The Word Made Fresh
1The people of Judah then made Amaziah’s son, Uzziah, king. He was sixteen years old. 2He restored Eloth for Judah after Amaziah was buried. 3He reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4He followed the way of the LORD as his father Amaziah had done. 5He was determined to search the ways of the LORD under Zechariah’s tutelage. Zechariah taught him to fear God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God allowed him to be prosperous.
6He went to war with the Philistines and tore down the walls around Gath and Jabneh and Ashdod. He built towns in the territory of Ashdod and other places among the Philistines, 7for God helped him overcome the Philistines, the Arabs in Gur-baal and the Meunites. 8Then the Ammonites paid taxes to Uzziah and he was famous all the way to Egypt for he had become very powerful. 9He also built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, the Valley Gate, and at the Angle and stationed troops there. 10He built other towers in the countryside and dug many cisterns to provide water for his numerous herds in the Shephelah and in the plains. He had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and fields, because he himself had the heart of a planter. 11He also had a trained army prepared for war, organized in sections corresponding to the divisions of the troops his secretary Jeiel and his general Maaseiah recommended under the direction of general Hananiah whom the king had placed over the army. 12There were two thousand six hundred officers descended from the noted warriors in their clans. 13They had at their command three hundred seven thousand five hundred troops, a powerful army, to help the king against their enemies. 14King Uzziah armed them with shields, spears, helmets, armor, bows and stones for slings. 15He set up weapons, designed by his workers, on the towers and at the corners that could shoot arrows and cast huge stones.
His fame spread far and wide because of the way he was helped, until he became strong. 16When he became strong he also became proud, which was his downfall. He offended the LORD his God by entering the LORD’s temple to make an offering on the incense altar. 17The priest Azariah followed him in with eighty of the LORD’s priests who were brave men. 18They defied king Uzziah. They said, “It is not for you to make offerings to the LORD; only the priests, who are the descendants of Aaron, are allowed to do so. Leave the sanctuary. You have done wrong, and the LORD God will not honor you.”
19Uzziah was angry then. He had a burning censer in his hand to make an offering, but when he became angry with the priests leprosy appeared on his forehead in the LORD’s temple by the incense altar. 20The chief priest Azariah and the other priests saw the leprosy and they hurried him out because he had been stricken by the LORD.
21Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died and had to live in a separate house because he had been wrong to enter the LORD’s house. His son Jotham was placed in charge of the palace and governed the people.
22The rest of Uzziah’s deeds from beginning to end were recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 23Uzziah died and was buried near his ancestors in the cemetery that belonged to the kings because he had leprosy. His son Jotham succeeded him.
1-5: Uzziah (an alternate form of the name Azariah – see 2 Kings 14:21 and 1 Chronicles 3:12) comes to the throne at age 16 and rules for 52 years. Here is another example of a reign that receives a lot of attention in 2 Chronicles (the whole of chapter 26) but little attention in 2 Kings (2 Kings 15:1-7). Early on he reestablishes control over the seaport of Eloth (or Elath) on the Red Sea. The priest Zechariah (not to be confused with the prophet by the same name) is his spiritual tutor, and Uzziah makes a good start.
6-15: Uzziah’s faith is judged to play a large part in his considerable successes – military victories over the Philistines, Arabs, and Meunites; impressive building projects; the strength of his armies; and technological developments for the defense of Jerusalem. Verse 15, however, signals a turning point: “His fame spread far and wide because of the way he was helped, until he became strong.”
16-21: Then one day, being the powerful, successful, prosperous King of Judah, he decides that he is at least as special as the high priest and so he enters the most holy place in the temple to burn incense before the LORD. The priest Azariah and 80 other priests (wow!) charge in after him and hustle him out. The king is at first angry, but then feels something on his forehead that frightens him and so he does not try to resist them. He is diagnosed with leprosy and has to live in isolation the rest of his life, although we are not told how long this is. His son Jotham becomes the acting regent.
22-23: It is said that Uzziah’s reign is recorded by the prophet Isaiah, but that record is lost except for a couple of references (Isaiah 1:1, 6:1). Uzziah is also mentioned by three other prophets: Hosea (1:1), Amos (1:1), and Zechariah (14:5). They lived much later, but a great earthquake that occurred during the reign of Uzziah is an event that is only mentioned briefly at Zechariah 14:5. Uzziah is buried in a field owned by the royal family but not with the other kings because of his leprosy.
Why do people so often forsake their faith when they become prosperous and powerful, when it was their faith that gave them the qualities that helped them to become prosperous and powerful in the first place?