This question arose for me from 2 Chronicles 26, especially verses 16-18.

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, 18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.” ESV

  • Hi Jck, I've edited your post to include the relevant text (feel free to change to a different translation). This other question looks related and may interest you but I don't think it's a duplicate: Did God show lenience to King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-19?. Nov 13 '18 at 15:31
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    Asking what someone thought can only prompt answers based on opinion. We don't know what other people think. We can only comment on their words and on their actions.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 13 '18 at 15:32

Why would King Uzziah think he could do the priest's job?

The immediate answer from the text is pride: "when he was strong, he grew proud". So why would pride lead Uzziah to think he needs no priestly intermediary?

There is precedent for this of course, although Saul's sin was less brash:

8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” ESV

Uzziah probably thought of himself more as a "David" than a "Saul", because of his success against the Philistines, and wide-ranging civil and military success:

The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them. 10 And he built towers in the wilderness and cut out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king's commanders. 12 The whole number of the heads of fathers' houses of mighty men of valor was 2,600. 13 Under their command was an army of 307,500, who could make war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. ESV

As David seemed somewhat immune from the usual rules separating priestly roles, Uzziah's pride would have made him think he had earned the same privilege and had nothing to fear.

  • Concerning 1 Samuel 21:6, David asked (rather than commanded) the Priest for the bread, and the latter gave him his blessing or approval, since it was a life or death situation (starvation).
    – Lucian
    Nov 17 '18 at 13:42
  • But where in the law are priests given authority to give such permission, no matter the situation? Think about Uzzah touching the ark when the oxen stumbled — there was no allowance made there. Mark 2:23-28 sheds light on this, it is noteworthy that Jesus argument isn't that the disciples should be allowed to break the Sabbath because they are hungry, but "the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath", implying a special status for David prefiguring Christ. Nov 18 '18 at 8:44
  • The son of man is a Hebraism for man himself; indeed, the verse just before the one you mentioned clearly says that the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. As for the Ark, it had rings and poles for precisely this reason, transportation, so that it might be moved (or, in this particular case, supported, or prevented from falling over) without being directly touched.
    – Lucian
    Nov 20 '18 at 15:20
  • Hence Ps 146:3, I agree. There was still no provision under the law for breaking the letter of the law (with or without permission from the priest), as David and Uzzah both did, with very different consequences. Jesus point is that David (and by extension all of Jesus' followers) operate under a different administration, but one that was always implicit (and sometimes explicit) even in the time of the old administration. Nov 20 '18 at 16:11
  • An obvious implication of the sixth commandment is that one cannot let a man starve to death.
    – Lucian
    Nov 20 '18 at 18:38

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