II Chronicles 34

 

This chapter, with the following, embraces the entire of the beneficent

reign of Josiah, son of Amon — the son an illustrious contrast to the

father. The parallel (II Kings 22:1-23:30) is less full, and also, so far as

chronology goes, less clear in the earlier verses. For once the writer of

Kings spends his strength more largely than our compiler on the moral and

religious aspects of Josiah’s work, and is rather scantier in the detail of his

external works for his nation, city of Jerusalem, and temple. He, however,

gives very much less prominence to the matter of the celebration of the

Passover.

 

1 “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned

in Jerusalem one and thirty years.  2 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.”  Again the name of the

mother is omitted. From the parallel we learn she was “Jedidah, the daughter

of Adaiah of Boscath.” (II Kings 22:1)

 

3 “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.”

This, with the following four verses, forms the commentary on

the statement of v. 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 (v. 8) the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign were dates memorable in

his life. For the two kinds of images of this verse, see succeeding note.

 

 

 

Piety in Youth (v. 3)

 

That Josiah “while he was yet young… began to seek after the God of

David his father” is to us an interesting fact; it provides an example to the

young and an incentive to those who have charge of their welfare.

Respecting piety in youth it is well to consider:

 

  • HOW MUCH THERE IS TO COMMEND IT.

 

Ø       All life belongs TO GOD and therefore this part of it. Unto Him who gave

us our existence and all our powers, and in whom we live and move and

have our being, surely the whole of our life belongs; it cannot be withheld

without wrong, without keeping back the “glory due to his Name”  (Psalm

29:2; 96:8), the gratitude and the love and the service due to Himself.

Therefore does this part of it along with the rest. And it is certain that when

life is past and we come to have it in review we shall be most happy in the

thought, if we can but cherish it, that our youth also was spent in the fear

of God, in the love and service of Jesus Christ.

 

“‘Twill please us to look back and see

That our whole lives were thine.”

 

Ø      Each period of life has its own peculiar offering to bring. If age has its

patience and submissiveness, and if elderliness has its experience, and if

prime has the fullness of its strength for service, and if young manhood has

its hopefulness and its ardor, then has youth also its especial offering to

bring to its Redeemer; it has its affectionateness, its trustfulness, its

docility, its readiness to obey, its beauty. Truly, the “flower when offered

in the bud:’ is “no vain sacrifice.”

 

Ø      It saves the growth of injurious weeds in the garden of the soul. When

the sense of sacred obligation is absent, youth is apt to let various evil

habits grow up — habits which choke much that is good, which constitute

a serious drawback to Christian worth, and which require much effort and

much time also for their extraction. But when the early days are spent in

the service and in the friendship of Christ, His holy will being the one rule

of the heart and life, such evil habits are unformed, and all the after-days

are stronger and better and more beautiful for their absence.

 

Ø      Each period in life is a stepping-stone to the next, is a preparation for

the next. We sow in youth what we reap in young manhood; as we go on

our way we gather in the harvest of the thought and toil of the years that

came before it. But this applies to our moral and spiritual character more

perfectly than to anything else. How, then, can we afford to lose the great

advantage of building up from the beginning? Our manhood will be much

the weaker for an ill-spent youth, and much the stronger for a well-spent

one. Our whole life will be greatly impoverished by the one, greatly

enriched by the other.

 

Ø      Godly youth is a source of pure and deep joy to those whom the young

should be most desirous of pleasing — to those that have loved them and

served them with tenderest solicitude and unfailing devotion.

 

  • OUR DUTY IN REGARD TO IT.

 

Ø      To abstain most carefully from forcing it. No deadlier injury can be done

to the young than forcing a religious habit; constraining them to affect a

language and to make a profession which is unreal, which will soon break

down, and which will leave the heart far less open to all heavenly influences

than it would have been.

 

Ø      To encourage it in every way that is in our power; more particularly by

the exhibition of a consistent life and the manifestation of a loving spirit

toward them. Whom we win for ourselves we may lead to our Lord.

 

  • THE WISDOM AND THE DUTY OF THE YOUNG. This is to

enter the service of Jesus Christ without delay. He does not require of them

anything they cannot offer. He does not demand of them that they should

use the language or do the work which is appropriate, to other conditions;

He asks them to receive Him as their Divine Teacher, as their Divine Friend,

as their Divine Lord. He asks them to trust, to love, to serve Him to the

height of their present power. This they can do; this they should do; this

they will be truly and deeply wise if they do. “Seek ye the Lord while he

may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

 

4 “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.”  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 strowed it (so

Exodus 32:20; II Kings 23:6).

 

5 “And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and

cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.”  Note herein the striking fulfillment of

I Kings 13:1-3, of which our parallel (II 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.

 

6 “And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon,

even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.  Manasseh and

Ephraim lay very nearly in the center 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 case 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 favors the latter reading;

the Septuagint shows simply words which may best translate, and in their

neighborhoods respectively.

 

7 “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.

When. Cut out this word, which represents nothing in the original.

 

 

Josiah the Good (vs. 1-7)

 

  • HIS EARLY ACCESSION. “Josiah [‘Whom Jehovah heals’] was eight

years old when he began to reign” (v. 1). Manasseh, Uzziah, and Joash

had been twelve, sixteen, and seven respectively when they ascended the

throne. Generally speaking, it is perilous to have greatness thrust upon one

at too early an age; sometimes premature responsibility calls forth

capacities that might otherwise have continued latent. Edward VI., who

assumed the crown of England in his tenth year, Charles IX., who was of

the same age when he was raised to the throne of France, and Kang Hi

(A.D. 1661), who became Emperor of China in his seventh year, were

examples of the truth here stated.

 

  • HIS FERVENT RELIGION. Josiah’s piety was:

 

Ø      Ancestral. If his father Amon was not a good man, but the opposite —

an insensate idolater and a hardened trangressor (ch. 33:22-23) —

his mother Jedidah, “Beloved,” the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath

(II Kings 22:1), may have been a good woman, who, like Eunice of

later times (II Timothy 1:5), nurtured her son in the fear of Jehovah.

Besides, as that son was six years of age before Manasseh died, he may

have received from his aged grandfather such instructions as disposed him

to the choice of the true religion of Jehovah. In any case, in him was

reproduced the piety of the best sovereigns that had preceded him — in

particular of Hezekiah, Jotham, Jehoshaphat, and David.

 

Ø      Early. “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began

to seek after the God of David his father” (v. 3). Youthful piety, of which

Scripture furnishes numerous examples:

 

o        Samuel (I Samuel 2:26),

o        Abijah (I Kings 14:13),

o        Obadiah (ibid. ch. 18:12),

o        John (Luke 1:80),

o        Jesus (ibid. ch. 2:52),

o        Timothy (II Timothy 1:5) —

 

while beautiful in all, is specially attractive in princes. King Edward VI.,

besides being a good linguist, “had a particular regard for the Holy Scriptures”

(Bishop Burnet). That religion which begins in youth is most likely to be

permanent, and certain to be most useful. Christ commends religion to the

young (“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and

all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33).

 

Ø      Sincere.

 

o        Earnest and active, not merely nominal and formal: “He began to

seek after the God of David his father,” which meant that he

inquired after and practiced the rites and commandments of the

true religion.

 

o        Humble and obedient, not proud and self-willed: “He did that which

was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David

 his father” (v. 2), in so far, i.e., as he walked in the ways of Jehovah.

 

o        Persevering and thorough, not intermittent and incomplete: “He

turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (v. 2).

 

  • HIS ZEALOUS REFORMATION.

 

Ø      The period of it. Beginning in his twelfth year of reign, i.e. the

twentieth of his life, and terminating in his eighteenth year of reign,

or the twenty-sixth of his life, it occupied six years in all (vs. 3, 8).

 

Ø      The scene of it.

 

o        Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom. Reformations, like charity,

should begin at home. Many would reform others who have no heart

to reform themselves (Song of Solomon 1:6).

 

o        Judah, of which Jerusalem was the capital. Though “beginning at

Jerusalem,” Josiah’s reformation should not end there. A good king

will give:

 

§         his first thoughts to the improvement of himself;

§         his second, to the improvement of his capital, where

his court sits and whence his laws proceed;

§         his third, to the improvement of his land and people;

§         his fourth, to the improvement of cities, empires, nations

beyond, as far as lies within his power.

 

o        The cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali,

in their ruins round about. A good king will extend his influence as

widely as possible, and in particular strive to be helpful to those

peoples in his vicinity that are less enlightened or more needy

than himself.

 

Ø      The manner of it. With “The violence — probably hinted at in the

phrase, with their axes” (v. 6, margin). “The reformation executed by

the king was earnestly intended; it was thorough, it was comprehensive;

but it was above everything violent” (Ewald, ‘History of Israel,’ 4:237).

This appears more distinctly from II Kings (23:4-20). But the extirpation

of religious, no more than of political abuses, can be carried out without

a degree of harshness. Privileged iniquity in Church or in state is always

difficult to dislodge.

 

Ø      The extent of it. Judah, Jerusalem, and the Israelitish cities already

mentioned were purged from high places, Asherim, images and altars

(vs. 3-7). Particularly:

 

o        the altars of the Baalim were broken down in the young king’s

presence, the sun-images above them being hewn down at his

command (v. 4);

 

o        the Asherim or “pillars and trees of Asherah” (Keil), with the graven

and molten images connected with the impure worship of Astarte, were

broken in pieces, and their dust (after burning) strewn upon the graves

of them that had sacrificed unto them (v. 4) — the Book of Kings

speaking of the removal of the Asherah from the house of the Lord,

and the destruction of the houses of the infamous women who wove

tents for the idol (II Kings 23:6-7); and

 

o        the bones of the priests who had sacrificed at the heathen shrines

having first been exhumed from their graves, were burnt upon the

altars at which the priests had ministered before these were destroyed.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The beauty of early piety.

Ø      The excellence of Christian zeal.

Ø      The difficulty of executing reformations.

 

8 “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.”

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 (II Kings 22:3) Shaphan is designated “the scribe.” His

descendants, to the second generation, at all events, did him honor

(Jeremiah 26:24; 29:3; 36:10, 12, 25; Ezekiel 8:11; see also II Kings 25:22).

The names of Masseiah (Jeremiah 35:4) and Joah (II Kings 18:18) are

known, but not marking the present persons.

 

9 “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.”  Hilkiah the high priest.

Of Hilkiah’s ancestors and descendants we learn something in the following

references: I Chronicles 6:13-14; 9:11; II 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 (v. 10) “put it into the hand of the workmen,’ etc. This is

certainly the meaning of II Kings 22:4-9. And they returned to

Jerusalem; translate, and of the dwellers in Jerusalem. Note Keri, and see

ch. 35:18; and Septuagint rendering here and there.

 

10 “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:”

And they put it; i.e. Shaphan and colleagues, according to the parallel.

 

11 “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.”  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 Amon, 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 (I Kings 6:5),

the exact style of which, however, is very doubtful.

 

12 “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 music.”  Faithfully, Refer back to note, ch. 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 whose

business was music is rather a surprise, and is not found in the parallel.

 

 

 

Faithful Work (v. 12)

 

“And the men did the work faithfully.” It became a godly King of Judah to

do anything and everything that was required for the strength and beauty of

the temple. For in that sacred edifice centered the religious life of the nation,

and there God manifested Himself as nowhere else. With us religious

thought and spiritual earnestness are not thus localized; and though, after

the manner as well as in the spirit of Josiah, we may concern ourselves

much with the erection or the repair of some “house of the Lord,” yet

Christian zeal now shows itself in a hundred ways; it branches and bears

fruit in all directions. There is, however, a sense in which it is all building.

We who are at work for our Lord and for our neighbor are building up

the kingdom of Christ, and, at the same time, are building up a peaceful,

happy, holy community. It is probable that we have all undertaken some

specific work of this kind, some ministry; that we have committed

ourselves to some office which makes certain demands on our intelligence,

our strength, our time. That being so, it is well that we realize the

importance of “doing the work faithfully” which we have in hand.

 

  • WHAT CONSTITUTES FAITHFULNESS. TO be faithful is clearly a

very different thing from being successful. Some men are successful, as

men count success, who are not faithful in the sight of God; others are

faithful who are not “successful.” To be faithful is to act with rightful,

earnest, patient effort in the sphere in which our Lord has placed us.

 

Ø      Doing our work honestly, fairly, conscientiously, keeping in view the

revealed will of God and the claims of men (see II Timothy 2:5).

 

Ø      Acting with earnestness; not languidly and listlessly, but devotedly and

energetically.

 

Ø      With patient, persevering effort; not daunted by the first nor by the

fiftieth difficulty that presents itself, not silenced by clamor, not forsaking

the path of holy service because prosperity seems long in coming; but

calmly, patiently, thoroughly proceeding with and completing our work;

holding on and bearing up until we can say, thankfully and reverently,

like Jesus, “It is finished” (John 19:30)

 

  • WHAT INDUCEMENTS WE HAVE TO BE FAITHFUL IN OUR WORK.

 

Ø      Our Lord requires it. “It is required in stewards that a man be found

faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2). “Be thou faithful unto death,” says the

ascended Lord with commanding voice (Revelation 2:10). There were

“overseers,” our text says, to “set forward” the work in which these artificers

were engaged. We have one great Divine Overseer, who is ever looking on and

taking account, desiring of us that we “do the work faithfully,” and it behoves

us to do everything we undertake, both that which does and that which does

not directly belong to the affairs of His kingdom, “as ever in the great

Taskmaster’s eye.”

 

Ø      By so doing we take rank with the best of the sons of men. Of Moses we

read that “he was faithful in all his house” (Hebrews 3:2). He did not

seem to be remarkably successful; probably in the eyes of his

contemporaries he appeared positively unsuccessful. But when he lay down

to die on Nebo he could feel that he had done his work faithfully. And thus

with Paul. And so with the best and worthiest of our race. To be faithful in

our work is to stand with the best of men.

 

Ø      Thus only can we secure the approval of our own conscience. But thus

we shall; and how great a victory it will be to be able to feel as Paul felt

when his course was run, “I have fought a good fight,… I have kept the

faith”!  (II Timothy 4:7)

 

Ø      We shall receive a large reward. If we are but faithful in a few things

here, we shall be rulers over many things hereafter (Matthew 25:21). If

faithful unto death, Christ will give us a crown of life” (Revelation

2:10). Life in all its glorious fullness, in all its perfect blessedness,

will be ours for ever.

 

13 “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.”

Scribes. Considering the mention of “scribes” in the plural in

I 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 disuse 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; 36:22).

The officers. This word reproduces, in the Hebrew, the familiar shoterim

of Exodus 5:10 (see also I Chronicles 23:3-6).

 

 

The Repairing of the Temple by Josiah (vs. 8-13)

 

  • THE COMMISSIONERS.

 

Ø      Their names. Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the king’s secretary (v. 15);

Maaseiah the governor of the city; and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder

or chronicler.

 

Ø      Their business. To repair the house of the Lord. This had been done two

centuries before by Joash (ch. 24:12), and nearly one century

before by Hezekiah (ch. 29:12-19). During the reigns of

Manasseh and Amon it had fallen into such disorder that it a third time

demanded renovation. In this respect the temple was a melancholy symbol

of all human institutions — not excepting such as are religious — which

constantly exhibit a tendency as they grow old to become degenerate, and,

as a consequence stand in need of periodic reformation and rejuvenation.

 

Ø      Their procedure. Along with Hilkiah the priest — as Joash had acted in

concert with Jehoiada, and the king’s scribe had co-operated with the high

priest’s officer (ch. 24:11-12) — they received the money which the

Levites that kept the temple doors had collected from the people

of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and from the

inhabitants of all Judah and Benjamin, who, following the plan in vogue

since the days of Joash and Jehoiada, cast in their free-will offerings into a

box placed in the temple court for the purpose of receiving the voluntary

contributions of the faithful towards the good end the king had in view, the

repairing of the temple. Having received this money, the three

commissioners, along with the high priest, paid it over to the

superintendents who had the oversight of the house of the Lord.

 

  • THE OVERSEERS.

 

Ø      Their names.

 

o        Jahath and Obadiah, two Levites of the family of Merari;

o        Zechariah and Meshullam, two Levites of the house of Kohath:

and,

o        others unnamed, but specified as “Levites, all that could skill

of instruments of music” (v. 12).

 

Ø      Their duties.

 

o        To exercise supervision over the workmen, over the bearers of burdens,

and all that wrought in any manner of service (v. 13), over the

carpenters, builders, and other artisans engaged in the undertaking

(v. 11).

 

o        To set forward the work (v. 12), or “to preside over it” (margin).

 

o        Perhaps also to do both, i.e. incite and cheer the workmen, and so

prosper the work, by music and song (Bertheau). “Orpheus and

Amphion, by their music, moved the workmen to diligence and

activity, and lessened and alleviated their toil. May we not suppose,

then, that skilful musicians among the Levites did exercise their art

among the workmen who were employed in the repairs of the house

of the Lord?” (Adam Clarke).

 

o        To distribute the moneys received from the commissioners to the

different tradesmen that these might procure the necessary materials

for the building (v. 10-11).

 

  • THE ARTISANS.

 

Ø      Carpenters, or workers in wood, whose business was to prepare timber

for couplings and to make beams for the houses, i.e. for the temple and its

courts, which the kings of Judah had permitted to fall into decay.

 

Ø      Masons, or workers in stone; not to hew, since the stones were already

hewn when purchased, but to build — in this perhaps designedly following

the example given in the building of the temple (I Kings 6:7).

 

  • THE ASSISTANTS.

 

Ø      Scribes, who kept a record of the progress of, as well as the necessary

accounts connected with, the work.

 

Ø      Officers, who served in different capacities under superiors.

 

Ø      Porters, who watched at the several gates of the temple while the work

was going on.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The beauty of order,

Ø      The efficiency secured by division of labor.

Ø      The value of cooperation.

 

14 “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. 15 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.

16  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.  17 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.”

The time of v. 14 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 case 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.

 

18 “Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest

hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.”

The implication on the face of this verse as of the parallel

(II 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.

 

19 “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law,

that he rent his clothes.”  With one insignificant exception (the omission

here of the word rp,s,), the words of this verse are identical with the parallel

in its v. 11. The same, to all purposes, may be said of our twelve succeeding

verses, compared with the parallel in II Kings 22:12-23:3.  The king rent his

clothes, in grief that the practice of his nation had diverged so terribly from

their ever-to-be-venerated Law.

 

20 “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,”  Ahikam the son of

Shaphan (see Jeremiah 26:24; 40:5).  Abdon the son of Micah.

The parallel (II Kings 22:12) and the Syriac Version have “Achbor

the son of Michaiah” (see also Jeremiah 26:22; 36:12).

 

21 “Go, enquire 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.”  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(II Kings 22:13), without any apparent specific

reference to Israel. Our present passage may intend to glance at the fact that

the better 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.

 

22 “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.”  The question may suggest

itself, Why was not Jeremiah (ch. 35:25; 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.

 

23 “And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell

ye the man that sent you to me,  24 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:” The oracular answer of Huldah, contained in this and the following

five verses, is very closely paralleled by the six verses of II Kings 22:15-20.

 

25 “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.  26 And as for the king of Judah,

who sent you to enquire of the LORD, so shall ye say unto him,

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel concerning the words which thou

hast heard;  27 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.  28 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.”

Poured out. So here again, as above (v. 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 v. 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 II Kings 24:17, the same with Mattaniah, and son of Josiah).

 

 

The Hidden Treasure (vs. 14-28)

 

Whether this “book of the Law of the Lord” was indeed the original copy

in the handwriting of Moses is a matter of sacred curiosity; but it is nothing

more than that. The surprising and all but incredible thing is that Judah

should have been reduced to any one copy of the “Law of the Lord.” This

discovery of Hilkiah and the surprise and the eagerness it occasioned speak

to us of:

 

  • THE GUILTY NEGLIGENCE OF WHICH NATIONS AND MEN

ARE CAPABLE. Judah had been concerning itself, had been “careful and

troubled” about many things, but it had not thought it worth while to

multiply copies of the “Law of the Lord,” of its own sacred books; so

negligent had it been that when one is accidentally discovered its warnings

are read for the first time by its own sovereign in his manhood! Of what

great and guilty negligence are we capable! We may be spending our time

and strength, we may be exhausting ourselves and endangering our health

and life in all kinds of unprofitable occupation, in fruitless labor or in

amusement which begins and ends in itself, and all the time may be

neglecting that one study or that one habit in the pursuit of which “standeth

our eternal life.” There are many men in Christian countries who expend

their substance upon, and occupy their very life with, horses, or dogs, or

guns, who do not afford even a few hours a year to the serious study of the

will of God as revealed by His Son and recorded in His Word. The treasure

which cannot be estimated in gold or silver lies untouched, as much buried

from sight and use as if it had been hidden in some crypt of the temple. It

may not be our deeds, but our negligences, that we shall most fear to face

in the great day of account.

 

  • THE MELANCHOLY USE WE MAY MAKE OF DIVINE TRUTH.

In that book of the Law of the Lord there were instructions and

admonitions which, if duly heeded, would have ensured abiding peace and

honor to the inhabitants of Judah. These had been waywardly and

flagrantly disregarded. And now the time for employing them had well-nigh

gone. What was left was the sad opportunity of verifying by bitter

experience the truth of its threatenings. This was the alternative now open

to Judah. Let us take care lest, by our disregard of the promises, we bring

upon ourselves the warnings of the Word of God. “If we will not be ruled

by the rudder, we must be ruled by the rock.” If we will not take advantage

of the beneficent laws and the gracious overtures of God, we must “show

forth” the severity of those righteous laws which attach suffering and

shame to vanity and guilt.

 

  • THE URGENT NEED OF KEEPING AN OPEN MIND AND A

SENSITIVE SPIRIT. We are almost startled when we read of Josiah’s

vehemence (v. 19). These solemn threats do not affect us in that degree.

But we have to consider that he was hearing them read for the first time; to

him they were new and fresh, and therefore striking and forcible. Here lies

one of our great perils. Familiarity covers the truth of God with its own

veil, so that we do not see what we are looking at. We want to read the

words of Jesus Christ, to listen to the story of His great sacrifice, to

hearken to His words of gracious invitation, as if we had never met with

them before; we want to bring to them all the force of an unclouded

intelligence, of an undulled interest. And so with the warnings as well as

with the promises of Scripture.

 

  • THE ATTENTION GOD PAYS TO INDIVIDUAL SOULS. (vs. 26-28.)

Wrath was to be poured out upon Judah, but Josiah was to be

treated mercifully because he had acted rightly. Whatever penalties are due

to our country, however we may be, as we are, suffering as the members of

a guilty race, we may be quite sure that God has regard to the life we are

living, to the choice we are making. If our heart is tender, and if our will is

obedient and submissive, we also shall find mercy of the Lord. God has His

dealings with communities and with Churches; but His most constant

relation is with men, with individual souls. “The Lord looketh upon me;

Christ died for me;” “What wilt thou have me to do?” And according to

our individual choice will be our destiny. “Every man must bear his own

burden.”  (Galatians 6:5)

 

 

The Book of the Law (vs. 14-28)

 

  • THE FINDING OF THE BOOK (vs. 14-15.)

 

Ø      The finder. Hilkiah the priest (v. 18), the high priest (v. 9), the son

of Shallum (I Chronicles 6:13), the son of Zadok; not to be identified

with either the father of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1) or the father of

Gemariah (Jeremiah 29:3); and certainly to be distinguished from the

father of Eliakim, Hezekiah’s house-steward (Isaiah 22:20).

 

Ø      The place. The temple (v. 15), though in what part is not stated (v. 14);

perhaps the treasure-chest out of which Hilkiah was fetching gold. to

make cups and other vessels (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 10:4. 2), but more probably

the vicinity of the ark in the holy of holies.

 

Ø      The time. The eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, when he was in the

middle of his reformation work (v. 8), and just before the celebration of

the Passover (ch.  35:1) — a circumstance calculated to suggest the presence

of God’s finger in the opportune discovery of a book which exercised so

powerful an influence upon the religious life of the nation at this critical

juncture in its history; though the same circumstance has been used

(Wellhausen, Kuenen, Ewald, Colenso, R. Smith, Cheyne) to

support the theory that the book was now or shortly before for the first

time written, by either Hilkiah himself, Jeremiah, or some other unknown

prophet, as the legislative programme of the reforming party.

 

Ø      The book.

 

o        Deuteronomy alone (De Wette, Bohlen, Kuenen, etc.), or the original

kernel thereof (Cheyne); maintained chiefly on these grounds:

 

§         The title of the book “the book of the Law” (v. 15),

“a book of the Law of the Lord” (v. 14) — a designation

which appears to be reserved for the fifth alone of the so-called

Mosaic books (Deuteronomy 28:61; 30:10; 31:26). But it is

likewise styled “the book of the covenant” (v. 30); and this

phrase occurs only in the second of the Pentateuchal books

(Exodus 24:7). Whence, by parity of reasoning, the book

found must have been the Book of Exodus alone. The

probability, however, is, that the volume contained both

the second and the fifth books of Moses; in other words,

that it was the whole Pentateuch.

 

§         The size of the book. As Shaphan is said to have read it

through at a sitting (v. 18), it is hardly likely to have been

the whole Pentateuch, but may have been Deuteronomy.

But the revised translation, “therein” (v. 8), has deprived

this of the force it was formerly supposed to possess as

an argument.

 

§         The teaching of the book. The principle of Josiah’s

reformation, which it is argued was based upon the book —

the principle, viz., of the abolition of local sanctuaries and

the centralization of worship in the temple at Jerusalem

corresponds exactly with the legislation of the Deuteronomic

code, which declares the law of one central altar, and forbids

the erection of local sanctuaries (Deuteronomy 12:5-8). This,

however, may be conceded without holding that Hilkiah’s

Law-book contained nothing but Deuteronomy or the original

draft thereof — unless, indeed, it be assumed that Deuteronomy

was only then for the first time written — against which stands

the fact that the law of the king (Deuteronomy 17:18) appears

to have been known and observed in the days of Jehoiada and

Joash (ch. 23:11; II Kings 11:12). Besides, it is too readily

assumed that Josiah had no knowledge of the sinfulness of

local sanctuaries and the imperative obligation of a central altar

until he heard Hilkiah’s book read, and that from the hearing of

that book he derived his impulse to destroy the heathen altars in

Jerusalem, Judah, and certain cities of Israel. As to the first,

if Josiah had no acquaintance with the law of one altar, it would

seem that Hezekiah had (II Kings 18:4-6); while, with reference

to the second, the Book of Kings indeed adopts the view here

stated; but the Chronicler represents the finding of the book as

having taken place after the purgation of the land (v. 8).

 

§         The style of the book. On the ground of certain linguistic

resemblances between Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, it is argued

that the former must have been Hilkiah’s book, and composed

about Josiah’s time. But this reasoning is not good. As

Hilkiah’s book contained Deuteronomy, whatever else it

contained, it would most likely make on Jeremiah, as on

Josiah, a deep impression, which would reflect itself upon his

own writings. Hence, from mere verbal correspondences, it

cannot be inferred that Deuteronomy was not written till the

age of Josiah; and if’ this position be abandoned, it will

not be necessary to maintain that Hilkiah’s book was only

the last of the (so-called) books of Moses.

 

o        The entire Pentateuch (Keil, Bahr, Havernick, and others). Besides

being borne out by the failure to establish the preceding alternative,

this opinion is confirmed by the facts that the book was found in the

temple by the high priest; that it is stated to have been “by Moses;”

that it was recognized as such by Hilkiah, Shaphan, and Josiah;

and that it made a profound impression on them all.

 

§         The fact that “it was a common practice of Egyptian scribes

to insert in their transcripts of great religious or scientific

works a statement that the writing in question had been

‘found’ in a temple,” hardly warrants the suggestion that

Deuteronomy 31:6 was “an imitation of this custom,”

or that Hilkiah’s book “was not lost by accident, nor yet

placed in the sanctuary with the intention to deceive, but

simply taken to the temple and formally placed there, and

then communicated to Josiah with a view to its promulgation”

(Cheyne, ‘Jeremiah: his Life and Times,’ p. 85).

 

§         The phrase, “by Moses,” is not sufficiently explained by

saying that the author meant that Moses, had he been alive,

would have so written (ibid., p. 78).

 

§         It is difficult to perceive why Hilkiah, Shaphan, and Josiah

should have given out that the work was by Moses, if they

really knew that it was not, but was merely an “imitation”

of the great lawgiver.

 

§         It is too much to ask any but the gullible to believe that

Josiah was not acting a part in pretending to be impressed

by the contents of the book, if he knew it was not by the

lawgiver, but by an unknown and recent author. That it

was the autograph copy of the lawgiver’s work (Kennicott)

is an unverifiable surmise; that it was “the three middle books

of the Pentateuch” (Bertheau) or only the second (Gramberg)

does not seem likely.

 

  • THE READING OF THE BOOK (vs. 18-19)

 

Ø      The reader. Shaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah (v. 8), the son of

Meshullam (II Kings 22:3), one of Josiah’s commissioners for the

repairing of the temple.

 

Ø      The auditor. Josiah (v. 18), to whom Shaphan carried the book in

obedience to Hilkiah’s instructions.

 

Ø      The lesson. “It” or “in it” (Revised Version). Not necessarily the whole

book, but only portions of it, as e.g. those containing the curses against

disobedience (Deuteronomy chapters 27-31.; Leviticus 26:14-46),

warnings against idolatry (Leviticus 26:1-30; Deuteronomy 4:15;

27:15), and perhaps also the directions relating to the observance

of the Passover (Exodus 12.7 and the making of a covenant

(Exodus 24.).

 

Ø      The impression. Josiah rent his clothes (v. 19).

 

o       In astonishment (compare Genesis 37:29; 44:13) at the teaching

rather than at the finding of the book. Many persons still would

be surprised at THE CONTENTS OF THE BIBLE  if they

only read it. The Bible is often rejected by those who are

entirely ignorant of it.

 

o       In self-abasement (v. 27), as an acknowledgment in outward

action of the sense he had of his own and his people’s

shortcomings (compare Numbers 14:6; II Samuel 3:31),

in respect of both their idolatries and their continued

maintenance of local sanctuaries — an acknowledgment

the sincerity of which was attested by the tears with

which it was accompanied (v. 27). So does no reading

of the Bible accomplish its highest aim or produce its best

effect unless it humbles the hearer before God, and causes

him to weep for his sins (Job 42:5-6; Psalm 38:18;

Jeremiah 31:18-19; II Corinthians 7:9-11).

 

  • THE INQUIRING ABOUT THE BOOK (vs. 21-28.) Done at

Josiah’s instance.

 

Ø      The reason of this inquiry. The terror in which the king was about the

wrath of Jehovah against himself and people on account of the failure of

their fathers to do after all that was written in the book. Josiah recognized

the solidarity of the race, according to which the proverb held good, “The

fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”

(Ezekiel 18:2). Besides, Josiah must have known the reforming zeal of

the people was at best but superficial (Jeremiah 3:10). Hence, though

the land and the house had been purged, he was uncertain whether the

curses denounced against idolatry might not still overtake them. It is good

when “the terror of the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:11) persuades men to

inquire about escaping, from the wrath to come.

 

Ø      The quarter at which this inquiry was made.

 

o        Jehovah. “Inquire of the Lord for me” (v. 21). God is the only Being

competent to direct how man may escape the infliction of Divine

wrath on account of sin. Schemes of salvation only of man’s devising

are of NO VALUE!   Salvation, in its conception, inception,

conduction, and perfection, BELONGETH UNTO GOD (Psalm 3:8;

37:39; Isaiah 43:11; Jeremiah 3:23; II Corinthians 5:18; I Timothy

2:3-4).   The soul that  would be saved must apply TO HIM (Isaiah

45:22; Amos 5:4;  John 3:16; Romans 3:22-30; I John 5:11).  (God

and Christ  worked out the plan of salvation before the world began! 

Jesus Christ  “.... stood as a lamb slain before the foundation

of the world!” Revelation 13:8 - CY – 2017)

 

o        Huldah the prophetess — a title given to Miriam (Exodus 15:20)

and Deborah (Judges 4:4) — the wife of Shal-lum the sou of Tikvath,

the son of Hasrath, keeper of the wardrobe, who dwelt in Jerusalem in

the second quarter (v. 22), i.e. of the city, probably the “other city”

(Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 15:11. 5), situated on the hill Acra. That the king

sent not to Jeremiah may be explained by supposing Jeremiah was

not then in Jerusalem, but at Anathoth (Kimchi); that he sent to

Huldah shows he recognized the necessity as well as propriety of

consulting God through His appointed media of communication.

Not even under the gospel can God be approached directly

(John 1:18), but only through CHRIST!  (John 14:6), the

Prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22),

and yet greater than all prophets by so much as a son is greater than

a servant (Hebrews 1:1-3; 3:5-6).

 

Ø      The persons through whom this inquiry was made. The deputation sent

by the king consisted of five individuals, most likely all high officials

connected with his court.

 

o        Hilkiah the priest;

 

o        Ahikam the son of Shaphan (not the scribe), afterwards the friend and

patron of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24; 39:14), and father of Gedaliah,

whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed deputy-governor of the land after

the destruction of Jerusalem (II Kings 25:22; Jeremiah 40:5);

 

o        Abdon the son of Micah — Achbor (II Kings 22:12), probably the

correct reading (see Jeremiah 26:22; 36:12) — whose son Elnathan

was afterwards one of Jehoiakim’s and Zedekiah’s courtiers;

 

o        Shaphan the scribe, or king’s secretary; and

 

o        Asaiah the king’s servant. The centurion of Capernaum sent a

deputation to entreat the help of Christ, whom he regarded as a

Prophet (Luke 7:3). No intermediaries are required by such as

would consult Him whom the Father hath appointed the one

Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5).

 

Ø      The answer returned to this inquiry.

 

o        Concerning the city and the temple a sentence of doom (v. 24). The

inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem had provoked Jehovah to anger:

 

§         by their senseless and shameful idolatries,

§         by turning a deaf ear to the  warnings of Jehovah’s prophets,

§         by not profiting by the judgment already fallen on the northern

kingdom, and

§         by terribly abusing the  privileges they had enjoyed and the

§         patience that had been exercised towards them.

 

Their day of grace WAS PAST!   The night of DOOM WAS AT

HAND (v. 25). Had Josiah consulted Jeremiah, the reply would in

all probability have been similar (Jeremiah chapter 5). Of

corresponding severity is the sentence pronounced by

Christ upon them who love the darkness rather than the light,

who adhere to sinful ways in spite of His calls to repentance, who

despise His offered mercy and trample on His laws (Matthew 21:41;

24:51; John 5:29; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6; I Peter. 3:12; Jude

1:3).

 

o        Concerning the king, A MESSAGE OF GRACE (v. 27). The:

 

§         ground of it, Josiah’s repentance;

§         the substance of it, Josiah’s deliverance.

 

In the gospel repentance and salvation are always conjoined.

Repentance is a condition of salvation (Matthew 4:17; Mark 6:12;

Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38); salvation is a consequent of repentance

(Luke 15:7; 18:13-14; I John 1:9).

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The inspiration of Scriptures.

Ø      The profitableness of Scripture-reading.

Ø      The testimony of conscience to THE WORD OF GOD!

Ø      The certainty of God’s anger against sin.

Ø      The blessedness of sincere mourning on account of sin.

Ø      The mercifulness of God in the providential preservation of His

Word.

Ø      The certainty that God never loses sight of the Bible, though

man often does.

 

29 “Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah

and Jerusalem.”  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.

 

30 “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.”  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).

 

 

The Value of the Bible (v. 30)

 

  • THE BIBLE LOST. An unspeakable calamity.  (I recommend - Amos 8 -

The Blank Bible by Henry Rogers - this website - CY - 2017)

 

Ø      To literature. Remark on the indebtedness of modern literature to the

Bible.

 

Ø      To religion. Without the support and quickening derived from Scripture

religion would speedily become languid.

 

Ø      To morality. Contrast in respect of morality countries possessing and

countries lacking the Bible.

 

  • THE BIBLE FOUND. A great mercy. More to be prized than the

discovery of gold-mines, which can only contribute to man’s material

wealth, or even of rare manuscripts by human authors, which enrich chiefly

the intellect, the finding of the Bible by an individual or a nation for the

first time, or the recovery of it after it has been for some time lost, is:

 

Ø      An occasion of great joy, and is usually felt to be such. Witness the

gladness of Luther at finding the Bible in the convent at Erfurth. And ought

to be:

 

Ø      A reason for special thankfulness, as it generally is to all who know its

value as a revelation of Divine wisdom and love, and can appreciate its

power to influence the hearts and lives of men.

 

  • THE BIBLE READ. A blessed privilege.

 

Ø      Many might read the Bible who do not have it. A sad deprivation. This

the case of the heathen generally and of numbers at home. An argument for

missions.

 

Ø      Many have the Bible, yet do not read it. A grievous sin. This the case

with thousands in Christendom to whom God’s Word is a strange book.

An argument for preaching.

 

Ø      Many have the Bible, but cannot read it. A pitiful condition. This the

case of those who through defective education or blindness are unable to

read. An argument for Christian philanthropy.

 

Ø      Many have the Bible and read it. A happy experience. This the case of

those who have learned to recognize in the Bible God’s Word, and to

appreciate its suitability to their soul’s needs. An argument for the

inspiration of the Scriptures.

 

  • THE BIBLE OBEYED. An indispensable duty.

 

Ø      Obedience the end and aim of the Bible. The Bible not written for

information merely, but for direction also. Designed not simply for the

construction of creeds, but likewise for the regulation of conduct

(Matthew 6:24; James 1:22).

 

Ø      Obedience the only homage acceptable to the Bible. To read it, admire

its literary beauty, study its theology, extol its excellences, circulate it, are

good if these acts are accompanied by obedience, but if not they are

comparatively worthless.

 

Ø      Obedience the best witness to the Divinity of the Bible. “If any man will

do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John

7:17). Those who know the Bible best, by giving practical obedience to its

precepts are most fully convinced of its heavenly and supernatural origin.

 

Ø      Obedience the necessary means for obtaining the blessing of the Bible.

Not the hearers of the Word, but the doers thereof, are justified before

God (Matthew 7:21; Luke 11:28; Romans 2:13).

 

31 “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.”  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).

 

32 “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.”  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 II Kings 23:3).

 

33 “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.” The parallel (II Kings 23:4-20) gives some succinct

account of Josiah’s removal of abominations, here glanced at so briefly.

 

 

 

The Reign of Josiah (vs. 1-33)

 

In the reign and person of Josiah, once more and for the last time in the

now numbered years of the kingdom of Judah, the light of piety and

“goodness” flickered up in the socket. His reign began when his years

numbered but eight; it lasted thirty-one years. Four reigns succeeded his to

the date of the destruction of Jerusalem, but the four together occupied but

twenty-two or twenty-three years in all. The term of life is run, therefore,

within a very short length, and the pensive sadness of the coming end falls

upon us before the horrors of the end itself overwhelm us. Josiah’s care for

the reformation of the national religion emulated, rather exceeded, that of

any predecessor (II Kings 23:22, 25). He boldly denounced and

destroyed, enlisted help and spiritual sympathy, and reconstructed. And,

both by word and deed, laid most solemn stress on the immaculate

celebration of the sacred Passover. And explain it as we may, there was

granted to him and his reign an opportunity, and it not neglected, which bid

fair, going to the root of the matter, to promise brighter days — days of

more lasting brightness for the welfare of the people, in the true security of

religion. But the knell of doom was already clanging. To the piety of

Josiah, it was not so much that respite of the dread sentence on Judah was

given, but this was given, the condescending information and merciful

assurance that it was dated to a time when he would be “gathered to his

fathers, and gathered to his grave in peace, and his eyes not see all the evil”

(vs. 27-28). This, with some special emphasis, came true; for Josiah,

though slain in battle, and so far not dying “in peace,” did die in peace, so

far as the end or captivity of Judah was concerned; and he was the last of

the kings who received honorable burial in Jerusalem. Three of his

successors and descendants died in captivity, and if Jehoiakim, the other of

the four last kings, eventually “slept with his fathers’ (II Kings 24:6), in

the sense of his dust resting with theirs, it was not so at first (Jeremiah

22:19; 36:30; Ezekiel 19:8-9). The remarkable opportunity already

spoken of, which was granted to Josiah in the interest of religion for his

nation, which came on him so unexpectedly, which made such deep

impression on him, and which he endeavored with all his might to turn to

the greatest and best advantage, may be dwelt upon, in all its lasting

significance, for every time of day. The fact of the sudden discovery of “the

book of the Law of the Lord by Moses” (Deuteronomy 31:26; also 10-

13) loses its wonder perhaps for ourselves, as we look back on that history,

as compared with the other extraordinary fact and appalling thought, that it

had been lost, so lost that its very existence, the tradition of it, seemed as a

thing unknown to Josiah. Counting the years of the reign of Manasseh, of

Amon, and those which had already elapsed of Josiah, we may say that the

sacred manuscript had been lost for some eighty years. In point of fact,

some pious priest among the degenerate rank-and-file of the priests had

probably carefully hidden it at the beginning of the iniquities of Manasseh.

The wonder nevertheless is still left, that no quest of it, no literal active

search for it, seems to have been made, and no perpetuation of the tradition

of it even, by priest or prophet, seems to have been at hand, for Josiah to

have had the opportunity of availing himself of it. It is not impossible to

surmise partial explanations to meet the difficulty, but the surprising fact is

full of significance. Practically the incident amounted to this — that to

Josiah was vouchsafed some “republication of revealed religion.” And his

treatment of the novel, the startling message of revelation is a very parable

in itself. We may for the text of this parable, to call it such, be reminded of

the reputed words of father Abraham,” in our blessed Lord’s parable of

the rich man and Lazarus, when he says of the five brethren of the rich man

in torments, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

They had not heard them, i.e. had not practically heeded them. But Josiah

hears and heeds. And are we not confronted very happily and very

suggestively, though in very brief, with these examples of the just demands

of revealed religion, justly met? viz. when we read how:

 

  • JOSIAH “HEARS” IT.

 

  • BELIEVES IT.

 

  • REVERENTLY FEARS IT, AS HE PERMITS IT TO SINK INTO

HIS VERY SOUL, AND DOES NOT RESIST IT, NOR TRY TO

DROWN IT, NOR PUT IT OFF TO BE TAKEN INTO

CONSIDERATION AT A MORE CONVENIENT SEASON.

 

  • WITH ALL URGENCY MAKES FULL INQUIRY, AND THAT IN

THE RIGHT QUARTERS RESPECTING ITS FULL AND

MOMENTOUS IMPORT.

 

  • DILIGENTLY GUIDES HIMSELF PRACTICALLY BY IT.

 

  • CALLS WITH THE VOICE OF A TRUE PREACHER ALL

AROUND HIM TO HEAR AND HEED THE SAME, AND WITHOUT

A QUIBBLE OR DELAY TO ENTER INTO COVENANT WITH THAT

GOD, WHO SO REVEALS HIMSELF, HIS TRUTH, HIS WILL, HIS

COMMANDS, AND THE FEARFUL OR OTHERWISE THE

AWE-INSPIRING SANCTIONS BY WHICH THEY ARE

ACCOMPANIED.  The rich man, the five brethren of the rich man, Judah

and Israel, and countless millions upon millions of others, would have been

saved and blessed had they been followers of Josiah. How many of modern

days, how many of ourselves have neglected, are neglecting, and are making

a mock of sin, because of neglecting the simple, faithful example of Josiah,

as to the way to receive God’s revelation of His truth and will for our lives!

 

 

Communication and Continuance (vs. 29-33)

 

Josiah’s wise and devout concern, when he discovered the Word and knew

more fully the will of God, was to communicate his own earnestness to

others, and to secure for future years this new and good departure. He

took the most natural and wise measures to attain his object.

 

1. He summoned all the elders in particular and all the people who could

    meet together, and made known to them in its fullness the truth that had

    been revealed to himself (vs. 29-30).

 

2. He pledged all those who were with him, and who represented the

    nation, to continuance in the service of Jehovah (vs. 31-32).

 

3. He took away the standing temptation from the path of the people. He

    thus made obedience easier while he made the sense of obligation firmer.

 

  • OUR DUTY TO COMMUNICATE DIVINE TRUTH. When we

consider:

 

Ø      How essential to life and all that life includes is the familiar knowledge

of the will of God.

 

Ø      How possible and how practicable it is for all who know the will of God

in Jesus Christ to pass it on to others.

 

Ø      How willingly men will listen if we give them the simplest and best

guarantee of our sincerity — consistency of conduct and excellency of

spirit; we shall see how right and how urgent it is upon us that we should

all “hold forth the Word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16), make known

THE GOODNESS AND THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHIRST!

 

 

  • OUR DUTY TO SECURE IT SO FAR AS LIES IN OUR POWER.

The text suggests three ways of doing this.

 

Ø      Pledge ourselves to abide in its light. Josiah covenanted for himself to

“keep His commandments… with all his heart… to perform the words…

written in this book.” That was his first, plain duty. And that is ours also;

to undertake, solemnly and openly before God and His people, to walk in

righteousness and in holy service; to” “take the vows of the Lord” upon us.

By so doing we give the strongest possible and the greatest practical

encouragement to all others to come and “do likewise.”

 

Ø      Induce others to enter into the same solemn undertaking. As the king

with his countrymen (v. 32), so we with our kindred and friends, with

our fellow-worshippers and neighbors, should do all in our power to

pledge them to the service of God. “Join us,” we should say, “in taking a

solemn and sacred pledge to live consciously in the presence and

continuously in the service of the Divine Saviour.” In every considerable

company of worshippers there are those who are unpledged, but who, for

their own sake and for that of others related to them, ought to be the

avowed disciples of Christ. It is our sacred duty, it is our high privilege, it

will prove a service rich in the best reward, to speak the encouraging and

inviting word which will lead them to take this important step.

 

Ø      Remove temptation from the path of those who might not be able to

resist it. This is ground on which we must exhibit both understanding and

earnestness, both sagacity and self-sacrifice. There are things which may be

said to be “abominations” (v. 33) because they prove to be irresistible

and ruinous temptations to some sincere disciples. In these cases, it is not

enough to warn against them — we must go further than that; we must do

anything and everything that is needful to get the temptation as much out

of the path of our neighbors as the images which were ground to dust

(v. 4) were removed from the way of the people of Judah. We may add a

fourth measure which may be suggested by the twenty-ninth verse:

 

Ø      Prevail upon our friends to come into the near presence and under the

power of the truth of God; and this not (as in the text) on one particular

occasion, but frequently and regularly. For much fellowship with Christ

and much hearkening to His voice as He speaks to us in the sanctuary

WILL GIVE STRENGTH TO THE SOUL!

 

 

Judah’s Last National Covenant (vs. 29-33)

 

  • THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

Ø      The time.

 

o        In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, or in Josiah’s twenty-sixth

      year;  not so early as the covenant made by Asa in the fifteenth year of

      his reign (ch. 15:10), or as that made by Jehoiada in the first year of

Joash’s reign (ch. 23:16), or as that projected by Hezekiah also in the

first year of his reign (ch. 29:10). But better late than never.

 

o        After the purgation of the land and the house. It is necessary as well as

fitting that works of repentance and reformation should be followed up

by resolutions after new obedience, that the casting out of false gods

should be supplemented by the bringing in of the true God, that

“ceasing to do evil” should be accompanied by “learning to do well”

(Isaiah 1:16-17).

 

o        While Josiah was under the devout impressions produced by the

reading of the book of the Law. Seasons when the heart is affected

by a sense of God’s nearness or a conviction of its own sinfulness

should be improved by drawing closer its relations to God

(II Corinthians 7:11).

 

Ø      The place.

 

o        The city of Jerusalem, which had been swept clean from its idolatries

an indispensable preliminary to meeting with God.

 

o        The temple on Moriah, where Jehovah had set His Name. They who

would have dealings with a God of grace must seek Him:

 

§         at the times,

§         in the places, and

§         by the ways He Himself has appointed.

 

  • THE PARTIES.

 

Ø      The king. As was most appropriate, Josiah led the way. Though

sovereigns have no right under the gospel to enforce religion on their

subjects, they may nevertheless, by means of personal example, persuade

their subjects to embrace religion.

 

Ø      The elders. These were the heads of the houses, and therefore the

representatives of the inhabitants both of Judah and Jerusalem. Unless the

chiefs in a state and the fathers in a family precede, it is not likely the

inferiors in the former or the children in the latter will follow after in the

paths of piety.

 

Ø      The priests and Levites. Instead of “the Levites,” II Kings 23:2) reads

“prophets,” which has been explained by supposing that the

prophets, among whom probably were Jeremiah, Baruch, Zephaniah, and

Urijah, belonged to priestly and Levitical families, or that they were Levites

whose duty it was to preach and to interpret the Law (ch. 17:8-9; compare

Deuteronomy 17:18-20; 31:9; 33:10). Those who ascribe it to an error of the

pen are uncertain whether that error should be charged against the author

of the Kings (Keil) or against the Chronicler (Bertheau).

 

Ø      The people. Great and small — the people of distinction and the lower

classes, perhaps also the grown-up persons and the children — were

assembled as participants in this high transaction (compare ch.15:13;

Deuteronomy 1:17).

 

  • THE PRELIMINARIES.

 

Ø      The reading of the book of the covenant. The part read most likely

included Exodus 24., the readers being, not the king himself (Adam

Clarke), but others, presumably Shaphan, Hilkiah, Jeremiah, etc. The

reading was “in their ears,” from which may be inferred that it was

audible and distinct.

 

Ø      The standing of the king in his place. This was the platform beside the

brazen altar, upon which the sovereign was accustomed to stand in high

religious and national ceremonies (ch. 6:13; 23:13).

 

  • THE ENGAGEMENTS.

 

Ø      To walk after the Lord. The common phrase for observing the worship

of Jehovah (ch. 11:17; II Kings 17:8; 21:22; Micah 4:5; 6:16). Distinguish

the similar phrases, “to walk before God” (ch. 6:14; Genesis 17:1), and

“to walk with God” (Genesis 5:24). The ideas:

 

o        in the first are perhaps those of imitation and obedience;

o        in the second, those of sincerity and purity; and

o        in the third, those of communion and concord.

 

Ø      To keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes.

Explanatory of the foregoing; to walk after Jehovah, signifying to keep His

commandments, etc. The three terms — commandments, testimonies,

statutes — occasionally occur together or in contiguity (Psalm 19:7-8;

119:21-23), and though etymologically distinguishable, are practically

synonymous. They are employed here perhaps for variety, but chiefly for

emphasis (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The obedience required by Jehovah and

promised by the people was not formal and superficial, but earnest and

sincere — “with all the heart, and with all the soul.” God for Christ’s sake

may accept less, but for His own sake He never can demand less, while

God’s people and Christ’s should strive never to present less.

 

Ø      To perform the words of the covenant written in the book of the Law.

The ultimate standard of duty for king and people was to be the words of

the book, and neither the opinions of others nor the imaginations of

themselves. So for Christians the supreme rule of faith and practice is the

Holy Scriptures.

 

  • THE RESULTS.

 

Ø      The people assented to the covenant. At the king’s command —

whether with perfect free-will (II Kings 23:3) is not clear — they bound

themselves to its observance (v. 32). Without the concurrence of the will

there can be no true religious service.

 

Ø      The king purged the land of Israel from abominations. He allowed no

external observance of idolatry. To cleanse the hearts of his people from

idol-worship was beyond his power. Human enactments, by whatever

power promulgated, can only effect external reformation; the regeneration

of the heart and renewal of the mind are competent TO GOD ALONE!

 

Ø      The nation kept true to the covenant while Josiah lived. The practice of

idolatry had been suppressed, but the spirit of idolatry had not been killed.

After Josiah’s death it again raised its head (ch. 36:5; II Kings 23:32),

as it had frequently done before after periods of reformation.

 

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      The Word of God is the supreme directory to a Christian both for

faith and practice.

Ø      The prime duty of man is to keep God’s commandments and

testimonies.

Ø      The highest evidence of piety in either individual or nation is holiness!

 

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