2 Chronicles 34
Pulpit Commentary
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.
Verse 1. - Again the name of the mother is omitted. From the parallel we learn she 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.
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.
Verse 3. - This, with the following four verses, forms the commentary on the statement of ver. 2, that Josiah "declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left." We cannot mistake the allusion in this verse to his personal religion at, say, sixteen years of age, as the foundation of his religious reign and of the practical devotion to reformation, instanced as commencing with his twentieth year. It may be here noted that the Prophet Jeremiah was called to his work in the year following thereupon, or, perhaps, the very same year (Jeremiah 1:1, 2). It is highly likely that Josiah and Jeremiah were given to one another providentially, to cooperate in all good works, now so needed for Church and state. The three dates of the eighth, twelfth, and (ver. 8) the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign wore dates memorable in his life. For the two kinds of images of this verse, see succeeding note.
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.
Verse 4. - Note references in Leviticus 26:1, 30. The images, that were on high above them; i.e., as Revised Version, the sun-images (הַחַמָּנִים). The word and name occur only eight times - in Leviticus as just quoted; in our Second Book of Chronicles three times; in Isaiah twice; and in Ezekiel twice. The groves; i.e. the Asherim; again as last verse. The carved images; Revised Version, graven images; Hebrew, הַפְסִלִים. This word is found twenty-two times, occurring in Deuteronomy, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Micah. The molten images; Hebrew, הַמַּסֵּכות. This word also occurs just twenty-two times, from Exodus downwards. Made dust of them and strewed it (so Exodus 32:20; 2 Kings 23:6).
And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.
Verse 5. - Note herein the striking fulfilment of 1 Kings 13:1-3, of which our parallel (2 Kings 23:12-14, 16-20) gives a more detailed account, especially as regards Israel, though not failing to recognize Judah and Jerusalem's share in the need of purgation and punishment.
And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.
Verse 6. - In the cities of Manasseh,... Ephraim,... Simeon, even unto Naphtali. Manasseh and Ephraim lay very nearly in the centre of the whole land, while Simeon and Naphtali were respectively at the southern and northern extremities. With their mattocks. This rendering may be correct, and cannot be said to be foreign to the sense and connection of the passage, the Hebrew word in that ease being the feminine plural of חֶרֶב Perhaps, however, the word is one with that found in Psalm 109:10, and may be rendered "in their ruined," i.e. semi-ruined, "condition." Note Keri also, which favours the latter reading; the Septuagint shows simply words which may best translate, and in their neighbourhoods respectively.
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.
Verse 7. - When. Cut out this word, which represents nothing in the original.
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.
Verse 8. - It is in some sense as though the work of purification, atoning, penitence, must precede that of practical repentance, of repairing, restoring, rebuilding. The original, however, does not warrant the laying of any stress on the when, found again in the Authorized Version. Shaphau. In the parallel (2 Kings 22:3) Shaphan is designated "the scribe." His descendants, to the second generation, at all events, did him honor (Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 29:3; Jeremiah 36:10, 12, 25; Ezekiel 8:11; see also 2 Kings 25:22). The names of Masseiah (Jeremiah 35:4) and Joah (2 Kings 18:18) are known, but not marking the present persons.
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.
Verse 9. - Hilkiah the high priest. Of Hilkiah's ancestors and descendants we learn something in the following references: 1 Chronicles 6:13, 14; 1 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Kings 25:18; Nehemiah 11:11; Ezra 7:1. They delivered. This means that Hilkiah's people delivered of what they had collected to Shaphan and his colleagues, who again in their turn (ver. 10) "put it into the hand of the workmen,' etc. This is certainly the meaning of 2 Kings 22:4-9. And they returned to Jerusalem; translate, and of the dwellers in Jerusalem. Note Keri, and see 2 Chronicles 35:18; and Septuagint rendering here and there.
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:
Verse 10. - And they put it; i.e. Shaphan and colleagues, according to the parallel.
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.
Verse 11. - The exact work done we are unable to follow with precision. The parallel describes it, in more general terms, as "repairing the breaches." The repairs here spoken of, however, betoken, to say the least the rough usage, as well as "negligence," of kings like Manasseh and Amen, and suggest a further question as to the nature of those heathen and idolatrous practices, which cost so much to the very structure of temple and houses, i.e. probably the contiguous chambers of the main building (1 Kings 6:5), the exact style of which, however, is very doubtful.
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.
Verse 12. - Faithfully, Refer back to note, 2 Chronicles 31:12. To set... forward; Hebrew, לְנַצֶּהַ; the idea, of course, not so much that of expediting, as of guiding and instructing. The mention of those Levites whoso business was music is rather a surprise, and is not found in the parallel.
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.
Verse 13. - Scribes. Considering the mention of "scribes" in the plural in 1 Kings 4:3, although it stands alone, till, at all events, the time of Hezekiah (as testified by Proverbs 25:1), it is at any rate not improbable that an order of scribes was instituted by Solomon; that it fell into desuetude immediately under the divided kingdom, and, coming into vogue again under Hezekiah, is now mentioned in the natural way we here find it. The mention of the "scribe" in the singular number is of frequent occurrence in the historic books, and in Isaiah (Isaiah 33:18; Isaiah 36:22). The officers. This word reproduces, in the Hebrew, the familiar shoterim of Exodus 5:10 (see also 1 Chronicles 23:3-6).
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.
Verse 14. - The time of this verse is not free from ambiguity, which the parallel does not remove. It purports either that, on occasion of "bringing out the money," Hilkiah providentially lighted on his find, or that he availed himself of that occasion to report and give up the find made some time or other previously. The italic-type word "given," in this verse, it is better to discard, and to restore the omitted words, "by the hand of;" i.e. the book was either Moses' original handwriting and solemn deposit (Deuteronomy 31:26) - in that ease nearly eight centuries and a half old-or, at any rate, the standard copy and authorized successor of it, though we nowhere read of such a copy having been made, nor is it necessary to doubt the durability of the original. A book should be rendered the book.
And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan.
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.
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.
Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
Verse 18. - The implication on the face of this verse as of the parallel (2 Kings 22:10), is that Shaphan leaves the king to surmise (which he very quickly does), from hearing a portion (Hebrew here, read in it; in parallel, "read it") of the book, what it was.
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.
Verse 19. - With one insignificant exception (the omission here of the word סֶפֶר), the words of this verse are identical with the parallel in its ver. 11. The same, to all purposes, may be said of our twelve succeeding verses, compared with the parallel in its ver. 12 - 2 Chronicles 23:3. The king rent his clothes, in grief that the practice of his nation had diverged so terribly from their ever-to-be-venerated Law.
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,
Verse 20. - Ahikam the son of Shaphan (see Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 40:5). Abdon the son of Micah. The parallel (2 Kings 22:12) and the Syriac Version have "Achbor the son of Michaiah" (see also Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12).
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.
Verse 21. - For me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah. The parallel shows, "For me, and for the people, and for all Judah" (2 Kings 22:13), without any apparent specific reference to Israel. Our present passage may intend to glance at the fact that the bettor part of Israel were in captivity; and it will be possible, at any rate, to read the last clause as intending, not "for them that are left in Judah," but "and for them in Judah." That is poured out; Hebrew, גִחְכָה. The parallel shows, "that is kindled;" Hebrew, נִצְחָה. The considerable resemblance between the Hebrew words is worthy of passing note.
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.
Verse 22. - The question may suggest itself, Why was not Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25; 2 Chronicles 36:21) at once consulted? Probably he was at Anathoth, and not immediately accessible. Tikvath. In Hebrew, Tokhath; and in parallel, Tikvah. Hasrah. In parallel, Harhas. In the college; Revised Version, following Hebrew, in the (Mishneh) second quarter (see Zephaniah 1:10; Conder's 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 342). Nothing is known of Huldah, nor of Shallum her husband, except what lies in this and the parallel place.
And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me,
Verse 23. - The oracular answer of Huldah, contained in this and the following five verses, is very closely paralleled by the six verses of 2 Kings 22:15-20.
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:
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.
Verse 25. - Poured out. So here again, as above (ver. 21). Yet our Septuagint has "kindled;" and also the parallel in the Hebrew. The word "quenched," which immediately follows, suits the word "kindled," and what with the testimony of the Septuagint, both here and in ver. 21, and the Hebrew in both passages of the parallel, suggests that "poured" is the substitution, by some mishap, of a copyist - a mishap, for instance, that might result from the copyist writing from the speech of some one, and not from his own inspection. Exactly similar mistakes may often be seen in our maps, where the spelling and misspelling of the name of some place seem only to be accounted for by the same supposition. The catastrophe now foretold befell the nation manifestly in the reigns of the succeeding sovereigns, whose days were emphatically both few and evil, viz. the two sons of Josiah, Jehoahaz and Eliakim, whose name was changed to Jehoiakim; and the two sons of this latter, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (according to 2 Kings 24:17, the same with Mattaniah, and son of Josiah).
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;
Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.
Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.
Verse 29. - The wise, religious, and unselfish conduct of the king is clearly betokened in the course he took, as narrated here and in the succeeding three verses.
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.
Verse 30. - The Levites. The parallel mentions "prophets" and omits "Levites," which latter our compiler is safe not to forget. When it is said in this verse, he read, the meaning, of course, is "the priests" read (Deuteronomy 31:9).
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.
Verse 31. - The king stood in his place; i.e. not simply]in his order, but upon his royal pedestal, or platform; possibly following a mere suggestion, originating with the word used in the parallel, "by his pillar" (so Revised Version).
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.
Verse 32. - Some think the text here corrupt, both for the presence of the words, and in Benjamin, and the absence of the words, "in the covenant." Their case, however, is scarcely conclusive (see 2 Kings 23:3).
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.
Verse 33. - The parallel (2 Kings 23:4-20) gives some succinct account of Josiah's removal of abominations, here glanced at so briefly.

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