Truth, Understanding, Insight

The earthquake in the days of Uzziah

25th July 2009, hej,seh


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 'who had understanding in the visions of God'(2Ch 26:5) (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 'who had understanding in the visions of God') 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?”


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