WAS GOD UNFAIR IN STRIKING UZZAH DEAD?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In the Bible, we read of the account where a man named Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant in order to stabilize it, to keep it from falling over. God was so angry that He immediately struck Uzzah dead. Was God “unfair” or excessively harsh here? What should we believe as Bible believers?
We read in God’s Holy Word in 2 Samuel chapter 6: “ Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.  And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.  And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.  And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.  And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.  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.  And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.  And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?  So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.  And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.” (The companion passage is 1 Chronicles 13:1-14.)
As the Bible text says above, the Jews had put the Ark on a new cart, and while it was en route from Gibeah, 1 Chronicles 13:8, providing further detail, says that the oxen actually stumbled. The stumbling of the oxen shook the cart (and the Ark sitting on the cart was on the verge of toppling). Uzzah, probably acting in sincerity, touched the Ark of the Covenant so as to hold it in place, that it not fall to the ground. Verse 10 says, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.” King David was thus afraid to bring the Ark to his home, so he sent it to the house of Obededom the Gittite, where it stayed for three months.
The Bible critic will argue that JEHOVAH God was “unfair” in striking Uzzah dead, since Uzzah was only trying to steady the Ark of the Covenant. Uzzah was only acting in innocence, right? Dear friends, it was a more serious matter than what first appears. We have to be Bereans to learn why God was so strict about this matter. God’s justice enforces His righteousness: He must always maintain His integrity and His holiness, and when His standards are breached, He must act to right the wrong. Moses will explain to us what happened to Uzzah.
When JEHOVAH first issued instructions to Moses regarding the Tabernacle and all of its vessels, some 500 years before Uzzah and David, He could not be any clearer in Exodus 25:10-16: “ And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half [3.75 feet / 1.14 meters], shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half [2.25 feet / 0.70 meter] the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half [2.25 feet / 0.70 meter] the height thereof.  And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.  And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.  And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.  And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.  The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.  And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.”
When the Ark of the Covenant was actually constructed, Exodus 37:1-5 says: “ And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half [3.75 feet / 1.14 meters] was the length of it, and a cubit and a half [2.25 feet / 0.70 meter] the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half [2.25 feet / 0.70 meter] the height of it:  And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.  And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.  And he made staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.  And he put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, to bear the ark.”
Never was the Ark of the Covenant to be transported on a cart. God’s explicit command was that the Ark be carried by poles inserted into rings attached to the bottom of the Ark. These staves were never to be removed for any reason. (They had been removed in the case of Uzzah for some unknown reason.) The Ark was holy, never to be defiled by filthy, sinful human fingers. God was bound to strike someone dead if they threatened His holiness. Someone should have had enough sense to make sure that it be carried on poles in 2 Samuel 6:1-11 and 1 Chronicles 13:1-14. Instead, it was carelessly placed on a cart pulled by oxen. Uzzah’s death could have been prevented. He should have exercised utmost care in remembering the LORD’S instructions through Moses. Uzzah should have actually let the Ark fall to the ground, rather than touch it and defile it.
The Ark of the Covenant was not to placed on a cart, but rather was to be carried with staves (poles) placed in the rings of the bottom of the Ark. JEHOVAH knew that there was stability in carrying the Ark of His covenant with poles. Furthermore, these poles ensured that, when the Ark was carried, sinful human hands would not touch the Ark (God manifested Himself on the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant). God was not unfair in the case of Uzzah. Although his intentions appeared good, Uzzah disobeyed God’s simple instructions. In that account, God was teaching us a deeper meaning, something many overlook when discussing this passage.
The Ark (specifically, its lid, the Mercy Seat) was only to be touched by a finger, the high priest’s finger, once a year (the Day of Atonement), and most importantly, it had to be a finger with animals’ blood on it (Leviticus 16:11-17). By touching the Ark without shed blood, Uzzah was presuming to enter the LORD’S holy presence. In the Bible, no sinner can approach a righteous God without shed blood. “Without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness]” (Hebrews 9:22b). Uzzah was an example of what God did with someone who did not approach Him with blood… no forgiveness, no mercy, no acceptance!
What we can learn from this strange Old Testament account is that we should never, ever, ever even think of approaching the God of the Bible without the shed blood of Jesus Christ (the sacrifice that the animal sacrifices actually pictured). There are ever so many millions upon millions of precious people trying to approach the holy God of the Bible using their religious works—their water baptism, their church membership, their giving, their prayers, et cetera. They are ignoring that the God of the Bible will accept nothing from sinners. We have nothing to offer God; our best is not good enough because our “best” always has our worst in it (we can never perform perfectly, so our failures taint and negate what “good” we can offer). The only thing that will ever please Father God is the sinless sacrifice of His precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was once, it was perfect, it was forever—never to be repeated, never to be matched, never to pass away. If you have not already done so, will you rely exclusively on Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, as sufficient payment for your sins? I hope you will do it today! Those who remain without Jesus Christ’s shed blood run the risk of facing something far worse than what Uzzah experienced!
Romans 3:19-28: “ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
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