“So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.”-Numbers 7:6-9
From a panoramic bird’s eye view, what we’re witnessing here in Numbers 7 are the final preparations needed to finish the establishment of the priesthood.
Once this work is complete, the Lord’s earthly dwelling place will be ready for full operations.
The first step in this final stage was for Israel’s leaders to bring a communal gift to the Levites.
This gift represented a collective offering from all 12 tribes and consisted of six large wagons and 12 oxen (two oxen for each wagon) to be used to transport the many pieces of the Tabernacle.
The second step of the final preparations was for the leader of each of the tribes to one-by-one over a period of 12 days (one tribe per day) bring their individual tribal offerings.
You’ll notice that the Merrari Clan was given four wagons compared to the clan of Gershon who received only two wagons.
The reason is because the clan of Merrari was assigned to carry the huge and heavy wooden planks that supported the Sacred Tent.
The clan of Gershon only had to transport the curtains that were hung at the entranceway leading into the tent.
Now what’s interesting is that the clan of Kohath, one of the highest ranking of the clans, didn’t receive any wagons.
The reason is because they were the clan who was assigned to carry the most Holy and precious Ark of the Covenant.
Now here’s a really important Torah point you should burn into your brain cells.
The Ark of the Covenant was to be CARRIED ON THE SHOULDERS of the clan of Kohath using the long poles that were inserted into the rings attached to the four corners of the Tabernacle.
The Ark of the Covenant was NOT to be placed in a wagon or oxcart for transportation.
We will see later on that Israel’s leadership under King David ignored this particular detail and paid the dire consequences.
Let’s take a look at that part of Scripture right now.
“They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God. Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. David was afraid of God that day and asked, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?'”-1 Chronicles 13:7-12
Here we see that the Israelites had violated the Torah command to have the ark transported by placing it on the shoulders of the Levites instead of transporting it via an oxcart and the results were disastrous.
When the ark was about to fall off the wagon, a man named Uzzah spontaneously reached out his hand to steady it and was killed instantly by God.
We’re told that HASHEM’s anger “burned against Uzzah“!
God was absolutely furious at Uzzah’s transgression.
According to the ancient rabbis, two violations against Torah were committed here.
First, the ark was transported in a cart.
Second, the ark was NOT under any circumstances to be directly touched.
It was believed that because of this double infraction the Lord’s anger intensified to a degree rarely seen.
There’s a couple of interesting takeaways here.
First, notice how there didn’t seem to be (with an emphasis on the words “didn’t seem to be“) any danger in putting the ark on top of a cart.
How often do we use that same faulty reasoning before unhesitatingly going against Scripture whether it’s breaking a specific command or violating the heart of Torah?
Eating pork doesn’t seem to cause any harm, so no big deal, right?
Watching pornography every once in a while doesn’t seem to be causing me any harm and even some psychologists say it’s healthy, so who cares, right?
Eating that healthy fruit from the tree doesn’t seem like it could be so bad, so it’s okay to take just one bite, right?
As we see here in the story with the dead Uzzah and the ark, even though there might not seem to be any immediate or direct consequences to disobeying Torah, in so many other unforeseen ways that only God knows about we could be on a very slippery slope.
We’ve got to remember that it’s ALWAYS a slippery slope when you start playing around with what God has made crystal clear in His Word.
One final takeaway.
Ultimately, it was King David’s fault that this whole tragic incident occurred in the first place.
If he had understood proper Torah protocol regarding how the ark was to be properly transported in the first place, Uzzah would not have been killed.
The lesson here is that any leader of a congregation should have a pretty darn good understanding of Torah or we’re going to have a serious situation of the blind leading the blind.
And woe to that congregation that would go so far as to say God’s Torah has now been done away with or whose leadership so blatantly and flagrantly disobeys what was established at Sinai.