Were only priests or members of the Levi tribes allowed to touch the ark of the Lord? Is that why Uzzah died in 2 Samuel 6? Or did he die because of some unknown sin in his life?
When it comes to transportation of the ark of the Covenant, only those in tribes of Levi and specially those of Kohath descendents were tasked with this duty. It is important that when we read the Old Testament narrative (which 2 Samuel 6 is), we need to have the Mosaic Law informs us as to what God wants His people to do. If we approach 2 Samuel 6 with Numbers 4 informing us of how God wants His ark to be transported, we see that in 2 Samuel 6 they were disobedient with the way God wants His ark transported. They are to cover the ark with a veil and apparently this point was important enough that the author repeats it three times (4:5,4:6a, 4:15a). Numbers 4:15 makes it clear that what happen in 2 Samuel 6 should not have been a surprise for the people, since Numbers 4:15 explains that the reason why the ark was covered was so that they would not touch the ark physically, lest they die. In contrast to the situation in 2 Samuel 6 where the ark was transported on a cart pulled by animals, Numbers 4:15 mandated that the sons of Kohath were to be the ones carrying the ark; the question would be, how do they do so without touching the ark? Numbers 4:6 mention that they are to “insert its poles,” suggesting the means was by inserting poles into holes in the Ark and thereby the sons of Kohath are to physically carry it by means of the poles. I think if we remember Numbers 4, it shows that the incident in 2 Samuel 6 should not have suprised the Jewish readers. I think there are lessons for us today that are still timely: If worship is really about God, we should worship Him the way He wants to be worshiped, and just because a way of worship appears to be popular does not mean all is okay if it goes against God’s requirement. Sobering.