The earthquake in the days of Uzziah
25th July 2009, hej,seh
This Article: (4 Pages)
1) Uzziah evidence for the Bible's veracity
Yahweh asks his more capable servants to use their brains. J.J Blunt writing in 1847 set the standard with a book called “Undesigned Co-incidences in the Old and New Testaments: an argument for their veracity” J.J.Blunt's work is detailed but by no means exhaustive. It is highly likely any serious Bible student will find at least one or two that Blunt did not cover. In fact it can be guaranteed that any seeming contradiction or odd phrase when investigated thoroughly and humbly will reveal deep underlying consistency, and another piece of evidence for the veracity of the Bible. The earthquake of the days of Uzziah is one example.
How do events in Uzziah's life show the significance of the earthquake mentioned in Amos' and Zechariah's prophecy? The answer to this question revels much about the state of Israel and Judah.
Uzziah comes to the throne
Amaziah (Uzziah's father) the king of Judah (847-767BC) had conquered Edom with Yahweh, his God's help and then had come back and set up the gods of Edom (2 Chronicles 25).Yahweh was angry and sent a prophet which said unto him,
Why have you sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of your hand? (2Chronicles 25:15)
A good question! The prophet is not named but it might have been Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest (2Ch 24:20) (not to be confused with Zechariah of the book of prophecy of that name).
And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Are you made of the king's counsel? forbear; why should you be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel. (2Chronicles 25:16)
Then Amaziah decides to attack the Northern king of Israel (Joash), but is defeated and
Joash the king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah.. at Bethshemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, four hundred cubits. (2Chronicles 25:23)
Joash put Amaziah back in Jerusalem but rules over his fellow king. After this a conspiracy is made against Amaziah and he flees, but is slain. (2 Chronicles 25:27). After a further gap of 11 years they (most likely the priests, led by Zechariah the son of Jehoiada) then take his son Uzziah and make him king of Judah.
Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. (2Chronicles 26:1)
Uzziah reigned 52 years all up. He begins by showing gratitude to Zechariah.
And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought Yahweh, God made him to prosper. (2Ch 26:5)
There were a few prophets around. Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, until Jeroboam died.
The word of Yahweh that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. (Hosea 1:1)
Isaiah came later in Uzziah's life as by Chapter 6 of Isaiah, Uzziah, after 52 years rule, has died.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isaiah 1:1)
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also Yahweh sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)
Also Amos who was a prophet both to the king of Judah and Israel.
The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (Amos 1:1)
And at this point we pause. Who ever records a date by an event in the future? Presumably it is an addendum. This earthquake must have been some great earthquake to have history forward dated to it.
But there is only one other direct reference to it. And that was made many, many, years later.
The great Earthquake of Uzziah
Whereas Amos was a contemporary of Uzziah, The prophet Zechariah was 250 years later.
Then shall Yahweh go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and Yahweh my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:3-5)
To get an idea of this, in modern terms it is like someone making a reference to the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755! (who in London, for example, remembers the London tremor of 1750?) What does Zechariah mean by speaking of an event 250 years before his audience's time as it had occurred in their time? The earthquake of Uzziah must have been something that was engraven in the nation's memory, and was still fresh 250 years on from the event.
It must have been a massive earthquake. Yet outside these 2 prophets Amos and Zechariah there seems to be no mention of it. Any nation that had experienced such an event would write of it in their history. And they must have because, how else did the nation collectively remember it after 250 years? Zechariah is speaking to people who remembered how people fled before the quake, 250 years later!
Uzziah reigned for less than a year as 'Uzziah'
There is another puzzle, the earthquake is said to have occurred in the days of Uzziah. Uzziah's name means 'strength of Yah'. But yet according to Chronicles (1Chron 3:11) in the list of kings, his name is Azariah which means 'Yah has helped', even though later in the book, when speaking of his life, he is called Uzziah. In Kings he was only known as Uzziah for less than a year. According to the book of Kings his name was firstly Azariah.
In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months. (2Kings 15:8)
Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the nine and thirtieth year of Uzziah king of Judah; and he reigned a full month in Samaria. (2Kings 15:13)
In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. (2Kings 15:17)
Within a few verses in one chapter and in records possibly made six months and a month apart respectively, in the Hebrew the name changes from Azariah to Uzziah and back to Azariah. It's too close in the text to be a scribal slip. As the reigns are so short at a mere 'six months' and 'a month' the records would have been entered by a scribe who could see and know the previous record. The only thing that makes sense is that the scribes knew something we don't. That they knew when Uzziah changed his name. At the very least we must be sure that the text is given to us so we think “why did the name change?”
2) When was the earthquake of Uzziah's day?
We are told about the earthquake by Amos. We have to put two things together. Firstly Amos introduces his prophecy as being 2 years before the earthquake. This means the whole book of Amos was written in less than a year, or the book was finished 2 years before the earthquake.
Secondly we are told the prophecy is in the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam, and that Jeroboam was to die. Amos says
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos has conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos says, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And Yahweh took me as I followed the flock, and Yahweh said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. Now therefore hear thou the word of Yahweh: Thou say, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus saith Yahweh; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shall die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land. (Amos 7:9-17)
At this point in time (2 years before the earthquake) Jeroboam was alive, but was soon to die.
In the early years of Jeroboam, while Amaziah (father of Uzziah) was a captive servant king of Judah and was still alive, Jeroboam was helped by Yahweh.
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of Yahweh God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. (2Kings 14:23-25)
And Yahweh said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. (2Kings 14:27)
By the end of Jeroboam's reign Uzziah, his servant king of Judah, was getting close to 30 years old.
And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, even with the kings of Israel; and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead. (2Kings 14:29)
We assume Jeroboam was killed just as Amos had said, but the book of Kings doesn't say how he died, and Chronicles doesn't even once mention Jeroboam! In any case Amos' prophecy is just before Jeroboam dies, and it is 2 years before the earthquake. As Uzziah's history will show something happened, such as a resounding defeat, or a huge event which reversed the situation and propelled Judah to dominance. Because whereas Jeroboam dies in the 14th year of Uzziah's reign, Zachariah (Jeroboam's son) didn't begin to reign until the 38th year of Uzziah's reign. There is a gap of 24 years in the royal line of Israel, where there was no king. Why? A huge event. Nowhere is it said directly, but the history indicates there was a huge event.
The life of Uzziah
Assembling all the dates we have the time line below.
We can see the the loss of rule by Judah to Israel in the reigns of Joash and Jeroboam. At some point Jeroboam's power must have waned in Judah for they make Azariah (Uzziah) king.
We realise that Uzziah must not have known his father well as he died when he was 4 years old. Someone else brought him up. Who?
And he sought God in the days of Zechariah.. (2Ch 26:5)
It seems likely it was Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest (2Ch 24:20). By this time the royal family was intermarried into the priestly family. The sister of Ahaziah, had married Jehoiada the priest and brought up Joash, who was king Uzziah's grandfather.
Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons that were slain. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest, (for she was the sister of Ahaziah,) hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not. (2Chronicles 22:11)
In addition it is possible that Uzziah's wife was of the priests, as Jotham's mother is of Zadok.
(Jotham son of Uzziah) was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok.(2Kings 15:33)
This priest link is important as Azariah is made a leper due to presuming a priestly role. But he is not condemned for doing evil or killed, even living until he was 68. It seems even though he is a leper he is still considered king with his son Jotham as his administrative co-regent. The book of kings is quite brief reagarding Azariah/Uzziah's history,
Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of Yahweh, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; Save that the high places were not removed... And Yahweh smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house. And Jotham the king's son was over the house, judging the people of the land. (2Kings 15:2-5)
The account given in Chronicles is far, far more detailed. In that he is called Uzziah.
2Ch 26:6 And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, ..Jabneh,..Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines.
2Ch 26:7 And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims.
Though no detail is given of how God helped Uzziah, it must have been some amazing event as suddenly even the Ammonites and Egyptians are impressed by Uzziah. But after being able to break down the walls of all those cities of his enemies he is building his own cities in their land.
2Ch 26:8 And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.
We will note here that Uzziah's name means 'strength of Yah'. First he is Azariah which means 'Yah has helped', then, he becomes Uzziah the 'strength of Yah'.
2Ch 26:9 Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them.
This re-building is consistent with the damage done by Joash against Uzziah's father.
2Ch 26:10 Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.
2Ch 26:11-13 Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands....And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.
But when God helped Azariah (before he was called Uzziah) he did not have a great army, when he was strengthened he called himself Uzziah, and then he had a great army. And weapons...
2Ch 26:14-15 And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones. And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.
Until he became Uzziah the 'strength of Yah'. From Kings we know this was in the 39th year of his reign when his name is changed officially.
2Ch 26:16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against Yahweh his God, and went into the temple of Yahweh to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
2Ch 26:17-18 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of Yahweh, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertains not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from Yahweh God.
In this conversation Azariah the priest, (the common name possibly indicating a family relationship) calls the king Uzziah. This supports the Kings record that at this time he was called Uzziah.
2Ch 26:19-20 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of Yahweh, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because Yahweh had smitten him.
Uzziah was humbled, excluded from any formal worship of Yahweh and made unwell for the rest of his life. It is quite possible at this time in his life Uzziah himself, realized he could not longer be the 'strength of Yah' and changed his name back to Azariah 'Yah has helped'. Surely from that point he would be reliant on the help of Yahweh Elohim day to day as leprosy was a nasty sickness.
2Ch 26:21-22 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of Yahweh: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land.
Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.
The very interesting thing to note is that Isaiah only mentions Uzziah's death as a fact in passing (in chapter 6), yet the writer of the Chronicles says Isaiah writes of the the “rest of the acts” of Uzziah! With this piece of information what Isaiah writes in his first 6 chapters is very revealing.
What Isaiah writes
Uzziah had created a situation from nothing to become one of great wealth. Isaiah speaks of the great prosperity of Israel.
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of Yahweh. Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers. Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots: Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands: (Isaiah 2:5-8)
Isaiah confirms that they had become “like the Philistines” (confirming that Uzziah had built Judah's cities in their territory). They have also significant trade and a position of influence in the nations.
Isaiah goes on to speak of a future earthquake, but clearly referencing something the people knew about
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake terribly the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:19-22)
And this is the conundrum. There was a great earthquake about the beginning of Uzziah's growth to great power yet it only made Judah the superpower. What kind of great earthquake makes a people great? One that destroys only their enemies. What Isaiah writes makes senses if that generation Isaiah was speaking to in the latter half of Uzziah's rule remembered when Yahweh shook the earth and destroyed their idolatrous enemies, the Philistines. Isaiah uses Uzziah as an example.
Because the daughters of Zion are proud.. Therefore Yahweh will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion (Isaiah 3:16-17)
Scabs are part of leprosy which came upon proud Uzziah when he was humbled to became again Azariah. Then in the following chapter 4 Isaiah speaks about vineyards, for Uzziah had loved to build vineyards and towers (2Ch 26:10). Despite an earthquake Uzziah seems very happy to build lots of buildings. This indicates Uzziah did not fear the earthquake as he knew that his God had caused the massive quake in his days, and that it would not affect Judah's building work.
And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. (Isaiah 5:30)
Just before Uzziah's death Isaiah refers to an eclipse as if somehow an eclipse, like an earthquake, is associated with Uzziah.
The prophecy by Amos is in the early part of Uzziah's reign and the latter part of Jeroboam's reign and the earthquake 2 years after that. That the earthquake is not associated by Zechariah with Jeroboam indicates it is likely Jeroboam was dead by that time. This dating for the earthquake, then, approximates the best date for the eclipse that fixes Assyrian chronology 24 June 791BC. And Amos mentions an eclipse
The prophecy of Amos
Amos predicts Jereboam's death. Jeroboam died in the 14th year of Uzziah's reign, when Uzziah was was about 30 years old. From Chronicles we learn Uzziah defeats the Philistines. Amos at the end of Jeroboam's reign begins speaking of the coming judgement of the Philistines
Thus saith Yahweh; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holds the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith Yahweh GOD. (Amos 1:6-10)
Thus saith Yahweh; For three transgressions of Edom,.. But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah. Thus saith Yahweh; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind: (Amos 1:11-15)
Clearly whatever happened in Uzziah's day knocked down the palaces of the Philistines as Uzziah is able to build in all their territory (2Ch 26:6), but we note Uzziah only began to fulfil this. And in that day that Gaza was to be destroyed so also would Judah be destroyed in the same way.
Thus says Yahweh; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of Yahweh, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem. (Amos 2:1-5)
I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith Yahweh. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares unto man what is his thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, Yahweh, The God of hosts, is his name. (Amos 4:11-13)
But Uzziah, by his heart being with Yahweh, clearly gave his people prosperity. Therefore whatever destroyed the Philistines didn't affect Judah in Uzziah's day.
3) The eclipse and the earthquake
Even 2 years before the earthquake Amos speaks of an earthquake and it is associated with an eclipse.
Yahweh has sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwells therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, says Yahweh, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: (Amos 8:7-9)
The Lord Yahweh of hosts is he that touches the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. (Amos 9:5)
In an earthquake the ground can turn to mud and it may result in water rising up in a tsunami. This event is consistent, as something with an epicentre in Gaza would affect Egypt. But on that day of the flood of Egypt the sun was eclipsed in a clear day (not that Egypt even in the past had many cloudy days).
So we have Amos 2 years before “the earthquake” (Hebrew has the definite article “the”) speaking of an eclipse and all the effects of a great earthquake in Gaza and Egypt. He calls the king of Judah “Uzziah” (strength of Yah) and writes of the falling of the palaces of the Philistines.
We have Isaiah, in the latter part of Uzziah's life (and again he is called “Uzziah”) speaking of an earthquake specifically caused by Yahweh
for fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake terribly the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:19-22)
Isaiah also speaks of an eclipse.
and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. (Isaiah 5:30)
Zechariah also speaks of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah as being the judgement on the nations who come against Israel in battle
Then shall Yahweh go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zec 14:3)
After 250 years Zechariah again refers to the most recent great battle Yahweh visibly fought for the nation of Israel (as Judah ruled Israel at that time), as a reference to tell his audience what it will be like in the future.
And you shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and Yahweh my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)
And in the very next breath Zechariah speaks of an eclipse,
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to Yahweh, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. (Zechariah 14:6-7)
We can note also that this eclipse is corroborated by Assyrian history. It is a famous fact that Assyrian history is dated by an eclipse, which is now thought to have occurred on 24 June 791BC which co-incides with Beecher's dating for the year after the death of Jeroboam: the year when Uzziah becomes ruler over all Israel. Ussher's dates place the eclipse 4 years later than Beecher (but still very close to Uzziah's take-over of rulership of Israel and his resounding defeat of the Philistines).
Why doesn't Chronicles mention the great earthquake of Uzziah's day?
The Book of Kings record only mentions that Azariah was made a king and then later made a leper. This is the history of Azariah. Kings however alerts us to the fact that Azariah was called Uzziah. The parallel Chronicles record speaks of the great things Uzziah did and how he became Azariah again. But why don't they mention the earthquake? It's because they do.
And he (Uzziah) sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought Yahweh, God made him to prosper. And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines. And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims. And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly. (2Ch 26:5-8)
We note that Uzziah's name means 'strength of Yah'. How did the young king of Judah become strong suddenly? How did God help Uzziah? How did he break down the wall of Gath? Why did the Ammonites give gifts? Why was he so famous down to the river area of Egypt?
Let's put together all we might know including the Chronicles record. We will see how all the seemingly irrelevant detail from many witnesses fits together to make a very consistent picture. None tried to tell us directly, every fact we glean is circumstantial, undesigned and co-incidental.
Jerobaom is a great king in Israel who was helped by Yahweh. Amaziah (Uzziah's father) is useless and dies. Jerobaom's heart is not with Yahweh. Uzziah (or as he is known then Azariah) learns from Zechariah, a faithful priest, and at 16 is made king of Judah (a vassal of Israel). While under the domination of Jeroboam, Azariah (Uzziah) learns how to be a king with Zechariah helping learn how to serve Yahweh. Meanwhile Amos the prophet is sent by Yahweh to Jeroboam now in his early 60's, who rejects his message. Amos tells Jeroboam that he will die by the sword.
At this time Azariah (Uzziah) in Judah begins to be about 30 and shows he is keen to “do right” in the sight of Yahweh. In the background the Philistines learn Jeroboam is losing his grip. From Amos we know Jeroboam dies in battle with people of the North which the Philistines would have known too. Hosea says it would happen in Jezreel,
And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. (Hosea 1:5)
Azariah in Judah seems not to be a threat to the Philistines, and it seems they decide to mount a collective takeover beginning at Judah, at the usual time kings go to war (during a season when they were not actively farming or harvesting such as after the spring harvest in late summer, or in late June).
Due to our understanding of the path of the sun and moon, we can predict eclipses (and even reasonably accurately backdate them). We can be sure then that Yahweh Elohim could know this. So we have a conjunction, an eclipse coming and an invading army of Philistines. We have also a faithful 30 year old king in Judah with no army to speak of, with faithful priests including Zechariah the grandson of a prophet-priest, and even Amos, Hosea, or a young Isaiah (who according to Rabbinical tradition was related to the royal family). So we have any amount of sources for God to directly help Azraiah (Uzziah) in going into battle with the Philistines.
Going into battle was not a secret thing. For a start, the Philistine army would have included many mercenaries from the Ammonites and Edomites and possibly even from Egypt, as it would be worth a major offensive on their part to win back the whole area.
The fllowing is speculation based on the prophets and past history. Under Uzziah's leadership Judah went out boldly to fight their enemies. A kind of pre-emptive strike. Gath is 43.4 kilometres (26.9 miles) downhill from Jerusalem, perhaps a 6-7 hr march. When they came to Gath -
God helped Uzziah against the Philistines
he brake down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod...
Jerusalem is 70km (43 miles) inland from Ashdod. They would have come to Gath first.
When Jonathan son of Saul was just one man and his armourbearer taking on the whole Philistine army, Yahweh helped him and sent an earthquake then when they engaged in battle,
And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling. (1Samuel 14:15)
But it is possible the quake in Uzziah's day was bigger than that in Jonathan's day, according to Zechariah the prophet the Israelites from Judah had to flee away from it. Based on what is written in Chronicles, Uzziah must have gone out to take on the Philistines. We may gather that the quake may have struck as a strong tremor and the superstitious Philistine army fled. Then the Israelites pursue them, as in the day of Jonathan, back to the city and the quake strikes and flattens the three major Philistine cities Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod (2 Chron 26:6) causing the Israelites of Judah to flee away and decimating those who had run to hide in the city and those who lived there. Then to top it all off there is an eclipse about mid afternoon, so they can't even dig the survivors out of the ruins except with a lamp (which might be hard to see to light).
News of such an event would get out to all the nations, especially if Egypt also shook a bit and received the wash from a tsunami. Uzziah and the Israelites, in a superstitious world, would be seen to have the power over all gods with them. In Chronicles it says God helped Uzziah, Zechariah says
Then shall Yahweh go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:3)
Zechariah says that Israel shall run before it, as they did in the days of Uzziah. The quake Zechariah predicts (which has not yet occurred) is centred at Jerusalem, whereas in the days of Uzziah Chronicles indicates the quake was centred in Gaza. Yet in both instances the army (specifically of Judah) is to flee away from the quake. In other words Zechariah is saying in a future time when Judah is fighting its enemies (this time at Jerusalem), there will suddenly be a massive and destructive quake from which they safely flee away. The quake is for their deliverance and only the enemies of Israel are harmed. Thus the earthquake of Uzziah caused those of Judah to run away from it but it seems to have demolished only their enemy's buildings. Uzziah has no fear he is dwelling in an earthquake prone land and he happily builds Israelite cities there. The earthquake of Uzziah's day from all the accounts together was obviously and visibly, and evident even to an impartial observer, as being a miracle from his God, so obvious the writer of the Chronicles just wrote “God helped him”. When that book was written everyone knew what it meant. The detail we gain from Amos, Isaiah and Zechariah, 3 other witnesses.
We also understand how the earthquake became associated with “Uzziah” not Azariah, for it is the beginning of the king's 'strength of Yah' and the reason for his over-confidence in the temple in the 39th year of his reign at age 55.
4) Jonah & What it means to Us
A reader of this article pointed out to us another un-designed co-incidence linked to Uzziah's earthquake in the work of Jonah.
Jonah is contemporary with Jeroboam at the height of his power, or towards the end of his rule.
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah... Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. .... He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. (2Kings 14:23-25).
In the book of Jonah we see huge respect from non-Jews for the Hebrew God. When the water is rough, the sleeping Jonah is woken,
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is your occupation? and whence come thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land.
Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why have thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of Yahweh, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:8-10)
Note when Jonah was from no-where in particular fleeing his God, they had no concern, but they become “exceedingly afraid” when they learn Jonah is a Hebrew!
The men in the ship are not Jews. They didn't recognise Jonah's nationality. They are going to Tarshish, which even Jonah hopes is a long way away from the God of Israel. They had set out from Joppa which in that era most likely was in Philistine territory. But they feared "exceedingly” the Hebrew God. This fear is totally inexplicable. It was not how rough it was that made these tough sailors afraid, it was that Jonah said he was fleeing the Hebrew God.
This makes sense if in very recent history the Hebrew God has been shown to be very powerful over the Philistines, over the Ammonites, Arabia and all the way to Egypt. In the first years of Uzziah's reign, in Joppa, which was so close to events, even a foreign sailor would have heard how the Hebrew God had helped Uzziah by destroying Philistine cities. But the book of Jonah is just reporting events, the writer sees no need to explain why the foreign sailors feared the Hebrew God. It is an un-designed co-incidence a that they do fear.
But there is more. Jonah then is told to go to the Great City of Nineveh. He is a Hebrew from Gathhepher, which is no-where in particular.
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (Jonah 3:4-5)
Why did the people of this great and mighty city believe Jonah? At this time Nineveh was a centre of Assyria which was rising to be a great power. Since Shalmaeser III 858-824BC, Assyria had been increasing in power with Northern Israel and may others forced to pay tribute. In 796BC Assyria won a victory over Damascus. In 791BC the king of Assyria ruling Ninveh would have been Adad-nirari III 811–783 BC. Assuredly the death of Jeroboam and a sudden miraculous success of Uzziah would not only have dried up a revenue stream, but been of concern, especially, if another regional power such as the Ammonites were now giving gifts to Uzziah. This concern fits well with the otherwise unaccountable respect the Ninevites from 'the greatest to the least' had for this lone Hebrew's message. Something made them greatly fear and respect the God of the Hebrews.
The great earthquake implied in the Chronicles record is a good reason for the Ninevites' fear. The trade route from Egypt to Babylon went past Nineveh. If the Egyptians spread the news of Uzziah's name it would travel to Nineveh, as many people including the Arabians traded between the two. The mighty King of Nineveh clearly feared the God of the Hebrews,
For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? (Jonah 3:6-9)
Not only did the Ninevites fear, they acted on the fear of the Hebrew God and changed their way of life. This is not the action of a nation that thinks itself and its gods superior to the Hebrews and their God.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. (Jonah 3:10)
Jonah's success is unprecedented. Not since the time of Rahab and the Gibeonites, have so many non-Jews feared the power of the God of the Hebrews. Even Israelites themselves often didn't repent at just the word of a prophet. It must have been a great earthquake and an amazing event clearly linked to Uzziah that took the fame of Uzziah's name to Egypt and, as the circumstances suggest, the fear of the Hebrew God from Joppa to Nineveh.
What it means to us
We can be sure the Bible is true in this matter as the accounts of Uzziah's life in every particular, even asides corroborate each other, from his name change to the earthquake. That a great miracle occurred at this time is supported by the, otherwise unaccountable, behaviour of non-Jews in the book of Jonah. The earthquake of the days of Uzziah is very, very, ancient history. Yet 250 years after the event Zechariah says, there will be another earthquake for their deliverance, and just like the days of Uzziah they will flee from it. Even when Zechariah wrote the generation that had experienced it was long dead. But in the 2,500 years since Zechariah wrote there has not been an earthquake such as Uzziah's must have been.
Uzziah was the last king to be visibly helped with the active engagement of Yahweh Elohim in the actual battle with an earthquake. By contrast Senacherib's army in Hezekiah's day was smitten while they slept, and did not involve a battle at all. When is Zechariah's earthquake to be? When all nations are gathered to Jerusalem to battle (Zech 14:2) when Yahweh stands on the Mount of Olives. Then the Israeli's on Yahweh's side, and those who have come with Messiah to Zion, will flee from the earthquake in the same way as they did in the days of Uzziah when they fought the Philistines in battle and the cities of Gaza were flattened.
When such power is again seen on earth, all will fear Messiah the king and the God of the Hebrews. Many great modern nations will, as the Ammonites did, bring gifts to the new king in Jerusalem. And those in great cities will repent, just as Nineveh did.
For more on Zechariah's earthquake War, Earthquake and World Peace
Image from the NASA website http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/iotd.html They are archived at http://www.nasaimages.org/