Who was Uzziah?
Uzziah or Azariah, son of Amaziah, and 11th king of Judah, came to the throne at the age of 16. The length of his reign is given as 52 years. The chronological questions raised by this statement are considered below. His accession may here be provisionally dated in 783 BC. His father Amaziah had met his death by popular violence (2 Kings 14:19 ), but Uzziah seems to have been the free and glad choice of the people (2 Chronicles 26:1 ).
2. Foreign Wars:
The unpopularity of his father, owing to a great military disaster, must ever have been present to the mind of Uzziah, and early in his reign he undertook and successfully carried through an expedition against his father's enemies of 20 years before, only extending his operations over a wider area. The Edomites, Philistines and Arabians were successively subdued (these being members of a confederacy which, in an earlier reign, had raided Jerusalem and nearly extirpated the royal family, 2 Chronicles 21:16 ; 2 Chronicles 22:1 ); the port of Eloth, at the head of the Red Sea, was restored to Judah, and the city rebuilt (2 Kings 14:22 ; 2 Chronicles 26:2 ); the walls of certain hostile towns, Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod, were razed to the ground, and the inhabitants of Gur-baal and Maan were reduced to subjection (2 Chronicles 26:6 , 2 Chronicles 26:7 ). Even the Ammonites, East of the Jordan, paid tribute to Uzziah, and "his name spread abroad even to the entrance to Egypt; for he waxed exceeding strong" (2 Chronicles 26:8 ).
3. Home Defenses:
Uzziah next turned his attention to securing the defenses of his capital and country. The walls of Jerusalem were strengthened by towers built at the corner gate, at the valley gate, and at an angle in the wall (see plan of Jerusalem in the writer's Second Temple in Jerusalem ); military stations were also formed in Philistia, and in the wilderness of the Negeb, and these were supplied with the necessary cisterns for rain storage ( 2 Chronicles 26:6 , 2 Chronicles 26:10 ). The little realm had now an extension and prosperity to which it had been a stranger since the days of Solomon.
4. Uzziah's Leprosy and Retirement:
These successes came so rapidly that Uzziah had hardly passed his 40th year when a great personal calamity overtook him. In the earlier part of his career Uzziah had enjoyed and profited by the counsels of Zechariah, a man "who had understanding in the vision of God" (2 Chronicles 26:5 ), and during the lifetime of this godly monitor "be set himself to seek God." Now it happened to him as with his grandfather Jehoash, who, so long as his preserver Jehoiada lived, acted admirably, but, when he died, behaved like an ingrate, and killed his son (2 Kings 12:2 ; 2 Chronicles 24:2 , 2 Chronicles 24:22 ).
So now that Zechariah was gone, Uzziah's heart was lifted up in pride, and he trespassed against Yahweh. In the great kingdoms of the East, the kings had been in the habit of exercising priestly as well as royal functions. Elated with his prosperity, Uzziah determined to exercise what he may have thought was his royal prerogative in burning incense on the golden altar of the temple. Azariah the high priest, with 80 others, offered stout remonstrance; but the king was only angry, and pressed forward with a censer in his hand, to offer the incense. Ere, however, he could scatter the incense on the coals, and while yet in anger, the white spots of leprosy showed themselves upon his forehead. Smitten in conscience, and thrust forth by the priests, he hastened away, and was a leper ever after (2 Chronicles 26:16-21 ).
Uzziah's public life was now ended. In his enforced privacy, he may still have occupied himself with his cattle and agricultural operations, "for he loved husbandry" (2 Chronicles 26:10 ); but his work in the government was over. Both Kings and Chronicles state in nearly identical words: "Jotham the king's son was over the household, judging the people of the land" (2 Kings 15:5 ; 2 Chronicles 26:21 ). Works of the same kind as those undertaken by Uzziah, namely, building military stations in the hills and forests of Judah, repairing the walls of city and temple, etc., are attributed to Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:3 ff); the truth being that Jotham continued and completed the enterprises his father had undertaken.
5. Chronology of Reign:
The chronology of the reign of Uzziah presents peculiar difficulties, some of which, probably, cannot be satisfactorily solved. Reckoning upward from the fall of Samaria in 721 BC, the Biblical data would suggest 759 as the first year of Jotham. If, as is now generally conceded, Jotham's regnal years are reckoned from the commencement of his regency, when his father had been stricken with leprosy, and if, as synchronisms seem to indicate, Uzziah was about 40 years of age at this time, we are brought for the year of Uzziah's accession to 783. His death, 52 years later, would occur in 731. (On the other hand, it is known that Isaiah, whose call was in the year of Uzziah's death, Isaiah 6:1 , was already exercising his ministry in the reign of Jotham, Isaiah 1:1 .)
Another note of time is furnished by the statement that the earliest utterance of Amos the prophet was "two years before the earthquake" (Amos 1:1 ). This earthquake, we are told by Zechariah, was "in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah" (Zechariah 14:5 ). Josephus likewise embodies a tradition that the earthquake occurred at the moment of the king's entry into the temple (Ant. , IX, x, 4). Indubitably the name of Uzziah was associated in the popular mind with this earthquake. If the prophecy of Amos was uttered a year or two before Jeroboam's death, and this is placed in 759 BC, we are brought near to the date already given for Uzziah's leprosy (Jeroboam's date is put lower by others).
In 2 Kings 15 Uzziah is referred to as giving data for the accessions of the northern kings ( 2 Kings 15:8 , Zechariah; 15:13, Shallum; 15:17, Menahem; 15:23, Pekahiah; 15:27, Pekah), but it is difficult to fit these synchronisms into any scheme of chronology, if taken as regnal years. Uzziah is mentioned as the father of Jotham in 2 Kings 15:32 , 2 Kings 15:34 ; 2 Chronicles 27:2 , and as the grandfather of Ahaz in Isaiah 7:1 . He was living when Isaiah began his ministry (Isaiah 1:1 ; Isaiah 6:1 ); when Hoses prophesied (Hosea 1:1 ); and is the king in whose reign the afore-mentioned earthquake took place (Zechariah 14:5 ). His name occurs in the royal genealogies in 1 Chronicles 3:11 and Matthew 1:8 , Matthew 1:9 . The place of his entombment, owing to his having been a leper, was not in the sepulchers of the kings, but "in the garden of Uzza" (2 Kings 21:26 ; compare 2 Chronicles 26:23 ). Isaiah is stated to have written a life of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22 ).
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IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.