II Chronicles 35
This chapter of twenty-seven Verses, occupied with the account of Josiah’s
great Passover (vs. 1-19), and his death in the battle of
Necho King of
paralleled by the ten verses of II Kings 23:21-30.
Josiah kept a passover unto
the LORD in
they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month."
They killed the Passover on the fourteenth… of the first month; i.e. on the
day appointed originally (Exodus 12:6). It will be remembered that, under
special circumstances, the same day of the second month was authorized by
“Hezekiah and his princes” (ch. 30:2).
2 "And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the
service of the house of the LORD," Compare ch. 7:6; 31:2; I Chronicles 23:32;
and our notes in those places.
3 "And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy
unto the LORD, Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the
son of David king of
your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God,
and His people
That taught (see ch. 17:7, 9: Deuteronomy 33:8-10). Which were holy (so 23:6).
Put the holy ark…not to you a burden on the shoulder. There is a double
difficulty, though not of a very formidable character, in this portion of the verse.
We can only conjecture why the ark was not in its proper place, probably
having been temporarily removed during Josiah’s own restorations, or possibly
having never been yet replaced from the date of some earlier removal of an
iniquitous character and on the part of an iniquitous king. Secondly, as to
the burden, some would explain the language as a reminiscence of the
general and ever-applicable principle found in I Chronicles 23:26. This,
at any rate, would seem rather more satisfactory than the suggestion
conveyed by the italic type of our Authorized Version. Perhaps the
explanation may rather be that the ark had latterly again and again been
shifted, and Josiah wishes to protest that neither for one reason nor another
shall it be again moved.
4 "And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your
courses, according to the writing of David king of
according to the writing of Solomon his son." According to the writing of
David… and… of Solomon (compare our ch. 8:14 and I Chronicles 9:10-34,
and the other marginal references, I Chronicles chapters 23-26.). It is more than
possible that the fullest tabulation of arrangements of this kind has not come
down to us.
5 "And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the
families of the fathers of your brethren the people, and after the
division of the families of the Levites." In brief, this verse purports to say that,
for this special occasion of the Passover, the Levites shall take special care that,
as stationed in the holy precincts, there shall be a family of themselves ready
to minister to a family… of the people, each to each.
6 "So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your
brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by
the hand of Moses." Prepare your brethren; i.e. as betokened by the wording
of the foregoing verse, their brethren, the people. The Levites were to purify
themselves, perform their other duties of killing the victims, and withal to
use their opportunities of instructing the people to the better order and
performance of the whole solemn service.
7 "And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for
the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of
thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the
king’s substance." Lambs… kids… bullocks. The variety of sacrificial
offerings is specifically noticed in our v. 13. While kids (“Ye shall take it out
from the sheep or from the goats,” Exodus 12:5) as well as lambs answered
for the Paschal feast, the bullocks served for “burnt” and “peace offerings”
The Preferable Service (vs. 3-7)
There is considerable uncertainty as to the meaning of the words (v. 3),
“put the holy ark in the house,” etc. (see Exposition). But whatever
interpretation we give them, it is clear that Josiah intended the Levites to
understand that he required them to render a different and a higher service
than that of carrying the ark as a burden on their shoulders; they were to
“serve now the Lord their God, and
by “standing in the holy place,” by “killing the Passover,” and thus enable
“their brethren to do according to the Word of the Lord.” In other words,
instead of the work of sacred porterage to which they had been
accustomed, they were to render important services in the sanctuary; were
to be instrumental in the keeping of a sacred feast by all their brethren;
were to render valuable assistance in aiding them to carry out the
commandments of the Lord. They were to give up the lower for the higher
service, the mechanical one for that which was more spiritual; one that was
no longer needed for that which was urgent; the comparatively unprofitable
for that which was likely to be fruitful of devotion and piety. We thus judge:
ACCEPTABLE. Josiah could not have meant that the carrying of the ark
was not “service.” Although the words, as they stand in the third verse,
certainly bear that construction, we conclude that he could not have
intended them to have that significance. No devout Jew would have
questioned the statement that the work of carrying the ark of the covenant
under Divine commandment was an act of sacred service. Indeed, it
matters not how humble or even slight and trivial be the work we do in the
cause of God, so long as it is rendered:
Ø cheerfully, and not of constraint or grudgingly
Ø faithfully, diligently, taking our part and carrying it out with loyalty
Ø harmoniously, in concert with our fellow-laborers;
Ø religiously, devoutly, doing what we do as unto Christ, and not only
as unto man;
it is then good and sacred and acceptable unto God our Saviour.
“All works are good, and each is best
As most it pleases thee;
Each worker pleases when the rest
He serves in charity;
And neither work nor man unblest
Wilt thou permit to be.”
But there is another side to this truth. There are works which are to be
preferred to others, if they can be rightly undertaken, because they are
intrinsically better. Hence we urge:
THE CHOICE IS OFFERED US.
Ø The spiritual to the mechanical; e.g. leading in prayer or urging to
religious decision or to deeper and fuller devotedness, (to be preferred) to
the work of “the doorkeeper in the house of the Lord” (Psalm 84:10),
good as that is in its time and way.
Ø The practical to the speculative; e.g. doing some work of rescue or
reformation rather than indulging in speculations as to the employments of
the heavenly country, or trying to read the riddle of the Apocalypse.
Ø The sympathetic to the argumentative. It may be well to demolish the
arguments of the assailant of the faith; it is better to “visit the widow and
the fatherless in their affliction’ (James 1:27); to carry consolation and
hope to those who are ready to faint or to despair. The logical man does
well to argue, but the work of “the man who is a hiding-place from the
wind and a covert from the tempest” (Isaiah 4:6) is of a nobler, a
Ø The costly to the costless. No sum is too small for the treasury of the
Lord, no word too simple for the sanctuary; yet is it a better thing to bring
to Jesus Christ that which costs us something (II Samuel 24:24) — the
work which commands and requires our strength, the word on which we
have spent patient and prayerful thought, the feeling which is a real
expenditure of ourselves.
8 "And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and
to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of
God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and
six hundred small cattle and three hundred oxen. The princes; i.e. the
three immediately mentioned by name. Jehiel (see Ezra 8:2).
9 "Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and
Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto
the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five
hundred oxen." Conaninh … Shemaiah… Jozabad (see ch. 31:12,15).
10"So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their place,
and the Levites in their courses, according to the king’s commandment."
According to the king’s commandment (see ch. 30:16, where the sanction is
referred further back, “according to the Law of Moses, the man of God”).
11 "And they killed the passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood
from their hands, and the Levites flayed them." Compare ch. 29:34; 30:16;
Leviticus chapters 1., 3., 4.,
12 "And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give
according to the divisions of the families of the people, to offer
unto the LORD, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so did
they with the oxen.' Removed; i.e. cut off; the verse purporting that those
who officiated cut off those portions of the animals slain which were of the
nature of burnt offering, that they might be taken by the offering
worshippers to the priests at the altars, there to be entirely consumed. Of
the people; probably better, literally, to the children of the people, i.e. “to
the people” (Leviticus 3:3-16).
13 "And they roasted the passover with fire according to the ordinance:
but the other holy offerings sod they in pots, and in caldrons, and
in pans, and divided them speedily among all the people.
14 And afterward they made ready for themselves, and for the priests:
because the priests the sons of Aaron were busied in offering of
burnt offerings and the fat until night; therefore the Levites
prepared for themselves, and for the priests the sons of Aaron."
Roasted. (For the emphatic and repeated command to roast,
see Exodus 12:8-9; Deuteronomy 16:7.) Sod. The sodden or
boiled offerings, peace offerings, were ordinarily eaten on the days of
unleavened bread, and then particularly on the first and seventh (Leviticus
23:4-8, etc.). Divided them speedily among all the people. The marginal
rendering of the original, and the Revised Version rendering, carried them
quickly, may be noted; nevertheless attention is invited, probably not so
much to the speed or quickness in question, but to the fact that “all the
people” were carefully attended to.
15 "And the singers the sons of Asaph were in their place, according to
the commandment of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun
the king’s seer; and the porters waited at every gate; they might not
depart from their service; for their brethren the Levites prepared
for them." To the marginal references of I Chronicles chapters 9, 25, 26;
add ibid. ch. 6:33-47.
16 "So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day, to keep
the passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the
LORD, according to the commandment of king Josiah.
17 And the
that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days."
The same day; literally, that day, as next verse, “at that time.”
No stress belongs to the day as the same day evidently.
The Service of the Lord (vs. 6-16)
From this account of Josiah’s great Passover we may learn:
The religious life of Israel included some special occasions, of which this
was one. Provision was made in the Law for one event of surpassing
solemnity in every year (Leviticus 16.). And the very checkered course the
nation ran provided a few extraordinary scenes which were great and
sacred opportunities. Thus is it with individual lives. During a life of
ordinary length and interest there will occur some few events which are
signal, striking, critical. Much may depend on them; much use should be
made of them. But, after all, it is not by them that our life will be sustained,
and it is not upon them that any wise man will rely. It is:
Ø the regular worship;
Ø the daily devotion;
Ø the habitual recognition of God and appeal to Him
that determines our spiritual position, that makes us to “live
before” Him and in Him.
contributed to this one service! The king inspired and directed it (v. 1-2);
the Levites “killed the Passover” (vs. 6-11); the priests “sprinkled the
blood” (v. 11). The heads of the orders, from the king downwards,
contributed generously of their flocks to supply the people’s need (vs. 7-9).
The singers sang (v. 15); the porters “waited at every gate” (v. 15).
So “all the service of the Lord" was rendered, every one taking his place
and doing his best thereat (v. 16). The Church of Christ is one Body with
many members, and all the members have not the same office; very various
indeed are the offices which are rendered by the disciples of the one Lord.
And as, year by year, Christian life, as well as civilized life, becomes more
complex and intricate, it becomes more decisively and imperatively our
duty to recognize the fact that, while our own particular function has its
importance, it is only one among many others, and that every one of us is
beholden to his fellows for valuable services which it is not in his own
power to render. And it is well also to mark that, in a state so complicated,
with so many posts to be filled, there is the less excuse for any idle
PROVISION FOR OURSELVES. “Afterward they made ready for
themselves” (v. 14). In the kingdom of Christ we are not to stand upon
our official rights; we are to claim the supreme honor of serving others,
after the manner of OUR DIVINE LEADER! He was “among us as one
that serveth” (Luke 22:27). He was here “not to be ministered unto, but
to minister” (Matthew 20:28), and we never stand nearer to Him than when
we abnegate any right we might officially claim, and prefer to wait upon
others’ wants; to minister to their necessities; to make them glad, or to
do them good. Of ourselves we may think and for ourselves we may care,
but afterward, not first.
REVIVAL OF THE FORGOTTEN. It does not follow that old usages,
though they once had the sanction of Christian custom, should be revived.
Possibly they are better left alone. “The old order changeth,” etc. On the
other hand, the time may come for their revival, if not in the same form, in
a different one. That usage, in some form, deserves to be restored which
promotes devotion, humility, charity.
there was no passover like
to that kept in
of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the
a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all
Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of
Hezekiah’s time was great (ch. 30:26), but this was greater.
For it was kept on the proper day in the first month, and was not a mere
supplementary Passover; it was observed with due regularity, and not by
worshippers some of whom were unclean; and if we allow thirteen persons
for each lamb or kid, there were upwards of half a million communicants;
while, so far as we know, there were only seventeen thousand sheep
presented by Hezekiah and his princes (ibid. v. 24), which
would not supply more than half the number of partakers.
19 "In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah was this passover kept."
The date is stamped as ever-memorable, ever-honorable landmark in Josiah’s
The Great Passover of Josiah (vs. 1-19)
suppose (De Wette, Thenius, and others) that never before had a Passover
been observed in
I Esdras. 1:20-21) or of the judges (II Kings 23:22), is not only to
extract an unwarrantable inference from the sacred text, but is contradicted
by the fact that Hezekiah, a former King of Judah, celebrated a Passover in
Passover (ch. 30:1-2) prescribed by the Law of Moses (vs. 16, 18).
That this Passover, however, should have adhered more closely to
the prescriptions of the lawgiver than any former, demands no additional
explanation beyond the fact that it was celebrated in Josiah’s eighteenth
year (v. 19), and after the discovery of the book of the Law (ch. 34:14-15).
The stricter adherence to Mosaic regulation appeared in three things.
Ø The exactness of the date. The solemnity began “on the fourteenth day
of the first month” (v. 1), as the book of the Law commanded (Exodus 12.).
Hezekiah’s festival commenced “in the second month” because of the
difficulty of getting ready for the stipulated time (ch. 30:2-3).
The Passover proper also ended on one day, i.e. all were able to eat the
sacrificial lamb at the appointed time (v. 16), without any requiring to
defer their participation thereof for any reason whatever (Numbers 9:6-12).
Ø The unity
of the place.
The feast was held in
celebrants. The same was true of Hezekiah’s Passover (ch. 30:1), though
it is doubtful if as much could be said of earlier observances from the
days of the judges or of Samuel.
Ø The completeness of the ritual. Everything was done “in accordance
with the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses” (v. 6); i.e. the
instructions as to the duties of the priests, Levites, and people; as to the
killing, burning, eating of the victims; and as to the presentation of
mazzoth (A holiday beginning on the 14th of Nisan and traditionally
continuing for eight days, commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews
OBSERVANCE. Not greater as to amount of labor than were those made
in connection with Hezekiah’s festival; but still great.
Ø Concerning the priests. These were set in their charges and encouraged
to the service of the house of the Lord (v. 2). Following the example of
Jehoiada (ch. 23:18), Josiah distributed among the divisions
of the priesthood as arranged by David (1 Chronicles 24.) the different
parts of work required by the Law of Moses in the celebration of the
Passover, i.e. he set them “according to their daily courses, Being arrayed
in long garments, in the temple of the Lord’ (1 Esdras 1:2); after which he
strengthened them for their labors by detailed instructions as to their
duties, and by encouraging exhortations to its faithful performance.
Ø Concerning the Levites. These were:
o Defined as to their official work and character; in respect of the former
called “teachers of all
8:7, 9), and with reference to the latter being designated
“holy unto the Lord” (Numbers 3:12-13) — an epithet applied also
to the priests (ch. 23:6; Leviticus 21:6), and even to the people
(Deuteronomy 7:6); an epithet expressive of outward consecration,
which, however, ought in every instance to reflect an inward
consecration as its ground and justification.
o Directed about the ark, which they were told to “put,” or leave (Keil),
“in the house which Solomon the son of David King of
build” (v. 3). The ark, it is supposed, had been removed from the holy
of holies during the idolatrous reigns of Manasseh and Amon By these
kings themselves (Estius, Piscator), or by the priests who wished to
preserve it (A. Clarke), and now was ordered by Josiah to be replaced;
but against this stands the fact that the work of placing the ark in the
holy of holies belonged not to the Levites, but to the priests (v. 7).
It has also been conjectured that the Levites had been accustomed to
carry the ark about the temple courts during the Passover celebration
“under the impression that they were required so to do by the Law,
and that Josiah pointed out to them the alteration which had taken
place in this respect since the erection of the temple by Solomon”
(Bertheau); but for this conjecture there is no positive historical
foundation. A third explanation is that, as the Levites were no
longer required to carry the ark about from place to place since it
now had a resting-place in the temple, they should leave it there and
give themselves to such other duties as were now demanded of them
o Commanded relative to themselves — to arrange themselves according
to their fathers’ houses and after their courses according to the writings
of David and Solomon (v. 4); to take up their stations in the holy place
according to the divisions of the fathers’ houses of their lay brethren,
so that one of their divisions should fail to each father’s house of the
laymen (v. 5); to kill the Passover and sanctify themselves, probably
by washing themselves, before handing the blood to the priests to
sprinkle on the altar (Keil), or after they had done so and before they
performed any further duties (Bertheau); and, finally, to prepare, so
the Passover for their brethren the laymen, that they might do
according to the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses (v. 6).
Ø Concerning the people. These, i.e. such of them as were poor, or had
come from a distance without having brought the necessary sacrificial
animals, were furnished with lambs, kids, and bullocks, or small cattle and
oxen (vs. 7-9), without which they could not have taken part in the
celebration. At least the poor would have been excluded, which would
have marred both the completeness and hilarity of the celebration.
Ø On the part of the king. From the royal revenues Josiah contributed for
the Passover offerings:
o largely — thirty thousand lambs and kids and three thousand bullocks
(v. 7), a much larger gift than was presented by Hezekiah (ch. 30:24);
o promptly, taking the lead in his good work, and so supplying an
example to his subjects.
Ø On the part of the royal princes. These, copying the action of their
sovereign, likewise made donations:
o freely, or “for a free-will offering” — an indispensable quality in all
religious giving (II Corinthians 8:12); and it may be hoped
o largely, though this is not stated. They would hardly fall behind the
princes in the time of Hezekiah (ch. 30:24).
Ø On the part of the rulers of the temple. Hilkiah the high priest (ch. 34:9),
Zechariah, perhaps the next in rank to him, “the second priest” (II Kings
25:18; Jeremiah 52:24), and Jehiel, the chief of the line of Ithamar
(Ezra 8:2), exhibited a similar praiseworthy liberality (v. 8).
Ø On the part of the Levite princes. Six of these whose names are
recorded — Conaniah, with his two brothers Shemaiah and Nethaneel,
with Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozahad also displayed a high degree of
generosity (v. 9).
had his part to perform, and each performed it in such a way as not to
hinder, but to accelerate the progress; and not to mar, but to increase the
effect of the whole.
Ø The priests. These:
o stood in their place beside the altars (v. 10; ch. 30:16);
o sprinkled the blood they received from the Levites (v. 11;
ch. 30:16); and
o offered burnt offerings and the fat until night (v. 14).
Ø The Levites. These:
o killed the Passover victims (v. 11);
o flayed or skinned them (v. 11); and
o removed from their carcases such parts as were designed
to be offered as burnt offerings (v. 12); after which they
o roasted the Passover with fire, according to the Mosaic
ordinance (v. 13; Exodus 12:8-9);
o boiled the other offerings in pots, caldrons, and pans (v. 13);
o divided them as they were ready among the people (v. 13); and
o prepared the Passover for themselves and for the priests (v. 14).
Ø The singers. These, the sons of Asaph, stood in their places, in the court
of the temple, discoursing music with harps, psalteries, and cymbals
(I Chronicles 25:1), without once leaving their ranks even to eat the
Passover, the Levites preparing for and fetching to them their portion
Ø The porters. At every gate these watched, never departing from their
service, because the Levites did for them as for the musicians (v. 15).
Thus each contributed his part, and all worked harmoniously towards
the production of the general result.
feast was attended by:
The inhabitants of
with the priests and the Levites.
The children of
had not been carried into exile, and who had come to
present at the feast.
Ø The duty of observing the public ordinances of religion.
Ø The beauty and value of unity and co-operation in Christian work
Ø The propriety of having special seasons of religious service.
The Moral of the Passover (vs. 17-19)
The keeping of this Passover is very particularly described in this chapter, and
we may be sure that it was entered into and enjoyed, as a religious festival, with
exceeding zest. We naturally ask — What was its significance? What did it
mean to those who celebrated it? We reply that in it and by it:
They went back in thought to the time when they were bound together in
the strong bond of a common sorrow; when they were a suffering people
bent beneath the same yoke, bleeding with the same blows; and they
recognized the fact that they were all the children of their fathers to whom
Moses came as the great prophet and savior. And the lamb of which they
partook, with not a bone of its body broken, was the symbol of the national
DELIVERANCE THROUGH SACRIFICE. The prevailing thought of the
whole institution was God’s merciful and mighty interposition on their
behalf, redeeming them from the land of bondage and misery, bringing
them out into liberty and happiness, and constituting them a nation, holy
unto Himself. And closely connected with the main idea of deliverance was
that of sacrifice; they commemorated the fact that through the sacrifice of
a slain lamb they had been spared and redeemed.
ANOTHER. The Feast of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread was one
in which they rejoiced together both as families and as a congregated
nation “before the Lord.” Then they had true fellowship with one another,
meeting and greeting one another as members of the same redeemed
nation, whom the Lord had pitied and restored; and while they were thus
gladdened in heart as they associated one with another, they were also
solemnized by the thought that they met together in the city of
courts of the Lord’s house, in His own presence. Theirs was a sacred union
and communion; it was fellowship with the Supreme. When we meet, as
Christian men, in ordinary worship, and more particularly when we gather
together at the Lord’s table, we are moved and animated by this same spirit,
by these same convictions and considerations.
Ø We realize our essential unity, our oneness in Jesus Christ. Are we not
all members of that race on which, in all its distance from the home of God,
He had compassion and which He stooped to save? Are we not bound
together, not only as partakers of the same human nature, but as those who
have bowed beneath the same yoke, who have needed the same Divine
Redeemer, who have suffered in the same affliction?
Ø We rejoice together in the same glorious redemption — a redemption
o not only was designed and begun, but was triumphantly completed;
o a redemption which, in its spiritual character and its everlasting
issues, dwarfs even such a great national deliverance as that
which this Passover commemorated;
o a redemption which could only be (and was) accomplished through
the sacrifice of the “Lamb of God,” slain from the foundation of
the world (Revelation 13:8) for the recovery of the world.
Ø We meet to have holy and happy fellowship with one another, and also
hallowed and elevating fellowship with our Father and His Son
Jesus Christ (I John 1:3).
20 "After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of
Egypt came up to fight against Charchemish by Euphrates: and
Josiah went out against him." After all this. A period of about thirteen
years of happy retrospect is now the portion of the good king. This period brings
itself to an unhappy and even fatal termination in the year B.C. 608; when, as it
would appear by the result, King Josiah did wrong, and went out of his
way, in opposing the march of Pharaoh-Necho (who reigned B.C. 611-
595), successor of Psammetichus King of Egypt, against Cyaxares (the
monarch who, with Nabo-polassar, had
Assyria (II Kings 23:29),
or King of
Phrat, the head-quarters now of the united Assyrian and Babylonian
power. Where the fault or sin of Josiah lay — whether he ran before he
was sent, or whether, according to our following two verses, he set out
against the Divine word by Necho — is certainly a question left in
obscurity. Nothing is said in our history or its parallel to accredit the tale of
Necho, or to discredit the heart and motive of Josiah — nothing except
what silence and the result seem to say. One other element of interest and
of difficulty may be added to the question; for of the thirteen years’
interval, which we have described above as one presumably of happy
retrospect in certain aspects for Josiah, we know nothing from Scripture,
but have every reason to suppose that during it Josiah and his kingdom had
become subject, if only nominally, to Nabopolassar; so that, in offering to
resist Necho of Egypt, he was offering to strengthen so far forth the royal
line which did dishonor to his own country and his country’s God. Upon
this supposition, however, we can lay no stress.
21 "But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with
thee, thou king of
against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me
to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with
me, that He destroy thee not." Not against thee this day. Possibly the
suggestion couched in these last two words may have been the opposite of
agreeable to King Josiah. For God commanded me to make haste. The
margin reading of the Revised Version seems preferable, both for the
Hebrew text and the connection, hath given command to speed me.
22 "Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but
disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not
unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight
the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded."
Would not turn his face (so ch. 25:17 and its parallel, II Kings 14:8).
Disguised himself. This is, possibly enough, the intention of the word, but
it is more probable that the simple meaning is fully armed himself. The
Septuagint has strengthened himself. Hearkened not unto the words of Necho
from the mouth of God. Unless these words are intended to convey really their
patent and most natural import, it is tenfold strange that they should find a place
in the compilation of the Chronicles. It is indeed possible that they might purport,
from the pen of the writer of Chronicles, that in point of fact the words of Necho
had been the permitted warning, though not the actually dictated language of God.
The genius of the whole passage strongly reminds us of ch. 25:17, 19-21; and its
parallel in II Kings 14. In
the valley of
separate the country of the coast from Esdraelon — a valley as that “of Kishon”
‘Handbook,’ p. 287, where a different view is taken).
24 "His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in
the second chariot that he had; and they
brought him to
and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchers of his fathers.
If the form of words used in the parallel, II Kings 23:30, be followed, Josiah
dead before they reached
find no note whatever of blame attributed to Josiah, and the general mourning
(Zechariah 12:11) appears to have been most genuine.
25 "And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the
singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day,
and made them an ordinance in
in the lamentations." If Jeremiah’s lamenting on this occasion was one committed
to writing, it has not survived. To this day; i.e. probably anniversary after
anniversary to the time of the writer to whom this statement belongs, the
authority from which our compiler draws his materials. Written in the
lamentations. We have here another glimpse of a work which has not been
handed down to us.
An Early Sunset (vs. 24-25)
That very good men may make very great mistakes we hardly need to be
told; unfortunately, we have all too many illustrations of that fact. The text
provides us with a very melancholy instance. What had Josiah to do with
this contest between the kings of
“lifted up,” that he thought himself and his people more than a match for
disciplined hosts of
himself on God as Hezekiah did when Sennacherib appeared against him,
then he might have hoped confidently for victory. But to contest with a
great world-power on worldly principles was a supreme and a fatal error.
He paid the penalty of his folly with his life. “His sun went down while it
was yet day” (Jeremiah 15:9) So passed, needlessly and unfortunately, one
the best and boldest spirits that occupied the throne of
his death as that of one early removed from the scenes of earthly activity,
we are naturally affected by:
demonstrative and so fervent-natured a people as the Jews were, that “all
prophet’s plaint concerning him. It was a time for profound sorrow; and
even passionate grief might, under such circumstances, be excused. For the
nation had not merely lost its chief; it had lost an invaluable leader, a king
who was leading in the paths of righteousness and therefore of prosperity.
There must come occasions to the country, to the Church, to the city, to
the family, when one man’s death will be felt to be a calamity. Very wise is
that community, sacred or secular, national or domestic, that recognizes
this fact and provides against it; that secures such resources, material or
spiritual, that when such a blow comes everything will not be lost; that
when its best is taken it has still much in reserve; that it is not dependent
for the maintenance of its liberty, or its security, or its vigorous existence
on anything so precarious as one human being’s life.
from throwing his life away? Why did he let darkness come down at noon,
and put an end to this bright and useful day? Why does He not now
intervene between us and the death we speak of as premature? Why does
He permit the young statesmen to overtax his strength and die in his prime;
the young minister to commit himself to the treacherous tide and be
drowned in the very fullness of his powers and the midst of his usefulness;
the young missionary to expose his life to the savages who pierce him with
the poisoned spear? We ask such questions, wondering, if not complaining,
at the Divine inaction. But we might very justly and more properly ask
ourselves another question — What right have we to expect that God will
give to any man a particular term of earthly life that we may choose for
him? Has He promised to confer any one length of days on His servants? Is
not the gift of every added day a prolongation of His goodness and His
mercy? Ought we not, rather than complain, to bless Him for the number of
years He does bestow — a number which is greater than our deserving?
Would it be really wise or kind of our heavenly Father if He were always
interposing to prevent us from suffering the natural consequences of our
error or our negligence, because we were right at heart with Him? Would
that be the way to discipline, to purify, to perfect His children? No! when
God lets death
“Descend in sudden night
On manhood’s middle day,”
He is not unrighteous, nor is He really unwise or unkind. Get down far
enough, and we stand on the rock of righteousness and wisdom and love.
We may look at:
he was “sore wounded,” and that he could not recover, he would grieve
more or less, as Hezekiah did. But as he confronted death he would
become reconciled to the will of God, and he would, probably, have some
hope concerning himself for the future, and would entrust his country to
the care of God. But we have a much larger measure of alleviation than
Josiah had. For there has visited us and spoken to us that Divine One who
is the Resurrection and the Life indeed. And in the light of His revealing
truth, and in the hope of His gracious promise, we look upon death as
introducing us into another part of the
better; a sphere from which sin is shut out; — and not only sin, but
weariness and disappointment and sorrow; a sphere that will be ever
brightening and broadening as added years reveal in us and to us “enlarged
and liberated powers.”
26 "Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his goodness, according to
that which was written in the law of the LORD, 27 And his deeds, first and
last, behold, they are written in the book of
the kings of
Goodness; Hebrew text, kindnesses. According to that…written in the Law.
This sentence pictures Josiah a careful, loving student of the Word, to the end
that he might become a “doer” of it.
The Lamentations for Josiah’s Death (vs. 20-27)
Some cloud of mystery, but, so far as we can see, none of shame, hangs
over the closing events of Josiah’s reign and life. His determined resolution
oppose Necho King of
Euphrates,” with the view of engaging in battle with the forces of Babylon
imagine and even to assign some alternative motives as those most
probably at work. One element in the obscurity concerns the question —
What was the operating and determining reason? The larger source of
difficulty, however, lies in the obscurity surrounding the question whether
any blame whatsoever attached to Josiah for his immovable resolution.
That he paid no heed to the representations and remonstrances of the King
equally intelligent and religious use, of the name of God, was very natural,
and surely diplomatically justifiable. We can, meantime, find nowhere any
reflection passed on Josiah for neglecting the pretended anxious warning of
Necho, which may be construed to mean all anxiety for himself only. No
condemnation of Josiah’s conduct is written on the page of Scripture,
either before or after his death, in connection with this subject. And, lastly,
the allusions which the writings of the prophets contain (Jeremiah
22:10, 18; 34:5; Zechariah 12:11) are not only equally clear of any
suspicion of reflecting blame upon him, but also are of the most touching,
tender, and sympathetic character. The probability seems to be that, after
the earnest, religious work of Josiah to the date of the Passover, special
and solemn celebration (in “the eighteenth year of his reign,” and
twenty-seventh of his life), with its last effort to bring in the hapless remnant of
Israel also, and after the lapse of another period of some thirteen years, the
doings of which, on the part of Josiah, are nowhere recorded, he is to be
permitted, before the sad plot thickens, to be “taken away from the evil to
come” (Isaiah 57:1) and as his life was by no means in the sere and yellow leaf,
the method of his departure shall be ordained mercifully — not one of sickness,
or stricken plague, or ignominious “accident,” but in the honorable risk
and challenge of battle. Occasion may be taken here to consider the
mingled mysteries and mercies that mark the Divine methods of
summoning men from this present life, the methods of Him whose wisdom
is unchallengeable, whose ways are so often a profound deep, but of whom
this may ever be recorded as comforting certainty, “Precious in the sight of
the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15) The phenomenon before
us is that of a good man and a good king, placed at a most remarkable juncture
of history; one, indeed, without the possibility of an exact parallel, who has
served his day and generation and his God with singular fidelity amid
circumstances of singular difficulty. He is the last true king, and the short
following of his descendants and his successors on the throne are not in
any degree the inheritors of his virtues and goodness. He has made one
more, one last protest for his God and against that idolatry of his nation
which has cankered to the very heart its religious and its national health.
Such a stand he has boldly and for a year successfully made; but he has
been told, and doubtless has seen, that all was too late, and that the tide
could not be turned. He is but thirty-nine years of age. And the appearance
is as of a man rushing on his fate. But there is no appearance of
recklessness or of intemperateness. He does not sport nor gamble away his
life; and if in any partial aspect it looks for a moment like a gratuitous
hazarding, it cannot be said to come of any of the ordinary impulses in any
such cases. It is not for self, for sense, for sin; not for the gratification of
any of these; and, meantime, it is not plain for what it is! It is the parable of
providence — a parable by no means unfamiliar to us; known, indeed, to
many an age, many a nation, many a family, and full of silent, deep, useful
lesson and suggestion. It teaches:
LIFE. Let alone whatever else, what it simply and by itself means is the
merging of one cycle of existence in another; the removal of life from one
school of knowledge to another; the shifting of it from one sphere of
activity to another. All the living force and excellence and virtue of Josiah
are not quenched, cannot be merely thrown away; and if in one sense
broken in twain — though all the analogies of sense must here in this very
respect fail — only in one sense. Such a death at such a time of present life,
under such circumstances, is one of the strongest moral persuasives — a
source of moral conviction irresistible as to what death is.
MORE THAN ANY OTHER OF THE FACTS OF LIFE, THE THING
CALLED FAITH. It is itself a fact of life — the last fact of the series
known here. To be understood rightly, and to be used rightly, and to yield
anything like its full fruit of advantage, it demands to be “mixed with faith”
more than any preceding fact of life. Therefore it is that sometimes it
actually gives birth to faith, sometimes greatly strengthens it, or, lastly,
supposing it is absolutely wanting, condemns the forlorn mourner to utter
THE FACT ITSELF, TO SURPRISE, TO STARTLE INTO
EXISTENCE A WONDER THAT WILL NOT REST. That irrepressible
and often agonized wonder assists to tear open the eye of flesh and sense,
and operates to find deep within, or deep behind, the dormant but now
struggling germ of other and more real vision. Sorrow, grief, and wonder
are three of the greatest moral forces of our nature, and their agonized
unanswered questions avail to sound some of the deeper depths of that
nature. The mystery of death is one thing, but the mysteries of the methods
of death — the victims of death, the apparently capricious or arbitrary
action of death in those taken — of youth and excellence and usefulness, in
the height of their service to the world, add where heads and hearts are, in
consequence, literally mowed down in widest sweep and circles — are
other things. It is, indeed, sometimes not impossible to imagine the gain to
those who go; but what a wrecked scene for all that is left behind — with
work that must be abandoned, schemes that must be abortive, hopes that
must be dashed to the ground — a widespread field of desolation and
devastation! For the whole scene there is one refuge. It is one which
postulates, for its highest safety, and adequacy, not merely the existence
and presence of faith, but faith of overcoming and dominant quality.
Wanting this, which so uniformly is wanting, it may yet be that faith learns
life, and lifts itself to bud and to begin to unfold its buds.
BIDDER FOR FAITH, BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS
CIRCUMSTANCE, YET IT DOES ALSO INFER SOME VERY
CERTAIN PRESENT USE AND SIGNIFICANCE. In every case, for
instance, of deep sorrow and sincere expression of it in “lamentation,”
what (comparatively speaking) healthy action of living hearts is betokened,
and what a pure tribute of unharmful and direct honor is rendered to the
vanished goodness! Upon this ancient sorrow, so far removed from
ourselves, of “all
singing men and the singing women” — so that they made “an ordinance of
writings — with what pathetic interest we nevertheless look back! And we
wish there were no sadder end to the history of
impending, no bitterer tears to flow, no anguished cries to be heard, no
shame to be bowed beneath! So the death of Josiah, and his place after
death yet on earth, in memory, in heart, and in song, are fraught with no
little interest, apart from faith’s higher action, and are charged incentives to
zeal, devotion, pure religion, and sensitiveness of conscience even for
The Death of Josiah (vs. 20-27)
expedition in his reign.
Ø When it took place. “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the
temple;” i.e. after the eighteenth year of his reign, in point of fact, thirteen
years after (ch. 34:1).
Ø Against whom it was directed. Necho King of
and grandson of
dynasty, Necho II. ascended the throne of the Pharaohs in B.C. 612, and
reigned sixteen years. A warlike and adventurous prince, he was likewise
devoted to commercial pursuits; he possessed two fleets of Greek-made
(warships), one in the Mediterranean and another in the
In his service
Phoenician sailors were the first to circumnavigate
Ø For what reason it was projected. To oppose Necho, who was on his
the King of
proper” — in which case he would most likely be Esarhaddon II., the last
Nahopolassar, who seized the empire after the overthrow of the Assyrian
power, cannot be conclusively determined, although the best authorities
favor the latter hypothesis (Ebers, Sayce, Rawlinson). In any ease, Necho,
advantage either of the declining power of
unsettled state of Babylonian affairs, resolved to strike a blow for the
recovery of those Asiatic provinces which had formerly been subject to the
Pharaohs; and Josiah, still regarding himself as a tributary of the Assyrian
crown, and probably under Jeremiah’s teaching (Jeremiah 46:25),
dreading the rise of the Egyptian power, hastened to resist his advance
Ø The purport of this warning. Before the two armies met, Necho
despatched an embassy to Josiah, requesting him to desist from
o Because he, Necho, was not seeking to disturb or injure him, Josiah,
Compare Joash to Amaziah (ch. 25:18-19).
o Because he, Necho, was acting in accordance with a Divine
commission, so that in opposing him Josiah would be guilty of
resisting God, and would only bring ruin upon himself. In claiming
to act under the impulse of Heaven, Necho probably meant no more
than Pianchi-Mer-Amon of the twenty-fifth dynasty, who, when
marching against Tafnakhth and other rebel chieftains, said, “Thou
knowest what Amon the great god hath commanded us;” and again,
“I am born of the loins, created from the egg, of the deity; the
divine procreation is in me. All hail to him, I have not
acted without his knowing; he ordained that I should act”
(‘Records,’ etc., 2:84, 91).
Ø The author of this warning. Though Necho may have had no other idea
in using the term “god” than that above explained, and though certainly
it cannot be assumed that he understood himself to be the medium of
conveying a Divine warning to the King of Judah, it is nevertheless
clear that the Chronicler beheld in the incident the finger of God.
Whether Jehovah actually put the words into Necho’s mouth, or
only permitted him to speak as he did, the Hebrew historian,
perhaps judging from the fatal issue of the war, regarded the
message of Pharaoh as a clear warning from Heaven which
Josiah should have accepted. There is no need for supposing
either that Necho spoke of Josiah’s God or that Josiah’s God
spoke to Necho.
Ø His rejection of the warning. “He hearkened not unto the words of
Necho from the mouth of God.” To assume Josiah knew that Necho was
going against Nabopolassar with the express sanction of Jehovah, and that
Necho’s dissuasive admonition proceeded straight from Heaven, and to
hold moreover that Josiah, cognizant of all this, nevertheless closed his ear
against the voice of the Supreme, is to put the worst construction possible
on Josiah’s conduct; to understand the sacred writer’s language as merely
importing, that Josiah was not disposed to hearken to Necho’s advice, and
so failed to recognize it as “from the mouth of God,” is probably to put
upon the King of Judah’s behavior the best construction it will admit of.
Had Josiah not been bent upon this war, he would have quickly discerned
the prudence of Necho’s counsel.
Ø His determination to fight. “Josiah would not turn his face from him”
(Necho), but pushed on and offered battle in the
Magdol (Herod., 2:159) — the modern Leijun, west of the Plain of
Esdraelon, and near Taanach (Robinson), though a claim has been
advanced for the modern Mujedd’a, “an important ruin in the Plain of
Beisan, at the foot of Gilbea” (Conder). Here had once stood an old
Canaanitish town, of which the king was conquered by Joshua
and which, though within the
was yet assigned to Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). In later years Solomon
it as one of his fortified cities (I Kings 9:15). In
Ahaziah sought refuge when mortally wounded by Jehu (II Kings 9:27).
of the confederations of the small kings and princes of
B.C. 1600 (‘Records,’ etc., 2:35). Now on this historic ground the forces
of Josiah and Necho come into collision.
Ø The ineffectual disguise Like Ahah at Ramoth-Gilead (ch. 18:29),
Josiah resorted to a customary but foolish and, in this case, useless
artifice. Josiah should have ventured upon no campaign which demanded
such an expedient. Had Josiah been sure of the Divine approbation, he
would have needed no protection beyond the invisible shield and buckler of
Jehovah (Psalm 91:4).
Ø The death-winged arrow. No coat of mail can protect a soldier, or
stratagem prolong the days of him whose hour is come. Whether the
Egyptian bowmen penetrated through Josiah’s disguise or not, Jehovah
did. If Necho’s archers shot at random, the almighty and omniscient Archer
(Lamentations 2:4; Job 6:4; Revelation 6:2) did not. Every shaft
that flies from His hand hits. Josiah believed he was only fighting against
Necho; Necho told him he was fighting against God. In this unequal
contest (Isaiah 27:4) Josiah was of course defeated. “The archers shot
at King Josiah; and King Josiah said to his servants, Have me away; for I
am sore wounded.”
Ø Immediate. The pious but mistaken monarch felt he had received his
death-blow. Obeying his instructions, his soldiers lifted him from his war
chariot, and, placing him “in a second chariot which belonged to him, and
was probably more comfortable for a wounded man” (Keil), conveyed him
Ø Untimely. What Hezekiah feared was about to happen to him in his
thirty-ninth year (Isaiah 38:10), happened in reality to Josiah; he was
deprived of the residue of his years. What another singer prayed against
(Psalm 102:24) befell him, perhaps, notwithstanding his prayers — he
was cut off in the midst of his days. In the language of a Hebrew prophet,
“his sun had gone down at noon” (Amos 8:9). Considering his elevated
character, the quality of the work he had already performed, and the
promise of good for his land and people which lay, or seemed to lie, in his
prolonged life, his death could scarcely be pronounced other than
it was all too soon for
soon for God, who best knew the moment in which to fulfill His own
promise (ch. 34:28; Psalm 31:15); or for Josiah, who was thereby removed
from the evil to come (Psalm 12:1; Isaiah 57:1), so that his eyes saw not
the calamities which forthwith began to descend upon his country (ch. 36:3).
o Mourned for by the people. When they buried him in the sepulchres
of his fathers (v. 24), or in his own sepulchre (II Kings 23:30) —
perhaps in one of the chambers of Manasseh’s tomb (ch. 33:20) —
great man” had been taken from them. They sorrowed for him as
they had never before sorrowed for a sovereign, “lamenting and
grieving on his account many days” (Josephus), with such an
intensity of heartfelt anguish that even after the Captivity
“the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the
became a proverbial expression for the deepest and truest
grief (Zechariah 12:11).
o Lamented by Jeremiah. The most plaintive of all the prophets, who
had commenced his ministry in the thirteenth year of the deceased
sovereign’s reign (Jeremiah 1:2), composed a dirge to keep in
memory his death. Whether that elegiac hymn was recited at his
of such threnodies (laments), and was long after chanted by the
singing men and singing women who, on fixed days, were
appointed to recall the memory of the good king.
Ø The danger of intermeddling with other people’s strife (Proverbs 26:17).
Ø The folly of rejecting good advice, even though given by an enemy.
Ø The probability that he who runs into danger unbidden will not escape
unhurt (Psalm 91:11).
Ø The certainty that death will overtake all, in such an hour as they think
not (Matthew 24:44).
Ø The loss which a good man’s death is to a community or nation
(II Kings 2:12).
Ø The propriety of perpetuating the recollection of noble lives
Ø The fitness of song to express sorrowful emotions (II Samuel 1:17;
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