Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE REIGN OF JOSIAH(2 Chronicles 34-35).
The history of Josiah, as related here, is in substantial agreement with the narrative of 2 Kings 22, 23 The main difference lies in the fact that the chronicler assigns the various reforms of this king to his eighth, twelfth, and eighteenth years; whereas the compiler of Kings groups them all together, in connection with the repair of the Temple and finding of the Book of the Law, in the eighteenth year of the reign. Our account, moreover, briefly describes the suppression of idolatry, and dwells at great length on the celebration of the Passover; in Kings the contrary is the case.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.(1, 2) Length and character of the reign.
(1) Josiah was eight years old.—So 2Kings 22:1, which adds, “and his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.”
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.(2) And declined . . . the left.—So Kings. Josiah is the only king upon whom this encomium is pronounced. It is equivalent to saying that his observance of the law was perfect. Comp. Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:20 (the law of the king), 28:14.
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.(3-7) Idolatry extirpated. This brief account is parallel to 2Kings 23:4-20.
In the eighth year.—The specifications of time in this verse are peculiar to the chronicler.
While he was yet young.—Being about sixteen.
And in the twelfth year.—When, perhaps, he began to govern alone.
He began to purge.—It is not said that the whole work was completed in the twelfth year; indeed, 2Chronicles 34:33 implies the contrary. But the writer having begun the story of the destruction of idolatrous objects, naturally continues it to its close, though that properly belongs to Josiah’s eighteenth year (2Kings 22:3, compared with 2Kings 23:4 seq.). It is not, therefore, clear (as Thenius asserts) that the chronicler has put the extirpation of idolatry first, simply to show that the pious king needed no special prompting to such a course; or that, as Noldeke supposes, the writer meant to clear this highly-extolled king from the reproach of having quietly put up with the abomination for full eighteen years.
The groves.—The Asherim (2Kings 23:4; 2Kings 6:7; 2Kings 6:14). There was an Asherah in the Temple, as well as in the high places which Solomon built for Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom. The carved and molten images are not mentioned in the parallel passage, which, however, gives a much clearer and more original description of the different kinds of idolatry abolished by Josiah. (The Syriac has, “he began to root out the altars, and idols, and leopards, and chapels, and collars, and bells, and all the trees which they made for the idols.”)
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.(4) Of Baalim.—Of the Baals. 2Kings 23:4-5, “the Baal.”
In his presence.—Comp. 2Kings 23:16, from which it appears that Josiah personally superintended the work of demolition.
The images.—Sun statues (2Chronicles 14:4).
That were on high above them, he cut down.—Or, that were above, from off them he hewed.
The molten images.—Rather, the maççebuth, or sacred pillars. (See 2Kings 23:14.)
Made dust of them.—2Kings 23:6 (of an Asherah).
And showed . . . unto them.—Literally, and sprinkled upon the face of the graves that used to sacrifice unto them, as if the graves were guilty. 2Kings 23:6 relates this of the temple Asherah only.
And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.(5) And he burnt . . . upon their altar.—See 2Kings 23:13-14; 2Kings 23:16; 2Kings 23:20 for details. Literally, and bones of priests he burnt. They were bones taken from the graves of the idolatrous priests, who were thus punished, while their altars were irreparably defiled. (For the horror with which such a violation of the dead was then regarded, see Amos 2:1.)
And cleansed (i.e., “purged,” 2Chronicles 34:3) Judah and Jerusalem.—This phrase does not occur at all in the parallel account.
And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.(6) And so did he in the cities . . . unto Naphtali.—Sec 2Kings 23:15; 2Kings 23:19, according to which Josiah destroyed the sanctuary of Bethel, and the high places “in the cities of Samaria,” i.e., the northern kingdom.
Simeon is again mentioned somewhat strangely, as in 2Chronicles 15:9, no doubt because Beersheba, a famous sanctuary within its territory, was a place of pilgrimage for the northern tribes.
With their mattocks.—Rather, in their ruins; reading behorbuthêhem, instead of behorbôthêhem, which means “with their swords.” (Comp. Ezekiel 26:9.) The phrase qualifies the word “cities.” The cities of Israel had been ruined by the Assyrians, Sargon. and Shalmaneser, the latter of whom took Samaria, after a three years’ siege, and carried the people captive to Assyria, in 721 B.C., replacing them by foreign colonists. This explains how it was that Josiah was able to desecrate the northern sanctuaries, and slay their priests (2Kings 23:20). The ordinary Hebrew text divides the word thus: behar bûtthêhem, so as to suggest the reading behar bûtthêhem, “in the hill of their houses.” The LXX. has “in their places round about”; the Vulg. omits the phrase; and the Syriac reads “in their streets around.” The whole verse should be connected with 2Chronicles 34:7, thus: “And in the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, to wit, in their ruins round about, he pulled down the altars and the Asherim; and the carven images he dashed into pieces unto pulverising.” Hedaq is an unusual form of the infinitive, not a perfect, as Bertheau supposes.
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.(7) The idols.—Sun-statues (2Chronicles 34:4). The word does not occur in the parallel account; but 2Chronicles 34:5 mentions sun-worship.
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.(8-13) The cleansing and repair of the Temple. (Comp. 2Kings 22:3-7; and the similar account of the restoration by Joash in 2Chronicles 24:11-13).
When he had purged.—Omit had. (Lĕtahēr is apparently co-ordinate with lĕmolkû, “in the eighteenth year to his reigning, to purging the land “; as if the work of purification had been co-extensive with the reign. The LXX., however, has, “in order to purge the land,” which may be right.)
He sent Shaphan.—Who was secretary of state (2Kings 22:3, “the scribe”).
Maaseiah . . . Joah.—Kings mentions Shaphan only.
The governor of the city.—Sar ha’îr; praefectus urois. (Conp. 1Chronicles 11:6.)
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.(9) And when they came . . . they delivered.—And they came . . . and they gave. In 2Kings 22:3-7, the contents of 2Chronicles 34:9-12 a are given in the form of the king’s instructions to Shaphan. Here we are told that those instructions were carried out. “They delivered (wayyittĕnû) is substituted for the difficult wĕyattēm of Kings (i.e., “and let him pay out”).
From the hand of Manasseh . . . Benjamin.—Kings, “from the people.” Reuss oddly imagines that these words denote “a kind of organised collection throughout all Palestine,” and then proceeds to draw an inference unfavourable to the chronicler.
And they returned to Jerusalem.—This is the meaning of the Qri or Hebrew margin. The Hebrew text has, “and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” which is correct.
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:(10) Put it in.—Gave it into.
The workmen.—The doers of the work, i.e., the overseers or contractors. See Note on 2Chronicles 24:12.
And they gave it to the workmen . . . the house.—So LXX. and Syriac. The Hebrew text says, and the doers of the work who were working in thehouse of Jehovah gave it for restoring and repairing the house. To whom the masters gave it is stated in next verse.
To repair.—Libdōq, here only. The term is so used in Syriac. The original form of the verse is 2Kings 22:5, where “the doers of the work” are first the masters, and then the men.
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.(11) Even to . . . builders.—And they gave it to the craftsmen and to the builders.
For couplings.—For the couplings or girders; an explanation added by the chronicler.
And to floor . . . destroyed.—Kings, “to repair the house.” The reference to the defacement of the Temple buildings by idolatrous kings may be compared with the similar notice concerning Athaliah’s sons, 2Chronicles 24:7, and Ahaz, 2Chronicles 28:24. Perhaps, however, the expression “destroyed” does not mean more than “allowed to go to ruin.”
To floor.—To rafter, or joist. (See margin.)
The houses.—The chambers.
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.(12) And the men did the work faithfully.—Literally, And the men were working (or dealing) in good faith in the work. In 2Kings 22:7 Josiah bids the High Priest not to require any account of the money delivered to the master-workmen, “because they work in good faith.”
And the overseers of them were.—And over them were set. The names of the overseers, and the details added in next verse, are peculiar to and characteristic of the chronicler.
To set it forward.—To lead, conduct, preside; usually a musical term. (Comp. 1Chronicles 23:4.)
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.(13) Also.—And.
They.—The Levitical musicians-
Were over the bearers of burdens.—They probably cheered their labours with song and music; as was the practice in ancient Egypt.
And were overseers.—Leaders, conductors; see Note on 2Chronicles 34:12. Notice the honourable position here assigned to the musical guilds of Levites.
And of the Levites . . . porters.—In connection, that is, with the work of restoration. But comp. 1Chronicles 23:4-5. The writer may only intend to say that there were Levitical guilds of “scribes, officers, and porters,” as well as of musicians.
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.(14-19) Hilkiah finds the Book of the Law, and delivers it to Shaphan, who reads it before the king. (Comp. 2Kings 22:8-11.)
(14) And when they brought out.—This verse is not in Kings. It supplements the older account, by assigning the occasion of the discovery.
Josephus makes Hilkiah find the book in the treasure-chamber of the Temple which he had entered to get gold and silver for making some sacred vessels. According to Rabbinical tradition it was found hidden under a heap of stones, where it had been placed to save it from being burnt by king Ahaz.
A book.—The book.
Given by Moses.—The Hebrew phrase, “by the hand of Moses,” belongs not to “the book,” but to “the Law (or teaching) of Jehovah”; and the meaning of the whole expression is, “the Law of Jehovah communicated through the medium or instrumentality of Moses.” (Comp. 2Chronicles 33:8.)
To Shaphan.—Kings adds, “and he read it.” Those words need not mean that Shaphan read the book through, as Thenius suggests. (See Note on 2Kings 22:3.)
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.(16) Carried.—Brought in.
Committed to thy servants.—Given into the hand of thy servants; viz. the overseers of the repairs.
They do it.—They are doing.
“ And Shaphan brought the book in unto the king” is only a different pointing of, “and Shaphan the scribe came in unto the king,” 2Kings 22:9. The rest of the verse is an addition of the chronicler’s. Perhaps the Notes on 2Kings 12:11 and 2chron xxiv, 11 apply hero.
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.(17) Gathered together.—Poured out from the chest or chests. See 2Kings 22:9, where “the doers of the work” are identified with “the overseers.”
And to . . . the workmen.—And to . . . the doers of the work.
Perhaps the and is explanatory (even, or that is).
Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.(18) Then.—And. The verse is identical with 2Kings 22:10, save that it substitutes “read in it” for “read it,” which may mean the same thing. It seems too much to assume that the chronicler altered the phrase, in order to insinuate that the book was of considerable size.
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,(20-28) The royal message to the prophetess Huldah, and her reply. Comp. 2Kings 22:12-20.
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.(21) Go, enquire of the Lord.—The verse is virtually identical with 2Kings 22:13.
For them that are left . . . Judah.—An alteration of, “and for the people and for all Judah” (Kings). The chronicler thinks of the remnant in the northern kingdom.
Poured out.—Kings, “kindled against.” (So LXX.) This was probably the original reading, as the wrath which Josiah dreaded had not yet been poured out upon Judah. But the chronicler remembered the ruin of the ten tribes.
Kept.—Kings, “hearkened to” shamĕ’û, as here, instead of shāmĕrû; and so LXX. and Syriac.
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.(22) And they that the king had appointed.—The Hebrew text is defective. We may restore it from the LXX., “and they whom the king had commanded”; or better, perhaps, from the Syriac and Vulg., “and all they whom the king sent,” Three MSS. read, “and the king’s princes,” a plausible correction. 2Kings 22:14 adds the names (2Chronicles 34:20 supra).
Son of Tikvath.—Heb., Tûkahath. Kings, “Tikvah.” The LXX., Θεκωε, the Syriac, Tekwa, and the Vulg., Thecuath, show that Tikvah or Tikvath is right. (The final h and th of Chronicles arise from blending these two equivalent spellings.)
Son of Hasrah.—Kings, son of Harhas. So the LXX., Apày; but the Syriac (Hasdâ) and Vulg. support Hasrah.
In the college.—In the second quarter y i.e., the lower city.
To that effect.—2Chronicles 32:15 (“on this manner”). Added by the chronicler. The differences in the text of the oracle which follows are mostly due to alteration of the original, which is more exactly given in Kings.
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:(24) I will bring.—I am about to bring (participle).
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.(25) Works.—“Work” (Kings), and some MSS. and the Syriac version here.
Poured out.—“Shall be kindled” (Kings), which agrees better with “shall not be quenched.” (See 2Chronicles 34:21 for the same alteration. The LXX. here has (ἐξεκαύθη) “was kindled.”
Burned incense.—Hiphil, which is much commoner in the chronicle than piel, the form in Kings (the forms piel and hiphil of this word qatar are about equally used in Kings.)
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;(26) To enquire of the Lord.—Strictly, through the Lord. Kings has the accusative.
Against this place.—Kings adds, “that it should become an astonishment and a curse.”
And humbledst thyself before me.—Not in Kings. A characteristic repetition.
And weep.—Shorter form of the verb; a correction of Kings (wattēbk for wattebkeh).
I.—Emphatic. (Kings has the longer form ‘anokî for our ‘anî.)
Saith the Lord.—Is the utterance of Jehovah (ne’ûm Iahweh).
Grave.—Heb., graves. (Comp. 2Chronicles 16:14.)
And upon the inhabitants of the same.—Added by the chronicler.
Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.(29-33) The king reads the Book to the assembly, and renews the covenant. (Comp. 2Kings 23:1)
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.(30) The Levites.—The chronicler substituted this for “the prophets” (Kings). It was a natural change to make, seeing that the prophetic order had long been extinct in his day. It may even be the result of an unconscious error, as the phrase “priests and Levites” is so frequent in his pages.
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.(31) In his place.—‘Al ‘omdô, “on his stand;” 2Chronicles 23:13 (Authorised Version, “at his pillar”). Kings has ‘al hā’ammûd, which appears to be synonymous; “on the dais.”
A covenant.—The covenant.
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.(32) And he caused . . . stand to it.—Kings, “and all the people stood into (i.e., came into) the covenant.” So Syriac: “And everyone that was found in Jerusalem and in Benjamin rose, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem entered into the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers.” (The chronicler’s reading may be accounted for by the fact that the verbs “he stood and” he caused to stand “differ only in the vowels, which anciently were not written at all. “All that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin” is an unusual phrase; and it is likely that “and Benjamin” is really a corruption of “into the covenant” which is required by the context here as much as in Kings.)
And the inhabitants . . . fathers—i.e., after they had thus solemnly taken it upon them to do so. The statement is not read in Kings.
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.(33) And Josiah took away all the abominations.—Of idolatry.
Out of all the countries . . . Israel.—Out of the territories of the Ten Tribes. The statement glances back to 2Chronicles 34:6, and summarises the account of the abolition of heathenish worships, which follows here in 2Kings 23:4-20.
And made . . . to serve, even to serve.—And made to serve . . . so as to serve; a unique phrase. The style of the verse is the chronicler’s.
All his days they departed not.—The king’s will secured an outward conformity to the legitimate cultus, and open idolatry was for the time being a peril too serious to be thought of. But the unreality of these reformations by royal mandate is proved by the relapse which immediately followed upon the death of Josiah. The moral corruption which at this epoch was preying upon the vitals of the nation, and hurrying it swiftly to destruction, is revealed in the pathetic pages of the prophet Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 11:1-23; Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 16:20; Jeremiah 17:1-2, &c.)