Uzziah appears under different spellings in the Bible - OZIAS, AZARIAH, AZARIAS.  Uzziah is the son and successor of Amaziah, and king of Judah.  According to biblical records Uzziah reigned for 52 years (c. 791-739 BCE), but Assyrian records indicate that he reigned for 42 years (c. 783-742).  

Uzziah's reign marked the height of Judah's power.  He fought successfully against other nations and exacted tribute from the Ammonites.  Judah expanded its boundaries westward with settlements in Philistia.  During this period the nation prospered, and desert areas were reclaimed by water conservation.  Jerusalem's walls were reconstructed, towers were added, and engines of war were mounted at strategic points.  A large army was also maintained during his reign.  The nation's prosperity under Uzziah was considered to have been a result of the king's fidelity to Yahweh.

According to the biblical record, Uzziah's strength caused him to become proud, which led to his downfall.  He attempted to burn incense in the Temple, an act restricted to priests.  When the priests attempted to send him from the Temple, the king became angry and was immediately stricken with leprosy.  His son Jotham ruled for his father until Uzziah died.

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"Hither were brought /the bones of Uzziah/ King of Judah/ Do not open"

The epitaph once marked the place, now unknown, where the bones of King Uzziah were re-interred many centuries after his death in the eighth century BC. It is written in Aramaic, a language spoken in Israel during the Second Temple period (as were Hebrew and Greek) and in style of script that dates it to the latter part of the Second Temple period.

The Bible, which records Uzziah's deeds, fortification projects, and conquests, also describes his burial (2 Chron.26:23): "Uzziah slept with his fathers in the burial field of the kings, because, they said, he was a leper." Evidently the leper king was not buried in the royal tombs within the City of David, but elsewhere, probably outside the city walls. Josephus also relates (Antiquities of the Jews, IX, 10, 4) that "he was buried alone in his gardens." It is not clear whether Uzziah's disease was leprosy in the modern sense, but certainly those suffering from what Bible terms "leprosy" had to live in isolation and be buried in a place set apart from usual burial sites. The removal of Uzziah's remains from the original burial place may have been connected with the expansion of the city at the end of the Hasmonean period or in Herod's reign.

The inscription was discovered more than fifty years ago in the collections of the Russian Orthodox monastery on the Mount of Olives. There was, however, no record of the place where it had been found at the end of nineteenth century.

This is the only ancient object known on which the name of a king of Judah appears; its importance is therefore considerable, even though it dates from a period much later than Uzziah's reign.




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