Uzza is a man whom a lot of Bible students know the story of but might not remember his name. In 2 Samuel 6 the Ark of the Covenant is being transported on a cart. When one of the oxen stumbled, Uzza reached out his hand to catch the ark. Unfortunately he is struck dead for what many might consider a good deed in attempting to save the ark.
The obvious question that is asked is why would God strike Uzza dead. The answer is two-fold. The ark is holy and is not to be touched under any circumstances. Uzza meant well but still violated the rule. The other reason for this misfortune is that the ark was supposed to be carried, not transported by cart. If God’s instructions on moving the ark had been followed, there would have been no cart to tip and no chance for Uzza to reach out and touch the ark. Uzza pays the unfortunate price of disobedience despite good intentions.
Zacchaeus is probably best known for the Sunday school song about him. Because he was short, he couldn’t see Jesus among the crowds. So he climbed up a sycamore tree for a better view. Jesus calls him down from the tree and goes to his house to speak with him.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. In Jesus’ day, these men were notorious cheats. When he repents, Zaccheaus declares that he will pay back four times what he has cheated everyone.
Ahasuerus is translated as Xerxes in more modern versions of the Bible such as the NIV. Ahasuerus and Xerxes I are the same person. For more about Xerxes, see here.
There are multiple kings with the name of Xerxes in the Bible. Keeping them straight is a bit of a puzzle. The most prominent Xerxes is Xerxes I who was king during the book of Esther. While some translations use the name Xerxes, other translations – the King James Version being the most notable – use the Persion version of the name, Ahasuerus. To further confuse the matter, this name when translated into Greek is Artaxerxes. But this is not to confuse Xerxes with Artaxerxes who are two different kings.
Suffice it to say, when Xerxes is mentioned it is likely in reference to the King of Persia who married Esther. In some translations his name is Ahasuerus. References to Artaxerxes are most likely to Xerxes’ son who followed him on the throne.
Not only is Xerxes a prominent figure in the book of Esther, but part of the book of Ezra takes place during this same time frame so he also is referenced in that book as well.
Vashti is a queen of the Persian Empire, married to King Xerxes I (called Ahasuerus in the Bible.) Her story is what sets the stage for the book of Esther. During a drunken party she is called out to dance for the king. When she refuses, the king, with some coercion from his guests, decides that it is time to find another queen.
It is speculated that Vashti is not just fighting for women’s rights in her refusal of the king. It is thought that she might have been asked to dance naked for the party guests to show off her beauty. She refused to be humiliated in this way, which is the real force behind going against the king’s wishes.
Vashti ends up being banished from the king’s presence and a search for a new queen was launched. Esther would end up becoming queen at Vashti’s loss. Although one might expect that Vashti was executed for her refusal of the king, this doesn’t happen.
Little is known about the location of Uz. We are told that Job is from the land of Uz, but we are not certain where that actually is. There is some evidence to suggest that Job lives in Syria, but other evidence suggests that Uz is in Jordan or even southern Israel. The best indication we are given as to its location is that there is an attack by Chaldean raiders, Chaldea being where modern day Iraq is located. This might give reason to believe that Uz is near or borders the area of Iraq but no one is certain.
Uriah is forever infamously associated with King David and he is a victim of David’s greatest sin. Uriah had the misfortune of being married to Bathsheba. When David saw Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop he lusted after her and slept with her. Uriah was away at battle at the time.
When Bathsheba later reveals to King David that she is pregnant, he tries to cover up his misdeeds. He calls Uriah home under the pretense of asking for a battle report. He then tries to get Uriah to return home and to sleep with his wife so that the sin may not be discovered. Uriah righteously states that he won’t return home to his wife while the other men are out in the field. David feels that he is left with no other alternative to hide his sin than to have Uriah killed.
David ordered that Uriah be placed at the front of the battle line and have the other men withdraw from him. While David is not the one to personally do the killing, he is no less a murderer as he is to blame for Uriah’s death.
Ur is mentioned many times in the Bible but it best known as the birthplace of Abraham. Ur is located in modern day Iraq and was located near the Euphrates River. It was one of the most ancient cities in existence believed to have been founded 6500 years ago.
Ur was the capital city of the Sumerian Empire, the first known empire of the world. During Abraham’s time, the city was at its height and it was probably the greatest city in the world at that time, around 2100 BC.
Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically since God knows what the future holds, the city of Ur was destroyed about 100 years after God called Abraham to leave the city. The city would be rebuilt and be mentioned several more times in scripture. Eventually it faded from prominence as the Euphrates River shifted course and the location became less important. Today Ur sits around twelve miles away from the Euphrates.
Ur is often mentioned as Ur of the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans didn’t arrive until long after Abraham’s time as they were precursors to the Babylonians. They came into being around 800 BC. They Chaldeans are likely mentioned as a reference to the land where Abraham was from, much like we would say Iraq today so that we have a modern frame of reference. Ur of the Chaldeans is not meant to imply that Abraham, coming from Ur, was a Chaldean.
ANE is an abbreviation which stands for “Ancient Near East.” The term does not appear in the Bible but is often used by scholars when discussing Bible passages and the life and times of Bible days, particularly the Old Testament.
The Ancient Near East, geographically is what we commonly refer to as the Middle East today. Usually when ANE appears however, it is not in reference to a geographical region. Instead, it is typically used in reference to the cultural practices of the people of that region in that era of time.
One might commonly see ANE used in a reference such as “Treaties in the ANE were often sealed through a blood sacrifice.” In Bible related terms, ANE is usually referenced to show either that Israel’s practices were common among many people of the day or that God had instituted practices that were quite counter to common practices of the day.
Following the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel split. Solomon’s son Rehoboam acted with a heavy hand toward the people and many left to follow Jeroboam. Rehoboam was left with the southern kingdom and David’s throne to reign from.
The southern kingdom is also known as the kingdom of Judah. Judah was not only the largest tribe, it was the tribe of David so that made it the ruling tribe as well. At times the tribe of Benjamin is overlooked even though it also was a part of the southern kingdom. There are several places that only mention the tribe of Judah as a part of the kingdom but this was only because Benjamin was fairly small and ultimately not noteworthy in relation to Judah. At some point half of the tribe of Manasseh also joins with the kingdom of Judah.
Unlike the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom has a mix of both good and bad kings. The best of this group was King Hezekiah. He is the best overall king next to David. Unfortunately, his son Manasseh is the worst king of Judah and he also reigns the longest at 55 years. Manasseh is actually imprisoned for a period of time in Babylon where he appears to repent because God restores him to the throne and he tears down the idols that he had built.
While the northern kingdom fell in 722 BC, the southern kingdom continued to survive for around another 150 years. Eventually it too falls however. The southern kingdom is destroyed in three phases. Beginning in 605 BC King Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem. This first time he carries away a part of the royal family including Daniel. A second attack follows in 597 BC. Finally a rebellion is discovered and Nebuchadnezzar returns to the city in 586 BC. This time he leaves nothing as he flattens the city to the ground, destroys the temple, and deports all but the poorest people to Babylon.
2 Chronicles closes by noting that the Jews would be in exile for 70 years as punishment because they had failed to celebrate the Sabbath years that God had commanded and so the land would rest to make up for the years that it had been ignored.