Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XXII.
THE REIGN OF JOSIAH(2 Kings 22, 2Kings 23:30; comp. 2 Chronicles 24, 25)
Eight years old.—The queen-mother was probably paramount in the government during the first years of the reign.
Boscath.—In the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:39).
He reigned thirty and one years.—And somewhat over. (Comp. Jeremiah 1:2; Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 25:3; according to which passages it was twenty-three years from the thirteenth of Josiah to the fourth of Jehoiakim.)
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.(2) And walked . . .—See Note on 2Chronicles 34:2.
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,(3) In the eighteenth year.—See the Notes on 2Chronicles 34:3, seq. The discourses of Jeremiah, who began his prophetic ministry in the thirteenth year of Josiah, to which Thenius refers as incomprehensible on the assumption that idolatry was extirpated throughout the country in the twelfth year of this king, would be quite reconcilable even with that assumption, which, however, it is not necessary to make, as is shown in the Notes on Chronicles. Josiah did not succeed, any more than Hezekiah, in rooting out the spirit of apostasy. (See Jeremiah 2:1; Jeremiah 4:2). The young king was, no doubt influenced for good by the discourses of Jeremiah and Zephaniah; but it is not easy to account for his heeding the prophetic teachings, considering that, as the grandson of a Manasseh and the son of an Amon he must have been brought up under precisely opposite influences (Thenius).
The king sent Shaphan . . . the scribe.—Chronicles mentions beside Maaseiah, the governor of the city, and Joah the recorder. Thenius pronounces these personages fictitious, because (1) only the scribe is mentioned in 2Kings 12:10 (?); (2) Joshua was the then governor of the city (but this is not quite clear: the Joshua of 2Kings 23:8 may have been a former governor; or, as Maaseiah and Joshua are very much alike in Hebrew, one name may be a corruption of the other); (3) Maaseiah seems to have been manufactured out of the Asahiah of 2Kings 22:12 (but Asahiah is mentioned as a distinct person in 2Chronicles 34:20); and (4) Joah the recorder seems to have been borrowed from 2Kings 18:18 (as if anything could be inferred from a recurrence of the same name; and that probably in the same family !). Upon such a basis of mere conjecture, the inference is raised that the chronicler invented these names, in order “to give a colour of genuine history to his narrative.” It is obvious to reply that Shaphan only is mentioned here, as the chief man in the business. (Comp, also 2Kings 18:17; 2Kings 19:8).
Go up to Hilkiah the priest.—The account of the repair of the Temple under Josiah naturally resembles that of the same proceeding under Joash (2Kings 12:10, seq.) More than 200 years had since elapsed, so that the fabric might well stand in need of repair, apart from the defacements which it had undergone at the hands of heathenish princes (2Chronicles 34:2). The text does not say that the repair of the Temple had been “longtemps négligée par l’incurie des prêtres” (Reuss),
That he may sum—i.e., make up, ascertain the amount of . . . The LXX. reads, seal up (σφράγισον), which implies a Hebrew verb, of which that in the present Hebrew text might be a corruption.
Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.(7) Howbeit there was.—Only let there be. The words of 2Kings 22:6-7 are part of the royal mandate.
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.(8) I have found.—Literally, the book of the Torah have I found. The definite form of the expression proves that what the high priest found was something already known; it was not a book, but the book of the Law. How little the critics are agreed as to the precise character and contents of the book in question is well shown by Thenius: “Neither the entire then existing Scripture (Sebastian Schmidt), nor the Pentateuch (Josephus, Clericus, Von Lengerke, Keil, Bähr,) nor the ordered collection of Mosaic laws contained in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers (Bertheau), nor the book of Exodus (Gramberg), nor the book of Deuteronomy (Reuss, Ewald, Hitzig) is to be understood by this expression. All these must have been brought into their present shape at a later time. What is meant is a collection of the statutes and ordinances of Moses, which has been worked up (verarbeitet) in the Pentateuch, and especially in Deuteronomy. This work is referred to by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:1-17),and was called “The Book of the Covenant” (2Kings 23:2). According to 2Chronicles 17:9 it already existed in the time of Jehoshaphat (comp. 2Kings 11:12, “the Testimony”); was probably preserved in the Ark (Deuteronomy 31:26), along with which in the reign of Manasseh it was put on one side. When after half a century of disuse it was found again by the high priest in going through the chambers of the Temple with a view to the intended repairs, in the Ark which, though cast aside, was still kept in the Temple, it appeared like something new, because it had been wholly forgotten (for a time), so that Shaphan could say: ‘Hilkiah has given me a book’ (2Kings 22:10).” (See also the Notes on 2Chronicles 34:14.)
And he read it.—Thenius thinks that this indicates that the book was of no great size, as Shaphan made his report to the king immediately after the execution of his commission (2Kings 22:9). But neither does 2Kings 22:9 say immediately, nor does this phrase necessarily mean that Shaphan read the book through.
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.(9) Thy servants.—Hilkiah and I.
Have gathered.—Rather, have poured out—i.e., from the alms-chest into the bags.
In the house.—In the wider sense of the word, as including the outer court (2Kings 12:9). Chronicles reads “in the house of the Lord,” which is probably right. So LXX., Vulg., Arabic here.
And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.(10) Read it before the king.—Keil suggests such passages as Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. If it were meant that Shaphan read the whole of the book, as Thenius alleges, we should expect “all the words of the book” in 2Kings 22:11.
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,(12) And the king commanded . . .—Comp. the similar embassy to Isaiah (2Kings 19:2).
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.(13) Enquire of the Lord.—Or, seek ye Jehovah. Josiah wished to know whether any hope remained for himself and his people, or whether the vengeance must fall speedily.
For the people.—Of Jerusalem.
Written concerning us.—Thenius conjectures written therein, a slight change in the Hebrew. But Josiah identifies the people and their fathers as one nation. (Comp. also Exodus 20:5.) However Chronicles has “in this book,” and the Arabic here “in it.”
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.(14) Went unto Huldah the prophetess.—Why not to Jeremiah or Zephaniah? Apparently because Huldah “dwelt in Jerusalem,” and they did not, at least at this time. Anathoth in Benjamin was Jeremiah’s town. Huldah, however, must have enjoyed a high reputation, as prophets are mentioned in 2Kings 23:2.
Keeper of the wardrobe.—Either the royal wardrobe or that of the priests in the Temple. (Comp. 2Kings 10:22.) In either case Shallum was a person of consideration, as is further shown by the careful specification of his descent.
In the college.—This is the rendering of the Targum, as if mishneh (“second”) were equivalent to the later Mishna. The word really means the second part of the city—i.e., the lower city. (See Nehemiah 11:9; Zephaniah 1:10.)
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:(16) I will bring evil upon . . .—Literally, I am about to bring evil unto . . . Instead of unto, the LXX., Vulg., and Chronicles rightly read upon, which follows in the next phrase.
Which the king of Judah hath read.—The book had been read to him as the chronicler explains. The freedom of expression here warns us against pressing the words of 2Kings 22:8; 2Kings 22:10 (“he read it”).
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.(17) With all the works (work) of their hands.—With the idols they have made. See 1Kings 16:7, where the same phrase occurs. (Comp. also Isaiah 44:9-17; Psalm 115:4 seq.).
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.(19) Tender.—See 1Chronicles 29:1; 1Chronicles 13:7; Deuteronomy 20:8.
Hast humbled thyself.—Comp. the behaviour of Ahab (1Kings 21:27 seq.).
Become a desolation and a curse.—See Jeremiah 44:22. “A curse” is not so much an instance of causa pro effectu (Thenius), as a specification of the type such as would be made in blessing and cursing. (Comp. Jeremiah 29:22; Genesis 48:20; Ruth 4:11-12.)
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.(20) Thy grave.—So some MSS. and the old versions. But the ordinary Hebrew text, thy graves, may be right, as referring to the burial-place formed by Manasseh, which would contain a number of chambers and niches (2Kings 21:18).
In peace.—These words are limited by those which follow: “thine eyes shall not see all the evil,” &c. Josiah was slain in battle, as the next chapter relates (2Kings 23:29); but he was spared the greater calamity of witnessing the ruin of his people.