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Why does God kill people for touching the ark?

But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them. 1 Samuel 6:19

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:6-7

Obviously they hadn’t seen Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant was a holy item, meaning it was not to be treated like a coffee table or a chest of drawers in your house. It was not a common item that you could handle and touch. You had to treat it with reverence. The design of it came with inserts for poles so someone could carry it. Everyone knew you don’t touch the ark.

However, at times, people with good intentions or bad, handled the ark and suffered the consequences. They lost respect for God in the way the ark was being passed around.

In 1 Samuel, the ark had been in the hands of the Philistines because the Israelites decided to parade it around, thinking as some kind of a magical talisman it would put God on their side. It didn’t work. When it returned back, people touched it like it was a treasure chest.

In 2 Samuel, the ark was being transported by oxen. It was designed to be transported by hand and never should have been in a situation where dumb, common animals could determine the direction of the ark. Uzzah paid the price for that.

The deaths were a call of respect for the power of the God and the things of God. Israel had lost that respect many times.