Handling the Holy
One of the stories that have proved troubling to students of holy Scripture over the years is the account of Uzzah, who stretched forth his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, we recall, was being carried by oxcart in order to be installed at David’s projected new shrine at Jerusalem. Some obstacle, however, perhaps a bump in the road, caused the oxen to lurch, nearly upsetting the cart and putting the Ark in danger. The Bible describes the scene: “Uzzah put out his hand to the Ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the Ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:6–7).
The shock of readers is surely understandable. Wasn’t Uzzah’s sudden reaction, after all, simply an instinctive response to save the dignity of the Ark? To the extent that we can even describe his deed as intentional, wasn’t that intention good and honorable? How is it, then, that the all-seeing Lord, the God who searches hearts, did not look favorably on what Uzzah did?
The problem is not a recent one, and readers of the Bible have pondered it for centuries. For example, the Jewish historian Josephus, writing about the same time as some New Testament authors, explained that Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark, “since he was not a priest” ( me on hierus—Antiquities of the Jews 188.8.131.52). This explanation of Josephus is based on prescriptions in Numbers 4, which lists the duties of priests and Levites in regard to the treatment and transportation of the Ark.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Purchase Print &
Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!
Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!
GIVE Print &
Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives