🔼The name Perez-uzzah in the Bible
The name Perez-uzzah is mentioned twice in the Bible but only in one scene, namely that of king David's first attempt to transport the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:8, spelled פרץ עזה, and 1 Chronicles 13:11, spelled פרץ עזא).
Long before Israel was a kingdom, the Philistines had defeated Israel in battle and had abducted the Ark of the Covenant. When the Ark spread disease in Philistia, the Philistines sent it back, and it arrived first in Beth-shemesh and then in Kiriath-jearim, where it remained for twenty years in the care of Abinadab and his son Eleazar (1 Samuel 7:1).
When David became king, he set out to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and marched 30,000 men to the house of Abinadab. The Ark was placed on a new cart, which was led by Uzzah/Uzza and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab. At the threshing floor of Nacon, something went wrong. Apparently the oxen that drew the cart did something that "nearly" upset the Ark and Uzza(h) reach out and put his hands on it. Immediately, YHWH struck Uzzah dead for "the irreverence".
Uzzah's death became one of the most discussed executions of the Bible. It seems pretty unfair to kill someone who's taken care of the Ark for twenty years and who probably grew up with it. But on the other hand, probably the people who are most familiar with the things of God are most tempted to trivialize these things, and the rules don't change when we become familiar with the Lord. It's possibly one of the most acute dangers of contemporary Christianity: the reducing of the Almighty YHWH to "friend" (or even more atrocious: Buddy-) Christ Jesus.
At the death of Uzzah, David's gets upset with the Lord for killing Uzzah and spoiling the happy homecoming of the Ark. The place where this happened was dubbed Perez-uzza(h) and the Ark went to stay with Obed-edom of Gath and his family (2 Samuel 6:11).
🔼Etymology of the name Perez-uzzah
The name Perez-uzzah consists of two elements that themselves are names as well. The first part is the same as the name Perez, which comes from the verb פרץ (paras), meaning to break through:
The second part of our name is the same as the name Uzzah, which comes from the verb עזז ('azaz), meaning to be strong:
For a meaning of the name Perez-uzzah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads The Breech Of Uzzah (which might be a typo, and a jolly one to boot), but in a footnote to 2 Samuel 6:8, NOBSE interprets it as The Breakthrough Of Uzza.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Breach Of Uzzah. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't recognize Perez-uzzah as a name.
All these translations, which are technically correct, fail to explain this name. Because in what way was Uzzah breaching or breaking through, or experiencing it or having to do with it?
Here at Abarim Publications, we like to believe that the perez-part in this context reflects the "outburst" of the Lord that killed Uzzah. 2 Samuel 6:8 reads that David became angry because of פרץ יהוה פרץ בעזה (perez YHWH perez b'uzzah). And it breathes the air of a military action. Just before the Uzza incident, David had defeated the Philistines and had called the battle field Baal-perazim, which contains that same word perez. The author wryly informs us that the Philistines abandoned their idols and David and his men carried them away (2 Samuel 5:21; the Chronicler adds that they were burned; 1 Chronicles 14:12), which is obviously a comment on the earlier abduction of the Ark by the Philistines.
That the word perez may be used as a military term is also shown in Job's lamentation of God's treatment of him: "He breaks through me with breach after breach (פרץ על־פניפרץ); he runs at me like a warrior" (Job 16:16).
The death of Uzzah is difficult to comprehend, but it seems to be consistent with Biblical doctrine. The name Uzzah means "strength" and particularly the defeat of one's own strength is the first step in one's becoming useful for God (Exodus 14:14, Isaiah 30:15, 2 Corinthians 12:10, 13:4).
The Ark remained at the house of Obed-edom for three months and the Lord blessed him and his household. Then David decided to give it another try. According to the Chronicler, David organized the Levites and instructed them to consecrate themselves. The first time they went to pick up the Ark, they were an army of 30,000 men, possibly mounted and heavily armed. The Ark was transported like a military machine, on a new cart drawn by oxen. The second time they were a celebratory procession; king David was not mounted, not armed and not decked out in regalia. The Ark was carried by dedicated priests (1 Chronicles 15:13), and the oxen were slaughtered. When the Ark reached Jerusalem, David gave food to every person there (1 Chronicles 16:3).
Here at Abarim Publications we believe that Uzzah was not killed because of his irreverence. He died because he was an integral part of a greater structure of irreverence that was headed by David. The name Perez-uzzah means The Defeat Of Might.