Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.
Verse 1. - Uzziah; Hebrew, עֻזִּיָּה. (signifying "Strength of Jehovah"). Once in Chronicles, and once only (1 Chronicles 3:12), this king's name is given Azariah, Hebrew, עֲזַרְיָה (signifying "Help of Jehovah") or עֲזַרְיָהוּ; and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1, etc.), Hosea (Hosea 1:1, etc.), and Amos (Amos 1:1, etc.) always use the word Uzziah. In the parallel, however, and in both the chapters in which the parallel clauses lie, the word Azariah is used, as well in other clauses as in those (e.g. 2 Kings 15:1, 6, 8, 23, 27), yet Uzziah is also used in verses intermingled with them (e.g. 13, 30, 32, 34). It is probable that Azariah was the first-used name, that the latter name was not a corruption of the former, but that, for whatever reason, the king was called by both names. Nevertheless, the apt analogy that has been pointed out of Uzziel (1 Chronicles 25:4) and Azareel (18) is noteworthy. (See Keil and Bertheau on 1 Kings 15:2 and 2 Kings 14:21; and Keil on our present passage.) Sixteen years old. Therefore Uzziah must have been born just before the fatal outside mistake of his father's life in the challenge he sent to Joash of Israel, and after the deadly inner mistake of his soul in turning aside to "the gods of the children of Seir."
He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.
Verse 2. - Eloth; Hebrew, אֶת־אֵילות; the parallel reads אֵילַת. This place was at the head of the Gulf Akaba (2 Chronicles 8:17; 1 Kings 9:26); Judah had lost hold of it at a past revolt of Edom, and Uzziah, after his father's crippling of Edom, seizes the opportunity of making it Judah's again and rebuilding it, thus finishing very probably a work that he knew had been in his father's heart to do. This consideration may explain alike the following clause in our verse. and the placing of this here. Uzziah charged himself to do it the first thing.
Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.
Verse 3. - Jecoliah. This name is spelt Jecholiah in the parallel. The character, however, is kappa in both texts. The meaning of the name is, "Made strong of Jehovah." Another unreliable form of the name is Jekiliah, the result probably of a mere clerical error.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did.
Verse 4. - Right... according to... his father. His father's comparatively long reign, sullied by two frightful stains, which were fearfully visited with a long punishment and a fatal end, is graciously recognized here for the good that was in it, and apparently credited even with a "balance to the good."
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.
Verse 5 - In the days of Zechariah. Twice in the foregoing chapter we have read of "a man of God" and "a prophet" whose names are not given. The chariness of the narrative in this exact respect is not very explicable, for if the simple reason be assumed to be that they were not of much repute, now when the name of Zechariah is given, all that we can say is that nothing else is known of him. Had understanding; Hebrew, הַמֵּבִין. There seems no reason to divest this hiph. conjugation form of its stricter signification, "gave understanding "(see Isaiah 40:14). In the visions of God; Hebrew, בִּרְאות. Some slight discrepancy in the usual fuller writing of the word in some manuscripts lends a little ground of preference for the reading, which a few manuscripts evidently had (see Septuagint Version, ἐν φόβῳ,), of בִּירְאַת; i.e. "in the fear of God" (Proverbs 1:7; Isaiah 11:3); either reading in either of these sub-clauses leaves an undisturbed good meaning to the description of Zechariah.
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.
Verse 6. - The Philistines. It has been seen how the Philistines, humbled to tribute under Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:10-13), had lifted up their heads repeatedly since, as on one occasion in alliance with Arabians (2 Chronicles 21:16, 17) against Jehoram. Brake down the wall (see 2 Chronicles 25:23, the first occasion of this exact expression). Gath (see the parallel to our 2 Chronicles 24:23, 24 in 2 Kings 12:17). Jabneh. A city on the coast, northwest of Judah, now Jebna (see Joshua 15:10-12). Ashdod. Also on the coast, about eight miles south of Jabneh (Joshua 15:47). It is now a large village in Philistia, called Esdud, answering to the Azotus of Acts 8:40 (see Topographical Index to Conder's 'Handbook to the Bible;' and Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' sub voc., 1:119). Built cities about Ashdod; Revised Version supplies in italic type" in the country of Ashdod." However, the force of the preposition בְּ before "Ashdod" in this case speaks for itself; on account of the great importance of the place, in respect of its situation, on the road to Egypt, the strength of its position and perhaps the memory of the fact that, allotted to Judah, it had never really been appropriated by her, and incorporated with her, Uzziah saw it expedient to surround it with other fortified cities, or strong forts, which should be a watch upon it.
And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims.
Verse 7. - Gur-baal. Though nothing is known of this place (the meaning of which is "abode of Baal," perhaps from some temple of Baal), yet its companion Maon, the city of the Mehunim (2 Chronicles 22:1; Judges 10:12), shows whereabouts it was.
And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.
Verse 8. - The Ammonites. This nation lay east of Jordan, north-east of Moab. Note the interesting references, Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 2:37. Gave gifts. This expression was found in our 2 Chronicles 17:11; 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 10:25. The reference to tribute-payment is evident. The entering in of Egypt. This, of course, marks the breadth of the land, and describes the breadth of Uzziah's sway or influence.
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.
Verse 9. - Built towers in Jerusalem. The excellent map, above alluded to (2 Chronicles 25:23), in Conder's 'Handbook to the Bible' (2nd edit.), facing p. 334, furnishes a very clear idea alike of these towers and of the walls of Jerusalem, as we can make them out, for Uzziah's times. For the corner gate, see our note, 2 Chronicles 25:23. Valley gate. This is called by some the Gehenna gate. As many as three sites, reducible perhaps to two, are proposed for this gate:
(1) the west gate, called somewhile the "Jaffa" gate; or
(2) a gate over the valley of" Hinnom;" or, if it be not the same,
(3) that at the valley of Tyropoeon. And at the turning; Hebrew, הַמִקְצוַע. This word occurs eleven times, viz. twice in Exodus, four times in Nehemiah, four times in Ezekiel, and in this place, and is always rendered "corner" or" turning;" the word wanted is angle. The site of this gate cannot very certainly be pronounced upon. Perhaps the angle that marks the gate is that at the south-east corner of the temple plateau. The language of Nehemiah 3:19 is our best clue: "Next to him Ezer repaired... a piece over against the going up to the armoury at the turning."
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.
Verse 10. - Towers in the desert; Hebrew, בַּמִּזְבָּר; the rendering should be the usual one of "wilderness." This was the cattle-pasture west and south-west of the Dead Sea. The towers were needed for forts of observation against marauding and cattle-robbing incursions, as well as for shelter in some attacks. Many wells; Hebrew, בֹּרות. These were not springs, but rather, as in the margin, tanks and cisterns. Carmel. It is not probable that this is the proper name. The translation of Carmel is "fertile field." As a proper name it occurs about twenty times, from Joshua 12:22; Joshua 15:55; Joshua 19:26; on to Amos 1:2; Amos 9:3; and perhaps Micah 7:14; and as not a proper name it occurs about twenty times also; the "fruitful field," e.g., of Isaiah 29:17 and Isaiah 32:15 shows in the Hebrew text הַכַּרְמֶל. The aspect of this verse is very picturesque, and the picturesqueness very pleasant, with its low country and pasturing cattle, its plains and their herds, its hills and their vines, all quickened into life by the mention of towers and wells, husbandmen and vine-dressers, and finished off by the home-touch that this king's partiality looked to agricultural and pastoral pursuits.
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.
Verse 11. - That went out to war by bands; Hebrew, יוצְאֵי צָבָא לִגְדוּד. The last of these words occurs thirty-three times, and is rendered "troop" ten times, "company" four times, "band" fourteen times, and (too generically) "army "five times. The middle word occurs above four hundred times, is rendered "host" an immense preponderance of these times, and probably should have been so rendered without exception. The first word is the pool participle kal of the familiar verb יָצָא, and compels the translation (given literally),' the goers out of the host by hands." Meantime, if the persons here spoken of were leaders, as seems possible, the hiph. participle is required (which would postulate an initial mem for the present initial yod), and a most typical example among some thirty others essentially similar may be quoted from Isaiah 40:26. Their account by the hand of Jeiel; i.e. their muster tabulated by Jeiel, whose office is mentioned before in our 2 Chronicles 25:11. Under the hand of Hananiah. That is, Hananiah was head of the whole matter of the registering, etc.
The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of valour were two thousand and six hundred.
Verse 12. - Of the mighty men of valour. The "of" here is incorrect; the former sub-stautive is not necessarily in construct state, and this word has the prefix of the preposition לְ; nor is the rendering "valour" for our Hebrew text חָיִל so likely a rendering as that found in the foregoing verse, "host." Render, The whole number of the chief of the fathers in the mighty men of the host was, etc. So in the next verse. "with mighty power" will be better rendered "with the strength of a host."
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.
Verse 13. - An army; Hebrew, חֵיל צָבָא. "A force of host" would render this expression, though by an ambiguous use of the word חֵיל construct state of חַיִל. This verse gives the number of the body of the army proper, which shows it seven thousand five hundred more than that of Amaziah in the foregoing chapter (ver. 5).
And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones.
Verse 14. - Habergeons... slings to cast stones. Revised Version right in rendering, coats of mail... and stones for slinging. On the Israelites' employment of the sling, note Judges 20:16; 1 Samuel 17:40; 2 Kings 3:25.
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.
Verse 15. - Engines; Hebrew, חִשְּׁבֹנות; used only here and Ecclesiastes 7:29 (where it is rendered "inventions"), but the related word חֶשְׁבּון is found three times: Ecclesiastes 7:25 (the "reason"), 27 (the "account"); 9:10 ("device"); while the verb root חָשַׁב, to "devise," occurs about a hundred and thirty times, as in next sub-clause מַחֲשֶׁבֶת חושֵׁב. A strict rendering of the clause would make it read, "He made inventions, the inventing of an inventive man;" and the force of the words might be to appraise very highly the virtue of the invention or machine, while to himself may have been due the credit thereof. The balista which discharged stones is depicted on Assyrian sculptures; not so the machine for discharging darts and arrows, the catapult. Although, as just suggested, it were conceivable that to Uzziah himself was due in part the invention or the great improving of the machines in question, yet the verse may be regarded as simply saying that the introduction of them into Jerusalem was his work. He was marvellously helped (see ver. 7).
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.
Verse 16. - To (his) destruction; Hebrew, עַד־לְחַשְׁחִית, hiph. conjugation infin, of שָׁחַת. This conjugation frequently occurs in the sense of "destroying," but also as well without an accusative as with, in the sense of "doing corruptly" (Genesis 6:12 with accusative; but without Deuteronomy 4:16; Deuteronomy 31:29; Judges 2:19; Isaiah 1:19; and next chapter, ver. 2). He transgressed. The "transgression" of a heart that had waxed wanton through prosperity took that peculiarly aggravated form of sinning against holy things and a holy ceremonial. Although, in the daily service of the second temple, the duty of offering incense attached to one chosen by lot each morning and evening of the inferior priests, yet originally the high priest was solemnly appointed for this office. The following are among the most important references to the matter of the incense and its offering (Exodus 25:6; Exodus 30:1, 7, 8, 34, 37, 38; Leviticus 16:13; Luke 1:21; Numbers 6:24-26; Numbers 16:1-35; Numbers 18:1-7; 1 Kings 4:20).
And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
Verse 17. - Azariah the priest. Ver. 20 states what was otherwise to be supposed, that he was the chief priest (הָראשׁ). We fail to identify his name with any in the typical list of 1 Chronicles 6:4-15, where the Azariah of ver. 11 is too early, and the Azariah of ver. 13 too late, for our present Azariah. With him four score priests. This passage suggests to us an idea of how many deeply interesting details are wanting, which would fill in the interstices of Old Testament history. Probably the intention of the king, ambitious to simulate the self-assumed religious ways of neighbouring Gentile kings, was no secret; and possibly the king may have given time for the chief priest to collect his auxiliaries, through some ostentatious display on his own part, in the very performance of his desecration. The number and the character of these helping priests (בְּנֵי־חָיַל) give the idea that they had their work to do, and purposed doing it promptly, or that they would over-awe, and obviate the use of actual force, by their imposing number.
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.
Verse 18. - They withstood. A somewhat more forcible rendering would be justified by the Hebrew text, such e.g. as, "They confronted Uzziah to his face," or "They stood in the way of Uzziah," since our "withstood" almost always conveys the idea of argumentative confronting only. There was expostulation here, as we are immediately told, but there was something else also, as ver. 20 makes very plain, "They thrust him out."
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.
Verse 19. - Render, Then Uzziah was wrath, and in his hand (at that moment) was a censer to burn incense, etc. From the most literal rendering of the Hebrew text, not unfrequently the most forcible Bible English results. From beside; render, at the very side of (comp. Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27).
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.
Verse 20. - They thrust him out. This hiph. conjugation of kal בָּהַל does not point to the force adopted, but to the trembling anxiety with which, for horror's sake of such a monstrous catastrophe, as a leper by the altar and with a censer in his hand, etc., the priests urged him out. Evidently, from the next clause, no great force in the ordinary sense was needed. Yea, himself hasted. The Hebrew verb is niph. conjugation of דָחַפ. It is interesting to note that this root occurs only here and three times in Esther, viz. 3:15; 6:12; 8:14. Uzziah can scarcely have been ignorant that he had been daring the utmost penalty of the Law (Numbers 16:31, 35; Numbers 18:7).
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.
Verse 21. - And dwelt in a several house. The Hebrew for "several house" is הַחָפְשׁות: the parallel (2 Kings 15:5) showing yod instead of van in the last syllable. The verbal root is חָפַשׁ, and occurs once (Leviticus 19:20, with the Authorized Version rendering "was free;" in the same verse is also found a feminine noun derived from it, and rendered in the Authorized Version "freedom"). The adjective חָפְשִׁי occurs sixteen times, and is always rendered in the Authorized Version "free," except once "at liberty" (Jeremiah 34:16). The "freedom" conveyed by the word is that of separation, in the use of it as found here. The leper and the house in which he lived were kept free from contact with others (Leviticus 13:46). Gesenius appears, however, to prefer the idea of "infirmity," "sickness," as determining the cast of the meaning of the word in our text, and goes so far as to translate it an "hospital," quoting the word of Suidas, τὸ νοσοκομεῖον.
Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.
Verse 22. - Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah the prophet asserts that his prophetic inspiration was in Uzziah's time (Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 6:1), or we should have taken for granted that, as he was alive in the time of Hezekiah, grandson to Uzziah, he wrote of Uzziah only from hearsay and previous records. It must be concluded, accordingly, that Isaiah's inspiration as a prophet was early in his own life, that the beginning of it dated not long before the end of Uzziah's career, and that his life was a prolonged one, while still the most part of the acts first and last of Uzziah, which he wrote, must have consisted of a compilation from other treatises and perhaps partly from tradition.
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.
Verse 23. - In the field of the burial which belonged to the kings. The parallel simply says," with his fathers in the city of David." Judging, however, both from the somewhat remarkable words in our text, "the field of the burial" (i.e. the burial-field), and from the following clause, for they said, He is a leper, we may understand that, though it was in the "city of David" that he was buried, and "with his fathers" so far forth, and also that he lay near them, yet his actual sepulchre was not one with theirs, any more than his house of late had been one with the house he had known so well (see Condor's ' Handbook to the Bible,' p. 341).