Backstory of the Kings 19: Jeroboam II and Uzziah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 26, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

I wanted to address both of these kings in one go because ultimately, Scripture does not say much about them. Jeroboam II has the longest reign of Israel at 41 years yet is barely given half a chapter of coverage. All he is known for doing is continuing in the sins of Jeroboam and for restoring Israel’s territory that Syria had taken during the reigns of Ahab through Jehoash. Uzziah had the 2nd longest reign of Judah at 52 years, and he gets a bit more attention – a full chapter. I have noted that Scripture is more concerned about each king’s spiritual state and the nation’s spiritual state than any political or social setting. So though it touches on the latter, Scripture emphasizes the former.

Jeroboam II was one of the strongest kings of Israel whom God used to restore its lands because he was not ready to evict them from the land for their idolatry. However, he never followed the Lord. There is no indication of him being an immoral king, just an idolatrous king. He let the idols stick around, and that is all that is said about him.

Uzziah came to the throne at a mere 16 years old because his father was assassinated for bowing before Edom’s idols and his foolish battle against Israel. He reigned for 52 years and walked in the ways of the Lord except not actively tearing down the high places of idol worship. But he went to the Temple to worship and did things God’s way for the most part. He sought the Lord, which cannot be said about Joash or Amaziah. Uzziah made Judah likely the strongest they had been since the days of Solomon. He subdued the Philistines and the Ammonites and held off attacks from Arabia. He built up Jerusalem’s defenses and became quite powerful. He didn’t have to fight against Joash or Jeroboam II of Israel. But his strength became his weakness, and he became proud. He went to offer incense in the temple, a job only the priests could do, and God struck him with leprosy of which he would die.

So, what are the backgrounds of these kings? Jeroboam II was the third king following Jehu, and his son Zechariah would finish the promise of God for four generations. Jeroboam’s rule indicates he would have been rather young when he became king to have a 41-year reign. He would have been a child or teenager when Jehoash fought against Amaziah and visited Elisha on his deathbed. Biblical prophets Amos and Hosea were prophesying in Israel, and so Jeroboam would have heard the messages. Again, there is no indication of him heeding them, repenting, or outright rejecting them; no comment is made. We just know that Jeroboam went about his business as a normal ruler who sought the best of for his kingdom, was not blatantly immoral, but never sought after the Lord.

Uzziah was a teenager when he saw his father win over Edom, take the idols, and then stupidly go to war with Jehoash. He knew his grandfather was assassinated, and now his own father was assassinated. He really didn’t want to walk the same path. We don’t know what Biblical prophets were speaking to him, but Uzziah was the first king since Jehoshaphat where Scripture explicitly states that he sought the Lord. His morality was overall about the same as his father Amaziah’s, and he knew that God was indeed real. No indication in Uzziah’s background would show a seed of his going to burn incense. That resulted from his pride that developed while he ruled and gained strength. And it was in that time of Uzziah’s leprosy that Isaiah began his ministry and had his vision of the throne room. Isaiah was in training as a prophet and would soon become the prophet for the king’s court.

One thing I pick up from these two kings, who in a political and social context should receive a large percentage of attention, is that God doesn’t bother with people who seem to cruise in their lives. There is no indication of growth or decline in Jeroboam II. There is only a decline in Uzziah and only at the end of his life. Uzziah sought the Lord and was obedient, but besides a few battles and a giant overview, only his sin is discussed in detail. When we see the Bible dealing with political situations, it refers to how they tie their trust to God or not.

We will soon look at Ahaz and Hezekiah, Uzziah’s grandson and great-grandson, where we get a strong emphasis on the political situation because it is a comparison between two kings who trusted the Lord versus trusting in the foreign nations for help. During Uzziah’s reign, another nation began to grow in power: Assyria. Assyria would be a nation that would wipe out the whole northeast part of the Middle East. Syria was beaten three times by Jehoash, and so both Judah and Israel did not have significant political or military powers threatening them. But they would be regaining their power, and we’ll see Syria, and particularly Assyria, showing their might before long.

Next week, we’ll look at a series of kings of Israel in another political tumult that sets things up for the conquest by Assyria. Then we’ll come back to Judah to look at Jotham and Ahaz.

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