The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
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 Chronicles 26
1. Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah [this form of the name is found uniformly in Chronicles, with the single exception of 1Chronicles 3:12, where Azariah occurs. Uzziah is likewise the only form used by the prophets (see Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 7:1; Hosea 1:1; Amos 1:1)], who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.
2. He built Eloth [the Idumean port on the Red Sea], 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 [and he continued to seek God] in the days of Zechariah [an otherwise unknown prophet], who had understanding in the visions of God [lit. the skilled in seeing God—a surprising epithet, occurring nowhere else]: and as long as he sought [lit. in the days of his seeking] 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 [probably the Jabneel of Joshua 15:11, which was at the extreme border of Judah, to the north-west], and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod [the strongest of all the Philistine towns. It was originally assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:47)], and among the Philistines.
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 [i.e. "paid tribute:" comp. 1Kings 4:21, 1Kings 10:25; 2Chronicles 17:11. A right of pasture in the Ammonite country seems implied in 2Chronicles 17:10] to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.
9. Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified [or repaired] them.
10. Also he built towers in the desert, and digged [or, cut out many cisterns] many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains [rather, "for he had much cattle there, and in the low country, and on the downs "]: husbandmen also, and vinedressers in the mountains, and in Carmel [or, the fruitful field, the glebe land (Isaiah 29:17, Isaiah 32:15)]: for he loved husbandry [a lover of the land was he, i.e. of the soil: comp. the expression "man of the land," i.e. husbandman (Genesis 9:20)].
11. Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men. [lit. and Uzziah had a host making war (or, doing battle)] 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 [an epithet applied to the patriarchal chiefs] were two thousand and six hundred.
13. And under their hand [or, "at their side," meaning, under their command] was an army [Heb. the power of an army], three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred [this fairly agrees with the statement respecting the total of Amaziah's army (three hundred thousand) in chap. 2Chronicles 25:5], 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 [an old-English word, meaning armour for neck and breast], and bows, and slings [Heb. stones for slings] to cast stones.
15. And he made in Jerusalem engines [the first mention of artillery], invented by cunning men, to be on the towers ["towers" (Zephaniah 1:16)] and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped [i.e. by God, (comp. 2Chronicles 26:7)] till he was strong.
16. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction [rather, his heart was lifted up to do wickedly (comp. chap. 2Chronicles 27:2)]: for he transgressed [Uzziah must have deliberately determined to invade the priest's office, thus repeating the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35)] against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
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 God.
19. Then Uzziah was wroth [i.e. foamed with anger], 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 [comp. the sudden seizure of Gehazi (2Kings 5:27)] 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.
[The Speaker's Commentary remarks that death was denounced by the law against those who invaded the office of the priest (Numbers 18:7); and death had been the actual punishment of Korah and his company (ibid., Numbers 16:31-35). Uzziah, when he felt the hand of God laid upon him, feared, probably, lest from him too the extreme penalty should be enacted, and therefore hasted to quit the sacred building, where his bare presence was a capital crime.]
21. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house [rather, in the hospital, or lazar-house], being a leper; for he was cutoff [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 formerly excluded as a leper from the sacred precincts, he was obliged to isolate himself from society (comp. Leviticus 13:46)], 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 Amos, write.
23. So Uzziah slept [2Kings 15:7] with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial [in the burial field or graveyard belonging to the kings, and near their sepulchres; but not in the royal tombs themselves, because a leper would have polluted them] which belonged to the kings; for they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.
2 Chronicles 26
WE have spoken of Amaziah as a double-minded or halfhearted man; and we find From this chapter that this double-minded man had a double-minded son. After the murder of Amaziah, "all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem." It is recorded of Uzziah that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord," but with this limitation—"according to all that his father Amaziah did." What that reservation amounts to we can never know. We are certain that Amaziah was at once wise and foolish; we have seen that he served the Lord, "but not with a perfect heart." He was always looking behind him, or looking out on one side, or reviving the memory of evil enjoyments, or wondering if he could not play the ambidexter and do a little with this world as well as with the world to come. His heart was not round, whole, complete, perfect; represented by a figure, there would be a good deal of brightness upon it, fine white light, but here and there would be spots black enough sometimes to mar all the glory; then again we come upon great spaces full of light, and we say, After all, this man is superior; he presents a high average of character, good predominates over evil. Uzziah took after him—"he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father did." How can a son be better than his father? How can a son afford to rebuke his father by cultivating a superior virtue, by being strong where his father was weak, by being wise where his father was foolish, by amending the record, and thus subtly reproaching his forerunner? But sons must do this, if the world is to go on. Sons must even venture to be larger, truer, wiser, stronger men than their fathers. Nor are their fathers to blame if they occupy a secondary position in relation to their sons; it is right that they should do so; their sons outlive them, have the advantage of fuller light, larger civilisation, and revelations abounding in suggestion and in all the ministries that can ennoble the mind and helpfully and redeemingly affect the heart. Let no man, therefore, be afraid that he will out-distance his father; let him not die of this spurious modesty; let him thank God that his father brought him so far on the road) and then let him contribute his donation towards human progress and consolidation.
There was a good deal of night and day in the life of Uzziah.
"And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God" (2Chronicles 26:5).
Then as to his occupation Uzziah was, altogether, a man of comprehensive mind:—
"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 vinedressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. 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" (2Chronicles 26:10-11).
He loved husbandry, but he was obliged to fight. When he made great plans for battle, and accepted the inventions of clever men for the making of catapults for the discharge of arrows and great stones, he did what he was reluctant to do. Do not judge men too hastily. They sometimes get into positions for which they have no appetite; they do not want to be there, but a kind of temporary necessity seems laid upon them; all the while they are, in heart, otherwhere. Uzziah loved husbandry. There was a time in ancient history when kings cared more for ploughmen than for soldiers. Blessed is that country whose agricultural labourers are more in number than its military men. Better the smock frock than the red coat; better the brow bent in honest industry than all the decoration military. We must have husbandmen, and we scarcely value them aright. They are in the very highest of all professions; they seem to come immediately after the Creator. Other men are in the air, or on the horizon, or at a great distance somewhere, inventing polysyllables for the description of what they are about; but the husbandman is just next to the Creator. "The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." We cannot always follow the pursuit we love. The interruptions of life are many, sudden, and oftentimes tremendous. Is there anything more distressing than to be compelled to do the thing we have no heart for? Many a man in the city would leave his occupation tomorrow if he could find bread in the thing that he really loves. Every time he takes up his quill he feels that he has taken hold of a double-edged instrument; he would gladly lay it down, but the children would lack bread if he did not drive it all day, and get what pittance he can out of the waste of ink. And many men are in other positions that look lofty and that are amply rewarded, for which they care nothing; they would rather be at home, attending to the garden, watching the bees, reading noble books; they would rather have what is called a nook and a book, a crust and an author, than all the noise and rattle and swell and empty pomp of nominal elevation. But we cannot do what we would like to do. Herein is part of our discipline, which is part of our education. We must have the will broken somewhere. Parents may be foolish enough not to break the will of their children, but they are only leaving other people to do what they have left undone. No man can reach the full stature of his manhood, and realise all that is sweetest in life, until his will has been cut right in two. Let those of us bless God who bore the yoke in our youth; then when age comes on it brings with it joys which we are prepared to receive.
Look at another aspect of his character—
"And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction" (2Chronicles 26:15-16).
Read, literally,—He was marvellously helped, and therefore he became strong. "Marvellously helped." Some men have never been helped at all. They have had to fight every lion and every bear without a friend being within a mile of them during the agony of the encounter. Yet every man is helped from above. Surely blessed are they who have had little human help, and who therefore have no thanks to give to anybody, except for keeping out of the way. Others have been helped until they have become perfect imbeciles; they have lived on the pockets of other people until they have forgotten how to make a shilling of their own; they have always brought an excellent appetite to the table of charity; they have been "marvellously helped," and the more you help them the more they will need the help. When a man has never been trained to make his money he takes it in handfuls from other people, and thinks they have done nothing but their duty. Some of us have had to count the shillings, and to learn arithmetic in order that we might know how to spend them so as to find twelve pence in each of them. "He was marvellously helped": let that be a reason for helping others. What we have received we have received only to hand on, but to hand on to honest and deserving men, not to vagabonds. Do not imagine that the Lord's river of goodness terminates in you; it is to be carried on that others may be refreshed and fertilised by the generous stream. Let us not be sour because we have not been helped ourselves; let us rather say that, having felt the pinch of poverty and the load of the burden, we will help others a little as we pass along the path of life. It may be only a smile that is required of us, or a cheering word, or a grip of the hand that means a blessing; it may be money, it may be time, it may be sympathy, it may be influence. Blessed is he when he comes to his last sleep of whom men shall say, He was a succourer of many, he marvellously helped all with whom he came in contact. How difficult it is to have prosperity and to use it aright! How haughty we become when we double our income! How insufferable we are when we have more than our neighbours! "When his heart was strong, he was lifted up to his destruction." Here we come again upon that awful instrument, "the heart." It will always have the next thing; much will have more; there is another round upon the ladder to be climbed; there is another field to be added to the estate. How difficult to say, Lord, this is enough; I thank thee for all thy love and care. Temptations come with advancement. A man is not the same in a large house that he was in a small one. He declares that he could never go back to the lodgings that he had as a young man; he wonders how he lived there. It is wonderful, but not in his sense of the surprise. It is difficult to be wealthy and to be humble; difficult to be abounding in all the elements which men count valuable and yet to continue attendance at the Sunday-school. There may be six rich Sunday-school teachers in Great Britain, but we do not know them all. If there is a rich Sunday-school teacher his name gets into the newspapers as a species of phenomenon. The Lord has an infinite number of poor helpers—in every sense of the term. Poverty likes Christ—he often has loaves and fishes to give away; and where that is not the motive he always has a smile, a brother's touch, a Saviour's look, a Redeemer's almightiness. So, for various reasons, for contrary and conflicting motives, we throng around him. He always gives—he gave himself.
A curious form the ambition or presumption of Uzziah took. He would be a priest; he would go in and do work in the temple; he would "burn incense upon the altar of incense." It is not every man whose madness takes this turn. He would be not only State, but Church; not only king, but priest. He has now completely lost his balance; he is off his ground: something will occur presently to show him that he has committed the offence of trespass; he has broken through a hedge, and according to the divine word a serpent shall bite him.
"And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: 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" (2Chronicles 26:17-18).
Kings must sometimes be taught their place. There have been strong men in history who have said to kings, Stand off! They have not been disloyal, but rather loyal, in the highest and largest sense of the term, because they have done this thing; they were men of moral discrimination; men of large ideas and true ideas of social righteousness, and therefore the Spirit of the living God enabled them to utter the word that was true. "Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense," and he might have injured the priests bodily, but perhaps when he was lifting the censer that he might use it, at the very time there was the foam of madness upon his lip there was the foam of leprosy upon his brow—"the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar." There is a boundary: we may do this, but not that; we are hedged about by law. We have illustration enough of this in common life: why hesitate to believe concerning it in matters purely spiritual? We must abide within our limitation, if we would do our duty with success and with blessing. Everywhere if a man gets away from his appointed boundary he is smitten with some kind of leprosy; he is made to feel that he is upon the wrong ground. Suppose an unskilful man should adventure into the sanctuary of music, and imagine that he could approach the organ without his imposture being detected; his very first touch would betray him, and men would rise and say, in some form, "This is not thy place; thou art a trespasser; thou wast not anointed for this; thou art cruelly abusing the sacred instrument that was meant to discourse music for the praise of God." Let a man adventure into the practice of medicine who is unqualified, and by his bungling work he will soon reveal his nonqualification, and men will flee away from him as from a murderer. It is the same with the law. The great temptation of some natures is to try to do the very things for which they are least qualified. There is a marvellous irony in human genius in this matter. It would seem to be an inscrutable mystery that men will persist in attempting to do the thing which they cannot do, and which they were obviously never meant to do. Why this obstinacy? Why this mental blindness? Why this handling of things sacred with fingers profane? Why this contradictory life? We were not meant to be here, but to be there; and whenever a man is out of place he is guilty of wasting strength. A man can only work well within his own limit. No man should strain himself at his labour, be he poet, or musician, or divine, be he prophet or merchantman; he should keep easily within the circle which he was appointed to occupy, for all stretching is weakening, all effort that is above the line of nature tends to destruction, both of the worker and of the influence which he ought to exert. Know your appointed place, and keep it. All trespass of this kind leads to the excitement of evil passions. Men do not like to be baulked; they cannot bear to be chafed by disappointment, and when they see other men succeeding in burning incense they wonder why they cannot burn incense quite as well: hence we have envy, jealousy, grudging, and all manner of ungenerous and ignoble feeling. And this is accompanied by a subtraction from legitimate influence. A man who might be quite a light in the village is lost in the metropolis. The only man who cannot see that is the man himself. He astounds the fireside of a villager, and therefore he thinks he can take the capital by storm. Many men are in the capital who wish they were in the provinces. Why fly to the capital? Why leave the humble sphere? The gate of the field was meant for some men to go in by, not to come out of. We might have been so much respected in the provinces; we might have been looked up to, consulted, and when we walked abroad the elders might have risen at our approach. But the capital is cruel, the capital is sometimes unjust; the capital is too large to be kind.
Here then we have double-minded men, father and son; here we have men adventuring beyond their proper limits, and being burned. Amaziah went too far and never came home again, for he was murdered at Lachish, as we have seen; Uzziah went into the temple to play the priest, and he came out a leper. Is there no providence in life? Is there not a divinity that shapes our ends? Is it not true that God's eyes go to and fro throughout the whole earth, and that he shows himself strong in behalf of those who put their trust in him? Are there not divisions and distributions of talents and gifts and capacities? Are we all made in one mould? Are we all of one size? Is there no scale of proportion? Is there no law of perspective? Is there not a foot as well as a hand? Is there not an eye as well as an ear? If a foot should say, "Because I am not the hand, therefore I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the ear should say, "Because I am not the eye, therefore I am not of the body," does saying so make it so? We are many members, and yet all the members constitute one body. God has sacred places, God has allotted specific duties to men; every man will be wise in proportion as he sees his own calling, and makes his calling and election sure. Reward lies along that line, and peace, and rest, and comfort, and dawning heaven. Leave your native heath, take your life into your own hands, say you will create a sphere for yourself, and do as you please, and you shall be stung with disappointments as with a cloud of insects. Say you will insist upon having your own way in the world, and every rock you strike will but injure the hand that smites it. The gates will not yield to your touch, the rivers will not know the common wood with which you smite them in the hope of dividing the stream. But live and move and have your being in God. Say, Lord, not my will, but thine, be done; make me door-keeper, or lamplighter, or hewer of wood, or drawer of water, or a Zechariah, having learning in thy visions and power of reading all the apocalypse of thy providence: what thou wilt, as thou wilt, as long as thou wilt: thy will is heaven. It is towards this end that all Christian education must tend. This is the glory of Christ; this is the miracle of the Son of God. We have seen him pass up to it, we have seen him shrink from it, we have heard him pray against it, we have listened as he said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Blessed be God for that prayer! It helps men to pray; it gives the charm of eloquence to the reluctance of prayer; it makes halting divine; it sanctifies imperfect wrestling, agonising supplication. Blessed Saviour, we have had to thank thee for everything. Now we have to thank thee for thy halting. Then thou wert indeed our brother; we knew thee at the point of stumbling. When thou didst say, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," we said, Now how near he is to us; he is bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh; he is Emmanuel, God with us. Then he said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." In that moment he conquered the cross. In that moment he was crowned.
Almighty God, thou hast sent down from heaven a blessing to rest upon the men whose eyes are towards thee in the day of necessity, in the time of conviction for sin, in the hour of hope for the realisation of thy redeeming love. Thou hast not left the world without light, thou hast not omitted from thy speech the tenderest of all words, and all thy words to the children of men, welcoming them to thy gospel, are uttered in the tenderest tones. Thou dost reign over us, thou art careful about us with a great care; for we are formed in the image and likeness of God, and we are the work of his hands and the fruit of his thought. We bless thee for all this solicitude: may we know its full meaning, may we respond to its desire, may we be found at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, without excuse or self-defence or plea of justification, confessing our sins, humbling ourselves before the living God, and asking for mercy because we are sinners. Thou hast sent thy Son to die for us: the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them: the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost: he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. This is our hope, as it is thy promise; this is our rest, because it is thy covenant We wonder and are sore afraid when we behold the spread of darkness and the increase of corruption, but the mouth of the Lord hath spoken good things, and the earth shall yet be renewed in righteousness. Enable us to work in the spirit of this hope; then shall our hands be strong, and our knees shall not tremble, and our eyes shall look straight on, and we shall not be afraid, though many rise up in battle and controversy against the Lord. We bless thee for all good men; we thank thee for their influence, their inspiration, for the sacred contagion of their words and their works: increase their number, give solidity and continuance to their influence, and may the light be more than the darkness. Pity those who are ill at ease, to whom is given the sadness of an aching heart: lead the blind by a way that they know not: charm away the loneliness of those who are the victims of solitude: bring home all who have gone astray; may they ask for pardon at the cross, and find it there; may they own their sin, and thus become rid of it by the exercise of thy grace; and let thy kingdom come, God of all, and reign thou over us, thou wounded, atoning, triumphant Christ. Arrest every evil man in his bad ways; thwart his purposes, turn his counsel to confusion, and make him afraid by influences which he cannot calculate, that he may bethink himself, and wonder, and consider, and pray.
This we say at the altar of the cross, this we say with our eyes fixed on the great Sacrifice; and because we pray in the name of Jesus, we need not wait for the answer, for it is already given in thine own. Amen.