Monday, May 14, 2012

God kills Uzzah (2 Samuel 6)

Sometimes I read the bible and go "...wat?"

Actually, pretty much every day.

In 2 Samuel 6, King David has a big parade and celebration to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.  The ark is on a cart, pulled by oxen, with 2 guys, Uzzah and Ahio, keeping an eye on it.  At one point, one of the oxen trips and Uzzah grabs the ark to stabilize it and God strikes him down right there and he dies.  And then it was really awkward and pretty much ruined the whole parade.

What?  Why?  What did you want Uzzah to do, just let it fall off the cart?

I love God and I trust God and I'm gonna call it like I see it: God is being really unreasonable here.

I know no one is supposed to ever touch the ark, but come on, this is the most legitimate exception there could ever be.  Uzzah wasn't trying to be "disrespectful" or whatever.  Seems like a split-second decision too. 

So they were never supposed to put the ark on a cart in the first place.  (According to commentaries I've read, that was how the Philistines transported their idols- see also 1 Samuel 6.)  They were supposed to have the priests carry it, using the handy poles built into the sides.  But none of this is Uzzah's fault.  Who planned the parade?  David?

People always say "God loves everybody" but I don't know if it's true.  Did God love Uzzah?

Whoever planned the whole "let's put the ark on a cart with some oxen" thing is way more at fault than Uzzah.  Is this a case of a lot of people doing something wrong, but in God's mercy (???) he only punishes Uzzah?  God's sitting there like "well this is bad ... they're supposed to get the priests to carry it ... well they're all in trouble but I won't do anything about it right now, it's such a lovely parade and they all seem so happy and-- DID HE JUST TOUCH THE FREAKING ARK OF THE COVENANT???!!!!  Nope, I draw the line here, he is going DOWN!!!!"

If they had been doing it the right way, there never would have been a situation where the ark was falling and someone needed to grab it.  But that's still totally not Uzzah's fault.

Is it like when everyone is speeding and then you're the one who gets pulled over?  And one could argue that it's perfectly valid to punish you for breaking the law, regardless of whether anyone else got punished.

So what should Uzzah have done?  At the beginning, should he have refused to be part of this parade because they were "doing it wrong"?  Really?  Because I know that's not what I would have done.  I would have been like "that law about carrying the ark is so old and nowadays we're not meant to take it absolutely literally."  I would have gone along with it, like Uzzah did, and I would have grabbed the ark when it fell, because that's how reflexes work.

Is Uzzah the one who gets zapped because he's the one with a big obvious moment of breaking the law- so, zap him as a public statement to everyone- because that sends a very obvious message: "He died because he touched the ark.  You gotta take God seriously."  Whereas, if God killed someone from the planning committee who said "you know what this religion needs more of?  Oxen pulling stuff around", then ... well ... not as public, not as obvious what God was getting at.

If God's going to make an example of someone, Uzzah is the obvious choice.  But it's totally not fair.

Okay so that is the sum of my rambling thoughts on this.  In conclusion, I don't like it and it's not fair.  But God can do whatever he wants so... whatever.  I guess.  I'm still not okay with this.  Anyone have any insights to add?


  1. I like Uzzah! I think he and I might have been good friends had I lived then or he live now. I know his death confuses and angers many readers of Samuel. It even confused and angered David, a man after God's own heart!

    "Oh, my God, why did you do this? Why must he die? It's not fair!"

    But it is. It is fair, and it is necessary. I'll talk to you soon about this, but until then, consider a few things:

    First, reveiw the history. The Isrealites have experienced this brand of wrath before! (1 Samuel 6)

    Second, think about the "planning committee". It's very possible there wasn't one! (Read David's hindsight in 1 Chronicles 15:11-13) Even if there was a planning committe, is it so absurd to imagine Uzzah (Who was Uzzah?) was not on it? Who would you put on such a committee?

    I've seen some of your Facebook comments explain that Uzzah's death was necessary to teach the Isrealites a hard lesson. Do you think it worked? (Re-read 1 Chronicles 15:11-13)

    Lastly, find and consider the U.S. Nuclear regulatory Commision's OCD-like rules about transporting radioactive material. What parallels might exist between the NRC and God?

    I'll talk to you soon.

  2. Ok, my one random comment is that God doesn't appear to see Death as such a big deal as we do. Like, its not a big horrible thing to him the way it is for most of us humans. Which is a little surprising given that he knows, better than us, that it is the gateway to everlasting hell as well as everlasting heaven... but he also knows if more time for a person would have lead to a change in that destination...

    I still don't get why Uzzah was the one who got the bad consequence and no one else, as far as I know? Now I have to go read the story and see what happened next...

    1. Hmm that's a good point- thanks for commenting. ^_^