often felt uncomfortable when wearing his wedding ring to work and eventually gave up wearing it altogether because gold is a very good conductor of electricity and there was always the possibility that he could touch a ‘live’ component inadvertently, and be killed.

Now I will come back to the story of Uzzah and the ark.

Often we read the commandments in a negative way, but really they were given by God to benefit us, for our protection and good!

Here is the commandment that God gave Moses for the correct way that the ark should be carried.

1 Chronicles 15:15 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.

I had never noticed in the account in Samuel that a ‘new cart’ was built to carry the ark and that the young men of Israel were not carrying the ark on their shoulders with polesas God had commanded”. God gave that command for their own safety. Had they carried it correctly the ark would not have been put in such a precarious situation when the oxen stumbled.  When Uzzah reached out his hand, it was inevitable that he would die, just as my husband would if he did not use the correct method for approaching something so powerful. (in Uzzah’s case “The power of God”)

Once we see that God gives us His commandments for a good reason then we will not see them as something negative that must be obeyed, but as the Holy Word of God that protects us from the heartache of damaging relationships with our fellow man and God.

The Story about Uzzah is a very graphic indication of the Power of God and how we must reverence his Word, take it seriously and be obedient for our own good – God is always out for our good.  It is through Christ that we have the power to obey the commands.

Illustration courtesy of Free Bible Images.