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A Bible Study: Uzzah and the Ark of God

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It didn’t have to happen that way but it did. King David had been three days eating and drinking with his kinsmen at a time of great joy in Israel, 1 Chronicles 12:39. In such a merry mood, King David consulted with his leaders about his idea to bring back the Ark of God to Jerusalem. Little did he know that his great idea would cost Uzzah his life.

An image of the Ark of the Covenant and text that says Bible Study of Uzzah and the Ark of God

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  

There’s much we can learn from the life of King David. He is known as the man after God’s own heart though some may wonder why he had that distinction when there was so much that he did wrong. And yet, I’m thankful because it gives me hope when I mess up.

In this study, we will look at a particular day involving two brothers, King David, and the Ark of God. I wish we could say that David was obedient to God that day but that’s not the case.

King David’s Great Idea

Turn with me in your Bible to 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 for the main text.  

I was recently reading this chapter and what I saw there is a lesson for all of us to learn. My eyes kept drifting back to 1 Chronicles 13:1-4 as I saw a huge mistake on David’s part that fateful day.  

David consulted with his leaders saying “if it seems good to you, let’s bring back the ark of our God to Jerusalem.” Of course, they all thought it was a great idea and so they began the process of moving the ark. Oh, yes, David also said, “and if it is from the LORD our God…” But was it an afterthought?

Is there something that you notice in these four verses? Is there something missing that should have been done?

King David should have sought the LORD God for His approval on this idea. He did not, instead, he sought the approval of his leaders, and therefore right away, they were out of the will of God.

God’s Instructions for the Ark

The ark had been residing in Abinadab’s home in Kiriath-jearim in Judah. The plan was that Abinadab’s two sons, Ahio and Uzza (Uzzah is an alternate spelling) would drive the oxen cart with the ark on the cart to Jerusalem.  

Does anything else ring a bell for you at this point? It does for me. Let’s look at some details about the ark itself.

In Exodus 25:10, Moses had received the command to build an ark out of acacia wood. This ark was to be made according to a specific design by God and it was to represent the presence of God in the midst of the people. Years later the ark had been captured by the Philistines and then retrieved and left at Abinadab’s home in Kiriath-jearim until it could be returned to Jerusalem.

In the design of the ark, there were four golden rings attached to the the sides of the ark, two on each side. The acacia wooden poles were inserted in these rings and used for transporting the ark, Exodus 25:12-14.

Who could transport the ark?

Numbers 4 tells us that only the sons of Kohath (a Levitical tribe) were allowed to do any work in the tent of meeting which included the ark. They had specific training and instruction on how to handle the “most holy things”, Numbers 4:4. They were also instructed and trained that touching any of the holy things or looking into the ark itself would result in immediate death, Numbers 4:15.

Now, look at this in Numbers 7:7-9 when God gave carts and oxen to the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari for their services. However, God did not give carts or oxen to the sons of Kohath for their services because they were to carry the ark and the holy objects on their shoulders.

The Kohathite priests knew how they were to transport the ark and they knew the ramifications if they didn’t do it the correct way.

Question for you, do you think that all the Hebrew children knew of God’s commands and instructions regarding the ark?

Okay, so now we know some background info regarding the ark and the severity of not following God’s instructions.

Why Uzzah Touched the Ark

Let’s continue in our study. Ahio and Uzzah placed the ark on a brand new cart to be pulled by two ox. Ahio and Uzzah were the drivers of this cart.  

King David and all the people were quite happy! Finally, the ark was going to Jerusalem which was a day of celebration. They were celebrating with all kinds of musical instruments and singing songs. Can you imagine their joy?

Okay, let’s picture oxen walking along pulling the cart behind them. They arrive at a threshing floor, which by the way, is a smooth surface that farmers used for separating the grain from the chaff. Oxen and cattle were used to walk over the grain as they were heavy enough to break the grain open to reveal the chaff.

Anyway, the oxen are walking on this threshing floor and somehow one of them stumbled. Uzzah automatically, out of reflex, reached back to steady the ark by putting his hand on it to stop if from sliding off the cart.

Uzzah wasn’t thinking about right and wrong. He simply reacted to the situation. He wasn’t rebellious or defiant. He was thinking only of the ark falling to the ground, 1 Chronicles 13:9. He was thinking of the earth contaminating the ark while God saw that Uzzah contaminated the ark by touching it.

And that cost him his life. God had no choice but to kill Uzzah for touching the ark, 1 Chronicles 13:10.

David is Angry

The party stopped. What was a joyous day now became a day of confusion, sadness, and mourning.  

David became very angry, not at God, but with himself. He knew better and at that moment, he became afraid of God and wouldn’t continue bringing the ark to Jerusalem. His decision to move the ark without consulting with the Levitical priests resulted in Uzzah losing his life.

Instead, David had the ark brought to the family of Obed-edom where the ark stayed for three months. 1 Chronicles 13:14 says that God blessed the family of Obed-edom while His ark was in their home. Can you imagine having the ark of God in your home? Would you be tempted to take a peek inside? And, would you realize that all the benefits you received were from God because His ark was in your home?

An image of the ark of the covenant with 1 Chronicles 13:14 quoted

David Learned From His Mistake

Let’s fast forward now to 1 Chronicles 14. It seems that David learned a very important lesson the day that Uzzah died. He learned the cost of disobedience. Not just Uzzah’s disobedience to God but also his own disobedience in not seeking God first. I’m sure he thought back to that day when he consulted his leaders and realized that he didn’t consult God.  

The Philistines heard about David being anointed king of Israel and they came ready to fight in the valley of Rephaim.

David made a good decision this time. He consulted God as to whether he should go fight the Philistines or not, 1 Chronicles 14:10, and God responded with “Go up, for I will give them into your hand.

Not accepting defeat so easily, the Philistines made another raid in the valley and again David inquired of the LORD but this time, God said not to go after them but instead circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees, 1 Chronicles 14:14. David obeyed God and he was successful as God gave him the victory over the Philistines in both these raids.

You may enjoy this sermon by Social Media Ministries:

Do you think that David learned the importance of seeking God first before making any decisions? I do. Let’s see what happens next.

David Brings the Ark of God to Jerusalem

Turn now to the next chapter, 1 Chronicles 15:1-29. David built houses (notice the plural) for himself in Jerusalem and he prepared a place for the ark of God in a special tent.  

I’m guessing that the reason for the multiple homes was because David had multiple wives and families, 1 Chronicles 14:3-7.

This time he instructed the people that only the Levites would “carry the ark of God for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever” 1 Chronicles 15:2.

After assembling the sons of Aaron together, David called for the heads of the Levites households and instructed them to consecrate themselves to bring the ark of God to the place he had prepared for it, 1 Chronicles 15:12.

I appreciated reading this verse when David acknowledged his sin when he first attempted to transport the ark back to Jerusalem. Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.” 1 Chronicles 15:13.

So the sons of the Levites carried the ark with the poles as they had been instructed by God through Moses hundreds of years before.

Again David spoke with the chiefs of the Levites to appoint singers, musicians and lead the procession in sounds of joy, 1 Chronicles 15:16.

Everything was done properly this time. David sought the LORD, he consulted with the Levite priests in all aspects of the procession and all Israel brought the ark of God from Obed-edom to Jerusalem.

An image of someone playing a lyre in the background with 1 Chronicles 15:16 quoted

Lessons We Learned from David and Uzzah

What is the difference between the two attempts to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem?  

Obedience to God is vital. If David had sought the LORD the first time, the story would have been very different. Ahio and Uzzah would not have been driving an ox cart. In fact, the ox cart would not have been used and Uzzah would have been part of the procession in merriment rather than the cart driver.  

What we see from this quick study about the cost of disobedience is how important it is to seek God first. When we have God’s approval, everything will go as God directs. Later, David wrote in Psalm 37:23-24 that the steps of a good man are ordered by God.  

When I first read these three chapters recently, I was struck with how relatable this two-thousand-year-old Bible account is to our lives today. God doesn’t waste anything in His Word and everything is profitable for us today, 2 Timothy 3:16.

As you study the commands and instructions to the Levitical priesthood, God had specific expectations for them. They were to be holy and reverent toward Him.

This is something we can all do. God wants us to live holy as He is holy. God has a standard for us as we are set apart for Him. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession. And since Gentiles have been grafted into God’s family, we can say this is about us, too.

Here’s something to ponder, God gave the instructions to Moses on how the Levitical priests were to serve Him regarding the holy things. God never rescinded those instructions and though it was hundreds of years later, the instructions were still in effect.

Life Application Questions

  1. Has there been something that God has told you (or asked you) to do but you haven’t done it? Do you think He has forgotten it by now? If He has asked you to do something, what do you think you should do now? I’ll leave that with you and God.
  2. When you have a major decision to make, do you ask your friends for their advice? Do you seek godly counsel from believers whom you trust? Or do you run straight to God to see what He wants you to do?
  3. If you run ahead of God and do things in your own strength and in your own way, when things don’t work out, do you acknowledge your error or blame someone else?

I hope this study of King David, Uzzah, and the Ark of God has been insightful and helpful to you. Blessings!  

For further study, consider these recommended resources:
A Bible Study: Uzzah and the Ark of God 1
A Bible Study: Uzzah and the Ark of God 2
A Bible Study: Uzzah and the Ark of God 3
A Bible Study: Uzzah and the Ark of God 4

Bible-Based Fiction


About Cindy Barnes, Guest Writer

Cindy Barnes 215 Ministries
Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible. You can find Cindy and more of her great teaching on her website.
For more Bible studies on this site, see this page of my website and scroll to “Bible Study”.
An image of the Ark of the Covenant and text that says Bible Study of Uzzah and the Ark of God

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Sunday 27th of August 2023

The Sabbath day is also Holy and God asked us to remember to keep it holy and told us how to keep it holy! People were also kill for breaking the Holy Sabbath day ,yet so many Christians today is disregarding God's instructions on this matter and instead keeping Sunday which he never said to keep. This story should remind us that God mean what he said and says what he means. There is coming a day when just like Uzzah we shall give an account for breaking God's instructions on the Sabbath day .

Kathy Jackson

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Hi. Can you please tell me what happened to Cindy Barnes at 215 Ministries? Did she die? I had followed her for a good while then it’s like she dropped off the face of the earth. 😔

Susan Nelson

Monday 14th of June 2021

Hi, Kathy - I have no idea other than she no longer has that blog active. If I hear anything, I'll let you know. God bless.

Tamela Estrada

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Great study 1 Chronicles Thank you very much

God Bless

Susan Nelson

Sunday 24th of May 2020

I'm so glad that it blessed you! Cindy is a wonderful writer and Bible study teacher. Thank you for stopping by and have a beautiful and blessed day.


Wednesday 20th of May 2020

Thank you, Susan, for the opportunity to write for you. This study on Uzzah and the Ark of God is a great lesson for us concerning obedience. Though "disobedience" today doesn't result in immediate death, it does result in personal guilt and sin which requires repentance. I'm so thankful for our amazing God who freely gives us forgiveness when we sin. Thanks, again, Susan! It's been a blessing!

Susan Nelson

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Thank YOU for this insightful study! I learned so much.

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