Uzziah (Hebrew עוזיהו, strength of YHWH) or Azariah (Hebrew, helped by YHWH) (826-r. 810-758 BC according to Ussher, or 809?-vr. 792-r. 767-742 BC according to Thiele) was the ninth king of the Southern Kingdom of Israel in direct line of descent. He is notable for three reasons:
- The evangelist Matthew mentions him immediately after his great-great-grandfather Jehoram in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, thus skipping three generations.
- The dates of his reign, and of alleged viceroyalties served by him under his father Amaziah and by his son Jotham under him, are in dispute. This dispute stems indirectly from an attempted synchrony of a king of the Northern Kingdom (Jehu) with an Assyrian ruler (Shalmaneser III).
- More to the point, he had a prosperous reign, and then did a foolish thing that made him an immediate outcast and cursed the next two generations of kings of the Southern Kingdom.
Early life and family
Uzziah was the son of Amaziah and Jecoliah of Jerusalem. According to Ussher, he was born in 826 BC when his father was thirty-seven years old. Thiele's original dissertation left the question of Uzziah's birth open, leading to a seemingly impossible situation (see below). Leslie McFall, in an attempt to repair Thiele's oversight, suggests that Uzziah became viceroy of the Southern Kingdom at the age of sixteen—and must therefore have been born in 809 BC, when (in the Thiele system) his father was twelve years old. This is possible, but implies that Uzziah's grandfather Joash would have found a wife for his son while the son was very young. This, however, is the least of the difficulties with the Thiele system.
Uzziah married Jerushah, daughter of Zadok, and by her had his son Jotham. This marriage took place in or before the year 783 BC (Ussher) or 775 BC (Thiele). This would make Uzziah either 43 years old (Ussher) or 34 years old (Thiele) at the time. This last would also mean that Uzziah made his marriage while he was still viceroy under his father (see below).
Thiele assumes that Uzziah became viceroy of the Southern Kingdom under his father Amaziah fully twenty-four years before his father's death. This is because the death of Amaziah, and the "beginning of reign" of Uzziah, are twenty-four years out of synchrony in the Thiele system. Larry Pierce tartly observed in 2001 that a strict read of Thiele's original dissertation would lead one to believe that Uzziah began his viceroyalty fully eight years before he was born.
Subsequently, Leslie McFall suggested a corrective: that Uzziah actually became viceroy at sixteen and began his lone reign only after his father had died. But Pierce, in his direct reply to McFall, retorted that the verse discussion Uzziah's succession (see below) says that "the people" acclaimed Uzziah, who was sixteen years old at the time, as king. This, says Pierce, would imply that "the people" somehow elected Uzziah as viceroy under Amaziah, and that four years after Amaziah took the throne himself. Viceroys, Pierce continues, do not gain their offices by popular election but by direct royal appointment. This, therefore, makes the Thiele/McFall interpretation of II_Chronicles 26:1 difficult-to-untenable.
McFall might counter that he did not actually say that which Pierce accuses him of saying, but rather that the people acclaimed Uzziah sole ruler upon the death of his father, and that Uzziah had been sixteen years old when he became viceroy.
Uzziah's accession (or, in Thiele's system, the beginning of his lone reign) followed a great tragedy. King Amaziah realized that certain persons in his administration were plotting to kill him. He fled to Lachish, on the Philistine border—where the remains of a high place stood as recently as 2003. There the conspirators caught up with him and killed him. They brought him back on horseback, and he was buried in the sepulchres of the kings in Jerusalem.The Bible next says that the people acclaimed Uzziah as their next king. The verse in II Chronicles reads thus:
"In his room" is an Elizabethan English phrase meaning "in his place" or "in his stead."
While Ussher assumed that Uzziah became king at sixteen upon his father's death, McFall, a disciple of Thiele, now asserts that Uzziah became king (or rather, viceroy) at sixteen, and became sole ruler upon his father's death, and that those two occasions were twenty-four years apart.
The full length of his reign was fifty-two years. Ussher asserts that Uzziah reigned alone during this entire period. Thiele asserts that he was viceroy for twenty-four years, sole ruler for another eighteen years, and senior ruler (with a viceroy under him) for the last ten years of his reign.
In any event, Uzziah moved swiftly to secure his country's border. He rebuilt the town of Eloth and stationed a garrison in it. Then he declared war against Philistia, successfully attacked the three Philistine city-states of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod, and even built military outposts in Philistine territory. He scored similar victories against Arab and Mehunim forces. The Ammonites paid him tribute, and his fame spread as far south as Egypt.
The Bible further says that he did "right" in God's sight, essentially continuing the Godly policies of Amaziah. But, like so many other kings of the Southern Kingdom, he made no headway in removing the high places.
Military strength and public works
The Chronicler gives many details about Uzziah's military strength and the extensive armament industry and public works projects that characterized his reign. He would not seem to have tolerated a continued 160-meter breach in the wall of Jerusalem. The Chronicler specifically mentions the fortified anti-siege towers that he built at the valley gate, the corner gate, and at the corner of the wall. Uzziah also built several military outposts in the desert, and also built several water projects. Much of these water projects were for the benefit of the royal cattle herd and the multiple farms and vineyards that were royal property at the time.
The army was 307,500 strong, with an officer corps of 2600. Uzziah kept these well-supplied with an armaments industry that furnished them with shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows, and slingshots. By far Uzziah's most interesting contribution was his invention of siege engines, and specifically the first crossbow catapults and ballistae known to the ancient world. He placed these in the fortifications he had built along the wall of Jerusalem and throughout the desert. Most military historians hold that siege warfare began in ernest in the wars of ancient Greece, but typically they propose that the first use of siege engines was in 429 BC. The Bible suggests that these historians ought to revise their theories—unless, as some have suggested, the first siege engine was a battering ram used at Troy and nicknamed "the Trojan horse."
Wood states that Tiglath-Pileser III specifically recognized one "Azriau of Yaudi" as the leader of an anti-Assyrian coalition well able to resist Assyrian expansion. However, Tiglath-Pileser is out of synchrony with Uzziah, according to Ussher.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
Uzziah ought to have read that aphorism by his ancestor Solomon. Toward the end of his reign—perhaps in his forty-second year—he indeed became proud and haughty, so much so that he conceived a notion of officiating at a Temple rite. The high priest Azariah gathered eighty priests behind him and confronted Uzziah. Azariah told him that he had not been consecrated to burn incense before YHWH, and that he needed to leave the nave at once. Uzziah indignantly refused and, censer in hand, attempted to proceed.
At that moment he was stricken with leprosy up to his forehead. The priests immediately hustled Uzziah out of the Temple. Uzziah did not resist; he was even in a hurry to leave the Temple himself.
Thiele suggests that Jotham may date his reign from that time, ten or twelve years before Uzziah's death, because in that year, Uzziah needed to make him his viceroy. Ussher, however, dates Jotham's reign from the date of Uzziah's death. However, Ussher seems to agree that Uzziah fell from grace in or near the forty-second year of his reign, which was three years after the accession of King Menahem to the throne of the Northern Kingdom.
Death and Succession
The Uzziah Tablet or OssuaryIn 1931 Professor E. I. Sukenik at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered, in a Russian Orthodox monastery near the Mount of Olives, an inscribed tablet that purports to come from the ossuary of King Uzziah. The legend on the tablet reads,
- They are the remains of a king, and proper respect militates against their disturbance.
- They are the remains of a leper, and as such are hazardous to the health of any who handle them. This inscription, therefore, might have been the first bio-hazard warning in history.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 553, 564, 565, 585
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 298-300
- Multiple authors. "Entries for Uzziah." <http://net.bible.org/> Retrieved June 8, 2007.
- Matthew 1:8
- Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001
- Larry Pierce, "Some Objections Considered," in James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Master Books, 2003, pp. 921-926 ISBN 0890513600
- Authors unknown. "King Uzziah - Biography." The Kings of Israel, hosted at http://www.geocities.com/ Retrieved June 8, 2007.
- Claiborne, Winford. "Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz." International Gospel Hour. Transcript of radio sermon first delivered November 2, 2003. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
- II_Kings 14:19-20
- II_Chronicles 25:27-28
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Uzziah." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
- John Argubright. "King Uzziah." Bible Believer's Archaeology, Vol. 1: Historical Evidence That Proves the Bible. BibleHistory.net, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2007. Requires PDF reader.
- II_Chronicles 26:2
- Authors unknown. "God's Judgment Regarding King Uzziah." The Kings of Israel, hosted at http://www.geocities.com/ Retrieved June 8, 2007.
- II_Chronicles 26:6-8
- II_Kings 15:3
- II_Chronicles 26:4
- II_Kings 15:4
- II_Chronicles 26:9
- II_Chronicles 26:10
- II_Chronicles 26:14
- II_Chronicles 26:15
- Wood, op. cit., p. 300
- II_Kings 15:5
- II_Chronicles 26:16-23
- Authors unknown. "Uzziah." Bible Heritage Center, Inc. Retrieved June 8, 2007.