Much of the information about the period of Uzziah (or Azariah) comes from the prophets of the time, Amos and Hosea (Amos 1:1; Hosea 1:1). Uzziah was king of Judah for 52 years (791-739 BC; 2 Kings 15:1-2; 2 Chron 26:1), and for much of that time Judah was untroubled by foreign neighbours. Under Uzziah’s leadership the nation prospered. The favourable political conditions of the time enabled Uzziah to expand Judah’s power in every direction.

To the south and west he overran Arab and Philistine territory (2 Chron 26:6-7), spreading his influence to the borders of Egypt and taking control of Edom’s Red Sea port of Ezion-geber (or Elath) (2 Chron 26:2,8). To the east he overpowered Ammon (2 Chron 26:8), and to the north he enjoyed peace with the similarly prosperous Israelite kingdom of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-25; see JEROBOAM). He fortified Jerusalem, built up the armed forces, and equipped his troops with the most modern weapons (2 Chron 26:9,11-15). Uzziah’s conquests gave him control over land and sea trade routes, and his concern for agricultural development increased farm productivity (2 Chron 26:10).

Unfortunately, the prosperity brought with it greed and corruption. Those who profited most from the economic growth were the powerful city people, such as government officials, merchants and judges. Ordinary people, the majority of whom were poor farmers, suffered much from the corruption and oppression of the rich. This injustice was fiercely condemned by the prophets of the time, Amos and Hosea (Amos 5:10-12; 6:1; 8:4-6; Hosea 12:7-9; see also AMOS; HOSEA). Early in his reign Uzziah ruled well, because he followed the godly instruction of his chief adviser (2 Chron 26:5). Later in his reign his power led to pride, which in turn led to his downfall. Despite opposition from the priests, he insisted on taking over the high priest’s position, so that he could become the religious head of the nation as well as the political head. God punished him with leprosy, and his son Jotham had to act as joint ruler till Uzziah’s death (2 Chron 26:16-23). In the year of Uzziah’s death the prophet Isaiah, following Amos and Hosea, began to bring his messages of judgment to the corrupt nation (Isa 1:1; 6:1).

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