Bible Commentary: 2 Kings 15:1-4 and Related

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2 Kings 15:1-4 and Related

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Uzziah Successful by Following God

A note about the name of the king: 2 Chronicles uses the name “Uzziah” for this king of Judah, whereas 2 Kings calls him “Azariah.” In the original Hebrew, there is only one letter different (“r”) in the two names. It is believed that Uzziah may have been his official name as king and Azariah his given name.

The story of Uzziah again reveals the problem of human nature that we can all face. He started well (2 Chronicles 26:4 2 Chronicles 26:4And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did.
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) and did a great deal to build up Judah, but as we shall see in a later reading, his good attitude didn’t last and his reign ended in tragedy.

Putting the chronologies together, we can come up with the following picture. Uzziah’s father Amaziah was only 15 when Uzziah was born, when Joash still reigned on the throne of Judah. On the death of Joash, Amaziah became king when Uzziah his son was 12 years old. And when Amaziah was taken captive by Israel four years into his reign, Uzziah was made king at age 16. Amaziah was released from captivity 10 years later, when Uzziah was 26. The two then had a coregency until Amaziah’s death 15 years later, when Uzziah was 41. Uzziah then reigned 27 more years.

His mentor was a godly man called Zechariah. This was not the prophet of the book of Zechariah. Very likely, it refers to the son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20-21 2 Chronicles 24:20-21 [20] And the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said to them, Thus said God, Why transgress you the commandments of the LORD, that you cannot prosper? because you have forsaken the LORD, he has also forsaken you. [21] And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.
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), who was still alive in Uzziah’s childhood before his execution by Uzziah’s grandfather Joash. For a number of years, Uzziah followed the godly advice he was given. Judah’s prosperity at this time owed much to the king’s loyalty and faithfulness to God.

Uzziah had a great interest in agriculture, building towers and wells in the desert, and promoting farming and animal husbandry. Archaeology confirms that forts were built in the Negev desert during the 8th century B.C.

“From earliest times farming has been difficult in Palestine. Water is seldom available in ample quantities, making necessary the construction of cisterns (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:10; Nehemiah 9:25) or the use of streams…for irrigation. During the five-month summer season a farmer could expect little if any rain, and even after October the rainfall was often irregular. Added to these natural difficulties were the amazingly stony terrain, the devastation that often followed the hot desert winds from the E. and crop losses from such eventualities as locust plagues” (“Agriculture,” The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, 1983).

The fact that Uzziah was able to achieve tremendous prosperity for Judah in such a difficult location is a tribute to his foresight and obedience to God. The wealth this generated meant that he could equip and extend his defense forces, and this led to a period of national expansion—which happened at the same time as the national expansion of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam II. Surely no coincidence, this simultaneous expansion prevented one nation from taking over the other one. Indeed, “Uzziah and Jeroboam formed an alliance for much of their reigns and together ruled for a brief time an area nearly as large as the empire of David and Solomon” (Nelson Study Bible, introductory notes on Amos).

Sadly, in the end, as we will later see, Uzziah’s pride in his strength was his downfall, as it so often is (compare Leviticus 26:19 Leviticus 26:19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
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; Proverbs 16:5 Proverbs 16:5Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
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; Proverbs 29:23 Proverbs 29:23A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.
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; Isaiah 2:12 Isaiah 2:12For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be on every one that is proud and lofty, and on every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
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; Isaiah 13:11 Isaiah 13:11And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
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; 2 Chronicles 32:26 2 Chronicles 32:26Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not on them in the days of Hezekiah.
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; Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:1For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
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; James 4:6 James 4:6But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
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). This should serve as a warning for all leaders—and, given the religious context, particularly those in God’s Church (1 Timothy 3:6 1 Timothy 3:6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
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). Indeed, the warning applies to all Christians. Pride and ego are great destroyers. Paul writes about our need to resist and suppress these aspects of human nature (Philippians 2:3-4 Philippians 2:3-4 [3] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. [4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
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).

Finally, it should be noted that even though Uzziah did what was right during most of his reign, all was not well in Judah. The prophets Amos and Hosea preached during this period—their warnings, which we will be reading next, indicating the likelihood of serious problems at the time (though their messages, as we will see, were primarily for the future). Indeed, it is usually in times of plenty that character is corrupted the worst, and God’s judgment becomes imminent (compare Deuteronomy 8:10-20 Deuteronomy 8:10-20 [10] When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which he has given you. [11] Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day: [12] Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelled therein; [13] And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; [14] Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; [15] Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint; [16] Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end; [17] And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. [18] But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. [19] And it shall be, if you do at all forget the LORD your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. [20] As the nations which the LORD destroys before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
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).

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