2 Chronicles 34:14
And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.
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(14-19) Hilkiah finds the Book of the Law, and delivers it to Shaphan, who reads it before the king. (Comp. 2Kings 22:8-11.)

(14) And when they brought out.—This verse is not in Kings. It supplements the older account, by assigning the occasion of the discovery.

Josephus makes Hilkiah find the book in the treasure-chamber of the Temple which he had entered to get gold and silver for making some sacred vessels. According to Rabbinical tradition it was found hidden under a heap of stones, where it had been placed to save it from being burnt by king Ahaz.

A book.The book.

Given by Moses.—The Hebrew phrase, “by the hand of Moses,” belongs not to “the book,” but to “the Law (or teaching) of Jehovah”; and the meaning of the whole expression is, “the Law of Jehovah communicated through the medium or instrumentality of Moses.” (Comp. 2Chronicles 33:8.)

To Shaphan.—Kings adds, “and he read it.” Those words need not mean that Shaphan read the book through, as Thenius suggests. (See Note on 2Kings 22:3.)

2 Chronicles


2 Chronicles 34:14 - 2 Chronicles 34:18

About one hundred years separated Hezekiah’s restoration from Josiah’ s. Neither was more than a momentary arrest of the strong tide running in the opposite direction; and Josiah’s was too near the edge of the cataract to last, or to avert the plunge. There is nothing more tragical than the working of the law which often sets the children’s teeth on edge by reason of the fathers’ eating of sour grapes.

I. The first point in this passage is the discovery of the book of the Law.

The book had been lost before it was found. For how long we do not know, but the fact that it had been so carelessly kept is eloquent of the indifference of priests and kings, its appointed guardians. Lawbreakers have a direct interest in getting rid of lawbooks, just as shopkeepers who use short yardsticks and light weights are not anxious the standards should be easily accessible. If we do not make God’s law our guide, we shall wish to put it out of sight, that it may not be our accuser. What more sad or certain sign of evil can there be than that we had rather not ‘hear what God the Lord will speak’?

The straightforward story of our passage gives a most natural explanation of the find. Hilkiah was likely to have had dark corners cleared out in preparation for repairs and in storing the subscriptions, and many a mislaid thing would turn up. If it be possible that the book of the Law should have been neglected {and the religious corruption of the last hundred years makes that only too certain}, its discovery in some dusty recess is very intelligible, and would not have been doubted but for the exigencies of a theory. ‘Reading between the lines’ is fascinating, but risky; for the reader is very likely unconsciously to do what Hilkiah is said to have done-namely, to invent what he thinks he finds.

Accepting the narrative as it stands, we may see in it a striking instance of the indestructibleness of God’s Word. His law is imperishable, and its written embodiment seems as if it, too, had a charmed life. When we consider the perils attending the transmission of ancient manuscripts, the necessary scarcity of copies before the invention of printing, the scattering of the Jewish people, it does appear as if a divine hand had guarded the venerable book. How came this strange people, who never kept their Law, to swim through all their troubles, like Caesar with his commentaries between his teeth, bearing aloft and dry, the Word which they obeyed so badly? ‘Write it . . . in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.’ The permanence of the written Word, the providence that has watched over it, the romantic history of its preservation through ages of neglect, and the imperishable gift to the world of an objective standard of duty, remaining the same from age to age, are all suggested by this reappearance of the forgotten Law.

It may suggest, too, that honest efforts after reformation are usually rewarded by clearer knowledge of God’s will. If Hilkiah had not been busy in setting wrong things right, he would not have found the book in its dark hiding-place. We are told that the coincidence of the discovery at the nick of time is suspicious. So it is, if you do not believe in Providence. If you do, the coincidence is but one instance of His sending gifts of the right sort at the right moment. It is not the first time nor the last that the attempt to keep God’s law has led to larger knowledge of the law. It is not the first time nor the last that God has sent to His faithful servants an opportune gift. What the world calls accidental coincidence deeper wisdom discerns to be the touch of God’s hand.

Again, the discovery reminds us that the true basis of all religious reform is the Word of God. Josiah had begun to restore the Temple, but he did not know till he heard the Law read how great the task was which he had taken in hand. That recovered book gave impulse and direction to his efforts. The nearest parallel is the rediscovery of the Bible in the sixteenth century, or, if we may take one incident as a symbol of the whole, Luther’s finding the dusty Latin Bible among the neglected convent books. The only reformation for an effete or secularised church is in its return to the Bible. Faded flowers will lift up their heads when plunged in water. The old Bible, discovered and applied anew, must underlie all real renovation of dead or moribund Christianity.

II. The next point here is the effect of the rediscovered Law. Shaphan was closely connected with Josiah, as his office made him a confidant. It is ordinarily taken for granted that he and the other persons named in this lesson formed a little knot of earnest Jehovah worshippers, fully sympathising with the Reformation, and that among them lay the authorship of the book. But we know nothing about them except what is told here and in the parallel in Kings. One of them, Ahikam, was a friend and protector of Jeremiah, and Shaphan the scribe was the father of another of Jeremiah’s friends. They may all have been in accord with the king, or they may not.

At all events, Shaphan took the book to Josiah. We can picture the scene-the deepening awe of both men as the whole extent of the nation’s departure from God became clearer and clearer, the tremulous tones of the reader, and the silent, fixed attention of the listener as the solemn threatenings came from Shaphan’s reluctant, pallid lips. There was enough in them to touch a harder heart than Josiah’ s. We cannot suppose that, knowing the history of the past, and being sufficiently enlightened to ‘seek after the God of David his father,’ he did not know in a general way that sin meant sorrow, and national disobedience national death. But we all have the faculty of blunting the cutting edge of truth, especially if it has been familiar, so that some novelty in the manner of its presentation, or even its repetition without novelty sometimes, may turn commonplace and impotent truth into a mighty instrument to shake and melt.

So it seems to have been with Josiah. Whether new or old, the Word found him as it had never done before. The venerable copy from which Shaphan read, the coincidence of its discovery just then, the dishonour done to it for so long, may all have helped the impression. However it arose, it was made. If a man will give God’s Word a fair hearing, and be honest with himself, it will bring him to his knees. No man rightly uses God’s law who is not convinced by it of his sin, and impelled to that self-abased sorrow of which the rent royal robes were the passionate expression. Josiah was wise when he did not turn his thoughts to other people’s sins, but began with his own, even whilst he included others. The first function of the law is to arouse the knowledge of sin, as Paul profoundly teaches. Without that penitent knowledge religion is superficial, and reformation merely external. Unless we ‘abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes,’ Scripture has not done its work on us, and all our reading of it is in vain. Nor is there any good reason why familiarity with it should weaken its power. But, alas! it too often does. How many of us would stand in awe of God’s judgments if we heard them for the first time, but listen to them unmoved, as to thunder without lightning, merely because wo know them so well! That is a reason for attending to them, not for neglecting.

Josiah’s sense of sin led him to long for a further word from God; and so he called these attendants named in 2 Chronicles 34:20, and sent them to ‘enquire of the Lord . . . concerning the words of the book.’ What more did he wish to know? The words were plain enough, and their application to Israel and him indubitable. Clearly, he could only wish to know whether there was any possibility of averting the judgments, and, if so, what was the means. The awakened conscience instinctively feels that threatenings cannot be God’s last words to it, but must have been given that they might not need to be fulfilled. We do not rightly sorrow for sin unless it quickens in us a desire for a word from God to tell us how to escape. The Law prepares for the Gospel, and is incomplete without it. ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die,’ cannot be all which a God of pity and love has to say. A faint promise of life lies in the very fact of threatening death, faint indeed, but sufficient to awaken earnest desire for yet another word from the Lord. We rightly use the solemn revelations of God’s law when we are driven by them to cry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ III. So we come to the last point, the double-edged message of the prophetess. Josiah does not seem to have told his messengers where to go; but they knew, and went straight to a very unlikely person, the wife of an obscure man, only known as his father’s son. Where was Jeremiah of Anathoth? Perhaps not in the city at the time. There had been prophetesses in Israel before. Miriam, Deborah, the wife of Isaiah, are instances of ‘your daughters’ prophesying; and this embassy to Huldah is in full accord with the high position which women held in that state, of which the framework was shaped by God Himself. In Christ Jesus ‘there is neither male nor female,’ and Judaism approximated much more closely to that ideal than other lands did.

Huldah’s message has two parts: one the confirmation of the threatenings of the Law; one the assurance to Josiah of acceptance of his repentance and gracious promise of escape from the coming storm. These two are precisely equivalent to the double aspect of the Gospel, which completes the Law, endorsing its sentence and pointing the way of escape.

Note that the former part addresses Josiah as ‘the man that sent you,’ but the latter names him. The embassy had probably not disclosed his name, and Huldah at first keeps up the veil, since the personality of the sender had nothing to do with her answer; but when she comes to speak of pardon and God’s favour, there must be no vagueness in the destination of the message, and the penitent heart must be tenderly bound up by a word from God straight to itself. The threatenings are general, but each single soul that is sorry for sin may take as its very own the promise of forgiveness. God’s great ‘Whosoever’ is for me as certainly as if my name stood on the page.

The terrible message of the inevitableness of the destruction hanging over Jerusalem is precisely parallel with the burden of all Jeremiah’s teaching. It was too late to avert the fall. The external judgments must come now, for the emphasis of the prophecy is in its last words, it ‘shall not be quenched.’ But that did not mean that repentance was too late to alter the whole character of the punishment, which would be fatherly chastisement if meekly accepted. So, too, Jeremiah taught, when he exhorted submission to the ‘Chaldees.’ It is never too late to seek mercy, though it may be too late to hope for averting the outward consequences of sin.

As for Josiah, his penitence was accepted, and he was assured that he would be gathered to his fathers. That expression, as is clear from the places where it occurs, is not a synonym for either death or burial, from both of which it is distinguished, but is a dim promise of being united, beyond the grave, with the fathers, who, in some one condition, which we may call a place, are gathered into a restful company, and wander no more as pilgrims and sojourners in this lonely and changeful life.

Josiah died in battle. Was that going to his grave in peace? Surely yes! if, dying, he felt God’s presence, and in the darkness saw a great light. He who thus dies, though it be in the thick of battle, and with his heart’s blood pouring from an arrow-wound down on the floor of the chariot, dies in peace, and into peace.34:1-33 Josiah's good reign in Judah. - As the years of infancy cannot be useful to our fellow-creatures, our earliest youth should be dedicated to God, that we may not waste any of the remaining short space of life. Happy and wise are those who seek the Lord and prepare for usefulness at an early age, when others are pursuing sinful pleasures, contracting bad habits, and forming ruinous connexions. Who can express the anguish prevented by early piety, and its blessed effects? Diligent self-examination and watchfulness will convince us of the deceitfulness and wickedness of our own hearts, and the sinfulness of our lives. We are here encouraged to humble ourselves before God, and to seek unto him, as Josiah did. And believers are here taught, not to fear death, but to welcome it, when it takes them away from the evil to come. Nothing hastens the ruin of a people, nor ripens them for it, more than their disregard of the attempts made for their reformation. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. The current and tide of affections only turns at the command of Him who raises up those that are dead in trespasses and sins. We behold peculiar loveliness, in the grace the Lord bestows on those, who in tender years seek to know and to love the Saviour. Hath Jesus, the Day-spring from on high, visited you? Can you trace your knowledge of this light and life of man, like Josiah, from your youth? Oh the unspeakable happiness of becoming acquainted with Jesus from our earliest years!Of the Levites there were scribes - Hereto the word "scribe" has never been used to designate a class (compare 1 Kings 4:3). But here an order of scribes, forming a distinct division of the Levitical body, has been instituted. The class itself probably originated in the reign of Hezekiah (compare Proverbs 25:1); and it is probably to the rise of this class that we are indebted for the preservation of so many prophecies belonging to Hezekiah's time, while the works of almost all previous prophets - Ahijah, Iddo, Shemaiah, Jehu, the son of Hanani, and probably many others - have perished. 2Ch 34:8-18. He Repairs the Temple.

8. in the eighteenth year of his reign … he sent Shaphan—(See on [474]2Ki 22:3-9).

No text from Poole on this verse. And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord,.... The Levites, who brought it out of the country into the temple, and from thence brought it to the high priest, who delivering it to the king's ministers, and they to the overseers, the repairs were begun:

and then Hilkiah the high priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses house of the Lord,.... The Levites, who brought it out of the country into the temple, and from thence brought it to the high priest, who delivering it to the king's ministers, and they to the overseers, the repairs were begun: See Gill on 2 Kings 22:8. From hence, to the end of 2 Chronicles 34:28, is the same as 2 Kings 22:8.

And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a {h} book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.

(h) Read 2Ki 22:8.

14. This verse has no parallel in 2 Kin.

a book of the law] R.V. the book of the law. This book was not the complete Pentateuch in its present shape, for the redaction of the Pentateuch as a whole, is attributed by the ablest critics to a later period than this. Similarly it cannot have been the book of Deuteronomy in the complete form in which we have it, for there are traces in Deuteronomy of the work of an editor who must have lived at a later time than the days of Josiah. This “book of the law” seems to have consisted (roughly reckoned) of Deuteronomy 5-26 with 28.Verse 14. - The time of this verse is not free from ambiguity, which the parallel does not remove. It purports either that, on occasion of "bringing out the money," Hilkiah providentially lighted on his find, or that he availed himself of that occasion to report and give up the find made some time or other previously. The italic-type word "given," in this verse, it is better to discard, and to restore the omitted words, "by the hand of;" i.e. the book was either Moses' original handwriting and solemn deposit (Deuteronomy 31:26) - in that ease nearly eight centuries and a half old-or, at any rate, the standard copy and authorized successor of it, though we nowhere read of such a copy having been made, nor is it necessary to doubt the durability of the original. A book should be rendered the book. The cleansing and repairing of the temple, and the finding of the book of the law. Cf. 2 Kings 22:3-10. - In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he was purging the land and the house (of God), he sent. לטהר does not indeed signify "after the purging" (De Wette, with the older expositors), but still less is it a statement of the object, "to purge" (Berth.); for that is decisively disposed of both by its position at the beginning of the sentence, where no statement of the object would stand, but still more by the fact that a statement of the object follows, וגו לחזּק. ל used of time denotes "about," and so with the inf., e.g., Jeremiah 46:13 : at (his) coming equals when he came. Shaphan was סופר, state secretary, according to 2 Kings 22:3. With him the king sent the governor of the city Maaseiah, and the chancellor Joah. These two are not mentioned in 2 Kings 22:3, but have not been arbitrarily added by the chronicler, or invented by him, as Then. groundlessly supposes. "To repair the house of Jahve." What these high royal officials had to do with it we learn from what follows.
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