Josiah reigns thirty-one years; destroys idolatry in Judah, as also in Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and even to Naphtali, 2 Chronicles 34:1-7. He begins to repair the temple, and collects money for the purpose, and employs workmen, 2 Chronicles 34:8-13. Hilkiah the priest finds the book of the law in the temple, which is read by Shaphan before the king, 2 Chronicles 34:14-19. He is greatly troubled, and consults Huldah the prophetess, 2 Chronicles 34:20-22. Her exhortation, and message to the king, 2 Chronicles 34:23-28. He causes it to be read to the elders of Judah, and they make a covenant with God, 2 Chronicles 34:29, 2 Chronicles 34:32. Josiah reforms every abomination, and the people serve God all his days, 2 Chronicles 34:33.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.He declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left - He never swerved from God and truth; he never omitted what he knew to be his duty to God and his kingdom; he carried on his reformation with a steady hand; timidity did not prevent him from going far enough; and zeal did not lead him beyond due bounds. He walked in the golden mean, and his moderation was known unto all men. He went neither to the right nor to the left, he looked inward, looked forward, and looked upward. Reader, let the conduct of this pious youth be thy exemplar through life.
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.
And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.The altars of Baalim - How often have these been broken down, and how soon set up again! We see that the religion of a land is as the religion of its king. If the king were idolatrous, up went the altars, on them were placed the statues, and the smoke of incense ascended in ceaseless clouds to the honor of that which is vanity, and nothing to the world; on the other hand, when the king was truly religious, down went the idolatrous altars, broken in pieces were the images, and the sacrificial smoke ascended only to the true God: in all these cases the people were as one man with the king.
And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.He burnt the bones of the priests - כומריא kumeraiya, the kemarim, says the Targum. See this word explained, 2 Kings 23:5 (note).
And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.The cities of Manasseh - Even those who were under the government of the Israelitish king permitted their idols and places of idolatry to be hewn down and destroyed: after the truth was declared and acknowledged, the spade and the axe were employed to complete the reformation.
And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.
Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.
And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.And they returned to Jerusalem - Instead of וישבו vaiyashubu, "they returned," we should read יושבי yoshebey, "the inhabitants;" a reading which is supported by many MSS., printed editions, and all the versions, as well as by necessity and common sense. See the note on 2 Chronicles 19:8, where a similar mistake is rectified.
And they put it in the hand of the workmen that had the oversight of the house of the LORD, and they gave it to the workmen that wrought in the house of the LORD, to repair and amend the house:
Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed.
And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of musick.All that could skill of instruments of music - Did the musicians play on their several instruments to encourage and enliven the workmen? Is not this a probable case from their mention here? If this were really the case, instrumental music was never better applied in any thing that refers to the worship of God. It is fabled of Orpheus, a most celebrated musician, that such was the enchanting harmony of his lyre, that he built the city of Thebes by it: the stones and timbers danced to his melody; and by the power of his harmony rose up, and took their respective places in the different parts of the wall that was to defend the city! This is fable; but as all fable is a representation of truth, where is the truth and fact to which this refers? How long has this question lain unanswered! But have we not the answer now? It is known in general, that the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii were overwhelmed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, about the seventy-ninth year of the Christian era. It is also known that, in sinking for wells, the workmen of the king of Naples lighted on houses, etc., of those overwhelmed cities; that excavations have been carried on, and are now in the act of being carried on, which are bringing daily to view various utensils, pictures, and books, which have escaped the influence of the burning lava; and that some of those parchment volumes have been unrolled, and facsimiles of them engraved and published; and that our late Prince Regent, afterwards George IV., king of Great Britain, expended considerable sums of money annually in searching for, unrolling, and deciphering those rolls. This I record to his great credit as the lover of science and literature. Now, among the books that have been unrolled and published, is a Greek Treatise on Music, by Philodemus; and here we have the truth represented which lay hidden under the fables of Orpheus and Amphion. This latter was a skillful harper, who was frequently employed by the Theban workmen to play to them while engaged in their labor, and for which they rewarded him out of the proceeds of that labor. So powerful and pleasing was his music, that they went lightly and comfortably through their work; and time and labor passed on without tedium or fatigue; and the walls and towers were speedily raised. This, by a metaphor, was attributed to the dulcet sounds of his harp; and poetry seized on and embellished it, and mythology incorporated it with her fabulous system. Orpheus is the same. By his skill in music he drew stones and trees after him, i.e., he presided over and encouraged the workmen by his skill in music. Yet how simple and natural is the representation given by this ancient Greek writer of such matters! See Philodemus, Colossians 8.and ix. Orpheus, and Amphion, by their music, moved the workmen to diligence and activity, and lessened and alleviated their toil. May we not suppose, then, that skillful musicians among the Levites did exercise their art among the workmen who were employed in the repairs of the house of the Lord? May I be allowed a gentle transition? Is it not the power and harmony of the grace of Jesus Christ in the Gospel, that convert, change, and purify the souls of men, and prepare them for and place them in that part of the house of God, the New Jerusalem? A most beautiful and chaste allusion to this fact and fable is made by an eminent poet, while praying for his own success as a Christian minister, who uses all his skill as a poet and musician for the glory of God: -
Thy own musician, Lord, inspire,
And may my consecrated lyre
Repeat the psalmist's part!
His Son and thine reveal in me,
And fill with sacred melody
The fibres of my heart.
So shall I charm the listening throng,
And draw the Living Stones along
By Jesus' tuneful name.
The living stones shall dance, shall rise,
And Form a City in the skies,
The New Jerusalem.
Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters.
And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.Found a book of the law - See on 2 Kings 22:8 (note).
And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan.
And Shaphan carried the book to the king, and brought the king word back again, saying, All that was committed to thy servants, they do it.
And they have gathered together the money that was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers, and to the hand of the workmen.
Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.
And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king's, saying,
Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.
And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that effect.Huldah the prophetess - See on 2 Kings 22:14 (note).
And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me,
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah:
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 poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched.
And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard;
Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.Because thine heart was tender - "Because thy heart was melted, and thou hast humbled thyself in the sight of the Word of the Lord, מימרא דיי meymera daya, when thou didst hear his words, ית פתגמוי yath pithgamoi, against this place," etc. Here the Targum most evidently distinguishes between מימרא meymera, the Personal Word, and פתגם pithgam, a word spoken or expressed.
Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.Gathered to thy grave in peace - See particularly the note on 2 Kings 22:20 (note).
Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.
And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD.The king went - See on 2 Kings 23:1 (note).
And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.Made a covenant - See on 2 Kings 23:3 (note). And see the notes on that and the preceding chapter, 2 Chronicles 33 (note), for the circumstances detailed here.
And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.To stand to it - It is likely that he caused them all to arise when he read the terms of the covenant, and thus testify their approbation of the covenant itself, and their resolution to observe it faithfully and perseveringly.
And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.