2 Kings 23:2
And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.
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(2) And the prophets.—That is, the numerous members of the prophetic order, who at this time formed a distinct class, repeatedly mentioned in the writings of Jeremiah (e.g., Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 6:13), as well as of older prophets. The Targum has the scribes, the γραμματεύς of the New Testament, a class which hardly existed so early. Chron. and some MSS. reads the Levites. (See Note on 2Chronicles 34:30.)

All the men of Judah . . . inhabitants of Jerusalem . . . the people.—A natural hyperbole, Of course the Temple court would not contain the entire population.

And he read.—Perhaps the king himself; but not necessarily. (Comp., e.g., 2Kings 22:10; 2Kings 22:16.) Qui facit per alium facit per se. The priests were charged to read the Law to the people (Deuteronomy 31:9, seq.) at the end of every seven years.

Small and greati.e., high and low. (Comp. Psalm 49:2.)

2 Kings 23:2. The king went up into the house of the Lord — For as this great meeting was called for a religious purpose, it was to be conducted in a religious manner; and whatever was done in it was to be done as in the presence of God. And all the men of Judah — A very great number of them; for it cannot be supposed that the court of the Lord’s house could contain all the inhabitants of the land at once. And the prophets — Either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah, Huldah, or the sons of the prophets. The people, both small and great — High and low, rich and poor, young and old: for persons of all ranks, conditions, and ages, were present. And he read in their ears, &c. — Josiah himself, for he did not think it beneath him to be a reader, any more than Solomon did to be a preacher, and David even a door-keeper, in the house of God. All people are concerned to know the Scriptures, and all in authority to spread the knowledge of them.23:1-3 Josiah had received a message from God, that there was no preventing the ruin of Jerusalem, but that he should only deliver his own soul; yet he does his duty, and leaves the event to God. He engaged the people in the most solemn manner to abolish idolatry, and to serve God in righteousness and true holiness. Though most were formal or hypocritical herein, yet much outward wickedness would be prevented, and they were accountable to God for their own conduct.The prophets - The suggestion to regard this word an error of the pen for "Levites," which occurs in Chronicles (marginal reference), is unnecessary. For though Zephaniah, Urijah, and Jeremiah are all that we can name as belonging to the order at the time, there is no reason to doubt that Judaea contained others whom we cannot name. "Schools of the prophets" were as common in Judah as in Israel.

He read - The present passage is strong evidence that the Jewish kings could read. The solemn reading of the Law - a practice commanded in the Law itself once in seven years Deuteronomy 31:10-13 - had been intermitted, at least for the last 75 years, from the date of the accession of Manasseh.

2. he read in their ears—that is, "caused to be read." The prophets; either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah; or the sons or disciples of the prophets.

He read; He caused to be read. And the king went up into the house of the Lord,.... To the temple, from his palace:

and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him: they met him there:

and the priests, and the prophets; the prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Uriah, who, though they might not be at Jerusalem when the book of the law was found, yet, upon this message of the king's, might come up thither from the countries where they were; the Targum interprets the word "scribes": and some take them to be the sons of the prophets, their disciples; in 2 Chronicles 34:30 they are called Levites:

and all the people, both small and great; a very numerous assembly:

and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord: that is, he caused it to be read by others, and perhaps by more than one, the congregation being so large.

And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.
2. and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people] These were the elders spoken of in the previous verse, the representative men of the principal classes from every part of the kingdom. In the parallel place in 2 Chronicles 34:30, the ‘prophets’ are not mentioned in this enumeration, but in their place the ‘Levites’ appear. This variation is no doubt due to the different state of things which existed when the two books were compiled. In the days of the compiler of Kings, the effect of the schools of the prophets had not died away, and he could understand that men who had belonged to them would in Josiah’s time form a considerable class, and be mentioned as such in the original record. When the Chronicler lived things were very different. Prophets, as a class of men trained in religious societies with a view to future work among the people, had ceased to exist, while the Levites had come into considerable prominence. Meaning therefore to represent the influential persons of the time as present at Josiah’s solemn gathering, he mentions ‘Levites’ who in his own time were a distinguished body, omitting ‘prophets’ as they were no longer found in the same numbers, nor constituted so distinct a class, when this assembly was collected in Josiah’s reign.

small and great] i.e. The poor and the rich.

the book of the covenant] The expression is found in Exodus 24:7, and there seems to refer to the contents of the chapters Exodus 20-23. But there is little doubt that, however brief the first form of statutes may have been to which this name was given, it came in time to include the additional laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and that to some such expanded set of laws the name is here applied.Verse 2. - And the king went up into the house of the Lord. No place could be so suitable for the renewal of the covenant between God and his people as the house of God, where God was in a peculiar way present, and the ground was, like the ground at Horeb, holy. Josiah "went up" to the temple from the royal palace, which was on a lower level (comp. 1 Kings 10:5). And all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him. Not only the "elders," who had been summoned, but of the people, as many as chose to attend, besides. The gathering was no doubt great; but the expressions used are (as with the Orientals generally) hyperbolical. And the priests, and the prophets. The representation would have been incomplete without these two classes - the priests, the ordinary and regular readers (Deuteronomy 31:11) and teachers (Deuteronomy 33:10) of the Law; and the prophets, the extraordinary and occasional teachers, inspired from time to time, and commissioned to enforce the Law, and futile to declare God's will to the people. And all the people, both small and great; i.e. without distinction of classes - all ranks of the people, high and low, rich and poor, noble and base-born. All were concerned, nay, concerned equally, in a matter which touched the national life and the prospects of each individual. And he read in their ears. There is no reason for translating, with Keil, "he caused to be read in their ears," as though either the Jewish kings could not read, or would be usurping the functions of the priests in publicly reading the Law to the people. If a king might, like Solomon (1 Kings 8:22-61), lead the prayers of the congregation of Israel in the temple, much more might he read the Law to them. The readers in the Jewish synagogues are ordinarily lay people. All the words of the book of the covenant. Perhaps there is here some exaggeration, as in the phrases, "all the men of Judah," and "all the inhabitants of Jerusalem." The entire Pentateuch could scarcely be read through in less than ten hours. Possibly, the Book of Deuteronomy was alone read. Which was found in the house of the Lord (see above, 2 Kings 22:8). The reply of Huldah the prophetess. - Huldah confirmed the fear expressed by Josiah, that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Jerusalem and its inhabitants on account of their idolatry, and proclaimed first of all (2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:17), that the Lord would bring upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants all the punishments with which the rebellious and idolaters are threatened in the book of the law; and secondly (2 Kings 22:18-20), to the king himself, that on account of his sincere repentance and humiliation in the sight of God, he would not live to see the predicted calamities, but would be gathered to his fathers in peace. The first part of her announcement applies "to the man who has sent you to me" (2 Kings 22:15), the second "to the king of Judah, who has sent to inquire of the Lord" (2 Kings 22:18). "The man" who had sent to her was indeed also the king; but Huldah intentionally made use of the general expression "the man," etc., to indicate that the word announced to him applied not merely to the king, but to every one who would hearken to the word, whereas the second portion of her reply had reference to the king alone. הזּה המּקום, in 2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:19, and 2 Kings 22:20, is Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom. In 2 Kings 22:16, הסּפר כּל־דּברי is an explanatory apposition to רעה. 2 Kings 22:17. "With all the work of their hands," i.e., with the idols which they have made for themselves (cf. 1 Kings 16:7). The last clause in 2 Kings 22:18, "the words which thou hast heard," is not to be connected with the preceding one, "thus saith the Lord," and על or ל to be supplied; but it belongs to the following sentence, and is placed at the head absolutely: as for the words, which thou hast heart - because thy heart has become soft, i.e., in despair at the punishment with which the sinners are threatened (cf. Deuteronomy 20:3; Isaiah 7:4), and thou hast humbled thyself, when thou didst hear, etc.; therefore, behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, etc. לשׁמּה להיות, "that they (the city and inhabitants) may become a desolation and curse." These words, which are often used by the prophets, but which are not found connected like this except in Jeremiah 44:22, rest upon Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, and show that these passages had been read to the king out of the book of the law.
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