The Sin of Uzzah: Wrong with Good Intentions

In II Samuel 6 David makes preparations to bring the Ark back from Baale Judah to the Temple, where it belonged. David, accompanied by thirty thousand men, went down to the house of Abinadab and set the Ark on a new cart to transport it. Steering the Ox cart were two men, Uzzah and Ahio (the sons of Abinadab). Ahio went in front of the Ark, and Uzzah followed behind the Ark. This large procession sang and danced, joyfully carrying the Ark back to its proper place. However, along the way (at Nachon’s threshing floor), the oxen stumbled. In an attempt to steady the Ark and make sure it would not fall, Uzzah reached out and put his hand on the Ark. Immediately God’s anger was aroused against Uzzah and God struck him dead.

A month or so ago, rereading this passage, it struck me that Uzzah had the very best intentions. He was not maliciously trying to push the Ark over, nor was he standing back and allowing it to topple over. To us humans, he reacted quickly to the situation at hand. And even if Uzzah did err, was it not the result of David not insisting on proper procedure for carrying and covering the Ark? (Exodus 25:14, Numbers 4:6)

God, in this brief chapter, shows us two important lessons about how He views our behavior. First and foremost, God is to be revered. What was most holy was not to be touched by man, because it was most holy, and should not be touched by what was common. Consider the priests garments. Exodus 28 tells us that “Holy” garments were to be made for the sons of Aaron to wear when they ministered to God as priests. They were to see the holiness of God, and prepare themselves to be in His presence. Uzzah, in an instant reaction touched the Ark of the Covenant as though it were something common. David shows us what God’s purpose was in II Samuel 6:9, “And David was afraid of the Lord that day…” God is not someone that we should think of going through fields frolicking together as buddies. God is our creator, God is our Lord, and He is our savior. Hebrews 12:28 sums this up by saying,

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Secondly, and related to the questions we asked earlier, God shows us that even the best intentions are not reason enough for wrongful behavior. While Uzzah’s motives were pure, his actions were not. It was not in God’s will that man touch the ark. God had made provisions so that man would not be able to touch the ark. Thus, no matter how pure Uzzah’s intentions were, his actions displeased God.

One instance where this seems especially pertinent is with regard to baptism. In a post on this website in February it was brought out that, “Baptism is through water.” And as one of the commenter’s so put, “Baptism is a burial in water.” This was the absolute truth for much of the first two centuries BC. However, in the mid-third century a man by the name of Novation, wanting salvation, but being too ill it was thought for immersion, was sprinkled on his death bed. Novation recovered from that incident, but was never immersed. (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, VI.XLIII) From this point on man began to see sprinkling as an alternate form of Baptism. Here we see where good intentions (saving a man on his death bed) proved to be a death in itself to the fulfillment of God’s will. The scriptures bear out in plain detail God’s desire that we be immersed (Acts 8:38, Romans 6:3-4). Therefore, it is against His will to baptize any other way. We run a great risk when we begin to consider human circumstances over the will of God. Uzzah was trying to protect the ark. That was a noble task. The men that sprinkled Novation wanted to help him attain salvation. Again, a noble task. Yet, when we begin to change God’s will to fit our own circumstances, God’s will is compromised.

We are not immune to this thinking today. Many institutions, contrary to the intentions of God, are built in the name of God. Daniel 2:44 tells us the kingdom (the church) will stand forever. Christ does not need institutions to assist its cause. It is not so weak that it must have the assistance of other organizations to help teach its members. It is to be the only body, thoroughly equipping its saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:4, 12-16). Many men have tried, and often with “success,” to persuade men of the truth by never mentioning the truth. If we invite them in, speak soothing words; make them feel good, they will be inclined to stay. Or perhaps we dress in costumes so as to make ourselves less offensive. These actions and more (not limited to gambling activities) have been tried in a hope to persuade men of the love that is in Christ. Men with good intentions of bringing many souls to the Lord have compromised the truth so that it might fit within the lifestyle of all men, not realizing that what we convert men to Christ with is what they will be converted to. Therefore, should we not use truth to convert men to what is right! (Ephesians 4:15)

The writer of Hebrews confirms for us what David realized in II Samuel 6, that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Make sure that your intentions are the will of God, that your method is the method of God. Fear Him, do His will, and always seek His truth.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Fear God and keeps His commandments,

For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment,

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Joshua Riggins Written by:


  1. September 14, 2009

    In spirituality, does the end justify the means? If my objective is serving God, can I not choose my own method of doing so?

  2. September 17, 2009

    While Moses was on Mount Sinai, at the urging of the people, Aaron made a golden calf. After he was finished fashioning this idol he told the People, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4) In verse five Aaron proclaims a feast to the Lord on the following day. From a certain perspective their intent was to praise and serve the Lord. They just choose an alternate method. Their actions angered the Lord, and he was ready to wipe them from the face of the earth. It was only by the pleading of Moses that the people were spared.
    God has given everyone a choice: the choice to serve him or not. Our choice has never been the method of service. Doesn’t God, as the creator, have the right to specify the manner of acceptable worship and service?

  3. Joshua
    September 17, 2009

    @WadeGood questions Wade,

    Jesus answers this in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except through me.” By telling us he is the way, he gives us two very important insights. 1) Way- a means of getting from point a to point b. Thus we can see that Christ is a means for getting to the ultimate goal of life everlasting with the Father. However, He was not just “A” way. 2) Rather HE is “the” way. The only means whereby one is justified to the ends.

    Following Christ is not like a road map where there are many ways to the same final destination. Rather, there is only one way: Christ’s way. Therefore, we would be wise to follow His way, using His truth, so that we might receive life in Him.

  4. Craig
    September 28, 2009

    I am not convinced that Uzzah was an innocent bystander in this story. Rather than observing, it appears that he was a willing participant in driving the cart. While it is possible that Uzzah has good intentions in his attempt to steady the ark, it is also possible that he was well aware of the error and reached out his hand trying to save the ark and cover the disobedient act that he was involved in.
    I am convinced that this story is much more of a reflection of an error committed by King David. As the leader, he should have considered first God’s teachings rather than relying on his own desires. I think it’s clear that David’s intentions were good; he wanted to return the ark. But in this case, David considered a sinful shortcut as the best solution. Men with names that start with the letter “U” had little luck with David as two can count him responsible (or partially responsible) for their deaths.

    Even with this interpretation of the story, your point is still valid. Our intentions AND actions should reflect God’s will and we should resist the temptation of creating our own pattern of service.

  5. Joshua
    October 5, 2009

    @Craig Thank you Craig,

    You bring to my attention very good points worth considering, especially concerning King David. It was certainly not my goal to excuse King David. All involved should have understood the law well enough (for they were to have learned it from their youth up Deutoronomy 11:19) to know that what they were doing was wrong.

    This whole account shows what happens when men choose to change God’s design. God is only pleased when we choose to follow His path.

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