Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.XXIII.
JOSIAH RENEWS THE COVENANT, ROOTS OUT IDOLTARY, AND HOLDS A SOLEMEN PASSOVER.HIS END.
(1) They gathered.—The right reading is probably that of the Syriac and Vulg., there gathered. Chron., LXX., and Arabic have he gathered.
All the elders.—The representatives of the nation.
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 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 great—i.e., high and low. (Comp. Psalm 49:2.)
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) By a pillar.—On the stand or dais (2Kings 11:14).
A covenant.—The covenant, which had so often been broken. Josiah pledged himself “to walk after the Lord,” and imposed a similar pledge on the people.
Stood to the covenant—i.e., entered it; took the same pledge as the king. (Comp. 2Kings 18:28.)
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) The priests of the second order.—Thenius is probably right in reading the singular, the priest of the second rank, i.e., the high priest’s deputy, after the Targum, unless the heads of the twenty-four classes be intended (“the chief priests” of the New Testament). (See also 2Kings 25:18.)
The keepers of the door (threshold).—The three chief warders (2Kings 25:18.)
Out of the temple—i.e., out of the principal chamber or holy place.
Without Jerusalem.—As unclean.
Carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el.—This is undoubtedly strange, and Chronicles says nothing about it. If the ashes of the vessels were sent to Beth-el, why not also those of the idols themselves, and the fragments of the altars (2Kings 23:6-12)? The text appears to be corrupt.
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) 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.)
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) And he brought out the grove . . .—The Asherah set up by Manasseh (2Kings 21:3; 2Kings 21:7), and removed by him on his repentance (2Chronicles 33:15), but restored (probably) by Amon (2Kings 21:21).
Unto the brook . . . at the brook.—Unto the ravine . . . in the ravine, or wady.
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) The houses . . . by the house.—The cabins of the Kedēshim . . . in the house. The Kedēshim were males, perhaps eunuchs, who prostituted themselves like women in honour of the Asherah. (See 1Kings 14:24; 1Kings 15:12; Hosea 4:14.) The passage shows that the last infamy of Canaanite nature-worship had been established in the very sanctuary of Jehovah. The revolt of Judah could go no farther.
Where the women wove hangings for the grove.—Wherein the women used to weave tents for the Ashērah. The word we have rendered cabins and tents is bāttîm, “houses.” What is meant in the latter case is not clear. Perhaps the female harlots attached to the Temple wove portable tabernacles or sanctuaries of the goddess for sale to the worshippers; or tents (screens) for their own foul rites may be meant.
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) And he brought all the priests . . .—Josiah caused all the priests of the local sanctuaries of Jehovah to migrate to Jerusalem, and polluted the high places to which they had been attached, in order to get rid of the illegitimate worship once for all.
From Geba.—The present Jeba, near the ancient Ramah (1Kings 15:22).
The high places of the gates.—Altars erected within the gates, that persons entering or leaving the city might make an offering to ensure success in their business.
That were in the entering in . . .—Thenius renders, (the high place) which was at the entry of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, (as well as) that which was on the left in the city gate. But this assumption of two localities is very precarious. The Authorised Version appears to be correct (a similar repetition of the relative referring to the same antecedent occurs in 2Kings 23:13). Joshua is an unknown personage, and it is not clear whether “the gate of Joshua” was a gate of the city named after him, or the great gate of his residence; nor is it certain that “the gate of the city” was that now called the Jaffa Gate. It is possible that the governor’s residence lay near the principal gate of the city, on the left as one entered. Several “high places” stood in the open space in front of it, between it and the city gate. These would naturally be called “the high places of the gates.”
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) Nevertheless . . . came not up to the altar.—Only the, priests of the high places used not to offer at the altar. They were not permitted to do so, being considered to be incapacitated for that office by their former illegal ministrations.
But they did eat.—They might not even eat their share of the meat offerings in company with the legitimate priests; but had to take their meals apart, “among their brethren,” i.e., in their own company. (Comp. Ezekiel 44:10-14; Leviticus 21:21-22.)
Eat of the unleavened bread.—Omit of the. The phrase is a technical one, meaning to live upon offerings. (See Leviticus 2:1-11; Leviticus 6:16-18; Leviticus 10:12.) These irregular priests were probably employed in the inferior duties of the Temple.
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.—Heb. the Topheth; i.e., the burning place, or hearth, if the word be rightly derived from the Persian tōften, “to burn.” The Hebrew word, however, has been so modified as to suggest a derivation from tōph, “to spit;” so that the epithet would mean “the abomination.” (Comp. 2Kings 23:13.) (Comp. also Job 17:6; Isaiah 30:33; and the Coptic tāf, “spittle.”)
The valley of the children of Hinnom.—Elsewhere called “the valley of the son of Hinnom,” and “the valley of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; Jeremiah 7:31-32). Simonis plausibly explained the word Hinnom as meaning shrieking or moaning (from the Arabic hanna, arguta voce gemuit, flevit). “The valley of the sons of shrieking” would be a good name for the accursed spot. (Thenius suggests Wimmer-Kinds-Thal.)
That no man . . .—See Note on 2Kings 16:3.
To Moloch.—Heb., to the Molech (Molech is another form of melech, “king”). In 1Kings 11:7, the god of the Ammonites is called Molech, but elsewhere, as in 2Kings 23:13, Milcom, another variation of the same word. The feminine molecheth, “queen,” occurs as a proper name in 1Chronicles 7:18.
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) He took away.—The same word as “put down” (2Kings 23:5). Here, as there, the Syriac and Arabic render, “he killed,” which is possibly a correct gloss.
The horses . . . the sun.—These horses drew “the chariots of the sun” in solemn processions held in honour of that deity. (See Herod, i. 189; Xenoph. Anab. iv. 5. 34, seq.; Quint. Curt. iii 3. 11.) Horses were also sacrificed to the sun. The sun’s apparent course through the heavens, poetically conceived as the progress of a fiery chariot and steeds, explains these usages.
Had given—i.e., had dedicated.
At the entering in of the house of the Lord.—This appears right. Along with the next clause it states where the sacred horses were kept; viz., in the outer court of the Temple, near the entrance. (So the LXX. and Vulgate. This rendering involves a different pointing of the Hebrew text—měbô for mibbô. The latter, which is the ordinary reading, gives the sense, “so that they should not come into the house, &c.”)
Nathan-melech the chamberiain, or, eunuch, is otherwise unknown. He may have been charged with the care of the sacred horses and chariots. Meleck was a title of the sun-god in one of his aspects (2Kings 23:10.)
Which was in the suburbs.—Rather, which was in the cloisters or portico. Parwārîm is a Persian word explained in the Note on 1Chronicles 26:18.
Burned the chariots . . .—Literally, and the chariots of the sun he burnt. The treatment of the chariots is thus contrasted with that of the horses. If the whole had been, as some expositors have thought, a work of art in bronze or other material, placed over the gateway, no such difference would have been made.
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) And the altars that were on the top (roof) of the upper chamber of Ahaz.—The roof of an upper chamber in one of the Temple courts. perhaps built over one of the gateways (comp. Jeremiah 35:4), appears to be meant. The altars were for star-worship, which was especially practised on housetops. (Comp. Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5.)
Brake them down from thence.—The Targum has removed from thence; the LXX. pulled them down from thence (κατέσπασεν). The Hebrew probably means ran from thence; marking the haste with which the work was done. The clause thus adds a vivid touch to the narrative. It is hardly necessary to alter the points with Kimchi and Thenius, so as to read, he caused to run from thence; i.e., hurried them away.
Cast the dust of them.—Over the wall of the Temple enclosure, into the ravine beneath.
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 high places that were before the city . . .—See 1Kings 11:5-8. “Before” means “to the east of,” because, to determine the cardinal points, one faced the sunrise. The right hand was then the south, the left hand the north, and the back the west.
The mount of corruption.—The southern summit of the Mount of Olives was so-called, because of the idolatry there practised. It still bears the name of the “Hill of Offence,” derived from the Vulg. “mons offensionis.” (The word rendered “corruption,” mashhîth, may originally have meant “anointing,” from māshah “to anoint,” and have simply referred to the olive oil there produced. The name would thus be equivalent to the German Oelberg. In later times the term was so modified as to express detestation of idol-worship.)
Did the king defile.—As it is not said that they were pulled down, these high places may have been merely sacred sites on the mountain, consisting of a levelled surface of rock, with holes scooped in them for receiving libations, &c. Such sites have been found in Palestine; and it is hardly conceivable that chapels erected by Solomon for the worship of Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom, would have been spared by such a king as Hezekiah, who even did away with the high places dedicated to Jehovah (2Kings 18:3).
And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.(14) The images . . . the groves.—The pillars . . . the ashērahs. These pillars and sacred trees may have been set up at the high places mentioned in the last verse; but the Hebrew construction does not prove this, for comp. 2Kings 23:10. The reference is probably general.
Their places.—Their place or station; a technical term for the position of an idol (the Heb. māqôm, equivalent to Sabæan maqâmum. and Arabic muqâm, which is still the common designation of holy sites in Palestine.
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) 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.
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.(16-18) These verses are supposed by Stähelin to be a fictitious addition of the compiler’s. Thenius does not go so far as this, but assumes that the proper sequel of 1Kings 13:1-32, has been transferred to this place. He argues that it must be an interpolation here, because (1) the “moreover” of 2Kings 23:15 (wěgam) corresponds to the “and . . . also” (wěgam) of 2Kings 23:19, which does not prove much; and because (2) Josiah could not pollute the altar (2Kings 23:16) after he had already shattered it in pieces (2Kings 23:15). This reasoning is not conclusive, because it is obvious that, as is so often the case, the writer has first told in brief what was done to the altar and high place at Bethel, and then related at length an interesting incident that occurred at the time. In short, the statement of 2Kings 23:15 is anticipatory.
(16) Turned himself.—So that he caught sight of the tombs on the hill-side opposite—not on the hill where the high place was.
The man of God proclaimed.—Some words appear to have fallen out of the Hebrew text here, for the LXX. adds, “when Jeroboam stood in the feast at the altar. And he returned and lifted up his eyes upon the grave of the man of God.” (A transcriber’s eye wandered from one “man of God” to the other.) Josiah returned, when on the point of going away.
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 is this?—What is yonder monument, or memorial stone? Ezekiel 39:15, “sign.” Jeremiah uses the same term of a sign-post (Jeremiah 31:21, “waymarks”). (See 1Kings 13:29 seq.)
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.—Or, Let him rest.
So they let his bones alone.—A different verb. And they suffered his bones to escape, scil., disturbance.
With the bones of the prophet . . .—See 1Kings 13:31-32.
That came out of Samaria.—This simply designates the old prophet who deceived the Judæan man of God, as a citizen of the Northern kingdom, which was called Samaria, after its capital.
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) The houses also of the high places—i.e., temples or chapels attached to the high places.
Josiah took away.—Comp. 2Chronicles 34:6, from which it appears that the king’s zeal carried him as far as Naphtali. The question has been asked, how it was that Josiah was able to proceed thus beyond the limits of his own territory. It is possible that, as a vassal of Assyria, he enjoyed a certain amount of authority over the old domains of the ten tribes. We have no record of either fact, but his opposition to Necho favours the idea that he recognised the Assyrian sovereign as his suzerain. Moreover, it is in itself likely that the remnant of Israel would be drawn towards Judah and its king as the surviving representatives of the past glories of their race, and would sympathise in his reformation, just as the Samaritans, in the times of the return, were eager to participate in the rebuilding of the Temple. (Comp. 2Chronicles 34:9.) Another supposition is that, as the fall of the Assyrian empire was imminent, no notice was taken of Josiah’s proceedings in the west.
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) He slew.—He slaughtered. A contrast to his mild treatment of the priests of the Judæan high places (2Kings 23:8-9). They were Levites, and these heathenish priests. (Comp. Deuteronomy 17:2-5.) Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of 1Kings 13:2. (Thenius considers the event historical, because that prophecy “is undoubtedly modelled upon it.”)
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) Keep the passover.—Hold a passover (2Kings 23:22). (Comp. 2Chronicles 35:1-19 for a more detailed account of this unique celebration.) Josiah had the precedent of Hezekiah for signalising his religious revolution by a solemn passover (2Chronicles 30:1).
In the book of this covenant.—Rather, in this book of the covenant (2Kings 23:2). The book was that which Hilkiah had found in the Temple, and which gave the impulse to the whole reforming movement. (The LXX. and Vulg. read, in the book of this covenant—a mere mistake.)
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 . . .—For there was not holden (a passover) like this passover. This and the next verse constitute a parenthetic remark, in which the historian emphasises the phrase, “As it is written in this book of the covenant.” No passover, from the time of the Judges onward had been celebrated in such strict conformity to the prescriptions of the Law. The LXX. omits the particle of comparison: ὅτι οὐκ ἐγενήθη τὸ πασχα τοῦτο. On the ground of this difference, and the one mentioned in the Note on 2Kings 23:21, Thenius thinks it not improbable that the text of Kings has been altered to bring into harmony with the account in Chronicles about the restoration of the feast of the passover by Hezekiah—a weighty inference from such slight data. The chronicler repeats this very verse at the close of his narrative of Josiah’s passover (2Chronicles 35:18).
But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.(23) Wherein.—Omit this word. As Ewald says, the meaning of these two verses is, that the passover was never so celebrated before, especially as regards (1) the offerings over and above the paschal lamb (Deuteronomy 16:2), and (2) the strict unity of the place of this festival (Deuteronomy 16:5). The assumption that no passover had ever been held before (De Wette), is obsolete, even among “advanced critics,” and does not merit serious discussion.
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 . . .—After abolishing public idolatry, Josiah attacked the various forms of private superstition.
The idols.—The dunglings. Gresenius prefers to render, idol-blocks; Ewald, doll-images. (See 2Kings 17:12.)
That were spied (seen).—A significant expression. Many idols were, doubtless, concealed by their worshippers.
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) And. like unto him was there no king before him.—Comp. 2Kings 18:5-6, where a similar eulogy is passed upon Hezekiah. It is not, perhaps, necessary to insist upon any formal contradiction which may appear to result from a comparison of the two passages. A writer would not be careful to measure his words by the rule of strict proportion in such cases. Still, as the preceding account indicates, the Mosaic law does not appear to have been so rigorously carried out by any preceding king as by Josiah. (See Note on 2Chronicles 30:26.)
With all his heart . . .—An echo of Deuteronomy 6:5. That Josiah’s merits did not merely consist in a strict observance of the legitimate worship and ritual, is evident from Jeremiah 22:15-16, where he is praised for his righteousness as a judge.
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.(26, 27) The historian naturally adds these remarks to prepare the way for what he has soon to relate—the final ruin of the kingdom; and probably also to suggest an explanation of what must have seemed to him and his contemporaries a very mysterious stroke of providence, the untimely end of the good king Josiah.
(26) The fierceness of his great wrath . . . kindled.—The great heat of his wrath, wherewith his wrath burnt.
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?(28-30) Josiah’s end. The historical abstract broken off at 2Kings 22:2 is now continued. (Comp. the more detailed account in 2Chronicles 35:20 seq.)
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.—Necho II., the successor of Psammetichus, and the sixth king of the 26th or Saite dynasty, called Νεκὼς by Herodotus (ii. 158, 159; 4:42); he reigned circ. 611-605 B.C. , but is not mentioned in the Assyrian records, so far as they are at present known to us.
The king of Assyria.—It is sometimes assumed that Necho’s expedition was directed against “the then ruler of what had been the Assyrian empire” (Thenius and others), and that the king in question was Nabopalassar, the conqueror of Nineveh, who became king of Babylon in 626-625 B.C. If the fall of Nineveh preceded or coincided with this last event, then Nabopalassar must be intended by the historian here. But if, as the chronology of Eusebius and Jerome represents, Cyaraxes the Mede took Nineveh in 609-608 B.C. , or, according to the Armenian chronicle, apud Eusebius, in 608-607 B.C. , then Necho’s expedition (circ. 609 B.C. ) was really directed against a king of Assyria in the strict sense. After the death of Assurbanipal (626 B.C. ) it appears that two or three kings reigned at Nineveh, namely, Assur-idil-ilani-ukinni, Bel-sum-iskun and Esar-haddon II. (the Saracus of Abydenus and Syncellus). Nineveh must have fallen before 606 B.C. , as Assyria does not occur in the list of countries mentioned by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:19-26) in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., 606 B.C. The probable date of its fall is 607 B.C. A year or so later Necho made a second expedition, this time against the king of Babylon, but was utterly defeated at Carchemish. (See Schrader, K. A. T., pp. 357-361.) Josephus says that Necho went to wage war with the Medes and Babylonians, who had just put an end to the Assyrian empire, and that his object was to win the dominion of Asia.
King Josiah went against him.—Probably as a vassal of Assyria, and as resenting Necho’s trespass on territory which he regarded as his own. The Syriac adds: “to fight against him: and Pharaoh said to him, Not against thee have I come; return from me. And he hearkened not to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh smote him.” This may once have formed part of the Hebrew text, but is more likely a gloss from Chronicles.
At Megiddo.—In the plain of Jezreel (1Kings 4:12). (Comp. Zechariah 12:11.) Herodotus calls it Magdolus (ii. 159). The fact that this was the place of battle shows that Necho had not marched through southern Palestine, but had taken the shortest route over sea, and landed at Accho (Acre). Otherwise, Josiah would not have had to go so far north to meet him.
When he had seen him.—At the outset of the encounter; as we might say, the moment he got sight of him. According to the account in Chronicles, which is derived from a different source, Josiah was wounded by the Egyptian archers, and carried in a dying state to Jerusalem (2Chronicles 35:22 seq.). Thenius thinks that Jeremiah 15:7-9 was spoken on occasion of Josiah’s departure with his army from the north, and that the prophet’s metaphor, “her sun went down while it was yet day,” refers to the eclipse of Thales, which had recently happened, 610 B.C. (Herod, i. 74, 103).
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) And his servants carried him . . .—See Notes 2Chronicles 35:24.
The people of the land.—Thenius says they were the soldiery who had fled to Jerusalem; but this is doubtful.
Took Jehoahaz.—He was not the eldest son (see 2Kings 23:36), but he may have been thought a more capable prince amid the emergencies of the time, although Jeremiah 22:10 seq. shows that this estimate was fallacious.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.(32) And he did that which was evil . . .—Comp. Ezekiel’s lamentation for the princes of Judah,” where Jehoahaz is called a young lion that “devoureth men,” alluding to his oppressive rapacity and shameless abuse of power (Ezekiel 19:1-4).
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) And Pharaoh-nechoh put him in bands . . .—See Note on 2Chronicles 36:3. The LXX. here has “removed him,” but the other versions “bound him.”
That he might not reign.—This is the reading of the Hebrew margin, some MSS., and the LXX., Vulg., and Targum. The Syriac and Arabic have, “when he reigned,” which is the ordinary Hebrew text. The original text of the whole was perhaps this: “and Pharaoh-nechoh bound him at Riblah . . . and removed him from reigning in Jerusalem;” i.e., he threw him into bonds, and pronounced his deposition. (Comp, the construction in 1Kings 15:13.) Riblah (now Ribleh) lay in a strong position on the Orontes, commanding the caravan route from Palestine to the Euphrates. Necho had advanced so far, after the battle of Megiddo, and taken up his quarters there, as Nebuchadnezzar did afterwards (2Kings 25:6; 2Kings 25:20-21). Josephus relates that Necho summoned Jehoahaz to his camp at Riblah. The passage, Ezekiel 19:4, suggests that he got the king of Judah into his power by fraud: “he was taken in their pit.” It used to be supposed, on the strength of Herod, ii. 159, that Necho captured Jerusalem. What Herodotus says is this: “And engaging the Syrians on foot at Magdolus, Nechoh was victorious. After the battle he took Kadytis, a great city of Syria.” Kadytis has been thought to be either Hadath (“the new town;” referring to the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Return), or el-Kuds(“the holy;” the modern Arabic title of Jerusalem), or Gaza. In reality it is Kadesh on the Orontes, one of the great Hittite capitals, and not far from Hamath.
A talent of gold.—So Chronicles. The LXX. here reads, an hundred talents of gold (a transcriber’s error). The Syriac and Arabic, ten talents, which may be right. (Comp. 2Kings 18:14, where the proportion of silver to gold is ten to one.)
Tribute.—The Hebrew word means fine. The Vulg. renders rightly, “et imposuit multum terrae.”
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.THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ (31-34).
(34) Jehoahaz.—Called Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11; 1Chronicles 3:15), which may have been his name before his accession. (Comp. 2Kings 23:34; 2Kings 24:17.) Hitzig suggested that he was so called by Jeremiah in allusion to his brief reign, as if he were a second Shallum (2Kings 15:13). It is against this that Shallum was not a Judean prince, but an obscure adventurer who usurped the throne of Samaria a hundred and fifty years previously, so that the allusion would not be very clear.
Hamutal.—“Akin to dew.” (Comp. Abital, “father of dew,” or perhaps, “the father is dew.”) Tal, however, may be a divine name; the meaning then is, “Tal is a kinsman.” (Comp. Hamuel, “El is a kinsman.”)
(34) Turned his name to Jehoiakim.—A slight change. Eliakim is “El setteth up;” Jehoiakim, “Jah setteth up.” Necho meant to signify that the new king was his creature. Eliakim, the elder son, may have paid court to Necho; or the Egyptian may have deposed Jehoahaz, as elected without his consent, and perhaps as likely to prove a stronger king than his brother. Necho may have fancied a resemblance between the name Yahû (i.e., Jah; so it was then pronounced) and Aah, the name of the Egyptian moon-god. (See Note on 1Chronicles 4:18.)
And he came to Egypt, and died there.—LXX. and Vulg. as Chronicles: and he brought him to Egypt (by a slight change of the pointing in the Hebrew.) Jeremiah had foretold the fact (Jeremiah 22:10-12).
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.THE REIGN OF JEHOIAKIM (2Kings 23:35 to 2Kings 24:7).
(35) And Jehoiakim gave.—And the silver and the gold did Jehoiakim give . . . He had to pay for his elevation. The raising of the fine of 2Kings 23:33 is described in this verse.
But he taxed . . .—The king kept his pledge to Pharaoh, but not out of his own means. He exacted the money from “the people of the land,” i.e., the people of all classes, levying a fixed contribution even upon the poorest of his subjects. As in 2Kings 11:14; 2Kings 14:21; 2Kings 21:24, Thenius insists that “the people of the land” are the national militia, and he renders: “he exacted the silver and the gold, along with (i.e., by the help of) the people of the land.” But this is, to say the least, very questionable. (See Note on 2Kings 11:14.)
His mother’s name was Zebudah.—So the Hebrew margin and Targum. Hebrew text, Syriac, Vulg., Arabic, Zebidah. Zebadiah may have been the real name. The mother of Jehoahaz was Hamutal (2Kings 23:31). Thus Josiah had at least two wives, and probably more. (Comp. 2Kings 24:15.) He could not have been over fourteen when he begot Jehoiakim.
Rumah.—Perhaps Arumah, near Shechem (Judges 9:41), as Josephus has Abumah. This is interesting as a slight indication that Josiah’s power extended over the territory of the former kingdom of Samaria.
(37) He did that which was evil . . .—Jeremiah represents him as luxurious, covetous, and violent (Jeremiah 22:13 seq.). He murdered Urijah a prophet (Jeremiah 26:20 seq.). Ewald thinks that he introduced Egyptian animal-worship (Ezekiel 8:7 seq.), which is rendered highly probable by his relation of dependence on Necho. (Comp. the introduction of Assyrian star-worship under Ahaz.)