Uzziah

UZZIA (ŭ-zī'a, Heb. ‘uzzîyā’, strength). One of David’s mighty men who was from Ashtaroth (1Chr.11.44).



In spite of these successes, he strayed far from the Lord at the end of his life. Apparently as long as the prophet Zechariah lived, his influence was great on the king and “as long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (2Chr.26.5). However, when he became strong, pride filled his heart, and one day he went into the temple, determined to burn incense to the Lord, a duty to be performed only by the priest. The chief priest, Azariah, with eighty priests went into the temple to reason with him, but he would not listen. Because of his self-will, God struck him with leprosy, which stayed with him until his death (2Chr.26.16-2Chr.26.21).

2. A Levite descended from Kohath (1Chr.6.24).

3. The father of a certain Jonathan in David’s time (1Chr.27.25).

4. One of the sons of Harim who put away his foreign wife when admonished by Ezra the priest (Ezra.10.16-Ezra.10.21).

5. The father of Athaiah who came to Jerusalem after the Exile (Neh.11.4).


UZZIA ə zī’ ə (עֻזִיָּ֖א, my strength is Jehovah). A man from the town of Ashtaroth who is listed among David’s “mighty men” (1 Chron 11:44).



Chronology.

Uzziah was prob. coregent with Amaziah for many years. The evidence in 2 Kings is in (1) 14:23, that Jeroboam’s reign lasted forty-one years; (2) 15:1, that Uzziah became king (impliedly, that his father died) in the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam; (3) 15:8, that Jeroboam’s reign ended in Uzziah’s thirty-eighth year. From Jehu’s rebellion in 841 b.c., through the reigns of Athaliah, Joash, and Amaziah, the date of Amaziah’s death can be derived as 768/7; on this basis Uzziah counted his years from 792/1 and died in 740/39 (Thiele, Pavlovsky and Vogt).

W. F. Albright, working from a terminal date of 738 b.c. for Menahem, dates Uzziah 783-742, and alters the lengths of some reigns to dispose of the surplus arising from simply adding up the MT figures. H. Tadmor arrives at 785/4-733/2 b.c.

Achievements

Expansion.

Uzziah’s reign is briefly noted in 2 Kings 15:1-7 as events in Israel move to their climax; but 2 Chronicles 26 reveals him as one of the most energetic and successful kings of Judah. His crowning achievement was the rebuilding of Elath (once Ezion-Geber, modern Eilat/Tell el-Kheleifeh) “after the king (Amaziah) slept with his fathers,” and when he himself was forty years old. Although Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites had opened a way into the territory which they had won from Jehoram, Uzziah had had to build up his strength after the defeat by Joash, and had been extending his control across the Negev, building forts and securing water supplies. 2 Chronicles 26:10 may refer to the Negev, or to the wilderness of NE Judah (Cross, Milik, BASOR 142). No full archeological proof connects such forts as Kh. Gharra and Kh. Ghazza with Uzziah, but Glueck shows at length (Rivers) how the effective use of the Negev has depended on firm government, and Elath could not have been held in isolation. It was all part of one policy for Uzziah to reduce the Philistines, extend his control up to Beersheba, and subdue the Meunites (2 Chron 26:6, 7; perhaps read “...the Arabians living at Gur, and against the Meunites” [w’al for ba’al, instead of additionally as RSV]. “Gur” might be Jagur (Josh 15:21) or Gerar (cf. 2 Chron 14:14). See also 1 Chronicles 4:41.

Consolidation.

Uzziah’s southward policy had three clear aims: (1) to bring Arabian trade by the sea coast; (2) to exploit the mineral wealth of the Rift Valley; (3) to develop agriculture in the Shephelah W of the Judaean Hills, and to extend pasturing in the Negev. Much of the coast plain too, now covered in sand, was then fertile. Uzziah established defended settlements on land which the Philistines prob. could no longer cultivate, for lack of manpower; 8th-cent. remains at Tell Mor, about a kilometer inland of Ashdod, may illustrate 2 Chronicles 26:6. He may have built the forts in the N wilderness (Cross and Milik attribute these to Jehoshaphat, but see de Vaux, RB 63), and SE of Hebron (“attesting the existence of desert routes,” Aharoni, IEJ 11).

The defenses of Jerusalem were rebuilt and developed, with new towers at two principal gates (2 Chron 26:9). Assyrian reliefs show the new-style upperworks which gave the defenders better protection (Yadin, Art of Warfare, 325f.; Eng. VSS “engines,” 2 Chron 26:15, has been taken to mean catapults, but evidence for these is very doubtful). Uzziah reorganized the army with a regular staff, and made shields and weapons a government issue; thus he provided the military support for his expansion, without disrupting agriculture by frequently calling out a militia.

The Azriyau mystery.

The Annals of Tiglath-pileser (745-723 b.c.) record that in or after his third year he assaulted the city of Azriyau of Ya-u-da; it seems that he built a royal palace there to mark its subjection. Though the context is apparently Syrian, many scholars have argued that Azriyau must have been Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah; this view has been as strongly contested.

Winckler (Altorient. Forschung. I:1) noted clues to an alternative interpretation. A N-Syrian state of Y’di is known from Aram. inscrs. found at Sam’al; its king witnessed the triumph of Tiglath-pileser at Damascus in 732 b.c.

Luckenbill (AJSL 41) and Albright (JBL 71) rejected the theory of an Azriyau of Y’di; Tadmor likewise (Scripta Hierosolymitana 8) denies that Assyr. Ya-u-da could represent Y’di, or that such an insignificant state could have headed a coalition against Assyria. He suggests that after the death of Jeroboam, while Israel was rent by civil war, Uzziah inherited the leadership in the N; he dates the events noted in the Annals to 738 b.c., following the usual reconstruction, disputed by Thiele (see Menahem, 2b). Thiele rejects the Y’di hypothesis, though for him the period falls in Jotham’s coregency.

The available fragments of the Annals are not clear as to Azriyau’s activities or his ultimate fate; but Uzziah could not have been involved except as a leader. Tadmor (p. 271) does not show that he could be defeated without repercussions in Judah. Further, a northern involvement would be out of keeping with Uzziah’s general policy, and unlikely at the very end of his reign.

Illness

(2 Kings 15:5-7; 2 Chron 26:16-23).

Downfall.

Chronicles records a confrontation between King Uzziah and Azariah the high priest, who objected to the king’s offering incense in the Holy Place. During this unhappy scene, as Uzziah was simultaneously in an act of prayer and losing his temper with the priests, a skin disease broke out on his forehead. Humiliated and rejected, he left the Temple, and for his remaining years was unable to fulfil the royal office, particularly as he was excluded from the Temple. The event is dated by Jotham’s coregency in 750/1 b.c.

Josephus (Antiq. IX. x. 4) adds that (1) the day was a great festival (which is likely); (2) there was a severe earthquake (one occurred in Uzziah’s time, cf. Zech 14:5 and Targum on Isa 28:21); (3) that the leprosy came by the sun shining through a crack in the Temple. J. Morgenstern (HUCA 12/13) takes these details as “essential and significant” to support his theory that the king had hitherto officiated at a sunrise ceremony on New Year’s Day. This is hardly consistent with his basic hypothesis that, at the moment in question, the sun would in any case be shining down the central axis of the Temple.

Closing years.

Uzziah now lived in a “separate house,” or “house of separation,” bēt hăḥŏpshīt. The meaning of the phrase is debated. Ḥŏpshī in 1 Samuel 17:25 prob. indicates exemption from certain obligations; the adjective is used of freed slaves or prisoners, but Psalm 88:6 has “forsaken (KJV, ‘free’) among the dead.” Since ḥŏpshīt is an adverbial form, Klostermann (comm. 1887) emended to bētōh ḥŏpshīt, “in his house without duties” (or, “forsaken”); but there is MS evidence for ḥōpshūt in Kings, supported by 2 Chronicles 26:21 (Kethiv) and by the LXX transliterations in both places. T. Gaster rendered “house of pollution,” adducing the Ugaritic thpst (“filthy”); Gordis explained “confinement” as opposite of the sense of “free,” but Montgomery comments that this is not necessary.

In comparing Uzziah’s case with Naaman’s, it may be relevant that Naaman was not an Israelite, and he may have had a less serious form of the disease (cf. Herodotus I:138, LSJ s.v. leukē; but these references imply no distinction of grade).

Burial.

Uzziah was buried “in the city” (2 Kings 15:7), “in the royal burial field” (2 Chron 26:23), “with his fathers” (both; cf. Joash, 2 Chron 24:25). An inscr. in Aram. of the 1st cent. a.d. purports to identify a tomb to which his bones were at some time removed; see PEQ Supplement 1931 (Oct), 217ff., plate; W. F. Albright, BASOR 44 (1931), 8ff.; S. Yeivin, JNES 7 (1948), 31-36.

Bibliography

G. Cooke, North Semitic, 185; D. D. Luckenbill, AJSL 41 (1925), 217ff.; D. Diringer, Iscr. Ant. Ebr. (1934); J. Morgenstern, HUCA 12/13 (1935), 1-53, 15 (1940), 267-274; N. Glueck, BASOR 72 (1938), 2-10, 75 (1939), 10-19, 79 (1940), 3-17; W. F. Albright, BASOR 100 (1945), 18-22; A. Honeyman, JBL 67 (1948), 20f.; J. Montgomery, Kings ICC, (1951); J. Simons, Jerusalem in the OT (1952), 330; W. F. Albright, JBL 71 (1952), 78; BASOR 140 (1955), 34ff.; J. Pritchard, ANET2 (1955), 282; F. Cross, J. Milik, BASOR 142 (1956); M. Unger, Israel and the Aramaeans (1957), 97f.; Y. Aharoni, IEJ 8 (1958), 33-38; N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (1959), 166-179; W. Hallo, BA 23 (1960), 44-48; B. Rothenberg, God’s Wilderness (1961), 41, 124ff.; H. Tadmor, Scr. Hierosol. 8 (1961), 232-271; Y. Aharoni, IEJ 11 (1961), 15f.; C. Schedl, Vet Test 12 (1962), 90ff., 101ff.; G. Rinaldi, Vet Test Suppl. 9 (1962), 225-234; Y. Yadin, Art of Warfare (1963), 325f.; V. Pavlovsky, E. Vogt, Biblica 45 (1964), 326-337; J. Milgrom, Vet Test 14 (1964), 164-182; J. Gray, Kings (1964); J. Myers, Chronicles (1965); N. Glueck, BA 28 (1965), 70-87; Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible (1966), 313ff.; E. Thiele, Vet Test 16 (1966), 103ff.; Y. Aharoni, IEJ 17 (1967), 1-17.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

An Ashterathite and one of David’s mighty men (1Ch 11:44).



1. Accession: Uzziah or Azariah, son of Amaziah, and 11th king of Judah, came to the throne at the age of 16. The length of his reign is given as 52 years. The chronological questions raised by this statement are considered below. His accession may here be provisionally dated in 783 BC. His father Amaziah had met his death by popular violence (2Ki 14:19), but Uzziah seems to have been the free and glad choice of the people (2Ch 26:1).

2. Foreign Wars:

The unpopularity of his father, owing to a great military disaster, must ever have been present to the mind of Uzziah, and early in his reign he undertook and successfully carried through an expedition against his father’s enemies of 20 years before, only extending his operations over a wider area. The Edomites, Philistines and Arabians were successively subdued (these being members of a confederacy which, in an earlier reign, had raided Jerusalem and nearly extirpated the royal family, 2Ch 21:16; 22:1); the port of Eloth, at the head of the Red Sea, was restored to Judah, and the city rebuilt (2Ki 14:22; 2Ch 26:2); the walls of certain hostile towns, Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod, were razed to the ground, and the inhabitants of Gur-baal and Maan were reduced to subjection (2Ch 26:6,7). Even the Ammonites, East of the Jordan, paid tribute to Uzziah, and "his name spread abroad even to the entrance to Egypt; for he waxed exceeding strong" (2Ch 26:8).

3. Home Defenses:

Uzziah next turned his attention to securing the defenses of his capital and country. The walls of Jerusalem were strengthened by towers built at the corner gate, at the valley gate, and at an angle in the wall (see plan of Jerusalem in the writer’s Second Temple in Jerusalem); military stations were also formed in Philistia, and in the wilderness of the Negeb, and these were supplied with the necessary cisterns for rain storage (2Ch 26:6,10). The little realm had now an extension and prosperity to which it had been a stranger since the days of Solomon.

4. Uzziah’s Leprosy and Retirement:

These successes came so rapidly that Uzziah had hardly passed his 40th year when a great personal calamity overtook him. In the earlier part of his career Uzziah had enjoyed and profited by the counsels of Zechariah, a man "who had understanding in the vision of God" (2Ch 26:5), and during the lifetime of this godly monitor "be set himself to seek God." Now it happened to him as with his grandfather Jehoash, who, so long as his preserver Jehoiada lived, acted admirably, but, when he died, behaved like an ingrate, and killed his son (2Ki 12:2; 2Ch 24:2,22). So now that Zechariah was gone, Uzziah’s heart was lifted up in pride, and he trespassed against Yahweh. In the great kingdoms of the East, the kings had been in the habit of exercising priestly as well as royal functions. Elated with his prosperity, Uzziah determined to exercise what he may have thought was his royal prerogative in burning incense on the golden altar of the temple. Azariah the high priest, with 80 others, offered stout remonstrance; but the king was only angry, and pressed forward with a censer in his hand, to offer the incense. Ere, however, he could scatter the incense on the coals, and while yet in anger, the white spots of leprosy showed themselves upon his forehead. Smitten in conscience, and thrust forth by the priests, he hastened away, and was a leper ever after (2Ch 26:16-21).

Uzziah’s public life was now ended. In his enforced privacy, he may still have occupied himself with his cattle and agricultural operations, "for he loved husbandry" (2Ch 26:10); but his work in the government was over. Both Kings and Chronicles state in nearly identical words: "Jotham the king’s son was over the household, judging the people of the land" (2Ki 15:5; 2Ch 26:21). Works of the same kind as those undertaken by Uzziah, namely, building military stations in the hills and forests of Judah, repairing the walls of city and temple, etc., are attributed to Jotham (2Ch 27:3 ); the truth being that Jotham continued and completed the enterprises his father had undertaken.

5. Chronology of Reign:

The chronology of the reign of Uzziah presents peculiar difficulties, some of which, probably, cannot be satisfactorily solved. Reckoning upward from the fall of Samaria in 721 BC, the Biblical data would suggest 759 as the first year of Jotham. If, as is now generally conceded, Jotham’s regnal years are reckoned from the commencement of his regency, when his father had been stricken with leprosy, and if, as synchronisms seem to indicate, Uzziah was about 40 years of age at this time, we are brought for the year of Uzziah’s accession to 783. His death, 52 years later, would occur in 731. (On the other hand, it is known that Isaiah, whose call was in the year of Uzziah’s death, Isa 6:1, was already exercising his ministry in the reign of Jotham, Isa 1:1.) Another note of time is furnished by the statement that the earliest utterance of Amos the prophet was "two years before the earthquake" (Am 1:1). This earthquake, we are told by Zechariah, was "in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah" (Zec 14:5). Josephus likewise embodies a tradition that the earthquake occurred at the moment of the king’s entry into the temple (Ant., IX, x, 4). Indubitably the name of Uzziah was associated in the popular mind with this earthquake. If the prophecy of Amos was uttered a year or two before Jeroboam’s death, and this is placed in 759 BC, we are brought near to the date already given for Uzziah’s leprosy (Jeroboam’s date is put lower by others).


W. Shaw Caldecott