Pollak: Donald Trump and the Biblical King Uzziah — Successful Term, Rough Ending

Michaelangelo's Uzziah (Wikimedia Commons)
Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump faces a second impeachment fight, with just days left in office.

His critics have tried to undermine his remaining defenses by shaming his religious supporters into abandoning him. While that seems unlikely (and insulting), there are interesting and relevant precedents for the Trump presidency in the Bible.

In 2018, I compared Trump to the Biblical King Jehu, a reformer whose brutal methods inspired support from critics of his predecessors but shock from observers.

In the last days of Trump’s presidency, and in the wake of the Capitol riot, another Biblical king comes to mind: Uzziah, also known as Azariah.

Uzziah ruled the kingdom of Judah for over half a century in the eighth century B.C., sharing the throne for part of that time with his son, Jotham. Among the kings described by the Bible, Uzziah is considered one of the few good ones, a reformer who obeyed the law: “[H]e did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” (II Kings 15:3)

As I noted in my 2016 ebook, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets, the Bible tells the story of Uzziah’s success — and eventual downfall — in the Second Book of Chronicles:

The Bible tells us that Uzziah seeks the advice of the prophets, and Zechariah in particular. It adds that he leads a campaign of military conquest with a success not seen in generations: “And he went forth and waged war with the Philistines, and he breached the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod, and he built cities in Ashdod and among the Philistines.” (II Chronicles 26:6)

Uzziah not only enjoys success in battle, but also collects plaudits and tributes from distant nations, and fortifies his capital in Jerusalem. Under his reign, the monarchy and the country as a whole enjoy a great economic expansion: “And he built towers in the desert, and he hewed many cisterns, for he had much cattle and in the lowlands and in the plains, plowmen and vinedressers in the mountains and in the fruitful fields, for he loved the soil.” (10)

Uzziah also commands “a force of warriors who went out to war by bands” (11), and who are well-equipped with weapons. In Jerusalem itself, Uzziah installs advanced defensive weaponry: “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and on the corners, to shoot with arrows and with huge stones, and his name went forth far abroad for he did wondrous things to help himself, until he became strong.” (15).

But Uzziah’s success also proves to be his downfall:

Emboldened by his power as a ruler, Uzziah decides that civil authority is not enough for him: he wants to be a religious leader, as well. That means crossing the line set long ago by Samuel, who had warned the people that a king would attempt to control their spiritual lives, and who strips Saul of the monarchy after he sets up a monument and sacrifices to God without God’s approval. As the Book of Chronicles relates: “And when he became strong, his heart became haughty until he became corrupt, and he trespassed against the Lord his God, and he came into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”

The priests in the Temple rush to stop Uzziah from violating the constraints of his office. Suddenly, he is struck with leprosy, an affliction that makes it impossible for him to perform services in the Temple — or to rule. He is not removed from the throne, but he is forced to share power with his son — who serves admirably.

The parallels between King Uzziah and President Trump are striking. Uzziah did not turn against his faith, but pursued it with excessive zeal.

Likewise, Trump did not betray the Constitution, but insisted that it allowed the Vice President, and Congress, to overturn the decision of the Electoral College. That led to disaster.

Trump’s sin was not “incitement”; he told supporters to protest “peacefully” outside the Capitol. Rather, like Uzziah, he did not know when to quit.

Trump’s fatal flaw was his desire to win at any cost. It made him a successful president, willing to break with precedent and conventional wisdom to achieve what was right for the nation. But that same determination to win made him a poor leader in a period of transition, when the country needed unity after a bitterly divided election. His opponent, Joe Biden, has been no better.

The Bible offers advice: leave anger aside, and let the transition of power to the next leader take place.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is How Not to Be a Sh!thole Country: Lessons from South Africa. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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