2 Kings 23:4
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them to Bethel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) The priests of the second order.—Thenius is probably right in reading the singular, the priest of the second rank, i.e., the high priest’s deputy, after the Targum, unless the heads of the twenty-four classes be intended (“the chief priests” of the New Testament). (See also 2Kings 25:18.)

The keepers of the door (threshold).—The three chief warders (2Kings 25:18.)

Out of the templei.e., out of the principal chamber or holy place.

For Baal . . . grove.—For the Baal . . . Ashērah (so in 2Kings 23:6-7; 2Kings 23:15 also).

Burned them.—According to the law of Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:3. (Comp. 1Chronicles 14:12.)

Without Jerusalem.—As unclean.

In the fields of Kidron.—North-east of the city, where the ravine expands considerably. (Comp. Jeremiah 31:40; also 1Kings 15:13.)

Carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el.—This is undoubtedly strange, and Chronicles says nothing about it. If the ashes of the vessels were sent to Beth-el, why not also those of the idols themselves, and the fragments of the altars (2Kings 23:6-12)? The text appears to be corrupt.

2 Kings 23:4. The king commanded Hilkiah and the priests of the second order — Either those two who were next in degree to the high-priest, and in case of sickness were to manage his work; or the heads of the twenty-four courses which David had appointed. To bring forth out of the temple — Or to take care they should be brought forth. All the vessels made for Baal — So that, even in the house of the Lord, the sacred temple built by Solomon, and dedicated to the honour and worship of the God of Israel, were found vessels, and all manner of utensils, for the worship of Baal, for the grove, and all the host of heaven — It appears, therefore, that although Josiah had suppressed the worship of idols, yet the provisions made for that worship were carefully preserved by some persons in power, even in the temple itself, to be used again whenever the present restraint should be taken off: nay, even the image of the grove, probably Ashtaroth or Venus, was yet kept standing in the temple. How Josiah could suffer all this, till the eighteenth year of his reign, is difficult to say; perhaps it was done without his knowledge. He now, however, gives orders that all these instruments of idolatry should be burned, in the fields adjoining to the brook Kidron; and that the ashes of them should be carried out of his kingdom to Beth-el: in token of his abhorrence of every species of idolatry, and to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of it.23:4-14 What abundance of wickedness in Judah and Jerusalem! One would not have believed it possible, that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found. Josiah had reigned eighteen years, and had himself set the people a good example, and kept up religion according to the Divine law; yet, when he came to search for idolatry, the depth and extent were very great. Both common history, and the records of God's word, teach, that all the real godliness or goodness ever found on earth, is derived from the new-creating Spirit of Jesus Christ.A parenthesis giving the earlier reforms of Josiah.

2 Kings 23:4

The priests of the second order - This is a new expression; and probably refers to the ordinary priests, called here "priests of the second order," in contrast with the high priest, whose dignity was reviving (2 Kings 12:2 note).

The vessels - This would include the whole apparatus of worship, altars, images, dresses, utensils, etc., for Baal, etc. (2 Kings 21:3-5 notes).

The ashes of the idolatrous objects burned in the first instance in the "fields of Kidron" (i. e., in the part of the valley which lies northeast of the city, a part much broader than that between the Temple Hill and the Mount of Olives) were actually taken to Bethel, as to an accursed place, and one just beyond the borders of Judah; while those of other objects burned afterward were not carried so far, the trouble being great and the need not absolute, but were thrown into the Kidron 2 Kings 23:12, when there happened to be water to carry them away, or scattered on graves which were already unclean 2 Kings 23:6. Compare 1 Kings 15:13.

2Ki 23:4-28. He Destroys Idolatry.

4. the king commanded Hilkiah, &c.—that is, the high priest and other priests, for there was not a variety of official gradations in the temple.

all the vessels, &c.—the whole apparatus of idol-worship.

burned them without Jerusalem—The law required them to be consigned to the flames (De 7:25).

in the fields of Kidron—most probably that part of the valley of Kidron, where lies Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. It is a level, spacious basin, abounding at present with plantations [Robinson]. The brook winds along the east and south of the city, the channel of which is throughout a large portion of the year almost or wholly dry, except after heavy rains, when it suddenly swells and overflows. There were emptied all the impurities of the temple (2Ch 29:15, 16) and the city. His reforming predecessors had ordered the mutilated relics of idolatry to be thrown into that receptacle of filth (1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16; 30:14); but Josiah, while he imitated their piety, far outstripped them in zeal; for he caused the ashes of the burnt wood and the fragments of the broken metal to be collected and conveyed to Beth-el, in order thenceforth to associate ideas of horror and aversion with that place, as odious for the worst pollutions.

The priests of the second order; either those two who were next in degree to the high priest, and in case of his sickness were to manage his work; of whom see 2 Samuel 8:17; or the heads of the twentyfour courses which David had appointed, 1Ch 24.

The keepers of the door: See Poole "2 Kings 22:4".

To bring forth, i.e. to take care that they should be brought forth.

For the grove, i.e. the image of the grove; of which See Poole "2 Kings 21:7"; it being most frequent to call images by the names of the persons or things which they represent.

In the fields of Kidron, i.e. adjoining to the brook of Kidron.

Carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el; partly to show his abhorrency of them, and that he would not give the ashes of them a place in his kingdom; and partly to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of idolatry. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order,.... Or the second course of the priests; the course of Jedaiah, 1 Chronicles 24:7 as some think; or rather, the two chief priests next to the high priest, who were of the line both of Eleazar and Ithamar; though the Targum interprets it of the Sagan of the priests, a deputy of the high priest, such as in later times the high priest had always appointed for him on the day of atonement (r):

and the keepers of the door: the porters at the door and gates of the temple; or rather the treasurers, as the Targum; such as were appointed over the vessels of the sanctuary, as the Jewish writers generally interpret it, and which best agrees with what follows:

to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal: used in burning incense, or offering sacrifices to him:

and for the grove: the idol of the grove, or Asherah, that is, Ashtoreth, or Astarte, the same with Venus, or the moon, as Baal was the sun, the one the husband, and the other the wife, according to the Jews (s):

and for all the host of heaven: the stars:

and he burnt them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron; or plain of Kidron, as the Targum; through which the brook Kidron ran:

and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel; where one of Jeroboam's calves was set, and was the source of idolatry; and this he did in contempt of that place; and, to show his detestation of the idolatry there, he made it a dunghill of ashes of things used in idolatrous service; this he could do, that place being in the hands of the kings of Judah from the times of Ahijah, 2 Chronicles 13:19.

(r) Misn. Yoma, c. 1. sect. 1.((s) Zohar in Gen. fol. 34. 3.

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the {d} priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried {e} the ashes of them unto Bethel.

(d) Meaning, they who were next in dignity to the high priest.

(e) In contempt of the altar Jeroboam had built there to sacrifice to his calves.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. priests of the second order] i.e. Those who were next in rank to the high priest (cf. Jeremiah 52:24).

the keepers of the door] Who would be of the priests or Levites, and so could enter within the holy place.

to bring forth … all the vessels that were made for Baal] We see therefore that the Baal worship had been fully established within the holy place.

and for the grove] the Asherah. See note on 1 Kings 14:15. The same change is also made in the 6th verse.

in the fields of Kidron] These were where the valley of the Kidron growing wider offered space for such a burning. We can again see that the destruction was in agreement with the commands in Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:3.

and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el] That the refuse of all these objects of idolatry might be cast away in the place whence the first step was taken which had led to idolatry among the people of the Lord.Verses 4-27. - Josiah's reformation of religion. The reformation of religion by Josiah next engages the writer's attention, and is treated, not chronologically, but rather gee-graphically, under the three heads of

(1) reforms in Jerusalem;

(2) reforms outside Jerusalem, but in the kingdom of Judah; and

(3) reforms in the territory which had belonged to the kingdom of Samaria (vers. 4-20).

The celebration of the Passover is then briefly noticed (vers. 21-25); and the section concludes with a eulogy of Josiah (vers. 24, 25), who, however, it is noticed could not, with all his piety, obtain a revocation of the sentence passed on Judah in consequence of the sins of Manasseh. The fate of Judah was fixed (vers. 26, 27). Verse 4. - And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order. Not the "deputy-high priests," of whom there seems to have been only one at this period of the history (2 Kings 25:18); nor the "heads of the courses," who were not recognized as a distinct class of priests till much later; but merely the common priests, as distinguished from the high priest. (So Keil, Bahr, and others.) And the keepers of the door; literally, the keepers of the threshold; i.e. the Levites, whose duty it was to keep watch and ward at the outer temple gates (see 1 Chronicles 26:13-18). Their importance at this time appears again in 2 Kings 25:18. To bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal. The reformation naturally began with the purging of the temple. So the reformation under Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:18) and that of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:15). Under "the vessels" (הַכֵּלִים) would be included the entire paraphernalia of worship, even the two altars which had been set up in honor of Baal in the outer and the inner courts (comp. 2 Kings 21:5). And for the grove (see 2 Kings 21:3), and for all the host of heaven. The three worships are here united, because there was a close connection between them. Baal was, in one of his aspects, the sun; and Astarte, the goddess of the "grove" wet-ship, was, in one of her aspects, the moon. The cult of "the host of heaven," though, perhaps, derived from a different source, naturally became associated with the cults of the sun and moon. And he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron. The Law required that idols should be burnt with fire (Deuteronomy 7:25), and likewise "groves" (Deuteronomy 12:3). It was enough to "overthrow" altars (Deuteronomy 12:3) and to "break" pillars. But Josiah seems to have thought it best to destroy by fire, i.e. in the completest possible way, all the objects, of whatever kind, which had been connected with the idol-worship (see vers. 6, 12, 15, 16). The burning took place in "the fields of Kidron," i.e. in the upper part of the Kidron valley, to the northeast of Jerusalem, in order that not even the smoke should pollute the town (comp. 1 Kings 15:13). And carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. This was a very unusual precaution, and shows Josiah's extreme scrupulousness. He would not have even the ashes of the wooden objects, or the calcined powder of the metal ones, remain even in the vicinity of the holy city, but transported them to a distance. In selecting Bethel as the place to convey them to, he was no doubt actuated by the circumstance that that village was in some sense the fount and origin of all the religious impurities which had overflowed the land. That which had proceeded from Bethel might well be taken back thither. The reply of Huldah the prophetess. - Huldah confirmed the fear expressed by Josiah, that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Jerusalem and its inhabitants on account of their idolatry, and proclaimed first of all (2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:17), that the Lord would bring upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants all the punishments with which the rebellious and idolaters are threatened in the book of the law; and secondly (2 Kings 22:18-20), to the king himself, that on account of his sincere repentance and humiliation in the sight of God, he would not live to see the predicted calamities, but would be gathered to his fathers in peace. The first part of her announcement applies "to the man who has sent you to me" (2 Kings 22:15), the second "to the king of Judah, who has sent to inquire of the Lord" (2 Kings 22:18). "The man" who had sent to her was indeed also the king; but Huldah intentionally made use of the general expression "the man," etc., to indicate that the word announced to him applied not merely to the king, but to every one who would hearken to the word, whereas the second portion of her reply had reference to the king alone. הזּה המּקום, in 2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:19, and 2 Kings 22:20, is Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom. In 2 Kings 22:16, הסּפר כּל־דּברי is an explanatory apposition to רעה. 2 Kings 22:17. "With all the work of their hands," i.e., with the idols which they have made for themselves (cf. 1 Kings 16:7). The last clause in 2 Kings 22:18, "the words which thou hast heard," is not to be connected with the preceding one, "thus saith the Lord," and על or ל to be supplied; but it belongs to the following sentence, and is placed at the head absolutely: as for the words, which thou hast heart - because thy heart has become soft, i.e., in despair at the punishment with which the sinners are threatened (cf. Deuteronomy 20:3; Isaiah 7:4), and thou hast humbled thyself, when thou didst hear, etc.; therefore, behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, etc. לשׁמּה להיות, "that they (the city and inhabitants) may become a desolation and curse." These words, which are often used by the prophets, but which are not found connected like this except in Jeremiah 44:22, rest upon Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, and show that these passages had been read to the king out of the book of the law.
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