Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
1 Samuel 6:6-7
When the procession had reached the threshing-floor of Nachon, Uzzah stretched out his hand to lay hold of the ark, i.e., to keep it from falling over with the cart, because the oxen slipped. And the wrath of the Lord was kindled, and God slew Uzzah upon the spot. (Goren(nachon) means “the threshing-floor of the stroke” ((nachon) from נכה, not from כּוּן); in the Chronicles we have (goren) (chidon), i.e., the threshing-floor of destruction or disaster (כּידון = כּיד, Job 21:20). Chidon is probably only an explanation of nachon, so that the name may have been given to the threshing-floor, not from its owner, but from the incident connected with the ark which took place there. Eventually, however, this name was supplanted by the name Perez-uzzah (2 Samuel 6:8). The situation of the threshing-floor cannot be determined, as all that we can gather from this account is that the house of Obed-edom the Gathite was somewhere near it; but no village, hamlet, or town is mentioned.
(Note: If it were possible to discover the situation of Gath-rimmon, the home of Obed-edom (see at 2 Samuel 6:10), we might probably decide the question whether Obed-edom was still living in the town where he was born or not. But according to the Onom., Kirjath-jearim was ten miles from Jerusalem, and Gath-rimmon twelve, that is to say, farther off. Now, if these statements are correct, Obed-edom's house cannot have been in Gath-rimmon.)
Jerome paraphrases הבּקר שׁמטוּ כּי thus: “Because the oxen kicked and turned it (the ark over.” But שׁמט does not mean to kick; its true meaning is to let go, or let lie (Exodus 23:11; Deuteronomy 15:2-3), hence to slip or stumble. The stumbling of the animals might easily have turned the cart over, and this was what Uzzah tried to prevent by laying hold of the ark. God smote him there “on account of the offence” (שׁל, ἁπ. λεγ. from שׁלה, in the sense of erring, or committing a fault). The writer of the Chronicles gives it thus: “Because he had stretched out his hand to the ark,” though of course the text before us is not to be altered to this, as Thenius and Bertheau suggest.
2 Samuel 6:8
“And David was angry, because Jehovah had made a rent on Uzzah, and called the place Perez-uzzah” (rent of Uzzah). פּרץ פּרץ, to tear a rent, is here applied to a sudden tearing away from life. ל יחר is understood by many in the sense of “he troubled himself;” but this meaning cannot be grammatically sustained, whilst it is quite possible to become angry, or fall into a state of violent excitement, at an unexpected calamity. The burning of David's anger was not directed against God, but referred to the calamity which had befallen Uzzah, or speaking more correctly, to the cause of this calamity, which David attributed to himself or to his undertaking. As he had not only resolved upon the removal of the ark, but had also planned the way in which it should be taken to Jerusalem, he could not trace the occasion of Uzzah's death to any other cause than his own plans. He was therefore angry that such misfortune had attended his undertaking. In his first excitement and dismay, David may not have perceived the real and deeper ground of this divine judgment. Uzzah's offence consisted in the fact that he had touched the ark with profane feelings, although with good intentions, namely to prevent its rolling over and falling from the cart. Touching the ark, the throne of the divine glory and visible pledge of the invisible presence of the Lord, was a violation of the majesty of the holy God. “Uzzah was therefore a type of all who with good intentions, humanly speaking, yet with unsanctified minds, interfere in the affairs of the kingdom of God, from the notion that they are in danger, and with the hope of saving them” (O. v. Gerlach). On further reflection, David could not fail to discover where the cause of Uzzah's offence, which he had atoned for with his life, really had lain, and that it had actually arisen from the fact that he (David) and those about him had decided to disregard the distinct instructions of the law with regard to the handling of the ark. According to Num 4 the ark was not only to be moved by none but Levites, but it was to be carried on the shoulders, not in a carriage; and in Numbers 4:15, even the Levites were expressly forbidden to touch it on pain of death. But instead of taking these instructions as their rule, they had followed the example of the Philistines when they sent back the ark (1 Samuel 6:7.), and had placed it upon a new cart, and directed Uzzah to drive it, whilst, as his conduct on the occasion clearly shows, he had no idea of the unapproachable holiness of the ark of God, and had to expiate his offence with his life, as a warning to all the Israelites.
David's excitement at what had occurred was soon changed into fear of the Lord, so that he said, “How shall the ark of Jehovah come to me?” If merely touching the ark of God is punished in this way, how can I have it brought near me, up to the citadel of Zion? He therefore relinquished his intention of bringing it into the city of David, and placed it in the house of Obed-edom the Gathite. Obed-edom was a Levite of the family of the Korahites, who sprang from Kohath (compare Exodus 6:21; Exodus 18:16, and 1 Chronicles 26:4), and belonged to the class of Levitical doorkeepers, whose duty it was, in connection with other Levites, to watch over the ark in the sacred tent (1 Chronicles 15:18, 1 Chronicles 15:24 Gittite or Gathite from his birthplace, the Levitical city of Gath-rimmon in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 21:24; Joshua 19:45).