Q. Was God’s punishment of Uzzah too severe for the crime?
A. Uzzah’s incident is in 2 Sam 6:6-7:
• But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.
Some felt this was grossly unfair. The oxen nearly upset the ark of the covenant and Uzzah out of the goodness of his heart tried to steady it, yet God immediately struck him dead. Didn’t God over-react? What’s the big deal? He was only trying to help. Why kill a man for such a small thing? Before you decide a case based on your feelings, let’s review what the law says.
First, who should carry the ark?
• Deut 10:8 At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day.
• Num 4:4 This is the work of the descendants of Kohath in the tent of meeting, concerning the most holy things.
• Num 4:15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy objects and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is to set out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them, so that they will not touch the holy objects and die. These are the things in the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
• Num 4:18-20 Do not let the tribe of the families of the Kohathites be cut off from among the Levites. But do this to them that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy objects: Aaron and his sons shall go in and assign each of them to his work and to his load; but they shall not go in to see the holy objects even for a moment, or they will die.
God had chosen the tribe of Levi, in particular the families of Kohathites, to carry the ark of the covenant, the most holy object in the most holy place (holy of holies). No one unauthorized may look at the objects and live.
Second, how should the ark be carried?
• Ex 25:14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.
• Ex 37:5 He put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry it.
The ark should be carried by poles through the rings on its sides, on the shoulders of the Kohathites.
Third, are there any precedents of what happens when the rules are violated? Yes:
• 1 Sam 6:19 He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter.
Beth-shemesh was at the Judah-Philistines border. The men of Beth-shemesh were Israelites. God struck down 50,070 of them for looking into the ark. He meant what He said.
(To be continued)