Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.
Jerusalem had been cleansed 2 Chronicles 30:14; now the land had to be purged. Hezekiah therefore gave his sanction to a popular movement directed as much against the "high places" which had been maintained since the times of the patriarchs, as against the remnants of the Baal-worship, or the innovations of Ahaz. See 2 Kings 18:4 note. The invasion of the northern kingdom "Ephraim and Manasseh" by a tumultuous crowd from the southern one, and the success which attended the movement, can only be explained by the state of weakness into which the northern kingdom had fallen (see the note at 2 Chronicles 29:24).
And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.
The tents - literally, "the camps." The temple is called the "camp of Yahweh" by an apt metaphor: the square enclosure, with its gates and stations, its guards and porters, its reliefs, its orderly arrangement, and the tabernacle, or tent, of the great commander in the midst, very much resembled a camp.
He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.
The king's portion - Amid the general neglect of the observances commanded by the Law, the tithe system had naturally fallen into disuse. Hezekiah revived it; and, to encourage the people to give what was due, cheerfully set the example of paying the full proportion from his own considerable possessions (compare 2 Chronicles 32:28-29). His tithe was, it seems, especially devoted to the purposes mentioned in this verse (compare the marginal reference). There were needed for these purposes in the course of the year nearly 1,100 lambs, 113 bullocks, 37 rams, and 30 goats, besides vast quantities of flour, oil, and wine for the accompanying meat and drink offerings.
Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.
That they might be encouraged ... - i. e. to devote themselves wholly to their proper work, the service of the sanctuary and the teaching of God's Law 2 Chronicles 17:7-9, and not engage in secular occupations. Compare Nehemiah 13:10-14.
And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
Honey - See the margin. It is doubtful whether bee-honey was liable to first-fruits. The sort here intended may therefore be that which, according to Josephus, was manufactured from dates.
And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.
By "the children of Israel" in 2 Chronicles 31:5, seem to be intended the inhabitants of Jerusalem only (see 2 Chronicles 31:4); by "the children of Israel and Judah that dwelt in the cities of Judah" in this verse, seem to be meant the Jews of the country districts and the Israelites who dwelt among them 2 Chronicles 30:25. Of these two classes, the first brought both first-fruits and tithes of "all things;" while the others, who had not been included in the command 2 Chronicles 31:4, brought in first-fruits and paid the tithe of sheep and oxen only, and of the things which they had vowed to God.
In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.
The third month - Compare 2 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 30:2, 2 Chronicles 30:13. The events hitherto described - the destruction of the high places, the re-appointment of the courses, and the re-establishment of the tithes followed so closely upon the Passover, that a month had not elapsed from the conclusion of the Feast before the gifts began to pour in. In the seventh month the harvest was completed; and the last tithes and first-fruits of the year would naturally come in then.
And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.
Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.
"Hezekiah questioned" in order to know whether the ministering priests and Levites had had their maintenance out of the tithes, and whether the accumulation which he saw was clear surplus.
And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.
If this Azariah was the same as he who resisted Uzziah 2 Chronicles 26:17-20, he must have held his office at least 33 years. Compare 2 Chronicles 27:1; 2 Chronicles 28:1.
The Lord hath blessed his people - i. e. God has made the harvest unusually abundant, and hence the great amount of tithes and first-fruits.
Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them,
And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next.
And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.
And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of the LORD, and the most holy things.
The porter toward the east - i. e. the chief door-keeper at the east gate, where the proper number of the porters was six 1 Chronicles 26:17.
And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the great as to the small:
The cities of the priests - i. e. the Levitical cities (compare marginal reference). Of these, some had gone to decay, while others, as Libnah and Beth-shemesh 2 Chronicles 21:10; 2 Chronicles 28:18, had been lost, so that the original number, thirteen, was now, apparently, reduced to six.
In their set office - Rather, as in marg. These six Levites were stationed at the Levitical cities, with the trust following committed to them.
Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his daily portion for their service in their charges according to their courses;
Beside their genealogy of males ... - Some translate it: "Excepting the list of males," etc. i. e. they distributed to all the members of the priestly families, excepting to those who at the time were performing the duties of their office at Jerusalem. These persons no doubt obtained their share at the temple itself.
Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges by their courses;
Both to the genealogy of the priests ... - Some prefer: "And as for the list of the priests, it was according to the houses of their fathers, and that of the Levites was from twenty years," etc. The writer states the nature of the lists which guided the officers who made the distributions. Three lists are enumerated one of the priests made out according to families; one of the Levites, including all above 20 years of age (see the marginal reference), and made out according to courses; and a third 2 Chronicles 31:18 of the priestly and Levitical families.
And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their set office they sanctified themselves in holiness:
And to the genealogy of all their little ones ... - Or, "And as to the list of all their little ones, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, it extended to the whole body, for they dealt with the holy things faithfully."
Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.
The country priests and Levites are here distinguished from those who dwelt in the towns. The writer means to note that not even were they neglected.
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.
And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.