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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

2 Chronicles 26

Verse 1

XXVI.
REIGN OF UZZIAH-AZARIAH.

ACCESSION, AGE, AND CONDUCT OF UZZIAH. INFLUENCE OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH (2 Chronicles 26:1-5). (Comp. 2 Kings 14:21-22; 2 Kings 15:2-3.)

(1) Then.And.

Uzziah.—So the chronicler always names him, except in one place (1 Chronicles 3:12), where the name Azariah appears, as in 2 Kings 14:21; 2 Kings 15:1; 2 Kings 15:6, &c. In 2 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 15:30; 2 Kings 15:32; 2 Kings 15:34, Uzziah occurs (though there also the LXX. reads Azariah, thus making the usage of Kings uniform); as also in the headings of the prophecies of Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. It is not, therefore, to be regarded either as a popular abbreviation or a transcriber’s blunder, as Schrader and others suggest. In the Assyrian inscriptions of Tiglathpileser II this king is uniformly called Azriyahu, i.e., Azariah. Clearly, therefore, he was known by both names; but to foreigners chiefly by the latter. (Comp. Azareel—Uzziel, 1 Chronicles 25:4; 1 Chronicles 25:18.)

Verse 2

(2) He built.—fie it was who built.

Eloth.—Kings, Elath. The Idumean port on the Red Sea.

The first four verses are identical with the parallel in Kings. (See the Notes there.)

Verse 5

(5) And he sought God.And he continued to seek God (the Hebrew is an expression peculiar to the chronicler).

In the days of Zechariah.—An otherwise unknown prophet.

Who had understanding in the visions of God.—Literally, the skilled in seeing God—a surprising epithet, occurring nowhere else. Some Hebrew MSS., and the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic versions, and the Targum, read, “in the fear of God.” This is doubtless correct; and the text should be rendered. “who had understanding (or gave instruction) in the fear of God.” So the famous Rabbis, Rashi and Kimchi, long since suggested. Zechariah was thus the guide and counsellor of king Uzziah, and that not only in religious matters, but in what we should call the political sphere; for in those days the distinction between things sacred and secular, civil and ecclesiastical, between Church and State, religion and common life, was wholly unknown.

And as long as he sought.—Literally, in the days of his seeking.

The Lord, God . . .—Such a mode of speech reveals the chronicler’s own hand.

Instead of this verse, 2 Kings 15:4 makes the deduction usual in its estimate of the character of a reign: “Only the high places were not taken away; the people still used to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places.”

The power and prosperity of Uzziah are accounted for by the chronicler on the ground that he sought God during the life of Zechariah; although afterwards he offended by rashly intruding upon the priest’s office, and was punished with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

Verse 6

(6) And he went forth and warred against the Philistines.—At the outset of his reign this able prince had given promise of his future by seizing and fortifying the port of Elath, and thus probably completing the subjugation of Edom, which his father had more than begun. Afterwards he assumed the offensive against the Philistines, Arabs, and Maonites, who had invaded the country under his predecessors (2 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Chronicles 20:1).

Brake down the wall of Gath.—After taking the city. (As to Gath, see 1 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 11:8.)

Jabneh.—The Jamnia of Maccabees and Josephus; now the village of Jebnah, about twelve miles south of Joppa (the same as Jabneel, Joshua 15:11).

Ashdod.Esdûd. (Comp. Joshua 13:3.) Like Gath, one of the five sovereign states of the Philistines. It commanded the great road to Egypt; hence its possession was of first-rate importance to the contending military powers of Egypt and Assyria. Sargon captured it B.C. 719. (Comp. Isaiah 20:1.)

About Ashdod.In Ashdod, i.e., in the canton so called.

And among the Philistines.—That is, elsewhere in their territory. Uzziah appears to have reduced the Philistines to a state of complete vassalage. They were not, however, annexed to Judah, but ruled by their own kings.

Verses 6-15

UZZIAH’S CAMPAIGNS, PUBLIC WORKS, AND MILITARY STRENGTH
(2 Chronicles 26:6-15).

This section is peculiar to the Chronicles. Although the book of Kings passes over the facts recorded here, they are essential to forming a right conception of the strength and importance of the southern kingdom during the age of Uzziah and Jotham; and they are fully corroborated, not only by comparison with the data of Isaiah (Isaiah 2-4) upon the same subject, but also by the independent testimony of the cuneiform inscriptions of the period. (See Note on 2 Kings 14:28.) Thus we find that the warlike Assyrian Tiglath-pileser II. chastised Hamath for its alliance with Judah during this reign, but abstained from molesting Uzziah himself—“a telling proof,” as Schrader says, for the accuracy of the Biblical account of Uzziah’s well-founded power.” The name of Uzziah is conspicuously absent from the list of western princes who, in B.C. 738, sent tribute to Tiglath: Hystaspes (Kushtashpi), king of Commagene (Kummuhâ’a), Rezin, king of the country of the Damascenes, Menahem of the city of the Samaritans, Hiram of the city of the Tyrians, Sibitti-bi’li of the city of the Giblites or Byblos, Urikki of Kui, Pisiris of Carchemish, Eniel of Hamath, Panammu of Sam’al, and nine other sovereigns, including those of Tabal and Arabia. The list thus comprises Hittites and Arameans, princes of Hither Asia, Phoenicia, and Arabia. The omission of Uzziah argues that the king of Judah felt himself strong enough to sustain the shock of collision with Assyria in case of need. He must have reckoned on the support of the surrounding states (also not mentioned in the above list), viz., Ashdod, Ascalon, Gaza, Edom, Ammon, Moab, &c. (Schrader, Keilinschr., p. 252, seq.).

Verse 7

(7) The Philistines, and . . . the Arabians.—They are named together in 2 Chronicles 17:11 also. Their seat, Gur-Baal, only mentioned here, is unknown. The Targum makes it Gerar; the LXX. apparently Petra (in Edom). The reading Gedor-Baal has been proposed.

The Mehunims (Heb., Me’ûnîm) are the Maonites, or people of Maon (Ma’ân), near Mount Seir. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 20:1.)

(The Syriac and Arabic omit from “wall of Ashdod” 2 Chronicles 26:6, to “gifts to Uzziah,” 2 Chronicles 26:8.)

Verse 8

(8) The Ammonites.—Old enemies of Judab (2 Chronicles 20:1).

Gave gifts.Paid tribute. Literally, gave a present, or offering (minchâh).

His name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt.—See margin. His name and influence, like Solomon’s, extended to the Egyptian border.

He strengthened himself exceedingly.He showed strength, prevailed, made head (Daniel 11:7; Daniel 11:32).

Exceedingly.—See the Notes on 1 Chronicles 14:2; 1 Chronicles 29:25. Syriac, “because he made much war.”

Verse 9

(9) Built towers.—To defend the approaches.

At the corner gate.Over, that is, commanding the gate (2 Chronicles 25:23). Probably the north-west corner of the city wall.

The valley gate.—Syriac, “the west gate.” In the western wall, the modern Jaffa gate. These two towers protected the most exposed points of the capital.

At the turning of the wall.Over the angle (ha-miqçôa ̒), i.e., on the eastern side of Zion, at a bend in the wall. This tower defended both Zion and Moriah against attacks from the south-east. (Nehemiah 3:19-20; Nehemiah 3:24-25.)

And fortified them.—Literally, made them (the gates) strong. Or rather, perhaps, he made the towers strong, i.e., put them in a posture of defence. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 11:11.) The margin is wrong. Syriac, “girded (or bound) them at their corners with clamps (glîdê, i.e., κλεῖδες) of iron.”

Verse 10

(10) In the desert.—Or, grazing country, i.e., the “wilderness of Judah,” on the west of the Dead Sea. The towers were for the protection of the royal herds against the predatory Bedawin. (Comp. Micah 4:8 : “And thou, O tower of the flock.”)

Digged many wells.Hewed out many cisterns; to supply his herds with water.

For he had much cattle.—Scil, there, in the wilderness of Judah. But perhaps we should render thus: “For he had much cattle; and in the lowland and in the plain he had husbandmen; and vinedressers in the mountains and in the glebe land.” So Syriac.

Both in the low country.And in the lowland of Judah; the Shephçlah, between the hills and the Mediterranean.

And in the plains.Plain (mîshôr). “The Plain,” par excellence, appears to mean the high level east of the Dead Sea and Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8). This was the territory of Reuben, which Uzziah probably recovered from Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 26:8). (Comp. Isaiah 16:1, from which it appears that the kings of Judah at this epoch claimed sovereignty over the country on the eastern side of the Jordan.)

And in Carmel.—Or, the fruitful field, the glebe land (Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 32:15).

With the whole verse Comp. the account of David’s agricultural and pastoral wealth (1 Chronicles 27:25-31).

He loved husbandry.A lover of land was he, i.e., of the soil. (Comp. the expression, “man of the land,” i.e., husbandman, Genesis 9:20.)

Verse 11

(11) Moreover . . . fighting men.—Literally, And Uzziah had a host making war (or, doing battle).

That went out to war.—Literally, goers forth in the host.

By bands.—Or, in troops (lig’dûd)—i.e., in regular array; in organised bodies. Probably each house formed a distinct troop. (See 2 Chronicles 26:13.)

According to the number of their account.In the number of their muster (pĕquddâh,” census”).

By the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler.—These two royal officials had been entrusted with the draught of the muster rolls. They were “under the hand “—i.e., the direction and superintendence—of Hanamah, who was “one of the king’s captains,” or staff officers.

Under the hand.—Or, at the side ((al y ad) (1 Chronicles 25:2).

Verse 12

(12) Chief of the fathers.Heads of the families, or father-houses.

Of the mighty men of valour.—To wit, the mighty men of valour, in apposition with heads of the families. The army was marshalled, as of old, according to clans, or houses, the heads of which are here distinguished as “valiant heroes.”

Verse 13

(13) Under their hand.—Or, at their side, meaning, under their command.

An army.—See margin. An armed force, or, warlike host (chêl çâbâ’); an expression only found besides in 1 Chronicles 20:1.

Three hundred thousand . . . five hundred.—This fairly agrees with the statement respecting the total of Amaziah’s army (300,000) in 2 Chronicles 25:5.

That made war with mighty power.—Literally, a doer of battle with strength of might (sturdy strength, kôach chayil, a unique phrase). Each chief was thus at the head of about a hundred and twenty men, who formed his troop (gedûd, 2 Chronicles 26:11). (Comp. the expression, “captains of hundreds.”) The actual number in each century may have varied, as in the Roman army.

Verse 14

(14) Throughout.—To wit, for all the army, an apposition.

Shields, and spears (rĕmâchîm, “lances”), and helmets, and habergeons (shiryônôth, “coats of mail” “cuirasses “).—For the heavy armed.

“Habergeon” is an old English word, meaning armour for neck and breast.

Bows, and slings . . . stones.—For the light armed. (See margin.)

Slings to cast stones.—Literally, stones of slings (the le is the mark of the accusative). They are mentioned to show that the equipment was complete.

Verse 15

(15) Engines, invented by cunning men.—The first mention of artillery. Literally, devices, a devising of a deviser. The word “engine” (i.e., ingenium, which is late Latin for ballista) fairly represents chishshâbôn. LXX., μηχανὰς, Vulg., machinas.

Bulwarks.Pinnôth. Zephaniah 1:16, “towers.”

To shoot arrows and great stones.—So that they were like the well-known catapults and ballisters of Roman warfare. An instrument like the ballista is represented on the Assyrian sculptures, and probably both kinds of artillery passed from Assyria to Palestine.

And his name spread.Went forth (2 Chronicles 26:8).

He was marvellously helped.—The Hebrew phrase only occurs here.

Till.So that he became strong.

Verse 16

(16) But when he was strong.—See 2 Chronicles 26:15, “till he was strong,” and the same phrase, 2 Chronicles 12:1.

His heart was lifted up.—With pride.

To his destruction.—Rather, even to dealing corruptly (ad lehashchîth).

For he transgressed.And he was unfaithful to Jehovah (1 Chronicles 5:25).

Went into the temple . . . to burn incense.—On the golden altar, in the Holy Place; contrary to the law of Numbers 18:1-7, Elevated by success, Uzziah appears to have desired to become supreme pontiff as well as king, and to exercise the same dual functions as the Egyptian Pharaohs were wont to do. Some have thought that he merely revived the precedent of David and Solomon; but it can hardly be proved that those monarchs, though represented as organising the priesthood and ritual, and conducting great religious festivals, ever actually performed the distinctive functions of priests. (Comp. the conduct of Saul, 1 Samuel 13:9, and its consequences.)

Verses 16-23

UZZIAH’S PRESUMPTION PUNISHED BY LEPROSY HIS DEATH
(2 Chronicles 26:16-23).

This section also is mainly peculiar to the chronicler. 2 Kings 15:5-7 correspond to 2 Chronicles 26:21-23 only.

Verse 17

(17) Azariah the priesti.e., the high priest, whose duty it would be to resist such an encroachment on sacerdotal functions. His name does not occur in the list (1 Chronicles 4:27-41).

Valiant men.Sons of valour (1 Chronicles 5:18), so called because they had the moral courage to oppose the king.

Verse 18

(18) They withstood.—‘Amad ‘al, a late usage. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 21:1.)

It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense.—Comp. the construction (1 Chronicles 15:2).

Trespassed.Done faithlessly (ma’al), 2 Chronicles 26:16.

Neither shall it be . . . Lord God.—Literally, and not to thee (is it) for honour from Jehovah; i.e., thine act will not issue in honour, as thou thinkest, but in shame. Or, perhaps, And burning incense belongs not to thee as a prerogative from Jehovah (‘ên, not lô,’ would be more natural).

Verse 19

(19) Then.—And.

Was wroth.Zaʻaf i.e., foamed with anger.

And had.And in his hand was a censer (Ezekiel 8:11).

Even.—Omit.

Rose up.Zarah. The word is not used in this sense elsewhere.

From besidei.e., near, hard by.

Uzziah’s punishment was the same as that which fell upon Miriam (Numbers 12:10) and Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27). Thenius, while asserting the historical character of Uzziah’s invasion of the sanctuary, declares that the chronicler has followed traditional exegesis in making the king’s leprosy a judgment upon his offence. At all events, we may be sure that the chronicler has given the story as he found it in the history of Uzziah, to which he alludes in 2 Chronicles 26:22.

In Josephus the story is further embellished by the statements that the great earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 happened at the moment when Uzziah threatened the opposing priests; and that a ray of sunlight falling upon the king’s face through the Temple roof, which was cloven by the shock, produced the leprosy. (Comp. Amos 4:11; Zechariah 14:4-5.)

Verse 20

(20) Looked upon him.Turned towards him.

They thrust him out.Hibhîlscared, hurried him out. (Comp. Esther 6:14, “they made haste.”) LXX., κατέσπευσαν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖθεν.

Hasted.—Literally, thrust himself. The Hebrew is a late word occurring thrice in Esther, and not elsewhere.

The Lord had smitten him.2 Kings 14:5.

Verse 21

(21) Was a leper . . . several house.2 Kings 14:5. Rather, in the hospital, or lazar house.

For he was cut off (Psalms 88:5; Isaiah 53:8) from the house of the Lord.—This ground of Uzziah’s dwelling in a sick house is added by the chronicler. Having been formally excluded as a leper from the sacred precincts, he was obliged to isolate himself from society. (Comp. Leviticus 13:46.)

Verse 22

(22) Did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.—(See Introduction.) Kings, “Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

Verse 23

(23) So Uzziah slept.2 Kings 15:7.

In the field of the burial.In the burial field or graveyard belonging to the kings, and near their sepulehres; but not in the royal tombs themselves, because a leper would have polluted them.

Kings simply says, as usual, “in the city of David.”

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 26". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-chronicles-26.html. 1905.