So who’s this Uzzah character?

As I said in my last post Uzzah is not my real name.  Some of my family and a couple of friends know I no longer believe, for the most part though I have kept this to myself, for several reasons which will make great topics later on.

But who is Uzzah?

One question many atheists are asked is “when did you stop believing?”. Most answers I have heard tend to be that there was not one specific thing that changed their mind but it was a gradual questioning over time. Even though this is the same for me, I did try and remember when that questioning began. For me it was in Sunday school when I was a child, probably 7 or 8 years old. Each week we were given lessons from the bible and there were four that I can remember which really didn’t sit right with me at the time.

  • The death of Uzzah when he touched the Ark of the Covenant
  • Lot’s wife when she looked back when fleeing Sodom
  • God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac
  • God’s torture of Job to prove a point to Satan

I would like to talk about all of these in future posts but right now let’s focus on Uzzah and what I think illustrates a lack of compassion or mercy in the God of the bible.

But before I continue let me clarify the above statement. When I write or comment about God,  Jesus or any character in the bible I am in no way conceding their existence. They are exactly that, characters in a story. There are many people who do believe they were real and even a few who would say some of the stories are just allegories to illustrate God’s message. My point is to show why I think these messages are anything but moral and question why anyone would use this book to guide their life.

Let’s start with what the Bible says (KJV)…

2nd Samuel – Chapter 6
1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.
3 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, 4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.
5. And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.
6. 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. 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. 8 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.

The very same story is repeated in 1st Chronicles Chp 13 but it is almost exactly the same so I won’t repeat that here. (I guess plagiarism was not an issue back then)

I’ve read several apologists explanations of why would God do something that most people would find that extreme. It’s a reasonable question and it deserves some answers. One site I found (Got Questions) had compiled several of what they would consider the best answers. I’ll try my best to sum them up and give my take on them.

  1. The Hebrews were given specific instructions on how the Ark was to be transported. The Ark was to be carried by men on poles and David did not follow God’s precise instructions.

My response: What David did or didn’t do has no bearing on whether Uzzah should have been sentenced to death by God. At best this is a hindsight is 20/20 answer … basically saying if David would have followed the rules there would not have been any oxen to stumble. It also seems maybe the rules were not clear anyway,  if you read on, it took a whole three months for David to figure out the proper way to transport it.

 9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? 10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite. 11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.

It seems that God is a stickler for the rules a zero tolerance kind of guy.

2. The Ark had stayed at the house where Uzzah lived for such a long time that “familiarity breeds contempt” and Uzzah forgot the Arks holiness.

My response: This seems to make a few assumptions that claim to know what was in Uzzah’s mind, this is simply not backed up by scripture.  I could say the exact opposite view, that no one at the time was more reverent of the holiness of the ark. The proof? Uzzah lived for 20 years under the same roof with the ark, he would know better than anyone else what the ark was and what it meant to his faith and its importance in his religion. Also he had a 20 year track record of not breeching God’s rules regarding it’s care.

3. The oxen stumbled but the Ark was not falling. Uzzah thought it was his duty to save the integrity of God. They compare this to when Moses disobeyed God’s instructions and struck the rock and was then denied entrance into the promise land.

My response: Once again they are claiming to know what was in Uzzah’s mind with absolutely no proof. From all the various versions I have read it appears to be just a reflexive action…  a normal human response anytime something you cared for was in danger of falling. To compare it to the incident of Moses that appears to be an intentional disobeying of God’s command is an apple to oranges comparison… I say appears because I do not want to make the same mistake of trying to guess Moses’s intent.

All three of these attempts to explain God’s decision have the same problem that the majority of apologists explanations have.  They try to make assumptions that will place the blame away from God and make his actions palatable to our modern moral sensibilities. Maybe we should take these descriptions of the Old Testament God as they are…  they show a character who is a vindictive dictator who shows no value or sense of mercy for the lives of his subjects.

In the end I think of Uzzah as a man just trying to do the right thing in this world and what happened to him was beyond his control. That’s why I am taking the name Uzzah.

To God he was just a means to make an example to his people …  to promote what he craves the most from us  …..  fear.

To read Got Questions take on why God struck Uzzah dead click here