Understanding the Background behind the Death of Uzzah
The book of Numbers contains details that are easy to gloss over or dismiss as irrelevant, even boring. Yet they’re in the Bible for a reason, and we can learn something from each one of these verses, no matter how trivial they may seem. Such is the case with Numbers 7:9. It includes one of God’s instructions that they shouldn’t have dismissed.
The Ark of the Covenant
This passage details what Moses does after he sets up the tabernacle, according to God’s instructions. Since the people are nomadic at this time, everything must be portable. Easy transportation is key. To accommodate this Moses accepts gifts of carts and oxen from the tribes so that the Levites can move the items they’re responsible for.
The Levites have three clans: the Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites, each with specific duties. Moses gives two carts with four oxen to the Gershonites and four carts with eight oxen to the Merarites. But the Kohathites receive none. This doesn’t seem fair. Why not give each clan two carts and four oxen? This would keep everything even.
But Moses has a good reason. The Kohathites are supposed to carry the holy things they’re responsible for on their shoulders. This means no carts drawn by oxen. One of the holy things they’re responsible for transporting is the ark of the covenant (the ark of God).
God had already specified the ark of the covenant was to be carried by two poles (Exodus 25:14). This means no carts and no oxen. God’s instructions are clear.
The Death of Uzzah
Fast-forward about four centuries. The people have settled in the promised land, and David is their king. He wants to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.
With great fanfare they put the ark on a cart. As the processional makes its way to Jerusalem, one of the oxen stumbles. One man, Uzzah, reaches out to steady the ark. I’d have had the same reaction. I’m quite sure he did this without thinking, desiring to keep God’s ark safe.
God sees things differently. Uzzah shouldn’t have touched the ark, and God strikes him dead. Uzzah dies on the spot (2 Samuel 6:6).
David’s angry at God. Frankly, I’m a bit dismayed as well.
Yet the ark shouldn’t have been on a cart. Levites should have carried it using poles, just as God had instructed. And Uzzah shouldn’t have been nearby.
Uzzah’s death was unnecessary and could have been avoided had David and his people followed God’s instructions.
This is a solemn reminder for us to never dismiss what God says.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.