2 Kings 18:4
He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the groves, and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for to those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) He removed.He it was who removed. According to this statement, Hezekiah made the Temple of Jerusalem the only place where Jehovah might be publicly worshipped. (Comp. 2Kings 18:22, and the fuller account in 2Chronicles 29:3-36.)

Brake the images.Shattered the pillars (1Kings 14:23; Hosea 3:4; 2Chronicles 14:2).

The groves.—Heb., the Asherah. It should probably be plural, the Asherim, as in 2Chronicles 31:1, and all the versions here. (See Note on 2Kings 17:16.)

Brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made.—The attempt of Bähr and others to evade the obvious force of this simple statement is quite futile. It is clear that the compiler of Kings believed that the brasen serpent which Hezekiah destroyed was a relic of the Mosaic times. (See the narrative in Numbers 21:4-9, and the allusion to the fiery serpents in Deuteronomy 8:15.) His authority may have been oral tradition or a written document. In ancient Egypt the serpent symbolised the healing power of Deity; a symbolism which is repeated in the Græco-Roman myth of Æsculapius. When Moses set up the Brasen Serpent, he taught the people by means suited to their then capacity that the power of healing lay in the God whose prophet he was—namely, Jehovah; and that they must look to Him, rather than to any of the gods of Egypt, for help and healing. (Kuenen does not believe in the great antiquity of this relic. Yet the Egyptian and Babylonian remains which have come down to our time have lasted many centuries more than the interval between Moses and Hezekiah; and some of them were already ancient in the Mosaic age. Our own Doomsday Book is at least as old as the brasen serpent was when it was destroyed. There is really no tangible historical ground for this extreme unwillingness to admit the authenticity of anything attributed by tradition to the authorship and handiwork of Moses.)

And he called it.—Rather, and it was called. Literally, and one called it. The impersonal construction, like the German man nannte.

Nehushtan.—The popular name of the serpent-idol. It is vocalised as a derivative from nĕ’hōsheth, “brass,” or “copper;” but it may really be formed from nā‘hāsh, “serpent,” and denote “great serpent” rather than “brass-god.” (Comp. the term Leviathan, Job 3:8.) Further, although the word is certainly not a compound of nĕ‘hōsheth, “copper,” and tān (i.e., tannîn), “serpent,” this may have been the popular etymology of the word. (Comp. the proper name, Nehushta, 2Kings 24:8.)

2 Kings 18:4. He removed the high places — Which none of his predecessors had had the courage to attempt. But, it is likely, the dreadful judgments of God, executed upon the ten tribes, and the carrying them away captive for their superstition and idolatry, had been the means of mightily awakening both him and all the people, for the present, (while these calamities were fresh before their eyes,) to observe the law of God very strictly. “It was a great demonstration,” says Dr. Dodd, “of Hezekiah’s sincere piety and zeal toward God, that he began so soon to reform the corruption of religion, and did not stay till he had established himself in his throne. He might think, however,” and certainly very justly, “that the surest way to establish himself, was to establish the true worship of God; though he could not but foresee that he ran a great hazard in attempting the abolition of idolatry, which had been confirmed by so many years prescription,” 2 Chronicles 29:3-11. And brake in pieces the brazen serpent, which Moses had made — Though this serpent was made by Moses at God’s command, and was of singular use to the Israelites, and a special type of Christ; yet, the primary use of it having long since ceased, and being now abused to the purposes of superstition and idolatry, it was deservedly broken to pieces. And from this example we may infer, that all things which are made the occasions of superstition and idolatry, ought to be taken away. For unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it — This cannot be intended to signify, that all along, from the days of Moses, this brazen serpent was used as an object of religious worship. For certainly neither David, nor Solomon in the former part of his reign, would have suffered any such thing; nor can we suppose but that Asa and Jehoshaphat, when they rooted out idolatry, would also have extirpated this, if they had perceived any species of it in their days. The commencement of this superstition, therefore, must have been of later date, and probably since the time that Ahab’s family, being allied to the royal family in Judah by marriage, introduced all kinds of idolatry. As this brazen serpent had been kept from the days of Moses, merely in memory of a miracle wrought by Jehovah, just as the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded also were, it is likely that their burning incense or perfumes before it was at first designed in honour of the true God; but then, in the process of their superstition, they probably either worshipped the God of Israel, or, what is worse, some heathen god, under that image; imitating therein the practice of some of the neighbouring nations, as the Babylonians, Phenicians: Egyptians, who all worshipped one or more of their gods under the form of a serpent. Upon this account Hezekiah wisely chose rather to lose this memorial of God’s wonderful mercy to the Israelites, than to suffer it any longer to be abused to idolatry, and therefore destroyed it. It deserves to be remarked here, that notwithstanding it is so expressly recorded that Hezekiah brake it in pieces, yet the Roman Catholics pretend to show it entire in the church of St. Ambrose in Milan. And he called it Nehushtan — Or rather, Nechushtan, as it is in the Hebrew, that is, brass; as if he had said, How much soever this serpent might be formerly regarded and used by God, as a sign of his mercy and power, yet now it is nothing but a piece of mere brass, which can do you neither good nor hurt, and therefore is no fit object of your worship. 18:1-8 Hezekiah was a true son of David. Some others did that which was right, but not like David. Let us not suppose that when times and men are bad, they must needs grow worse and worse; that does not follow: after many bad kings, God raised one up like David himself. The brazen serpent had been carefully preserved, as a memorial of God's goodness to their fathers in the wilderness; but it was idle and wicked to burn incense to it. All helps to devotion, not warranted by the word of God, interrupt the exercise of faith; they always lead to superstition and other dangerous evils. Human nature perverts every thing of this kind. True faith needs not such aids; the word of God, daily thought upon and prayed over, is all the outward help we need.He removed the high places - This religious reformation was effected in a violent and tumultuous manner (marginal reference). The "high places," though forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 12:2-4, Deuteronomy 12:11-14; compare Leviticus 26:30), had practically received the sanction of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 9:12-14, David 2 Samuel 15:32, Solomon 1 Kings 3:4, and others, and had long been the favorite resorts of the mass of the people (see 1 Kings 3:2 note). They were the rural centers for the worship of Yahweh, standing in the place of the later synagogue;, and had hitherto been winked at, or rather regarded as legitimate, even by the best kings. Hezekiah's desecration of these time-honored sanctuaries must have been a rude shock to the feelings of numbers; and indications of the popular discontent may be traced in the appeal of Rab-shakeh 2 Kings 18:22, and in the strength of the reaction under Manasseh 2 Kings 21:2-9; 2 Chronicles 33:3-17.

The brasen serpent - See the marginal reference. Its history from the time when it was set up to the date of Hezekiah's reformation is a blank. The present passage favors the supposition that it had been brought by Solomon from Gibeon and placed in the temple, for it implies a long continued worship of the serpent by the Israelites generally, and not a mere recent worship of it by the Jews.

And he called it Nehushtan - Rather, "And it was called Nehushtan." The people called it, not "the serpent" נחשׁ nāchâsh, but "the brass," or "the brass thing" נחשׁתן nechûshtān. Probably they did not like to call it "the serpent," on account of the dark associations which were attached to that reptile (Genesis 3:1-15; Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 91:13; etc.).

2Ki 18:4-37. He Destroys Idolatry.

4. He removed the high places and brake the images, &c.—The methods adopted by this good king for extirpating idolatry, and accomplishing a thorough reformation in religion, are fully detailed (2Ch 20:3; 31:19). But they are indicated very briefly, and in a sort of passing allusion.

brake in pieces the brazen serpent—The preservation of this remarkable relic of antiquity (Nu 21:5-10) might, like the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, have remained an interesting and instructive monument of the divine goodness and mercy to the Israelites in the wilderness: and it must have required the exercise of no small courage and resolution to destroy it. But in the progress of degeneracy it had become an object of idolatrous worship and as the interests of true religion rendered its demolition necessary, Hezekiah, by taking this bold step, consulted both the glory of God and the good of his country.

unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it—It is not to be supposed that this superstitious reverence had been paid to it ever since the time of Moses, for such idolatry would not have been tolerated either by David or by Solomon in the early part of his reign, by Asa or Jehoshaphat had they been aware of such a folly. But the probability is, that the introduction of this superstition does not date earlier than the time when the family of Ahab, by their alliance with the throne of Judah, exercised a pernicious influence in paving the way for all kinds of idolatry. It is possible, however, as some think, that its origin may have arisen out of a misapprehension of Moses' language (Nu 21:8). Serpent-worship, how revolting soever it may appear, was an extensively diffused form of idolatry; and it would obtain an easier reception in Israel because many of the neighboring nations, such as the Egyptians and Phœnicians, adored idol gods in the form of serpents as the emblems of health and immortality.

He removed the high places, i.e. the most of them, or such as the people most frequented; for all were not taken away, 2 Kings 23:13,14. And this he attempted to do, notwithstanding the people’s great and constant affection to them; partly because he had more zeal and courage than his predecessors; and partly because thee dreadful judgments of God upon the kingdom of Israel for their superstition and idolatry had made the people of Judah more pliable to the commands of God, and of their good king.

The brazen serpent that Moses had made, by God’s command, to be an ordinance or mean for the conveyance of God’s blessing to the people; which therefore had been hitherto kept as a memorial of God’s mercy; but being now commonly abused to superstition, was destroyed.

The children of Israel did burn incense to it; not doubtless as to a god, but only as to an instrument and token of God’s mercy, by and through which their adoration was directed to God, and given to that only for God’s sake.

He called it Nehushtan, i.e. he said, This serpent, howsoever formerly honoured, and used by God as a sign of his grace, yet now it is nothing but a piece of brass, which can do you neither good nor hurt; and therefore is no fit object for your worship. He removed the high places,.... Which the best of the kings of Judah never attempted, and which is observed of them to their discredit:

and broke the images, and cut down the groves; the idols his father set up and served, 2 Kings 16:4, groves and idols in them, were early instances of idolatry; See Gill on Judges 3:7, and their use for temples are still continued, not only among some Indian nations (l), but among some Christians in the northern parts of Europe (m):

and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; which he made in the wilderness, and which was brought by the children of Israel with them into the land of Canaan, and was kept as a memorial of the miracle wrought by looking to it, being laid up in some proper place where it had been preserved to this day:

for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it not from the time it was brought into Canaan, nor even in later times, in the days of Asa and Jehoshaphat, who would never have suffered it; very probably this piece of idolatry began in the times of Ahaz, who encouraged everything of that kind: for this serpent they had a great veneration, being made by Moses, and a means in his time of healing the Israelites; and they imagined it might be of some service to them, in a way of mediation to God; and worthy of worship, having some degree of divinity, as Kimchi and Ben Gersom; but Laniado (n) excuses them from all show of idolatry, and supposes what they did was for the honour of God only; hence sprung the heresy of the Ophites, according to Theodoret:

and he called it Nehushtan; perceiving they were ensnared by it, and drawn into idolatry to it, by way of contempt he called it by this name, which signifies "brass"; suggesting that it was only a mere piece of brass, had no divinity in it, and could be of no service to them in divine things; and, that it might no longer be a snare to them, he broke it into pieces; and, as the Jews (o) say, ground it to powder, and scattered it to every wind, that there might be no remains of it.

(l) See Dampier's Voyage, vol. 1. p. 411. (m) Vid. Fabritii Bibliograph. Antiqu. c. 9. sect. 11. (n) Cli Yaker, fol. 538. 2.((o) T. Bab. Avodah Zarah, fol. 44. 1.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it {b} Nehushtan.

(b) That is a piece of brass: thus he calls the serpent by contempt, which even though it was set up by the word of God, and miracles were wrought by it, when it was used for idolatry this good king destroyed it, not thinking it worthy to be called a serpent, but a piece of brass.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. brake the images [R.V. pillars] and cut down the groves] R.V. the Asherah. On the ‘pillars’ see note on 2 Kings 3:2, and on the ‘Asherah’, which was probably the wooden image of a goddess so called, see on 2 Kings 18:6.

the brasen serpent] There can be no doubt that, after the cures wrought (Numbers 21:9) by looking at the serpent which Moses made, this object, the sacrament of so great a blessing, would be reverently kept, and though we have no mention of its preservation and bestowal, nor any notice of it till this passage, there is no reason to suppose that it would be allowed to become lost or to be broken in pieces. Some have thought that the object here spoken of was a serpent made after the fashion of that early one set up in the wilderness. But when the statement in the text is so plain, and the material in question so little perishable there can be no reason to suppose from the mere silence of Holy Writ about it, that the original serpent had disappeared.

for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it] The record does not tell us when this worship of the brasen serpent began. But in midst of the many objects set up to be adored in the degenerate days of some of the kings, the adoration of the brasen serpent would be counted among the most reputable. Having once commenced there was no chance of its cessation in times like those of the last king, Ahaz.

and he called it Nehushtan] It is perhaps better to take an indefinite word as nominative to the verb ‘called’: ‘one called it’, i.e. ‘it was called’ as is given in the margin of R.V. The word Nehushtan meaning ‘a piece of brass’ or ‘something made of brass’ may either be taken as a term of contempt, in which case the people who used the name were those who with Hezekiah caused it to be destroyed; or it may be the name which had in process of time come to be applied by everybody to this brasen figure. The words for ‘serpent’ and for ‘brass’ are in Hebrew very much alike, and a word like ‘Nehushtan’ might very well come in that language to convey in the popular speech the whole idea of ‘brasen serpent’, and win its way to general acceptance.Verse 4. - He removed the high places. This was a comparatively late step in Hezekiah's religious reformation. He began, as we learn from Chronicles (2 Chronicles 29:3, 17), "in the first year of his reign, the first month, and the first day," by reopening the temple, which Ahaz had shut up, removing from it all the "filthiness" which Ahaz had allowed to accumulate (2 Chronicles 29:5), gathering together the priests and Levites and exhorting them (2 Chronicles 29:4-11), restoring and renewing the vessels which Ahaz had cut in pieces (2 Chronicles 29:19), and then re-establishing the temple-worship with all due solemnity (2 Chronicles 29:20-35). He next resolved on holding a grand Passover-festival, in the second month, as it had not been possible to keep it in the first (2 Chronicles 30:2, 3), and invited thereto, not only his own subjects, but the Israelites of the neighboring kingdom who were not yet carried off, but were still under the rule of Hoshea (2 Chronicles 30:10, 11, 18). It was not until this festival was over that the removal of the high places was taken in hand. Then, in a fit of zeal, which no doubt the king encouraged, a multitude of those who had kept the feast went forth from Jerusalem, first into the cities of Judah and Benjamin, and then into several of the cities of Israel, and "brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars... and utterly destroyed them all" (see 2 Chronicles 31:1). And brake the images, and cut down the groves; literally, the grove, according to the present text; but, as all the versions have the plural, Thenius thinks אֲשֵׁרָה should be changed into אֲשֵׁרִים. Keil and Bahr, on the contrary, would retain the singular, but understand it "collectively." That idolatry was practiced at some of the high places seems clear from this place, as well as from 1 Kings 14:23. And brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made (see Numbers 21:9). Difficulties are raised with respect to this statement. Some argue that the serpent, having served its purpose, would have been left hanging at the place where it was set up in the wilderness; others, that Moses would have destroyed it, lest the Israelites should make it an idol; others, again, that it was not likely to have lasted seven hundred years from the Exodus, even if it was brought into Palestine and taken care cf. It is supposed, therefore, that an imitation of the original serpent had been made by the Jews in the reign of Ahaz, had been called "the serpent Of Moses," and was now destroyed. But there is no sufficient reason for any of these suppositions. Considering what the serpent typified (John 3:14), it is not surprising that Moses should have been instructed to preserve it with the furniture of the tabernacle, or that, when once attached to that structure, it should have been preserved as a religious relic for seven hundred years. Many Egyptian figures in bronze now exist which are from three thousand to four thousand years old. The statement of the writer of Kings, that Hezekiah did now destroy "the serpent that Moses had made," is of more weight than a thousand speculations concerning what is likely, or not likely, to have happened. For unto these days the children of Israel did burn incense to it. Not, certainly, "from Moses' time to Hezekiah's," but from a date left vague and undetermined to the time when Hezekiah took his religious reformation in hand. Hezekiah found the practice continuing; the writer is not concerned to say - perhaps does net know - when it began. He implies, however, that it was of long standing. Serpent-worship was widely spread in the East, and there was more excuse for directing religious regard toward this serpent than toward any other. And he called it Nehushtan; rather, and it was called Nehushtan. יקרא is a singular with indefinite subject ("one called"), equivalent to "they called," or "it was called" (comp. Genesis 25:26; Genesis 38:29, 30). Nehushtan is not from נחשׁ "serpent," but from נחשׁת, "brass," and means "the little brass thing," ן being a diminutive, expression of tenderness. This mixed cultus, composed of the worship of idols and the worship of Jehovah, they retained till the time when the books of the Kings were written. "Unto this day they do after the former customs." הראשׁנים המּשׁפּטים can only be the religious usages and ordinances which were introduced at the settlement of the new inhabitants, and which are described in 2 Kings 17:28-33. The prophetic historian observes still further, that "they fear not Jehovah, and do not according to their statutes and their rights, nor according to the law and commandment which the Lord had laid down for the sons of Jacob, to whom He gave the name of Israel" (see 1 Kings 18:31), i.e., according to the Mosaic law. חקּתם and משׁפּטם "their statutes and their right," stands in antithesis to והמּצוה התּורה which Jehovah gave to the children of Israel. If, then, the clause, "they do not according to their statutes and their right," is not to contain a glaring contradiction to the previous assertion, "unto this day they do after their first (former) rights," we must understand by וּמשׁפּטם חקּתם the statutes and the right of the ten tribes, i.e., the worship of Jehovah under the symbols of the calves, and must explain the inexactness of the expression "their statutes and their right" from the fact that the historian was thinking of the Israelites who had been left behind in the land, or of the remnant of the Israelitish population that had become mixed up with the heathen settlers (2 Kings 23:19-20; 2 Chronicles 34:6, 2 Chronicles 34:9, 2 Chronicles 34:33). The meaning of the verse is therefore evidently the following: The inhabitants of Samaria retain to this day the cultus composed of the worship of idols and of Jehovah under the form of an image, and do not worship Jehovah either after the manner of the ten tribes or according to the precepts of the Mosaic law. Their worship is an amalgamation of the Jehovah image-worship and of heathen idolatry (cf. 2 Kings 17:41). - To indicate the character of this worship still more clearly, and hold it up as a complete breach of the covenant and as utter apostasy from Jehovah, the historian describes still more fully, in 2 Kings 17:35-39, how earnestly and emphatically the people of Israel had been prohibited from worshipping other gods, and urged to worship Jehovah alone, who had redeemed Israel out of Egypt and exalted it into His own nation. For 2 Kings 17:35 compare Exodus 20:5; for 2 Kings 17:36, the exposition of 2 Kings 17:7, also Exodus 32:11; Exodus 6:6; Exodus 20:23; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15, etc. In 2 Kings 17:37 the committal of the thorah to writing is presupposed. For 2 Kings 17:39, see Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 23:15, etc.
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