Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.2 Kings 22:1-2. Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign — Being young, he had not received any bad impressions from the example of his father and grandfather, but soon saw their errors, and God gave him grace to take warning by them. He saw his father’s sins, and considered, and did not the like, Ezekiel 18:14. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord — See the power of divine grace! Although he was born of a wicked father, had neither had a good education given him, nor a good example set him, but many about him, who, no doubt, advised him to tread in his father’s steps, and few that gave him any good counsel; yet the grace of God makes him an eminent saint, cuts him off from the wild olive, grafts him into the good olive, and renders him fruitful to God’s glory, and the profit of myriads. He walked in a good way, and turned not aside, as some of his predecessors had done who began well, to the right hand or to the left. There are errors on both hands, but God kept him in the right way: he fell not either into superstition or profaneness.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying,2 Kings 22:3-4. In the eighteenth year of King Josiah — Not of his life, but of his reign, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 34:3; 2 Chronicles 34:8. The king sent Shaphan — The secretary of state; saying, Go up to Hilkiah, that he may sum the silver — Take an exact account how much it is, and then dispose of it in the manner following. Which the keepers of the door have gathered — Who were priests or Levites, 2 Kings 8:9; 2 Chronicles 8:14. It seems, they took much the same way of raising the money that Joash took, 2 Kings 12:9. The people giving by a little at a time, the burden was not felt, and giving by voluntary contribution, it was not complained of. This money, so collected, he ordered Hilkiah to lay out for the repairs of the temple, 2 Kings 22:5-6. And now the workmen, as in the days of Joash, acquitted themselves so well, that there was no reckoning made with them. This is certainly mentioned to the praise of the workmen, that they gained such a reputation for honesty, but whether to the praise of them that employed them may well be doubted. Many will think it would not have been amiss to have reckoned with them, had it been only that others might be satisfied.
Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:
And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.2 Kings 22:8. I have found the book of the law — This is generally agreed to have been the archetype written by Moses, and by him ordered to be deposited with the ark in the most holy place; but which some pious high- priest had caused to be thus hid in the reign of Ahaz or Manasseh, to prevent its being destroyed with the other copies of it; for it plainly appears, by the tenor of the history, that there were few, if any others, left. But it is much disputed, whether it was the whole Pentateuch, emphatically called ה תורה, he torah, the law, or only Deuteronomy, or even barely the 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st chapters of that book. Josephus, by calling it the sacred books of Moses, seems to declare entirely for the former; as do far the greater number of Jews and Christians. If it be asked how Shaphan, reading to the king, could run over those five books so quickly as to come presently to the blessings and curses; it may be answered, that as their manner was to write upon volumes of a considerable length, which were rolled up round one or two sticks, it might so happen, that these last chapters proved to be on the outside, and that the king, impatient to know the contents of it, might desire to have them read before he had unfolded a round or two. Or we may suppose, with the Jews, that Providence directed him to that very part. Something like this we find happened under the gospel, Luke 4:17; Acts 18:28, &c. What appears most surprising is, that all the copies of the Scriptures, which the good King Hezekiah seems to have caused to be written and dispersed about the kingdom, (see Proverbs 25:1,) should be so soon vanished, that neither Josiah nor the high-priest had ever seen any of them till this one was brought to light. All that can be said in this case is, that Manasseh, during the former part of his reign, had made such a havoc of them, that if there were any left, they were only in a few private hands, who preserved them with the utmost caution and secrecy. See Dodd. and Univ. Hist. What a providence was this, that this book of the law was still preserved! And what a providence it is that the whole book of God is preserved to us! If the Holy Scriptures had not been of God, they would not have been in being at this day. God’s care of the Bible is a plain proof of his interest in it. We may observe further here, it was a great instance of God’s favour, and a token for good to Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which Josiah had begun. It is a sign God has mercy in store for a people, when he magnifies his law among them, and makes that honourable, and furnishes them with the means of increasing in Scripture knowledge. The translating of the Scriptures into the vulgar tongues was the glory, strength, and joy of the reformation from popery. And now, (in the year 1811,) the plans laid, and, in a great degree, carried into execution, by the British and Foreign Bible Society, to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular language of every nation upon earth, and to give them to every kindred, and tongue, and people, is at once the honour and the happiness of the present age, and will form one of the most glorious eras of the British empire. It is worthy of observation also, that Josiah and his people were engaged in a good work, namely, repairing the temple, when they found the book of the law. They that do their duty according to their knowledge, shall have their knowledge increased. To him that hath shall be given. The book of the law was an abundant recompense for all their care and cost in repairing the temple.
And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.2 Kings 22:10-11. And Shaphan read it before the king — That is, some part of it, for it cannot be supposed that he read all of it, especially at one time. When the king heard the words of the book — The dreadful comminations contained in it against them for the sins still reigning among them; he rent his clothes — Being very deeply affected with a sense of the greatness of their guilt, and an apprehension that dreadful judgments hung over them, and were ready to fall upon them. It appears from this, that whether this was the only authentic copy of the law in existence or not, yet the things contained in it were new, both to the king himself, and also to the high- priest. And if even they were strangers to them, how much more may we reasonably suppose the people in general were. It is true, every king was commanded to write a copy of the law with his own hand, (Deuteronomy 17:18,) and the law was to be publicly read every seventh year. But, it is probable, these customs had been intermitted for a long time, and that the body of the people had no other way of coming to the knowledge of God’s laws, but by word of mouth from one to another; a method which must have been attended with great imperfection and uncertainty. And accordingly we find, that even in the times of pious kings, and public reformation, the people, notwithstanding, continued in the practice of many things directly contrary to the law of Moses, such as sacrificing and burning incense on high places. And they seem to have done these things as if they did not know that they were forbidden. And certainly it must have been very difficult for them, had they been ever so desirous of it, to obtain a knowledge of all the things required of them in the law. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt, when the book of the law was such a scarce thing, and its contents so little known among them. Where that vision is not, the people perish. From hence we may take occasion to reflect with gratitude on the great privileges we possess, in that we live in times when the art of printing has made it comparatively easy, in most Christian countries, at least in our own, for every one to have a copy of the divine law in his hands, to be his constant director, to be consulted on all occasions, and to be the matter of his meditation at all times. An advantage this of inestimable value, if it be made a right use of.
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,2 Kings 22:12-13. Asahiah, a servant of the king’s — Who most constantly waited upon the king’s person; otherwise all of those here mentioned were the king’s servants. Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, &c. — What we shall do to appease his wrath, and whether the curses here threatened must come upon us without remedy, or whether there be hope in Israel concerning the prevention of them. For great is the wrath of the Lord, because our fathers, &c. — In the glass of the divine law, he saw the sins of his people to be more numerous and more heinous than he had before seen them, and more exceeding sinful. And he saw that the wrath of God was kindled in a high degree against the whole nation, not only for the sins of the present generation, but because that from their first coming out of Egypt to this time, they had been almost in the constant habit of disregarding and violating the divine laws, and that in the most notorious and flagrant instances.
Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.2 Kings 22:14. So Hilkiah the priest, &c., went unto Huldah the prophetess — This is the only mention we have of this prophetess; and certainly it tends much to her honour that she was consulted on this important occasion, when, it is supposed, that not only Jeremiah, but Zephaniah also, was a prophet in Judah. But Zephaniah, perhaps, might not at that time have commenced a prophet; because, although we are told he prophesied in the days of Josiah, (Zephaniah 1:1,) yet we are nowhere informed in what part of Josiah’s reign he entered on the prophetic office. And Jeremiah might then be absent from Jerusalem, at his house at Anathoth, or some more remote part of the kingdom; so that, considering Josiah’s haste and impatience, there might be no other proper person to apply to than this prophetess. And the king and his ministers, who went to inquire, being well assured of her fidelity in delivering the counsel of God, concluded rightly, that it was much more to be regarded what message God sent, than by whom it was conveyed. — See Poole and Dodd. Now she dwelt in the college — Where the sons of the prophets, and others who devoted themselves to the study of God’s word, used to meet and discourse of the things of God, and receive the instructions of their teachers.
And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,2 Kings 22:15-16. Tell the man that sent you — She uses no compliments. Even kings, though gods to us, are men to God, and shall be so dealt with: for with him there is no respect of persons. Thus saith the Lord, I will bring evil upon this place, &c. — She lets him know, both what judgments God had in store for Judah and Jerusalem, and what mercy was laid up for him. Even all the words — According to all the words, of the book — All the plagues threatened in Deuteronomy 28., and in other places. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. They that will not be bound by the precept, shall be bound by the penalty. And God will be found no less terrible to the ungodly, than his word makes him to be. Take warning in time, O impenitent sinner! whosoever thou art.
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:
Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.2 Kings 22:17. Because they have forsaken me — The God of their fathers, and the only living and true God. And burned incense to other gods — Imaginary beings of their own devising, or the works of their hands —
Gods which they themselves have made. To provoke me to anger — As if they designed this, and worshipped these vanities for no other end but to provoke me; for in so doing they said, in effect, there is as much reason and propriety in worshipping the stock of a tree, as in worshipping Jehovah: and to worship these works of our hands, will be of as much service to us as to worship the author and end of all things! Therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place — And what is hell itself but the fire of God’s wrath kindled against sinners? Observe the degree and duration of it. It is so kindled, that it shall not be quenched. The decree is gone forth, and it is now too late to think of preventing it; for the iniquity of Jerusalem shall not be purged by sacrifice or offering. Thus hell is unquenchable fire.
But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;
Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.2 Kings 22:19. Because thy heart was tender — Here are four tokens of true repentance and conversion to God in Josiah: 1st, Tenderness, or softness of heart, in opposition to that hardness which arises from unbelief of God’s declarations and threatenings: he trembled at God’s word: he was grieved for the dishonour done to God by the sins of the people: and he was afraid of the judgments of God, which he saw coming on Jerusalem. This is tenderness of heart; and proceeded in Josiah from his faith in God’s word. 2d, Great humility: he abased himself before the divine majesty, conscious of his own sinfulness and guilt before God, and unworthiness of the goodness God had shown him. These two qualities were internal. The two others were outward tokens of this inward sense of things; namely, rending his clothes, and weeping before God, for his own and the public offences, followed by all possible endeavours to effect a reformation in the people.
Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.2 Kings 22:20. Behold, therefore, I will gather thee to thy fathers — It is justly observed here by Henry, that the saints in those days had doubtless a comfortable prospect of happiness on the other side of death, otherwise the being gathered to their fathers would not have been so often made the matter of a promise as we find it was. Josiah could not prevail to prevent the judgment itself, but God promised him he should not live to see it; which, especially considering that he died in the midst of his days, before he was forty years of age, would have been but a small reward for his eminent piety, if there had not been another world, in which he should be abundantly recompensed, Hebrews 11:16. When the righteous is taken away from the evil to come, he enters into peace, Isaiah 58:1-2. This is promised to Josiah here, Thou shalt go to thy grave in peace — Which refers not to the manner of his death, for he was killed in battle, but to the time of it; it was a little time before the captivity in Babylon, that great trouble, in comparison with which other troubles were as nothing: so that he might be truly said to die in peace, that did not live to share in that. He died in the love and favour of God, which secures such a peace as no circumstances of dying, no, not dying in the field of war, could alter the nature of, or break in upon. They may well be said to die in peace, who, after their dissolution here, are numbered among the children of God, and have their lot among the saints.