2 Samuel 6:7
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.
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(7) For his error.—The original is hero very obscure: 1Chronicles 13:10 has “because he put his hand to the ark.” (Comp. 1Samuel 6:19.) Especial sacredness was by the law attached to the ark, and it was strictly commanded, that when it was to be moved it should be first covered by the priests, and then borne by the Levites by means of its staves; but until it was covered, the Levites might not look upon it, and might not touch it, upon pain of death (Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:19-20). Uzzah was probably a Levite, or, at any rate, had been so long in the house with the ark that he ought to have made himself familiar with the law in regard to it. What may seem, at first thought, an exceeding severe penalty for a well-meaning, though unlawful act, is seen on reflection to have been a very necessary manifestation of the Divine displeasure; for this act involved not only a violation of the letter of the law (of which David also was guilty), but a want of reverence for the majesty of God as symbolised by the ark, and showed a disposition to profane familiarity with sacred things. “Uzzah was a type of all who, with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God, from the notion that they are in danger, and with the hope of saving them” (O. von Gerlach). Judgments of this kind were, however, temporal, and give in themselves no indication of the treatment of the offender beyond the grave.

2 Samuel 6:7. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah — For his rashness in touching the ark. Some have thought it was because he was not a Levite, and therefore should not have touched it. But it is pretty plain he was, being the brother of Eleazar, who, as a Levite, was consecrated to take care of the ark, 1 Samuel 7:1. But, although a Levite, he was guilty of a double error; first, in not carrying the ark upon his shoulders, together with his brethren; which their neglecting to do, on this solemn occasion, and consulting their ease more than their duty, was an offence of no small aggravation. Secondly, in touching it, which even the Levites were prohibited from doing, under the express penalty of death, Numbers 4:15-20. And this penalty, being incurred by a violation of that prohibition, was justly inflicted by him that threatened it, as an example to others, and to preserve a due reverence to the institution; especially as this, it appears, was the first instance of such violation. Add to this, the infliction of the penalty in this extraordinary way, manifested the prohibition to be divine; and as David himself, and the whole house of Israel, by their heads and representatives, were present at this solemnity, the nature of the punishment, and the reason why it was executed, would be made very public. Some have observed, thirdly, that Uzzah discovered by this action his want of faith, in the presence of God with the ark, and in his power, as if he were not able to preserve that sacred symbol of his presence from falling without Uzzah’s helping hand. Uzzah, therefore, they say, was thus punished to teach and impress on the minds of the people, that God was peculiarly present with the ark, in order that they might be deterred from breaking any of his laws, or profaning sacred things. It may not be improper to add to the above the following observations from Poole. “God’s smiting Uzzah, so that he instantly died by the ark, may seem very severe, considering his intention was pious, and his transgression not great. But, besides that men are improper judges of the actions of God; and that God’s judgments are always just, though sometimes obscure; it is reasonable God should make some present examples of his high displeasure against sins seemingly small; partly for the demonstration of his own exact and impartial holiness; and partly for the establishment of discipline, and for the greater terror and caution of mankind, who are very prone to have slight thoughts of sin, and to give way to small sins, and thereby to be led on to greater; all which is, or may be, prevented by such instances of severity; and consequently there is more of God’s mercy than of his justice in such actions, because the justice is confined to one particular person, but the benefit of it is common to mankind in that and all future ages.”6:6-11 Uzzah was struck dead for touching the ark. God saw presumption and irreverence in Uzzah's heart. Familiarity, even with that which is most awful, is apt to breed contempt. If it were so great a crime for one to lay hold on the ark of the covenant who had no right to do so, what is it for those to lay claim to the privileges of the covenant that come not up to the terms of it? Obed-edom opened his doors without fear, knowing the ark was a savour of death unto death to those only who treated it wrong. The same hand that punished Uzzah's proud presumption, rewarded Obed-edom's humble boldness. Let none think the worse of the gospel for the judgments on those that reject it, but consider the blessings it brings to all who receive it. Let masters of families be encouraged to keep up religion in their families. It is good to live in a family that entertains the ark, for all about it will fare the better.For his error - The Hebrew is difficult, and some prefer the reading of the parallel passage, "because ... ask" 1 Chronicles 13:10. 2Sa 6:6-11. Uzzah Smitten.

6-8. they came to Nachon's threshing-floor—or Chidon's (1Ch 13:9). The Chaldee version renders the words, "came to the place prepared for the reception of the ark," that is, near the city of David (2Sa 6:13).

the oxen shook it—or, "stumbled" (1Ch 13:9). Fearing that the ark was in danger of being overturned, Uzzah, under the impulse of momentary feeling, laid hold of it to keep it steady. Whether it fell and crushed him, or some sudden disease attacked him, he fell dead upon the spot. This melancholy occurrence not only threw a cloud over the joyous scene, but entirely stopped the procession; for the ark was left where it then was, in the near neighborhood of the capital. It is of importance to observe the proportionate severity of the punishments attending the profanation of the ark. The Philistines suffered by diseases, from which they were relieved by their oblations, because the law had not been given to them [1Sa 5:8-12]; the Bethshemites also suffered, but not fatally [1Sa 6:19]; their error proceeded from ignorance or inadvertency. But Uzzah, who was a Levite, and well instructed, suffered death for his breach of the law. The severity of Uzzah's fate may seem to us too great for the nature and degree of the offense. But it does not become us to sit in judgment on the dispensations of God; and, besides, it is apparent that the divine purpose was to inspire awe of His majesty, a submission to His law, and a profound veneration for the symbols and ordinances of His worship.

God smote him with some deadly disease or stroke, as it follows.

For his error; either,

1. For his touching the ark, when he was no Levite, as Josephus reports; nor indeed was Kirjath-jearim a Levitical city; or, that being but a Levite, he touched the bare ark, which only the priests might do, Numbers 4:15 18:3. And though the ark was ordinarily covered, yet it is not impossible but the covering might be either loose, and so blown aside by the wind; or worn out, and so he might touch the ark itself. Or,

2. Because he put the ark into a cart, and thereby exposed it to the danger of falling, which would have been a great disencouragement to the Israelites, and a reproach to, the ark. And though Ahio also might have a hand in putting it into the cart, yet Uzzah only is smitten; either because he was the elder brother, and the person to whose care the ark was more especially committed; or because he was the chief author of this counsel of putting it into a cart; or because he added a new fault of touching the ark, and that out of distrust of God’s care over it.

There he died: this may seem very severe, considering that his intention was pious, and his transgression not great. But, besides that men are very improper judges of the actions of God, and that God’s judgments are always just, though sometimes obscure, there are many things to be said of this and suchlike cases.

1. That it is fit and reasonable that God should make some persons examples of his just and high displeasure against sins seemingly small; partly for the demonstration of his own exact and impartial holiness; partly for the establishment of discipline, (for which very reason even earthly princes have ofttimes inflicted great punishments for small offences,) and for the greater terror and caution of mankind, who are very prone to have slight thoughts of sin, and to give way to small sins, and thereby to be led on to greater; all which is or may be prevented by such instances of severity; and consequently, there is more of God’s mercy than of his justice in such actions, because the justice is confined to one particular person, but the mercy and benefit of it public and common to mankind of that and all future ages.

2. That God is justly most severe in those things which immediately concern his worship and service; and against those persons who have the nearest relation to him, and the greatest opportunities of knowing, and the highest obligation of careful practicing, those duties which they neglect: see Leviticus 10:3.

3. That this punishment possibly was not so great as it may seem to be; for as for his body, the disease, though dangerous, might not be exceedingly painful; and for his soul, the stroke probably was not so sudden as not to give him space of repentance. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah,.... And which was manifest by smiting him:

and God smote him there for his error; committed at this time, which was complicated; as that the ark was put upon a cart, to which he might be the chief adviser, as Procopius Gazaeus notes, when it should have been carried on the shoulders of the Levites; and that be touched it with his hand, which none but priests might do, supposing him to be a Levite, which it is not clear he was, however not a Kohathite; and he took hold of it in order to carry it in his arms, which even Levites, and those Kohathites, might not do, but with staves put into it, which only they were to hold; and besides, as Abarbinel observes, he showed little faith in the power and providence of God, as if he could not take care of the ark without him:

and there he died by the ark of God; directly, upon the spot, by the side of it; whether he was struck by lightning, or in what way, cannot be said; however, he died by the immediate hand of God, in token of his displeasure: and this shows that it is dangerous in matters of worship to act contrary to the command of God, even in things that may seem small and trivial; and though what may be done may be done with a good intention, as this was, yet that will not excuse the sin; nor are those who are the most forward and zealous in religious matters exempted from marks of God's displeasure when they go wrong.

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God {d} smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

(d) Here we see the danger it is to follow good intentions, or to do anything in God's service without his express word.

7. for his error] The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else, but if genuine, may best be rendered thus, or as in the margin, for his rashness. The reading of Chronicles, “because he put his hand to the ark,” sounds like a substitution for an expression which had already become obscure.

God smote him there for his error] As before at Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:19), an act of irreverence towards the Ark was punished with death. Such a penalty for a well-meant and natural action seems to us at first sight strangely severe. But it must be remembered that one of the great lessons which the nation of Israel had to learn was the unapproachable Majesty of the holy God. The Ark was the symbol of His presence, and the Levitical ordinances were designed to secure the strictest reverence for it. It was to be carried by the Levites, but they might not come near until it had been covered by the priests, nor touch it except by the staves provided for the purpose, upon pain of death (Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:19-20). It is probable that Uzzah was a Levite, and if so, he ought to have known these injunctions: but in any case, as the Ark had been under his charge, he ought to have made himself acquainted with them. Perhaps he had come to regard the sacred symbol which had been in his house so long with undue familiarity. Nor was David free from blame in allowing such a neglect of the Law. The occasion was an important one. It was the first step in the inauguration of a new era of worship, in the newly established capital of the kingdom; and if these breaches of the divine ordinances had been left unpunished, the lessons they were intended to teach might have been neglected. Uzzah’s death was necessary for a solemn warning to David and the people. “By this severe stroke upon the first violation of the law, God impressed a dread upon the hearts of men, and gave a sanction to His commands that no man should attempt upon any pretence whatever, to act in defiance of his Law, or boldly to dispense with what God has established.” (Bp. Sanderson, quoted by Bp. Wordsworth.)

If such reverence was due to the symbol, with how much greater reverence should the realities of the Christian Covenant be regarded? See Hebrews 10:28-29.Verse 7. - Error. The word so translated is one quite unknown, and Ewald renders it "unexpectedly." The Revised Version puts "rashness" in the margin. But all three alike are mere guesses, of which "error" is that approved by Keil and others. The Syriac has the same reading here as that found in 1 Chronicles 13:10, namely, "because he put his hand to the ark." This would require the insertion of four or five letters in the Hebrew. By the ark. The word translated "accompanying the ark" in ver. 4. The ark fetched from Kirjath-jearim. - 2 Samuel 6:1. "David assembled together again all the chosen men in Israel, thirty thousand." יסף for יאסף is the Kal of אסף, as in 1 Samuel 15:6; Psalm 104:29. עוד, again, once more, points back to 2 Samuel 5:1, 2 Samuel 5:3, where all Israel is said to have assembled for the first time in Hebron to anoint David king. It is true that that assembly was not convened directly by David himself; but this was not the point in question, but merely their assembling a second time (see Bertheau on 1 Chronicles 13:5). בּחוּר does not mean "the young men" here (νεάνια, lxx), or "the fighting men," but, according to the etymology of the word, "the picked men." Instead of thirty thousand, the lxx have seventy chiliads, probably with an intentional exaggeration, because the number of men in Israel who were capable of bearing arms amounted to more than thirty thousand. The whole nation, through a very considerable body of representatives, was to take part in the removal of the ark. The writer of the Chronicles gives a more elaborate account of the preparations for these festivities (1 Chronicles 13:1-5); namely, that David took counsel with the heads of thousands and hundreds, and all the leaders, i.e., all the heads of families and households, and then with their consent collected together the whole nation from the brook of Egypt to Hamath, of course not every individual, but a large number of heads of households as representatives of the whole. This account in the Chronicles is not an expansion of the brief notice given here; but the account before us is a condensation of the fuller description given in the sources that were employed by both authors.
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