Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
PROGRESS OF THE RELIGIOUS REFORMATION.
Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.(1) Destruction of the images and high places in both kingdoms. (Comp. 2Kings 18:4.)
Now when all this was finished.—And when they had finished all this—that is, the business of the Passover.
All Israel that were present went out.—Their iconoclastic zeal had been thoroughly roused by the festival in which they had just taken part.
The groves.—The Ashērîm. The sacred trunks, emblematic of physical fertility. (Comp. Hosea 4:13.)
In Ephraim also and Manasseh.—That is, in the territory of the northern kingdom, which was at this time in the last stage of political weakness, and rapidly drifting towards final ruin. The band of Jewish and Israelite zealots would not, therefore, be likely to encounter any serious opposition.
Until they had utterly destroyed.—‘Adlĕkallēh (2Chronicles 24:10). Literally, so far as to finishing.
And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.(2) The courses . . . their courses.—Hezekiah restored the system of service in rotation, ascribed to David. (Comp. 2Chronicles 8:14, “according to the order of David.”)
The priests and Levites.—Literally, to the priests and Levites. The words depend upon those which immediately precede. LXX., καὶ τὰς ἐφημερίας ἑκάστου κατὰ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ λειτουργίαν τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς Λευίταις.
To minister . . . praise.—The chronicler’s usual definition of the Levitical functions.
In the gates . . . Lord.—Literally, in the gates of the camps of Jehovah. Comp. 1Chronicles 9:18-19, where the phrase is explained.
He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.(3) He appointed also . . . set feasts.—Rather, And the king’s portion (i.e., the part he contributed) from his property was for the burnt offerings—viz., for the burnt offerings of the morning and the evening, and the burnt offerings on the Sabbath, and the new moons, the set feasts. The king gave the victims for the sacrifices prescribed in Numbers 28, 29, out of his own revenues. See the account of his wealth (2Chronicles 32:27-29). The “set feasts” were the three great festivals, &c, enumerated in Num. l.c.
Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.(4) Moreover.—Literally, And he said to the people, to wit, to the dwellers in Jerusalem. (Comp. 2Chronicles 24:8; 1Chronicles 21:17.)
That they might be encouraged in the law.—Rather, that they might stick fast unto the law. For this use of chādzaq, comp. 2Samuel 18:9, “his head stuck fast in the terebinth.” The meaning is, that they might be enabled to devote themselves wholly and solely to their religious duties, without being distracted by any secular anxieties. (See Nehemiah 13:10, “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given, for the Levites and the singers that did the work were fled every one to his field.”)
And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.(5) And . . . came abroad.—Literally, And when the word broke forth—i.e., spread abroad.
The children of Israel.—Here the people of Jerusalem, who in the chronicler’s day had a preeminent right to the name. (See on next verse.) The firstfruits were for the priests (Numbers 18:12, seq., where the oil, wine, and wheat are specified).
And the tithe . . . abundantly.—For the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24).
And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.(6) Concerning.—Omit.
The children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah.—Contrasted with “the children of Israel” who dwelt in Jerusalem (2Chronicles 31:5). “The children of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah” are evidently those who had left the northern kingdom to settle in the south. (Comp. 2Chronicles 10:17; 2Chronicles 11:16; 2Chronicles 30:25.)
The tithe of holy things.—This expression is assumed to be equivalent to “the heave offerings of the holy things” (Numbers 18:19), which denotes such portions of the sacrificial gifts as were not consumed upon the altar. Taken literally, “tithe of things consecrated” would be a very surprising, as it is a wholly isolated, expression.
The present text of the LXX. appears to contain, not a trace of a different reading, but simply an old error of transcription, suggested probably by the words immediately preceding; for its rendering is, “and tithes of goats” (αἰγῶν for ἀγίων). The Syriac paraphrases freely, but the Vulgate follows the Hebrew (décimas sanctorum). (See also Note on 2Chronicles 31:10; 2Chronicles 31:12.) There is probably a lacuna in the text.
And laid them by heaps.—Literally, and made heaps heaps—i.e., many heaps. (Comp.Vulg., “fecerunt acervos plurimos.”)
In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.(7) In the third month.—And so at the end of wheat-harvest, the third month (Sivan) answering to our May—June. Pentecost, the Feast of Harvest, or Firstfruits, fell in this month.
To lay the foundation.—To found, or lay. Heb., lîsôd, a curious form only met with here. (Comp. lîsôd, Isaiah 51:16.)
In the seventh month.—Tisri (September to October), in which was held the great Feast of Tabernacles, after all the fruits had been gathered in, and the vintage was over.
Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.(9) Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites.—And Hezekiah asked the priests, &c. The construction is dārash ‘al. (Comp. 2Samuel 11:3; 1Samuel 28:7.) The king wished to know how it was the heaps of offerings were so large.
And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.(10) Azariah.—Possibly the Azariah of 2Chronicles 26:17. If not, he is otherwise unknown.
Since the people began to bring the offerings.—Since they began to bring the Tĕrûmāh: a word which the Authorised Version usually renders “heave offering.” (See Note on 2Chronicles 31:6.)
To bring.—In the Hebrew a contracted form, recurring in Jeremiah 39:7.
We have had enough to eat, and have left plenty.—Literally, Eating and being satisfied, and leaving over, even unto abundance (exclamatory infinitives). (Comp. Hosea 4:2 for this construction.)
The Lord hath blessed his people.—So that they were able to give liberally.
That which is left.—After the maintenance o£ the priests has been subtracted.
This great store.—In the Hebrew these words are in the accusative case. Probably, therefore, the right reading is, “and there is left this great store” (omitting the article, and reading wĕ-nôthār, with Kamp-hausen).
Chambers.—Cells; lĕshākôth. (See Notes on 1Chronicles 9:26; 1Chronicles 23:28.) The preparation intended is probably nothing but the clearance and cleansing of some of these cells for the reception of the stores.
And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next.(12) The offerings.—The Terûmah (heave offering; see Note on 2Chronicles 31:6) and the tithe, and the holy things (2Chronicles 31:6). Terûmah seems to mean the firstfruits hero (2Chronicles 31:5).
Faithfully.—With faithfulness, or honesty (2Chronicles 19:9).
Over which.—And over them—i.e., the stores.
The next.—Second in charge (mishnèh). The name Cononiah is, in the Hebrew text, Kānanyāhû; in the margin, Kûnanyāhû. The former is correct (Iahu hath established).
And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.(13) And Jehiel . . . were overseers.—Nothing is known of these ten Levitical officers; though some of the names occur elsewhere—e.g., Jehiel and Mahath in 2Chronicles 29:12; 2Chronicles 29:14.
Under the hand of Cononiah.—Or, at the side of . . . (miyyad . . .) The phrase means “under Cononiah’s orders.”
At the commandment of Hezekiah.—An unusual meaning of miphqäd, which in 1Chronicles 21:5 denotes census. LXX., καθὼς προσέταξεν Εζεκιας.
And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of the LORD, and the most holy things.(14) The porter toward the east.—Compare 1Chronicles 9:18. Korê had charge of “the freewill offerings of God,” or voluntary gifts (Deuteronomy 12:17); and it was his duty “to distribute the oblations of the Lord and the most holy things" to the priests.
To distribute the oblations.—To give the Terûmah of Jehovah—i.e., the portion of the offerings which, though consecrated to Jehovah, was transferred by Him to the priests (Leviticus 7:14; Leviticus 7:32; Leviticus 10:14-15).
And the most holy things—i.e., that part of the sin and trespass offerings (Leviticus 6:10; Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 7:6) and of the meat offerings (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 2:10) which were to be eaten by the priests in the sanctuary.
And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the great as to the small:(15) Next him.—By his hand (‘al yādô). (Comp. 1Chronicles 25:2-3.) The meaning is, “subordinate to him.”
The six Levites here named as under the direction of Korê had the duty of distributing a proper share of the firstfruits, tithes, and dedicated things to their brethren residing in the sacerdotal cities, where they themselves were stationed.
In their set office.—It seems better to connect the phrase so rendered with the following verb: “honestly to give” (comp. 2Chronicles 31:12). So Vulg.: “ut fideliter distribuèrent fratribus suis partes,” &c. Others render be’emûnah, “in trust.”
Their brethren by courses.—Rather, their brethren in the courses—i.e., those members of the Levitical classes who, not being on duty at the Temple, were dwelling in their towns; and those who were past service, and young children.
Great . . . small.—Older . . . younger.
Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his daily portion for their service in their charges according to their courses;(16) Beside their genealogy.—The verse is a parenthesis stating an exception, and should rather be rendered, “apart from their register of males from three years old and upward (to wit, the register) of all that came into the house of Jehovah for the daily portion (literally, for a day’s matter in its day; 2Chronicles 8:13; Nehemiah 11:23) for their service in their offices according to their divisions.” The meaning is that the Levites who were on duty in the Temple, and whose names were registered as such, along with their male children of three years old and upwards, were not provided for by Cononiah and his associates, as they received their daily portion in the sanctuary itself. Children, it appears, were allowed to accompany their fathers to the Temple, and to eat with them of the sacrifices.
Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges by their courses;(17) Both to the genealogy.—The verse is a parenthesis relating to the registration of the priests and Levites, suggested by the occurrence of the word “register” in 2Chronicles 31:16. Translate, “And as to the register of the priests, it was according to their clans (Heb., father-houses); and the Levites from twenty years old and upwards were in their offices in their divisions.” For the latter statement, see 1Chronicles 23:24.
And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their set office they sanctified themselves in holiness:(18) And to the genealogy.—After the parenthetic statements of 2Chronicles 31:16-17 the thread of the narrative, broken off at 2Chronicles 31:15, is taken up again at that point. The six Levites there named were in the priests’ cities “to give (their portions) to their brethren,” and further (2Chronicles 31:18) “for the registering in the case of all their little ones, their wives and their sons and their daughters, of the whole corporation” (of priests). The board of Levites had to keep a register of all who had claims on the provisions which they had to distribute. The general sense is the same if, as seems better, we trace the connection thus: “to give to their brethren, and to those who were registered among all their little ones” &c., explaining lĕhithyahēsh bĕkol-tappām as a relative sentence with the relative suppressed. (Comp. 2Chronicles 30:18-19, and 2Chronicles 31:19, ad fin.)
Through all the congregation.—Or, to a whole assembly—scil., of wives and children of the priests and Levites.
In their set office.—Or trust, or faithfulness (emûnah). (See Note on 1Chronicles 9:22.)
They sanctified themselves.—They used to show themselves holy (i.e., behave conscientiously) in regard to the holy (i.e., the hallowed gifts, which they had to distribute). Perhaps, however, the Authorised Version is here substantially correct, the sense being that the Levites fulfilled their trust with perfect good faith.
Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.(19) Also of the sons of Aaron the priests.—Officers were likewise appointed to distribute portions. to the priests and Levites who dwelt on their farms. outside of the sacerdotal cities. Render, “and for the sons of Aaron the priests, in the farms of the pasturage of their cities, in each several city, there were men who were specified by names, to give portions to every male among the priests, and to every one that was registered among the Levites.”
To all that were reckoned by genealogies.—Registered. The relative is omitted before the verb hiththyahēsh, which is here the perfect as in 2Chronicles 31:18, not the infinitive as in 2Chronicles 31:16.
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.(20, 21) Conclusion of the account of Hezekiah’s reformation.
(20) Truth (ha’ĕmeth).—Faithfulness, or sincerity.
And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.(21) Commandments.—Heb., commandment.
To seek his God.—In order to seek, or by way of seeking.
He did it with all his heart.—Comp. the frequent phrase, “with a perfect heart” (1Chronicles 28:9, and elsewhere); also “and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,” &c. (Deuteronomy 6:5).