Amaziah’s reign is already earmarked with a mixture of success and failure – while he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, he did not do so with a “whole heart” (v.2). Yet, his decision to kill his servants who struck down the king his father is indicated as a compliance with the Law in the Book of Moses, so long as the children do not die of their fathers’ sins (v.4) (which does not indicate a rejection of the doctrine of original sin – c.f. Romans 3:23).
Yet, his decision to hire the Ephraimites was an unwise one. Thankfully he turned to listen to the man of God and discharged the Ephraimites (although they were paid! v.9) and eventually was successful against the men of Seir not with the strength of men but by the LORD’s provision. However, his decision to hire the Ephraimites, rather than see them join arms as brethren of Israel, has already made its impact – leading to the demise of 3,000 people in Judah and its various cities. It would appear that although a tragedy this is, the tragedy of what would have happened (v.7) in alliance with the Ephraimites would have been far worse. The Ephraimites, unlike those aligning with the house of David in Judah, were clearly not with the LORD (v.7) and were men thirsting for war, for blood, and not merely for money (v.13). In spite of Amaziah’s victory over the men of Seir and the Edomites by the LORD, he still opted to worship the foreign idols which should have been destroyed like their worshippers – yet, just as the LORD has used Ephraim to shame Judah in Amaziah’s mistake, so also Israel was used to defeat Amaziah in response to his idolatry (v.17-24; esp. v. 20). Indeed, Judah is but a thistle on Lebanon compared to the rest of Israel, compared to a “cedar on Lebanon” or even a “wild beast”. Without walking with Jesus, Amaziah is but a thistle, ready to be trampled. By defeating Edom, Amaziah is but a boaster (v.19); had he remembered the victory and glory belonged to the LORD, then King Jehu would have also recognized the rest of Israel to be the thistle, and Judah the cedar – for the LORD is with the house of David. Yet, King Jehu spits on the house of David, on Judah, on Amaziah – not because Amaziah was walking as a Christian but because of his arrogance, contrary to the spirit of 2 Timothy 3:12. It was therefore at the house of the sun (Beth-shemesh) where Amaziah’s true face was revealed; and though Judah was the elected tribe, it was defeated on its own ground (v.21, v.23). Like his father, his life ended in tragedy (v.27-28) – will the lamp in David’s house be slowly extinguished as the light in his lineage continually dims to be akin to the life of non-Christian kings?
Uzziah, too, walked in Amaziah’s footsteps – a life with Jesus filled with various compromises. He sought to seek God in the days of Zechariah (v.5), but was struck down for his disobedience to the priesthood (v.16-23) – again highlighting the importance of the prophets and the priests as the crucial identity of Israel. By the victory of Jesus (v.7), he broke through the wall of Gath (one of the five royal cities of the Philistines – Joshua 13:3), wall of Jabneh and wall of Ashdod (the winepress, building of God and stronghold respectively), all important landmarks in the Philistine geography; as well as against the Arabians in Gurbaal and the Meunites, so much that the Ammonites (v.8) actually paid tribute to Uzziah. Yet, the remainder of the description of his life spells inevitable destruction – note v.9-15: Uzziah was not surrounded by priests or prophets, but by men of war, building towers and fortifying them; having an awesome army fit for war (v.11-15), all to strengthen Israel in the military sense. Yet, our role in the world is not that of a warrior, but that of a worshipper first. Have we yet to meet a person who would dance before the LORD as David did before identifying oneself as a soldier (2 Samuel 6:14)?
Thus, his inevitable downfall is described in v.16-21 as his pride led him to believe that he, like Jesus, can transcend the priest-king divide. Yet, Amaziah forgets that he is but a shadow and not the same type of son as the Son of God Jesus Christ. Uzziah should have known as king of Judah that it is not for him to burn incense to the LORD, but this is the role specifically ordained by the Spirit to the sons of Aaron (v.18; c.f. Exodus 27:21). Had Uzziah understood the significance of the priesthood as a multimedia presentation of the gospel, then he would not have intervened and arrogantly believed that he could stand in the house of the LORD in his own holiness. Nay, the holy priestly garb, the offerings and the various procedures all point towards the need for the priests to rely on Jesus to gift them the robe of righteousness and salvation. Thus, the breakout of leprosy on Uzziah’s forehead is a suitable diagnosis of the sin in his heart, which (if not for the priests!) would not be dealt with vicariously in Christ. Note Exodus 28:
“36 “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.”
Instead of a gold plate saying “Holy to the LORD” on Aaron’s forehead, the High Priest who shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts, we have Uzziah whose guilt is upon himself and equally marked on his forehead as he illegally burns incense on the altar of incense. From that day onward, he lived in seclusion – far away from the house of the LORD, as he was reminded of his sinfulness against the LORD’s righteousness. Yet, Uzziah’s life is what characterises that of the climate of the kings of Judah now – forgetting one’s place as one of the kings in the promised lineage of David. Instead of a king whose kingship is “Holy to the LORD”, we have a line of kings increasingly acting effectively as leprous heads of Israel, leading the entire nation into potential exile just as Uzziah was.
This also goes to explain the variant of Uzziah’s name in 1 Chronicles 3:12 where he is given the name Azariah, the same name as the High Priest around his era. Uzziah’s attempt to do the work of the High Priest is mocked in 1 Chronicles 3, and laid bare in this chapter, reminding us that there is only one true High Priest.
Unlike his father, Jotham walked in the way of the LORD and also did not arrogantly enter the temple of the LORD knowing this to be the role of the ordained priesthood. The tributes from the Ammonites continued to be given – but unlike Amaziah and Uzziah, his ways were ordered before Jesus (v.6), his fights in the name of Christ, and his fortifications belonged not to military might, but to the temple (v.3). However, his life is described in few words, an indication that the light in David’s house – except by the LORD’s grace – is rare and far in between.