2 Kings 23
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
Chap. 2 Kings 23:1-14. Josiah’s covenant to serve the Lord. Destruction of idolatry, and removal of idolatrous priests (2 Chronicles 34:3-7; 2 Chronicles 34:29-33)

1. And the king sent, and they gathered] The whole proceeding described in the first three verses of this chapter may be compared with the similar covenant-making in the reign of Joash (2 Kings 11:14-17). That was also followed by a destruction of the objects of idolatry.

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.

And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
3. And the king stood by a [R.V. the] pillar] See 2 Kings 11:14 and the notes there.

to walk after the Lord &c.] The words of the covenant are dictated by Deuteronomy 13:4.

all their [R.V. his] heart and all their [R.V. his] soul] This was the king’s own solemn pledge.

to perform [R.V. confirm] the words of this covenant] ‘Confirm’ is the rendering of this verb in A.V. in a very similar passage (Deuteronomy 27:26) ‘Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them’.

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
4. priests of the second order] i.e. Those who were next in rank to the high priest (cf. Jeremiah 52:24).

the keepers of the door] Who would be of the priests or Levites, and so could enter within the holy place.

to bring forth … all the vessels that were made for Baal] We see therefore that the Baal worship had been fully established within the holy place.

and for the grove] the Asherah. See note on 1 Kings 14:15. The same change is also made in the 6th verse.

in the fields of Kidron] These were where the valley of the Kidron growing wider offered space for such a burning. We can again see that the destruction was in agreement with the commands in Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:3.

and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el] That the refuse of all these objects of idolatry might be cast away in the place whence the first step was taken which had led to idolatry among the people of the Lord.

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 unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
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’.

And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
6. without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron] So that nothing of the polluting idol might remain, even in its destruction, within the holy city. On the brook Kidron, and its connexion with the destruction of other idols, see note on 1 Kings 15:13.

upon the graves of the children of the people] R.V. of the common people. The A.V. renders the same words thus in Jeremiah 26:23. Those who could not afford to have graves cut out of the rocks and made secure by a stone at the entrance, were laid in the ground at some distance from the city. The reason for desiring a grave in the rock was lest the prowling wild beasts, which were not uncommon in the land, might disturb the dead bodies. The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 34:4) says the dust was strewn ‘on the graves of them that had sacrificed’ unto the idols. This would imply that a special burying-place had been made for those who had adopted the idolatries that had been introduced; a thing which is very improbable.

And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
7. And he brake down] On like reforms cf. 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 22:46.

by [R.V. in] the house of the Lord] The text says that these abominations were in the temple. There is no reason why the English should not represent it plainly.

the women wove hangings for the grove] R.V. the Asherah. It seems that at some of the shrines dedicated to the false gods, instead of more permanent erections, tents were put up, and it was for these that the women were employed in weaving curtains. The Hebrew word rendered ‘hangings’ is the same which is used in other passages for ‘houses’ of the high places. The Jewish tradition explains it by ‘curtains’. Some have thought that the ‘tabernacles’ alluded to in Amos 5:26 were of this character, tent-like erections which could be moved when not in use. Another allusion to such curtained structures for idolatrous worship is found in Ezekiel 16:16. ‘Of thy garments thou didst take and deckedst thy high places with divers colours’.

And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.
8. all the priests out of the cities of Judah] These were the priests who had betaken themselves to the various high places throughout the land, and conducted the worship there (2 Chronicles 33:17). These services were offered ‘to the Lord their God only’. But such forbidden places Josiah destroyed and defiled their sites so that they should never be restored. The priests were brought to Jerusalem and were hereafter employed on lower duties as Levites.

from Geba to Beer-sheba] That is, throughout all Judah just as ‘from Dan to Beersheba’ is used (Jdg 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20) for the whole land of Canaan. Geba was in the northern border of the tribe of Benjamin. It is probably the same as Gibeah which is spoken of in Jdg 20:31 : Beersheba was in the extreme south of Judah. We know from Amos 8:14 that a ‘manner’ (R.V. way) of idolatrous worship prevailed there.

the high places of the gates] The open spaces kept about the gates of Oriental cities afforded exactly the site which would be chosen for some shrine of the popular worship, especially when the kings, Manasseh and Amon, had given their strong support to idolatry. It would be thought to harmonize with the royal wishes if an altar were erected close to the place where the king’s public judgement-seat was wont to be.

in [R.V. at] the entering in, &c.] As the English of both A.V. and R.V. stands, ‘the gate of Joshua the governor of the city’ must be the same which is called in the next clause ‘the gate of the city’. In that case, as the text speaks of ‘high places’, we must understand that there was more than one ‘high place’ in the same neighbourhood. But as they are called ‘high places of the gates’ it has seemed necessary to some to render the words as if a conjunction were omitted, ‘The high places of the gates, that which was in the entering in of the gate of Joshua … and also that which was … at the gate of the city’. Thus the two localities would be different. As ‘the gate of Joshua’ is mentioned nowhere else, we cannot say where it was, or whether a gate so described could also be called ‘a gate of the city’. It seems more probable that it was some inner gate, near the governor’s official residence.

Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
9. came not up to the altar of the Lord] They had been ministers of the high places, which even if they were erected in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, were yet forbidden, and so these priests henceforth executed no sacrificial office at the temple. They had their support from the offerings made there, but were a class apart and would continue so till they were all passed away. The defect in their practice was held to disqualify them, as physical defects disqualified men from becoming priests.

the unleavened bread] Mentioned as representing those gifts which, after being offered, were devoted to the maintenance of the priests.

among their brethren] i.e. This whole class lived a life distinct from the other priests, being deposed and as it were degraded from their higher office.

And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
10. Topheth] See note on 2 Kings 21:6, and on ‘passing through the fire to Molech’ see note on 2 Kings 16:3.

And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
11. the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun] The course of the sun has been in many languages compared to the careering of a chariot drawn through the sky. Hence when men began to adore the heavenly bodies, it was natural to dedicate a triumphal car to the sun-god and to keep splendid horses for use in the procession in his honour. Such had been provided in Judah during the days of Manasseh and Amon, and were still kept close to the entrance of the temple court.

by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain] Nothing more is known of this man. It may be that he was in attendance on the horses of the sun.

which was in the suburbs [precincts] and [R.V. adds he] burnt] The word, written here Parvar is most probably the same as Parbar in 1 Chronicles 26:18, where the word occurs twice. The most accepted signification is ‘an open portico’ into which the chambers of the official persons opened. This must have been somewhere outside the temple building, and is fairly represented by ‘precincts’.

And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
12. the altars that were on the top [R.V. roof] of the upper chamber of Ahaz] This chamber must also have been erected on some of the buildings (perhaps over a gateway), by which the temple was encircled. It was evidently intended for the worship of the host of heaven. Altars on the roof are mentioned in Zephaniah 1:5, and there it is expressly said that they were erected for this worship. Cf. also Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29. The worship of the heavenly host was therefore introduced into Judah as early as Ahaz’s time.

the altars which Manasseh had mode] See above 2 Kings 21:4-5.

did the king beat down [R.V. break], and brake [R.V. beat] them down from thence] The former verb is rendered ‘break down’ in verses 7, 8 and 15, and that being rendered here consistently, the second verb must be translated differently. It will be seen from the margin both of A.V. and R.V. that the latter may also be rendered ‘he ran’, and this, which is a very well-supported translation, expresses the haste and eagerness manifested to complete the work of destruction.

And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
13. the mount of corruption] This name was given to a portion of the Mount of Olives, because of the idolatrous temples which were erected there. It is called in the Vulgate rendering of this verse ‘Mons offensionis’, and so the hill is spoken of in Christian writings as ‘the Mount of Offence’. The word rendered ‘corruption’ is also often translated ‘destruction’ (see marg.), and this name is equally applicable, from the ruinous and destructive results which developed out of this introduction of idolatry by Solomon.

Ashtoreth] On Ashtoreth, Chemosh and Milcom, and the temples which Solomon built for them under the influence of his heathen wives, see the notes on 1 Kings 11:4-8.

And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.
14. he brake in pieces the images [R.V. pillars], and cut down the groves] R.V. the Asherim. From such passages as this we may conclude that the images of Asherah were generally of wood.

bones of men] To the mind of a Jew, trained by the Law to consider the touch of a dead body to be defilement (Numbers 5:2) a place defiled in this manner could never again be used for any religious purpose, and we may feel sure that the people would not have shaken off this feeling though they had begun to worship idols.

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 brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
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.

And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
16. Josiah turned himself] i.e. To view the overthrow and to satisfy himself that all had been thoroughly destroyed. The king was zealous in the work, and personally superintended what he wished to have done.

he spied the sepulchres] Not close by where the altar and the high place had stood, but on some other hill, which was visible from where the king was standing.

burnt them upon the altar, and polluted [R.V. defiled] it] The change is for consistency. We have the verb translated ‘defile’ in verses 8, 10 and 13.

according to the word of the Lord] For the history here referred to see 1 Kings 13:2.

these words] R.V. things. This is the translation in the very next verse.

Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.
17. What title [R.V. monument] is that that [R.V. which] I see?] The word is used in Jeremiah 31:21 for ‘way marks’ to guide along a road, and in Ezekiel 39:15 for a ‘sign’ to mark a spot where lay some object needing notice. So that ‘monument’ appears the better rendering, especially as in the reply the people do not speak to Josiah of a ‘title’ but of a ‘sepulchre’.

the sepulchre of the man of God] The prophet of Bethel who had deceived him, brought the carcase of the dead man back to Bethel and buried it (1 Kings 13:29-31) in what must at that time have been a general burial-ground, and on which Jeroboam would never have built his altar.

And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.
18. Let him alone] R.V. Let him be. The verb translated ‘let alone’, in a later clause of the verse is not the same as this. Hence the change in the English.

that came out of Samaria] i.e. The prophet of Bethel, for that place belonged to what was afterwards known as the kingdom of Samaria. The word ‘Samaria’ is used here in accordance with the language of Josiah’s day. Samaria did not exist in Jeroboam’s time, the city which ultimately gave name to the district having only been built in the reign of Omri (1 Kings 16:24).

And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
19. high places that were in the cities of Samaria] It would seem from this that when the ten tribes had been carried away the king of Judah exercised some sort of authority over the people in the northern kingdom. But the high places in Samaria were most likely the places in which purely heathen idolatry was practised. They therefore differed from the high places in Judah, and to their priests Josiah was more severe than to the Levitical priests who had conducted the worship of Jehovah on the high places in his own kingdom. The injunction to slay idolaters is found in Deuteronomy 17:2-5.

And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
20. and burnt men’s bones upon them] To the heathen, as well as to the Jew, this would be a pollution that would make the place for ever unfit for worship.

And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.
21–30. He puts down superstitious rites and worship. He is slain at Megiddo when he goes against the king of Egypt (2 Chronicles 35:1-27; 2 Chronicles 36:1)

21. Keep the passover] The Chronicler gives elaborate details concerning the way in which this feast was kept to shew that all the arrangements commanded by the Law were most exactly observed. On the fourteenth day of the first month, the Levites had special injunctions given to them about the purification of themselves, and the doing of all things according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses. The king himself gave the victims, lambs and kids, for the passover offering, from his own substance, and the liberality of priests and Levites was also large. The passover was killed, roasted, divided speedily and eaten according to the prescribed rules. The whole aim of the record is to shew that whatever may have been left undone in times past, everything was now brought into harmony with the primitive ordinance. The Chronicler also mentions by name the rulers of the house of God and the chief of the Levites, as though copying from a contemporary record to which others might refer as well as himself.

in the book of this covenant] R.V. in this book of the covenant. The king desires that whatever may have come to be the manner of celebration from long usage, and the neglect which had been introduced through the sins of the kings, there should now be a precise observance of everything which the authoritative book, recently brought to light, required. It is clear from such a passage as 2 Kings 16:15 that the regular observance of the sacrificial ordinances had fallen into disuse.

Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;
22. Surely there was not holden [R.V. kept] such a passover] The same change is also required in the next verse. The king had said ‘Keep the passover’.

This verse cannot be tortured into the meaning which some have put upon it, that the passover had been wholly neglected since the days of the Judges, or as the Chronicler puts it, ‘the days of Samuel the prophet’, and through all the reigns of the previous kings of Judah, with the exception of the one recorded passover of Hezekiah. That the passovers are not mentioned comes about because they were a part of the life of the nation, which went on its natural round as a matter of course. That there was a relaxation in portions of the observance we can have no doubt, but that passovers ceased is as little to be accepted as that there was no observance of the great day of atonement because we do not read of it in the books of Samuel or Kings. It is not possible to believe that provision should have been regularly made for placing the ark of the covenant in a separate room, and that Solomon should have made the elaborate arrangements which he did for the Most holy place, and yet that there should have been no regard paid to the one solemn service for which alone the ark and the Holy of Holies were provided. Both the passover and the day of atonement were observed, though there were times when insufficient regard was paid to the required ceremonial. The passover of Josiah however went back to the complete form ordained in this book of the covenant, and in that respect was remarkable above all those which had been held since the days of Joshua and the elders that outlived Joshua, after which days (Jdg 2:10) ‘there arose another generation’ and the people fell away, and the ceremonial law was but partially observed, and never so strictly through all that period as in this great passover of king Josiah.

But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.
23. in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein [R.V. was] this passover was holden] R.V. this passover kept. There is no need for the italics of A.V. The writer wishes to say emphatically when this strict observance of the passover took place. The writer of the Kings has never mentioned the passover of Hezekiah, but it is noteworthy that the Chronicler, though he has given the account of Hezekiah’s feast, yet, equally with the compiler of this book, says that no such passover as Josiah’s had been held before since Samuel’s days. This shews clearly that his meaning was that no passover-feast had gone so strictly according to the book of the covenant.

Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
24. Moreover the workers with [R.V. them that had] familiar spirits, and the wizards] See note on 2 Kings 21:6. Josiah now proceeds to exterminate all the superstitious practices which grow up side by side with idolatry.

and the images] R.V. the teraphim. These were a sort of household gods, and some charm or virtue seems to have been ascribed to the possession of them. Hence Rachel stole the teraphim (Genesis 31:19) when she was leaving her father’s home. Micah made teraphim for his house in Mount Ephraim (Jdg 17:5), and it was the teraphim which Michal, Saul’s daughter, hid in the bed, to make believe that David was sick, and thus give him time to escape.

that he might perform (R.V. confirm) the words of the law] The change is as in verse 3. What Josiah desired was not only to carry out on this occasion the prescription of the Law, but so to establish the observance that it should continue and not be lightly modified. There is no mention of the passover held in the nineteenth year and in the succeeding years of Josiah’s reign. It would be rash, however, to conclude from such absence of the record, that the same solemnity was not used every succeeding year of the king’s reign, almost as rash as to decide that the passover had been unobserved since the time of Samuel.

The ordinances for putting down them that had familiar spirits and other like superstitions are found in Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27.

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.
25. no king before him] For before the kingdom was established the religious strictness of the people had greatly degenerated, and even the best rulers never were so solemnly recalled to the legal regulations as Josiah was by the discovery of the temple-copy of the Law. The next verse makes it clear why there was no such good king after Josiah. The evil doings of Manasseh had corrupted the nation past redemption. The reforms of Josiah lasted not nearly so long.

‘The evil that men do lives after them:

The good is oft interred with their bones.’

We have now come to the last mention of the book which was found in the temple and of its influence. From the allusions to its contents we can see that it must have contained such threatenings against neglect of the Law as are found in Deuteronomy; such injunctions for the putting down of idolatry and its attendant superstitions as we have now in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and such ordinances concerning the observance of the passover as are found in Exodus and in Numbers. Without saying therefore that the book was in the form which we now possess (for that probably underwent revision in the days of Ezra and even later), yet there was in it that which represented for that time the same code and regulations as we have now in the books of Moses, from which it is seen that the portions read by Josiah and Shaphan were substantially derived. It is to be supposed that modifications would be here and there introduced into the regulations, both for civil and religious observances, according to the changed circumstances of the people. But these would only be made by persons acting in the spirit of the great lawgiver, and endued with zeal for God’s service as he was, and therefore everything thus included would continue to be called, as it continued to be in spirit, the law of Moses.

Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.
And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.
27. and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen] R.V. this city which I have chosen, even Jerusalem. This rendering preserves the order of the Hebrew. More than this cannot be said in its favour.

Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.
29. Pharaoh-nechoh] R.V. necoh. He is stated to have been the 5th or 6th king of the Saïte 26th dynasty. His expedition against the king of Assyria was b.c. 610. He probably came from Egypt by sea and landed on the coast of Palestine. Otherwise Josiah would have chosen some place further south than Megiddo to meet him. From his conduct we may conclude that Josiah at this time was in alliance with, or perhaps tributary to, Assyria. The destination of the Egyptian expedition (according to the Chronicler) was Carchemish on the Euphrates, and he relates the very considerate message which the Egyptian king sent to Josiah, ‘What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day but against the house wherewith I have war. For God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that He destroy thee not.’

and king Josiah went against him] In Chronicles we read that Josiah ‘disguised himself, that he might fight with the king of Egypt, and hearkened not unto the words of Nechoh from the mouth of God.’ The claim to be divinely directed in the expedition is singular in the mouth of an Egyptian king. The language is not, however, of the same kind as that which Rab-shakeh used, when he asserted that the Lord (Jehovah) had sent him (2 Kings 18:25). There may have been such a faith in a single Divine Being among the Egyptians that Nechoh could employ the word God (Elohim) in speaking thereof. Whatever the king’s belief, and in spite of the overthrow of Josiah, the Egyptian expedition against Assyria was unsuccessful in the end.

at Megiddo] On this city, and its position and military importance, see notes on 2 Kings 9:28. In 2 Chronicles it is said, ‘the archers shot at king Josiah, and the king said to his servants, Have me away, for I am sore wounded’.

And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.
30. carried him in a chariot] The italics are wrong as also in 2 Kings 9:28. The verb signifies ‘to carry in a chariot’. The R.V. prints in common type. According to the Chronicler, they moved him from his war chariot into a second chariot which he had at hand. From Zechariah 12:11 ‘As the mourning of Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo’ it has been supposed that Josiah did not die till he reached Hadad-Rimmon, and that the mourning there mentioned by the prophet was for this good king’s death. The Chronicler dwells at length on the sorrow which this event caused. ‘Jeremiah lamented for him, and all the singing men and singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations unto this day’. Some have thought that the lamentation here spoken of is preserved to us in the poem contained in Lamentations 4. But there is hardly anything in it which can be taken as clear allusion to this time. Jeremiah’s dirge for Josiah has probably perished with much other literature of the period.

Jehoahaz … and anointed him] To anoint a king who succeeded in the ordinary way was not usual. Hence some have thought that the people of the land were not acting according to what Josiah himself would have wished, nor choosing the recognised successor in passing over the elder brother. They wished therefore, by this solemn rite, to ensure his acceptance as their religiously consecrated monarch.

It appears from the history in Kings that Eliakim (Jehoiakim) was older than Jehoahaz, because on Eliakim’s succession he is stated to have been 25 years old, while Jehoahaz, whose reign was only of three months’ duration, is said to have been 23 when he came to the throne (2 Kings 23:31; 2 Kings 23:36). But in the genealogy (1 Chronicles 3:15) the sons of Josiah are put down as ‘the firstborn Johanan (and this the margin of A.V. identifies with Jehoahaz), the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum’. If the margin of A.V. is correct then Jehoahaz would have succeeded in his proper place. But he is called Shallum in Jeremiah 22:11, and so he would be, according to the Chronicler, the fourth son.

Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
31–35. Reign of Jehoahaz. He is put down by the king of Egypt. Jehoiakim is made king, and becomes tributary to Egypt (2 Chronicles 36:1-4)

31. his mother’s name was Hamutal] So he was by the same mother as well as by the same father as Zedekiah. See 2 Kings 24:18. On Libnah, see above 2 Kings 8:22.

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.
33. put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath] In 2 Chronicles 36:3 it is said ‘the king of Egypt put Jehoahaz down at Jerusalem’. We cannot, however, be sure that this implies an advance by Pharaoh-nechoh upon the holy city. However, the appointment which the people had made was clearly not acceptable to the Egyptian king, and Jehoahaz was carried away to the point which Pharaoh had reached in his march from Carchemish, and there put in bonds.

Riblah] (called also Riblathah) was a city on the Orontes, and on the road which led from Palestine to Babylon. It is afterwards mentioned as the place at which Nebuchadnezzar tarried during the reduction of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:20-21) and whither the captives were brought to him.

tribute of an hundred talents] On the value of these sums, see above on 2 Kings 5:5.

And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.
34. Eliakim … and turned his name to Jehoiakim] We can hardly think that this change was made by Pharaoh. He probably insisted on a change of name, but allowed the new king to suggest what it should be. So the change was made from El (God) iakim (will establish), to Jeho (i.e. Jehovah) will establish. On the custom of changing the names of subject persons and slaves, cf. the change of Joseph’s name in Egypt (Genesis 41:45, also chap. 2 Kings 24:17 below). To these may be added the changes mentioned in the book of Daniel (Daniel 1:7).

and [R.V. but he] took Jehoahaz away] i.e. From Riblah, and carried him with him prisoner into Egypt, where he died. On his death see Jeremiah 22:11-12.

And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, to give it unto Pharaohnechoh.
35. he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land] The king did not undertake to pay, as had been done aforetime (cf. 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 18:15) this tax out of any treasures in the house of the Lord, or of the king’s house. In those troublous days there was likely to be but little in store, so a tax was laid on the whole people.

2 Kings 23:36 to 2 Kings 24:7. Jehoiakim king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar makes him tributary. His many adversaries. Jehoiachin, his son, succeeds him (2 Chronicles 36:5-8)

Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.
36. His mother’s name was Zebudah] R.V. Zebidah. The R.V. follows the spelling of the Kethib. The name Rumah, the native place of Zebidah, is not mentioned elsewhere. It has been conjectured that it is the same as Dumah (ד and ר being in Hebrew writing most easily interchanged). Dumah (Joshua 15:52) was in the hill country of Judah, near Hebron, from which neighbourhood (viz. Libnah) another of Josiah’s wives came. The R at the beginning is however represented by the LXX., which has Ῥουμά.

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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