Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.XXVI.
REIGN OF UZZIAH-AZARIAH.
ACCESSION, AGE, AND CONDUCT OF UZZIAH. INFLUENCE OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH(2Chronicles 26:1-5). (Comp. 2Kings 14:21-22; 2Kings 15:2-3.)
Uzziah.—So the chronicler always names him, except in one place (1Chronicles 3:12), where the name Azariah appears, as in 2Kings 14:21; 2Kings 15:1; 2Kings 15:6, &c. In 2Kings 15:13; 2Kings 15:30; 2Kings 15:32; 2Kings 15:34, Uzziah occurs (though there also the LXX. reads Azariah, thus making the usage of Kings uniform); as also in the headings of the prophecies of Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. It is not, therefore, to be regarded either as a popular abbreviation or a transcriber’s blunder, as Schrader and others suggest. In the Assyrian inscriptions of Tiglathpileser II this king is uniformly called Azriyahu, i.e., Azariah. Clearly, therefore, he was known by both names; but to foreigners chiefly by the latter. (Comp. Azareel—Uzziel, 1Chronicles 25:4; 1Chronicles 25:18.)
He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.(2) He built.—fie it was who built.
Eloth.—Kings, Elath. The Idumean port on the Red Sea.
The first four verses are identical with the parallel in Kings. (See the Notes there.)
And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.(5) And he sought God.—And he continued to seek God (the Hebrew is an expression peculiar to the chronicler).
In the days of Zechariah.—An otherwise unknown prophet.
Who had understanding in the visions of God.—Literally, the skilled in seeing God—a surprising epithet, occurring nowhere else. Some Hebrew MSS., and the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic versions, and the Targum, read, “in the fear of God.” This is doubtless correct; and the text should be rendered. “who had understanding (or gave instruction) in the fear of God.” So the famous Rabbis, Rashi and Kimchi, long since suggested. Zechariah was thus the guide and counsellor of king Uzziah, and that not only in religious matters, but in what we should call the political sphere; for in those days the distinction between things sacred and secular, civil and ecclesiastical, between Church and State, religion and common life, was wholly unknown.
And as long as he sought.—Literally, in the days of his seeking.
The Lord, God . . .—Such a mode of speech reveals the chronicler’s own hand.
Instead of this verse, 2Kings 15:4 makes the deduction usual in its estimate of the character of a reign: “Only the high places were not taken away; the people still used to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places.”
The power and prosperity of Uzziah are accounted for by the chronicler on the ground that he sought God during the life of Zechariah; although afterwards he offended by rashly intruding upon the priest’s office, and was punished with leprosy (2Chronicles 26:16-21).
And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines.UZZIAH’S CAMPAIGNS, PUBLIC WORKS, AND MILITARY STRENGTH
This section is peculiar to the Chronicles. Although the book of Kings passes over the facts recorded here, they are essential to forming a right conception of the strength and importance of the southern kingdom during the age of Uzziah and Jotham; and they are fully corroborated, not only by comparison with the data of Isaiah (Isaiah 2-4) upon the same subject, but also by the independent testimony of the cuneiform inscriptions of the period. (See Note on 2Kings 14:28.) Thus we find that the warlike Assyrian Tiglath-pileser II. chastised Hamath for its alliance with Judah during this reign, but abstained from molesting Uzziah himself—“a telling proof,” as Schrader says, “for the accuracy of the Biblical account of Uzziah’s well-founded power.” The name of Uzziah is conspicuously absent from the list of western princes who, in B.C. 738, sent tribute to Tiglath: Hystaspes (Kushtashpi), king of Commagene (Kummuhâ’a), Rezin, king of the country of the Damascenes, Menahem of the city of the Samaritans, Hiram of the city of the Tyrians, Sibitti-bi’li of the city of the Giblites or Byblos, Urikki of Kui, Pisiris of Carchemish, Eniel of Hamath, Panammu of Sam’al, and nine other sovereigns, including those of Tabal and Arabia. The list thus comprises Hittites and Arameans, princes of Hither Asia, Phoenicia, and Arabia. The omission of Uzziah argues that the king of Judah felt himself strong enough to sustain the shock of collision with Assyria in case of need. He must have reckoned on the support of the surrounding states (also not mentioned in the above list), viz., Ashdod, Ascalon, Gaza, Edom, Ammon, Moab, &c. (Schrader, Keilinschr., p. 252, seq.).
(6) And he went forth and warred against the Philistines.—At the outset of his reign this able prince had given promise of his future by seizing and fortifying the port of Elath, and thus probably completing the subjugation of Edom, which his father had more than begun. Afterwards he assumed the offensive against the Philistines, Arabs, and Maonites, who had invaded the country under his predecessors (2Chronicles 21:16; 2Chronicles 20:1).
Jabneh.—The Jamnia of Maccabees and Josephus; now the village of Jebnah, about twelve miles south of Joppa (the same as Jabneel, Joshua 15:11).
Ashdod.—Esdûd. (Comp. Joshua 13:3.) Like Gath, one of the five sovereign states of the Philistines. It commanded the great road to Egypt; hence its possession was of first-rate importance to the contending military powers of Egypt and Assyria. Sargon captured it B.C. 719. (Comp. Isaiah 20:1.)
About Ashdod.—In Ashdod, i.e., in the canton so called.
And among the Philistines.—That is, elsewhere in their territory. Uzziah appears to have reduced the Philistines to a state of complete vassalage. They were not, however, annexed to Judah, but ruled by their own kings.
And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims.(7) The Philistines, and . . . the Arabians.—They are named together in 2Chronicles 17:11 also. Their seat, Gur-Baal, only mentioned here, is unknown. The Targum makes it Gerar; the LXX. apparently Petra (in Edom). The reading Gedor-Baal has been proposed.
The Mehunims (Heb., Me’ûnîm) are the Maonites, or people of Maon (Ma’ân), near Mount Seir. (See Note on 2Chronicles 20:1.)
And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.(8) The Ammonites.—Old enemies of Judab (2Chronicles 20:1).
Gave gifts.—Paid tribute. Literally, gave a present, or offering (minchāh).
His name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt.—See margin. His name and influence, like Solomon’s, extended to the Egyptian border.
Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them.(9) Built towers.—To defend the approaches.
At the corner gate.—Over, that is, commanding the gate (2Chronicles 25:23). Probably the north-west corner of the city wall.
The valley gate.—Syriac, “the west gate.” In the western wall, the modern Jaffa gate. These two towers protected the most exposed points of the capital.
At the turning of the wall.—Over the angle (ha-miqçôa ̒), i.e., on the eastern side of Zion, at a bend in the wall. This tower defended both Zion and Moriah against attacks from the south-east. (Nehemiah 3:19-20; Nehemiah 3:24-25.)
And fortified them.—Literally, made them (the gates) strong. Or rather, perhaps, he made the towers strong, i.e., put them in a posture of defence. (Comp. 2Chronicles 11:11.) The margin is wrong. Syriac, “girded (or bound) them at their corners with clamps (glîdê, i.e., κλεῖδες) of iron.”
Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.(10) In the desert.—Or, grazing country, i.e., the “wilderness of Judah,” on the west of the Dead Sea. The towers were for the protection of the royal herds against the predatory Bedawin. (Comp. Micah 4:8 : “And thou, O tower of the flock.”)
Digged many wells.—Hewed out many cisterns; to supply his herds with water.
For he had much cattle.—Scil, there, in the wilderness of Judah. But perhaps we should render thus: “For he had much cattle; and in the lowland and in the plain he had husbandmen; and vinedressers in the mountains and in the glebe land.” So Syriac.
Both in the low country.—And in the lowland of Judah; the Shephēlah, between the hills and the Mediterranean.
And in the plains.—Plain (mîshôr). “The Plain,” par excellence, appears to mean the high level east of the Dead Sea and Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8). This was the territory of Reuben, which Uzziah probably recovered from Moab and Ammon (2Chronicles 26:8). (Comp. Isaiah 16:1, from which it appears that the kings of Judah at this epoch claimed sovereignty over the country on the eastern side of the Jordan.)
With the whole verse Comp. the account of David’s agricultural and pastoral wealth (1Chronicles 27:25-31).
He loved husbandry.—A lover of land was he, i.e., of the soil. (Comp. the expression, “man of the land,” i.e., husbandman, Genesis 9:20.)
Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king's captains.(11) Moreover . . . fighting men.—Literally, And Uzziah had a host making war (or, doing battle).
That went out to war.—Literally, goers forth in the host.
By bands.—Or, in troops (lig’dûd)—i.e., in regular array; in organised bodies. Probably each house formed a distinct troop. (See 2Chronicles 26:13.)
According to the number of their account.—In the number of their muster (pĕquddāh,” census”).
By the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler.—These two royal officials had been entrusted with the draught of the muster rolls. They were “under the hand “—i.e., the direction and superintendence—of Hanamah, who was “one of the king’s captains,” or staff officers.
Under the hand.—Or, at the side ((al y ad) (1Chronicles 25:2).
The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of valour were two thousand and six hundred.(12) Chief of the fathers.—Heads of the families, or father-houses.
Of the mighty men of valour.—To wit, the mighty men of valour, in apposition with heads of the families. The army was marshalled, as of old, according to clans, or houses, the heads of which are here distinguished as “valiant heroes.”
And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.(13) Under their hand.—Or, at their side, meaning, under their command.
An army.—See margin. An armed force, or, warlike host (chêl çābā’); an expression only found besides in 1Chronicles 20:1.
Three hundred thousand . . . five hundred.—This fairly agrees with the statement respecting the total of Amaziah’s army (300,000) in 2Chronicles 25:5.
That made war with mighty power.—Literally, a doer of battle with strength of might (sturdy strength, kōach chayil, a unique phrase). Each chief was thus at the head of about a hundred and twenty men, who formed his troop (gedûd, 2Chronicles 26:11). (Comp. the expression, “captains of hundreds.”) The actual number in each century may have varied, as in the Roman army.
And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones.(14) Throughout.—To wit, for all the army, an apposition.
Shields, and spears (rĕmāchîm, “lances”), and helmets, and habergeons (shiryônôth, “coats of mail” “cuirasses “).—For the heavy armed.
“Habergeon” is an old English word, meaning armour for neck and breast.
Bows, and slings . . . stones.—For the light armed. (See margin.)
Slings to cast stones.—Literally, stones of slings (the le is the mark of the accusative). They are mentioned to show that the equipment was complete.
And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.(15) Engines, invented by cunning men.—The first mention of artillery. Literally, devices, a devising of a deviser. The word “engine” (i.e., ingenium, which is late Latin for ballista) fairly represents chishshābôn. LXX., μηχανὰς, Vulg., machinas.
Bulwarks.—Pinnôth. Zephaniah 1:16, “towers.”
To shoot arrows and great stones.—So that they were like the well-known catapults and ballisters of Roman warfare. An instrument like the ballista is represented on the Assyrian sculptures, and probably both kinds of artillery passed from Assyria to Palestine.
And his name spread.—Went forth (2Chronicles 26:8).
He was marvellously helped.—The Hebrew phrase only occurs here.
Till.—So that he became strong.
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 upon the altar of incense.UZZIAH’S PRESUMPTION PUNISHED BY LEPROSY HIS DEATH
His heart was lifted up.—With pride.
To his destruction.—Rather, even to dealing corruptly (‘ad lehashchîth).
For he transgressed.—And he was unfaithful to Jehovah (1Chronicles 5:25).
Went into the temple . . . to burn incense.—On the golden altar, in the Holy Place; contrary to the law of Numbers 18:1-7, Elevated by success, Uzziah appears to have desired to become supreme pontiff as well as king, and to exercise the same dual functions as the Egyptian Pharaohs were wont to do. Some have thought that he merely revived the precedent of David and Solomon; but it can hardly be proved that those monarchs, though represented as organising the priesthood and ritual, and conducting great religious festivals, ever actually performed the distinctive functions of priests. (Comp. the conduct of Saul, 1Samuel 13:9, and its consequences.)
And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:(17) Azariah the priest—i.e., the high priest, whose duty it would be to resist such an encroachment on sacerdotal functions. His name does not occur in the list (1Chronicles 4:27-41).
Valiant men.—Sons of valour (1Chronicles 5:18), so called because they had the moral courage to oppose the king.
And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.(18) They withstood.—‘Amad ‘al, a late usage. (Comp. 1Chronicles 21:1.)
It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense.—Comp. the construction (1Chronicles 15:2).
Trespassed.—Done faithlessly (ma’al), 2Chronicles 26:16.
Neither shall it be . . . Lord God.—Literally, and not to thee (is it) for honour from Jehovah; i.e., thine act will not issue in honour, as thou thinkest, but in shame. Or, perhaps, And burning incense belongs not to thee as a prerogative from Jehovah (‘ên, not lō,’ would be more natural).
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.(19) Then.—And.
Was wroth.—Zaʻaf i.e., foamed with anger.
And had.—And in his hand was a censer (Ezekiel 8:11).
Rose up.—Zarah. The word is not used in this sense elsewhere.
From beside—i.e., near, hard by.
Uzziah’s punishment was the same as that which fell upon Miriam (Numbers 12:10) and Gehazi (2Kings 5:27). Thenius, while asserting the historical character of Uzziah’s invasion of the sanctuary, declares that the chronicler has followed traditional exegesis in making the king’s leprosy a judgment upon his offence. At all events, we may be sure that the chronicler has given the story as he found it in the history of Uzziah, to which he alludes in 2Chronicles 26:22.
In Josephus the story is further embellished by the statements that the great earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 happened at the moment when Uzziah threatened the opposing priests; and that a ray of sunlight falling upon the king’s face through the Temple roof, which was cloven by the shock, produced the leprosy. (Comp. Amos 4:11; Zechariah 14:4-5.)
And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.(20) Looked upon him.—Turned towards him.
They thrust him out.—Hibhîl—scared, hurried him out. (Comp. Esther 6:14, “they made haste.”) LXX., κατέσπευσαν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖθεν.
Hasted.—Literally, thrust himself. The Hebrew is a late word occurring thrice in Esther, and not elsewhere.
The Lord had smitten him.—2Kings 14:5.
And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt 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.(21) Was a leper . . . several house.—2Kings 14:5. Rather, in the hospital, or lazar house.
For he was cut off (Psalm 88:5; Isaiah 53:8) from the house of the Lord.—This ground of Uzziah’s dwelling in a sick house is added by the chronicler. Having been formally excluded as a leper from the sacred precincts, he was obliged to isolate himself from society. (Comp. Leviticus 13:46.)
Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.(22) Did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.—(See Introduction.) Kings, “Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?”
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.(23) So Uzziah slept.— 2Kings 15:7.
In the field of the burial.—In the burial field or graveyard belonging to the kings, and near their sepulehres; but not in the royal tombs themselves, because a leper would have polluted them.
Kings simply says, as usual, “in the city of David.”