II Chronicles 26

 

 

The twenty-three verses of this chapter, entirely occupied with the career

of Uzziah, have to be content with a parallel of nine verses only, viz.

II Kings 14:21-22; 15:1-7. Our chapter first glances at the usual prefatory

particulars of the age, pedigree, length of reign, kind of character, and

choice between virtue and vice of the new king (vs. 1-5; but note the

remarkable appearance of v. 2, looking as though it had strayed). Next,

of his good works (vs. 6-15). Next, of his fall through most gratuitous

presumptuous sin,” and its decisive crushing visitation of punishment

(vs. 16-21). Lastly, of his death and burial (vs. 22-23). The nine verses

of the parallel instanced above answer respectively:

 

Ø      21-22 to our vs. 1-2;

Ø      1-3, to our vs. 1, 3, 4;

Ø      5, to our v. 21; and

Ø      6-7, to our vs. 22-23.

 

That our chapter should abound in interest, and such solemn interest,

awakens the more thought [as to the causes of the absence of so much of

its most interesting matter in the Book of Kings.

 

1 “Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years

old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.”

Uzziah; Hebrew, עֻזִּיָּה. (signifying “Strength of Jehovah”).

Once in Chronicles, and once only (I Chronicles 3:12), this king’s

name is given Azariah, Hebrew, עֲזַרְיָה (signifying “Help of Jehovah”) or

עֲזַרְיָהוּ; and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1, etc.), Hosea (Hosea 1:1, etc.), and

Amos (Amos 1:1, etc.) always use the word Uzziah. In the parallel,

however, and in both the chapters in which the parallel clauses lie, the

word Azariah is used, as well in other clauses as in those (e.g. II Kings

15:1, 6, 8, 23, 27), yet Uzziah is also used in verses intermingled with them

(e.g. 13, 30, 32, 34). It is probable that Azariah was the first-used name,

that the latter name was not a corruption of the former, but that, for

whatever reason, the king was called by both names. Nevertheless, the apt

analogy that has been pointed out of Uzziel (I Chronicles 25:4) and

Azareel (18) is noteworthy. Sixteen years old. Therefore Uzziah must have

been born just before the fatal outside mistake of his father’s life in the

challenge he sent to Joash of Israel, and after the deadly inner mistake

of his soul in turning aside to “the gods of the children of Seir.”  (ch. 25:14

 

2 “He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept

with his fathers.” "Eloth"; Hebrew, אֶת־אֵילות; the parallel reads אֵילַת.

This place was at the head of the Gulf Akaba (ch. 8:17; I Kings 9:26); Judah

had lost hold of it at a past revolt of Edom, and Uzziah, after his father’s

crippling of Edom, seizes the opportunity of making it Judah’s

again and rebuilding it, thus finishing very probably a work that he knew

had been in his father’s heart to do. This consideration may explain alike

the following clause in our verse. and the placing of this here. Uzziah

charged himself to do it the first thing.

 

3 “Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he

reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also

was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.” Jecoliah. This name is spelt Jecholiah

in the parallel. The character, however, is kappa in both texts. The

meaning of the name is, “Made strong of Jehovah.” Another unreliable

form of the name is Jekiliah, the result probably of a mere clerical error.

 

4 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according

to all that his father Amaziah did.” Right… according to… his father.

His father’s comparatively long reign, sullied by two frightful stains, which

were fearfully visited with a long punishment and a fatal end, is graciously

recognized here for the good that was in it, and apparently credited even

with a “balance to the good.”

 

5 “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had

understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the

LORD, God made him to prosper.”  In the days of Zechariah.

Twice in the foregoing chapter we have read of “a man of God”

and “a prophet” whose names are not given. The chariness of the  

narrative in this exact respect is not very explicable,

for if the simple reason be assumed to be that they were not of much

repute, now when the name of Zechariah is given, all that we can say is

that nothing else is known of him. Had understanding; Hebrew, הַמֵּבִין.

There seems no reason to divest this hiph. conjugation form of its stricter

signification, “gave understanding “(see Isaiah 40:14). In the visions of

God; Hebrew, בִּרְאות. Some slight discrepancy in the usual fuller writing

of the word in some manuscripts lends a little ground of preference for the

reading, which a few manuscripts evidently had (see Septuagint Version,

ἐν φόβῳ - en phobo), of בִּירְאַת; i.e. “in the fear of God” (Proverbs 1:7;

Isaiah 11:3); either reading in either of these sub-clauses leaves an

undisturbed good meaning to the description of Zechariah.

 

 

Premature Responsibility (vs. 1-5)

 

In these verses we have a picture or a suggestion of:

 

  • PREMATURE RESPONSIBILITY. “All the people of Judah took

Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king.” They all agreed to

set a lad upon the throne. Events seem to have justified their course; and if

Zechariah the prophet, or, what is more likely, some prominent “prince of

Judah,” acted as prime minister or protector, he may have succeeded even

in the earlier years of his administration. But it is a very great mistake to

devolve large responsibilities upon the young.

 

Ø      It is bad for the estate they have to administer, whatever that may be.

“Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child” (Ecclesiastes 10:16),

is a curse which has a wide application.  The very young, with minds that

must be immature:

 

o        judge without knowledge,

o        are swayed by persons rather than governed by principles, and

o        fall into serious and often into disastrous mistakes.

 

Ø      It is bad for themselves. It exposes them to several temptations which it

is not right they should encounter, and it loads them with a weight of duty

and difficulty they are not strong enough to carry. In most cases they break

down, in some direction, under their burden. Responsibility is not for

youth; it is for prime and for the ripe experience of later life.

 

  • THE INEQUALITIES OF CONDITION WHICH THE

PROVIDENCE OF GOD ASSIGNS US. Uzziah “reigned fifty-two years

in Jerusalem.” To him God gave more than half a century of power and

wealth and their attendant advantages. To others he denies these larger

gratifications altogether, and grants very limited comforts, and these for a

very brief hour. How do we account for this? All is plain if we consider:

 

Ø      That neither justice nor kindness requires that God should give to one

man as large a heritage as He has given to another; it is no injury to me to

whom He has given one talent that it has pleased Him to bestow ten talents

on my neighbor. I had no claim to that one talent which, of His pure

goodness, He has conferred upon me.

 

Ø      That the chief value of human life depends neither upon its surroundings

nor upon its duration, but upon its moral and spiritual characteristics.

 

Ø      That if there be any inequalities that, in the cause of righteousness,

require adjustment, there remains the long future for redress.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE OF MOTHERHOOD ON OUR CHARACTER

AND OUR COURSE. It is not without meaning that we have the record,

his mother’s name was Jecoliah.” To much too large a degree in the East

all that the mother contributes is maternity. But “woman, beloved of God

in old Jerusalem,” gave much more than this. She was not a cipher (zero

figure) in the home; she was an intelligent, active sharer in the thought and

history of her country and her time. Jesus Christ owed much to her truer

appreciation, and to her more faithful ministry. It is likely that Uzziah owed as

much to his mother as to his father in the way of godly training and good home

influence. A very considerable number of the great and good men who

have rendered conspicuous services to their race became what they were

because they grew up in the atmosphere of a mother’s gentle and beautiful

life. “No mother knows who or what she has in her cradle,” or can tell how

great a share she may have, by the training of the little child that is

slumbering there, in the enrichment or the reformation of the world.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY ON OUR

CHARACTER AND COURSE. “He sought God in the days of Zechariah”

(v. 5). No doubt this seeking of the Lord was very largely due to the

prophet’s influence over him. The true Christian minister is, like the

Hebrew prophet, “one that speaks for God” to men. And he who speaks

for his Divine Master with faithfulness, with earnestness of spirit, in true

and pure affection, speaking “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)

as he is able to learn and utter it, has a work to do and an influence to

exert second to none in the hearts and lives of men. From the court to the

cottage-home the gracious power of such ministry is felt in the land.

 

  • THE PROSPERITY OF PIETY. “As long as he sought the Lord, God

made him to prosper” (v. 5). (See homily on ch. 25:15, The Folly of Irreligion.   

 

Ø      There is no prosperity worthy of the name, or worthy of our ambition

and pursuit, outside the fear and the favor of God. “Who hath hardened

himself against Him and prospered?” (Job 9:4)  Many have seemed to do so,

and have imagined that they did. But, in the light of Divine wisdom, they

have miserably failed.

 

Ø      There can be no failure in the faithful service of THE SUPREME!

What looks like it, there may be, there often is; but not the thing itself.

For he who walks with God, and is the friend of Jesus Christ, must be

what is right and good; must stand where he is secure from harm;

must be witnessing for the truth of God; must be moving on towards

deeper wisdom, purer joy, and a glorious estate beyond.

 

 

Seeing God (v. 5)

 

Zechariah “had understanding in the seeing of God” (marginal reading). In

what way did the prophet, and in what respects may we now, have such

special “understanding”?

 

  • THE PROPHETIC PRIVILEGE OF SEEING GOD. It might seem, at

first sight, that there would be no degrees in such capacity. If God enabled

a man to see Him and to know His truth by granting him a vision, or by

specially enlarging his natural faculty, it must be of no consequence (or of

very little) what his individual capacities may be. But, thus reasoning, we

should be wrong. God did not then, as He does not now, grant His Divine

enlightenment independent of all human conditions. He had regard to:

 

Ø      Purity and sanctity of character.

Ø      Natural intellectual faculty.

Ø      Special training.

 

We cannot say that God never revealed His mind to any one who did not

possess the first of these qualifications in a high degree. Remembering

Balsam and Jonah, it would be impossible to maintain that view. Yet we

may be quite sure that such men as Samuel and Elijah were preferred to

others because of the elevation of their characters. Nor can we suppose

that the second qualification was indispensable; but we may well believe

that Balaam was employed as he was partly because he was a man of

considerable intellectual endowment, and that Isaiah and Amos were

among the “chosen” partly for the same reason. We know that there was

special training for the work of prophecy, for there were “schools of the

prophets in the time of the judges. Whether Zechariah had one or all of

these three advantages we do not know, but he was a man, on some such

grounds, peculiarly adapted to receive communication from God, and,

having received them, to deliver them.

 

  • THE FACULTY OF ALL SPIRITUAL MEN. We also, as those who

stand among the multitude of godly men undistinguished by any office, may

have understanding in the seeing of God.” What are its conditions?

 

Ø      Docility of spirit (readily trained or taught). If we would “enter the

kingdom of God,” i.e. if we would see God and know Him as He desires

to be seen and known by us as our forgiving Father, we must “become as

little children” (Matthew 18:3; 19:14). Much “understanding” in the way

of human learning may, as in the case of the scribes and lawyers, keep us

out of that atmosphere of docility without which we shall not learn of

Christ, and shall not know God as we urgently need to know him

(see I Corinthians 1:26-29). It is the man that has come to understand

his own spiritual ignorance and incapacity who will be willing to learn

OF GOD,  and thus to “have understanding in the seeing of God.”

 

Ø      Purity of heart. This, we know from the great Teacher Himself, is an

essential (Matthew 5:8). This purity of which Christ speaks includes:

 

o        Simplicity and sincerity of spirit; that which is not content with

passing through fleshly rites, but desires to know God Himself,

to come into communion with Him, to gain His loving favor.

 

o        A freedom from degrading affections; and therefore from debasing

acts and associations — a heart that is not worn with:

 

§         selfish ambitions, or

§         corroding cares, or

§         blemished by injurious excitements.

 

o        Consequent elevation of affection and aim — the love of Christ, the

love of man, the earnest desire to be of service to our generation.

(As David did his – Acts 13:36 – CY – 2016)

 

Ø      Patient continuance in well-being and in well-doing. To those who thus

continue in the grace of God” will be granted “eternal life.” They who are

faithful unto death shall wear “the crown of life” (see Romans 2:7;

Revelation 2:10). And we are sure that this life which is consummated

beyond includes such a vision of God as we do not now enjoy, even when

it is most true that “the eyes of our understanding are opened”

(Ephesians 1:18) and even when we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings

in heavenly places in Christ”  (ibid. v. 3).  Then, with purer heart than we

now possess, and with a holiness (Hebrews 12:14) to which we do not now

attain, we shall “have understanding [and experience] in the seeing of God.”

Surely every one that hath this hope in him will “purify himself, even as

Christ the Lord is pure.”  (I John 3:3)

 

6 “And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake

down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of

Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines.”

The Philistines. It has been seen how the Philistines, humbled

to tribute under Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:10-13), had lifted up

their heads repeatedly since, as on one occasion in alliance with Arabians

(ch. 21:16-17) against Jehoram. Brake down the wall (see ch. 25:23, the first

occasion of this exact expression). Gath (see the parallel to our ch. 24:23-24 in

II Kings 12:17).  Jabneh. A city on the coast, northwest of Judah, now Jebna (see

Joshua 15:10-12). Ashdod. Also on the coast, about eight miles south

of Jabneh (Joshua 15:47). It is now a large village in Philistia, called

Esdud, answering to the Azotus of Acts 8:40 (see Topographical Index

to Conder’s ‘Handbook to the Bible;’ and Dr. Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary,’

sub voc., 1:119). Built cities about Ashdod; Revised Version supplies in

italic type” in the country of Ashdod.” However, the force of the

preposition בְּ before “Ashdod” in this case speaks for itself; on account of

the great importance of the place, in respect of its situation, on the road to

Egypt, the strength of its position and perhaps the memory of the fact that,

allotted to Judah, it had never really been appropriated by her, and

incorporated with her, Uzziah saw it expedient to surround it with other

fortified cities, or strong forts, which should be a watch upon it.

 

7 “And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the

Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims.”  Gur-baal.

Though nothing is known of this place (the meaning of which is “abode of

Baal,” perhaps from some temple of Baal), yet its companion Maon, the city

of the Mehunim (ch. 22:1; Judges 10:12), shows whereabouts it was.

 

8 “And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread

abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself

exceedingly.”  The Ammonites. This nation lay east of Jordan, northeast of

Moab. Note the interesting references, Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 2:37.

Gave gifts. This expression was found in our ch. 17:11; I Kings 4:21; 10:25.

The reference to tribute payment is evident. The entering in of Egypt. This,

of course, marks the breadth of the land, and describes the breadth of Uzziah’s

sway or influence.

 

9 “Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and

at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them.”

Built towers in Jerusalem. The excellent map, above alluded to

(ch. 25:23), in Conder’s ‘Handbook to the Bible’ (2nd edition), facing

p. 334,  furnishes a very clear idea alike of these towers and of

the walls of Jerusalem, as we can make them out, for Uzziah’s times. For

the corner gate, see our note, ch. 25:23. Valley gate. This is called by

some the Gehenna gate. As many as three sites, reducible perhaps

to two, are proposed for this gate:

 

Ø      the west gate, called somewhile the Jaffa gate; or

Ø      a gate over the valley of Hinnom;” or, if it be not the same,

Ø      that at the valley of Tyropoeon.

 

And at the turning; Hebrew, הַמִקְצוַע. This word occurs eleven times,

viz. twice in Exodus, four times in Nehemiah, four times in Ezekiel, and in

this place, and is always rendered “corner” or “turning;” the word wanted

is angle. The site of this gate cannot very certainly be pronounced upon.

Perhaps the angle that marks the gate is that at the southeast corner of the

temple plateau. The language of Nehemiah 3:19 is our best clue: “Next

to him Ezer repaired… a piece over against the going up to the armory at

the turning.

 

10 “Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had

much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also,

and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.”

Towers in the desert; Hebrew, בַּמִּזְבָּר; the rendering should

be the usual one of “wilderness.” This was the cattle-pasture west and

southwest of the Dead Sea. The towers were needed for forts of

observation against marauding and cattle-robbing incursions, as well as for

shelter in some attacks. Many wells; Hebrew, בֹּרות. These were not

springs, but rather, as in the margin, tanks and cisterns. Carmel. It is not

probable that this is the proper name. The translation of Carmel is “fertile

field.” As a proper name it occurs about twenty times, from Joshua 12:22;

15:55; 19:26; on to Amos 1:2; 9:3; and perhaps Micah 7:14; and as not a

proper name it occurs about twenty times also; the “fruitful field,” e.g., of

Isaiah 29:17 and 32:15 shows in the Hebrew text הַכַּרְמֶל. The aspect of

this verse is very picturesque, and the picturesqueness very pleasant, with

its low country and pasturing cattle, its plains and their herds, its hills and

their vines, all quickened into life by the mention of towers and wells,

husbandmen and vine-dressers, and finished off by the home-touch that

this king’s partiality looked to agricultural and pastoral pursuits.

 

11 “Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war

by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of

Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one

of the king’s captains.” That went out to war by bands; Hebrew, יוצְאֵי צָבָא לִגְדוּד.

The last of these words occurs thirty-three times, and is rendered:

 

Ø      “troop” ten times,

Ø      “company” four times,

Ø      “band” fourteen times, and

Ø      (too generically) army five times.

 

The middle word occurs above four hundred times, is rendered “host” an

immense preponderance of these times, and probably should have been so

rendered without exception. The first word is the poel participle kal of the

familiar verb יָצָא, and compels the translation (given literally), “the goers

out of the host by bands.” Meantime, if the persons here spoken of were leaders,

as seems possible, the hiph. participle is required (which would postulate an

initial mem for the present initial yod), and a most typical example among

some thirty others essentially similar may be quoted from Isaiah 40:26. Their

account by the hand of Jeiel; i.e. their muster tabulated by Jeiel, whose

office is mentioned before in ch. 25:11. Under the hand of Hananiah.

That is, Hananiah was head of the whole matter of the registering, etc.

 

12 “The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of

valor were two thousand and six hundred.”  Of the mighty men of valor.

The “of” here is incorrect; the former substantive is not necessarily in

construct state, and this word has the prefix of the preposition לְ; nor is the

rendering “valor” for our Hebrew text חָיִל; so likely a rendering as that found

in the foregoing verse, “host.” Render, The whole number of the chief of the

fathers in the mighty men of the host was, etc. So in the next verse. with mighty

power will be better rendered “with the strength of a host.

 

13 “And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven

thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the

king against the enemy.”  An army; Hebrew, חֵיל צָבָא. “A force of host”

would render this expression, though by an ambiguous use of the word חֵיל,

construct state of חַיִל.  This verse gives the number of the body of the army

proper, which shows it seven thousand five hundred more than that of

Amaziah in the foregoing chapter (v. 5).

 

14 “And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and

spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones.

Habergeons… slings to cast stones. Revised Version right in

rendering, coats of mailand stones for slinging. On the Israelites’

employment of the sling, note Judges 20:16; I Samuel 17:40; II Kings 3:25.

 

15 “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to

be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great

stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvelously

helped, till he was strong.”  Engines; Hebrew, חִשְּׁבֹנות; used only here

and Ecclesiastes 7:29 (where it is rendered “inventions”), but the related

word חֶשְׁבּון, is found three times: ibid. v. 25 (the “reason”), 27

(the “account”); 9:10 (“device”); while the verb root חָשַׁב, to “devise,”

occurs about a hundred and thirty times, as in next sub-clause מַחֲשֶׁבֶת חושֵׁב.

A strict rendering of the clause would make it read, “He made

inventions, the inventing of an inventive man;” and the force of the words

might be to appraise very highly the virtue of the invention or machine,

while to himself may have been due the credit thereof. The balista which

discharged stones is depicted on Assyrian sculptures; not so the machine

for discharging darts and arrows, the catapult. Although, as just suggested,

it were conceivable that to Uzziah himself was due in part the invention or

the great improving of the machines in question, yet the verse may be

regarded as simply saying that the introduction of them into Jerusalem was

his work. He was marvelously helped (see v. 7).

Uzziah the Prosperous (1-15)

 

  • A YOUTHFUL SOVEREIGN (vs. 1-3.)

 

Ø      His names. Uzziah, Might of Jehovah” (II Kings 15:13, 30, 32, 34;

Isaiah 1:1; 6:1; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5); Azariah, “Whom

Jehovah aids” (II Kings 14:21; 15:1, 6, 8, 17, 23, 27; I Chronicles

3:12); the former, the designation taken by or conferred upon him at or

soon after his accession (Thenius, Bahr); the latter, his name before that

event. But if the two appellations should not be regarded as equivalent

(Keil), the likelihood is that Uzziah was his personal and Azariah his kingly

title (Nagelsbach in Herzog, and Kleinert in Riehm), as the latter, Azrijahu,

is the name he ordinarily bears on the Assyrian monuments

(Schrader, ‘Keilin-schriften,’ p. 217).

 

Ø      His parents. Amaziah the son of Joash, and Jecoliah of Jerusalem. Of the

latter nothing is known beyond her name and residence, except that she

had been the wife, and was the mother, of a king. That Uzziah was not his

father’s firstborn son has been inferred (Bertheau, Ewald, Bahr), though

precariously, from the statement that “all the people took him and made

him king” (v. 1).

 

Ø      The date of his accession. After his father’s death, in the fifteenth year

of Jeroboam II of Israel (II Kings 14:23). The theory that Uzziah’s

accession should be dated from his father’s capture by Joash (Sumner) is

not without support from certain circumstances stated in the narrative, as

e.g. that Amaziah lived (not reigned) after the death of Joash fifteen years

(ch. 25:25), and that Uzziah built Eloth after the death of his father (ch.

26:2), as if he had been sovereign before that event, Nevertheless, it is not

adopted by Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 9:9. 3), and does not appear demanded by the

text (consult Exposition).

 

4. The length of his reign. Fifty-two years — with one exception (ch. 33:1)

the longest throne-occupancy of any sovereign of Judah. Its close

synchronized with the accession of Pekah to the throne of Israel by means

of conspiracy and assassination (II Kings 15:23-25).

 

  • A PROMISING RULER. (vs. 4-5.)

 

Ø      A worshipper of Jehovah. “He did that which was right in the eyes of

Jehovah, according to all that his father Amaziah had done,” i.e. until he

declined into idolatry (ch. 25:14). “He was a good man, and

by nature righteous and magnanimous, and very laborious in taking care of

the affairs of his kingdom” (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 9:10. 3); but his devotion to

religion, while sincere, was, like his father’s, imperfect (ch. 25:2).

“The high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt

incense still on the high places” (II Kings 15:4). See the confirmation of

this in the minor prophets (Hosea 8:14; 12:2; Amos 2:4).

 

Ø      A seeker after God. “And he sought God.”

 

o        How? By observing His worship, keeping His commandments,

honoring His prophets, and studying His Law — the only true way of

seeking God still.

 

o        When? In the days of Zechariah, “who had understanding,” or “gave

instruction” (Revised Version, margin), “in the vision of God.” Nobler

distinction than the former, better employment than the latter, can no

man have.

 

o        How long? Until Zechariah died, after which his fervor declined, the

remembrance of his teacher faded, his devotion to Jehovah and the true

religion diminished. So Joash behaved wisely and religiously while

Jehoiada lived (ch. 24:17). Human goodness too often short-lived

(Hosea 6:4).

 

o        With what result? Prosperity, which kept pace with his piety. “As long

as he sought Jehovah, Elohim made him to prosper” (v. 5) — a

remarkable combination of words, which perhaps teaches that, whilst

prosperity or success is from God, the Supreme Being as such, it is

never conferred upon good men except on the ground that they are

worshippers of Him as the covenant God of grace and salvation.

 

Ø      A pupil of Zechariah. “Zechariah had understanding,” and perhaps gave

him instruction “in the vision [or, ‘seeing’] of God.” That this Zechariah

was neither the priest whom Joash slew (ch. 24:20), nor the

prophet who lived in the second year of Darius (Zechariah 1:1), is

apparent. That he possessed that special gift or capacity of beholding God

in vision which pertained to the prophetic calling cannot be inferred from

the Chronicler’s statement, “since this beholding of God, of which the

prophets were conscious only in moments of highest inspiration, cannot be

thought of as a work of human activity and exercise” (Berthcau). Most

probably he was one who, like Daniel (Daniel 1:17), “had

understanding in all visions and dreams,” and who acted as Uzziah’s

counsellor and teacher.

 

  • A BRILLIANT WARRIOR (vs. 2, 6, 7-8.)

 

Ø      The fortification of Eloth. (v. 2.) His father’s conquest of Edom (ch. 25:11-12)

had either not been pushed as far as this important harbor-town upon the Red

Sea (see on ch. 8:17), or the town, though taken, had been given up and not

annexed to Judah in consequence of Joash’s defeat of Amaziah (ch. 25:23).

On attaining to the throne, Uzziah rectified his father’s oversight by capturing

the town, erecting it into a fortress, and restoring it to Judah. Without it

Edom was of little consequence to Judah. This exploit, which happened in

the early part of Uzziah’s reign, was probably that from which he derived

his name Azariah (II Kings 14:21-22); while its introduction at this

stage in the narrative, before the chronological statement which follows it

(v. 3), may have been due to a desire on the part of the Chronicler to

introduce Uzziah to his readers as the well-known monarch who had

conquered, recovered, and fortified Eloth (Berthcau).

 

Ø      The war against the Philistines and Arabians. (vs. 6-7.) These had

together invaded Judah upwards of eighty years previously (ch. 21:16),

and Uzziah may have purposed to inflict upon them

chastisement for that aggression (Keil); but the assumption is as rational

that Uzziah either dreaded or experienced a combination against himself

similar to that which had assailed Jehoram, and that, either (in the former

case) taking time by the forelock, he fell upon his enemies ere they could

strike at him, or (in the latter case), meeting the emergency with courage,

he repelled the attacks they made upon him. His success in dealing with

the Philistines was complete. He broke down the walls of Gath (see on

ch. 11:8), which, formerly taken from the Philistines by David

(I Chronicles 18:1), had latterly been recovered, most likely in the

reign of Jehoram; the wall of Jabneh, here mentioned for the first time, but

probably the town in Judah named Jabneel in the days of the conquest

(Joshua 15:11), Jamnia in the period of the. Maccabees, at the present

day Jabneh, eighteen miles northwest of Gath, “situated on a slight

eminence on the west bank of the valley of Sorek (Wddy es Surar), about

four miles from the sea coast” (Warren, in ‘Picturesque Palestine,’ 3:161);

and the wall of Ashdod, one of the principal cities of the Philistines

(I Samuel 5:1), and now a village called Esdud, after which he erected cities

in the domain of Ashdod and in other parts of Philistia. In like manner, he

was entirely victorious over the Arabians in (Gur-baal — not the city Petra

(Septuagint), but perhaps the town of Gerar (Targum) — and the Meunims,

who dwelt in Mann (I Chronicles 4:41).

 

Ø      The submission of the Ammonites. These, whose settlements lay east of

the Dead Sea, and who, in Jehoshaphat’s time, had come up against Judah

(ch. 20:1), were now so reduced that they rendered tribute to

Judah, as the Moabites did under David (II Samuel 8:2), and the

Philistines and Arabians under Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:11).

 

Ø      The extension of his fame to Egypt. Not merely the report of his

splendid victories traveled so far as the land of the Pharaohs, but the

boundaries of his empire reached to its vicinity. An inscription of Tiglath-

Pileser II shows that the northern people of Hamath attempted to free

themselves from the Assyrian yoke by going over to Azariah (‘Records,’

etc., 5:46; Schrader, ‘Keilinschriften,’ p. 221).

 

  • A GREAT BUILDER. (vs. 9-10.) In addition to the fortress at

Eloth and the cities in Philistia, he erected towers.

 

Ø      In Jerusalem.

 

o        At the corner-gate, i.e. at the north-west corner of the city (ch. 25:23).

o        At the valley-gate, i.e. on the west side, where the Jaffa gate now is.

o        At the turning of the wall, i.e. at a curve in the city wall on the east

side of Zion, near the horse-gate. This tower commanded both the

temple hill and Zion against attacks from the southeast.

 

Ø      In the desert, or wilderness. The place was “the steppe-lands on the

west side of the Dead Sea” (Keil); the object, the protection of his

flocks and shepherds against attacks from robber-bands, whether

of Edomites or Arabians.

 

  • AN ENTHUSIASTIC HUSBANDMAN (v. 10.)

 

Ø      An extensive cattle-breeder. He had much cattle in the region just

mentioned, in the lowland between the mountains of Judaea and the

Mediterranean, and in the flat district on the east of the Dead Sea, from

Arnon to near Heshbon in the north. For the use of these animals he

hewed cisterns in each of these localities.

 

Ø      An ardent agriculturist. He kept farmers and vine-dressers upon the

mountains and in the fruitful fields. “He took care to cultivate the ground.

He planted it with all sorts of plants, and sowed it with all sorts of seeds”

(Josephus).

 

  • AN ABLE GENERAL (vs. 11-15.)

 

Ø      He organized the army.

 

o        The number of fighting men was reckoned up by Hananiah, one of the

king’s captains, assisted by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the steward,

two officials practised in writing and the making up of lists. The total

force, according to their estimation, was 307,500 (370,000, Josephus)

able-bodied and thoroughly disciplined troops, with 2600 (2000,

Josephus) heads of fathers’ houses, mighty men of valour, who

acted as superior officers or divisional commanders.

 

o        The entire host was arranged into bands, detachments, or army corps,

each father’s house, perhaps, composing a regiment, and a group of

these a battalion.

 

o        Whether these army corps served in rotation (Jamieson) is not stated.

 

Ø      He armed the soldiers. For all the host he prepared the necessary

weapons for offensive and defensive warfare — for the first, spears, bows,

and slings; for the second, shields, helmets, and coats of mail; or perhaps,

for the heavy-armed troops, shields, spears, and helmets; and for the light

infantry, bows and sling-stones. The mention of “sling-stones,” it has been

thought (Bertheau), was intended to indicate the completeness of his

preparations, as in the late France-German war Marshal Leboeuf declared

the French army to be ready for the projected campaign down to the

shoe-buckle.” Besides furnishing each soldier with a set of weapons,

Uzziah collected a store of such “that he might have them in readiness

to put into the hands of his subjects on any exigency” (A. Clarke)

 

Ø      He fortified the capital This, which Joash of Israel (ch. 25:23) had weakened,

he strengthened by placing on the towers and battlements of its walls

ingenious machines — “engines invented by cunning men” — to shoot

arrows and great stones withal, like the catapultae and ballistae of the

Romans.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The beneficial influence of parental piety — it tends to reproduce

itself in the children.

Ø      The true Source of all prosperity, whether temporal or spiritual is God.

Ø      The necessary condition of all permanent prosperity for individuals or

communitiesreligion, seeking God.

Ø      The unspeakable advantage to kings and subjects of having as their

counselors men who have understanding in the VISIONS OF GOD!

Ø      The obvious wisdom of sovereigns and their people devoting

attention to the cultivation of the soit.

Ø      The lawfulness, in nations as in individuals, of taking due precautions

for safety.

 

 

A Victorious Career (vs. 6-15)

 

Perhaps it is not well understood that Uzziah was one of the strongest of

the kings of Judah, and ran a remarkably successful course. Had not his sun

set in some dark clouds, his name and fame would probably have stood far

higher than they do. But when we have made necessary allowances, there

remains before our eyes the picture of

 

  • A VICTORIOUS CAREER. This, whether we have regard to:

 

Ø      The extension of his kingdom; he prevailed against the Edomites, the

Philistines, the Arabians (vs. 2, 6-8). Or to:

 

Ø      The strengthening of his kingdom by military means — by building

fortifications (vs. 9-10), by ordering and equipping his army (vs. 11-13),

by inventing or adopting the latest weapons of warfare (vs. 14-15).

Or to:

 

Ø      His attention to the national produce. It speaks very highly indeed for a

monarch of that period that he dug wells, that he had much cattle, that he

encouraged the vine-dressers, that he “loved husbandry.” These are things

which in that age of the world were too often disregarded and even

despised by men in high places, especially by monarchs. But it was on such

things as these that national prosperity very largely rested. Much of the

power of a country comes from its wealth; and its wealth comes from the

soil. No wise ruler will be indifferent to the question of the produce of the

land. The king that “loves husbandry” is, other things being present, a king

that loves his people, and rules for the happiness of their homes. It is

probable that Judah never spent so contented and prosperous a half century

as during the long reign of Uzziah.

 

  • ITS EXPLANATION.

 

Ø      It was partly due to the fact that he came under good human influence;

that of his father in his better days, that of Zechariah all through that

prophet’s life; (perhaps) that of a godly mother.

 

Ø      It was due in part to his own capacity and energy. Had he been a weak

prince, giving way to base flatteries and to corrupt companionship, he

could not have played the admirable part he did.

 

Ø      It was due, chiefly and primarily, to the favor of Jehovah. “God made

him to prosper” (v. 5). From the Divine resources came intelligence,

strength, sagacity, statesmanship. He might well have said, “Thou art

the glory of my strength, and in thy favor has my horn been exalted.”

(Psalm 89:17)  This is the explanation of every victorious career.

 

o        There goes toward it individual character and energy. Every man

must “bear his own burden,” and “have rejoicing in himself alone”

(Galatians 6:4-5). In some sense and to some degree we must all

fight the good fight” (I Timothy 6:12) for ourselves, if we would

gain the victory and win “the prize of our high calling.”

(Philippians 3:14)

 

o        There is included in it helpful influence from without; all kindly

human help from the home and from the sanctuary, from the father

and from the friend.

 

o        The all-decisive force is the power that works from above on our

behalf.  God must make us to prosper if we are to gain the victory

in the great strife of life. From Him must come the guidance and the

guardianship, the inspiration and the control, without which we shall

faint and fall. And this is to be secured by:

 

§         submission to the gracious sway, and

§         living in the holy service of A DIVINE SAVIOUR!

 

16 “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction:

for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the

temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.”

To (his) destruction; Hebrew, עַד־לְחַשְׁחִית, hiph. conjugation infinitive,

of שָׁחַת. This conjugation frequently occurs in the sense of “destroying,”

but also as well without an accusative as with, in the sense of “doing corruptly”

(Genesis 6:12 with accusative; but without Deuteronomy 4:16; 31:29;

Judges 2:19; Isaiah 1:19; and next chapter, v. 2). He transgressed. The

transgression of a heart that had waxed wanton through prosperity took

that peculiarly aggravated form of sinning against holy things and a holy

ceremonial. Although, in the daily service of the second temple, the duty

of offering incense attached to one chosen by lot each morning and evening

of the inferior priests, yet originally the high priest was solemnly appointed

for this office. The following are among the most important references to

the matter of the incense and its offering (Exodus 25:6; 30:1, 7-8, 34, 37-38;

Leviticus 16:13; Luke 1:9; Numbers 6:24-26; 16:1-35; 18:1-7).

 

17 “And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore

priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:”  Azariah the priest. V. 20 states

what was otherwise to be supposed, that he was the chief priest (הָראשׁ). We fail

to identify his name with any in the typical list of I Chronicles 6:4-15, where the

Azariah of v. 11 is too early, and the Azariah of v. 13 too late, for our present

Azariah. With him four score priests. This passage suggests to us an idea

of how many deeply interesting details are wanting, which would fill in the

interstices of Old Testament history. Probably the intention of the king,

ambitious to simulate the self-assumed religious ways of neighboring

Gentile kings, was no secret; and possibly the king may have given time for

the chief priest to collect his auxiliaries, through some ostentatious display

on his own part, in the very performance of his desecration. The number

and the character of these helping priests (בְּנֵי־חָיַל) give the idea that they

had their work to do, and purposed doing it promptly, or that they would

over-awe, and obviate the use of actual force, by their imposing number.

 

18 “And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It

appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the

LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to

burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed;

neither shall it be for thine honor from the LORD God.”

They withstood. A somewhat more forcible rendering would

be justified by the Hebrew text, such e.g. as, “They confronted Uzziah to

his face,” or “They stood in the way of Uzziah,” since our “withstood”

almost always conveys the idea of argumentative confronting only. There

was expostulation here, as we are immediately told, but there was

something else also, as v. 20 makes very plain, “They thrust him out.”

 

19 “Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn

incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even

rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD,

from beside the incense altar.”  Render, Then Uzziah was wrath, and in

his hand (at that moment) was a censer to burn incense, etc. From the most

literal rendering of the Hebrew text, not unfrequently the most forcible Bible

English results. From beside; render, at the very side of (compare Numbers

12:10; II Kings 5:27).

 

20 “And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him,

and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him

out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the

LORD had smitten him.” They thrust him out. This hiph. conjugation of

kal בָּהַל does not point to the force adopted, but to the trembling anxiety

with which, for horror’s sake of such a monstrous catastrophe, as a leper by the

altar and with a censer in his hand, etc., the priests urged him out. Evidently,

from the next clause, no great force in the ordinary sense was needed. Yea,

himself hasted. The Hebrew verb is niph. conjugation of דָחַפ. It is

interesting to note that this root occurs only here and three times in Esther,

viz. 3:15; 6:12; 8:14. Uzziah can scarcely have been ignorant that he had

been daring the utmost penalty of the Law (Numbers 16:31, 35; 18:7).

 

21 “And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and

dwelt in a several 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.”  And dwelt in a several house. The Hebrew for

several house” is הַחָפְשׁות: the parallel (II Kings 15:5) showing yod instead

of van in the last syllable. The verbal root is חָפַשׁ, and occurs once

(Leviticus 19:20, with the Authorized Version rendering “was free;” in

the same verse is also found a feminine noun derived from it, and rendered

in the Authorized Version “freedom’’). The adjective חָפְשִׁי occurs sixteen

times, and is always rendered in the Authorized Version “free,” except

once “at liberty” (Jeremiah 34:16). The “freedom” conveyed by the

word is that of separation, in the use of it as found here. The leper and the

house in which he lived were kept free from contact with others

(Leviticus 13:46). Gesenius appears, however, to prefer the idea of

“infirmity,” “sickness,” as determining the cast of the meaning of the word

in our text, and goes so far as to translate it an “hospital,” quoting the

word of Suidas, τὸ νοσοκομεῖον.

 

 

A Clouded Close (vs. 16-21)

 

We could have wished that the end of Uzziah’s life had answered to the

beginning; that a reign which began so well, which had so commendable

and even distinguished a record, had closed in light and honor. But it was

not to be. That powerful temptation which assails the strong and the

victorious proved too powerful for the Hebrew king; he fell beneath its

force, and he paid a heavy penalty for his fall. We have:

 

  • A PAINFUL SPECTACLE in the person of a leprous king. In Uzziah

the leper we have one who occupied the highest place in the kingdom

brought to an estate which the meanest subject in the realm, who had the

hue of health in his cheeks, would not have accepted in place of his own;

we have one in whose presence it was once an honor to stand, and whose

face it was a high privilege to behold, reduced to such a condition that it

was a kindness for any one to be with him, a pain for any eye to regard

him, a sacrifice and defilement for any one to touch him; we have a man

whose presence once brought highest honor to the home the threshold of

which he might condescend to cross, now brought so low that no humblest

householder in the land could or would permit him to pass his door; we

have a man who did stand foremost in every religious privilege, debarred

from entering the outer court of the sanctuary; we have one who had spent

his manly energies in all forms of happy and useful activity, shut up in a

separate house and secluded from affairs; we have an instance of complete

humiliation, and we cannot fail to be affected by it if we dwell upon all that

it meant to the unhappy subject of it.

 

  • AN APPARENTLY HEAVY SENTENCE FOR ONE OFFENCE. We

inquire — Why this terrible visitation? And we find that it was because the

king invaded the temple of God and attempted, to do that which was not

permitted by law. To any one judging superficially, the sentence may seem

severe and indeed excessive. It may seem unjust to visit one day’s wrongdoing,

one act of guilt, with a heavy penalty for life — a penalty that

disabled and disqualified, as leprosy did, for all the duties and all the

enjoyments of human life. But we have not to look far to find the reason.

 

  • THE EXPLANATION OF THE SEVERITY. This is twofold.

 

Ø      It was of the first importance that the royal power should not presume

upon ecclesiastical functions. It was not a mere question between king and

priest; that would have been small enough. It was a question whether God

should continue to rule, through His chosen officers, over the nation, or

whether the king should set aside the divinely given Law, and practically

make himself supreme. To defy and disobey one of the clearest and one of

the most emphatic precepts in the Law, and to assume a prerogative which

God had strictly confined to the priestly order, was a step that was

revolutionary in its character and tendency, that was calculated to overturn

the most sacred traditions, and to break up the ancient usage as well as to

lessen that sense of the Divine separateness and sanctity which it was the

first object of the great Lawgiver to fasten on the mind of the people. It

was a daring and a dangerous innovation, which nothing but overgrown

presumption would have attempted, and which demanded the most striking

and impressive rebuke that could be administered. The sentence was

judicial, and was intended to warn all others from acts that were injurious,

and from an ambition that was unholy.

 

Ø      It was the punishment, not merely of one sinful action, but also of a

guilty state of heart. Uzziah would not have done this sacrilegious action if

he had not fallen from the humility, which is the first condition of true

piety, into a state of condemnable spiritual pride. “His heart was lifted up;”

his heart was haughty, and his eyes were lofty,” and therefore he wanted

to “exercise himself in things too high for him” (Psalm 131:1). Much

success had spoiled him, as it spoils so many in every land and Church. It

had made him arrogant, and human arrogance is a moral evil of the first

magnitude, displeasing in a very high degree to the Holy One of Israel,

utterly unbecoming in any one of the children of men, exposing the soul to

other sins, requiring a strong and sometimes even a stern discipline that it

may be uprooted from the heart and life. It may be hoped, and perhaps

believed, that in the “several house” (v. 21) in which Uzziah afterwards

lived, he learned the lesson which God designed to teach him, humbled his

heart before his Maker, and came to bless that pruning hand which dealt so

severe a stroke to save the vine from fruitlessness and death.

 

o        Shrink from intruding where God does not call you. But, more

particularly:

 

o        Recognize the fact that success in any sphere is a “slippery place,”

and calls for much self-examination and much earnest prayer for

humility and simplicity of spirit.

 

22 “Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet,

the son of Amoz, write.” Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah the prophet asserts that his

prophetic inspiration was in Uzziah’s time (Isaiah 1:1; 6:1), or we

should have taken for granted that, as he was alive in the time of Hezekiah,

grandson to Uzziah, he wrote of Uzziah only from hearsay and previous

records. It must be concluded, accordingly, that Isaiah’s inspiration as a

prophet was early in his own life, that the beginning of it dated not long

before the end of Uzziah’s career, and that his life was a prolonged one,

while still the most part of the acts first and last of Uzziah, which he

wrote, must have consisted of a compilation from other treatises and

perhaps partly from tradition.

 

23 “So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his

fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings; for

they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.”

In the field of the burial which belonged to the kings. The

parallel simply says, “with his fathers in the city of David.” Judging,

however, both from the somewhat remarkable words in our text, “the field

of the burial” (i.e. the burial-field), and from the following clause, for they

said, He is a leper, we may understand that, though it was in the “city of

David” that he was buried, and “with his fathers” so far forth, and also that

he lay near them, yet his actual sepulcher was not one with theirs, any

more than his house of late had been one with the house he had known so

well (see Condor’s ‘ Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 341).

 

 

The Reign of Fifty-two Years Spoiled in an Hour (vs. 1-23)

 

Many a reign, indeed, was a spoiled reign which had begun well, promised

well, and continued well for some length, of time. But the reign of Uzziah,

of all the reigns of Judah and of Israel the longest with the one exception of

that of Manasseh, and particularly full of prosperity, and remarkably varied

prosperity within, of success in just foreign wars, and of that which led to

these things, viz. the most gracious tokens of the Divine approval and help

— was all to be wrecked in an hour apparently, so far as King Uzziah was

concerned. His people, indeed, were not stricken for his sin. Nor were his

priests, whose loyal fidelity to their high office and sacred charge and

whose faithful courage shone out to great advantage; but for the king

himself, whenever his defection occurred, all the harvest of many years of a

well-spent and hitherto glorious reign was “blown quite away” by — surely

only such it can have been — “one cunning bosom sin”! The preacher may

fix close and detailed attention on:

 

  • THE VARIED BENEFICENCE AND SUCCESS OF MANY YEARS

OF UZZIAH’S REIGN. All this left little to Uzziah to desire, and little to

be desired for him. They should have paved the way for an honorable,

peaceful, restful old age, with the blessings of a nation and a nation’s God

upon him.

 

  • THE PLACE IN THE KING WHERE THIS SIN LODGED. It was

not a sin of the world, nor a sin of the flesh, and though undoubtedly it was

a sin of the devil, it must rather be written, the sin of the devil. It was akin

to the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35). It was

akin to the turning sin of the life of the first king, Saul. It was, we may

perhaps say, akin to the sin of those “angels who lost their first estate.”

(Jude 1:6)  It was a sin particularly legislated against (Numbers 18:1-7). It is

one, probably in our own days, and through all Christendom’s past ages of

history, more largely at work and more malignant, and of more dire

disaster to priests even and people, than may be generally imagined. It

harbors itself, not in the flesh, and not in the heart, but in the spirit. It is

ambition ecclesiastical, and unbridled! It is a snatching at spiritual

function, domination, and claim of authority, unauthorized! It is a zeal of

self-exaltation and self-display, where self’s very vesture should be the

vesture of purity and of obedience! With Uzziah it was technical sacrilege.

It none the less surely covered real sacrilege, which his spirit desired,

sought, and defiantly dared. The opportunity here may be well utilized by

the preacher for dwelling on and explaining the scripturally described triple

designation of human nature, “body, soul, and spirit.”

 

  • THE CUNNINGNESS AND SUBTLENESS OF THIS SIN OF THE

SPIRIT. We do not, indeed, know the birth of this sin in Uzziah at all —

when it was, what favored it, when or how it peeped out first to view.

Though it seems, as we read it, as though it were absolutely the evil

suggestion of an hour in Uzziah, yet the preparation so easily matured by

Azariah, when he followed “into the temple after Uzziah, and with him

fourscore priests of the Lord, valiant men,” seems to indicate that those

true ministers of the temple were to some degree forewarned and apprised

of what was going to be attempted. The cunningness was that this

particular disposition and impulse to sin had lain dormant for many a year

of useful, good, and perhaps holy work. And the subtleness of it ranges

with the truth that higher intellects and higher intelligences are exposed to

higher, finer, and more refined forms of temptation, the highest to the

highest, Let men say what they wilt in derogation and superficial

disparagement of the inviolable sacredness of the offices and services and

sacraments of the Church — differencing them from the older typical

dispensation, when they differ not at all, except in demand of higher

reverence and more spiritual unfeigned observance — it is indisputable

that the most solemn warnings of apostles and Epistles point in this same

direction of protest against all the offspring and widespread family of

sacrilege. It is, indeed, in and of the very genius of Christianity to hallow

intentions, vows, determinations, and works of religion with a sacredness

all their own. The rush and rage of modern national life may overwhelm

and sweep away many an old and many a sacred boundary, but the might is

not the right. And the might that seems to usurp successfully, as Uzziah’s

was not given to do, is inflicting only the deadlier blow and more inwardly

wound.

 

  • THE CONDIGN PUNISHMENT OF UZZIAH. The disease of

leprosy meant, marked, sin’s last, typical chastisement for the body. And

sin’s last daring attempt of the spirit is stricken down with this loathsome

stroke and scourge. It made the sinner hasten away to make if he could his

escape; it makes the sinner loathe himself; it is the dread earnest of his

shut-off, “let-alone,” solitary condemnation. And one thing only — THE

BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST has efficacy to cleanse that leper. Though

the principle cannot safely be applied either by Job’s comforters or any

modern successors of them, yet the nature and severity of a punishment

roughly measure the significance of the sin, the steps of which it tracks.

And Uzziah’s sin and punishment, startling as they are in their own

connection, have been also written as admonition that might be greatly

needed as the wayward ages should flow onward, even to our own, and

perhaps to the end.

 

 

 

Uzziah the Leprous (vs. 16-23)

 

  • UZZIAH’S TRANSGRESSION (vs. 16-19)

 

Ø      The cause of it.

 

o        Pride. “His heart was lifted up.” This the inevitable tendency of too

much material and temporal prosperity (Deuteronomy 8:13-14).

Exemplified in:

 

§         Amaziah (ch.25:18-19; II Kings 14:9),

§         Sennacherib (ch. 32:31; II Kings 18:19-35),

§         Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30-34; 5:20).

 

o        Ignorance. He perceived not that his heart was being lifted up “to his

destruction.” Had he foreseen the consequences of his rash act, he

might have paused. But questions of right and wrong must be

determined without regard to temporal results. Only none need

remain in ignorance of this, that the path of holiness is the path of

safety (Proverbs 3:17), whatever be its external issues; and that the

way of disobedience, however promising to appearance, is and

must be the way of peril and doom (Proverbs 4:19).

 

Ø      The nature of it. “He went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense

upon the altar of incense,” i.e. he took upon himself the priestly function of

ministering before Jehovah in the holy place. Whether in doing so he

conceived himself to be following in the steps of David and Solomon

(Thenius, Ewald, Stanley) may be doubted. It is not clear that either of

these sovereigns ever offered incense in the sanctuary proper, though they

frequently officiated at the offering of sacrifices in the outer court on the

occasion of religious festivals (Bertheau, Keil, Bahr). More likely is the

view that Uzziah desired to ape the potentates of the world generally, as

e.g. those of Egypt (Harkness, ‘Egyptian Life and History,’ p. 44), who, as

supreme priests (pontifices maximi), with other priests to aid them,

conducted temple-worship in honor of the gods. In any case, what he did

expressly violated the Divine Law, which reserved the privilege of entering

the holy place and ministering therein exclusively for the priests

(Exodus 30:7-8; Leviticus 16:2, 12-13; Numbers 18:1-10).  The statement of

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 9:10. 4) may well be authentic, that the occasion which

tempted Uzziah to forget himself was the celebration of some high national

festival.

 

Ø      The aggravations of it. He committed this offence:

 

o        When he was strong; when his empire was at the height of its

splendor, and himself at the top of his fame; when his kingly

magnificence was in full bloom, and his regal heart had everything

it could desire — in short, when he ought to have been supremely

contented and happy, without aspiring after more.

 

o        Against God through whose assistance he had climbed to the

pedestal of earthly renown on which he stood, thereby furnishing a

proof of monstrous ingratitude quite on a level with that of his

father Amaziah (ch.25:14).

 

o        In spite of the remonstrance of Azariah the priest and eighty

colleagues, who, going into the sanctuary after him, courageously

reminded him of the heinous character of his proposed action, as an

invasion of the province Jehovah had set apart for the Aaronic

priesthood, fearlessly commanded him to leave the sacred edifice,

and warned him of the peril he incurred in thus defying the

ordinance of God. Men who have God upon their side

have no need to be afraid of kings. Nothing emboldens the

human spirit like a consciousness of right (Psalm 27:1).

 

o        With outburst of kingly rage. According to Josephus, he threatened

to kill Azariah and his colleagues unless they held their peace

(Proverbs 19:12; 16:14). Wrath often leads to murder.

 

  • UZZAIAH’S PUNISHMENT  (vs. 19-23.)

 

Ø      Sudden. The Lord smote him (II Kings 15:5) where he stood, within

the holy place, censer in hand, attired in a priestly robe, fuming at Azariah

and his eighty assistants, ready, in defiance of one and all, to go through

with the unhallowed project he had in hand. Foolish Uzziah! Jehovah, who

all the while was looking on (ch. 7:16; Habakkuk 2:20), simply stretched

forth his invisible finger, and the daringly sacrilegious act

was arrested. According to Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 9:10. 4), at that moment a

great earthquake shook the ground, splitting the mountain on which the

city stood, and making in the temple dome a rent, through which the sun’s

rays, shining, fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized on

him immediately (compare Amos 1:1; Micah 1:4; Zechariah 14:5).

 

Ø      Severe. The leprosy brake forth (or rose as the sun) in his forehead. (On

the nature of this disease, consult the Exposition.) The same punishment

inflicted on Miriam for speaking against Moses (Numbers 12:10), and on

Gehazi for lying to Elisha (II Kings 5:27). The severity of the stroke

measured the greatness of the sin for which it fell.

 

Ø      Conspicuous. The chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him,

and, behold, he was leprous.” The signs and tokens of this plague had been

laid down in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 13). Like the mark upon Cain’s

brow (Genesis 4:15), the spot upon Uzziah’s forehead proclaimed him

an object of Divine wrath. Many suffer on account of their transgressions

whose chastisement is not visible to their fellow-men; that Uzziah’s was

perceptible to Azariah and his colleagues was a proof of the heinous

character of his offence, while it served as a warning to others. One of

Jehovah’s purposes in inflicting punishment on evil-doers is to convince

beholders of the horrible iniquity of sin, and deter them through “the terror

of the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:11.) from its commission.

 

Ø      Humiliating. The priests thrust the stricken king from the sacred

dwelling; yea, the king himself “hasted to go out.” Moreover, he was

henceforth as an unclean person, cut off from the congregation of Jehovah

(Leviticus 13:45-46; Numbers 5:2), and, because of the infectious

nature of his malady, lodged in “several house,” i.e. a lazar-house, or

infirmary. As the leprosy, in its spreading, wasting, corrupting, loathsome,

contagious, incurable character, was a hideous emblem of sin, so the

exclusion of the leper from the congregation, and his isolation from the

society of his fellows, was an impressive picture of the fate reserved for

unpardoned sinners (Psalm 1:5-6). It must not, however, be assumed

that Uzziah died in impenitence.

 

Ø      Fatal. It ended in DEATH AS ALL SIN DOES!  (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans

6:23). Yet sin is not incurable by Divine power any more than leprosy was.

As Miriam, Naaman, and the man who came to Christ (Matthew 8:2)

were cleansed, so may the sinful soul be RENEWED!  (I John 1:7).

 

Ø      Posthumous. Uzziah’s punishment followed him after death. His people

buried him, indeed, but not in the royal mausoleum, only in its

neighborhood, in the field of burial which belonged to the kings, lest his

leprous dust should defile that of his fathers.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The danger of prosperity.

Ø      The sin of pride.

Ø      The unlawfulness of will-worship.

Ø      The certainty that GOD CAN PUNISH SIN!

Ø      The hopelessness of those who die in sin.

 

 

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