While reading a passage in Kings on Sunday I found myself wondering where the gardens of Uzza might be found.
2 Kings 21:17
…Manasseh slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza.
This instantly had me wondering where the garden of Uzza was and what exactly it referred to because there is so little mention of the Kings of Judah being buried in that place. In fact most early burials mentioned happened in the City of David. According to some scholars this was apparently was too close to the temple and was considered to defile it. So they put the new complex on the palace grounds. Though some disagree with this assessment.
Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulous pointed out that there is a correlation to why Manasseh is first associated with this burial place. The idea is presented as a political one. According to some scholars they see the mention of a new burial place as degrading to the kings mentioned. They felt that the new burial ground, possibly on an older gardens was probably accomplished by Hezekiah as he was known for his building programs and his righteous behaviour, thus he would not be associated with something that might seem to defile or make him impure.
Stavrakopoulous argues that the Gardens of Uzza are a metaphor not just for where the kings were buried but also which ones were considered evil enough to be associated with that particular tomb. Those considered unworthy of praise by the biblical writers were almost immediately assigned to Uzza, thus Manasseh, Amon and Jehoiakim are all assigned to this place.
Stavrakopoulous has brought up the idea that these burials might actually be at a sacred garden rather than some pleasure garden. This would set a whole new idea to this burial as it would associate these men with pagan worship rather than “proper” worship of YWH. In fact in Isaiah Isa 65:3-5 it mentioned the idea that worshippers were burning sacrifices in gardens and tomb areas. These worship practices were common in the middle east in that period of time.
Thus when the Josiah reformation comes one of the things he does is to hew down all these groves and high places. So again it reinforces the idea that this Garden is simply a place for false worship and evil. Smearing again the role of these kings in life by associating it with a burial place considered unclean.
So from looking at one turn of phrase in the old testament a subtle condemnation of a whole line of kings are carried in just a few words which shows once again just how much of the bible carries literal and symbolic phrasing intermixed so tightly it takes more than just a little research to unravel what is being said.