Uzziah, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 7, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

If you’ve been following along in this series, do you ever feel like all the names of these kings of Israel and Judah tend to run together and get confusing? This week’s king definitely does not help that situation; he’s known as Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, but he’s known as Azariah in 2 Kings 15:1-7. The names are different in Hebrew as well as English, but we know it’s the same person because both are recorded as the son of Amaziah, and the chronology of the texts around them fits the timeline. Since there are more details provided about him in the 2 Chronicles passage, we’ll refer to him as Uzziah.

After Uzziah’s father Amaziah was assassinated, Uzziah was made king of Judah at the age of 16 years old. He reigned for 52 years. It’s interesting that 2 Chronicles 26:4 reports that, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done.” Amaziah started out his reign following God, but his downfall happened when he did not listen to God nor the advisors God had placed in his life regarding the battle with Israel. Would Uzziah follow that same pattern? The key to that comes in the second half of verse 5: “As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.”

King Uzziah gained a great deal of political and military power during his reign. He and the army of Judah conquered three main cities that were occupied by the Philistines. They also fought some nomadic Arab tribes that were inhabiting the southeastern part of Judah. Along with all of that, he built additional towers in Jerusalem and in various places in Judah. He was wealthy, with much livestock and many people working in the fields and vineyards for him.

During King Uzziah’s reign, Judah had a very strong army of more than 307,000 men that was also well-trained and ready for battle. They also incorporated the technology of the day into the towers that King Uzziah built in Jerusalem – shields were built into them so the soldiers could safely shoot arrows at incoming troops, and they also had mechanisms that sound similar to catapults, able to “hurl large stones from the walls” (verse 15).

Because of all this, King Uzziah became very powerful – and also very prideful, which was his downfall as a king. Verse 16 tells us that, “He was unfaithful to the Lord his God.” He went into the temple to burn some incense, but more than 80 priests followed him in and told him he should not do that. The duty of burning incense is only supposed to be completed by the priests who had descended from Aaron, not the king. They warned King Uzziah to leave; he had been unfaithful and God would punish him for that.

King Uzziah already had the censer in his hand to burn the incense, and he became angry at all these priests telling him to leave. Who were they to tell him, the mighty king of Judah, to leave when he wanted to stay and burn incense? While he was expressing his anger to the priests, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead! When everyone realized that, they quickly got King Uzziah out of the temple.

“King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house — leprous, and banned from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land” (verse 21).

Isaiah the prophet was alive during King Uzziah’s reign in Judah. As reported in Isaiah 6, it was around the time of King Uzziah’s death that Isaiah had a vision and was commissioned by God to be a prophet. Isaiah was a prophet during the reign of the 3 kings of Judah who followed Uzziah, and we know from his prophecies and from the historical accounts that even though King Uzziah started out doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, he did not remove all of the idol worship from Judah.

Uzziah did great things for the nation of Judah – as long as he followed God. He captured cities and drove out enemies. He strengthened the army and therefore the nation as a whole. But then he got too big for his britches and thought he was invincible and could do whatever he wanted. Even when the priests warned him not to burn the incense since that would go against God’s rules for the temple and the people, Uzziah got mad and did not make any motions to stop proceeding with burning the incense.

Sometimes, God’s judgment can take a while to show up in our lives. Other times, like King Uzziah, it can be immediate. He was afflicted with leprosy right on the spot as punishment for starting the process to burn incense that was only for the priests. The leprosy never went away for him, and he lived the rest of his life with it. He had to give up ruling as king, even while he was still alive. The time period for that is debated, but some scholars believe it was about 14 years!

As punishment for his prideful actions, King Uzziah not only had to deal with leprosy and all of its symptoms, but he had to watch his son take over and be king instead of him. God saw that King Uzziah had too much pride, and dealing with all of that would definitely have to increase his humility!

Pride is a great sin before God, and it’s an easy one for us to fall into when things are going well for us. We gain confidence in ourselves and take our focus off of God and what He has done and is doing for us. We think it’s through our own skills or talents that we are prosperous, rather than realizing that it is all God’s doing – and God can take it all away in a moment if He chooses to do so. As Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Watch out for pride in your life, or be prepared for God to humble you!

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