They set the ark on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart (Ahio walking in front). David and all Israel “were celebrating with all their might before the Lord” (v. 5).
But sometimes oxen stumble and they did at the threshing floor of Nakon! Uzzah logically reached out and took hold of the ark of God. We read that “the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God” (v. 9)!
Talk about ruining a religious celebration! An instant funeral! But let’s not miss the details: (1) The Lord had commanded that the ark should be carried with long poles (Ex. 25:12–15). Transporting the ark on an oxcart instead demonstrated a lack of reverence for this representation of God’s presence. (2) Uzzah touched the ark; Even those whose job it was to carry the ark were forbidden to touch it (Num. 4:15). (3) God’s anger burned against Uzzah “because of his irreverent act” (v. 7). (4) Therefore, “God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God” (v. 7).
How does David respond to this act of the Lord? David becomes angry at the Lord’s anger! (v. 8). David also becomes afraid of the Lord that day and asked, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” (v. 9).
His fear led him not to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the city of David, but took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite where it remained for three months. We read — “and the Lord blessed him [Obed-Edom] and his entire household.” (v. 11).
Hearing of God’s blessing on Obed-Edom’s house, David goes to retrieve the ark and brings it with rejoicing to the City of David. When those who were carrying (!) the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, we read, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf (v. 13). David, wearing only a linen ephod, was “dancing before the Lord with all his might” (v. 14).
The ark is brought inside the tent and sacrifices are made before the Lord. David then blesses the people and gives everyone food gifts (v. 19). Returning home to bless his own household, David is rebuked by Michal who says, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (v. 20).
David defends himself by saying, “It was before the Lord who chose me rather than anyone from Saul’s house to rule over Israel — I will celebrate before the Lord.” (v. 21). He says, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (v. 22).
We then read the Michal “daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” (v. 23).
Several takeaways for me:
1. Concerning the execution of Uzzah, let’s not forget that there were 30,000 able young men watching the transporting of the ark!
2. Religious revelry is great — but not at the expense of disobedience to the clear commands of God. Their “celebrating with all their hearts” did not negate God’s command not to touch the ark.
3. In his anger toward God’s execution of Uzzah, David is not overtly rebuked by the Lord. Sometimes we will get upset at the Lord’s actions in our lives, right?
4. There is a blessing for those who do what is right (Obed-Edom and his house in taking care of the ark).
5. Propriety is no substitute for heart-felt praise! David’s dancing offends Michal, but not the Lord!
6. There is a price to pay (Michal’s barrenness) for rebuking another’s unbridled worship of the Lord!