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2 Chronicles 26:3-23 – Uzziah

Summary

Because this politically powerful king died as a leper, the Chronicler suggests that his pride in taking priestly duties for himself accounts for his ignominious demise.

Analysis

Uzziah is the third king in the Chronicler's triptych of kings who started out well but ended poorly. In Uzziah's case it is easy to see why this approach was necessary. The account in 2 Kings had reported that Uzziah (sometimes called Azariah in Kings) built Elath, restoring it to Judah (2 Kings 14:22), and that God had stricken Uzziah with leprosy (15:5). The conflicting notices of blessing and judgment generated the present form of the Chronicler's presentation.

The initial evaluation of Uzziah's reign sets the scene, "He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done" (v. 4). Though identical to the evaluation in 2 Kings 15:3, the Chronicler's overall evaluation of Amaziah is not altogether positive (25:2), which suggests some of the ambiguity that Uzziah's reign evoked. The Chronicler's familiar cultic terminology appears as well. Uzziah's "seeking the LORD" (darash) characterizes the positive period of his reign and is rewarded with building projects and military victory (vv. 5-15, no parallel in 2 Kings). His cultic offense in burning incense, however, is labeled ma'al (v. 18, "done wrong," NRSV), the Chronicler's chief indicator of infidelity. Here, it leads to leprosy, banishment from the temple, and burial in a field--though still classified as royal burial with his fathers (vv. 16-23); 2 Kings 15:7 claims he was buried in the city of David. This is probably accurate since an inscription detailing the transport of Uzziah's bones has been discovered in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 26:3-23

3Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

6 He went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. 7God helped him against the Philistines, against the Arabs who lived in Gur-baal, and against the Meunites. 8The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the Angle, and fortified them. 10He built towers in the wilderness and hewed out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vine-dressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 11Moreover, Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by the secretary Jeiel and the officer Maaseiah, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s commanders. 12The whole number of the heads of ancestral houses of mighty warriors was two thousand six hundred. 13Under their command was an army of three hundred and seven thousand five hundred, who could make war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. 14Uzziah provided for all the army the shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging. 15In Jerusalem he set up machines, invented by skilled workers, on the towers and the corners for shooting arrows and large stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvellously helped until he became strong.

Pride and Apostasy

16 But when he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to make offering on the altar of incense. 17But the priest Azariah went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valour; 18they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to make offering to the Lord, but for the priests the descendants of Aaron, who are consecrated to make offering. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honour from the Lord God.’ 19Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to make offering, and when he became angry with the priests a leprous* disease broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. 20When the chief priest Azariah, and all the priests, looked at him, he was leprous* in his forehead. They hurried him out, and he himself hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him. 21King Uzziah was leprous* to the day of his death, and being leprous* lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the Lord. His son Jotham was in charge of the palace of the king, governing the people of the land.

22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz wrote. 23Uzziah slept with his ancestors; they buried him near his ancestors in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said, ‘He is leprous.’* His son Jotham succeeded him.

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10 February 2011

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