Was Uzzah's Death Unfair?

If you Google the phrase "Uzzah Death Unfair," you will find at least 1380 hits most of which addresses that idea. In case you are having a momentary brain cramp over exactly who Uzzah was, he was the man who died when he tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant as David arranged for it to return to Jerusalem. Since the last day of Eli's life, the Philistines had assumed possession of the Ark (1 Sam. 5:1). That idolatrous nation, given the trouble they received from God for keeping it, returned it to Israel, to Kiriath-Jearim, where Eleazer was consecrated to keep it at Abinadab's house on the hill (1 Sam. 7:1). Then, following Saul's reign, David wanted to bring the ark back to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:1ff). Abinadab's sons, Uzzah and Ahio, set the ark on a new cart and began the journey toward Jerusalem. At Nachon's threshing floor, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah took hold of the ark (2 Sam. 6:6). Then, "God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God" (2 Sam. 6:7). David became angry because of the Lord's outburst against Uzzah, even calling the site of Nashon's threshing floor that name (Perez-Uzzah).

     One might ask why God reacted in what the modern mind sees as a harsh way "simply" for steadying the ark after the oxen stumbled. In 1 Chronicles 15, several inspired answers are given. First, David said it was "because we did not consult Him (God) about the proper order" (13). In other words, Israel took it on themselves to move the ark-which they knew as the residing place of the glory of the Lord (1 Sam. 4:22; cf. 2 Sam. 6:2)-without regard to how God commanded it to be done. Jeremiah says that it is not in man to direct his own steps (10:23). Second, they had gotten away from their spiritual roots. In this case, their spiritual roots were what "Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord" (1 Chron. 15:15). God had an established, authorized way to carry the ark which the writer reviews in this verse. On this occasion, they did as Moses revealed. "The Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles" (15a). Finally, they tried to get by on self-reliance (26). Their newly rediscovered reverence following Uzzah's death led David, the Levites, and all Israel to see that "God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant." This spirit of dependency apparently did not exist when Uzzah walked behind the oxcart.

     Is it unfair for God to want people to consult Him, to be true to their spiritual roots, to properly regard and revere Him, and to rely upon Him? Certainly not. Uzzah certainly shows us the grave spiritual danger we face by trying to go out on our own, without reverence toward, reliance upon, and recognition of God and His power and authority in our lives.