Bible Commentary: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 and Related

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2 Chronicles 26:16-21 and Related

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Uzziah's Sin and Leprosy

In Judah: The demise of Uzziah's (Azariah's) spiritual life should serve as a warning to us all. We can't continue living on the basis of our past good works and faithfulness. Our loyalty to God must continue to the very end of our human existence. Uzziah's pride in his power was such that he tried to usurp the role of the priests. "In parallel Near Eastern cultures, semidivine kings also served as priests. Perhaps Uzziah's determination to burn incense reflected an arrogant intent to exalt himself" (Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader's Companion, 1991, note on 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 [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 on the altar of incense. [17] And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: [18] And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said to him, It appertains not to you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for you have trespassed; neither shall it be for your honor from the LORD God. [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. [20] And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked on him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from there; yes, himself hurried also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. [21] And Uzziah the king was a leper to the day of his death, and dwelled 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. [22] Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write. [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.
American King James Version×
). The king soon learned that God would not tolerate intrusion into service He had reserved for the sons of Aaron, and the Almighty dealt him a severe blow, afflicting him with leprosy. As mentioned in the highlights for Amos 1, Josephus says that the huge earthquake of Uzziah's reign (Amos 1:1 Amos 1:1The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
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; Zechariah 14:4-5 Zechariah 14:4-5 [4] And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. [5] And you shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal: yes, you shall flee, like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with you.
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) accompanied this punishment. According to Scripture, Uzziah's leprosy lasted the rest of his life, which lasted more than a decade beyond this.

It isn't clear whether Uzziah repented. The Bible does say he knew he couldn't remain in the temple with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:20 2 Chronicles 26:20And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked on him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from there; yes, himself hurried also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
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), a fact laid down in the law God gave (see Leviticus 22:2-6 Leviticus 22:2-6 [2] Speak to Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow to me: I am the LORD. [3] Say to them, Whoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goes to the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow to the LORD, having his uncleanness on him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. [4] What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or has a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoever touches any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goes from him; [5] Or whoever touches any creeping thing, whereby he may be made unclean, or a man of whom he may take uncleanness, whatever uncleanness he has; [6] The soul which has touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.
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; Numbers 12:10 Numbers 12:10And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked on Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.
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, 15). Of course, Uzziah's "obedience" at this point may have simply been a knee-jerk reaction to flee further divine wrath rather than a desire to now obey what was right. Yet it is hoped that, on further reflection, his newfound fear of God helped to restore him to a right state of mind. We are not told that he turned to a life of wickedness—only that he sinned in this matter. And God did not bring him to the grave by violent death as He did certain other rebellious rulers of Judah. Rather, Uzziah was allowed to live many more years in his humbled condition. The situation, then, appears similar to that of Moses when he disobeyed God (see Numbers 27:12-14 Numbers 27:12-14 [12] And the LORD said to Moses, Get you up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. [13] And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. [14] For you rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
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)—and David when He sinned (see 2 Samuel 12:13-14 2 Samuel 12:13-14 [13] And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. [14] However,, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.
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). A degree of punishment had to be meted out to the leader as an example to everyone else, even when he himself repented.

During Uzziah's house quarantine, his son Jotham took over the official duties as coregent. Again, the Bible doesn't give details, but it is possible that Uzziah still remained in control, working through his son. In its note on 2 Kings 15:1-2 2 Kings 15:1-2 [1] In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign. [2] Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem.
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The Nelson Study Bible states: "The nature of Jotham's duties (v. 5), the assigning of a full 52 years of reign to Azariah, and Isaiah's dating of his call to the year of Azariah's (or Uzziah's) death (Isaiah 6:1) may indicate that Azariah retained the power of the throne until the end."

Israel an Assyrian Vassal State 

In Israel: "Pul" was another Babylonian name for the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-Pileser III (see 1 Chronicles 5:26 1 Chronicles 5:26And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, to this day.
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Nelson, note on 2 Kings 15:19 2 Kings 15:19And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.
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). "To understand the complex events of the late eighth century bc, a word must be said concerning the Assyrians. After nearly a half-century of decline, Assyria reawakened with the usurpation of the throne by Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 bc. Indeed he and his successors in the Neo-Assyrian Empire were to effect a drastic change in the balance of power in the ancient Near East. Having solidified the kingdom in the east, Tiglath-Pileser turned his attention to the west in 743. Although the exact course of his western campaign is difficult to follow, it seems clear that all of Syro-Palestine submitted to the Assyrian yoke. Among those nations and kings whose tribute is recorded in his annals is the name Menahem of Israel, thus confirming the biblical account" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 2 Kings 15:16-22 2 Kings 15:16-22 [16] Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up. [17] In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. [18] And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. [19] And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. [20] And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land. [21] And the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? [22] And Menahem slept with his fathers; and Pekahiah his son reigned in his stead.
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).