As I read through the accounts of the kings in the Bible, Uzziah’s story doesn’t strike me as being overly unique. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, at least for a while. Eventually, his own power and pride did him in. He overstepped, and it cost him.
He entered the temple to burn incense, something only a Levitical priest is permitted to do, and was afflicted with leprosy the rest of his life. So Uzziah was good for a while, but power got the best of him.
But hidden in the middle of his account is a little line that caught my attention: “He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil” (II Chronicles 26:10).
In an otherwise routine and undistinguished kingly account, this line was different, causing me to stop. I don’t remember encountering a statement like this anywhere else in scripture. Noah is said to be a man of the soil (Genesis 9:20), and there is plenty about good soil and planting in soil, but I couldn’t find anything else about loving the soil.
What does it mean that King Uzziah “loved the soil”? There’s a possibility that he loved the soil because, when his people worked it for him, it produced wealth for him. But I’m not sure that would be loving the soil. That would be loving the wealth or loving what the soil produced.
Uzziah expanded the farmable land and increased the capacity for farming and fertility. The way this is written appears to imply that Uzziah loved gardening. Could he have loved the mystery of growing things in the soil? The demands of Uzziah as king were great, I’m sure, but maybe he was a farmer at heart. At least that’s one way to read it.
I am no king, nor am I a farmer, but I’m learning to love the soil more and more. My family have loved gardening over the years to different degrees, and now that we have our own property, a little plot to call our own, we are expanding our gardens. In the summer of 2021, we built and gardened a new three-metre-square plot in our backyard and established new flower beds along the fence and deck.
This past summer we built a polli-nator garden at the side of our house and added some more flowerbeds in the front yard. I love the soil, the life-giving bounty of it. The miracle of it. The mystery of it. It is the source of life. Both plants and creatures depend on it as their home. It is an image of God the Creator, the home and source of our being, our nutrient and dwelling place, the place from which we were made.
The metaphors are endless, and the soil has so much to teach us. The benefits of caring for, nurturing and loving the soil are bountiful. The need to care for the soil goes far beyond my own little backyard; we need to collec-tively care for all the soil of the Earth and I need to learn much more about that. But I’ll start in my backyard. I look forward to getting back into the soil this coming spring to tend to and grow beautiful little miracles.
Joshua Penfold can be reached at email@example.com.