2 Chronicles 26
This chapter gives us an account of the reign of Uzziah (Azariah he was
called in the Kings) more fully than we had it before, though it was
long, and in some respects illustrious, yet it was very briefly
2 Kings 14:21,15:1-7,
&c. Here is,
I. His good character in general,
2 Chronicles 26:1-5.
II. His great prosperity in his wars, his buildings, and all the
affairs of his kingdom,
2 Chronicles 26:6-15.
III. His presumption in invading the priests' office, for which he was
struck with a leprosy, and confined by it
(2 Chronicles 26:16-21)
even to his death,
ver. 22, 23.
||B. C. 800.|
1 Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen
years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.
2 He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king
slept with his fathers.
3 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.
4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD,
according to all that his father Amaziah did.
5 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.
6 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
7 And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the
Arabians that dwelt in Gur-baal, and the Mehunims.
8 And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread
abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened
9 Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate,
and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and
10 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.
11 Moreover Uzziah had a 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.
12 The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty
men of valour were two thousand and six hundred.
13 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.
14 And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host
shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and
slings to cast stones.
15 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.
We have here an account of two things concerning Uzziah:--
I. His piety. In this he was not very eminent or zealous; yet he did
that which was right in the sight of the Lord. He kept up the pure
worship of the true God as his father did, and was better than
his father, inasmuch as we have no reason to think he ever worshipped
idols as his father did, no, not in his latter days, when his heart
was lifted up. It is said
(2 Chronicles 26:5),
He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who, some think, was the
son of the Zechariah whom his grandfather Joash slew. This Zechariah
was one that had understanding in the visions of God, either the
visions which he himself was favoured with or the visions of the
preceding prophets. He was well versed in prophecy, and conversed much
with the upper world, was an intelligent, devout, good man; and, it
seems, had great influence with Uzziah. Happy are the great men who
have such about them and are willing to be advised by them; but unhappy
those who seek God only while they have such with them and have not a
principle in themselves to bear them out to the end.
II. His prosperity.
1. In general, as long as he sought the Lord, and minded
religion, God made him to prosper. Note,
(1.) Those only prosper whom God makes to prosper; for
prosperity is his gift.
(2.) Religion and piety are very friendly to outward prosperity. Many
have found and owned this, that as long as they sought the Lord and
kept close to their duty they prospered; but since they forsook God
every thing has gone cross.
2. Here are several particular instances of his prosperity:--
(1.) His success in his wars: God helped him
(2 Chronicles 26:7),
and then he triumphed over the Philistines (those old enemies of God's
people), demolished the fortifications of their cities, and put
garrisons of his own among them,
2 Chronicles 26:6.
He obliged the Ammonites to pay him tribute,
2 Chronicles 26:8.
He made all quiet about him, and kept them in awe.
(2.) The greatness of his fame and reputation. His name was celebrated
throughout all the neighbouring countries
(2 Chronicles 26:8)
and it was a good name, a name for good things with God and good
people. This is true fame, and makes a man truly honourable.
(3.) His buildings. While he acted offensively abroad, he did not
neglect the defence of his kingdom at home, but built towers in
Jerusalem and fortified them,
2 Chronicles 26:9.
Much of the wall of Jerusalem was in his father's time broken down,
particularly at the corner gate. But his best fortification of
Jerusalem was his close adherence to the worship of God: if his father
had not forsaken this the wall of Jerusalem would not have been broken
down. While he fortified the city, he did not forget the country, but
built towers in the desert too
(2 Chronicles 26:10),
to protect the country people from the inroads of the plunderers, bands
of whom sometimes alarmed them and plundered them, as
2 Chronicles 21:16.
(4.) His husbandry. He dealt much in cattle and corn, employed many
hands, and got much wealth by his dealing; for he took a pleasure in
it: he loved husbandry
(2 Chronicles 26:10),
and probably did himself inspect his affairs in the country, which was
no disparagement to him, but an advantage, as it encouraged industry
among his subjects. It is an honour to the husbandman's calling that
one of the most illustrious princes of the house of David followed it
and loved it. He was not one of those that delight in war, nor did he
addict himself to sport and pleasure, but delighted in the innocent and
quiet employments of the husbandman.
(5.) His standing armies. He had, as it should seem, two military
[1.] A host of fighting men that were to make excursions abroad.
These went out to war by bands,
2 Chronicles 26:11.
They fetched in spoil from the neighbouring countries by way of
reprisal for the depredations they had so often made upon Judah,
[2.] Another army for guards and garrisons, that were ready to
defend the country in case it should be invaded,
2 Chronicles 26:12,13.
So great were their number and valour that they made war with mighty
power; no enemy durst face them, or, at least, could stand before
them. Men unarmed can do little in war. Uzziah therefore furnished
himself with a great armoury, whence his soldiers were supplied with
arms offensive and defensive
(2 Chronicles 26:14),
spears, bows, and slings, shields, helmets, and habergeons: swords are
not mentioned, because it is probable that every man had a sword of his
own, which he wore constantly. Engines were invented, in his time, for
annoying besiegers with darts and stones shot from the towers and
2 Chronicles 26:15.
What a pity it is that the wars and fightings which come from men's
lusts have made it necessary for cunning men to employ their skill in
inventing instruments of death.
|Uzziah's Sin and Punishment.
||B. C. 763.|
16 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
17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him
fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
18 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
19 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.
20 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.
21 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.
22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did
Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.
23 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.
Here is the only blot we find on the name of king Uzziah, and it is
such a one as lies not on any other of the kings. Whoredom, murder,
oppression, persecution, and especially idolatry, gave characters to
the bad kings and some of them blemishes to the good ones, David
himself not excepted, witness the matter of Uriah. But we find not
Uzziah charged with any of these; and yet he transgressed against
the Lord his God, and fell under the marks of his displeasure in
consequence, not, as other kings, in vexatious wars or rebellions, but
an incurable disease.
I. His sin was invading the priest's office. The good way is one;
by-paths are many. The transgression of his predecessors was forsaking
the temple of the Lord, flying off from it
(2 Chronicles 24:18),
and burning incense upon idolatrous altars,
2 Chronicles 25:14.
His was intruding into the temple of the Lord further
than was allowed him, and attempting him to burn incense upon the
altar of God, for which, it is likely, he pretended an
extraordinary zeal and affection. See how hard it is to avoid one
extreme and not run into another.
1. That which was at the bottom of his sin was pride of heart, a lust
that ruins more than any other whatsoever
(2 Chronicles 26:16):
When he was strong (and he was marvellously helped by the good
providence of God till he was so,
2 Chronicles 26:15),
when he had grown very great and considerable in wealth, interest, and
power, instead of lifting up the name of God in gratitude to him who
had done so much for him, his heart was lifted up to his
destruction. Thus the prosperity of fools, by puffing them up with
pride, destroys them. Now that he had done so much business, and won so
much honour, he began to think no business, no honour, too great or too
good for him, no, not that of the priesthood Men's pretending to
forbidden knowledge, and exercising themselves in things too high for
them, are owing to the pride of their heart, and the fleshly mind they
are vainly puffed up with.
2. His sin was going into the temple of the Lord to burn
incense, probably on some solemn feast day, or when he himself had
some special occasion for supplicating the divine favour. What could
move him to this piece of presumption, or put it into his head, I
cannot conjecture. None of all his predecessors, not the best, not the
worst, attempted it. The law, he knew, was express against him, and
there was no usage or precedent for him. He could not pretend any
necessity, as there was for David's eating the show-bread.
(1.) Perhaps he fancied the priests did not do their office so
dexterously, decently, and devoutly, as they ought, and he could do it
(2.) He observed that the idolatrous kings did themselves burn incense
at the altars of their gods; his father did so, and Jeroboam
(1 Kings 13:1),
an ambition of which honour was perhaps one thing that tempted them
from the house of God, where it was not permitted them; and he, being
resolved to cleave to God's altar, would try to break through this
restraint and come as near it as the idolatrous kings did to their
altars. But it is called a transgression against the Lord his
God. He was not content with the honours God had put upon him, but
would usurp those that were forbidden him, like our first parents.
3. He was opposed in this attempt by the chief priest and other priests
that attended and assisted him,
2 Chronicles 26:17,18.
They were ready to burn incense for the king, according to the duty of
their place; but, when he offered to do it himself, they plainly let
him know that he meddled with that which did not belong to him, and
that it was at his peril. They did not resist him by laying violent
hands on him, though they were valiant men, but by reasoning with him
and showing him,
(1.) That it was not lawful for him to burn incense: "It
appertaineth not to thee, O Uzziah! but to the priests,
whose birthright it is, as sons of Aaron, and who are consecrated to
the service." Aaron and his sons were appointed by the law to burn
David had blessed the people and Solomon and Jehoshaphat had prayed
with them and preached to them. Uzziah might have done this, and it
would have been to his praise; but as for burning incense, that service
was to be performed by the priests only. The kingly and priestly
offices were separated by the law of Moses, not to be united again but
in the person of the Messiah. If Uzziah did intend to honour God, and
gain acceptance with him, in what he did, he was quite out in his aim;
for, being a service purely of divine institution, he could not expect
it should be accepted unless it were done in the way and by the hands
that God had appointed.
(2.) That it was not safe. It shall not be for thy honour from the
Lord God. More is implied: "It will be thy disgrace, and it is at
thy peril." The law runs expressly against all strangers that came nigh
that is, all that were not priests. Korah and his accomplices, though
Levites, paid dearly for offering to burn incense, which was the work
of the priests only,
The incense of our prayers must be by faith put into the hands of our
Lord Jesus, the great high priest of our profession, else we cannot
expect it should be accepted by God,
4. He fell into a passion with the priests that reproved him, and would
push forward to do what he intended notwithstanding
(2 Chronicles 26:19):
Uzziah was wroth, and would not part with the censer out of his
hand. He took it ill to be checked, and would not bear interference.
Nitimur in vetitum--We are prone to do what is
II. His punishment was an incurable leprosy, which rose up in his
forehead while he was contending with the priests. If he had submitted
to the priests' admonition, acknowledged his error, and gone back, all
would have been well; but when he was wroth with the priests,
and fell foul upon them, then God was wroth with him and smote him with
a plague of leprosy. Josephus says that he threatened the priests with
death if they opposed him, and that then the earth shook, the roof of
the temple opened, and through the cleft a beam of the sun darted
directly upon the king's face, wherein immediately the leprosy
appeared. And some conjecture that that was the earthquake in the days
of Uzziah which we read of
Now this sudden stroke,
1. Ended the controversy between him and the priests; for, when the
leprosy appeared, they were emboldened to thrust him out of the temple;
nay, he himself hasted to go out, because the Lord had smitten
him with a disease which was in a particular manner a token of his
displeasure, and which he knew secluded him from common converse with
men, much more from the altar of God. He would not be convinced by what
the priests said, but God took an effectual course to convince him. If
presumptuous men will not be made to see their error by the judgments
of God's mouth, they shall be made to see it by the judgments of his
hand. It evinced some religious fear of God in the heart of this king,
even in the midst of his transgression, that, as soon as he found God
was angry with him, he not only let fall his attempt, but retired with
the utmost precipitation. Though he strove with the priests, he would
not strive with his Maker.
2. It remained a lasting punishment of his transgression; for he
continued a leper to the day of his death, shut up in
confinement, and shut out from society, and forced to leave it to his
son to manage all his business,
2 Chronicles 26:21.
Thus God gave an instance of his resisting the proud and of his
jealousy for the purity and honour of his own institutions; thus he
gave fair warning even to great and good men to know and keep their
distance, and not to intrude into those things which they have not
seen; and thus he gave Uzziah a loud and constant call to repentance,
and a long space to repent, which we have reason to hope he improved.
He had been a man of much business in the world; but being taken off
from that, and confined to a separate house, he had leisure to
think of another world and prepare for it. By this judgment upon the
king God intended to possess the people with a great veneration for the
temple, the priesthood, and other sacred things, which they had been
apt to think meanly of. While the king was a leper, he was as good as
dead, dead while he lived, and buried alive; and so the law was, in
effect, answered, that the stranger who cometh nigh shall be put to
death. The disgrace survived him; for, when he was dead, they would not
bury him in the sepulchres of the kings because he was a leper,
which stained all his other glory.
3. It was a punishment that answered the sin as face does face in a
(1.) Pride was at the bottom of his transgression, and thus God humbled
him and put dishonour upon him.
(2.) He invaded the office of the priests in contempt of them, and God
struck him with a disease which in a particular manner made him subject
to the inspection and sentence of the priests; for to them pertained
the judgment of the leprosy,
(3.) He thrust himself into the temple of God, whither the priests only
had admission, and for that was thrust out of the very courts of the
temple, into which the meanest of his subjects that was ceremonially
clean had free access.
(4.) He confronted the priests that faced him and opposed his
presumption, and for that the leprosy rose in his forehead,
which, in Miriam's case, is compared to her father's spitting in her
(5.) He invaded the dignity of the priesthood, which he had no right
to, and for that he was deprived even of his royal dignity, which he
had a right to. Those that covet forbidden honours forfeit allowed
ones. Adam, by catching at the tree of knowledge of which he might not
eat, debarred himself from the tree of life, of which he might have
eaten. Let all that read it say, The Lord is righteous.