People like to name things. People, pets, and places are obvious, but even things acquire names. In the UK, houses have names as well. Some like to call their cars or tools by a term of endearment (or not).
In the Old Testament, it was not unusual for people to create place names after a quality of God (or gods). One of the names David gives a battlefield in honor of his God comes back to haunt him.
When David became king over Israel (having ruled Judah earlier), he solidified his kingdom by capturing Jerusalem, held until then by the Jebusites. He also defeated the Philistines twice when they came up against him.
After his first victory over them, David declared, “The Lord has burst out against my enemies like water bursts out.” With that metaphor in mind, he called the battlefield Baal-Perazim, which means “The Lord of the Outbursts” (2 Samuel 5:20 NET). Apparently, the defeat of the Philistines was so sudden and drastic that they abandoned their idols on the field (v. 21).
But soon David learns that the Lord of the Outbursts can break out against his own people when they presume upon his good graces. When he decides to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he loads it onto a new cart to carry it (2 Samuel 6:3). The law had specified that the Levites were to carry it on poles and that it was not to be touched. Either David and his people were ignorant of this law or considered it unimportant.
Whatever the case, when the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, Uzzah “reached out and grabbed hold of the ark of God” (v. 6). His intention was to steady the ark so it wouldn’t fall. But God was angered by the action, for it profaned one of the most sacred things in Israel. So “he killed him on the spot for his negligence. He died right there beside the ark of God” (v. 7).
What Uzzah considered zeal and concern for God’s ark was actually negligence, because neither he nor anyone else that day bothered to consult the Lord about how to transport the ark.
The Lord’s action was so sudden (“on the spot”) and drastic that David was angered by it and called the place Perez-Uzzah (v. 8). The name means “the outburst [against] Uzzah.”
The same God who burst out against the enemies of Israel like water bursts out from a spring did not hesitate to burst out against a son of Abinadab in Judah. Just because Uzzah was an Israelite did not give him immunity from obeying the commandments of God. On the contrary, he should have know better and was thus held responsible for his action.
Christians must not presume that God will overlook disobedience or ignorance, when he has spoken his will to them. Negligence of knowing his word or disregard of his commandments will bring judgment from the Lord of the Outbursts.
It would be wonderful if no more places of disobedience were called by the name Outburst.
David’s use of the word “outburst” in two place names reveals much about the character of God.