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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 15

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4

Second Kings - Chapter 15 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 26

Uzziah Reigns in Judah; Commentary on 2 Kings 15:1-4 AND 2 Chronicles 26:15

The closing verses accounting of Amaziah’s reign in Second Kings (2 Kings 14:21-22) are parallel to the opening verses of 2 Chronicles 26 (see comments above). Like his father, Uzziah (Azariah in Kings) was only sixteen years of age when he was anointed. His reign extended for fifty-two years, the longest reign save one of any king of Israel or Judah. His commendation, that he did what was right in the Lord’s sight as had Amaziah his father is a somewhat questionable endorsement. Amaziah fell under the wrath and judgment of the Lord for his worship of the Edomite idols. Therefore, it probably means that Uzziah patterned his government after that of his late father. And it will be found in the course of his reign that he also aroused the wrath of God against him.

It is noted that Uzziah allowed the continuation of worship on the high places, which the law had strictly condemned. Nevertheless, though the reigns of Amaziah and Uzziah were quite similar, there is indication of a vast difference in their heart condition. Amaziah’s heart was imperfect before the Lord, but Uzziah sought the Lord in his life. He was influenced by a man named Zechariah, about whom nothing certain is known. He cannot be identified with any of the other twenty-seven Zechariahs in the Old Testament. He was probably not a priest, though he may have been a prophet. That he was a counselor of the king is apparent. He was an influence for good on Uzziah, who sought the Lord by Zechariah’s influence and enjoyed prosperity as long as he followed the Lord. Doubtless he has a great reward from the Lord (2 Timothy 2:19).

2 Chronicles 26:6

Uzziah’s Prosperity - 2 Chronicles 26:6-15

Only Chronicles gives details of the good reign of Uzziah. He set out to restore respect for Judah among the surrounding nations, particularly the Philistines. In his successful war against them he tore down the walls of their capital city, Gath, and also of Jabneh and Ashdod. Jabneh was a smaller city, also called Jabneel, but it was often wrested by the Philistines from the Danites to which tribe it was alloted. Later in Jewish history it was called Jamnia. Uzziah built cities or settled places around Ashdod, among the Philistines, with people from Judah.

The Arabians of the desert were also subdued with the capture of their stronghold of Gur-baal. The Mehunim were the people of Maon, from the desert area of Edom, or Mount Seir. Nothing is said of war with Ammon, but the Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah anyway. The young king made himself a prestigious name in all the southern lands, to the entrance of Egypt.

Uzziah also engaged in building projects to strengthen Jerusalem, the city wall having been laid waste for some distance by the devasta­tion of Joash of Israel when he defeated Amaziah. Towers were built at the corner gate and the valley gate, as well as on the corner of the wall, possibly the place where Joash’s destruction stopped. He also built strong defensive towers in the desert, for such would be needed to keep those tribes he had conquered subdued.

On the domestic side Uzziah was also active. Many wells were dug to supply water for the herds and flocks, of which the king himself had many. He pastured his cattle in both the valleys and the plains. Uzziah seems to have enjoyed the pastoral life, for he was fond of husbandry. He employed husbandmen and vinedressers for his farms and vineyards in the mountains and in Carmel of the southland.

The army was well organized, under the scribe Jeiel, who kept their account; their ruler, Maaseiah; the captain Hananiah, who led them in battle. They seem to have gone out in rotation to keep the peace in the subject countries. This army had 2,600 officers and consisted of 307,500 fighting men, said to have been a mighty power against their enemies. They were well equipped with shields, spears, helmets, haber­geons (armored vests), bows, and slings. Uzziah also encouraged the invention and development of artillery. These were engines made to mount on the wall and in the towers, capable of hurling arrows and great stones at a besieging enemy. And so the fame of Uzziah spread far beyond his own country. The Scriptures record that he was marvelously helped until he became quite strong. For the Lord was with the king in those early days when he sought him through the influence of the mysterious Zechariah. It was during his reign that God sent out some of the leading preachers of the Old Testament times, including Isaiah, whom some call the prince of the prophets. During all this prosperity Uzziah needed to be reminded of the Lord’s warning through Moses in his farewell words to Israel before his death (De 32:15).

Verses 5-7

Uzziah’s Temple Trespass – Commentary on 2 Kings 15:5-7 AND 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

Uzziah is one of the most exact examples of the warning, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18), to be found in the Scriptures. The Lord had been very good to Uzziah. He had followed the good counsel of Zechariah and had been "marvelously strengthened." His foreign affairs had turned out to great advantage for Judah; domestic programs brought him satisfaction; and his defense measures seemed adequate. In fact, the Lord’s blessings had been so evident in his life Uzziah seems to have concluded that he could approach the Lord directly, without an intercessor.

Uzziah’s intent was to offer incense on the incense altar, which was kept inside the sanctuary just outside the Holy of Holies. Only priests were to offer the incense, and no one save they were to enter those sacred precincts where it was. God has only one way of approach to Him, and men cannot force themselves some other way upon Him (2 Timothy 2:5; John 10:9). The priests were fulfilling their mediatorial office in Uzziah’s day. Nevertheless the king came with his censer determined to burn incense on the Lord’s altar like the pagan worshippers did to their gods on the mountains of Judah.

Azariah the high priest, with eight others, followed the king into the temple, seeking to prevent him. They warned him that the office of the priest could not be performed even by the king, but that the Lord had given that office to the descendants of Aaron (See Numbers, chapters 16,17, for the example of Korah and his followers who sought to press themselves into the priesthood). King Uzziah became very angry at this attempt to stop him from his intent. As he stood there, angry and defiant of priests and of God, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead. Seeing this the priests sought to force Uzziah out. But it was no longer necessary, for the king himself realized that he was stricken, and hurried outside. It is very sad that people will persist against the Lord’s will until He must strike them down in some physical way that they may recognize their error (cf. Acts 12:23).

Uzziah never recovered from the leprosy which struck him. His life was doubtless shortened, his illustrious rulership was abruptly ended, and he could no longer as much as attend the- worship at the temple, all because he persisted in his desire without consideration of the Lord’s will. He was given a "several" (separate) house to live in, quarantined as a leper, according to the law he had sought to set aside. His son, Jotham, had to assume the rule of Judah. When he died Uzziah was allowed burial with his fathers, but not in their tombs, because he was a leper. The Prophet Isaiah kept an account of Uzziah’s reign, but it is no longer extant, not being a part of his inspired writings. Uzziah had failed, at last, to keep before him the real priestly Intercessor (Hebrews 7:14-17).

Learn these pertinent lessons: 1) one person for God can bring great blessings to others who follow his example; 2) God will bless all the ways of those who seek Him; 3) it is too easy for even believers to revel in the Lord’s good things and forget the One who gave them; 4) none ever become so exalted in Christian service not to be liable to some shameful failure which will ruin their testimony for Christ.

Verses 8-18

Wicked Kings - Verses 8-18

Now begins a period of anarchy and unsettled conditions in the northern kingdom of Israel which lasted to its final conquest and resettlement of its people in faraway places. In the space of about two years, from the thirty-seventh to the thirty-ninth years of the reign of Azariah (Uzziah) in Judah, Israel had three kings and suffered murder, rebellion, and all kinds of strife. The whirlwind of their long-continuing worship of idols and the calves of Jeroboam, was reaping the winds of anguish and agony (Hosea 8:5-14).

Upon the death of Jeroboam II, his son Zachariah became king, but reigned only six months. His reign was characterized like all his predecessors, "evil in the sight of the Lord," "departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." He was the last member of Jehu’s family to ascend Israel’s throne. When Jehu became king of Israel and slew the house of Ahab the Lord promised him his descendants would rule on Israel’s throne to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). And so from Jehu there were Jehoahaz, Joash, Jeroboam 11, and Zachariah, in whom the line ran out. God verified His word (Numbers 23:19).

A man named Shallum raised a conspiracy against Zachariah and assassinated him before a crowd of people, who must have been accomplices to the king’s murder. Shallum set himself up as king in Samaria, but was unable to maintain his position. At the end of one full month a stronger anarchist, in the person of Menahem came against him and slew him there in Samaria. Menahem was from Tirzah, the early capital of the northern kingdom before Omri built Samaria. This city was in one of the narrow eastern valleys running down to the plain of Jordan, a few miles east of Samaria, in the tribe of Manasseh. Nothing good is said of Shallum, though he is one of the few who are not likened to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Menahem was a ruthless hoodlum. The city of Tiphsah was attacked by him because it refused to receive him. Its inhabitants were slaughtered, the pregnant women ripped open. There was a city named Tiphsah on the west bank of the upper Euphrates River, hundreds of miles from Samaria, which commentators suggest is the place meant here. However, this seems unlikely to this writer, inasmuch as Israel lacked the strength for such a campaign, militarily, and also because the context seems to link it to the campaign to subdue the environs of Tirzah.

Menahem succeeded in setting himself up as king, ruling for a period of ten years. He is accorded the same character analysis as his predecessors: "evil in the sight of the Lord ... departed not from the sins of Jeroboam." As Amos and Hosea had foretold Israel is in the denouement of its existence, approaching its ultimate doom.

Verses 19-31

Anarchy in the Northern Kingdom - Verses 19-31

During the insurgency of Menahem the Assyrians finally penetrated to the land of Israel. They, had been feared, dreaded and anticipated for generations. These were the people to whom Jonah loathed to preach when he was called to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-2). At last they had arrived, and it was indeed the beginning of the end for Israel as a kingdom. Pul is not the historical name of any Assyrian king of this period, but scholarly research has shown that it is a name assumed by Tiglath-pileser III who did rule Assyria at that time. Pul could seemingly have subjugated the kingdom of Menahem to himself, but chose instead to take a great indemnity from the king of Israel in return for the guarantee of his royal privileges.

Menahem was assessed a thousand talents of silver, or about twenty-two million dollars in present values. It was raised by a levy on the most wealthy people of Israel at the rate of fifty shekels per person, or about $364 each, an exorbitant tax for the times. It reveals the presence of a very wealthy upper class in Israel at this time, for it would have required the contribution of sixty thousand of Menahem’s rich subjects to raise the assessment. It reminds one of the words of James tothe rich in his epistle (James 5:1-6).

Menahem died and was briefly succeeded by his son Pekahiah, who was the victim of conspiratorial intrigue, being assassinated in a well organized plot in the city of Samaria itself after only two years’ reign. The only facts of his reign recorded are the old refrain about evil in God’s sight and sinful following of Jeroboam’s pattern. The instigator of the plot was Pekah, a supposedly loyal captain of the king’s host. The plot had the strong support of the men of Gilead, on the east side of Jordan, perhaps fugitives from the encroachment of the Assyrians in that area of the kingdom. Two other men are named, evidently joined in the actual murder of the young king.

In the last year of old King Uzziah down in Judah Pekah began his reign in Samaria. He lasted for a relatively longer period for the times, twenty years, and continued the evil practices and sinful pattern of "Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Is not this continued repetition of this man’s wicked influence a sober warning to those who persist in continuing in the sins of the present world to their eventual doom and judgment (Judges 1:14-15)?

City by city, region by region, Pekah lost the outlying areas of his kingdom to the steadily advancing empire of Assyria. First it was the areas nearest Assyria, Ijon and Abel-beth-maachah in the far north in the vicinity of Dan, site of one of Jeroboam’s calf temples. Also Jandah, Kedesh, and Hazor, north and west of the Sea of Chinneroth (Galilee) and eventually the tribal territory of Naphtali itself. Farther east, across Chinneroth and the Jordan the Assyrians annexed Galilee and Gilead in the half-tribe of Manasseh, down to Gad. The inhabitants were carried away by Tiglath-pileser III into captivity.

The people who had helped Pekah in his plot against Pekahiah must have been disillusioned in him, for conditions with the threatening Assyrian encroachment were not bettered but became decidedly much worse. This dissatisfaction evidently contributed to another plot, this time against Pekah himself. This conspiracy was led by a man named Hoshea, whose prior position in the kingdom is unrevealed. He arose against Pekah after twenty years, assassinated him, and made himself king. The flickering flame of life representative of the northern kingdom was destined for extinguishment under this last wicked ruler. God’s true prophets were rejected, and the false prophets of the calves had led them to their destruction (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Verses 32-38

Jotham s Reign – Commentary on 2 Kings 15:32-38 AND 2 Chronicles 27:1-9

Jotham ruled the kingdom of Judah during the incapacity of his father, Uzziah, due to his leprosy, an indefinite period. At his father’s death he became king in his own right. Commendable things are said of Jotham, although not much is told of his reign. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, much as had Uzziah his father before his temple trespass. In fact, Jotham followed the example of his father in much that he did, though it is expressly stated that he did not trespass into the temple. Jotham learned the lesson so disastrously taught by his father’s judgment. He seems also to have had a good example in his mother, who was a daughter of Zadok, likely a priest. He therefore shows the result of good parental upbringing (Ephesians 6:1-4).

Jotham reigned sixteen years in his own right and, like his father, allowed the continuation of worship in the high places. He also continued the good work of strengthening his country. He repaired temple gates, built the wall of Ophel (an eastern quarter of Jerusalem, next to the Kidron Valley), won a war with the Ammonites and exacted tribute from them. For three years they were compelled to pay a hundred talents of silver, ten thousand measures of wheat, and the same amount of barley.

In his relatively short reign Jotham became a mighty man with his people. It was because "he prepared his ways before the Lord", in direct contrast to the kings of Israel (1 Timothy 4:8). There was one ominous portent rising, however, for Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel, were threatening the kingdom of Judah, probably in an effort to force a coalition of the three small nations against the Assyrian advance. At his death Jotham was succeeded by his son Ahaz.

More lessons to learn: 1) God’s promises are absolutely reliable; 2) persons without respect for the Lord also have no respect for their fellow men; 3) God is able to extract from the rich that which they have evilly taken from the poor; 4) respect for the Lord begets the respect of people around one; 5) parental example is one of the greatest influ­ences children have; it should always be good.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-15.html. 1985.
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