The Ark of the Covenant was the mercy seat of God, i.e. his throne on earth. God commanded the Israelites to build it shortly after they left Egypt. It was to reside in the Holy of Holies (the innermost chamber) of the tabernacle, and later the temple, in which God said He dwelt on earth. Only the High Priest could ever enter that chamber, and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to sprinkle it with blood, which atoned for the sins of the nation. Whenever the Ark of the Covenant was moved, it had to be carried on poles like a royal litter, for it was forbidden to be touched.
During the time of Uzzah, the Ark of the Covenant had been in storage for 20 years, after two corrupt priests brought it onto the battlefield in the hopes that it could save them from their enemies. The enemy killed the priests, and captured the ark. When the enemy returned it — on an oxen cart — some Israelites peered inside and were struck dead by the Angel of Death. At this point, the ark was put in storage out of fear since the tabernacle where it belonged had also been destroyed.
Notice the similarities between the Ark of the Covenant and Egyptian royal palanquins.
Never would a king be tossed in the back of an oxen cart because the servants didn’t feel like carrying him. Royalty were to be treated with the utmost respect. And while Israel’s enemies did not realize the significance of the Ark of the Covenant as God’s presence when they returned it on an oxen cart, the Israelites did.
The following is an excerpt from the literary aplogetics novel Prophecy of the Heir1 based on the Biblical account of Uzzah found in 2 Samuel 6:1-7 & 1 Chronicles 13:9-12. The warrior David has just become King of Israel, and wishes to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. Please note that Prophecy of the Heir is written as a fantasy novel from the viewpoints of angels and demons, predominately Michael the archangel’s. For your convenience, I have included a brief glossary of terms:
Davead = King David
Sacred Chest / Royal Palanquin = Ark of the Covenant
Shailem = Jerusalem
Malakim = Angels
King Elyon = God the Father
House of Jacov = Israelites
Shekinah = Holy Spirit
Davead’s first order as king was to bring the sacred chest to Shailem, and Michael led a Malakim escort beside the entourage traveling to the small town that harbored the chest. Though relieved King Elyon’s presence would return to Mortal-earth, Michael could not shake the growing concern welling within as he glanced over the crowd. Besides loyal Jacovites eager for the Shekinah’s return, Davead’s entourage consisted of family and close friends―namely the band of warriors who remained faithful to him during his years of hiding from Shaul.
Cantering his winged mare forward, Michael reined in beside the mortal-king. “Where are the priests?” he asked, hoping his words penetrated Davead’s thoughts. “Where are the priests to carry the palanquin?”
But Davead couldn’t hear him. His eyes shone with anticipation, and Michael feared his thoughts dwelt only on obtaining the chest, not the requisite procedure for transporting it.
They reached the home of Avinadav, where the sacred chest had resided over the past few decades. With increasing alarm, Michael watched the man’s grown sons hoist it onto the back of an oxcart.
Images of the Destroyer, and the seventy bodies strewn across the field, flashed across Michael’s mind as he remembered the chest’s return from Philistia, and those who dared treat it with contempt.
“You are of the Order of Levi,” Michael said frantically to the two men. “You know you can’t transport it like this!”
When they showed no sign of informing Davead of the law, Michael once again reined in beside the mortal-king. “Davead, it’s His Majesty’s palanquin. It must be carried, not hauled on an oxen cart like mere goods.”
Oblivious to Michael’s attempted influence, Davead bowed his thanks to Avinadav, then joined the man’s two sons, who now guided the cart along the road to Shailem.
Michael’s heart pounded as he rode Shakar beside them. Under penalty of death, not only were the two men guiding the oxen too close to the chest, but Davead was as well, let alone the crowd of mortals following before, beside, and behind.
Michael scanned the landscape for the Destroyer, and was relieved he didn’t see the hooded personification of death.
Only a few leagues remained.
Laughter and song swelled the air, and slowly Michael’s trepidation waned, grateful King Elyon’s grace overlooked their disregard for his law.
The road turned onto a threshing floor and one of the oxen stumbled. The cart tilted, and the sacred chest slid towards the edge.
The closet of Avinadav’s sons lunged forward to catch it.
Michael’s heart lurched. “Don’t touch it!”
The man grasped the palanquin and his white, smoke-filled soul vanished. A transfixed expression of alarm riddled his face, and his lifeless body fell to the ground.
The oxen straightened, righting the cart, but a deafening silence fell over the crowd.
Shrouded in its black cloak, its onyx blade held out before him, the Destroyer stood across the field.
Michael’s heart raced, fearing the number of others whom the wraith had been sent to execute, but slowly it lowered its sword and vanished.
Davead stared at the dead body, his expression a mixture of shock, rage, and grief. His gaze turned skyward. “Why did you kill him?” he shouted. “What violation did he commit against you, save for trying to protect your chest?”
After ordering the crowd to back away, Davead turned to the dead man’s brother. “What was his name?” he asked.
The reply was barely audible. “Uzzah.”
“Then I shall call this place Elyon’s Rage Against Uzzah.”
After taking a few moments to compose himself, Davead informed the crowd that the chest would not be brought to Shailem. Three months passed as the king of Shailem studied Moshes’ law for any and all requisites pertaining to the care and upkeep of the sacred chest. Then, accompanied by priests who carried it as a royal palanquin, Davead once more led an entourage back to Shailem, now the appropriate distance behind.
After removing his crown and royal robe, he danced with the people as they celebrated its return. With the sacred chest properly housed in Shailem, the Shekinah returned, and all the House of Jacov felt his presence.
1Prophecy of the Heir. Volume I, Book 2 of The Chronicles of Time. Chapter 3, Elixer of Doubt. Crimson Moon Press. 2nd Edition. 2014