The Breach of Uzzah

“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.” (2 Samuel 6:6-8)

The ark had been in the house of Abinadab since it was returned after being captured decades earlier by the Philistines. This attempt to move it was to take it to a more permanent location in Jerusalem. When the Philistines returned the ark they had sent it back to Israel on a new cart (1 Sam 6:7) without knowing God’s specific instructions regarding transporting the ark as given to Israel:

“But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.” (Num 7:9)

To “the sons of Kohath he gave none;” that is, no wagons to transport what they were responsible for moving (the ark) because they were supposed to bear it upon their shoulders. Despite Israel knowing these instructions, it seems they copied what the Philistines did:

“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.” (2 Sam 6:3)

law breached accessThey disregarded the clear directions of God in moving the ark the way they did. Thus, they breached the instructions of God. The definition for “breach” in the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary and shows that a breach of the law of God can result in a loss of protection from God and exposure to attack from Satan. Also, see this page explaining in detail how that happens. (Also see a page about the repairer of the breach as mentioned in Isaiah 58:12.)

The word “Perezuzzah” (2 Sam 6:8) means “the breach of Uzzah” referring to the breach that resulted in the death of Uzzah. It is a combination of two words: “Perets” (breach) and “Uzzah.” That is similar to another breach recorded in the previous  chapter:

“And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baalperazim.” (2 Sam 5:20)

In that case, Baalperazim means “lord of the breaks” from “Baal” (Lord) and “perazim” (breach).

The action towards Uzzah is described in verse 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.” (2 Sam 6:7)

There it is – proof:

  • that God gets mad – “the anger of the LORD was kindled”
  • that God uses violence – “God smote him”
  • that God punishes – “for his error”

Or is it proof? The breach was made by Uzzah (who must have been not right with God) but he was not the only one responsible. Even King David would have known of God’s instructions of how to move the ark and should have given appropriate directions. Why weren’t David and perhaps others punished? Perhaps it was not punishment from God at all but an attack by Satan in the absence of God’s protection.

The Ark Moved Again

Sometime later, another attempt was made to move the ark but then the instructions were properly followed:

“And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD.” (1 Chron 15:12-15)

It is interesting that David said “a breach upon us” and not “a breach upon Uzzah.” He was recognizing that others, including himself, were responsible for how the ark was moved. They had not followed the instructions given earlier:

“And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Num 4:15)

“Any holy thing” would especially apply to the Ark of the Covenant, being the most holy object of the sanctuary. This command was intended to guard reverence for holy things but not because God would get so mad if anyone touched His stuff that He would lash out in anger and kill the offender. However, such a breach of God’s commands for reverence of holy objects showed a lack of reverence for God Himself which Uzzah may have especially had. This, as mentioned earlier, was a breach that blocked God’s protective power and allowed Satan to exercise His will of which we are told:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8)

It is possible, similarly to the case of King Herod, that God smote Uzzah’s conscience with a sense of guilt, that Uzzah refused to repent and that Satan then struck him dead.

We may not have all the details and, of course, Satan always works to cast the blame on God.

Ascribing Responsibility

In 2 Samuel 6:8 it says that “the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah.” It is important to understand that, in the Bible, God often is described as responsible for the actions of others. Indeed, there are many examples of that in scripture.

More Clues About the Breach of Uzzah

The correct understanding of some words, as the Bible defines them, helps us to see this was not a simple case of God getting angry enough to kill someone just because they touched His stuff.

The words “anger” and “wrath” used of God are often misunderstood as God’s wrath is not the same as man’s.

That “smote” can mean other than a death blow is readily apparent from a careful look at the account of the death of King Herod.

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