The Fall of a Proud King
“When [Uzziah] was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (v. 16).- 2 Chronicles 26
King Jehoash (Joash) of Judah started out well, obeying God in the main but not removing the high places. Later, he fell into idolatry and was assassinated (2 Kings 12). Jehoash’s son, King Amaziah, followed this pattern almost exactly, even being killed by a conspiracy himself (14:1–22). So, with two examples of reigns that started well but ended poorly, did the king who succeeded Amaziah learn what not to do on the throne of Judah?
The answer to this question is no, as we see in today’s passage. We read that Amaziah’s son Uzziah became king of Judah when “the people . . . made him king instead of his father” (2 Chron. 26:1). Somehow, popular acclaim led to Uzziah’s enthronement. Possibly this occurred while King Amaziah was in Samaria if, in fact, he lived out the end of his life in exile there (see 2 Kings 14:11–20). Note also that the author of Kings uses the name Azariah instead of Uzziah for the same individual (2 Kings 14:21–22; 15:1–7). Commentators say that this was likely due to the practice of a king’s receiving one name at his birth and then another on his ascension to the throne.
Second Chronicles 26:1–15 describes the first part of Uzziah’s reign, which was largely successful. “He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (vv. 1–5). This Zechariah was not the prophet who authored the book of Zechariah or the prophet whom King Jehoash of Judah executed (2 Chron. 24:20–22). He may be the Zechariah mentioned in Isaiah 8:2. In any case, with Uzziah we are at the beginning of the four hundred years or so when most, if not all, of the prophets who wrote books of the Bible ministered. Isaiah, the great eighth-century prophet in Judah, received his call to ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” (Isa. 6).
Like Jehoash and Amaziah before him, Uzziah (or Azariah) started out faithful except that the high places were not taken down (2 Kings 15:1–4; see 12:1–3; 14:1–4). And like Jehoash and Amaziah (2 Chron. 24:17–27; 25:14–28), Uzziah fell into sin later in his reign and died in disgrace. The sin of Uzziah was worshiping the true God in an unauthorized manner. Filled with pride over his many successes, Uzziah entered the temple and burned incense, which was the job only of the priests. God struck Uzziah with leprosy as punishment for his sin, and he lived the rest of his life outside the palace, his son Jotham governing in his place (26:16–23).
Uzziah’s fall demonstrates again that God takes our worship of Him seriously and that pride can lead to all manner of other sins. We must worship the Lord in a manner agreeable to Scripture and seek to grow in humility before the Lord. Uzziah became prideful when he forgot that God gave him his successes (2 Chron. 26:5, 16), and disaster for him ensued. The same can happen to us if we become prideful.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 2:16