SUCCESS FOSTERS PRIDE WHICH OFTEN LEADS TO SELF-EXALTATION WHICH THEN RESULTS IN JUDGMENT
Raymond Dillard: The earlier history [2 Kings] had reported that Uzziah did “right” and enjoyed one of the longest reigns of the Judean kings. The Chronicler elaborates by demonstrating the tokens of divine blessing that Uzziah enjoyed; divine help, victory in warfare, a large army, wealth, fame, and building programs (26:5–15) are all items in the author’s usual repertoire for portraying the blessings that accrue to fidelity. For the Chronicler, however, such a righteous king should not have suffered a debilitating and disgraceful disease. Where the earlier history had reported Uzziah’s leprosy without comment (2 Kgs 15:5), the Chronicler explains the anomaly by reporting Uzziah’s pride and his cultic sin as the inciting reason for his disease.
Iain Duguid: Military successes, agricultural development, and defense buildup flowed from Uzziah’s decision to “seek God” (using darash; 26:5 [2x]), following instruction “in the fear of God” from an otherwise unknown Zechariah (vv. 5–15). At that time, “God helped him” (vv. 7, 15), matching his alternative name, Azariah (“the Lord helped”), so he became “strong” (vv. 8, 15).
The contrast is blunt: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God” (v. 16). His actions denied his name, Uzziah (“the Lord is my strength”). Then follows an occasion in which “the Lord struck him,” leading to a skin disease (vv. 16–21; cf. 2 Kings 15:5, which gives no reason). When he was rebuked for usurping a priestly function in the temple, he was “angry” (zaʻap, “rage”; 2 Chron. 26:19). As with his father and grandfather, past faithfulness and success did not guarantee continuing humility before God. God’s word was rejected.
Frederick Mabie: The forty-year overlap between the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel indicate a time of significant peace and prosperity for both kingdoms, aided by geopolitical realities such as weakness in Aram and regional distractions in Assyria. In addition to the prosperity of this period, the geographical extent of both Israel and Judah expanded considerably during the long reigns of these kings. In the northern kingdom, Jeroboam II extended the northern border of Israel to Lebo Hamath (including taking Damascus) and recaptured previously lost territory in Transjordan (cf. 2Ki 14:25, 28). In the southern kingdom, Uzziah was able to prevail over several Philistine cities in the west (including Gath and Ashdod), the Ammonites in the east, and Arabians and Meunites in the south. The Chronicler notes that these victories caused Uzziah’s fame to spread “as far as the border of Egypt” (26:8).
Uzziah also rebuilt the Judean maritime port at Elath (26:2; cf. 2Ki 14:22) and fortified the southern Negev and wilderness regions (2Ch 26:10). As a result of these territorial gains by Israel and Judah, the combined geographical extent of the northern and southern kingdoms approximated the extent seen at the height of the united monarchy under David and Solomon. Moreover, the resulting control of trade routes enhanced the prosperity of both Israel and Judah.
Martin Selman: This is the last of three successive reigns which concludes with a period of disobedience and disaster, and it seems that nothing is able to prevent Judah and their kings sliding into sin and judgment. Idolatry, rejection of the prophets, violence, and pride repeat themselves with devastating regularity.
(:1-5) PROLOGUE – OPENING SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF UZZIAH
A. (:1) Coronation by the People
“And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old,
and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah.”
August Konkel: Uzziah (2 Chron 26:1, etc.) is also known as Azariah. The names seem to be interchangeable. . . The difference may not have had significance, because both words from which the names are derived (‘zr and ‘zz) can mean “victory” or “strength.” The short form of Yahweh at the end of his name indicates it is the strength of God. . . The name of his mother (Jekoliah) similarly means the Lord (Yah) is able (ykl).
Martin Selman: Some difficulty is usually implied when the people (26:1) are involved in putting a new king on the throne (cf. 22:11; 33:25; 36:1), perhaps connected here with Amaziah’s defeat (cf. 25:21-24). However, the idea that the king could be chosen by the will of the people was never entirely lost in Judah.
B. (:2) Prosperity
“He built Eloth and restored it to Judah after the king slept with his fathers.”
Martin Selman: “Eloth” was an important port at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, very close to Ezion-Geber where Solomon and Jehoshaphat had kept ships (2 Chr. 8:17-18; 20:35-37). Uzziah’s reclaiming it for Judah signified two things.
– It brought Amaziah’s unfinished Edomite business to an end (2 Chr. 21:8-10; 25:11-12), and
– symbolized the beginning of a prosperity unparalleled in Judah since the days of Solomon.
C. (:3a) Age and Long Duration of Reign
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king,
and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem;”
D. (:3b) Identification of His Mother
“and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem.”
E. (:4-5) Positive Moral Evaluation
1. (:4) Overall Positive Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD
according to all that his father Amaziah had done.”
2. (:5a) Dependent on a Godly Counselor = Zechariah
“And he continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah,
who had understanding through the vision of God;”
Raymond Dillard: Uzziah, like Joash before him (24:2), had one particular adviser who helped him to remain faithful to Yahweh. Nothing more is known of this individual
, unless he is identified with the Zechariah who served as a witness for Isaiah (Isa 8:2); however, the statement that Uzziah sought Yahweh “during the days” of Zechariah is best understood as implying that he had died during the reign of Uzziah.
3. (:5b) Connection between Covenant Loyalty and Divine Prosperity
“and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him.”
Martin Selman: We read that, under Zechariah’s influence, the Lord gave Uzziah success. The Hebrew text reads literally: “the Lord God made him prosper.” The Hebrew verb used is tsalach, which literally means “to break out.” In some contexts the verb is related to the working of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, as in the case of Samson, about whom we read: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.”
I. (:6-15) THE IMPRESSIVE PROSPERITY OF UZZIAH
Iain Duguid: This section’s key theme is seen in the repetition of words from verses 7–8 in verse 15b:
– “fame” (Hb. shem, “name”),
– God’s “help” (ʻazar), and
– “strong” (khazaq).
Andrew Hill: The report of Uzziah’s prosperity (26:6–15) has no parallel in 2 Kings. The litany of achievements attesting divine favor include military victory over Judah’s archenemies (26:6–8), extensive building activity and agricultural bounty (26:9–10), and the marshalling of a large, well-trained, and well-equipped army (26:11–15). The unit is framed by a formula of prosperity that highlights Uzziah’s “fame” and “power” (26:8, 15). In combination these two epithets are a recipe for pride and eventual self-destruction, since a proud heart tends to “forget the LORD” (Deut. 8:14).
A. (:6-8) Impressive Foreign Campaigns – Assisted by God
Raymond Dillard: These verses summarize Uzziah’s foreign policy. His conquests were oriented to the west, south, and southeast, a fact that fits well with the rule of a powerful Jeroboam II to the north. Uzziah’s conquest of Jabneh suggests that he regained control of the area through which Jehoash of Israel had attacked his father Amaziah (25:21). Jabneh is probably to be equated with Jabneel (Josh 15:11); the site would later be called “Jamnia” and would become a leading center of Jewish learning and religious life after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Uzziah’s campaigns against the Philistines not only represented the on-going conflict of traditional enemies; no doubt Uzziah had the important strategic purpose of reasserting some control over the international coastal highway (“Via Maris”). A similar strategic goal to control a major artery of international commerce influenced the campaign against Elat (26:1–2).
Andrew Hill: It appears that economic concerns motivate King Uzziah’s imperialistic agenda. Wresting control of the coastal highway from the Philistines and the recapture of Elath (26:1–2) have significant implications for Judah’s role in international commerce.
J.A. Thompson: Significant conquests of Uzziah directed against Philistines and Arabs on his southwestern borders are not taken up. His conquests in these areas were strengthened by the construction of fortresses in conquered territory. The whole paragraph was intended to demonstrate how Uzziah prospered in foreign affairs. Military activity to the north was not possible because Jeroboam II was too strong for Uzziah.
1. (:6-7a) Campaigns against the Philistines
“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.
And God helped him against the Philistines,”
2. (:7-8a) Campaigns against the Arabians, the Meunites and the Ammonites
“and against the Arabians who lived in Gur-baal,
and the Meunites.
8 The Ammonites also gave tribute to Uzziah,”
3. (:8b) Two Benefits to Uzziah
“and his fame extended to the border of Egypt,”
“for he became very strong.”
Martin Selman: Two benefits accrue to Uzziah. The first is fame (vv. 8, 15), which associates him especially with David (cf. 1 Chr. 14:17; 17:8), and the second is that he became very powerful (vv. 8, 15). The latter often characterized the first part of a reign (cf. 2 Chr. 12:1; 17:1; 27:6), and may be a play here on Uzziah’s name (it means, “Yahweh is strong”).
B. (:9-10) Impressive Domestic Accomplishments – Building Projects and Agricultural Focus
1. (:9) Building Projects
“Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem
at the Corner Gate
and at the Valley Gate
and at the corner buttress
and fortified them.”
Andrew Hill: It also seems likely that some of the building activity is related to the restoration of destruction caused by the well-known earthquake during Uzziah’s reign (cf. Amos 1:1; Zech. 14:5).
2. (:10) Agricultural Focus
“And he built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain.”
Raymond Dillard: The towers provided defensive positions, but may also have served as storehouses and as refuge for workers tending fields or livestock (1 Chr 27:25–31).
“He also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country
and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil.”
Raymond Dillard: Because of his love of the soil (v 10), Uzziah could with justice be considered the patron saint of farming. After the rise of the monarchy in Israel, in addition to the landed property of free Israelites, there developed extensive crown lands through purchase, take over, or other means (1 Sam 8:12–14; 22:7; 1 Kgs 21; 2 Kgs 8:3–6; 1 Chr 27:25–31). These crown lands would have provided a source of supplies and trade commodities for the court, employment for those without other means, and could be granted as fiefs in reward for faithful service. Ordinarily only the poorest of the land served as vinedressers and laborers on royal estates (2 Kgs 24:14; 25:12; Jer 52:16; Jer 40:9–10; see Graham, BA 47  55–58; and Rainey, BASOR 245 ) 55–58).
J.A. Thompson: Many cisterns have been discovered that were in use in Uzziah’s time, judging from the debris found in them. A cistern was dug into the limestone and sealed with lime plaster to provide a continuing supply of water (Jer 2:13; 38:6) caught during rainstorms. There evidently was a sizeable group of workers tending Uzziah’s fields and pastures. The “fertile lands” (karmel) may be a place, Carmel (not to be confused with Mount Carmel in the north) south of Hebron (cf. 1 Sam 25). This verse gives an excellent summary of the agricultural zones and the agricultural activities in Judah, whose royal property (1 Sam 8:12-14; 22:7; 1 Kgs 21; 2 Kgs 8:3-6; 1 Chr 27:25-31) supported the king and provided rewards for faithful service.
C. (:11-15) Impressive Military Might
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler regards the maintenance of a large army by the king of Judah as a sign of God’s blessing. In addition to the militia levied by tribe and led by tribal chieftain or clan elder, Uzziah’s army includes another layer of leadership in the royal officials who function like chiefs of staff in today’s military parlance (2 Chron. 26:11). The organization of the militia into “divisions” (26:11) represents a new development in Israel’s military structure. The same is true for the armaments provided for the soldiers (26:14), since in earlier times the conscript was required to provide his own weapons (cf. Judg. 20:16-17; 1 Chron. 12:2, 8, 24). Thus, the reign of Uzziah witnesses the increasing sophistication of warfare as practiced by the Israelites.
1. (:11) Battle-Ready Organized Troops
“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.”
2. (:12-13) Large Number of Valiant Leaders and Elite Troops with Powerful Capabilities
a. (:12) Valiant Leaders
“The total number of the heads of the households,
of valiant warriors, was 2,600.”
b. (:13a) Elite Troops
“And under their direction was an elite army of 307,500,”
c. (:13b) Powerful Capabilities
“who could wage war with great power,
to help the king against the enemy.”
Martin Selman: The expression “to help the king” (v. 13, NRSV, RSV) is a deliberate echo of God’s help (vv. 7, 15), and is paralleled by similar assistance for David (1 Chr. 12:1, 18, 21-22), Solomon (1 Chr. 22:17), and Hezekiah (2 Chr. 32:3).
3. (:14-15a) Equipped with State of the Art Weaponry
a. (:14) Traditional Weapons
“Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones.”
b. (:15a) Innovative War Machines
“And 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.”
Iain Duguid: The “machines” may refer to structures or apparatuses on “the towers and the corners” (cf. v. 9) that protected archers and throwers.
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler suggests that Uzziah is an inventor of sorts, designing “machines” (26:15; or “inventions,” from the Heb. hsb, “to think”) for use in combat. The immediate context suggests that this new offensive weapon is a type of catapult.
4. (:15b) Two Benefits to Uzziah
“Hence his fame spread afar,”
b. Power – Assisted by God
“for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.”
Martin Selman: Verse 15 forms an inclusion with verses 7-8 by repeating the three key terms, fame, helped, and powerful/strong (v. 15), which characterize the section. The adverb “marvelously” (NRSV, RSV) or “wonderfully” (REB, NEB) always implies that God is the subject, cf. GNB, “the help he received from God” (cf. Isa. 28:29; 29:14; Joel 2:26; Ps. 31:21).
II. (:16-21) THE INCURABLE PRIDE OF UZZIAH LEADING TO SELF-EXALTATION AND JUDGMENT OF LEPROSY
A. (:16-18) Confronted over His Pride and Self-Exaltation
1. (:16) Root Problem of Pride and
Manifesting Transgression of Burning Incense
“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.”
G. Campbell Morgan: The history of men affords persistent witness to the subtle perils which are created by prosperity. More men are blasted by it than by adversity…. Prosperity always puts the soul in danger of pride, of the heart lifted up; and prid
e ever goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Thomas Constable: Unfortunately, Uzziah took personal credit for what God had given him (v. 16). The writer noted several times that Uzziah was strong (vv. 8, 15, 16). His pride led to self-exaltation; he put himself above God.
Iain Duguid: Unlike Hezekiah, who subsequently “humbled himself” (32:25, 26), or Jehoshaphat, whose “heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord” (17:6), Uzziah demonstrated an arrogant angry disregard for God’s requirements in worship, and there is no mention of any repentance despite his “destruction” (a form of shakhat, “spoil, mar, ruin”).
August Konkel: Incense was widely used in ancient worship. In the temple, incense symbolized the appeasement of divine wrath; it expressed the presence of the holy within the common and protected the worshiper from the divine presence. Offering incense was one of the daily rituals of temple confession.
J.A. Thompson: The word translated “became powerful” provides the link to the previous section. It also gives an insight regarding the character of Uzziah and of all strong leaders. He had always been a strong leader, and this had enabled him to do great works. He had not been one of the weak kings of Judah who was easily swayed by others (like Jehoshaphat) or too open and accommodating with the leaders in the north. But as is often the case with strong leaders, this virtue gave way to a headstrong, I-can-do-no-wrong attitude. It was precisely his strength that blinded him to the effrontery of his action. Uzziah’s pride was expressed in usurping the role of the priest. The verb translated “was unfaithful” (ma’al) is used frequently in Chronicles (1 Chr 2:7; 5:25; 28:19-25; 29:6; 36:14) for various serious violations of covenant loyalty and responsibilities. Only the priests were to burn incense (Exod 30:1-10; Num 16:40; 18:1-7).
2. (:17-18) Rebuke by the Company of Priests and Commanded to Depart the Temple
“Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. 18 And 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.’”
Frederick Mabie: Although potentially risking their lives, a group of eighty priests confront Uzziah with the covenantal requirements concerning incense and declare that his unfaithfulness will jeopardize God’s blessing on his rule. Uzziah’s lack of a godly response to the rebuke from the priests will lead to his inability to discharge fully his regnal responsibilities (cf. vv. 19-21).
Martin Selman: Uzziah’s problem was that he was not content with the authority God had given him and wanted to add more priestly functions to his royal power. Absolute power, however, has no place in God’s kingdom, for at least two reasons. Effective biblical leadership is always aware that it is a gift rather than a possession, and it always involves some kind of partnership or team dimension. For these and other reason, Jesus’ own leadership was chiefly characterized by obedient servanthood. Unfortunately, Uzziah’s prosperity made him blind as to how generous God had been, and, when he tried to take a leadership gift that was not his, even what he had was taken away (cf. Luke 19:25).
B. (:19-20) Cursed by God with Incurable Leprosy
1. (:19a) Angry Response to the Rebuke
“But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense,
2. (:19b) Outbreak of Leprosy
“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.”
Raymond Dillard: Uzziah’s sin was a cultic transgression and brings immediate retribution in the appearance of a skin disease; Uzziah’s pride brought him to usurp the honor or glory of the priest’s role, but he would receive no honor (v 18) from the Lord. Just as a cultic sin produced a plague in the wilderness (Num 16:46–50), so also Uzziah was punished with a disease. It was the offering of incense that formed the climax of the condemnation of Jeroboam (1 Kgs 12:33; Williamson, 339). The Chronicler has similarly shown disease as a consequence of transgression in the cases of Asa and Jehoram (16:12–13; 21:12–19).
3. (:20a) Visible Curse Marking Him as Unclean
“And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead;”
4. (:20b) Urgent Exit from the Holy Temple
“and they hurried him out of there,
and he himself also hastened to get out
because the LORD had smitten him.”
Iain Duguid: his forehead revealed an infectious skin disease that made him unclean, necessitating his rapid removal from the temple. It seems Uzziah himself was terrified as “he himself hurried to go out,” realizing the dangers of his breaking first the “holy-profane” and now “clean-unclean” distinctions (cf. Lev. 10:10–11). He lived the rest of his life quarantined “in a separate house,” relieved of royal duties. In his royal “pride” he sought to take on the special access of a priestly role, but instead he was now “excluded from the house of the Lord.”
Frederick Mabie: Ironically, while Uzziah refuses to leave the temple when confronted by the priests, he becomes “eager to leave” in the light of God’s judgment through a skin disease.
C. (:21) Cut Off from the Temple and from the Throne
“And 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.”
(:22-23) EPILOGUE – CLOSING SUMMARY OF REIGN OF UZZIAH
A. (:22) Record of His Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first to last,
the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, has written.”
B. (:23a) Death and Burial
“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.’”
Iain Duguid: The Chronicler still mentions that Uzziah was “buried with his fathers” but adds that it was in a “burial field,” probably adjacent to the royal tombs themselves. His final description expresses isolation: “He is a leper.” The proverb that summarizes Uzziah’s reign is succinct: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
C. (:23b) Succession
“And Jotham his son became king in his place.”