King Uzziah of Judah stricken with Leprosy
by Rembrandt van Rijn
The Chronicler continues to follow his pattern of giving at least a chapter of commentary on each king of Judah. He mentions which kings were good and which ones were evil just as Kings does, but as we have seen before, he continues to give a fuller picture of each king’s reign.
For example, the Chronicler mentions that King Amaziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart. The Chronicler adds that Amaziah hired troops from Israel, something that Kings does not tell us. However, when a man of God warns him that this is wrong, Amaziah backs off his plan, and the Lord gives him victory against the men of Seir despite his diminished troops.
Amaziah does not appear to be grateful to the Lord for this victory. Instead, he sets up the gods of Seir as his own to worship. The Lord sends a prophet to warn Amaziah but the king refuses to listen. Therefore, the Lord hands Amaziah over to be defeated by the king of Israel in battle. The king of Israel even seizes all the gold and silver and the vessels found in the house of God. It seems that this happens to Judah many times. It is a wonder that there are any valuable things for the Babylonians to carry off as booty when they come to destroy Jerusalem many years later. The Chronicler concludes his account of Amaziah by pointing out that “from the time that Amaziah turned away from the Lord they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem”. This is a frequent emphasis of the Chronicler: that anything bad that happens to one of the kings is due to his turning away from the Lord.
Chapter 26 focuses on Uzziah, who is called Azariah in the Book of Kings. He is basically a good king and reigns long in Jerusalem, fifty-two years. However, the Chronicler adds that when Uzziah became strong he also grew proud. This pride was reflected in Uzziah entering the Temple to make an offering of incense. This is something that only the priests were allowed to do. Therefore the priest, Azariah (who bears a different version of the name of the king, confusing I know!) goes after Uzziah in the Temple to stop him. Uzziah becomes angry at this and the Lord strikes him with leprosy. These details of why Uzziah was afflicted with leprosy are not covered by the Book of Kings. Again, the Chronicler wants to spell out that everything bad that happens to one of the kings of Judah is due to his unfaithfulness to the Lord and to God’s law. The Chronicler concludes by telling us that the rest of the acts of Uzziah were written down by the prophet Isaiah who, according to Isaiah 6, became a prophet in the year that Uzziah died.
Chapter 27 provides a brief account of the reign of Jotham who was good like his father Uzziah, better even, because Jotham did not invade the Temple. The author of Chronicles, as we have seen before, is keen to emphasize the role of the priests and Levites and the fact that the Temple is their domain.
Chapter 28 gives an account of the reign of King Ahaz who was wicked. He worshiped the Baals and made offerings to other gods in every place where he could. Because of this, the Lord handed Ahaz over to the king of Aram and the king of Israel who defeated him in battle. Once again, the Chronicler makes it crystal clear that this defeat happened because Ahaz “abandoned the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:6). However, the Lord does not allow Judah to be completely destroyed at this point. He sends a prophet named Obed to stop Israel in her tracks. Rather than keep the prisoners of war from Judah (an incredible number at 200,000), Israel returns the captives to Jericho and then the men of Israel return peacefully to Samaria—all because of the word of one prophet.
Despite God's protection of Judah in this instance, Ahaz turns to the king of Assyria for help when he is attacked by the Edomites. Once again, the house of the Lord is plundered to pay tribute to a foreign king. Again, this raises the question: is there anything left in the Temple? Ahaz ends up doing something that no other king of Judah did before him; he actually closes the doors of the Temple and makes altars to other gods throughout Jerusalem.
The Chronicler could not be any clearer about the reason why the Lord allowed Judah to be carried off into exile. Repeated turning away from the Lord is the reason. When we turn away from the One who is life, there is only death. Evil is “live” spelled backwards.