II Kings 23

 

 

 

                        Josiahs Renewal of the Covenant (vs. 1-3)

 

The first care of Josiah, on receiving Huldah’s message, which stamped the book

found as the true “book of the covenant,” was to call together a great assembly

of the nation, which should be sufficiently representative of it, and renew the

covenant between God and His people made originally at Horeb (Exodus

19:5-8; 24:3-8), which it was apparent, by the words of the book, that he and his

people had broken. His proceedings may be fitly compared with those of Jehoiada,

the high priest after the reign of the idolatrous Athaliah, recorded in ch.11:17; but

they were still more formal and solemn, inasmuch as the recent alienation of the people

from Jehovah had been so much more prolonged, and so much more complete,

than the alienation under Athaliah.

 

1  “And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah

and of Jerusalem.” The elders are the heads of the tribes and other influential

men, were representatives and political leaders of the tribes.

 

2  “And the king went up into the house of the Lord,” -  No place could be

so suitable for the renewal of the covenant between God and His people as the

house of God, where God was in a peculiar way present, and the ground was, like

the ground at Horeb, holy. Josiah “went up” to the temple from the royal palace,

which was on a lower level (I Kings 10:5) – “and all the men of Judah and all

the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him,” -  Not only the “elders,” who had

been summoned, but of the people, as many as chose to attend, besides -  “and

the priests, and the prophets” -  The representation would have been incomplete

without these two classes — the priests, the ordinary and regular readers

(Deuteronomy 31:9-11) and teachers of the Law; and the prophets, the

extraordinary and occasional teachers, inspired from time to time, and commissioned

to enforce the Law, and futher to declare God’s will to the people – “and all

the people, both small and great:” -  i.e. without distinction of classes — all

ranks of the people, high and low, rich and poor, noble and base-born. All

were concerned, nay, concerned equally, in a matter which touched the

national life and the prospects of each individual. (One would think that

in the United States that we too would have such an interest since the United

States Constitution claims “to promote the general welfare” of its citizens but

no, secular and atheistic legalists think otherwise – CY – 2011) – “and he

read in their ears” -  There is no reason for translating, with Keil, “he caused to

be read in their ears,” as though either the Jewish kings could not read, or would be

usurping the functions of the priests in publicly reading the Law to the people. If a

king might, like Solomon (I Kings 8:22-61), lead the prayers of the congregation

of Israel in the temple, much more might he read the Law to them. The readers in

the Jewish synagogues are ordinarily lay people – “all the words of the book of

the covenant”  Perhaps there is here some exaggeration, as in the phrases, “all

 the men of Judah,” and “all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The entire Pentateuch

could scarcely be read through in less than ten hours. Possibly, the Book of

Deuteronomy was alone read – “which was found in the house of the Lord.”

(ch. 22:8).

 

3  “And the king stood by a pillar dwOM["j; l[" is not “by the

pillar,” but (as in ch. 11:14) “on the platform” - The king’s proper place in

the temple seems to have been a raised standing-place  in front of the entrance

to the sanctuary, which made him very conspicuous “and made a covenant

before the Lord;” literally, made the covenant or renewed, the old covenant with

God (Exodus 24:5-8), which had been broken by the complete neglect of the

Law, and the manifold idolatries of Manasseh and Amon. He renewed this covenant

“before the Lord,” i.e. from his platform in the court, directly opposite the entrance

to the temple, through which he could, perhaps, see the veil hanging in front of the

holy of holies - at any rate being, and feeling himself to be, in the immediate presence

of God – “to walk after the Lord” i.e. to be His true follower and servant

and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes” –

the multiplication of such terms are intended to express “the totality of the Law,”

all its requirements without exception – “with all their heart and all their

soul” -  obedience was worthless, unless paid from the heart and soul

(Deuteronomy 4:29; 30:2; Joel 2:12-13) — ‘to perform the words of this

covenant that were written in this book.  And all the people stood to the

covenant.”  The representatives of the people, one and all, were parties to the

premise made on their behalf by the king, and signified their consent, probably as

they had done in Horeb, when “Moses took the book of the covenant, and

read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that the Lord has said

will we do, and be obedient” (Deuteronomy 24:7).

 

 

 

                                    Josiah’s Reformation (vs. 4-27)

 

The reformation of religion by Josiah next engages the writer’s attention, and is

treated, not chronologically, but rather geographically, under the three heads of

 

  • reforms in Jerusalem;
  • reforms outside Jerusalem, but in the kingdom of Judah; and
  • reforms in the territory which had belonged to the kingdom of

            Samaria (vs. 4-20)

 

The celebration of the Passover is then briefly noticed (vs. 21-25); and the section

concludes with a eulogy of Josiah (vs. 24, 25), who, however, it is noticed could

not, with all his piety, obtain a revocation of the sentence passed on Judah in

consequence of the sins of Manasseh. The fate of Judah was fixed

(vs. 26-27).

 

4  “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of

the second order” -  the common priests, as distinguished from the high priest - 

“and the keepers of the door;” - literally, the keepers of the threshold; i.e. the

Levites, whose duty it was to keep watch and ward at the outer temple gates (see

I Chronicles 26:13-18). Their importance at this time appears again in ch. 25:18 –

“to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made

for Baal” - The reformation naturally began with the purging of the temple. So

the reformation under Jehoiada (ch.11:18) and that of Manasseh (II Chronicles

33:15). Under “the vessels” (μyliKeh") would be included the entire paraphernalia

of worship, even the two altars which had been set up in honor of Baal in the outer

and the inner courts (compare ch. 21:5) – “and for the grove, and for all the

host of heaven” -  The three worships are here united, because there was a close

connection between them. Baal was, in one of his aspects, the sun; and Astarte, the

goddess of the “grove” worship, was, in one of her aspects, the moon. The cult of

“the host of heaven,” though, perhaps, derived from a different source, naturally

became associated with the cults of the sun and moon – “and he burned them

without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron” - The Law required that idols should

be burnt with fire (Deuteronomy 7:25), and likewise “groves” (Ibid. ch.12:3). It was

enough to “overthrow” altars and to“break” pillars. But Josiah seems to have

thought it best to destroy by fire, i.e. in the most complete possible way, all the

objects,  of whatever kind, which had been connected with the idol-worship (see

vs. 6,12,15-16). The burning took place in “the fields of Kidron,” i.e. in the

upper part of the Kidron valley, to the northeast of Jerusalem, in order that not even

the smoke should pollute the town“and carried the ashes of them unto

Bethel.”  This was a very unusual precaution, and shows Josiah’s  extreme

scrupulousness. He would not have even the ashes of the wooden objects,

or the calcine powder of the metal ones, remain even in the vicinity of the holy

city, but transported them to a distance. In selecting Bethel as the place to convey

them to, he was no doubt actuated by the circumstance that that village was in some

sense the fount and origin of all the religious impurities which had overflowed the

land. That which had proceeded from Bethel might well be taken back thither. 

(For evidence that Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to calcine powder and

are to this day suffering the “vengenance of eternal fire” [Jude 1:7] – see the video

on arkdiscovery.com - CY – 2011)

 

5  “And he put down the idolatrous priests;” - literally, the chemarim. The

same word is used of idolatrous priests in Hosea 10:5 and Zephaniah 1:4. It is

best connected with the Arabic root chamar, colere deum, and with the Syriac

cumro, “priest” or “sacrificer.” The Syrian priests were probably so called at the

time, and the Hebrews took the word, and applied it to all false priests or idolatrous

priests, reserving their own cohanim (μynih}Ko) for Jehovah’s true priests only –

“whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places

in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem;” - This

practice had not been mentioned previously, and can scarcely have belonged to the

earlier kingdom of Judah, when “the people” (as we are told so often) “worshipped

and burnt incense in the high places.” But it is quite in harmony with the other

doings of Manasseh and Amon, that, when they reestablished the high places

(ch. 21:3, 21), they should have followed the custom of the Israelite monarchs

at Dan and Bethel (I Kings 12:28-32), and have “ordained priests” to conduct

the worship at them – “them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun,

and to the moon (on the Baal-worship of Manasseh and Amon, see ch. 21:3;

on the sun-worship, compare below, v. 11; the moon-worship was probably a

form of the worship of Astarte), - “and to the planets;” -  rather, to

the twelve signs. The constellations or signs of the zodiac are, no doubt,

intended (compare Job 38:32, where the term twOdZ;m" may be regarded as

a mere variant form of the twOlZ;m" of this passage). The proper meaning of

the term is “mansions;” or “houses,” the zodiacal signs being regarded as

the “mansions of the sun” by the Babylonians (see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’

vol. 3. p. 419)  - “and to all the host of heaven.” (see the comment on

ch. 21:3).

 

6  “And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord” -  The

Asherah set up by Manasseh (ch.21:3, 7), and if removed (II Chronicles 33:15),

then replaced by Amon (Ibid. v.22), is intended. (On its probable form, see the

comment upon ch. 21:7.) – “without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron” –

 (see the comment on v. 4), and burned it at the brook Kidron. After the example

of Asa, who had treated in the same way the idol of the queen-mother Maachah

(I Kings 15:13). Asa followed the example of Moses (Exodus 32:20),

when he destroyed the golden calf – “and stamped it small to powder” -

Metals may be calcined by intense heat, and reduced into a state in which a

very small application of force will crush them into a fine powder. (See

reference to Sodom and Gomorrah in comment on v. 5 above – CY – 2011)

It is clear from the present passage, that Manasseh’s Asherah was made of

metal, at any rate in part – “and cast the powder thereof upon the graves

of the children of the people.” -  i.e. “upon the graves of the common

people” (compare Jeremiah 26:23, where the expression used in the

Hebrew is the same). The common people were not buried, like the better

sort, in rock-hewn sepulchers, but in graves of the ordinary description.

Burial-places were regarded as unclean, and were thus fit receptacles for

any kind of impurity.

 

7  “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites;” -  literally, of

the consecrated ones. (See the comment on I Kings 14:24; and note

that the male prostitutes, or Galli, who consecrated themselves to the Des

Syra, formed an essential element in the Astarte-worship, and accompanied

it wherever it was introduced.) Dollinger says (‘Jew and Gentile,’ vol. 1.

pp. 430, 431) of these wretched persons, “To the exciting din of drums,

flutes, and inspired songs, the Galli cut themselves on the arms; and the

effect of this act, and of the music accompanying it, was so strong upon

mere spectators, that all their bodily and mental powers were thrown into a

tumult of excitement, and they too, seized by the desire to lacerate

themselves, deprived themselves of their manhood by means of potsherds

lying ready for the purpose. Thereupon they ran with the mutilated part

through the city, and received from the houses which they threw them into,

a woman’s gear. Not chastity, but barrenness, was intended by the

mutilation. In this the Galli only desired to be like their goddess. (I think

it ironical that one of the biggest supporters of “abortion on demand” in

our city over the last twenty years has the last name of Galli – I wonder

if that is a coincidence? – CY – 2011) – The relation of foul lust, which

they thenceforward occupied towards women, was regarded as a holy

thing, and was tolerated by husbands in their wives.” – “that were by the

house of the Lord” – (And to think that in our day, much stink was

aroused because of the proposal of beer joints within a certain distance

of a church – CY – 2011)  -  The near vicinity is an indication that the Galli took

part in the foreign rites introduced into the temple by Manasseh and Amon.

The awful profanation of the house of God by such orgies is too terrible

to dwell on. -  “where the women wove hangings for the grove.” -  “The

women” are no doubt the priestesses of the Dea Syra, who are constantly

mentioned with the Galli, and, indeed, lived with them. They employed themselves,

mong other occupations, in weaving “hangings” (literally, “houses,” i.e.

 “coverings”) for the Asherah. It may be gathered from Ezekiel 16:16 that these

“coverings” were dainty fabrics of many colors.

 

8  And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah” -  Here the writer

diverges from his proper subject — the reforms in and near Jerusalem — to speak

of changes which were made in other parts of Judaea. The Levitical priests, who in

various cities of Judah had conducted the worship at the high places, were

summoned to Jerusalem by Josiah, and forced to remain there, that the unauthorized

worship which they had conducted might be brought to an end – “and defiled the

high places where the priests had burned incense,” -  Hezekiah had “removed

the high places, and broken the images, and cut down the groves” throughout

his dominions (ch.18:4), but he had not in any way “defiled the high places;” and

therefore no sooner did a king take a different view of his duties than the worship

was at once restored (ch. 21:3), and flourished as before. Josiah conceived the idea

that, if the high places were “defiled,” it would be impossible to renew the worship

at them – “from Geba to Beersheba  -  Geba takes here the place of Bethel as

the northern limit of Judah. It was situated at a very short distance from Bethel, and

was made to supersede it on account of the idolatries by which Bethel had been

disgraced – “and brake down the high places of the gates” - The high-place

worship had, it would seem, invaded Jerusalem itself.  In some of the gates of the

city, which were large open buildings for public meetings and intercourse, altars,

or more elaborate places of worship, had been established, and an unauthorized

ritual of the high-place type had been set up. “that were — rather, that which

 was — in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city,” –

This and the succeeding clauses are limitations of the general statement concerning

the “high places of the gates,” and indicate that two gates only had been

polluted by high-place worship, viz. “the gate of Joshua,” and the gate known

as “the city gate.” Neither of these can be determinately fixed, since they are

only mentioned in the present passage - “which were on a man’s left hand at

the gate of the city.

 

10  “Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar

of the Lord in Jerusalem,” - Though Josiah recalled to Jerusalem the Levitical

priests who had recently been attached to the various high places, yet he did not

attach them to the temple, or assign them any part in its services. Their

participation  in a semi-idolatrous service had disqualified them for the

temple ministrations – “but they did eat of the unleavened bread among

their brethren.” They were allowed, i.e., their maintenance out of the priestly

revenues, as were priests disqualified by a personal blemish (Leviticus 21:21-22).

Practically they lived on the altar gifts intended for the priests in which it was

unlawful to mix leaven.

 

10  “And he defiled Topheth,” - “To-pheth” or “Tophet” was the

name given to the place in the valley of Hinnom where the sacrifices were

offered to Moloch. The root of the word is thought by some to be taph

(ãT"), “a drum,” because the cries of the children burnt there were drowned

by the beating of drums. Others suggest as the root, tuph (ãWT), “to spit,”

because the place was “spat at” by the orthodox. But Gesenius and

Bottcher derive it from an Aryan root, taph, or tap, “to burn,” whence

Greek qa>ptein te>fra, Latin tepidus, Mod. Persian taftan, Sanskrit tap,

etc., and regard the meaning as simply “the place of burning” (see the

comment on Isaiah 30:33) – “which is in the valley of the children of

Hinnom,” - The valley of Hinnom, or of the sons of Hinnom, is generally

allowed to be that which sweeps round the more western of the two hills

whereon Jerusalem was built, in a direction at first south and then east,

uniting itself with the Kidron valley a little to the south of Ophel. The

origin of the name is uncertain; but it is most likely that the Beni-Hinnom

were a tribe of Canaanites, settled on this side of Jerusalem in the time of

Joshua (Joshua 15:8). The “valley” is a ravine, deep and narrow, with

steep, rocky sides. When the Moloch-worship first began in it we cannot

say; but it was probably before the time of Solomon, who built a high place

for Moloch (I Kings 11:8), on one of the heights by which the valley

is enclosed. (On the horrible profanations of the Moloch-worship, see

Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:4-13; 32:35.) After the Captivity, the valley of

Hinnom — Ge-Hinnom — was reckoned an accursed and abominable

place, a sort of earthly counterpart of the place of final punishment, which.

thence derived its name of “Geheuna” (Ge>enna); (see Matthew 5:22, 29;

Mark 9:44,48) – “hat no man might make his son or his daughter to

pass through the fire to Moloch (see the comment on ch. 16:3).

 

11  And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the

sun,” - The custom of dedicating horses to the sun was practiced by many ancient

nations; but it is only in Persia that we find horses and chariots so dedicated (Xen.,

‘Cyrop.,’ 8:3. § 12). The idea of the sun-god as a charioteer, who drove his horses

daily across the sky, is one common to several of the Aryan nations, as the Greeks,

the Romans, the Hindoos, and others; but we do not find it either in Egypt or among

the Semitic peoples. The sacrifice of the horse to the sun was more general

(Herod., 1:216; Xen., ‘Cyrop.,’ 8:3. § 24; ‘Anab.,’ 4:5. § 35; Rig Veda,

vol. 2. pp. 112, et seqq., etc.), but does not seem to have been adopted by

the Hebrews. It is not at all clear whence the “kings of Judah” — i.e. Ahaz,

Manasseh, and Amon — derived the idea of maintaining sacred chariots

and horses to be used in their sun-worship – “at the entering in of the house

of the Lord,” - the horses, i.e., were kept near one of the entrances to the

temple, to be ready for use in sacred processions – “by the chamber of Nathan-

melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs,” - There were many

“chambers” attached to the temple, which were sometimes used as store-rooms

for different materials (I Chronicles 9:26; II Chronicles 31:11-12; Nehemiah 10:38;

13:5), sometimes as residences (Nehemiah 13:7). In Josiah’s time, “Nathan-melech

the chamberlain,” or rather “the eunuch,” occupied one of these. It was

situated μyriw;d]p"b" — “in the outskirts” or “purlieus” of the temple – “and

burned the chariots of the sun with fire.”  (compare vs. 4, 6, 15).  Josiah

burnt all the material objects that had been desecrated by the idolatries; the

persons and animals so desecrated he “removed,” or deprived of their functions.

 

12  “And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz,”

- It would seem that “the upper chamber of Ahaz” was within the temple

precincts, since the pollutions spoken of, both before and after, are pollutions

belonging to the temple. It may have been erected on the flat roof of one of the gates,

or on the top of a store-chamber. Altars upon roofs were a new form of idolatry,

apparently connected with the worship of the “host of heaven” (see Jeremiah

19:13; Zephaniah 1:5) - “which the kings of Judah” - i.e. Manasseh and Amon,

perhaps also Ahaz — “had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in

the two courts of the house of the Lord” -  (ch. 21:4-5). As Manasseh, on his

repentance, merely “cast these altars out of the city” (II Chronicles 33:15), it was

easy for Amon to replace them. They belonged to the worship of the “host of

heaven” -  “did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and

cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron (compare. v. 6).

 

13  And the high places that were before Jerusalem,” - The high

places which Solomon established in the neighborhood of Jerusalem for the

use of his wives, and in the worship at which he became himself entangled

in his old age, appear to have been situated on the ridge of the mountain

which lies over against Jerusalem to the east, a part of which is Olivet. The

southern summit, the traditional mons  offensionis, was probably the high

place of Moloch (Milcom), while the most northern summit (now called

Karem-es-Seyad) has some claim to be regarded as the high place of

Chemosh -  “which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption,”

The name “mount of corruption” seems to have been given after Solomon’s

time to the entire ridge of hills which lies over against Jerusalem to the east,

on account of the rites which he had allowed to be established on it. The

“right hand” of the mountain would, according to Jewish notions, be the more

southern part – “which Solomon the King of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth

the abomination of the Zidonians” - (see I Kings 11:7). Though Ashtoreth, or

Astarte, or Ishtar, or the Dea Syra, was worshipped generally throughout Phoenicia,

and perhaps even more widely, yet she was in a peculiar way “the abomination of

the Zidonians,” being the deity to whom the city of Sidon was especially dedicated

- “and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites” - Chemosh appears as

the special god of the Moabites on the famous Moabite Stone in eleven places. The

stone itself was dedicated to Chemosh (line 3). The Moabites are spoken of as

“the people of Chemosh” (lines 5, 6). Success in war comes from him, and defeat

is the result of his anger.  One of his designations is “Ashtar-Chemosh” (line 17), or

“Chemosh, who is also Ashtar,” Ashtar being the male principle corresponding to the

female Astarte or Ashtoreth – “and for Milcom” -  Moloch was called by the

Jews “Milcom,” or “Malcam” — “their king” i.e. the king of the Ammonite

people, since he was the sole god whom they acknowledged (I Kings 11:5;

Jeremiah 49:3 compared with Jeremiah 48:7; Amos 1:14-15; Zephaniah 1:5) –

“the abomination of the children of Ammon did the king defile.”  The manner

of the defilement is stated in the next verse.

 

14  “And he brake in pieces the images and cut down the groves” i.e. the

asherirn, or “sacred trees” — and filled their places with the bones of

men.”  Whatever spoke of death and dissolution was a special defilement to

shrines where the gods worshipped were deities of productivity and

generation. Bones of men had also the actual taint of corruption about

them. The “uncleanness” of dead bodies arose first out of man’s natural

shrinking from death, and was then further confirmed by the horrors

accompanying decay. The notion was probably coeval with death itself. It

received a sanction from the Law, which made it a legal defilement to

touch a corpse (Numbers 19:11,16), and placed under a sentence of

uncleanness all that was in the tent where a man died (Ibid. vs.14-15).

 

15 “Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place; which

Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made (I Kings

12:33; 13:2), both that altar end the high place he brake down, and burned

the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned, the grove.”

It is for the most part only comparatively small objects that are “stamped small to

powder” (vs. 6,12).

 

16  “And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchers that were there

in the mount. The Israelite sepulchers, excavated in the rocky sides of hills, are

]everywhere conspicuous. Those of Bethel may have been in the low hill on

which the town stands, or in the sides of the Wady Suweinit, a little further to

the south. His accidentally spying the sepulchers” gave Josiah the thought of

completing his desecration of Bethel by having bones brought from them and

burnt upon the altar — whereby he exactly accomplished the old prophecy,

which was not at all in his mind – “and sent, and took the  bones out of the

sepulchers, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted  it (see the

comment on v. 14), according to the word of the Lord which the

man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.” The reference is to

I Kings 13:2, and the meaning is, not that Josiah acted as he did in order to fulfill

the prophecy, but that in thus acting he unconsciously fulfilled it.

 

17  “Then he said, What title is that that I see?”  rather, What

pillar is that that I see? Josiah’s eye caught sight of a “pillar” or obelisk

(ˆwOyxi) among the tombs, or in their neighborhood, and he had the curiosity

to ask what it was – “and the men of the city told him, It is the sepulcher

of the man of God, which came from Judah (I Kings 13:1). The “pillar”

could not have been the actual “sepulcher,” but was no doubt a monument

connected with it. Many of the Phoenician excavated tombs are accompanied

by monuments above ground, which are very conspicuous -  “and proclaimed

these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel (Ibid. v. 2).

According to the present text of Kings, Josiah was prophesied of by name.

 

18  “And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones.”  Josiah

remembered the circumstances when they were recalled to him, and, in order to

show honor to the “man of God” (1 Kings 13., passim), commanded that his

tomb should be undisturbed. “So they let his bones alone, with the bones

of the prophet that came out of Samaria.”  That is,  with the bones of the

Israelite prophet, who had taken care to be buried with him. (Ibid. ch.13:31).

 

19  “And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of

Samaria\” -  The writer of Chronicles enters into more detail. Josiah,

he says, carried out his destruction of the high places, the groves, and the

images “in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto

Naphtali” (II Chronicles 34:6) — i.e. to the northern limit of the Holy

Land, which was occupied by Naphtali and Asher. By what right Josiah

exercised sovereign authority in the old kingdom of Samaria, which the

Assyrians had conquered and attached to their empire, can only be

conjectured. Some have supposed that the Assyrians had enlarged his

sovereignty, and placed Samaria under his rule; others regard him as having

transferred his allegiance to Nabopolassar, and having been made by him

viceroy over Palestine. But it is, perhaps, most probable that he merely

took advantage of the political commotions of the time to extend his

dominion so far as it seemed safe to do so. Asshur-bani-pal, the last

energetic King of Assyria, appears to have ceased to reign in Josiah’s

fourteenth year, when he was succeeded by a weak monarch, Asshur-ebi-lili.

Great troubles now broke out. The Scythians ravaged Western Asia far

and wide. Assyria was attacked by the Medea and Babylonians in

combination. Under these circumstances, Josiah found himself practically

independent, and began to entertain ambitious projects. He extended his

dominion from Jerusalem over Samaria. Assyria was too much

occupied to take any notice. Babylonia was in the thick of the struggle.

Josiah found himself able to reunite under his own headship all the

scattered portions of the old Israelite kingdom, except, perhaps, the trans-

Jordanic district. He levied taxes in Samaria as freely as in Judaea (II Chronicles

33:9). He reformed on the same model the religions of both countries. When

finally he had to fight for his throne, he marched his army into the northern portion

of Samaria, and there fought the battle which cost him his life – “which the kings

of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger,” - The earlier kings of Israel

had simply allowed the “high places” to continue, without actively increasing or

multiplying them; but Manasseh had reestablished them after their destruction by

Hezekiah (ch. 21:3), and Amon had probably done the same after Manasseh’s

tardy reformation – “Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the

acts that he done in Bethel(v. 15).

 

20  And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the

altars” -  It is not directly said that he had done this at Bethel, though it had been

prophesied that he would do so (I Kings 13:2). Possibly there were no priests at

Bethel at the time, since the “calf” set up by Jeroboam had been carried off” -

(Hosea 10:6) by the Assyrians.  The difference between the treatment of the high

place priests in Israel and in Judah (v. 9) clearly implies that the former were

attached to the worship of false gods, while the latter were priests of Jehovah who

worshipped Him with superstitious and unauthorized rites and ceremonies - “and

burned men’s bones upon them (compare v. 16), and returned to Jerusalem.”

 

21  “And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover” –

The account given of Josiah’s Passover is much more full in Chronicles than in Kings.

There it occupies  the first nineteen verses of II Chronicles 35. We learn from

Chronicles that all the rites prescribed by the Law, whether in Exodus, Leviticus,

or Deuteronomy,  were duly observed, and that the festival was attended, not only

by the Judaeans, but by many Israelites from among the ten tribes, who still remained

intermixed with the Assyrian colonists in the Samaritan country (Ibid. v.17-18) –

“unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.”   The

ordinances for the due observance of the Passover feast are contained chiefly in

Exodus 12:3-20; 13:5-10. They are repeated, but with much less fullness, in

Deuteronomy 16:1-8. The “book of the covenant” found by Hilkiah must,

therefore, certainly have contained Exodus (see below, v. 25).

 

22  “Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges

that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings

of Judah.”   Such a Passover, one so numerously attended (II Chronicles 35:18)

and so exactly kept according to every ordinance of the Law of Moses (Ibid. v.6),

had not been celebrated during all the period of the judges, from Joshua to Samuel,

nor under the kings of all Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, nor under those of

the separated kingdom of Judah, from Rehoboam to this year (the eighteenth) of

Josiah. It is an extraordinary perversity which concludes, from this comparison of

the present with former Passovers under the judges and the kings, that there had

been no such former Passovers at all! Two, at any rate, are recorded (Joshua

5:10-11; II Chronicles 30:13-26), but some think the meaning of the writer to be

simply that “since the time of the judges there had never been such a celebration

of the Passover, in such strict accordance, that is, with the prescriptions of a

sacred book as that which now took place. ”

 

23  “But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this Passover was

holden to the Lord in Jerusalem.”  (compare, on the date, ch. 22:3 and II

Chronicles  35:19). The eighteenth year of Josiah corresponded probably, in part

to B.C. 622, in part to B.C. 621.

 

24  “Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, -  Persons

of these classes had been encouraged by Manasseh, in his earlier reign (ch. 21:6),

and probably by Amon (ch.  21:21). As Josiah designed a thorough reformation,

it was necessary for him to put them down – “and the images” -  literally,

the teraphim, which are thought to have been small images kept as household

gods in many Israelite families from a very ancient date (Genesis 31:19-35). The

superstition was exceedingly persistent. We find it under the judges (Judges 18:14),

under Saul (I Samuel 19:13), here under the later kings, and it is still mentioned

after the return from the Captivity (Zechariah 10:2). The superstition was, apparently,

Babylonian (Ezekiel 21:21), and brought from Ur of the Chaldees by the family of

Abraham. Besides being regarded as household gods, the teraphim were used in

divination – “and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied -  The

“idols,” gillulim, are probably, like the teraphim, of a private nature, figures used

as amulets or talismans. Excepting in Ezekiel, the word is an uncommon one. By

the “abominations that were spied” are meant secret defilements and

superstitious practices in households, which needed to be searched out –

“in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem,” -  Not, apparently, in the cities

of Samaria, where such a rigid inquisition would perhaps have provoked a

stubborn resistance – “did Josiah put away, that he might perform the

words of the Law;” -  rather, that he might establish the words of the Law.

Laws against such practices as Josiah now put down will be found in Exodus

22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12 – “which were written

in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.”  (ch. 22:8).

 

25  And like unto him was there no king before him” -  (see ch. 18:5 - It has

been concluded from this statement that, when the merits of the kings were

summed up after the fall of the monarchy, Hezekiah was, by a deliberate judgment,

put at the very top but, as exactly the same words are used of Josiah here, the true

conclusion would seem to be rather that Hezekiah and Josiah were selected from the

rest, and placed upon a par, above all the others. At first sight there may seem to be

contradiction between the two passages, since absolute preeminence over all the

other kings is ascribed to Hezekiah in one of them, to Josiah in the other; but the

context shows that the pre-eminence is not the same in the two cases. To Hezekiah

is ascribed pre-eminence in trust; to Josiah, pre-eminence in an exact observance

of the Law: one excels in faith, the other in works; Josiah’s whole life is one of activity,

Hezekiah’s great merit lies in his being content, in the crisis of his fate, to “stand still,

and see the salvation of God.”   In the New Testament Paul dwells on faith and

James on  works – CY – 2011) - On the whole, his judgment accords very closely

with that  of the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus. 49:4 - Apochrapha) - All, except David

and Ezekias (Hezekiah)  and Josias, were defective: for they forsook the Law of the

Most High.” – “that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul,

and with all his might,” -  This triple enumeration is intended to include the whole

moral and mental nature of man, all the energies of his understanding, his will, and

his physical vitality (see the comment on Deuteronomy 6:5 — a passage which is

in the writer’s mind).   [Also – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature,

and in favor with God and man” that is mentally, physically, socially and

spiritually - Luke 2:52) -  “according to all the Law of Moses;” - This is an

indication that, in the writer’s view, the whole Law was contained in the book

found by Hilkiah – “neither after him arose there any like him.” This is but

moderate praise, since the four kings who reigned after him — Jehoahaz,

Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah — were, one and all, wicked princes.

(I wonder how many generations will be after us??  Jesus said when things

got this bad again that “this generation shall not pass until all these things

be fulfilled” – (Luke 21:32)

 

26  “Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great

wrath,” -  It was TOO LATE, not for God to forgive upon repentance, but for the

nation to repent sincerely and heartily. Sin had become engrained in the

 national character. Vain were the warnings of Jeremiah, vain were his

exhortations to repentance (Jeremiah 3:12-14, 22; 4:1-8; 7:3-7), vain his promises

that, if they would turn to God, they would be forgiven and spared. Thirty years of

irreligion and idolatry under Manasseh had sapped the national vigor, and made true

repentance an impossibility. (Close to fifty years in the United States of no influence

of church in state matters – CY – 2011)  How weak and half-hearted must have

been the return to God towards the close of Manasseh’s reign, that it should have

had no strength to resist Amon, a youth of twenty-two, but should have

disappeared wholly on his accession! And how far from sincere must have

been the present conformity to the wishes of Josiah, the professed renewal

of the covenant (v. 3), and revival of disused ceremonies (vs. 21-23)!

Jeremiah searched in vain through the streets of Jerusalem to find a man

that executed judgment, or sought the truth (Jeremiah 5:1). The people

had “a revolting and rebellious heart; they were revolted and gone”

(Ibid. v. 23). Not only idolatry, but profligacy (loc. cit. v.1) and injustice

and oppression everywhere prevailed ( Ibid. vs. 25-28). “From the least to the

 greatest of them, every one was given to covetousness,” even the prophets

and the priests “dealt falsely” (Ibid. 6:13), The state of things was one which

necessarily brought down the Divine judgment, and all that Josiah’s efforts could

do was a little to delay it – “wherewith His anger was kindled against

Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him

withal.”  Manasseh’s provocations lived in their consequences. God’s judgment

upon Israel was not mere vengeance for the sins that Manasseh had committed, or

even for the multitudinous iniquities into which he had led the nation (ch. 21:9).

It was punishment rendered necessary by the actual condition of the nation — the

condition whereto it had been reduced by Manasseh’s evil doings.

 

28  “And the Lord said”  — God said in His secret counsels, came to the

determination, and pronounced the sentence in his thoughts — “I will remove

Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel” -  (compare ch.17:18,

“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His

sight”). The sins of Judah were now as great as those of Israel had been; therefore

her punishment must be the same, as God is no respecter of persons – “and I will

cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen,” -  (I Kings 8:44, 48;

11:13,32,36).  God “chose” Jerusalem when He put it into the heart of David to

bring up the ark thither (II Samuel 6:1-17) – “and the house of which I said, My

Name shall be there.”  (Deuteronomy 12:11; I Kings 8:29).  A visible

confirmation was given to all that David and Solomon had done in establishing the

temple at Jerusalem as the head-quarters of the national religion, when “fire came

down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices

made there, and “the glory of the Lord filled the house” (II Chronicles 7:1;

II Chronicles 5:13-14).

 

 

The events of Josiah’s reign from his eighteenth to his thirty-first year are left a

blank,  both here and in Chronicles. Politically, the time was a stirring one. The

great invasion of Western Asia by the Scythic hordes (Herod., 1:103-106),

which is alluded to by Jeremiah 6:1-5, also the attack of Psamatik I. upon

Philistia (Herod., 2:105), the fall of the Assyrian empire (circa B.C. 617), and the

destruction of Nineveh:  the establishment of the independence of Babylon, and

her rise to greatness; together with the transfer of power in the central part of

Western Asia, from the Assyrians to the Medes. Amid the dangers which

beset him, Josiah appears to have conducted himself prudently, gradually

extending his power over Samaria and Galilee, without coming into hostile

collision with any of the neighboring nations, until about the year B.C. 609

or 608, when his land was invaded by Pharaoh-Nechoh, the Neku of the

Egyptian monuments. Josiah felt himself called upon to resist this invasion,

and, in doing so, met his death (vs. 29-30).

 

28  “Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did” -  Josiah was

reckoned a good rather than a great king. No mention is made of his “might.”

II Chronicles 35:26  commemorates his “kindnesses” or “his good deeds.” The

son of Sirach speaks of his “upright” behavior (Eccleiasticus. 49:2). Josephus

(‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:4. § 1) praises his “justice” and his “piety,” and says (ibid., 10:4.

§ 5) his later years were passed “in peace and opulence” – “are they not written

in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?”  (II  Chronicles 35:27).

 

29  “In his days Pharaoh-Nechoh King of Egypt went up against the King

of Assyria.” -  Neku, the “Pharaoh-Nechoh” of this passage, and the Necos of

Herodotus (2. 158, 159), was the son of Psamatik I., and succeeded his father

on the throne of Egypt, probably in B.C. 610. He was one of the most enterprising

of the later Egyptian kings, and appears to have made this expedition in his second

or third year. The unsettled condition of Western Asia after the Scythic invasion,

and the fall of the Assyrian empire, seemed to give an opportunity for Egypt to

reclaim her old dominion over Syria and Mesopotamia. The “King of Assyria,”

against whom Pharaoh-Nechoh “went up,” was probably Nabopolassar, the

father of Nebuchadnezzar. His proper title was “King of Babylon,” which

is what Nebuchadnezzar always calls him (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 5. p.

113, line 22; vol. 7. p. 71, line 6; p. 75, line 9); but the Jews not unnaturally

regarded him as the inheritor of the Assyrian empire, as indeed they

regarded the Persian monarchs also (Ezra 6:22), and therefore gave

him the title of “King of Assyria.” – “to the river Euphrates:” - The author of

Chronicles says that “Necho King of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish

(or “at Carehemish”) “by Euphrates,” which shows that his design was to

penetrate into Northern Syria, where Carchemish (now Jerabus) was situated,

with a view probably of crossing the Euphrates by the ford at Bir, or by that at

Balis, into Mesopotamia“and King Josiah went against him:” -  It is possible

that Josiah had accepted the position of Babylonian tributary after the fall of the

Assyrian kingdom, and thought himself bound to resist an attack upon his suzerain.

Or he may simply have resented the violation of his territory, without his permission,

by a foreign army. Certainly, if he had allowed the free passage of the Egyptian

troops, backwards and forwards, through his country, he would in a short time

have lost even the shadow of independence. Nechoh’s assurance that his

expedition was not against him (Josiah), but against the Assyrians (II Chronicles

35:21), was not a thing to be relied upon, any more than his declaration that God

had commanded his expedition – “and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had

seen him.”  Megiddo is, beyond all doubt, the present El-Ledjun on the northern

outskirt of the range of hills which separates the Plain of Esdraelon from that of

Sharon. It is certainly surprising to find that Josiah had taken up a position so far to

the north, leaving Jerusalem, and, indeed, all Judaea, unprotected. But he may have

thought the advantages of the position such as to compensate for any risk

to the Judaean cities, in which he would, of course, have left garrisons. Nechoh

may have conveyed his troops to the Syrian coast by sea, and have landed in the

Bay of Acre, close to the Plain of Esdraelon. In this case Josiah would have no

choice, but, if he opposed the Egyptian monarch at all, must have met him where

he did, in the Esdraelon plain, as he entered it from the Plain of Acre.

 

30  “And his servants carried him in a chariot” -  his “second chariot,” according

to II Chronicles 35:24, which was probably one kept in reserve in case flight should

be necessary, of lighter construction, and drawn by fleeter horses, than his war-

chariot – “dead from Megiddo,” -  Wounded to death, that is. From v. 23

of the same passage, we gather that his wound, which was from an arrow, was not

immediately  fatal, but that he died of it on his way to Jerusalem, or directly after

his arrival – “and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own

sepulcher.”  The writer of Chronicles says, “in the sepulcher of his fathers,”

apparently meaning the burial-place in which were interred the bodies of

Manasseh and Amon. We also learn that a great lamentation was made for Josiah,

the only King of Judah slain in battle, the last good king of David’s line, the

pious prince whose piety had not sufficed to avert the anger of Jehovah.

Jeremiah “lamented for him” (Ibid. v. 25)  perhaps in a set composition

(Josephus, ‘ Ant. Jud.,’ 10:5. § 1); though that composition is certainly not

either the Book of Lamentations or the fourth chapter of that book. He was

further mourned by “all the singing men and the singing women” who “spake

of him in their lamentations, and “made them an ordinance in Israel,” and

 entered these “lamentations,” apparently in a book, which was called ‘The Book

of Lamentations,’ or ‘of Dirges.’ – “And the people of the land took Jehoahaz

the son of Josiah,” -  Jehoahaz was otherwise named “Shallum” (I Chronicles 3:15;

Jeremiah 22:11). On what grounds the people preferred him to his elder brother,

Eliakim, we do not know. Perhaps Eliakim had accompanied his father to Megiddo,

and been made prisoner by Nechoh in the battle – “and anointed him and made

him king in his father’s stead.”

 

 

 

                        The Short Reign of Jehoahaz (vs 31-33)

 

Pharaoh-Nechoh, having defeated Josiah, left Jerusalem and Judaea behind him,

while he pressed forward on his original enterprise (v. 29) into Northern Syria

and the district about Carehemish, or the tract north-east of Aleppo. It was

three months before he had completed his conquests in these quarters, and,

having arranged matters to his satisfaction, set out on his return to Egypt.

During these three months Jehoahaz bore rule at Jerusalem (v. 31), and

“did evil in the sight of the Lord” (v. 32). Ezekiel  19:3) compares him to

“a young lion,” which “learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.”

It may be suspected that he reestablished the idolatries which Josiah had

put down; but this is uncertain. Pharaoh-Nechoh, on his return from

Carehemish, learning what the Jews had done, sent envoys to Jerusalem,

and summoned Jehoahaz to his presence at Riblah, in the territory of

Hamath (ver. 33; comp. Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:5. § 2). Jehoahaz

obeyed the summons; and Nechoh, having obtained possession of his

person, “put him in bands,” and carried him off to Egypt, where he died

(v. 34; compare Jeremiah 22:10-12; Josephus, l.s.c.)

 

31  “Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign;” - 

He was, therefore, younger than his brother Eliakim, who, three months later, was

“twenty-five years old” (v. 36) – “and he reigned three months in Jerusalem

 — three months and ten days, according to Josephus — “and his mother’s name

was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.” The father of Hamutal was

not, therefore, Jeremiah the prophet, who was a native of Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1).

 

32  “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” -  Josephus says

that he was “irreligious and of impure habits.” (l.s.c.)  Ezekiel (19:3) seems to call

him a persecutor – “according to all that his fathers had done.”  As idolatry

was the chief sin of his “fathers,” Jehoahaz must have been an idolater.

 

33  “And Pharaoh-Nechoh put him in bands at Riblah” - “Riblah,” which

retains its name, was situated in the Coele-Syrian plain, on the right bank of the

Orontes, in lat. 34° 23’ N. nearly. It commanded a ford over the river, and is in

the midst of a rich, corn-producing country. Hamath, to which it was regarded as

belonging, is situated more than fifty miles further down the river. Riblah was well

placed as a center for communication with the neighboring countries. As Dr. Robinson

says (‘Researches,’ vol. 3. p. 545), “From this point the roads were open by Aleppo

and the Euphrates to Nineveh, or by Palmyra (Tadmor) to Babylon, by the end of

Lebanon and the coast to Palestine (Philistia) and Egypt, or through the, Buka’a and

the Jordan valley to the center of the Holy Land.” Nebuchadnezzar followed the

example of Nechoh in making Ribiah his headquarters during his sieges of

Tyro and Jerusalem (ch. 25:21; Jeremiah 39:5; 52:9, 10, 26-27) – “in the land of

Hamath,” - The land of Hamath was the upper part of the Coele-Syrian valley

from about lat. 34° to lat. 35° 30’ N – “that he might not reign in Jerusalem;”

 Nechoh might naturally distrust the people’s choice. He might also regard the

setting up of any king at Jerusalem without his sanction as an act of contumacy on

the part of a nation which had been practically conquered by the complete defeat

of Josiah at Megiddo. Whether his conduct in seizing Jehoahaz after inviting

him to a conference was justifiable or not may be questioned; but, in point

of fact, he did but use the right of the conqueror somewhat harshly – ‘and

put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent

of gold. (So Josephus, l.s.c.) The tribute was a very moderate one. A century

earlier Sennacherib had enacted a tribute of three hundred talents of silver, and

 thirty of gold (ch. 18:14). We may conjecture that Nechoh wished to conciliate

the Jews, regarding them as capable of rendering him good service in the struggle,

on which he had entered, with Babylon.

 

 

                 Accession and Early Years of Jehoiakim (vs. 34-37)

 

Pharaoh-Nechoh, when he deposed Jehoahaz, at once supplied his place by

another king. He had no intention of altering the governmental system of Palestine,

or of ruling his conquests in any other way than through dependent monarchs. His

choice fell on Josiah’s eldest surviving son (I Chronicles 3:15), Eliakim, who was

the natural successor of his father. Eliakim, on ascending the throne, changed his

name, as Jehoahaz appears to have done (v. 31), and reigned as Jehoiakim. For

three years (B.C. 608-605) he continued a submissive vassal of the Egyptian

monarch, and remitted him his tribute regularly. But his rule was in all

respects an evil one. He “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”

(v. 37). He leaned towards idolatry (II Chronicles 36:8); he was oppressive and

irreligious (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.’ 10:5. § 2); he “shed innocent blood”

(Jeremiah 22:17); he was luxurious (Ibid. vs.14-15), covetous (Ibid. v.17), and

tyrannical (Ezekiel 19:6).

 

34  “And Pharaoh-Nechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room

of Josiah his father and turned his name to Jehoiakim,” -  We may understand

that Nechoh required him to take a new name, as a mark of subjection but left the

choice of the name to himself. He made the change as slight as possible, merely

substituting “Jehovah” for “El” as the initial element. The sense of the name

remained the same, “God will set up” -  “and took Jehoahaz away” -  i.e. carried

him captive to Egypt (see Jeremiah 22:10-11; Ezekiel 19:4), a very common practice

of Egyptian conquerors, and one often accompanied by extreme severities — “and

he cams to Egypt, and died there (see Jeremiah 22:12, where this is prophesied).

 

35  “And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh;” -  Jehoiakim,

i.e., paid the tribute, which Nechoh had fixed (v. 33), regularly. He did not,

however, pay it out of the state treasury, which was exhausted. (Sound

familiar in 2011???- CY) – “but he taxed the land to give the money

according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and

the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation,

to give it unto Pharaoh-Nechoh.” - rather, he had the land valued (compare

Leviticus 27:8), and “exacted the silver and the gold of the people of

the land, of every one according to his valuation.”

 

36  “Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign;”

two years older than his brother Jehoahaz  - “and he reigned eleven years in

Jerusalem.  - probably from B.C. 608 to B.C. 597 — “And his mother’s

name was Zebudah” — he was, therefore, only half-brother to Jehoahaz and

Zedekiah, whose mother was “Hamutal” (v. 31 and II Kings 24:18) — “the

daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.” -  “Rumah” is probably the same city as

the “Arumah” of Judges 9:41, which was in the vicinity of Shechem.

 

37  “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all

that his fathers had done.”  Jeremiah says of Jehoiakim, “Woe unto him that

buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth

his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; that

 saith, I will build me a large house and wide chambers, and cutteth him out

windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou

reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink,

and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the

cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to

know me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for

 thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression,

 and for violence, to do it” (Jeremiah 22:13-17). Josephus calls him “an unjust

man and an evildoer, neither pious in his relations towards God nor equitable in

his dealings with his fellow men” (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 10:5. § 2). His execution of

Urijah, the son of Shemalah, for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem

(Jeremiah 26:20-23), was an act at once of cruelty and impiety. It is

suspected that, besides reintroducing into Judah all the foreign rites extirpated

by his father, he added Egyptian rites to their number. The tyranny which he

practiced was likewise of an Egyptian cast, including, as it did, the exaction of

forced labor from his subjects (Jeremiah 22:13), an old custom of the Pharaohs,

and it is quite possible that his “passion for building splendid and costly houses”

was awakened by his knowledge of the magnificence which characterized the

monarchs of the Saitic dynasty, who revived in Egypt the architectural glories

of the Ramessides (see Herodius, 2:153, 175, 176).

 

 

 

                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

 

     Josiah’s Leadership in Standing to the Covenant (vs. 1-3)

 

With a heart stirred up to intense zeal for God by the words which he had

heard read out of the newly found book — the precious “book of the

Law,” thrust into temporary oblivion by his wicked grandfather and father

— Josiah felt that a great act of national repentance and national profession

of faith was called for; and summoning “the men of Judah” by their

representatives, and all the whole mass of the people of Jerusalem, he

proceeded to call upon them to “stand to the covenant.” The idea was well

conceived and well carried out. After a national apostasyan open,

evident, and flagrant turning away from God, and adoption of idolatrous

worships most abominable in his sight — it was only fitting, only decent,

that there should be a sort of public reparation of the wrong done a

turning to God as open, evident, and manifest as the turning away had

been. Accordingly, this was what Josiah determined on; and the public act

of reparation resolved itself into three parts.

 

  • A PUBLIC RECITATION OF THE COVENANT. As the Law had

            been put out of sight, neglected, forgotten, during the space of two reigns,

            or the greater part of them, so now it was solemnly and publicly recited,

            proclaimed, declared to be the basis of the national life, the law of the

            community. The utmost possible honor was done to it by the king reading

            it himself in the ears of the people — reading it from first to last, “all the

            words of it,” while the priests and the prophets and “all the people” stood

            attent, listening to the words so long unheard, so long forgotten, so long

            treated with contempt.

 

  • A DECLARATION OF ASSENT AND CONSENT TO THE

            WORDS OF THE COVENANT BY THE KING. The king was the

            federal head of the nation, and, in pledging himself to the keeping of the

            covenant, performed not a mere personal, but a representative and

            federal act. He pledged the nation as a whole to the acceptance and

            performance of the covenant, undertaking for them that they should

            “walk after the Lord, and keep His commandments and His

            testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their

            soul.”

 

  • A DECLARATION OF ASSENT AND CONSENT TO THE

      WORDS OF THE COVENANT BY THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES

            INDIVIDUALLY. Nations cannot be saved in the lump. It is necessary

            that each individual come into personal relations with his Maker and

            Redeemer and Savior. So “all the people,” each of them severally, with

            one accord and one acclaim, “stood to the covenant” — pledged themselves

            to keep all the words of it henceforth with all their heart and with all their

            soul. A great wave of religious feeling seems to have passed over the

            people, and with a sincerity that was for the moment quite real and

            unfeigned, they declared their willing acceptance of the whole covenant, of

            its terrible threats as well as of its gracious promises, of its stern commands

            no less than of its comforting assurances. They bound themselves

            individually to observe all the words that were written in the book; so

            renewing their federal relation with God, and again becoming — what they

            had well-nigh ceased to be His people. But something more was

            wanting. It is in no case enough to make a resolution unless we keep to it.

            Performance must follow upon promise. The people were bound, not

            merely to “stand to the covenant,” in the way of profession, just once in

            their lives, but to stand to it, in the way of action, thenceforward

            perpetually. It was here that they failed; and it is here that men most

            commonly fail. To resolve is easy; to stick to our resolutions, difficult. The

            writings of Jeremiah prove to us that, within a very few years of their

            acceptance of the covenant in the eighteenth year of Josiah, the people of

            Judah cast it behind them, became a backsliding people, returned to

             their idolatries and abominations, forsook God, and sware by them

            that were no gods, committed adultery, assembled themselves by

             troops in the harlots’ houses — were “as fed horses in the morning,

            every one neighing after his neighbor’s wife” (Jeremiah 5:7-8).

            A righteous God could not but “visit for these things” — could not but

            “be avenged upon such a nation as this” (Ibid. v.9).

 

 

            The Inability of the Best Intentions and the Strongest Will

                                      to Convert a Nation

                        that is Corrupt to the Core (vs. 4-37)

 

Josiah’s reformation was the most energetic and the most thorough-going that was

ever carried out by any Jewish king. It far transcended, not only the efforts made by

Jehoiada in the time of Joash (ch. 11:17-21; 12:1-16), and the feeble attempts of

Manasseh on his return from Babylon (II Chronicles 33:15-19), but even the earnest

endeavors of Hezekiah at the beginning of his reign (ch. 18:3-6). It extended not

only to the kingdom of Judah, but also to the former kingdom of Israel; not only to

the public, but also to the private, life of the people. The evil was everywhere

to be torn out, roots and all. Nothing which could perpetuate the memory

of heathen or of illegitimate Jehovah-worship remained standing. All the

places of worship, all the images, all the utensils, were not only destroyed,

but also defiled; even the ashes were thrown into the river at an unclean

place, that they might be borne away forever. The idol-priests themselves

were slain, and the bones of those who were already dead were taken out

of the graves and burnt. The priests of Jehovah, who had performed their

functions upon the heights, were deposed from their office and dignity, and

were not allowed to sacrifice any more at the altar of Jehovah. It

may be added to this account that private superstitions, the use of teraphim

and gillulim, together with the practice of witchcraft and magic arts, were

put a stop to, and the rightful ordinances of the Mosaic religion restored

and reestablished with the utmost strictness and exactitude (vs. 24-25).

Josiah did all that a godly king could do to check the downward course of

his nation and recall it to piety and virtue. And for his efforts the sacred

writers give him the highest praise (ch. 22:2; 23:25; II Chronicles 34:2;

35:26). The real reason for the failure of Josiah’s reformation was

“the irreformability of the people.” When they professed to turn to God,

they did not do it “with their whole heart, but feignediy” (Jeremiah 3:10) —

at any rate, with but half their heart, moved by a gust of sentiment, not by any

deep strong tide of religious feeling. And so they soon relapsed into their

old ways.  The severe religion, the stern morality, which Josiah sought to impose,

had no attraction for them. They shrank from Mosaism as cold, hard, austere.

They preferred the religions of the nations, with their lax morality, their

gay rites, their consecration of voluptuousness. So they “slid back by a

perpetual backsliding” (Jeremiah 8:5); they reintroduced all the old

abominations; they sinned in secret when they were unable to sin in public;

they “proceeded from evil to evil” (Jeremiah 9:3). It has been argued

that if Josiah’s life had not been cut short within thirteen years of his undertaking

the great national reform, if he had been permitted to carry on for some years

longer in the same spirit the work which he had initiated, there might have been a

complete removal of all the ancient and deep-rooted evils, and a lasting

impression might have been made upon the character of the whole people.

But this seems too favorable a forecast. The nation was rotten to the core;

the “whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint.... from the sole of the

foot even unto the head there was no soundness in it; but wounds, and

bruises, and putrefying sores” (Isaiah 1: 6).  When such is the case, no human

efforts can avail anything — not the strongest will, not the wisest measures, not the

purest and best intentions; the time for repentance and return to God is gone by,

and nothing remains but “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery

 indignation, which shall destroy God’s adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27).

 

 

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