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.
Verse 1. - Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. So the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:1) and Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:4. § 1). He must have been born, therefore, when his father was no more than sixteen years of age, and Amen must have married when he was only fifteen. And he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. Probably from B.C. 640 to B.C. 609 - a most important period of the world's history, including, as it does,
(1) the great Scythic invasion;
(2) the fall of Assyria;
(3) the formation of the Median empire; and the foundation of the Babylonian empire by Nabopolasar. And his mother's name was Jedidah - i.e. "Darling" - the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. Boscath is mentioned as among the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:39). It lay in the Shefelah (Joshua 15:33), not far from Lachish and Eglon. The recent explorers of Palestine identify it with the modern Um-el-Bikar, two miles and a half southeast of Ajlun (Eglon). (See the 'Map of Western Palestine,' published by Mr. Trelawny Saunders.)
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.
Verse 2. - And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in an the way of David his father. This is a stronger expression than any which has been used of any previous king of Judah except Hezekiah, and indicates a very high degree of approval. The son of Sirach says of Josiah, "The remembrance of Josias is like the composition of the perfume that is made by the art of the apothecary: it is sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at a banquet of wine. He behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of the people, and took away the abominations of iniquity. He directed his heart unto the Lord, and in the time of the ungodly he established the worship of God. All, except David and Ezekias and Josias, were defective: for they forsook the Law of the Most High, even the kings of Judah failed" (see Ecclus. 49:1-4). And turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; i.e. he never deviated from the right path (comp. Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11, 20; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:7; Joshua 23:6).
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,
Verse 3. - And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of King Josiah (comp. 2 Chronicles 34:8). The writer of Kings, bent on abbreviating as much as possible, omits the early reforms of Josiah, which are related in 2 Chronicles 34:3-7, with perhaps some anticipation of what happened later. The young king gave marked indications of personal piety and attachment to true religion as early as the eighth year of his reign, when he was sixteen, and had just attained his majority (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 232, note). Later, in his twelfth year, he began the purging of the temple and of Jerusalem, at the same time probably commencing the repairs spoken of in ver. 9. Jeremiah's prophesying, begun in the same or in the next year (Jeremiah 1:2), must have been a powerful assistance to his reformation. That the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying. Shaphan held the office, which Shebna had held in the later part of Hezekiah's reign (2 Kings 18:18), an office of much importance and dignity. According to the author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:8), there were associated with him on this occasion two other personages of importance, viz. Maaseiah, the governor of the city (comp. 1 Kings 22:26), and Joah the son of Joahaz, the "recorder," or "remembrancer."
Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:
Verse 4. - Go up to Hilkiah the high priest. Hilkiah is mentioned again in the genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1). He is there called "the son of Shallum." That he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord. A collection must have been progressing for some time. As in the reign of Joash, after the impieties and idolatry of Athaliah, it was found necessary to collect money for the repair of the temple (2 Kings 12:4-14), so now, after the wicked doings of Manasseh and Amen, a renovation of the sacred building was required, and the money needed was being raised by a collection. Great care was taken in all such cases that an exact account should be kept and rendered. Which the keepers of the door - literally, of the threshold - have gathered of the people. The money had, apparently, been allowed to accumulate in a box or boxes (see 2 Kings 12:9), from the time when the collection was first authorized, probably six years previously. The high priest was now required to count it, to take the sum of it, and undertake the distribution.
And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
Verse 5. - And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. The "doers that have the oversight" are not the actual workmen, but the superintendents or overseers of the workmen, who hired them, looked after them, and paid them. And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the Lord - let the overseers, i.e., give out the money to the actual workmen, the carpenters, etc., of the next verse - to repair the breaches of the house; rather, the dilapidation of the house. It is not implied that any violence had been used, such as is required to make a "breach." The "house" had simply been allowed to fall into disrepair.
Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
Verse 6. - Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber, and hewn stone to repair the house (comp. 2 Chronicles 34:11). The money had to be expended, partly in labor, partly in materials. The materials consisted of both wood and stone, since it was of these that Solomon's temple had been built (see 1 Kings 5:18; 1 Kings 6:7, 9, 10, 15, 36).
Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
Verse 7. - Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully (comp. 2 Kings 12:15). The superintendents or overseers were persons of position, in whom full confidence was placed. Their names are given in 2 Chronicles 34:12. They were, all of them, Levites.
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.
Verses 8-14. - Discovery of the book of the Law. When Shaphan had transacted with Hilkiah the business entrusted to him by the king, Hilkiah took the opportunity of sending word by him to the king with respect to a discovery that he had recently made, during the investigations connected with the repairs. He had found a book, which he called without any doubt or hesitation, "the book of the Law" - סֵפֶר הַתּורָה - and this book he put into the hands of Shaphan, who "read it," i.e. some of it, and found it of such importance that he took it back with him to the palace, and read a portion to the king. Hereupon the king "rent his clothes," and required that special inquiry should be made of the Lord concerning the words of the book, and particularly concerning the threatenings contained in it. The persons entrusted with this task thought it best to lay the matter before Huldah, a prophetess, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, and pro-seeded to confer with her at her residence. Verse 8. - And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. There has been great difference of opinion as to what it was which Hilkiah had found. Ewald believes it to have been the Book of Deuteronomy, which had, he thinks, been composed some thirty or forty years before in Egypt by a Jewish exile, and had found its way, by a sort of chance, into Palestine, where "some priest" had placed a copy of it in the temple ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. pp. 233-235). Thenius suggests "a collection of the laws and ordinances of Moses, which was afterwards worked up into the Pentateuch;" Bertheau, "the three middle books of the Pentateuch, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers;" Gramberg, "Exodus by itself." But there seem to be no sufficient grounds for questioning the ancient opinion - that of Josephus, and of the Jews generally - that it was a copy of the entire Pentateuch. (So De Wette, 'Einleitung in das Alt. Test.,' § 162 a; Keil, 'Commentary on Kings,' pp. 477, 478; Bahr, 'Commentary,' vol. 6. p. 257; and others). The words, סֵפֶר הַתּורָה, "the book of the Law," are really sufficient to decide the point; since, as Keil says, they "cannot mean anything else, either grammatically or historically, than the Mosaic book of the Law (the Pentateuch), which is so designated, as is generally admitted, in the Chronicles and the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah." The same conclusion follows from the expression, "the book of the covenant" (סֵפֶר הַּבְןןרִית), in 2 Kings 23:2, and also from 2 Kings 23:24, 25, and 2 Chronicles 34:14. Whether or no the copy was the actual original deposited in the ark of the covenant by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:26), as Keil believes, is doubtful. As Egyptian manuscripts which are from three to four thousand years old still exist in good condition, there can be no reason why a manuscript of Moses' time should not have been found and have been legible in Josiah's. But, if not the actual handwriting of Moses, it was probably its lineal descendant - the copy made for the temple service, and kept ordinarily "in the side of the ark" - which may well have been lost in the time of Manasseh or Amen, and which was now happily "found." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. We need not suppose that Shaphan read the whole. But he read enough to show him how important the work was, and how necessary it was to make it known to the king.
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.
Verse 9. - And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was in the house (see above, vers. 4-6), and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord; i.e. "We have carried out the king's orders exactly, in every particular."
And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
Verse 10. - And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. Shaphan does not venture to-characterize the book, as Hilkiah has done. He is not officially learned in the Law. And he has only read a few passages of it. To him, therefore, it is only "a book," the authorship and value of which he leaves it to others to determine. And Shaphan read it before the king. It is most natural to understand hero, as in ver. 8, that Shaphan read portions of the book. Where the author intends to say that the whole book was read, he expresses himself differently (see 2 Kings 23:2, "The king read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant").
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
Verse 11. - And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the Law, that he rent his clothes. To Josiah the book was evidently, as to Hilkiah, in some sort a discovery. It was not, however, a wholly new thing; rather, he accepted it as the recovery of a thing that was known to have been lost, and was now happily found. And in accepting it he regarded it as authoritative. It was not to him "a book of Law" (Ewald), but "the book of the Law." We can well imagine that, although the book may have been lost early in Manasseh's reign, yet echoes of it had lingered on
(1) in the liturgies of the Jehovistic worship;
(2) in the teachings of the prophets;
(3) in the traditional teaching of religious families; so that the pious ear recognized its phrases as familiar.
It is also probable that there were external tokens about the book indicative of its character, which caused its ready acceptance.
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,
Verse 12. - And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan. "Ahikam the son of Shaphan" is almost certainly Jeremiah's protector at the court of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:24), the father of the Godaliah who wan made governor of Judaea on Nebuchadnezzar's final conquest (Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:7). "Shaphan;' his father, is no doubt "Shaphan the scribe." And Achbor the son of Michaiah. The parallel passage of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:20) has "Abdon the son of Micah," which is probably a corrupt reading. Achbor was the father of El-nathan, one of the "princes of Judah" (Jeremiah 36:12) in Jehoiakim's reign. And Shaphan the scribe, and Asa-hiah a servant of the king's - or Asaiah, as the name is given in Chronicles, l.s.c. - saying,
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.
Verse 13. - Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me. Inquiry of the Lord, which from the time of Moses to that of David was ordinarily "by Urim and Thummim," was after David's time always made by the consultation of a prophet (see 1 Kings 22:5-8; 2 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 8:8; Jeremiah 21:2; Jeremiah 37:7; Ezekiel 14:7; Ezekiel 20:1, etc.). The officers, therefore, understood the king to mean that they were to seek out a prophet (see ver. 14), and so make the inquiry. And for the people, and for all Judah - the threats read in the king's ears were probably those of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 or Leviticus 26:16-39, which extended to the whole people - concerning the words of this book that is found. Not "whether they are authentic, whether they are really the words of Moses" (Duneker), for of that Josiah appears to have had no doubt; but whether they are words that are to have an immediate fulfillment, "whether," as Yon Gerlach says, "the measure of sin is already full, or whether there is yet hope of grace?" (compare Huldah's answer in vers. 16-20, which shows what she understood the king's inquiry to be). For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us. Josiah recognized that Judah had done, and was still doing, exactly those things against which the threatenings of the Law were directed - bad forsaken Jehovah and gone after other gods, and made to themselves high places, and set up images, and done after the customs of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before them. He could not, therefore, doubt but that the wrath of the Lord "was kindled;" but would it blaze forth at once? Because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us. Josiah assumes that their fathers have had the book, and might have known its words, either because he conceives that it had not been very long lost, or because he regards them as having possessed other copies.
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.
Verse 14. - So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahi-ham, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asa-hiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah. The principal prophets at or very near the time were Jeremiah, whose mission had commenced in Josiah's thirteenth year (Jeremiah 1:2) and Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, whose prophecy appears by internal evidence to have belonged to the earliest part of Josiah's reign (Pusey, 'Minor Prophets,' p. 438). It might have been expected that the matter would have been laid before one of these two persons. Possibly, however, neither of them was at Jerusalem. Jeremiah's early home was Anathoth, and Zephaniah may have finished his course before Josiah's eighteenth year (see Pusey, l.s.c.). Huldah may thus have been the only possessor of the prophetic gift who was accessible. The son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; literally, keeper of the garments (comp. 2 Kings 10:22): In Chronicles the name of the keeper is given as "Hasrah." Now she dwelt at Jerusalem in the college - rather, in the lower city (comp. Zephaniah 1:10 and Nehemiah 11:9; literally, in each place, "the second city ") - and they communed with her; literally, spoke with her; ἐλάλησαν πρὸς αὐτήν, LXX.
And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,
Verses 15-20. - The prophecy of Huldah. The word of the Lord comes to Huldah with the arrival of the messengers, or perhaps previous to it, and she is at once ready with her reply. It divides itself into two parts. In vers. 15-17 the inquiry made is answered - answered affirmatively, "Yes, the fiat is gone forth; it is too late to avert the sentence; the anger of the Lord is kindled, and shall not be quenched." After this, in vers. 18-20, a special message is sent to the king, granting him an arrest of judgment, on account of his self-humiliation and abasement. "Because his heart was tender, and he had humbled himself before Jehovah, the evil should not happen in his day." Verse 15. - And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel. Huldah is the only example of a prophetess in Israel, who seems to rank on the same footing with the prophets. Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Isaiah s wife (Isaiah 8:2), and Anna (Luke 2:36) are called "prophetesses," but in a secondary sense, as holy women, having a certain gift of song or prediction from God. Huldah has the full prophetic afflatus, and delivers God's oracles, just as Isaiah and Jeremiah do. The case is a remarkable exception to the general rule that women should "keel) silence in the Churches." Tell the man that sent you to me. The contrast between this unceremonious phrase and that used in ver. 18 is best explained by Thenius, who says, "In the first part Huldah has only the subject-matter in mind, while in ver. 18, in the quieter flow of her words, she takes notice of the state of mind of the particular person who sent to make the inquiry."
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:
Verse 16. - Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place - i.e. Jerusalem - and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the King of Judah hath read. In the parallel passage of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:24) the expression used is stronger, viz, "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 road before the King of Judah." The passage which most strongly affected Josiah was probably that, already mentioned, in Deuteronomy 28, which began with a series of curses.
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.
Verse 17. - Because they have forsaken me. This was the gist of their offence, the thing that was unpardonable. Against this were all the chief warnings in the Law (Deuteronomy 12:19; Deuteronomy 29:25-28; Deuteronomy 31:16, 17; Deuteronomy 32:15, etc.) and the prophets (Judges 10:13; 1 Samuel 8:8; 1 Samuel 12:9; 1 Kings 9:9; 1 Kings 11:33; 1 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 65:11; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 2:13, etc.). It was not merely that they broke the commandments, but they turned from God altogether, and "cast him behind their back." And have burned incense unto other gods (comp. 2 Kings 23:5; and see also Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 11:13; Jeremiah 44:19, etc.), that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; i.e. "with the idols that they have made for themselves" (Keil) (comp. 1 Kings 16:7). Therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place - i.e. against Jerusalem - and shall not be quenched. Here lies the whole point of the answer. God's threatenings against nations are for the most part conditional, and may be escaped, or at least their fulfillment may be deferred indefinitely, by repentance, as we learn from the example of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-10). But if a nation persists long in evil-doing, there comes a time when the sentence can be no longer averted. A real repentance has become impossible, and a mock one does but provoke God the more. For such a state of things there is "no remedy" (2 Chronicles 36:16), and this was the state of things reached by the Jews. God's anger against them could not be quenched.
But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;
Verse 18. - But to the King of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him (see the comment on ver. 15), Thus saith the Lord God of Israel. As touching the words which thou hast heard; i.e. the words that were read to thee by Shaphan (ver. 10) - the awful threats which caused thee to rend thy clothes and to make inquiry of me.
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.
Verse 19. - Because thine heart was tender - or, faint, timid (comp. Deuteronomy 20:3; Isaiah 7:4) - and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord. Rending the garments (ver. 11) was an outward act of humiliation. Josiah had accompanied it by inward repentance and self-abasement. He had even been moved to tears (see the last clause but one of this verse). When thou heartiest what I spake against this place. The book was, therefore, a record of what God had really spoken, not a fraud imposed on the king by the high priest, or on the high priest (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 235) by an unknown Egyptian exile. And against the inhabitants thereof; that they should become a desolation and a curse. This is not a direct quotation from the Law, but a summary, in pregnant language, of the general effect of such passages as Leviticus 26:31-35 and Deuteronomy 28:15-20. The language is like that of Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 41:18; Jeremiah 44:22. And hast rent thy clothes (see ver. 11), and wept before me. This had not been previously stated, but might have been gathered from Josiah's evident sincerity, and from the ordinary habits of Orientals (comp. 2 Kings 8:11; 2 Kings 13:14; 2 Kings 20:3). I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. The general sense of vers. 18, 19, is, as Bahr notes, "Because thou hast heard me and taken heed to my threats, I also have heard thee, and will delay their fulfillment."
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.
Verse 20. - Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace. There is a seeming contradiction between these words and the fact of Josiah's violent death in battle against Pharaoh-Nechoh (2 Kings 23:29). But the contradiction is not a real one. Huldah was commissioned to assure Josiah that, though the destruction of his kingdom and the desolation of Judaea and Jerusalem, threatened in the Law, were at hand, yet they would not come in his day. He would not see the evil time. Before it came he would be "gathered to his fathers" i.e., in Jerusalem, as his predecessors had been (2 Kings 23:30), and not hurried off into captivity, to die in a foreign land, or given "the burial of an ass, drawn and east forth before the gates of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 22:19). The promise given him was fulfilled. He died in battle; but he was buried in peace (2 Chronicles 35:24, 25); and the fated enemy who was to destroy Jerusalem, and carry the Jewish nation into captivity, did not make any attack upon the land until three years later, when he was departed to his rest, and the throne was occupied by Jehoiakim (see 2 Kings 24:1). And thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place; e.g. the three sieges of Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of the temple and city by Nebuzaradan (2 Kings 25:9, 10), the deportation of the bulk of the inhabitants (2 Kings 25:11), and the calamities which happened to the remnant left (2 Kings 25:22-26). Josiah did not witness any of this. He was "taken away from the evil to come." And they brought the king word again; i.e. Hilkiah, Shaphan, and their companions (ver. 14) reported to Josiah the message which Huldah had sent by them.