In this chapter and the ten following chapters we have the history of Uzziah and ten other kings. In the days of these kings most prophesy prophets of whom we have a bible book. This concerns both the so-called great and little prophets. What is written in the books of these prophets sheds light on these eleven chapters. It is highly recommended to read and take to heart the books of the prophets.
In this chapter we have again two parts. The first part shows an ascending line, containing the power and prosperity of Uzziah (verses 1-15). The second part shows a descending line, containing the pride, sickness and death of Uzziah (verses 16-23).
1 - 5 Uzziah King of Judah
1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who [was] sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Eloth and restored it to Judah after the king slept with his fathers. 3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem. 4 He did right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him.
When Amaziah is killed, Uzziah becomes king (verse 1). He becomes that in a special way, namely because “all the people of Judah” make him king. This remarkable state of affairs may indicate that in Jerusalem there are other thoughts regarding the succession. But God here uses the will of the people to keep a lamp burning for David’s house. Uzziah – also called Azariah (2Kgs 15:1-7) – is only sixteen years old when he becomes king.
The first act described of Uzziah is that he builds the port of Eloth or Elath and brings it back under the authority of Judah (verse 2). Eloth is important for sea trade. The fact that he does this “after the king slept with his fathers” probably refers to the death of the king of Edom. Restoration of lost territory can only take place if the LORD is recognized in His authority.
God is the God of restoration. When He gives restoration, it is to make us spiritually stronger through it. We also see this with Peter, who after his restoration is used by the Lord to strengthen his brothers (Lk 22:31-32). Peter was restored by Him after his denial of the Lord and strengthened his brothers in their faith through his letters.
Again it is said that Uzziah is sixteen years old when he becomes king (verse 3; verse 1). That emphasizes his age. It shows that God attaches great value to young people who want to live for Him. We have other examples of this in Joshua, Samuel, Solomon, Joash and Timothy. Uzziah is, apart from Manasseh, the longest reigning king. He reigns no less than fifty-two years, from 791-740 BC. His mother’s name is also mentioned, together with the place where she comes from. As is customary with mothers, she has had a great influence on his development. She will also have helped him to do his job well during his first years in reign.
The reign of Uzziah is described by comparing it with the reign of his father (verse 4). He does, like his father Amaziah, what is right in the sight of the LORD. This is, as with his father, the first part of his life, for at the end of his life he, like his father, departs from the LORD.
Uzziah is doing well as long as he seeks the LORD (verse 5). He is helped by someone, as happened with his grandfather Joash (2Chr 24:2). Uzziah has someone in Zechariah “who had understanding through the vision of God”. Zechariah must have had a special relationship with God. The right teaching comes from fellowship with God in the sanctuary, not from a theological college. It is a great blessing for Uzziah to have such a man next to him. Such a situation is a rarity (2Chr 15:3).
There is a task for older, spiritual believers to teach young believers to see God by reading His Word, for He reveals Himself in His Word. It is also necessary to teach young believers to seek God in prayer. It is to be hoped that young believers recognize the great privilege of such exhortations and act accordingly. There is also a great responsibility here for fathers in relation to their children.
6 - 15 Military and Agricultural Prosperity
6 Now he went out and warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in [the area of] Ashdod and among the Philistines. 7 God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians who lived in Gur-baal, and the Meunites. 8 The Ammonites also gave tribute to Uzziah, and his fame extended to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the corner buttress and fortified them. 10 He built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. [He also had] plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army ready for battle, which entered combat by divisions according to the number of their muster, prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the official, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officers. 12 The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600. 13 Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. 15 In Jerusalem he made engines [of war] invented by skillful men to be on the towers and on the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones. Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he [was] strong.
The LORD blesses him further with victories and prosperity. He has military and agricultural blessing. First there is military blessing. Uzziah’s first acts of war are directed against the Philistines (verse 6). These enemies are closest to him. They live in the border area and are a constant threat. They are a picture of the nominal Christians, people who are also a great threat to the true Christians, because they are so close to the true Christians in their confession, while their hearts are far from the truth.
Uzziah breaks down the walls of some cities of the Philistines. In the spiritual sense, it suggests that the arguments that nominal Christians use for their erroneous teachings and wrong practices are unmasked and rejected by God’s Word. We can think of the foolish reasoning that God is love and that ‘thus’ all love is from God. This is without shame applied to, for example, a homo-sexual relationship. But God’s Word condemns such a relationship. Uzziah is helped by God (verse 7). We can also count on His help when we resist the enemies of God and His Word. Such action compels respect (verse 8).
After dealing with the threats from outside Uzziah focuses on his land. He also starts there with buildings to protect God’s center of worship. Hostile powers are particularly concerned with this. Therefore Uzziah builds some towers in Jerusalem and fortifies them (verse 9). Towers are lookout points to signal possible danger from afar, so that precautions can be taken. We can compare these towers to the warnings in the New Testament where we are told to look out for or heed people with wrong teachings and practices (Acts 20:28; 1Tim 4:16).
Uzziah is not only active in the city and for God’s sanctuary, but also in the wilderness (verse 10a). Our lives do not only take place in the sanctuary, but also in the world. Towers are also needed in the wilderness, which means that vigilance is required in our daily lives (1Pet 5:8). Furthermore, Uzziah hews many cisterns in the wilderness to water the much livestock he has. We also need the refreshment from God’s Word to keep our service to the Lord in offering sacrifices – for which livestock, among other things, serve – fresh. That takes effort, we have to ‘hew’ or dig for it into the Word of God.
The life of Uzziah not only consists of defending and surviving in the wilderness, but his heart also goes out to the hill country and the fertile fields (verse 10b). His heart goes out to the same as where God’s heart goes out to (Deu 11:12). He loves God, He loves the land and He loves the people. Uzziah is a king-farmer with plowmen and vinedressers who he uses on the hill country and the fertile fields. It is his concern to harvest the rich fruit of the land as a sacrifice to God (Deu 26:6-11) and as food for the people (Ecc 5:8).
In this way the Lord also wants to use us as plowmen and vinedressers. This happens when we occupy ourselves with His Word in order to gather from it the rich fruit for which we want to worship Him and share it with His own. That works food and joy.
Then the chronicler returns to Uzziah’s army (verse 11). Thereby the reference to Uzziah’s love of agriculture is enclosed by two communications about his military strength. It tells us that we can only enjoy the riches of the land, the fruits it produces – these are for us the blessings of the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3) – if we are capable fighters for the truth. We must be strong “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Tim 2:1) and “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Tim 2:3) fight the battle.
In battle, “the total number of the heads of the households” (verse 12) is needed, no one may be missing, no one may evade it. These are those who occupy a responsible place in God’s people. They are themselves valiant warriors and have command over “an elite army …, who could wage war with great power” (verse 13). It is also important in the spiritual struggle we are facing that there are good examples and good followers. The entire army must “help the king against the enemy”. Thus the Lord Jesus uses the believers to resist the enemy in his attempts to attack the church and deprive it of its blessings.
Uzziah has prepared for all the army – there is emphatically “all the army” – with all possible weapons to defend and attack (verse 14). The weapons made available to us by the Lord Jesus are not carnal, but spiritual (2Cor 10:3-5; Eph 6:10-18). Uzziah pays special attention to Jerusalem in order to strengthen the city with engines of war (verse 15a). Jerusalem is the center of worship and therefore the great target of enemy attacks. Uzziah realizes that and for that reason makes a fortress of the city. A place of worship is therefore also a protected and therefore safe place.
The tools of war are “invented by skillful men”. It requires a special ability to devise a spiritual defense system for attacks on the center of Christian life, the worship of the Father. This defense system is found in the Word of God. If we arm ourselves with God’s Word, we will see the attacks coming and we will also know how to repel them. Every believer must know his own weaknesses and be particularly vigilant there.
All the activities of Uzziah that we have seen before, give him a fame that is widely known. He owes this not to himself and his efforts, but to the LORD who “marvelously helped” him. That has brought him to a height of fame and power. The last words of verse 15b, introduced with the word “until”, are a turning point and herald a dramatic change.
16 - 18 Uzziah Becomes Proud
16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. 18 They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.”
Man often does not know how to deal with adversity or prosperity. Uzziah forgets that he owes his prosperity and strength to the LORD. When he has become strong, his heart becomes proud (verse 16). And “pride [goes] before destruction” (Pro 16:18b). Pride leads to destruction. Uzziah believes that he can enter the sanctuary and behave as a king-priest. Authority and power in the realm of the kingship given to him by God leads to the temptation to be able to exercise authority and power in a realm that God has not given him.
In his audacity he moderates himself to the fact that he can burn incense. This happens in the sanctuary. He does so without having received any instruction from God. On the contrary, it is contrary to God’s statutes. God has determined that only priests may enter the sanctuary. God’s Word says he acts “corruptly”. Uzziah’s sin is different from that of his father and grandfather. Joash and Amaziah have transgressed by idolatry, removing, as it were, themselves from the sanctuary. Uzziah, on the other hand, enters the sanctuary and thereby becomes an offender. We are always inclined to fall into extremes.
Uzziah is sooner in the sanctuary than the priests. But the priests, under Azariah’s request, follow him (verse 17). They are called “valiant men”. Men who stand up for the glory of God are valiant men, especially when they stand up against the most powerful man of Judah. No man, however distinguished, should be allowed to grasp what God has not given him.
The pride of Uzziah manifests itself in the field of service to God. We can compare that with the revolt of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Num 16:1-3). Uzziah places himself on a pedestal. This is happening today everywhere in Christianity where Christians adopt a religious position and conduct themselves in a religious manner, without taking into account God’s regulations.
Boldly, the priests oppose Uzziah the king (verse 18). They point out to him what the LORD has determined about the incense. He should not go into the sanctuary and command him to leave. That he is there proves that he is unfaithful to the LORD. They will not be misled by all the good things Uzziah has done for the LORD. These good things are no excuse for the priests not to point out to Uzziah his unfaithfulness.
That is a lesson for us. We are inclined not to blame one who has done much good. But it is not about how we look at someone and his actions, but about how God judges certain actions. There is praise for the good, and there is admonition for the wrong.
19 - 21 Uzziah Becomes a Leper
19 But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. 20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he [was] leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. 21 King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son [was] over the king’s house judging the people of the land.
Uzziah is furious at the priests who reprimand him (verse 19). There he stands, with the censer in his hand and planning to do something beautiful. If he is busy there with a religious act, something he feels good about, he is told by a few ‘sharpeners’ that he may not do this! He, the great man, blessed by God! Where do they get the audacity from? For him, the priests are people who take the Bible far too literally. They leave you no room to experience faith in your own way.
Uzziah cannot be persuaded. In reality he resists God’s statutes. While he erupts in anger against the priests, leprosy breaks out in him, on his forehead. The forehead speaks of the thinking of man, his mind. It symbolizes that the mind rules over the things of God. It represents the over-estimation of human reason in serving God.
Uzziah has his own thoughts about what he can do in the service of God and follows these thoughts. The conditions under which the leprosy breaks out are described in more detail. It happens “before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense”. The circumstances in which he sinned make his sin very serious.
God could have smitten Uzziah with all kinds of illnesses or even death, but He smites him with leprosy. Leprosy is a picture of the sin that breaks out in man. In the Old Testament we encounter three persons with whom leprosy breaks out. First there is Miriam. She moderates herself to have the same authority as Moses (Num 12:1-10). We also see it with Gehazi. Gehazi is not satisfied with being a servant; he wants to be lord (2Kgs 5:20-27). Here we see it with Uzziah. In all three cases, pride plays a role.
The chief priest Azariah hurry him out (verse 20). Also “all the priests”, with Azariah, turn against Uzziah. This is also how it should be if in the church’s own self-will becomes public. All members of the church, all of whom are priests, should have the same aversion to sin as the Lord Jesus, the true Chief Priest. Because of the location Uzziah also realizes that he has committed a foolishness. He does not resist his eviction, but participates in it by rushing to leave the LORD’s house.
Azariah means ‘the LORD is my help’. Uzziah means ‘the LORD is my strength’. The name of his father Amaziah means ‘whom the LORD has strengthened’. The name of his mother Jechiliah (verse 3) means ‘fortified by the LORD’. Everything with Uzziah speaks of the power of the LORD. If he had remained aware of this and had not relied on his own strength, he would not have had to live in separation until the day of his death (verse 21). He is deprived of the service to God and also of fellowship with the members of God’s people (Lev 13:46). During this time of separation, he was able to think a lot about what he had done, in order to come to terms with God.
22 - 23 The Death of Uzziah
22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first to last, the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, has written. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son became king in his place.
For the rest of Uzziah’s history, the chronicler does not refer as usual to the archives of the kings, the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, but to what Isaiah wrote about him (verse 22). Isaiah investigated the long reign of Uzziah and described it. In the book of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit has only written down from that description what is useful for us to know.
When Uzziah dies, he is buried in a place resulting from his leprosy (verse 23). He is not buried with the kings, but “in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings”, probably an adjacent field. His son Jotham becomes king in his place.
In the year of Uzziah’s death Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets of Israel, is called to his service (Isa 1:1; 6:1). On that occasion Isaiah sees the glory of the LORD, that is the glory of the Lord Jesus (Isa 6:1; Jn 12:41). In the light of that glory is not only Uzziah, but the whole people and also Isaiah unclean. But there is also reconciliation (Isa 6:5-7).
We can find a lot in the book of the prophet Isaiah about the time that comes in Israel after Uzziah’s death and about the spiritual state of the people. The prophet Hosea also preaches at that time and his prophecy also sheds light on the spiritual condition of the people (Hos 1:1).