2 Kings 23:15
Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) The altar . . . and the high place.—The and is wanting in the Hebrew, LXX., and Targum.It is supplied in the Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic, correctly as regards the sense; see below. Grammatically, “the high place” may be in apposition to “the altar,” and may include it, as being a more general term.

Which Jeroboam the son of Nebat . . .—See 1Kings 12:28 seq.

Burned the high place.—Was it, then, a wooden structure, as Thenius supposes? Perhaps it resembled a dolmen (many hundred such have been found in Palestine); and fire may have been kindled under it, by way of cracking the huge slabs of stone of which it was built. The fragments might then be more easily crushed.

Burned the grove.—The present text is, burned an ashērah. Perhaps the article has fallen out; especially as this is not the only indication that the text has suffered in this place. Thenius understands the word in the general sense of an idol-image, comparing 2Kings 17:29 seq. But it is doubtful whether the word Ashērah is so used. It is noteworthy that the present passage indirectly agrees with Hosea 10:6, for no mention is made of what used to be the chief object of worship at Beth-el; viz., the golden bullock. It had been carried away to Assyria, as the prophet foretold.

2 Kings 23:15. The altar that was at Beth-el he brake down — Probably this city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long before this time. And it is probable, since the ten tribes were carried away, many cities had put themselves under the protection of Judah. The golden calf, it seems, was gone; but Josiah would leave no remains of that idolatry.23:15-24 Josiah's zeal extended to the cities of Israel within his reach. He carefully preserved the sepulchre of that man of God, who came from Judah to foretell the throwing down of Jeroboam's altar. When they had cleared the country of the old leaven of idolatry, then they applied themselves to the keeping of the feast. There was not holden such a passover in any of the foregoing reigns. The revival of a long-neglected ordinance, filled them with holy joy; and God recompensed their zeal in destroying idolatry with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. We have reason to think that during the remainder of Josiah's reign, religion flourished.And burned the high place - This "high place" is to be distinguished from the altar and the grove (אשׁרה 'ăshêrâh). It may have been a shrine or tabernacle, either standing by itself or else covering the "grove" (2 Kings 23:7 note; 1 Kings 14:23 note). As it was "stamped small to powder," it must have been made either of metal or stone.15-20. Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, &c.—Not satisfied with the removal of every vestige of idolatry from his own dominion, this zealous iconoclast made a tour of inspection through the cities of Samaria and all the territory formerly occupied by the ten tribes, destroying the altars and temples of the high places, consigning the Asherim to the flames, putting to death the priests of the high places, and showing his horror at idolatry by ransacking the sepulchers of idolatrous priests, and strewing the burnt ashes of their bones upon the altars before he demolished them. The altar that was at Beth-el.

Question. How could he rightly do this, seeing Beth-el was a part of the kingdom of Israel, not of Judah?

Answer. Either, first, This city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long since, 2 Chronicles 13:19. Or, secondly, He did this by virtue of that ancient right which David and his posterity had to the kingdom of Israel, which though suspended for a time by God’s grant of the ten tribes to Jeroboam, and the succeeding kings of Israel; yet these being all extinct, it might seem to return to him, at least so far as to pluck up idolatry out of the land of Israel, as he had opportunity, and especially out of those parts of it which bordered upon Judah. Or, thirdly, The king of Babylon having engaged in a war with the Assyrian, Hezekiah’s great enemy, and having thereupon occasion for Hezekiah’s friendship, did (as some suppose) enlarge his dominion, and give him some power over the kingdom of Israel, at least as to matters of religion; which may seem not improbable from 2 Chronicles 30:1-6. And the same power seems to have been continued, and some kind of league made, between the king of Babylon and Manasseh, (who thereupon was restored to his kingdom, 2 Chronicles 33:13) and after him Josiah, who therefore was so zealous in his quarrel against the king of Egypt, 2 Chronicles 35:20, &c. Or, fourthly, He did it in pursuance of God’s prediction concerning this action, 1 Kings 13:2, which (in a matter so good, and so agreeable to God’s will and word, as the extirpation of idolatry unquestionably was) had the force of a warrant or command upon him to do it, as God’s prediction of the conversion of the Gentiles by the Messias was a command to his apostles to preach to them, Acts 13:47.

The high place; which seems to have been some little temple or house erected for that worship, or for the priests attending upon it. Moreover, the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made. For the worship of the calf there:

both that altar, and the high place, he brake down; according to an ancient prophecy of the man of God, 1 Kings 13:3 and of Amos in later times, Amos 9:1.

and burnt the high place, and stamped it small to powder; that there might be no remains of it:

and burnt the grove; either the grove of trees on it, or the idol that was in it.

Moreover {n} the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.

(n) Which Jeroboam had built in Israel, 1Ki 12:28,29.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15–20. Josiah destroys the high place at Beth-el, and defiles the altar. He finds the tomb of the man of God who had foretold all these things. He also slays the priests at Beth-el (Not in Chronicles)

the altar that was at Beth-el] i.e. which Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had erected when the ten tribes revolted from Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:28-29). Having purged his own kingdom from idolatry he now turns his thoughts to those Israelites who were left in the northern kingdom. The Chronicler, who omits the history of Israel almost entirely, probably omits the striking incident noticed in these verses because it was not connected directly with Judah. He does tell of the collection of money from Manasseh, Ephraim and the remnant of Israel (2 Chronicles 34:8) at this time, but this was for the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem and so came properly within his subject.

both [R.V. even] that altar and the high place] The ‘high place’ means here, and often in other passages, ‘the house of the high place’, which was some sort of chapel near to the spot where the altar stood.

and [R.V. adds he] burnt the high place … and burnt the grove] R.V. Asherah. As from the cutting down (verse 14), so here from the burning we learn that the Asherim were wooden even if they were overlaid with metal.Verse 15. - Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place; rather, the altar that was at Bethel, the high place, without any "and." הַבָמָה is in apposition with הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. By setting up an altar at Bethel, Jeroboam constituted Bethel a "high place." Which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made (comp. 1 Kings 12:33; 1 Kings 13:2), both that altar end the high place he brake down. "The high place" is here equivalent to the "house of high places" in 1 Kings 12:31, and designates "the buildings of this sanctuary" (Keil). At such a national center as Bethel a temple would, of course, accompany the altar. Whether the temple and altar were in use or not at the time when Josiah destroyed them, is uncertain. The mixed race which had superseded the Israelites in the country (2 Kings 17:24-41) may have continued the worship, or may have set it aside. And burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder. It is not clear that this latter clause applies to the high place. Perhaps we should translate - And stamped small to powder, and burned, the grove. It is for the most part only comparatively small objects that are "stamped small to powder" (see vers. 6, 12, and comp. 2 Chronicles 15:21). "Only the priests of the high places did not sacrifice, ... but ate unleavened bread in the midst of their brethren." The אך is connected with 2 Kings 23:8 : Josiah did not allow the priests, whom he had brought out of the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice upon the altar of Jehovah in the temple, i.e., to perform the sacrificial service of the law, though he did allow them "to eat that which was unleavened," i.e., to eat of the sacred altar-gifts intended for the priests (Leviticus 6:9-10 and Leviticus 6:22); only they were not allowed to consume this at a holy place, but simply in the midst of their brethren, i.e., at home in the family. They were thus placed on a par with the priests who were rendered incapable of service on account of a bodily defect (Leviticus 21:17-22).
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