2 Kings 23:5
And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense to Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
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(5) He put down.—Syriac and Arabic, he slew.

The idolatrous priests.—The kěmārîm, or black-robed priests (Hosea 10:5, of the priests of the calf-worship at Beth-el). Only occurring besides in Zephaniah 1:4. Here, as in the passage of Hosea, the word denotes the unlawful priests of Jehovah, as contrasted with those of the Baal, mentioned in the next place. Whether the term really means black-robed, as Kimchi explains, is questionable. Priests used to wear white throughout the ancient world, except on certain special occasions. Gesenius derives it from a root meaning black, but explains, one clad in black, i.e., a mourner, an ascetic, and so a priest. Perhaps the true derivation is from another root, meaning to weave: weaver of spells or charms; as magic was an invariable concomitant of false worship. (Comp. 2Kings 17:17; 2Kings 21:6.) It is a regular word for priest in Syriac (chûmrâ; Psalm 110:4; and the Ep. to the Heb., passim.)

To burn incense.—So Syriac, Vulg., and Arabic. The Hebrew has, and he burnt incense. Probably it should be plural, as in the Vatican LXX. and Targum.

In the places round about.1Kings 6:29. Omit in the places.

Unto Baal, to the sun.Unto the Baal, to wit, unto the sun. But it is better to supply and with all the versions. Bel and Samas were distinct deities in the Assyro-Babylonian system. When Reuss remarks that “the knowledge of the old Semitic worships, possessed by the Hebrew historians, appears to have been very superficial, for Baal and the sun are one and the same deity,” he lays himself open to the same charge.

The planets.—Or, the signs of the Zodiac. The Heb. is mazzalôth, probably a variant form of mazzarôth (Job 38:32). The word is used in the Targums, and by rabbinical writers, in the sense of star, as influencing human destiny, and so fate, fortune, in the singular, and in the plural of the signs of the Zodiac (e.g., Ecclesiastes 9:3; Esther 3:7). It is, perhaps, derived from ’azar, “to gird,” and means “belt,” or “girdle;” or from ’azal, “to journey,” and so means “stages” of the sun’s course in the heavens. (Comp. Arab, manzal.)

2 Kings 23:5. He put down the idolatrous priests — כמרים, chemarim. Their particular business, as appears from this place, was to burn incense. Hence it is thought by some, that the faithful Jews gave them this name by way of contempt, as being continually scorched by their fumigating fires. But, according to Bishop Patrick, they were so called from being clothed in black: for the Egyptians, as well as many other pagan nations; made use of black garments when they sacrificed to the infernal deities: in opposition to which the Jewish priests were clothed with white at their sacrifices.23:4-14 What abundance of wickedness in Judah and Jerusalem! One would not have believed it possible, that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found. Josiah had reigned eighteen years, and had himself set the people a good example, and kept up religion according to the Divine law; yet, when he came to search for idolatry, the depth and extent were very great. Both common history, and the records of God's word, teach, that all the real godliness or goodness ever found on earth, is derived from the new-creating Spirit of Jesus Christ.He put down ... - or, "He caused to cease the idolatrous priests" (margin); i. e., he stopped them. The word translated "idolatrous priests" (see the margin) is a rare one, occurring only here and in marginal references. Here and in Zephaniah it is contrasted with כהן kôhên, another class of high-place priests. The כהן kôhên were probably "Levitical," the כהן kâhêm "non-Levitical priests of the highplaces." כהן kâhêm appears to have been a foreign term, perhaps derived from the Syriac cumro, which means a priest of any kind.

Whom the kings of Judah had ordained - The consecration of non-Levitical priests by the kings of Judah (compare 1 Kings 12:31) had not been previously mentioned; but it is quite in accordance with the other proceedings of Manasseh and Amon.

The planets - See the marginal note, i. e., the "signs of the Zodiac." Compare Job 38:32 margin. The word in the original probably means primarily "houses" or "stations," which was the name applied by the Babylonians to their divisions of the Zodiac.

5. put down the idolatrous priests—Hebrew, chemarim, "scorched," that is, Guebres, or fire-worshippers, distinguished by a girdle (Eze 23:14-17) or belt of wool and camel's hair, twisted round the body twice and tied with four knots, which had a symbolic meaning, and made it a supposed defense against evil.

them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, &c.—or Baal-shemesh, for Baal was sometimes considered the sun. This form of false worship was not by images, but pure star-worship, borrowed from the old Assyrians.

and—rather, "even to all the host of heaven."

The idolatrous priests, Heb. the chemarim; which were ministers of idols, Hosea 10:5, distinct from the priests, Zephaniah 1:4. Possibly they were the highest rank of priests, because they are here employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.

Baal; a particular god, of greatest esteem with them, so called; though elsewhere the name of Baal is common to all false gods. And he put down the idolatrous priests,.... The Cemarim, so called, because they wore black clothes, as Kimchi and others, whereas the priests of the Lord were clothed in white linen; see Gill on Zephaniah 1:4.

whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places, in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; for though those high places were destroyed by Hezekiah, they were rebuilt by Manasseh his son, and priests put in them to officiate there, whom Josiah now deposed, 2 Kings 21:3,

them also that burnt incense unto Baal; in the same high places; these were the priests, and the others in the preceding clause are thought to be ministers unto them:

to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets; the five planets besides the sun and moon, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus; or to the twelve celestial signs in the firmament, as some (t); though Theodoret takes it to be a single star, the evening star:

and to all the host of heaven; or even to the host of heaven, all the stars thereof: this part of worship:

burning incense, which was peculiar to the most high God, yet was frequently made by idolaters to their deities; and from the word (u) by which it is here and elsewhere expressed may "nectar" be derived, so much spoken of by the Heathen poets as of a sweet smell (w), and as delicious to their gods; and so Porphyry (x) represents the gods as living on smoke, vapours, and perfumes; and frankincense is said, by Diodorus Siculus (y), to be most grateful to them, and beloved by them; this therefore is a much better derivation of the word "nectar" than what Suidas (z) gives, that is, as if it was "nectar", because it makes those young that drink it; or than the account Athenaeus (a) gives of it, that it is a wine in Babylon so called.

(t) David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 77. 3.((u) "suffitum fecit. Et diis acceptus--" Nidor. Ovid. Metamorph. 1. 12, fab. 4. (w) Theocrit. Idyll. xvii. ver. 29. (x) De Abstinentia, l. 2. c. 42. Celsus apud Origen. l. 8. p. 417. (y) Biblioth. l. 2. p. 132. (z) In voce (a) Deipnosophist. l. 1.

And he put down the {f} idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

(f) Or Chemarims, meaning the priests of Baal who were called Chemarims either because they wore black garments or else were smoked with burning incense to idols.

5. the idolatrous priests] The Hebrew has a special name (Chemarim) for these priests, and the most generally accepted derivation of the word is from a root meaning ‘black’, which may have been the colour of the robes used by these priests, though we are never told of black-robed priests in the Old Testament. In Hosea 10:5 the name is applied to the priests of the calves, and we may almost be certain that these were in dress made to look as much like those in the temple at Jerusalem as possible. The only other place where the name is found is Zephaniah 1:4 where the words also refer to this false worship in Judah. The Syriac cognate word is used in the N. Test. for the ordinary Jewish priests, so that perhaps some notion of ministerial solemnity, rather than the mere idea of colour, is attached to the name.

whom the kings of Judah had ordained] The use of Chemarim in Hosea 10:5 for the priests of the calves might lead to the supposition that the ordination here spoken of was an introduction of calf-worship into Judah. We have however no definite statement that this was ever done. Perhaps as Chemarim had become the name of the irregular priests in Israel, who offered to Jehovah but before the calves, the term came into use for all such priests as served at the high places in the way mentioned 2 Chronicles 33:17 ‘The people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only’.Verse 5. - And he put down the idolatrous priests; literally, the chemarim. The same word is used of idolatrous priests in Hosea 10:5 and Zephaniah 1:4. It is best connected with the Arabic root chamar, colere deum, and with the Syriac cumro, "priest" or "sacrificer." The Syrian priests were probably so called at the time, and the Hebrews took the word, and applied it to all false priests or idolatrous priests, reserving their own cohanim (כֹּהֲנִים) for true Jehovistic priests only. Whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem. This practice had not been mentioned previously, and can scarcely have belonged to the earlier kingdom of Judah, when "the people" (as we are told so often) "worshipped and burnt incense in the high places." But it is quite in harmony with the other doings of Manasseh and Amen, that, when they re-established the high places (2 Kings 21:3, 21), they should have followed the custom of the Israelite monarchs at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-32), and have "ordained priests" to conduct the worship at them. Them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon (on the Baal-worship of Manasseh and Amen, see 2 Kings 21:3; on the sun-worship, compare below, ver. 11; the moon-worship was probably a form of the worship of Astarte), and to the planets; rather, to the twelve signs. The constellations or signs of the zodiac are, no doubt, intended (comp. Job 38:32, where the term מַזָּדות may be regarded as a mere variant form of the מַזָּלות of this passage). The proper meaning of the term is "mansions;" or "houses," the zodiacal signs being regarded as the "mansions of the sun" by the Babylonians (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. p. 419). And to all the host of heaven (see the comment on 2 Kings 21:3). 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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