Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
JOSIAH’S PASSOVER(2Chronicles 35:1-19.) (Comp. 2 Kings 23, 21-23.)
This event receives brief but emphatic notice in the short section of Kings which records it. The passage is freely copied in 3 Ezra 1:1-11. It is of peculiar importance, as giving a more complete representation of the Passover than the Pentateuchal data supply.
Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.(1) Moreover.—And. The form of the Hebrew verb implies that this Passover was held subsequently to the renewal of the covenant; and 2Kings 23:23 fixes the date precisely as “the eighteenth year of king Josiah.”
Kept.—Made (2Chronicles 30:1).
And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LORD,(2) Set the priests in their charges.—Literally, over their wards (2Chronicles 8:14). The king appointed them to discharge their proper duties in connection with the rite.
Encouraged them.—By exhortation and instruction. (See an instance in 2Chronicles 29:5 seq.)
And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the LORD, Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel,(3-6) The king’s charge to the Levites.
Which were holy unto the Lord.—Separated to His service (Exodus 28:36, “Holiness to the Lord,” the inscription on Aaron’s mitre),
Put the holy ark in the house.—This command implies that the ark had been removed from its place in the inner sanctuary. The removal probably took place under Manasseh or his son, with the object of saving the sacred symbol from profanation. Or perhaps the repair of the Temple under Josiah had necessitated such a step. A third explanation takes the words in the sense of “Let the ark be, where it stands, in its proper place. Do not give a thought to your ancient function of bearing it about; but set your minds upon present duties.” This, however, is too artificial.
Serve now the Lord . . . and his people.—In the manner indicated in 2Chronicles 35:4-6.
And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son.(4) And prepare yourselves.—The pronoun should not be italicised, for the verb is niphal or reflexive, and not hiphil or causative, as the Hebrew vowel points wrongly suggest.
By the houses of your fathers.—According to your father-houses.
After your courses.—In your divisions, (See 1 Chronicles 13-26)
According to the writing of David . . . Solomon his son.—Comp. 1Chronicles 28:19, where David refers to such a writing. The words seem to imply the existence of written memorials of the regulations of public worship, which David and Solomon instituted.
(“Writing of David” is kĕthâb, a word only found in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel and Esther. “Writing of Solomon” is miktab; see Exodus 32:16).
And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the families of the fathers of your brethren the people, and after the division of the families of the Levites.(5) Stand in the holy place.—In the Temple court.
According to the divisions . . . the Levites.—Rather, according to the sections of the father-houses of your brethren the sons of the people (as opposed to “the sons of Levi”); and, in fact, a portion of a father-house of the Levites; scil., beside every entire father-house of laymen. The Levites were to slay and skin the lambs, and hand the blood to the priests, and to give their share of the roasted flesh to the people (2Chronicles 35:11-12).
So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.(6) And sanctify yourselves.—Probably by washing the hands before handing the blood of sprinkling to the priests. (See 2Chronicles 30:16 seq.)
Prepare your brethren.—Prepare (the passover) for your brethren of the laity.
That they may do.—So as to do. The Levites themselves are to obey the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law.
And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king's substance.(7-9) The king and the grandees present the victims. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:24.)
(7) Josiah gave.—As in 2Chronicles 30:24, presented as a heave-offering.
To the people.—To the sons of the people; i.e., the laity.
Of the flock.—Literally, small cattle, to wit, lambs and sons of goats.
All for the passover offerings—i.e., the thirty thousand small cattle.
Three thousand bullocks.—For the peace-offerings and the sacrificial feasting (2Chronicles 35:13).
And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen.(8) And his princes . . . Levites.—And his princes for a free-will offering (Leviticus 7:16) to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites had presented heave-offerings. How many victims they gave is not specified. Some words may have fallen out of the text. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:24.) Hilkiah is introduced quite abruptly in the text as it stands.
Rulers of the house of God.—2Chronicles 31:13; 1Chronicles 9:11. Hilkiah was high priest (2Chronicles 34:9); Zechariah perhaps his deputy, “the second priest” (2Kings 25:18); Jehiel may have been the head of the line of Ithamar, which still existed even after the return (Ezra 8:2).
Oxen, i.e., “bullocks” (2Chronicles 35:7).
Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen.(9) Conaniah also . . . Jozabad.—The three names Conaniah, Shemaiah, and Jozabad, occurred as belonging to principal Levites under Hezekiah (2Chronicles 31:12-15). They may be names of leading houses rather than persons.
So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their courses, according to the king's commandment.(10) So the service was prepared.—The preparations were completed. (See 2Chronicles 35:4; 2Chronicles 35:16)
In their place.—On their stand (2Chronicles 30:16).
And they killed the passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands, and the Levites flayed them.(11) The passover.—The paschal victims.
From their hands.—Heb., hand. The hand of the Levites, who caught the blood when they slaughtered the victims, and gave it to the priests.
Flayed.—Were flaying.—The exception of 2Chronicles 30:17 has become the rule here.
And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give according to the divisions of the families of the people, to offer unto the LORD, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so did they with the oxen.(12) They removed.—Cut off those parts of the victims which had to be consumed on the altar of burnt offering. (Comp. Leviticus 3:9; Leviticus 4:31.) These parts are naturally called “the burnt offering,” although no special burnt offering was appointed for the evening of the Passover.
That they might give . . . people.—To give them to the sections of the father-houses of the sons of the people. After separating the proper pieces, the Levites gave them to the sections which they were serving, to be presented in turn to the priests for burning on the altar.
As it is written.—Referring to the rule that “all the fat is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 3:16).
And so did they.—And so for the oxen. The proper portions of these also were separated for consumption on the brazen altar; the rest of the carcases furnished food for the sacrificial festivities.
And they roasted the passover with fire according to the ordinance: but the other holy offerings sod they in pots, and in caldrons, and in pans, and divided them speedily among all the people.(13) According to the ordinance.—Exodus 12:8-9.
Boasted with fire.—Cooked in the fire.
But the other holy offerings sod they . . . pans.—And the consecrated things they cooked in the pots, and in the caldrons, and in the pans.—“The consecrated things” are the oxen (2Chronicles 29:33). Their flesh was boiled or fried, and handed with all due haste by the Levites to the laity.
The author tells us here not only what was done on the evening of the fourteenth Nisan, the Passover proper, but also during the seven following days of the Feast of Mazzoth, or Unleavened Bread. On the Passover evening only the paschal lambs and kids would be eaten; the oxen were slain as peace offerings during the subsequent festivities (Deuteronomy 16:1-8), and furnished forth the sacrificial meals.
And divided them speedily . . . the people.—And brought them quickly to all the sons of the people, so that the meat did not get cold. (Comp. Genesis 41:14.) This little touch of realism calls up a picture. We see the whole busy scene, the different groups of the people scattered here and there about the sacred court, and the Levites bringing them their portions of the savoury meat.
And afterward they made ready for themselves, and for the priests: because the priests the sons of Aaron were busied in offering of burnt offerings and the fat until night; therefore the Levites prepared for themselves, and for the priests the sons of Aaron.(14) Afterward.—After serving the laity with their passover.
Because the priests . . . until night.—The reason why the Levites prepared the Passover and the after meals for them.
In offering of burnt offerings and the fat.—In offering the burnt offering and the pieces of fat. The second phrase seems to define the first (and, i.e., namely). The parts of the sheep, goats, and oxen, which in case of peace offerings had to be burnt wholly on the altar were called hălābîm, “pieces of fat.”
And the singers the sons of Asaph were in their place, according to the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun the king's seer; and the porters waited at every gate; they might not depart from their service; for their brethren the Levites prepared for them.(15) And the singers the sons of Asaph were in their place.—“At their post” or station (1Chronicles 23:28). The “sons” of Heman and Jeduthun are omitted for brevity.
According to the commandment . . . king’s seer.—Comp. 1Chronicles 25:1-6.
They might not depart.—Rather, they had no need to depart from their service (i.e., to leave their posts), in order to prepare their own passover and the subsequent meals, “for their brethren the Levites had prepared for them,” and brought it to them at their several stations.
So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day, to keep the passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the LORD, according to the commandment of king Josiah.(16) The same day.—On that day, i.e., “at that time”(2Chronicles 35:17.)
To offer burnt offerings.—To burn the fat of the Passover victims, and of the peace offerings. The verse summarises the foregoing account. (Comp. 2Chronicles 35:10.)
And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days.CHARACTER OF THE PASSOVER THUS HELD, AND ITS DATE (2Chronicles 35:17-19).
(17) At that time.—The Passover was kept on the evening of the 14th Nisan, and the Mazzoth from the 15th to the 21st of the same month.
And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.(18) And there was no Passover like to that.—2Kings 23:22.
From the days of Samuel the prophet—Kings, “from the days of the judges that judged Israel,” of whom Samuel was the last and greatest (1Samuel 7:15).
Neither did all the kings of Israel.—Kings, “and (from) all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah.” (Comp. 2chron xxx 26).
And the priests . . . Jerusalem.—Not in Kings. A characteristic addition.
Israel that were present.—Rather, Israel that was present, i.e., the remnant who had come from the ruined kingdom of the ten tribes. (Comp. 2Chronicles 34:33).
In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah was this passover kept.(19) In the eighteenth year.—2Kings 23:23.
Kept.—Made (na’asāh). For the date, comp. 2Chronicles 34:8. The religious reformation appropriately culminated in a splendid celebration of the Passover.
After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him.JOSIAH SLAIN IN BATTLE AGAINST NECHO KING OF EGYPT (2Chronicles 35:20-27. Comp. 2Kings 23:29-30; 3 Ezra 1:23-30).
(20) After all this.—Comp. the similar, “after these matters, and this faithfulness” (2Chronicles 32:1). The phrase calls attention to the difference between the event and what might naturally have been expected. In spite of Josiah’s fidelity to Jehovah, this was his end.
Necho king of Egypt came up.—Kings, “In his days came up Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt.” So LXX. here. Syriac, “Pharaoh the Lame, king of Egypt.” Pharaoh is simply “the king;” Coptic Pouro, or Perro (pi “the,” ouro or r̄ro, “king”). The Hebrew spelling Pa’rōh appears to be due to an assimilation of the Egyptian word to the Hebrew pĕrā’ôth, “leaders” (Judges 5:1). An inscription of Assurbanipal gives a list of twenty subject kings appointed by Esarhaddon his father to bear rule in Egypt, the first name in the list being that of “Nikû sar ali Mimpi u ali Sâa,” i.e., “Necho, king of the city of Memphis, and the city of Sais.” Assurbanipal twice reinstated this Necho (Necho I., circ. 664 B.C. ) after vanquishing Tirhakah.
The Necho of our text is Necho II., who reigned circ. 610 B.C. (See the Note on 2Kings 23:29.)
Against Charchemish.—At Charchemish. Syriac and Arabic, “to assault Mabûg,” i.e., Hierapolis. Necho’s enemy was “the king of Assyria” (2Kings 23:29; so LXX. here), i.e., Esarhaddon II. (Saracus), the last of the rulers of Nineveh; not Nabopalassar, king of Babylon, for the Assyrian empire had not yet fallen before the united assault of the Medes and the Babylonians. Charchemish has been identified with the modern Jirbâs, on the western bank of the middle Euphrates. Its situation, as Schrader observes, suits an intended expedition against Nineveh and Assyria, rather than against Babylon. It was one of the great Hittite capitals, and inscriptions in hieroglyphics, similar to those of Hamath, have recently been disinterred on the site, and brought thence to the British Museum. The name means, “Fortress of Mîsh.” Comp. “Mesha” (Genesis 10:30), the Assyrian Masu, i.e., the part of the Syrian desert which ran along the right bank of the Euphrates. The place was also called Tel-Mîsh, “mound of Mîsh;” Greek, Τελμησσός. (Thenius thinks the phrase, “against Charchemish,” was originally a marginal gloss, noting the place of the final and decisive encounter between Necho and the Babylonians).
Josiah went out against him.—To this statement Kings only adds that Necho “slew him at Me-giddo, when he saw him,” i.e., at the outset of the encounter. The chronicler, therefore, has derived the details of the following verses from another source (2Chronicles 35:21-25).
But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.(21) But . . . ambassadors.—And . . . messengers.
I come not against thee.—So the old versions. The Hebrew is, “not against thee—thee—to-day,” The versions appear to have read ‘attāh, “thee,” with different points as ‘ôtheh, “coming.” (Comp. Syriac, ôthê ‘nû, “come I.”)
But against the house . . . war.—A strange expression. (Comp. 1Chronicles 18:10.) Probably the reading indicated by 3 Esdr. 1:25 is right (ὲπὶ γὰρ τοῡ Εὐφράτου δ πόλεμος μοῡ ἐστί), “but against the Euphrates is my war” (Perath for bêth). Josephus supports this. LXX. and Syriac omit; Vulg., “sed contra allain pugno domum.”
For God . . . haste.—And God . . . The Egyptian kings, like those of Israel, consulted their prophets before undertaking any expedition. So did the Assyrians, as abundantly appears from their inscriptions. So, too, we read on the Moabite stone, “Chemosh said unto me, Go; take Nebo . . . Go up against Horonaim, and take it.” These facts sufficiently explain the text, without assuming that Necho had received an oracle from Jehovah, or was referring to the God of Israel. (Comp. Herod, ii. 158.)
Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.(22) But disguised himself.—Like Ahab (2Chronicles 18:29). The LXX. reads, “he strengthened himself,” or “persisted” (ἐκραταιώθη). (Comp. 3 Esdr. 1:28.) This implies the reading hithchazzaq instead of hithchappêsh. It is wholly unlikely that “disguised himself” is used in the figurative sense of “departed from his true cha racter,” as Keil and Zöckler think.
The words of Necho from the mouth of God.—The warning of Necho was really divine, as the event proved. For “words of Necho,” 3 Esdr. 1:26 has, “words of the prophet Jeremiah;” but there is no trace of such a warning in the extant prophecies bearing his name.
In the valley of Megiddo.—The valley of the Kishon, where Deborah and Barak had fought in the olden time against Jabin and Sisera. Herodotus (ii. 159) calls the place Magdolus. (See on 2Kings 23:29.)
And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.(23) And the archers shot.—Comp. the death of Ahab (2Chronicles 18:33, and of Saul, 1Chronicles 10:3).
Have me away.—LXX., Ἐξαγάγετέ με. “Take me out” (of the war-chariot).
For I am sore wounded.—So Ahab. (2Chronicles 18:33).
His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.(24) That chariot.—The (war) chariot.
Put him.—Made him ride.
Brought him to Jerusalem, and he died.—2Kings 23:30 says: “And his servants made him ride dead (or dying) from Megiddo.’ Even if it be not permissible to render mêth “dying,” we cannot agree with the suggestion of Thenius that the account of Chronicles is simply an arbitrary alteration of the older narrative for the sake of literary effect. The divergence proves that the chronicler had special sources of information at his command.
The second chariot was no doubt a more comfortable one, reserved in case of such an emergency.
In one of the sepulchres.—Omit one of. Kings, “in his own sepulchre,” which would be a chamber among those of his immediate ancestors, Manasseh and Amon. (See 2Kings 21:18.)
And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations.(25) And Jeremiah lamented—i.e., wrote a dirge. The special mourning of the land over Josiah is not mentioned in Kings.
The singing men . . . women.—The LXX. has “the ruling men . . . women,” reading sārîm . . . sārôth, instead of shārîm . . . shārôth.
Spake of Josiah in their lamentations.—In the dirges which they used to sing on certain anniversaries of disaster.
And made them an ordinance.—And they made them (i.e. the laments for Josiah) a standing custom to Israel.
They are written in the lamentations.—The dirges alluding to Josiah’s untimely end, and among them Jeremiah’s, were preserved in a Book of Dirges (qînôth), which may have been extant in the chronicler’s day. (Comp. the allusions in Jeremiah 22:10; Jeremiah 22:18; Zechariah 12:11.)
This collection, however, was quite different from the canonical book of Lamentations, the subject of which is the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans.
Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his goodness, according to that which was written in the law of the LORD,(26) His goodness.—His pious deeds (2Chronicles 32:32).
According to that . . . the Lord.—Said of no king besides.
The book . . . and Judah.—2Kings 23:28, “the Book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah.”