2 Chronicles 26


Judah’s King Uzziah (26:3-23)

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The Chronicler reproduces most of this section of 2 Kings, but splices it with a lengthy passage of his own material (2 Chron 26:5-20a) illustrating God’s blessing on Uzziah’s reign (792-740 BC) and recounting the cause of his downfall. As with his presentation of Joash and Amaziah, the Chronicler has divided Uzziah’s reign into two parts: a period of faithfulness, and blessing, followed by sin and punishment. The language (‘to seek God,’ ‘prosper,’ ‘God helped him,’ ‘fame’) and the motifs of blessing (military success, building projects, armed forces) are all characteristic of the Chronicler’s style and thought, and they carry a sober message. The chapter is essentially a sermon on the dangers of pride: Uzziah’s God-given success leads him into presumption, seeking an office of spiritual leadership that could never rightly be his.”

Military and Economic Achievements

      • Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was 16 years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah. After his father rested with his ancestors, Uzziah rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah.

        • ESV Study Bible points out, “Uzziah is also called by the variant form of ‘Azariah’ in 2 Kings 15:1, 6-7; 1 Chron 3:12 (but cf 2 Kings 15:13, 30, 32, 34 where he is called Uzziah). The Chronicler’s preference for ‘Uzziah’ may be in order to avoid confusion with the chief priest Azariah in 2 Chron 26:17-20.”

      • Uzziah was 16 years old when he became king and he ruled for 52 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jekoliah and she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in Yahweh’s eyes just as his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God throughout Zechariah’s lifetime. It was Zechariah who taught him how to fear God. As long as he sought Yahweh, God gave him success.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The fifty-two years of Uzziah’s reign (792-740 BC) included a long co-regency with his father, Amaziah (from 792-767 BC), and a co-regency with his son Jotham (from 750-740 BC).”

        • ESV Study Bible points out, “Zechariah acted as a religious adviser to Uzziah, as Jehoiada had done for Joash…Nothing else is known about this Zechariah. He is not the same Zechariah of 24:20-21 or the author of the canonical book Zechariah, who began his prophetic ministry in 520 BC.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “The name Uzziah…appears on two seals belonging to his royal officials. The first is a red limestone scarab seal from the eighth century BC. One side of the seal depicts a male figure wearing a kilt and a wig and holding a scepter in his left hand while raising his right in a gesture of submission or adoration. The accompanying inscription reads, ‘Belonging to Shebanyau.’ The opposite side is decorated with two winged solar discs. Between them the inscription reads, ‘Belonging to Shebanyau, servant of Uzziyau.’ The second seal also bears an inscription, ‘Belonging to Abiyau, servant of Uzziyau.’”

      • He waged war against the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod. Then he built cities in the vicinity of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines, the Arabs who lived in Gur Baal, and the Meunites. The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread all the way to the border of Egypt because he had become very powerful.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “Uzziah’s victory over the Philistines in the west and southwest were reinforced by building settlements in these conquered territories. The Arabians (or ‘Arabs’) and Meunites (see 20:1) were nomadic groups in the south.”

      • Uzziah built and fortified towers at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the Angle. He also built towers in the wilderness and dug many wells because he had many herds in the foothills and on the plain. And since he loved the soil, he had workers in the fields and in the vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Uzziah repaired damage done to Jerusalem’s walls by Jehoash in his campaign against Amaziah; Uzziah might also have repaired damage from the famous earthquake during his time (Amos 1:1; Zech 14:5). Towers and cisterns from excavations in Qumran, Gibeah, Beersheba, and other sites date to this period. Uzziah was a patron of agriculture, a vital industry for an independent society.”

        • On the “Angle,” NET Bible says, “On the meaning of the Hebrew word …(miqtsoaʿ), see HALOT 628 s.v. …The term probably refers to an ‘angle’ or ‘corner’ somewhere on the eastern wall of Jerusalem.”

        • The same source clarifies the location of “the foothills,” which many translations render as the “Shephelah,” “The foothills (…shphelah) are the region between the Judean hill country and the Mediterranean coastal plain.”

      • Uzziah had an army of skilled warriors trained for battle. They were organized by divisions, according to their assignments as recorded by Jeiel, who was the secretary, and Maaseiah, who was the officer under the authority of Hananiah, who was one of the king’s officials. There was a total of 2,600 heads of the families, brave warriors. They commanded an army of 307,500 skilled and trained men who were a powerful force to support the king against his enemies. Uzziah supplied shields, spears, helmets, armor, bows, and slingstones for the entire army. In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to shoot arrows and large stones from the towers and corners of the walls. His fame spread far and wide because he was marvelously helped, until he became powerful.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “Machines or ‘inventions’ are implements of war from which men hurled projectiles in defense of the city. Murals from the siege of Lachish (701 BC) show defenders of the city walls shooting arrows and hurling stones from behind wooden frames on which shields have been hung.”

        • Guzik remarks, “At the end of this extended section praising and promoting the goodness of Uzziah’s reign, we read this ominous word. At some point in his success, he began to turn from God’s help and began to trust in his own strength.” He cites Selman, ““The chief reason for Uzziah’s success is God’s help. This is a special word in Chronicles (cf.e.g. 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 14:10; 25:8) whose meaning is equivalent in the New Testament to the enabling work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 8:26; 2 Timothy 1:14; cf. Acts 26:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:2).”

Uzziah’s Pride and Punishment

      • But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to Yahweh his God, and he entered Yahweh’s house to burn incense on the incense altar. Azariah the priest along with 80 other valiant priests of Yahweh followed him in. They confronted King Uzziah and said to him, “Uzziah, you have no right to offer incense to Yahweh. Only Aaron’s descendants, the consecrated priests, have the right to offer incense. Leave the sanctuary, because you have acted unfaithfully, and Yahweh God will not honor you.” Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had an incense censor in his hand, and when he became angry with the priests, a skin disease appeared on his forehead right there in front of the priests in Yahweh’s house, in front of the incense altar. When Azariah the high priest and the other priests looked at him, there was a skin disease on his forehead! They hurried him out of there. Indeed, the king himself was eager to leave quickly because Yahweh had afflicted him. King Uzziah suffered from a skin disease until the day he died. He lived in separate quarters, afflicted by a skin disease, and banned from Yahweh’s house. His son Jotham was in charge of the king’s house and ruled over the people of the land.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Unfaithful translates Hebrew ma’al…It carries the sense of affronting God’s holiness (as in a violated oath; see Lev 6:1-7) or failing to accord him his due in worship. Uzziah impugned God’s holiness by trespassing on the temple, which was for the priests and Levites only, and by seeking to offer incense, a duty reserved for the priests alone (see Ex 30:1-10; Num 16:40). In his pride, he wished to have spiritual as well as political authority over the people. Uzziah’s presumptuous act recalls Korah’s rebellion (Num 16:1-40). Azariah’s rebuke still offers Uzziah the chance to repent and leave, and it is only in the course of his angry, impenitent outburst against the priests that the king is struck with a skin disease. Because he was a leper to the day of his death…King Uzziah was not buried in the normal royal tombs of Jerusalem but in a field. A stone plaque was found in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, from the Second Temple period that bears the inscription, ‘Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Do not open!’ It may be that the king’s bones were moved to the Mount of Olives many centuries after his death.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The leprosy forced King Uzziah to spend the rest of his life in quarantine in a separate house (literally a free house). The significance of this term is not known; it is often interpreted to mean that he was free from the duties of the monarchy. In Ugaritic texts, it seems to be a euphemism for a place of total confinement.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible includes an article titled “Violation of Sacred Space.” The following are excerpts:

          • Ever since Eden, humans have attempted to take God’ sacred space as their own (Gen 2:15-17; 3:1-6). When King Uzziah entered the Temple to burn incense…he violated the sanctuary that God had set apart for his own presence. In terms of function of the Temple, this violation was no trivial matter.”

          • The Temple represented God’s sacred presence in creation. So all of its rituals needed to reflect its status as sacred and set apart for God alone. This meant that no one could enter it to make offerings except for those anointed for the task. The kings of Israel (unlike kings of other ancient Near Eastern cultures) were excluded from the sacred space because they were only anointed for the secular function of government. The king of Israel was not a priest. He was not God’s representative in sacred matters nor (as in other cultures) a god himself. He was a servant of God taken from among his brothers to administer the covenant in the community (Deut 17:18-19).”

        • Guzik adds, “Uzziah would not listen to the Biblical commands and customs that forbade him to enter the temple and offer incense. He would not listen to the rebuke and warning from the priests. Yet he did listen to the judgment of God against him, and he finally hurried to get out. Uzziah came into the temple as an arrogant king, and he left as a humbled leper and stayed that way for the remainder of his life. He could not even go into the outer courts of the temple which were once open to him as to other worshippers (he was cut off from the house of the LORD). In overstepping this boundary, he found his freedom more restricted than ever before.”

      • The rest of the events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah, who was Amoz’s son. Uzziah rested with his ancestors and was buried near his ancestors in a burial field that belonged to the kings because, as the people said, “He has a skin disease.” His son Jotham succeeded him as king.

        • HCSB says, “The Chonicler’s source is not the canonical book of Isaiah, but some other record. We know that Isaiah had a government position and had access to government records, as well as being an eyewitness to Uzziah’s reign. It was in the year that Uzziah died that Isaiah was called by the Lord to become his prophet (Is 6:1).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible remarks, “Several prophets were active during Uzziah’s reign. Amos and Hosea both prophesied during his life (Hos 1:1; Amos 1:1), even though most of their oracles were directed toward the northern kingdom.”

Image via ESV Study Bible p. 778

Image via NLT Illustrated Study Bible p. 818

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