Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.
2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.
His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah. He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).
2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).
To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.
2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood
King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).
Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).
Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).
Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] 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” (2 Chronicles 26:16).
Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?
Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).
Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.
The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).
As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.
Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).
I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:
Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith