Why did God kill someone for
touching the Ark of the Covenant?

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Why was Uzzah struck dead while he was helping to transport the Ark of the Covenant? Was God being petty or harsh when he swiftly killed him?

David, the newly accepted king over all Israel, conquers Jerusalem and makes it his new capital. After taking the city, He seizes on the opportunity to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Kirjath-jearim to his new headquarters. The transporting of the holy chest, however, did not go as he hoped.

And they set the ark of God upon a new cart . . . and Uzzah and Ahio . . . drove the new cart . . .

And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it; for the oxen upset it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah. And God struck him there for the error (2Samuel 6:3, 6 - 7, HBFV throughout).

Uzzah was killed by God for impulsively touching the Ark of the Covenant in an attempt to prevent it from possibly falling out of its cart.

Angry at the Eternal

Biblical translations like the King James use the word "displeased" to describe David's response to God killing Uzzah (2Samuel 6:8). The original Hebrew word, however, means to be hot, furious or burn with anger (Strong's #H2734). David immediately thought that the death was unnecessary and a harsh punishment. His anger, however, turned to fear when he wondered what to do next with the Ark of God (2Samuel 6:9).

David soon realized, however, his error in transporting the Ark of the Covenant. He failed to find out the Biblically proscribed way to move the holy vessel that was delineated in God's law.

Holy Standards

God originally commanded that only Levitical priests could transport the ark, and other holy objects from the tabernacle in the wilderness, from place to place (Numbers 4:2 - 4, 15, 1Chronicles 15:2). He even warned that those approved to move such sacred pieces, which were covered by the High Priest before being transported, would die if they touched the actual holy object or saw it (Numbers 4:15, 17 - 20)!

King David didn't take any chances the second time he attempted to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He solicited the help of 860+ Levitical priests, as well as both High Priests serving at the time (Zadok and Abiathar), to properly move the sacred object (1Chronicles 15:4 - 11). The ark was moved not using a cart but by the priests carrying it on their shoulders, using poles, as the Lord commanded Moses (verses 15).

This event shows that the details matter to God! The Ark of the Covenant, because it was moved properly, was able to joyously travel to Jerusalem without incident (1Chronicles 15:25 - 28). It then stayed in the city of David until Solomon's temple when it was placed inside the Holy of Holies.

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Why did God kill someone for touching it?
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