Uzziah Successful by Following God (2 Kings 15:1-4; 2 Chronicles 26:1-15) February 21
A note about the name of the king: 2 Chronicles uses the name "Uzziah" for this king of Judah, whereas 2 Kings calls him "Azariah." In the original Hebrew, there is only one letter different ("r") in the two names. It is believed that Uzziah may have been his official name as king and Azariah his given name.
The story of Uzziah again reveals the problem of human nature that we can all face. He started well (2 Chronicles 26:4) and did a great deal to build up Judah, but as we shall see in a later reading, his good attitude didn't last and his reign ended in tragedy.
Putting the chronologies together, we can come up with the following picture. Uzziah's father Amaziah was only 15 when Uzziah was born, when Joash still reigned on the throne of Judah. On the death of Joash, Amaziah became king when Uzziah his son was 12 years old. And when Amaziah was taken captive by Israel four years into his reign, Uzziah was made king at age 16. Amaziah was released from captivity 10 years later, when Uzziah was 26. The two then had a coregency until Amaziah's death 15 years later, when Uzziah was 41. Uzziah then reigned 27 more years.
His mentor was a godly man called Zechariah. This was not the prophet of the book of Zechariah. Very likely, it refers to the son of Jehoiada (24:20-21), who was still alive in Uzziah's childhood before his execution by Uzziah's grandfather Joash. For a number of years, Uzziah followed the godly advice he was given. Judah's prosperity at this time owed much to the king's loyalty and faithfulness to God.
Uzziah had a great interest in agriculture, building towers and wells in the desert, and promoting farming and animal husbandry. Archaeology confirms that forts were built in the Negev desert during the 8th century B.C.
"From earliest times farming has been difficult in Palestine. Water is seldom available in ample quantities, making necessary the construction of cisterns (cf. 2 Chron. 26:10; Neh. 9:25) or the use of streams...for irrigation. During the five-month summer season a farmer could expect little if any rain, and even after October the rainfall was often irregular. Added to these natural difficulties were the amazingly stony terrain, the devastation that often followed the hot desert winds from the E. and crop losses from such eventualities as locust plagues" ("Agriculture," The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, 1983).
The fact that Uzziah was able to achieve tremendous prosperity for Judah in such a difficult location is a tribute to his foresight and obedience to God. The wealth this generated meant that he could equip and extend his defense forces, and this led to a period of national expansionwhich happened at the same time as the national expansion of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam II. Surely no coincidence, this simultaneous expansion prevented one nation from taking over the other one. Indeed, "Uzziah and Jeroboam formed an alliance for much of their reigns and together ruled for a brief time an area nearly as large as the empire of David and Solomon" (Nelson Study Bible, introductory notes on Amos).
Sadly, in the end, as we will later see, Uzziah's pride in his strength was his downfall, as it so often is (compare Leviticus 26:19; Proverbs 16:5; 29:23; Isaiah 2:12; 13:11; 2 Chronicles 32:26; Malachi 4:1; James 4:6). This should serve as a warning for all leadersand, given the religious context, particularly those in God's Church (1 Timothy 3:6). Indeed, the warning applies to all Christians. Pride and ego are great destroyers. Paul writes about our need to resist and suppress these aspects of human nature (Philippians 2:3-4).
Finally, it should be noted that even though Uzziah did what was right during most of his reign, all was not well in Judah. The prophets Amos and Hosea preached during this periodtheir warnings, which we will be reading next, indicating the likelihood of serious problems at the time (though their messages, as we will see, were primarily for the future). Indeed, it is usually in times of plenty that character is corrupted the worst, and God's judgment becomes imminent (compare Deuteronomy 8:10-20).