2 Chronicles 34:6
And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even to Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) And so did he in the cities . . . unto Naphtali.—Sec 2Kings 23:15; 2Kings 23:19, according to which Josiah destroyed the sanctuary of Bethel, and the high places “in the cities of Samaria,” i.e., the northern kingdom.

Simeon is again mentioned somewhat strangely, as in 2Chronicles 15:9, no doubt because Beersheba, a famous sanctuary within its territory, was a place of pilgrimage for the northern tribes.

Manasseh and Ephraim, i.e., the northern kingdom, as in 2Chronicles 31:1; Isaiah 9:21.

With their mattocks.—Rather, in their ruins; reading behorbuthêhem, instead of behorbôthêhem, which means “with their swords.” (Comp. Ezekiel 26:9.) The phrase qualifies the word “cities.” The cities of Israel had been ruined by the Assyrians, Sargon. and Shalmaneser, the latter of whom took Samaria, after a three years’ siege, and carried the people captive to Assyria, in 721 B.C., replacing them by foreign colonists. This explains how it was that Josiah was able to desecrate the northern sanctuaries, and slay their priests (2Kings 23:20). The ordinary Hebrew text divides the word thus: behar bûtthêhem, so as to suggest the reading behar bûtthêhem, “in the hill of their houses.” The LXX. has “in their places round about”; the Vulg. omits the phrase; and the Syriac reads “in their streets around.” The whole verse should be connected with 2Chronicles 34:7, thus: “And in the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, to wit, in their ruins round about, he pulled down the altars and the Asherim; and the carven images he dashed into pieces unto pulverising.” Hedaq is an unusual form of the infinitive, not a perfect, as Bertheau supposes.

2 Chronicles 34:6. Even unto Naphtali — Which was in the utmost borders of the kingdom of Israel. For it must be remembered, that the ten tribes were now gone into captivity; and those who were come in their stead were weak and few, and not able to withstand the power of Josiah.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!The power of Assyria being now (629-624 B.C.) greatly weakened, if not completely broken, Josiah aimed not merely at a religious reformation, but at a restoration of the kingdom to its ancient limits (see the 2 Kings 23:19 note).

With their mattocks ... - Or "in their desolate places" (compare Psalm 109:10). Another reading gives the sense, "he proved their house round about."

6. with their mattocks—or, "in their deserts"—so that the verse will stand thus: "And so did [namely, break the altars and burn the bones of priests] he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, in their deserted suburbs." The reader is apt to be surprised on finding that Josiah, whose hereditary possessions were confined to the kingdom of Judah, exercised as much authority among the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, and others as far as Naphtali, as he did within his own dominion. Therefore, it is necessary to observe that, after the destruction of Samaria by Shalmaneser, the remnant that continued on the mountains of Israel maintained a close intercourse with Judah, and looked to the sovereigns of that kingdom as their natural protectors. Those kings acquired great influence over them, which Josiah exercised in removing every vestige of idolatry from the land. He could not have done this without the acquiescence of the people in the propriety of this proceeding, conscious that this was conformable to their ancient laws and institutions. The Assyrian kings, who were now masters of the country, might have been displeased at the liberties Josiah took beyond his own territories. But either they were not informed of his doings, or they did not trouble themselves about his religious proceedings, relating, as they would think, to the god of the land, especially as he did not attempt to seize upon any place or to disturb the allegiance of the people [Calmet]. Even unto Naphtali; which was in the utmost and northern borders of the kingdom of Israel. For it must be remembered that the ten tribes were now gone into captivity; and those who were come in their stead were weak and few, and not able to withstand the power of Josiah. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali,.... Which though they belonged to the ten tribes, yet these being carried captive by the king of Assyria, they that were left became subject to the kings of Judah; see Gill on 2 Kings 23:19,

with their mattocks round about; or hammers or mauls, as Kimchi, or pick axes, such sort of instruments as were used in demolishing altars and images: the Targum is,"in the house of their desolation;''

and so other versions, "in their desolate places" (x), which were become such, the inhabitants being carried captive, and few left behind.

(x) "in desolatis locis suis, vel eorum", Montanus, Tigurine version, Rambachius.

And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. Simeon] Here as in 2 Chronicles 15:9 regarded as belonging to the Northern tribes, but their cities were in the south; cp. 1 Chronicles 4:28 ff.

with their mattocks] R.V. in their ruins (with marginal note, “The text is probably corrupt”). LXX. ἐντοῖς τόποις αὐτῶν i.e. “in their places.” Pesh. reads, in their broad places, and this is probably correct.Verse 6. - In the cities of Manasseh,... Ephraim,... Simeon, even unto Naphtali. Manasseh and Ephraim lay very nearly in the centre of the whole land, while Simeon and Naphtali were respectively at the southern and northern extremities. With their mattocks. This rendering may be correct, and cannot be said to be foreign to the sense and connection of the passage, the Hebrew word in that ease being the feminine plural of חֶרֶב Perhaps, however, the word is one with that found in Psalm 109:10, and may be rendered "in their ruined," i.e. semi-ruined, "condition." Note Keri also, which favours the latter reading; the Septuagint shows simply words which may best translate, and in their neighbourhoods respectively. The reign of Amon. Cf. 2 Kings 21:19-26. - Both accounts agree; only in the Chronicle, as is also the case with Manasseh and Ahaz, the name of his mother is omitted, and the description of his godless deeds is somewhat more brief than in Kings, while the remark is added that he did not humble himself like Manasseh, but increased the guilt. In the account of his death there is nothing said of his funeral, nor is there any reference to the sources of his history. See the commentary on 2 Kings 21:19.
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