Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.XXX.
HEZEKIAH’S PASSOVER—THE ROYAL SUMMONS TO ALL ISRAEL FROM DAN TO BEER-SHEBA(2Chronicles 30:1-12).
Letters.—‘Iggĕrôth. Apparently a word of Persian origin. (Comp. ‘engâre, “something written;” ‘engârîden, “to paint” or “write;” from which comes the Greek ᾰγγαρος, a royal messenger; Esther 9:26; comp. Matthew 5:41.) Only used in late Hebrew.
To Ephraim and Manasseh.—That is, the northern kingdom. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:10.)
To keep (make) the passover unto the Lord.—Exodus 12:48 (same phrase); LXX., ποιῆσαι τὸ φασεκ (Pascha). The first year of Hezekiah was the third of Hoshea, the last king of Samaria, who is described as a better king than his predecessors. Doubtless, therefore, Hoshea did not actively oppose Hezekiah’s wish for a really national Passover. (See 2Kings 18:1; 2Kings 17:2.)
For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month.(2) For the king had taken counsel.—And the king determined (2Chronicles 25:17). The resolution was taken by the king in council with his grandees and the popular representatives; apparently before the 14th of Nisan, which was the proper time for keeping the feast.
In the second month.—And not in the first month of the sacred year, as the law prescribes (Numbers 9:1-5). The grounds of the postponement are assigned in the next verse, viz., the legal impurity of many of the priests, and the non-arrival of the people at the proper time. The law permits postponement to the second month in such cases (Numbers 9:6-11). The first month was Nisan; Assyr., Nisdnu; the second, Iyyar; Assyr., Āru.
For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem.(3) At that time.—The time when the Temple had just been reopened (2Chronicles 29:8), in the first month of Hezekiah’s first year. The Purification of the Temple was not completed until the 16th of Nisan (2Chronicles 29:17); but perhaps the Passover would have been held, had not the hindrances here mentioned prevented it. (See 2Chronicles 29:34).
Sufficiently.—Lĕmaddày. Literally, unto what was enough (lĕ-mah-dày), an expression only met with here. (Comp. a similar formation, 1Chronicles 15:13.) The meaning is that a sufficient number of priests had not observed the legal ceremonies of self-purification in time to hold Passover in Nisan.
And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.(4) The thing pleased.—The matter (or proposal) was right in the eyes of the king—i.e., the proposal to keep the Passover in the second month, and to invite the northern tribes.
So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.(5) So they established a decree.—And they decreed a proposal (he‘ĕmîd dābār). (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:8; Psalm 105:10, “and hath decreed it unto Jacob for a law.”)
For they had not . . . written.—Rather, For not in multitude (larōb) had they kept it, according to the Scripture. The people had not been in the habit of “coming in their numbers” to the feast. (Comp. the like use of larōb in 2Chronicles 30:13; 2Chronicles 30:24.) See the Law respecting the Passover, Exodus 12:1-20; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; from which it appears that the obligation to observe it was universal, and according to the latter passage, which is probably referred to in the phrase “according to what is written.” Jerusalem was the only legitimate place for the festival. It is implied that ever since the division of the kingdom, and perhaps earlier, the Passover had been inadequately celebrated. (Comp. 2Kings 23:22.) LXX. well, ὅτι πλῆθος οὐκ ἐποίησεν κατὰ τὴν γραφήν; Vulg., “multi enim non fecerant, sicut lege praescriptum est; Syriac and Arabic, “because their wealth had grown greatly”(!)
So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.(6) The posts.—The runners— i.e., couriers (ᾰγγαροι). The Syriac uses the Latin word Tabellarii, “letter- carriers,” which the Arabic mistakes for “folk of Tiberias”! The soldiers of the body-guard seem to have acted as royal messengers.
From the king.—From the hand of the king.
And according to the commandment.—The construction appears to be: they went with the letters . . . and according to the king’s order. The LXX. and Vulg. omit and, but the Syriac has it.
And he will return.—That he may return unto the survivors that are left unto you from the hand of the hings of Assyria.
Remnant.—Pĕlêtâh.—That the word really means survivors appears from comparison of the Assyrian balâtu, “to be alive;” bullŭtu, “life.”
The kings of Assyria.—See 2Chronicles 28:16; 2Chronicles 28:20. The words are a rhetorical reference to Tiglath-pileser’s invasion of the northern kingdom, and the depopulation of Galilee and Gilead. The chronicler’s language may have been influenced also by recollection of the last fatal inroad of Shalmaneser II., in the fourth year of Hezekiah (2Kings 18:9). (See 2Kings 15:29.)
And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see.(7) And be not ye like your fathers.—From the days of Jeroboam downwards.
And like your brethren.—Of Naphtali and the Trans-Jordan, whom Tiglath-pileser carried captive.
Trespassed.—Were unfaithful to Jehovah.
Who therefore gave them up to desolation.—And He made them an astonishment (2Chronicles 29:8).
Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.(8) Be ye not stiffnecked.—Harden ye not your neck like your fathers. 2Kings 17:14, “and they hardened their neck like their fathers’ neck.” (Jeremiah 7:26; Psalm 95:8-9.)
But yield yourselves.—Omit but, and place a stop after fathers. “Yield ye a hand to Jehovah,” i.e., submit to Him. So 1Chronicles 29:24. The phrase also means “to make an agreement with” (Ezra 10:19; 2Kings 10:15). (Comp. Isaiah 2:6.)
That the fierceness (heat) . . . from you.—2Chronicles 29:10. Such resemblances prove the ideal character of these addresses.
For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.(9) If ye turn again.—When ye return unto Jehovah, your brethren and your sons (shall become) objects of pity (rahamim, “compassion;” here that which inspires it) before their captors. (Comp. Psalm 106:46, “And he made them objects of pity before all their captors;” Nehemiah 1:11.)
Gracious and merciful.—Psalm 86:15; Exodus 34:6; in both places “merciful and gracious.” Nehemiah 9:17; Nehemiah 9:31, “gracious and merciful,” as here. (Comp. the formula of the Koran: “In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate.”)
Turn away his face.—Literally, turn aside face (a different word from “turn away” in 2Chronicles 30:8).
So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.(10) So the posts passed.—And the couriers were passing.
Even unto Zebulun.—This tribe, which lay on the southern border of Naphtali, had suffered from Tiglath-pileser’s invasion (Isaiah 9:1). The messengers did not actually travel northward so far as Dan (2Chronicles 30:5). This mention of Zebulun as the limit of their journey lends an air of historical truth to the account.
Laughed them to scorn.—Literally, and they were laughing at them (hisḫîq: here only), and making mock of them (Psalm 22:7). The verbs imply what the Israelites did continually. Vulg., “cursores pergebant . . . illis irridentibus et subsannantibus eos.”
Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.(11) Nevertheless divers of Asher.—But some men of Asher.—Besides these from Asher, Manasseh, Zebulun, 2Chronicles 30:18 mentions others from Ephraim and Issachar. The two and a half tribes of the Trans-Jordan, as well as Naphtali and probably the neighbouring tribe of Dan, had been devastated by Tiglath-pileser; and the couriers went no farther than Zebulun. Part of Asher was contiguous to Zebulun; and the other three tribes mentioned by the chronicler lay south of it, so that the account is self-consistent.
Humbled themselves—i.e., repented. (Comp. 2Chronicles 12:6-7.)
Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.(12) Also in Judah . . . was.—Rather, Moreover upon Judah was the hand of God: a phrase here used of a Divine influence for good. (Comp. Ezra 8:22.) Elsewhere the phrase has the sense of judicial visitation; e.g., Exodus 9:3.
The commandment . . . by the word of the Lord.—Comp. the like phrase, 2Chronicles 29:15. The royal command was inspired by the word of the Lord through a prophet.
And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation.THE PASSOVER AT JERUSALEM (2Chronicles 30:13-22).
(13) Much people.—A very great congregation—a congregation in great multitude (lārôb mĕ’ōd). (See on 2Chronicles 30:5.)
And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron.(14) Took away the altars.—The altars of burnt offering erected by Ahaz “in every corner” of the city (2Chronicles 28:24).
Altars for incense.—Ha-mĕqattĕrôth—literally, the incense-burners. The term occurs here only.
Cast them into the brook Kidron.—See on 2Chronicles 29:16. Thus the city was purified as well as the Temple.
Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD.(15) And the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves.—Ashamed of their former reluctance to purify themselves from the defilement contracted by their connection with illegal cults and sanctuaries during the late reign (2Chronicles 29:34; and 2Chronicles 30:3, supra). In the former passage the Levites are favourably contrasted with the priests; here they are spoken of in the same terms, a verbal inaccuracy apparently due to the writer’s desire to be brief.
And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites.(16) In their place.—‘Omdām. This word is used in this sense only in Daniel, Chronicles, Nehemiah. (Comp. 2Chronicles 34:31; 2Chronicles 35:10.)
After their manner—i.e., “according to their order” (1Chronicles 6:31).
Sprinkled . . . Levites.—Rather, sprinkling the blood from the hand of the Levites. On this occasion the Levites, and not the laymen who presented the victims, slew the lambs and handed the blood to the priests to be dashed against the altar. The reason of this breach of the ordinary rule is given in next verse.
For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD.(17) There were many in the congregation that were not sanctified.—Comp. 2Chronicles 35:6; 2Chronicles 35:10-11, where the Levites are again represented as doing the same work, but not as an exception. The precedent of Hezekiah’s Passover would seem to have become the rule. (Comp. also Ezra 6:20.)
To sanctify them—i.e., the lambs, which would have been ceremonially unclean if slain by unclean hands. (Comp. 2Chronicles 2:4, “to dedicate it unto Him;” the same verb.)
For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one(18) A multitude.—Marbîth (2chron 96; 1Chronicles 12:29). Only in the Chronicles in this sense. Else where the term means “increase” of children (1Samuel 2:33), or of money, i.e., interest (τόκον, Leviticus 25:37).
Ephraim . . . Zebulun.—The names indicate a documental source.
Had not cleansed themselves.—As was natural in the case of persons who had long been estranged from the legal religion of Jehovah (hittèhārû, pausal form of hittāha˘rû, Ezra 6:20, occurs here only).
Yet did they eat . . . written.—But ate the Passover in non-accordance with the Scripture—i.e., in illegal fashion, being themselves unclean. (Comp. Numbers 9:6, seq., according to which unclean persons ‘were bound to abstain from eating the Passover until the fourteenth of the second month.)
But Hezekiah prayed.—For Hezekiah had prayed for them, and therefore their irregularity was condoned,
The good Lord.—Jehovah the good; so only here. (Comp. Psalm 25:8.)
Good—i.e., kind, generous; benignus, benevolus.
That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.(19) That prepareth.—Hath directed. The division of verses here is obviously incorrect. (The mistake was doubtless caused by the omission of the relative in the Hebrew between kol, “every one,” and lĕbābô hēkîn, “his heart he hath directed.” The construction is parallel to that in 1Chronicles 15:12, “unto the place that I have prepared for it;” so LXX.) The prayer is, “Jehovah the Good atone for every one who hath directed his heart to seek the true God, even Jehovah, the God of his fathers, albeit not (literally, and not) according to the holy purifying”—i.e., although he hath not rigorously observed the law of purification.
Purification of the sanctuary.—Or, holy purification: a phrase only found here (comp. 1Chronicles 23:28).
The prayer evinces a preference of spiritual sincerity to mere literal observance of legal prescriptions, which is all the more remarkable as occurring in a writer whose principal aim is to foster a due reverence for the external ordinances and traditional customs of religion.
And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.(20) And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah.-Comp. Genesis 20:17, “And Abraham prayed unto God; and God healed Abimelech and his wife,” &c. In the present instance the prayer of Hezekiah is thought of as averting a visitation of Divine wrath in the shape of disease and death. (Comp. Leviticus 15:31, “Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my dwelling-place, that is among them.”)
And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.(21) Kept the feast. . . . with great gladness.—See 1Chronicles 13:8; 1Chronicles 15:16, seq., 1Chronicles 15:28, and similar passages.
And the Levites.—With stringed instruments.
And the priests.—With clarions.
Praised.—Were praising; throughout the seven days’ festival.
With loud instruments unto the Lord.—With instruments of strength to Jehovah. This curious phrase apparently means instruments with which they ascribed strength to Jehovah; that is to say, with which they accompanied their psalms of praise. (Comp. the many psalms which glorify the strength of the God of Israel—e.g., Psalm 29:1, “Ascribe unto Jehovah, ye sons of God, ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength.”)
There is, however, something to be said for the Authorised Version. (Comp. 2Chronicles 5:12-13; 1Chronicles 15:28; 1Chronicles 16:42, from which it appears that the chronicler preferred music that was loud and strong.)
And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD God of their fathers.(22) Spake comfortably.—See margin, and comp. Isaiah 40:2.
That taught the good knowledge of the Lord.—Rather, were showing good skill for (in honour of) Jehovah, in their chanting and playing. The king encouraged the musicians with kindly words of praise.
They did eat throughout the feast.—Literally, they ate the feast, like “they ate the passover.” The meaning is that the assembly ate the sacrificial meals, which were supplied from the flesh of the “peace offerings.” The phrase is peculiar to this passage. The LXX. has καὶ συνετέλεσαν, “and they finished:” a difference which implies no great change in the Hebrew writing, but is against the context.
Making confession.—LXX. rightly, ἐξομολογούμενοι. The meaning is “yielding hearty thanks,” “acknowledging “the Divine goodness. Everywhere else the Hebrew word means “to confess guilt” (Nehemiah 9:3; Leviticus 5:5; Numbers 5:7).
And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.(23) Took counsel.—Determined, the result of taking counsel (2Chronicles 30:2).
To keep.—Literally, to do or make.
Other seven days.—As a prolongation of the festivities. (Comp. 2Chronicles 7:9.)
With gladness.—Simhāh, an adverbial accusative. But some Hebrew MSS. express the with, as in 2Chronicles 7:10. The chronicler is fond of dwelling upon the joy of the ancient festivals, as though he would suggest greater whole-heartedness and magnificence to the people and princes of his own day.
For Hezekiah king of Judah did give to the congregation a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave to the congregation a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep: and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.(24) Did give . . . gave.—Had presented (Exodus 35:24)—scil., for sacrifice as a tĕrûmāh, or “heave offering.” The gifts of king and princes for the Mazzôth festival were so abundant that they sufficed not only for the feast itself, but also for an additional week of rejoicing.
And a great number of priests.—Literally, and priests had sanctified themselves in multitude, or to abundance. The priests no longer hung back as they had done previously (2Chronicles 30:3; 2Chronicles 30:15; 2Chronicles 29:34). There was now no lack of persons duly purified for the sacrifice of so many victims.
And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced.(25) And all the congregation.—Three classes of persons took part in the festival—(1) the Judseans, including the priests and Levites; (2) their Israelite guests; (3) the “strangers”—gêrîm—i.e., the proselytes, both those who came from the northern kingdom arid those who dwelt in Judah. The word gêrîm is not the same as gârîm (2Chronicles 15:9), with which Lange’s comment confuses it. (Comp. Leviticus 17:12.)
So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.(26) For since the time of Solomon . . . there was not the like.—The chronicler himself thus compares this great festival with the twofold Feast of the Dedication of the Temple (2Chronicles 7:1-10). That festival, like this one, had been prolonged seven days, because the Feast of Tabernacles immediately followed upon it; and “there had been no other since the time of Solomon that could compare with this in respect of duration, or abundance of sacrifices, or number of participants, or the joy that distinguished it” (Bertheau).
Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.(27) Then the priests the Levites.—And the Levitical priests; not any irregular ministrants. Some Hebrew MSS., the LXX., Syriac, and the Vulg. read, “And the priests and the Levites”: but comp. 2Chronicles 23:18.
And their voice was heard.—The priestly blessing was a prayer that Jehovah would bless. (See Numbers 6:22-27.) That the prayer was heard on the present occasion, the writer infers from the progress of reform among the people, and the wonderful deliverance from Assyria, as related in the ensuing chapters.
Their prayer came up.—Entered into His holy dwelling (comp. Isaiah 18:6) into the heavens. Notice the characteristic omission of the sacred Name.