Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.B.—The Reign of Josiah; the Discovery of the Boo k of the Law, and Restoration of the Mosaic Ritual
CHAP. 22–23:30 (2 CHRON. 34, 35)
1JOSIAH was eight years old when he began to reign [became king], and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. 2And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
3And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying, 4Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is [has been] brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: 5And let them deliver it [and may deliver it]1 into the hand of the doers of the work [commissioners], that have the oversight of the house2 of the Lord: and let them give it to the doers of the work, which is [who are] in the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches of the house, 6Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn 7stone to repair the house. Howbeit, there was [But let] no reckoning [be] made with them of the money that was [is] delivered into their hand, because [for] they dealt [deal] faithfully.
8And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered [emptied out] the money that was found [stored]3 in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work [the commissioners], that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. 10And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. 11And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the 13scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying, Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me [on my behalf] and for [on behalf of] the people, and for [on behalf of] all Judah, concerning [on account of] the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us [prescribed for us].4
14So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college 15[lower city];) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, 16Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will [am about to] bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: 17Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be [is] kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. 18But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; 19Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled [humbledst] thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake [had spoken] against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee [omit thee] saith the Lord. 20Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.
2 KINGS 23:1AND the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 2And 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 [had been] found in the house of the Lord. 3And the king stood by a pillar [or on a platform], and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies [ordinances] and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform [maintain] the words [terms] of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to [joined in]5 the covenant.
4And 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 [Astarte], and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried6 the ashes of them unto Beth-el. 5And he put down [caused to desist] the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense7 in the high places in [of] the cities of Judah, and in the places [omit in the places] round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets [constellations of the Zodiac], and to all the host of heaven. 6And he brought out the grove [Astarte-image] 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 [common people]. 7And he brake down the houses of the sodomites [male-prostitutes], that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove [tent-like shrines for Astarte]. 8And 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 [both] that were [which was] in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, [and that] which were [was] on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. 9Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to [were not allowed to sacrifice upon]8 the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the [omit of the] unleavened bread among their brethren. 10And he defiled Topheth, which is the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. 11And he took away9 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 Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs [colonnade of the temple], and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12And 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 [demolish], and brake [tear] them [omit them] down from thence, and [he] cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. 13And 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 [or Astarte] 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. 14And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves [Astarte-statues], and filled their places with the bones of men.
15Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and [omit 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 [statue of Astarte]. 16And 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. 17Then he said. What title [grave-stone] 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 [foretold] these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. 18And 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. 19And 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 Beth-el. 20And 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.
21And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the [this] book of this [the] covenant. 22Surely 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; 23But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein [omit, and wherein] this passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem.
24Moreover the workers with familiar spirits [necromancers], and the wizards, and the [household] 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 [establish]10 the words of the law, which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 25And 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.
26Notwithstanding, 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. 27And 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. 28Now 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?
29In his days Pharaoh-nechoh 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. 30And 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.
The parallel account in the book of Chronicles coincides perfectly with the above in all its details. In some passages, indeed, it is identically the same (2 Kings 22:8–20 and 23:1–3 compared with 2 Chron. 34:19–32); but the Chronicler cannot have made use of the book of Kings as his authority, for he gives a number of chronological data, and also certain proper names (34:3, 8, 12; 35:8, 9), which are wanting in the book of Kings, and which cannot possibly have been invented at a later time. The case is the same with this passage as with 2 Kings 11:1–20. Both accounts are taken from one and the same original source, viz., the work which both refer to at the close of the passage (2 Kings 23:28; 2 Chron. 35:27). Their principal points of difference are two; viz., that each one describes in great detail certain ones of the facts noticed, which in their turn are passed over more summarily by the other, and that the facts are not narrated by both in the same chronological order.
In the book of Kings the extirpation of idolatry and of illegitimate Jehovah-worship is described with care and detail, so that the passage here which deals with this point (23:4–20) is, as regards its external form, longer than the corresponding one in Chronicles; moreover, as regards its contents, it is by far the most important passage in the entire narrative, all that goes before it (22:3–20 and 23:1–3) serving only as an historical introduction, and all which follows (23:21–24) only as the conclusion and sequel to it. In Chronicles, on the other hand, the description of the passover festival is the object of greatest interest, as is evident, in the first place, from the fulness with which it is given (2 Chron. 35:1–19), while the extirpation of the false worship is very briefly recorded. [This is in accord with what we observe in general in regard to the characteristics of the two books. The book of Kings attaches the interest to the religious and theocratic features of the history, while the book of Chronicles is especially interested in its ecclesiastical details. In Kings we have the history studied from the standpoint of the prophets; in Chronicles, from that of the levitical priesthood. In Kings we find those details especially prominent which refer to ethical, religious, and monotheistic truth; in Chronicles the fortunes of the priesthood, and the ritualistic and hierarchical developments, are all fastened upon and described in detail.—W. G. S.] Evidently these fundamental charactisterics of the two authors present themselves in their accounts of this reign. The older author gives us an account from his theocratic and pragmatic standpoint. He desires to show that king Josiah stands alone in the history of the Jewish kings, in that he carried out in practice and execution the fundamental law of the theocracy with a zeal and severity equalled by none of his predecessors or successors (23:24 and 25. The statement is wanting in Chronicles.) The latter author, on the contrary, adopts the levitical and priestly standpoint. He desires to show that the passover had not been so solemnly or correctly celebrated since the time of Samuel as it was under Josiah. For this reason we must regard the account in Kings as more important, and use that in Chronicles merely as a valuable complement to it.—As for the chronological succession of the events, the author of the book of Kings puts the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign at the head of the narrative. He says that the repair of the temple, during which the Book of the Law was found, took place in this year; that the reading of this book agitated the king so much that he sought higher guidance in regard to it; that he, after this guidance had been given him through the prophetess Huldah, collected the people and bound them to observe the covenant prescribed in this book; that he then proceeded to extirpate all false worship, and abolish idolatry, first in Jerusalem and Judah, and then in Samaria, and when he had accomplished this, that he ordained an observance of the passover according to the strict prescriptions of the book. It must be admitted that this is a sequence of events in which each one follows naturally and necessarily from the preceding. The Chronicler, on the other hand, begins his account with these words: “In the eighth year of his [Josiah’s] reign, while he was a boy [נַעַר], he commenced to seek the God of his father David, and in his twelfth year he commenced to purify Judah and Jerusalem from the high-places, and the Astarte-images, and the idols of stone and the molten images, and they tore down before him the altars of the Baalim,” &c. After the same had been done in “the land of Israel” he “returned to Jerusalem” (2 Kings 34:3–7). After this followed, still in the eighteenth year, the repair of the temple, during which the Book of the Law was found. This occasioned the oracle of the prophetess and the oath of fidelity to the covenant from the assembled people. Immediately after the description of the last event follows the remark: “And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God” (2 Kings 34:33). Then, in chap. 35, follows the description of the passover. The chronicler, therefore, puts the extirpation of idolatry before the repair of the temple and the discovery of the Book of the Law, and before the oath of fidelity to the covenant. This cannot, however, be the correct chronological sequence of the events, for the incentive which moved Josiah to collect the people and exact an oath of fidelity to the covenant from them was the threats of the newly discovered Law-book. Such an oath would have been useless and destitute of significance if every illegitimate cultus had already been abolished. The chronicler seems to have perceived this himself, for he repeats, in brief and condensed form, after the narrative of the discovery of the book, and after the public oath of fidelity, the statement of the reformation in the cultus which he had already given in 2 Kings 22:4–7. On the other hand, his definite chronological statements in 2 Kings 22:3: In the eighth and in the twelfth years of Josiah, statements which are wanting in the book of Kings, cannot be pure inventions of his own, especially if it is true that the sixteenth year of life, that is, in this case, the eighth year of the reign, was “the year in which, according to numerous indications, the king’s sons became of age” (Ewald). It is also unlikely that the king, who had been remarkable for his piety from his youth up, should have suddenly undertaken such a startling reformation in the eighteenth year of his reign. The repair of the temple previous to the discovery of the book shows that he was disposed to foster the Jehovah-worship. What he did in his eighth and twelfth years may have been a commencement and preparation for what he carried out in his eighteenth year with thoroughness and severity, being impelled by the threats contained in the book which had been discovered. This eighteenth year was, therefore, the real year of the reformation, the year in which there was a complete change in the religious worship of the nation, and in which Josiah accomplished the work by virtue of which he stands alone in the history of the kingdom. This is the reason why the author of the book of Kings puts this date at the head of his narrative, omitting any mention of the eighth and twelfth years, and also repeats it at the close (2 Kings 23:23). The chronicler, on the contrary, who only mentions the abolition of the illegal and illegitimate worship in the briefest manner, desired to add to his statement that Josiah “began” in his twelfth year “to purify Judah and Jerusalem” the further information how he carried this out, although somewhat later, in the land of Israel also. This uncertainty in the arrangement of the historical material is due to the imperfectness of the art of the historian, and it is not right to ascribe to the account in general, as De Wette does, “distortion of the sense, confusedness, and obscurity.” Neither is it by any means correct to assert, as Keil and Movers do, that “the account of the chronicler is, on the whole, more correct, chronologically,” for it is not possible that the abolition of idolatry, even in Judah, should have taken place before the discovery of the Law-book, as 2 Kings 34:6, 7 seems to assert. The assertion that “not all the events mentioned in this account (2 Kings 22:3–23:23) could have taken place in the one eighteenth year,” especially seeing that the passover feast belonged in the commencement and not at the end of the year (Keil), is not founded on conclusive arguments, for the eighteenth year is a year of the reign, not a calendar year, and its end may very well have fallen at the commencement of the calendar year; moreover, we do not see why the work of destruction might not have been accomplished in one year, seeing that it met with no opposition. Thenius even thinks that it was accomplished “in a period of four months.” [Nevertheless, as Keil says (Comm. s. 352): “If we take in review the separate events and incidents which are narrated in this passage, the repair of the temple, the discovery of the Law-book, the reading of it to the king, the inquiry of the prophetess and her oracle, the reading of the book to the people in the temple with the renewal of the covenant, the abolition of idolatry not only in Judah, but also in Bethel and the other cities of Samaria, and, finally, the passover festival, it is hardly necessary to remark that all this cannot have taken place in the one eighteenth year of his reign.”] It is not necessary to suppose, as Bertheau does, that both narratives are chronologically inaccurate, inasmuch as “events are included in the narrative [23:4–20] which belong to the time before the eighteenth year.” It is certain that Josiah “began” to reform before his eighteenth year, but the events mentioned in 2 Chron. 34:4–7 belong not to this time, but to the eighteenth year, and there is no reason to transfer to the time before this year events which belong to this year itself. [The author’s opinion is, therefore, that Josiah’s undertaking to repair the temple bears witness to his disposition to reform the cultus, and that this, in connection with the assertion of the chronicler that he made certain efforts to this end in his twelfth year, forces us to the conviction that the reformation commenced before the eighteenth year of the reign, but that those efforts in this direction which he is said by the chronicler to have made before his eighteenth year really belong to that year, including all the reformatory measures of which the Scripture has preserved a record.—W. G. S.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 22:1. Josiah was eight years old, &c. Amon was twenty-four years old when he died (2 Kings 21:19). He must have begotten Josiah when he was only sixteen years old. This is not astonishing in view of the early marriages which are common in the Orient (see notes on 2 Kings 16:2). Whether the young king was under a regency, or had an elderly man as tutor and governor, as Joash did (2 Kings 12:3), is not stated. We know nothing of Boscath, the birth-place of his mother, except that it was in the plain of Judah (Josh. 15:39). 2 Kings 22:2 characterizes in general the reign of Josiah, and forms, as it were, the title of the entire following passage. The expression: “Turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (see Deut. 5:32; 17:11, 20; 28:14) is only used of this king in this book.—On the chronological date: “in the eighteenth year,” see Preliminary Remarks. The addition in the Sept.: ἐν τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ὀγδόῳ, is not found anywhere else, and does not deserve any attention. In Chronicles (34:8) two other persons are mentioned whom the king sent with Shaphan, Maaseiah, the governor, and Joah, the recorder. Shaphan alone is mentioned here, as he was the one who had charge of the money. The others were merely companions. On סֹפֶר, see notes on 1 Kings 4:3.
2 Kings 22:4. Go up to Hilkiah, the high-priest, &c. Since the time of Joash (2 Kings 12:5), a period of 250 years, the temple had not been repaired. It had, therefore, become very much dilapidated. Josiah went to work according to the precedent established by Joash. “The fact that we find here almost the same account as in 2 Kings 12:11 sq. is due to the similarity of the two incidents, and is perfectly natural, so that it cannot be regarded as a proof that the account is untrue (Stähelin, Krit. Untersuch. s. 156)” (Thenius). The account is here somewhat abbreviated and presupposes some things which are there distinctly stated. The author only mentions the temple-repairs because they brought the Law-book to light. The high-priest Hilkiah is mentioned in the list of the high-priests, and is designated as the son of Shallum (1 Chron. 6:13). Nothing further is known in regard to him. Many have supposed that he was the father of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1), (Eichhorn, Von Bohlen, and Menzel), but this is certainly an error, as Hitzig in the prolegomena to his Comm. on Jeremiah has shown. יַתֵּם is hifil from תָּמַם, and means, to make perfect (see Fürst s. v.) not, to pay (Gesen.). [This money was the result of offerings which came in slowly and steadily. The force of יַתֵּם is to take up the money which had been paid in up to this time, make an account and settlement, and so finish up, make complete, the sum on hand. The E. V. “sum” is, therefore, quite accurate.—W. G. S.] Hilkiah’s duty in the circumstances was that which is described more fully in 2 Kings 12:10 sq. The conjecture וַחֲתֹם, i. e., and seal up (Thenius) is entirely unnecessary. The translation of the Sept., χωνεύσατε, is incorrect. So is also that of the Vulg.: confletur pecunia. According to 2 Chron. 34:9 the money was paid in “by Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel, as well as by all Judah and Benjamin, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The names of the commissioners or inspectors are also given there (2 Kings 22:12), but they have no further interest or importance.
2 Kings 22:8. I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. The emphasis lies here, as the position of the words [Hebr. text] shows, on סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה, words which can only be translated “the book of the Law,” according to the familiar rule: “If a compound notion, expressed by a governing noun and a dependent genitive, has to have the article, this is regularly placed before the genitive, but it then affects the entire compound” (Gesenius, Gramm. § 109, 1 [19th Ed. § 111, 1]; Ewald, Lehrb. § 290, a, 1). מָצָא is here emphatic, and does not mean, to fall in with something which is known to be somewhere at hand, but to discover something which is concealed (cf. Levit. 5:22 and 23 [English text 6:3 and 4], where we find with it אֲבֵדָה, i.e., something lost). [מָצָא means to find in three different senses: (a) to find a thing of whose existence one has knowledge, and which one therefore seeks for; (b) to find, by accident, a thing whose existence was known, but which had for some time been lost sight of; (c) to find a new thing which one never had seen or heard of before. The author thinks that the second meaning is the one which it has here. Ewald, quoted immediately below, takes it in the third sense.—W. G. S.] We see in the course of the narrative that this book is always referred to as that which had been “found” [i.e., rescued from concealment] (2 Kings 22:13; 23:2, 24; 2 Chron. 34:14; 21:30). It is, therefore, arbitrary and violent of Ewald, who established the above rule, to give to these words, on account of other considerations, the “indefinite sense:” “Hilkiah also (!) spoke with Shaphan about a (!) book of the law which he said he had found in the temple,” and to assert in the note: “There is no possible reference here to an old already known, and now only rediscovered, book of the Law.” The appeal to סֵפֶר (2 Kings 22:10) has no force, for there הַתּוֹרָה is to be supplied from 2 Kings 22:8, for Hilkiah had already definitely described it as the book of the Law, and Shaphan brought it to the king as such. [We have no right to interpolate the הַתּוֹרָה in 2 Kings 22:10. The fact is rather as follows: In 2 Kings 22:8 Hilkiah calls it “the book of the Law,” because he is convinced that it is so; in 2 Kings 22:10 Shaphan presents it to the king as a book, in regard to whose character he does not himself express any opinion, nor desire to raise any prejudice. It is simply an interesting book deserving the king’s attention and examination. Such is the true meaning of the text as it stands with הַתּוֹרָה in Hilkiah’s description, but omitted in Shaphan’s. We obliterate this feature of the narrative if we supply התורה in 2 Kings 22:10.—W. G. S.] Thenius justly says, in contradiction of Ewald: “The expression shows distinctly that it refers to a book which was known in earlier times, not to one which had now for the first time come to light,” and Bunsen says: “It certainly refers to a work which had been previously known.” Nothing but the critic’s preconceived notion could lead him to contradict this. Now there can be no doubt as to what is meant by the expression סֵפֶו הַתּוֹרָה, for it is the well-known technical expression for the books of Moses as a whole. In the parallel passage in Chronicles we read (34:14): “Hilkiah, the priest, found אֶת־סֵפֶר תּוֹרַת־יְהוָֹה בְּיַד־ משֶׁה,” and according to Deut. 31:24–26, Moses, after he had finished writing out the whole law (עַד־תֻּמָּם), said to the levites: “Take אֵת סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה, and lay it by the side of the ark of the covenant.” In 2 Kings 23:2, 3, 21; 2 Chron. 34:30, 31, we find instead סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית, but this expression also designates the books of Moses as a whole. It is the same as כָּל תּוֹרַת משֶׁה, 2 Kings 23:25. This expression is never used of a portion, or of a single one, of the books of Moses, so that it proves that the “book” which was found could not be, as has often been supposed, the book of Deuteronomy. That book was certainly contained in it, for it was the “threats” contained in that book (Deut. 28) which made such a deep impression on the king (2 Kings 22:11), and which were affirmed by the prophetess (2 Kings 22:16). It, however, presupposes the other books, and never formed a separate book by itself.
Josiah certainly could not renew the covenant on the basis of one book only, but only on the basis of the whole book of the law (2 Kings 23:1–3). The opinion that this book was Deuteronomy alone has, therefore, been almost universally abandoned, and Bertheau justly observes of this opinion (Zur Gesch. Isr. s. 375): It “lacks all foundation, and only rests upon favorite assumptions, which cannot stand before a critical science which examines more carefully.” It is now commonly assumed hat “the law-book was a document which formed he basis of Deuteronomy at the final redaction” Hitzig on Jerem. xi. s. 90), or that it was a “collection of the commands and ordinances of Moses which has been since incorporated in the Pentateuch, especially in Deuteronomy” (Thenius on the place), or that it was “a collection of the laws of Moses; in fact, that formally arranged collection of them which is contained in the three middle books of the Pentateuch” (Bertheau on 2 Chron. 34:14). But there is not the slightest hint of my such “collection” as existing before, or by the side of, the Pentateuch; much less is there any lint that any such collection was designated as “the book of the Law,” or “the book of the Covenant.” It is a pure hypothesis in which refuge has been sought, because, on the one hand, it was impossible to understand by the newly discovered “book” any one of the books of the Pentateuch; while, on the other hand, it was believed that the composition of the Pentateuch must be ascribed to a later date. This is not the place for an investigation into the origin of the Pentateuch. We simply hold firmly to this, on the authority of the text before us, that the newly discovered book was the entire Pentateuch. De Wette, even, declares (Einleit. § 162, a): “The discovery of he book of the law in the temple in the reign of Josiah is the first (?) certain hint which we find of the existence of the Pentateuch as we have it to-day.”
[In the above discussion there are two points involved: (a) the general question of the date of the origin of Deuteronomy, and (b) the especial evidence of the text before us on that question. I dismiss the former point with the following remarks. (a) It is a question of great scope, involving the examination of many texts (very few of which are mentioned above), and calling for a comprehensive treatment. Such an undertaking is out of place and impossible here. (b) This question requires freedom, and scholarly independence from dogmatic prepossessions, for its discussion. It requires also thorough and wide knowledge of a variety of subjects. It cannot be settled by any arbitary and dogmatic assertions. (c) The reasons which are adduced for believing in the comparatively late origin of the book of Deuteronomy, if not convincing, are at least such as to demand the candid consideration of honest scholars. (For the summary of the arguments on either side see the Introductory Essays in the COMMENTARY on GENESIS, and the articles “Pentateuch” and “Deuteronomy,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.)
The other question, as to the bearing of this verse on the question of the date of the origin of Deuteronomy, is in place here, but, in fact, the text bears little or no evidence on that point. The reasons for thinking that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, but at some time long after his death, are critical and independent of the verse before us. When this opinion had gained ground the question arose, when was it written? then attention was turned to this passage, and it was suspected that this was the time of its publication, if not of its composition. Then the text was tortured to try to make it bear evidence either to confirm or overthrow this suspicion. There is evidence to this point drawn from other sources, but the text before us yields none to either side.
(a) In the first place, “the Book of the Law” is a name which may have referred at one time to the Decalogue, at another time to a collection of laws, at another time to a still later revision, and so on until it was applied finally to the Pentateuch in its present form, and so came down to us with that meaning. This is what the “critical school” affirm to have been the fact, and so far as the name, “The Book of the Law” goes, it is not inconsistent with that assertion. The “Revised Statutes” of a State, at any given time, means the volume of law as fixed, up to that time. Ten years later, the same title refers, perhaps, to a very different set of laws. The illustration answers rudely for the development which is supposed to have taken place from the original writings of Moses to the historical, political, religious, and ritual work which now bears his name. We have some indications of the extent of what is called “the Law of Moses,” in the time which seems to have been required for reading it, but they are vague and uncertain. In Josh. 8:32, however, we read that Joshua “wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.” Probably no one will think that, in this case, it refers to the Pentateuch. Therefore, in the verse before us, “the Book of the Law” refers to whatever was so considered, or passed as such at this period, but what that was is exactly the point in dispute.
(b) The word מצא, as was said above, is used for different kinds of finding. It does not, therefore, give us any clue as to whether the thing found was an old thing, whose location had not, for some time, been known, or a thing which had not previously been known to be in existence at all. However, no one believes that nothing had previously existed, or been known to exist, which passed under the name of the “Law of the Lord.” The question in dispute is, whether the thing now so designated was identical with what had previously been so called, or was a revision and extension of the same, containing especially, as a recent addition, the book of Deuteronomy. On that question the word מצא casts no light.
(c) Hilkiah uses the definite article. Let us endeavor to realize the state of things, and see what inference flows from this fact. We know that, at this time, certain religious doctrines were known and believed, and certain rites of worship were practised in Judah by those who maintained the worship of Jehovah. We also know (so much, at least, no one disputes) that Moses had given certain revelations of religious truth, and certain religious ordinances to the Israelites, in the name of Jehovah, and had written them down. The only dispute on these points can be as to the degree of knowledge, faith, and worship which existed in Judah, and as to the amount of revelation and law which Moses gave and wrote. It follows that the writings of Moses, either in their original, or in a modified and extended form, served as the authority for the doctrine and worship which still remained in Judah, or else, that this written law had passed from human knowledge, lost in the flood of heathenism which had poured over the nation during the last century, in which case the doctrine and worship which remained would be based on a tradition of the ancient writings as such; and the name “The Law” would refer only to the substance of them, so far as it was remembered. Hilkiah’s announcement throws light on this alternative. If he had said: I have found a book of the Law,—it would have implied that he had found a copy of a generally well known volume. But he says: I have found “the Book of the Law.” He refers to it as something known or heard of before, yet the tone of the announcement and the effect of the discovery show that no other copies of this book could have been known to be in existence, or else that this copy was different from all others. If the latter were the case, the suspicion would be forced upon us, by the reference to “threats” in the book, that what marked this copy, as distinguished from all others, was just the book of Deuteronomy. Many scholars so regard the incident. However, it is strange that, if other copies existed, while this copy contained matter which was missing from them, no hint of this should be found in the context. How was it that no one produced a copy of the “Law,” or challenged the new copy as a forgery? Or, if it passed at once as genuine, because it was not in the “spirit of the age” to be critical about literary authorship, and if it was well known, from easy comparison with existing copies, that this copy gave new and valuable knowledge of the Law, why do we find no hint of this gain? The argument from silence is never conclusive, but in this case it is very strong. It seems rather that Hilkiah refers, by his words, to a book which was unique, so far as his, or the general public knowledge went, and that he meant to announce the discovery of the Book which contained that Law which was known to them by tradition, which formed the basis of their faith and worship, of whose existence, at a former time, in a written codex, they had also heard, but of which they possessed no written copy.
The only true inference from this text is, therefore, this, that during the time of apostasy, the Scriptures had been lost to public knowledge, and “the Law” existed only as a tradition and memory. This leaves us face to face with the question: Of what did “this book of the Law” consist,—of our Pentateuch, or of some imperfect form of what we now call the Pentateuch? We must look for the answer to that question elsewhere. We shall not find it in this verse.—W. G. S.]
As for the particular copy of the book which was found, the Rabbis and many of the old expositors, Grotius, Piscator, Hess, and others inferred from the words 2 Chron. 34:14: “The book of the law of Jehovah בְּיַר משֶׁה,” that it was “the original manuscript from the hand of Moses,” and Calmet was of the opinion that this supposition could alone account for the great effect which the discovery produced. In Numb. 15:23 we find the same expression, but there it cannot possibly be understood literally of the “hand” of Moses. It is used in the sense in which we often find בְּיַד elsewhere (1 Kings 12:15; Jer. 37:2), simply to denote the medium through which Clericus’ statement is correct: Satis est, exemplar quoddam Legis antiquum fuisse, idque authenticum. As it was found “in the house of Jehovah,” it was most probably the temple-copy, i.e., the official one which, as the documentary testimony to the covenant, was deposited in the temple, according to Deut. 31:12, 26, and was used for public reading from time to time before the people. Perhaps this copy was distinguished by its external appearance, size, material, beauty of the writing, &., from the ordinary private copies. [The passage in Deuteronomy must then be interpreted as a general injunction always to keep a copy in the tabernacle or temple, an interpretation which a glance will show to be incorrect, and it is assumed that there were private copies in existence. If private copies of “the Book of the Law” were common, or if a single one was known to be in existence, then we cannot understand why the discovery produced such a sensation, unless indeed we suppose that the newly discovered copy contained something which the other copies did not. In that case the reference to the “threats” contained in the book, as one of its prominent characteristics, would awaken the gravest suspicion that what it contained over and above the other copies was just the book of Deuteronomy. There is no reason to believe that private copies existed, and the definite article סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה bears witness to the contrary, as above stated.—W. G. S.] It is nowhere stated when and how this official copy was thrown aside and lost sight of. According to the tradition of the rabbis, this took place under Ahaz, who, they say, caused all the copies to be burned, but Kimchi justly objected that the reformation under Hezekiah presupposed the existence of the Law-book, and acquaintance with it. The supposition is therefore naturally suggested that under the fanatical idolater Manasseh, who sought to destroy all Jehovah-worship, and who reigned for fifty-five years, some faithful servant of Jehovah, perhaps the high-priest himself, took care to conceal and preserve the sacred Scriptures, and that the book only came to light again at the repairing of the temple under Josiah, after sixty or seventy years of concealment. During this period the priests “followed an imperfect tradition in their execution of the public worship of Jehovah, instead of being guided by the legal prescriptions” (Von Gerlach), and “it may be that the active practice of religious observances (which we must take for granted as existing in a well-ordered State) saved them from feeling the necessity for written rules” (Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 610). The discovery of the authentic Law-book was all the more important on this account, for by means of it the pure and correct worship of Jehovah could now be re-established. The idle question, where the book was found? whether under the roof, or under a heap of stones, or in one of the treasure chambers, may be left to the rabbis to contend over.
2 Kings 22:11. When the king had heard the words of the book of the law, &c. Shaphan did not read to the king the whole book, but he read therein (2 Chron. 34:18: בּוֹ). Judging from the impression which the words made upon the king (rending one’s clothes is a sign of the deepest anxiety and terror; see 2 Kings 6:30; 19:1), those passages seem to have been read in which the transgressors of the law are threatened with the hardest punishments; such, for instance, as Deut. 28. “Perhaps the last part of the book-roll was unrolled first” (Richter).—The king now sends a deputation of his highest officers, as Hezekiah had done in similar uncertainty, to inquire of the Lord; not, as Duncker (Gesch. des Alt. I. s. 504) states, “in order to find out whether this really was the law of Moses,” but rather, because the genuineness of the book appears to him to be beyond question, he sends to inquire whether and how the punishments which are threatened may be averted. “He desires to learn whether the measure of sin is already full or whether there is yet hope of grace” (Von Gerlach). Only a prophetical declaration—the word of the Lord—could give him an answer to this question. Ahikam appears afterwards as the friend and protector of Jeremiah (Jer. 26:24), and as father of Gedaliah, the governor of the cities of Judah (Jer. 40:5). Achbor is called, 2 Chron. 34:20, Abdon, perhaps only by a mistake of the letter characters. According to Jerem. 26:22; 36:12, he was the father of Elnathan, who belonged to the most intimate associates of king Zedekiah. Asahiah, who is only mentioned here, is spoken of as “the servant of the king,” that is, as an officer in his immediate service.—Unto Huldah, the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14). The king had commanded the deputation to inquire of the Lord without directing them to go to any particular person. The reason why they sought her is probably hinted at in the remark which is added, and which in itself appears unimportant, that “she lived in Jerusalem.” The two prophets who made their appearance during Josiah’s reign were Jeremiah and Zephaniah. The former came from Anathoth in Benjamin (Jer. 1:1). He was probably at this time still in that city. The latter, according to Pseudoepiphanius (De prophet. 19), belonged to the tribe of Simeon and came ἀπὸ ὄρους Σαραβαθά. The deputation went to Huldah because she was the only one at Jerusalem who had the gift of prophecy. In order to show that she was a person of good position, not only the name and office of her husband are given, but also the name of two of his ancestors. He was keeper of the wardrobe, “either of the royal wardrobe, or of that of the sanctuary; the latter is more probable on comparing 2 Kings 10:22” (Bertheau). “In the second part,” i.e., in the lower city. See Nehem. 11:9; Zeph. 1:10. Josephus: ἄλλη πόλις. Thenius: “In the second district of the (lower) city, which was afterwards included within the walls.” [He thus identifies it with a small hill which formed the extreme north-western suburb of the city.]
2 Kings 22:15. And she said unto them, &c. She addressed her reply in the first place to the man that sent you (2 Kings 22:15–17), afterwards to the king of Judah which sent you (2 Kings 22:18–20). The first part was addressed not only to the king but to “every one who would hear;” the second part was addressed to the king especially (Keil). This is more simple and natural than Thenius’ notion: “In the first part, Huldah has only the subject matter in mind, while in 2 Kings 22:18, in the quieter (?) flow of her words, she takes notice of the state of mind of the particular person who sent to make the inquiry.”—All the words of the book (2 Kings 22:16), stands in apposition with רָעָה which precedes. In Chronicles we find instead: “All the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah” (34:24). הַדְּבָרִים in 2 Kings 22:18 is not to be connected with what follows: “Thy heart was tender on account of these words” (Luther), but it is to be taken as a nominative absolute: as for the words which, &c. The sense of 2 Kings 22:18 and 19 is: Because thou hast heard me and taken heed to my threats, I will also hear thee and not fulfil these threats upon thee. רַק is to be taken here in the sense of timid, Deut. 20:8; Jer. 51:46. The threats had awakened terror and dismay in him.—A desolation and a curse, see Jerem. 44:22. The fact that Josiah was slain in battle (2 Kings 23:29) does not contradict בְּשָׁלוֹם in 2 Kings 22:20. That only means to say that he should die “without surviving the desolation of Jerusalem, as we see from the added promise: thine eyes shall not see, &c.” (Keil). According to 2 Chron. 35:24, 25, Josiah was laid in the sepulchre with high honors, followed by the lamentations of the whole people.
2 Kings 23:1. And the king sent and they gathered unto him, &c. Although the king had received an answer which was favorable only in its bearings on himself, his first care was to bring together the entire people, to make them acquainted with the law-book, to lead them to repent, and so to avert as far as possible the threatened punishment. In 2 Kings 23:2 all the classes of the population are mentioned in order to show how much Josiah had it at heart that the entire people, without distinction of rank or class, should become acquainted with the Law. Among these classes the priests and prophets are mentioned. Keil supposes that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were among these “in order that they might, by their participation, accomplish the renewal of the covenant, and that the prophets might then undertake the task of bringing home to the hearts of the people, by earnest preaching in Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, the obligations of the covenant.” If that had been so, however, the prophets could not have been merely incidentally mentioned, but they would have been especially pointed out as prominent agents in the work. The נְבִיאִים, who here stand with the priests and form one class with them, are evidently not the prophets in the narrower and more especial sense [i.e., as persons who foretold future events and pronounced the oracles of God], but the word is a general designation of the persons whose duty it was to preach and to explain the Law. The Chronicler (34:30) has instead הַלְוִיִּם, which is no contradiction or arbitrary alteration, for it was the duty and calling of the house of Levi to preach and to interpret the Law (Deut. 17:18; 31:9 sq.; 33:10; 2 Chron. 17:8, 9; 35:3); the Chaldee paraphrase therefore interprets נביאים here by וְסָפְרָיָּא, γρα̣μματεῖς.
[What we understand by “interpretation of the law” did not exist until after the captivity. The levites are represented in Deuteronomy as the guardians and readers of the Law, and in Chronicles we find them charged with its publication, but nowhere are they represented as doing what the “scribes” did at a later time. That is an interpretation of the rabbis which is borrowed from their own time, and is unhistorical as applied to this text. Neither were the prophets divided into two classes, one of which was charged with the office of interpretation. There is no evidence of such a division, or of such a duty of the prophets. Certainly if the duty of interpreting the jaw had been given by Moses to the levites, the whole spirit of the Israelitish constitution forbids us to believe that other persons—prophets—persons of every tribe, could have interfered with hat duty or shared in it. We cannot thus reconcile our text with that of Chronicles.—We may get a correct idea of the incident referred to by observing: (a) that the class of prophets was, at this time, very large. The name נביא applies to them all. No distinction is made, and the name is even applied to false prophets, whether with an epithet, marking them as false (Ez. 13:2 and 3; Isai. 9:14; Jerem. 6:13, &c.), or without any such epithet (Hos. 4:5; 9:7, 8). The same tame is given to the “prophets” of Baal. The original meaning of the word is speaker or orator, but it is essential to the idea of a נביא in the O. T. that he speaks under the influence of divine illumination or inspiration. He may be false, and pretend to an illumination which he has not, or he nay speak in the name of a false god, but, as one who claims and pretends to illumination, he is a נביא. (b) There were schools in which persons were trained to this office and work. Originally such persons were few in number, but the book of Jeremiah shows conclusively that, in the time of that prophet, they were numerous, and that many had the name without the spirit. Many were called, but few chosen. (c) The aim of the schools of the prophets was to nourish faith in Jehovah and worship of Him; to cultivate men who preserved the traditions of the Jehovah religion, perpetuated the great doctrines which the prophets continually reiterate, and cultivated insight into divine truth, (d) The schools could do no more than spend their labor on those who offered themselves for the work. The truth of their calling could only appear in their subsequent work. Hence the authority of the prophets was nothing more or less than their divine calling, which manifested itself in their later labors. In fact, it was lot until Isaiah and Jeremiah had been long dead that their labors were ratified and could be estimated. (e) The words or writings of the fifteen or sixteen whose works remain to us comprise, if we may so speak, only the cream of the prophetic utterances of centuries. (f) The prophets never base their teachings on Moses, but teach originally. They do not say: Thus saith Moses. They do not quote the Pentateuch as an authority. They never impress their commands by quoting the “Law of Moses” as the supreme authority of faith and duty. If they did, their works would not be Holy Scripture, but commentaries, or, at most, sermons. On the contrary, they say: Thus saith the Lord. Their work is original and creative; it is not merely in the way of application or reflexion. When they quote the “Law of the Lord” they quote principles and doctrines which were fundamental in the Israelitish constitution. They do not refer to specific ordinances and enactments, but to the spirit and principles of the Jehovah-religion. We have an analogy in the frequent reference in modern sermons to “the will of God.” This refers only generally to the Bible, and includes those things also which are not specifically ordained in the Bible, but which a Christian conscience recognizes as God’s will. (g) It is, therefore, an error to attempt to enhance the character and authority of the great prophets by supposing that, during their life-time, they were separated from others of their class. (h) It is also an error to suppose that they held any insubordinate or independent place in the body politic. We admire these men who rebuked kings, and dictated public policy in great crises, but we do them injustice if we believe that, on ordinary occasions, and in ordinary duties, they emancipated themselves from the obligations of subjects of the kingdom.—In the present case the text shows us the place of the prophets. They ranked with the priests as religious persons. If Jeremiah was in Jerusalem we may be sure that he took his place, simply and without ostentation, among his comrades in station and calling. We do not need to invent any special reason for the presence of the prophets. They were there simply as a class amongst the multitude assembled. (i) It is also an error to reconcile the text of Kings with that of Chronicles by identifying the levites, in function, with the prophets, or any class of the prophets. In the time of the chronicler the prophets had ceased to exist, certainly as a class. He was accustomed to see levites in this place by the side of the priests on such occasions, and that is the simple reason why he mentions them as occupying that place in the present instance.—W. G. S.]
Both small and great. This does not mean both the children and the grown-up persons, but, both the lower classes and the people of distinction. No doubt the king left to the priests or prophets the duty of reading the book, but himself took the oath of fidelity to the covenant from the people. He therefore took his place upon the platform (see notes on 11:14).
2 Kings 23:4. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, &c. As in 2 Kings 11:17, 18, the conclusion of the covenant was followed by the extirpation of idolatry, first by the removal of the utensils of this cultus (ver 4), then by the execution of the priests of it (ver 5), then by the destruction and desecration of the places in which it was practised (2 Kings 23:6 sq.). כֹּהֲנֵי הַמִּשְׁנֶה are not, as the rabbis say, the deputies of the high-priest, but, in contrast with him, the younger and subordinate priests. See 1 Chron. 15:18; 2 Chron. 31:12; 1 Sam. 8:2. The keepers of the door are the levites whose duty it was to guard the temple (2 Kings 22:4; 1 Chron. 23:5). On Baal and Aschera and upon the host of heaven, see notes on 2 Kings 21:3 [also notes on 2 Kings 16:3 and 17:17]. This burning took place in obedience to Deut. 7:25; 12:3. It was accomplished outside of Jerusalem, because the things were unclean, on the fields of the Kidron, north-east of the city, where the Kidron valley is broader than between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Asa had caused an idol to be burned there (1 Kings 15:13), and Hezekiah caused all the impure things which were found in the temple to be carried thither (2 Chron. 29:16). Not even the ashes, however, might remain there. They were carried to Bethel, certainly for no other reason than because that had been the chief place of origin for all idolatrous and illegitimate worship ever since the time of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:33). That which had proceeded from thence Josiah sent back thither—in ashes. Thenius’ conjecture: “בֵּית־אַל, he carried the ashes into the house of nothingness, i.e., he scattered them on all the winds,” is, to say the least, unnecessary.
2 Kings 23:5. And he caused to desist the idolatrous priests, &c.: Not, he caused to perish, put to death (Sept. κατέκαυσε; Vulg. delevit), but, he caused to cease, or set aside. The word בְּמָרִים occurs besides only in Hos. 10:5 and Zeph. 1:4. The etymology of the word is uncertain. The rabbis derive it from כמר, nigredo, because they wore black garments, but we have no instance of priests who wore black garments, and this etymology is certainly false. According to Gesenius it comes from כמר, to execute or accomplish, and means the celebrant (of the sacred offices), ἔρδων, sacrificed. [This is Keil’s opinion, not Gesenius’. The latter, in the Thesaurus s. v. follows the etymology above ascribed to the rabbis. He says that it means “blackness, sadness, and so, concretely, one who walks in black garments, i.e., a grieving, sad, ascetic, priest.” As it is only used of the priests of false worship, it would be very remarkable that the name applied to them should mean, strictly, ascetics.—W. G. S.] Fürst connects it with the Arabic chamar = coluit deum, hence, one who serves, a servant. It certainly refers to a kind of priests, not necessarily of idols, for in Hos. 10:5 the priests of Jeroboam’s Jehovah-calf-worship are so called, and here they are distinguished from those who offered incense to Baal. Probably it refers to those who without actually being priests, exercised sacerdotal functions either in the service of the calves or of false divinities. Baal “serves as a designation of the entire cultus which was covered by his name, as if it were said: Baal, i.e., the sun, &.” (Thenius). The מַזָּלוֹת, from מַזָּל, lodging, dwelling, station, are the twelve divisions of the Zodiac marked by the figures and names of animals; the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, which are called in Job 38:22 מַזָּרוֹת (see Gesen. Thes. II. 869). הָאֲשֵׁרָה (2 Kings 23:6), means not one but many Astarte-statues which Manasseh had set up in the temple (2 Kings 21:7). If he removed them after his return from Babylon (2 Chron. 33:15), they were reinstated by Amon.—On the graves of the common people. The chronicler says: “On the graves of those who had sacrificed to them” (the false gods). Evidently this is a gloss added by the chronicler himself. Persons of the common folk [as the text reads literally] are not worshippers of false gods, but common people. These did not have hereditary sepulchres hewn out of the rock (Winer, R.-W.-B. I. 444), as the rich and noble had. They were buried in the open fields where the corpses were more likely to be dug up by wild animals. The present burying-place of the Jews is in the Kidron valley. It is evident from Jerem. 26:23 that this burial was not disgraceful, although it was less honorable than that in a rock-hewn sepulchre. If this had been the burying-place for idol-worshippers, it would have been the usual burying-place in the time of Manasseh, whereas at that time it was rather the faithful servants of Jehovah who were dishonorably buried. Josiah’s reason for throwing the ashes on these graves was, therefore, not “to desecrate them as the graves of idolaters” (Keil), but in order still further to dishonor the ashes of the destroyed idols.—On הַקְּרֵשִׁים (2 Kings 23:7) see note on 1 Kings 14:24. Only male prostitutes, not female (Thenius) can be understood. They had their dwellings (tents or cabins) near the temple, perhaps in the outer court. In these also dwelt the women who wove בָּתִּים for the Ashera. Whether these were “tents,” and, if so, of what kind they were (hardly, as Ewald thinks, “garments” [he alters the text and reads בְּגָדִים Gesch. III. 718]) is not clear. 2 Kings 17:30 does not throw any light on it. Movers (Phœn. I. s. 686) says: “The castrated male prostitute (קָדֵשׁ) imagines or pretends that he is a woman: negant se viros esse * * * mulieres se volunt credi. Firmic. He lives in association with women, and the latter, in their turn, have a peculiar inclination towards him.”
2 Kings 23:8. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah. 2 Kings 23:8 and 9 belong together. The true levitical priests, who exercised their functions on the high places instead of in the temple, he caused to come to Jerusalem in order to make them desist from this. He caused the high-places to be made unfit for use by desecrating them. However, these priests, since they had forfeited their priestly dignity, were not allowed to perform priestly offices in the temple. They were employed simply as levites. They were allowed to eat unleavened, or sacrificial, bread, but not in company with the other priests (cf. Ezek. 44:10–14). They were, therefore, placed in the same category with those sons of Aaron who were prevented by some physical defect from undertaking the hereditary functions of their family (Levit. 21:21). It is not stated in the text that they continued to be participes emolumentorum sacerdotalium (Clericus).—From Geba to Beer sheba, that is, throughout the entire kingdom. Geba is the Gibea in the territory of Benjamin, near Ramah, the home of Saul. See notes on 1 Kings 15:22, and Knobel on Isaiah 10:29. It is mentioned as the northern limit. Beersheba is mentioned as the southernmost and last seat of illegal worship (Amos 5:5; 8:15).—The high-places of the gates were places of worship (in this case simply altars), either close to the gates, or, since these were large open buildings for public meetings and intercourse (Nahum 8:16; Ruth 3:11; Prov. 22:22), even inside of them. Probably these altars served for the foreigners as they came in or went out to offer sacrifices of prayer or of thanksgiving in reference to the transactions in which they were about to engage, or which they had just completed. The two following clauses, each of which begins with אֲשֶׁר, define these high-places more nearly, and it is not admissible to supply prœsertim or imprimis (Clericus, Dathe, Maurer) before the first אֲשֶׁר, and then to regard the second relative as referring to this. How can we comprehend the description of a high-place which was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua, and at the same time on the left hand of the gate of the city? As reference is made to two high-places in two different gates, the verse cannot be otherwise understood than as it is interpreted by Thenius: “He tore down the high-places of the gates, (the high-place) which was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua (as well as that) which was on the left hand in the gate of the city.” So also Keil and Ewald. Neither of these gates is mentioned anywhere else, at least by the same name. Thenius locates the former in the inside of the city, because he assumes that the governor of the city must have lived in the citadel, Millo, and that, this gate must have been one which connected the lower city with the citadel, and was close to his dwelling. This gate was called, in later times, Gennath. This, however, is a pure guess. The “gate of the city” may have been the valley-gate, or the Jaffa-gate, on the west side of the city towards the valley of Gihon, through which the traffic with the Mediterranean passed.
2 Kings 23:10. And he defiled Topheth. הַתֹּפֶת is a special designation of the spot in the valley of Hinnom, south of the city, where, during the time of apostasy, children were sacrificed to Moloch. In Isaiah 30:33 this place is called the “pyre.” Fürst derives the word from the unused root תּוּף, to burn up. The majority of the expositors, however, derive it from תּוּף, to spit or vomit, that is, to detest, hold in abhorrence. תֹּפֶת would then mean abomination (see Rödiger in Gesenius’ Thesaurus, p. 1497). The place either had this name from the time of Josiah, who defiled it by burning there the bones of the dead (2 Kings 23:16), or else it was thus named still earlier, by the faithful servants of Jehovah, on account of the detestation they felt for the abominable child-sacrifices which were practised there. Hitzig and Böttcher take הִנֹּם as an appellative from הנם, to groan, and translate: “Valley of the wailings of children.”—And he took away the horses, 2 Kings 23:11. The same expressions are used here in regard to the horses as in 2 Kings 23:5 in regard to the בְּמָרִים. They were given (נתן), that is, established or instituted, and he took them away (שׁבת). Both expressions must therefore be understood here as they are there. He did away with the horses, but did with the chariots as he had done with the idol-images (2 Kings 23:6), he burned them (שׂרף). If the horses had been of wood he would have burned them also. It follows that they were living horses. Horses are often mentioned as animals sacred to the sun among Oriental peoples (see the proofs quoted in Bochart, Hieroz. I. 2, 10). Horses were not only sacrificed to the sun, as the supreme divinity (Herod. 1:216), but they were also used to draw the sacred chariot (Curt. 3:3, 11; see Herod. 1:189). This latter was the purpose for which they were kept here. They served to draw the sacred chariot in solemn processions, representing the course of the sun through the zodiac, not, as Keil asserts, following the rabbis, “to go forth to meet the rising sun.” [This custom of keeping horses sacred to the sun is connected with the idea of the sun as a flaming chariot drawn through the heavens. Hence horses and a car were kept on earth as sacred to, and symbolical of, the sun.] מִבֹּא is not to be translated, as it is by De Wette: “so that they came no more into the house of Jehovah,” nor is it to be connected with וַיַּשְׁבֵּת (he removed them from the entrance of the temple), but it states where the place was where the horses were ordinarily kept: from the coming into the house, that is, when any one came into the temple (through the western or rear door of the fore-court, the gate שַׁלֶּבֶת, 1 Chron. 26:16), the place of the horses was on the side of him to or towards (אֶל) the chamber of Nathan-melech. This chamber was בַּפַּרְוָרִים. The לְשָׁכוֹת in the outer court (see notes on 1 Kings 6:36) were side rooms which served for different purposes; not only as dwellings for the priests who were on duty (Ezek. 40:45 sq.), but also as store-rooms for different materials (1 Chron. 9:26; 2 Chron. 31:12). This chamberlain (2 Kings 20:18), Nathan-Melech, of whom nothing further is known, was, no doubt, charged with the care of the sacred horses. It is impossible to decide whether the לִשְׁבָּה was his dwelling, and the stable of the horses was near by (Thenius), or whether this chamber itself was arranged as a stable for them (Keil). No one disputes that פַּרְוָר is the same as פַּרְבָּר, 1Chron. 26:18. In the latter place the divisions of the gate-keepers of the temple are stated in 2 Kings 23:12–19. As these had their posts only in and near the temple, and two of them were especially appointed for the פַּרְבָּר, the word cannot mean suburb (the rabbis and De Wette), nor any other locality outside of the fore-court of the temple. The ordinary interpretation of the word as the colonnade (Gesenius, Bunsen) is also excluded, for the Parbar is distinctly designated in the place quoted as lying on the west or rear side of the temple, where certainly it is least likely that a colonnade was built which formed the feature distinguishing that side from the others. [Bähr, in his translation, renders בַּפַּרְבָּר by in den Säulenhallen, in the colonnades.] We have rather to think of some specially marked space on the west side, inside of the fore-court. Of the six watchmen who were posted at the west side, four had posts assigned them on the street, that is, at the gate which led to the street, and only two in the Parbar. The latter must therefore have been inside the court, otherwise it could not have been left to the weaker guard. It is not stated what particular use this space, called the Parbar, was put to. We can only suppose that it was used for purposes for which the other sides of the court were not well adapted. The more specific details as to the size of the space, the wall by which it was surrounded, &c., which Thenius gives in his notes on the passage, are the result of mere combinations.
2 Kings 23:12. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz. The עֲלִיָּה of Ahaz was certainly not the upper chamber which was above the sanctuary of the temple (see notes on 1 Kings 6:20), but only a chamber which was first erected by this idolatrous king, and which was probably over one of the outbuildings in the forecourt, which, according to Jerem. 35:4, at least some of them, had different stories one above another. Perhaps it was over a gate. It probably served for observations on the stars, and the altars were for the worship of the constellations (Zeph. 1:5; Jerem. 19:13). [It therefore proves that the Assyrio-Chaldean star-worship was introduced in the time of Ahaz and Pekah. See notes on 2 Kings 16:3 and 17:17, above, pp. 169 and 186.] He tore down the altars which Manasseh had made (2 Kings 21:5). נת is used as in verse 7. Keil translates the following וַיָּרָץ: “He crushed them from thence,” taking it from רָצַץ, to crush, pulverize, and making it equivalent to וַיָּדֶק in 2 Kings 23:6. But מִשָּׁם doos not coincide well with the notion, of crushing, which, moreover, is fully expressed in נתץ. It must be taken from רוּץ, to run, in the sense of to hasten (Isai. 59:7); he hastened thence since he had yet all the high-places outside of Jerusalem to destroy (2 Kings 23:13). The Chaldee paraphrase explains it by וְאַרְחֵיק מִתַּמָּן, that is, he removed from thence (Ps. 88:19); the Sept.: καὶ καθεῖλεν αὐτὰ ἐκεῖθεν. Thenius therefore agrees with Kimchi in reading וַיָּרֵץ: “He caused to run—and cast, &c, that is, He gave orders to remove and cast with all haste, &c. (Jerem. 49:19). In this case he probably cast the débris directly over the wall of the temple enclosure down into the valley.” And the high-places that were before Jerusalem, &c. 2 Kings 23:13 and 14 are a direct continuation of 2 Kings 23:12, and they state what Josiah did in regard to the high-places before the city, which had existed long before Ahaz and Manasseh. On these high-places, see notes on 1 Kings 11:7. The Mount of Corruption is the southernmost peak of the Mount of Olives which lay to the East (עַל־פְּנֵי) of Jerusalem. It received this name on account of the idolatry which was practised there. Among Christians it is now called, Mount of Offence, mons offensionis, which the Vulg. has in the place before us. On the images and Astarte-statues (2 Kings 23:14) see notes on 1 Kings 14:23. מְקוֹמָם does not mean “their elevated pedestals” (Thenius), for וַיְמַלֵּא would not fit into this meaning, but, in general, their places. It is to be observed that it is not said in reference to Solomon’s high-places (in 2 Kings 23:13) that he tore them down, as it is said of those which were of later origin (2 Kings 23:6, 7, 8, 12), but only that he defiled them. No doubt this is because they had been already torn down by Hezekiah, or perhaps even before his time (2 Chron. 31:1). He only defiled the places where they had been (perhaps some parts were still remaining) in order to obliterate thoroughly all the false worship. Thenius is certainly mistaken when he asserts: “The idol-temples which Solomon had erected remained until the time of Josiah, though they were several times, e.g., under Hezekiah, placed under interdict.” How could Hezekiah, who even removed the heights where Jehovah was worshipped (2 Kings 18:4), have allowed idol-temples to stand untouched, with their images, over against Jerusalem? [As far as the text gives any information in regard to the matter, either here or elsewhere, Solomon’s heights, &c., remained until this time. The inference as to what other reformers must have done, is only an inference. If we allow ourselves to infer that such and such things had been done before this time, we obliterate those peculiarities of Josiah’s reformation which make it especially interesting.—W. G. S.] We do not need to assume, as Menochius does: Ab impiis regibus excitata sunt fana et idola iis similia, quœ excitaverat Salomon iisdem locis, ideoque Salomoni tribuuntur primo illorum auctori.
2 Kings 23:15. Moreover the altar that was at. Beth-el.—After Josiah had put an end to all illegal worship in Judah, he extended the reformation to the former kingdom of Israel, whence that worship had originally sprung, and where it had been made the basis of the political constitution (1 Kings 12:26 sq.). It is told in 2 Kings 23:15–20 what he did there. From the time of Jeroboam Bethel had been the chief seat of the calf-worship (1 Kings 12:28; 13:1; Amos 3:14; 7:10, 13; Jerem. 48:13; see Hos. 10:5). This altar was the one mentioned in 1 Kings 12:33 and 13:1. The first הַבָּמָה in 2 Kings 23:15 cannot be taken as an accusative of place, “on the high-place,” as Thenius takes it, but only as apposition to “altar.” The Bamah was a house on an elevation, for he tore it down and burned it. The altar did not stand in the house, but before it. In what follows the statement is clearer: “that altar and the high-place.” After the immigration of the heathen colonists an Astarte-statue seems to have taken the place of the calf-image there.—On 2 Kings 23:16 sq. see the Prelim. Rem. on 1 Kings 13. 2 Kings 23:16 to 18 belong, according to Stähelin (Krit. Untersuch. s. 156), to the author and not to the document which served him as authority. According to Thenius they are taken from the sequel to 1 Kings 13:1–32. This, he says, is evident “from וְגַם in 2 Kings 23:19, which corresponds to that in 2 Kings 23:15, and, still more distinctly, from the consideration that Josiah could not defile the altar by burning men’s bones upon it (2 Kings 23:16) after he had broken it in pieces (2 Kings 23:15).” But, if the remarkable incident in 2 Kings 23:16 to 18 was to be narrated, it could not be mentioned anywhere but here, because it took place at the destruction of the high-place at Bethel. 2 Kings 23:19 then carries on the history of the destruction and extirpation of the illegal cultus throughout Samaria, and goes on to tell what was done elsewhere than at Bethel. As for the difficulty about the altar, the author must have been very careless to make a statement in 2 Kings 23:16 which was inconsistent with what he had said in 2 Kings 23:15. He says nothing in 2 Kings 23:15 about burning the altar, but only about burning the house and the Astarte-statue. He caused bones to be burned on the spot where the altar had stood in order that that also might become unclean and never more be fit for an altar, i.e., for a place of worship. The author, no doubt, in many ways made use of old authorities and incorporated them into his work, but he certainly never thoughtlessly patched separate pieces together, or arbitrarily inserted a bit here and there.—He turned himself, i.e., to look about; cf. Exod. 2:12; 16:10. The “mount,” where the sepulchres were, cannot be the one on which the altar and the Bamah stood, but one in the neighborhood, which was to be seen from the one where the Bamah stood. After אִשׁ הָאֱלֹהִים the Sept. have the words: “When Jeroboam, at the festival, stood at the altar, and he turned his eyes upon the sepulchre of the man of God who had spoken these words.” Thenius regards this addition as originally having belonged to the perfect text, but it may easily be recognized as a gloss.
2 Kings 23:17. What grave-stone is that? The sepulchres of prominent persons were marked by monuments placed before them (Ezek. 39:15; Gen. 35:20; Jerem. 31:21). This monument attracted the king’s attention and he asked whom it commemorated.
2 Kings 23:18. Out of Samraia. The name here refers not to the city but to the country, and stands in contrast with the words “from Judah” in 2 Kings 23:17. It therefore marks the origin of this prophet; “he was an Israelitish, not a Jewish prophet” (Thenius). The priests whom Josiah caused to be put to death (2 Kings 23:20) were not levitical or Israelitish priests at all, but, unquestionably, idol-priests who had established themselves in the country. וַיִּזְבַּח cannot be understood as if Josiah offered these priests as a sacrifice to God. If that were so he would have helped to establish the human sacrifices which it was the object of his reformation to root out. זבח here has the sense of to slaughter, as often elsewhere (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 19:21). They suffered upon their own altars the death-penalty imposed by the Law (Deut. 17:2–5). At the same time these altars were thereby defiled and made unfit for use. According to Tertullian public child-sacrifices lasted in Africa usque ad proconsulatum Tiberii, qui eosdem sacerdotes in iisdem arboribus templi votivis crucibus exposuit.
2 Kings 23:21. And the king commanded all the people. Josiah had abolished with relentless severity all which was forbidden in the book of the covenant and the Law to which he had bound the people by an oath of allegiance (2 Kings 23:3); now, however, he proceeded to perform all which was there commanded, and he began, as Hezekiah had done (2 Chron. 30:1), by ordaining a passover, for this feast had been instituted to commemorate the exodus and the selection of Israel to be the peculiar people, which was the foundation of its national destiny, and of its calling in human history. No other feast could have served so well to inaugurate the restored order as this one, which had been celebrated even in Egypt. The statement: כַּכָּתוּב in the book of this covenant does not mean: which is mentioned in this book. That would be a superfluous remark, and the translation would not be a correct rendering of the original. It means that the Passover was to be observed according to the regulations prescribed in the book which had been found. The translation of Luther [E. V. also] following the Sept. and Vulg. is not correct: “Im Buck dieses Bundes” [in the book of this covenant], for that would require הַזוֹת. The emphasis falls on “book.” Josiah does not wish that the passover shall be celebrated according to precedent and tradition, but according to the regulations of the book which had been read before the people. This is the only conception of its meaning according to which we get a good sense, for the remark in 2 Kings 23:22: surely there was not holden such a passover, &c. כִּי refers to what immediately precedes: “In this book of the covenant,” so that the sense is: No passover had been so strictly observed according to the regulations of the Law since the times of the judges. Even the Passover of King Hezekiah had not been perfectly conformed to the law, for he was compelled by circumstances to deviate in some respects (2 Chron. 30:2, 17 sq.). Clericus: Crediderim hoc velle scriptorem sacrum: per tempora regum nunquam ab omnibus secundum omnes leges Mosaicas tam accurate Pascha celebratum fuisse. Consuetudinem antea, etiam sub piis regibus, videntur secuti potius quam ipsa verba legis; quod cum fit, multa necessario mutantur ac negliguntur. Sed inventi nuper libri verba attendi diligentissime voluit Josias. It is difficult to understand how any one could understand from this passage, as De Wette does, that no Passover had ever been celebrated before this one. Thenius also asserts that “it can hardly be doubted that the celebration of the Passover was neglected from the time of the Judges on, and that it did not begin again until after the ordinances of the Law in regard to it had once more become known under Josiah,” because “there is no reference whatever to the Passover either under Samuel, or David, or Solomon.” He therefore infers that “in order to bring about an accord with the story in Chronicles of the Passover feast instituted by Hezekiah” הַזֶּה was substituted for הַזּוֹת in 2 Kings 23:21, and כַּפֶּסַח for הַפֶּסַח in 2 Kings 23:22. In this way, of course, anything may be found in the text which any one wants to read there. Neither the day of Atonement not the Feast of Pentecost is expressly mentioned in the historical books, and the Feast of Tabernacles is only mentioned in connection with the consecration of the temple (1 Kings 8:2). It would therefore follow that the Israelites alone of all ancient peoples had no religious festivals from the time of the Judges. If, however, one festival was celebrated it was certainly the feast of the Passover, which was moreover a natural festival (Levit. 23:10 sq.; Deut. 16:9). The same chronicler who recorded the Passover under Hezekiah also gives a detailed account of the one under Josiah, and adds at the close of his account (35:18) the same comment which we here find in 2 Kings 23:22. We cannot, therefore, assume that 2 Kings 23:22 has suffered any alterations “in order to bring it into accord with the record of the Passover under Hezekiah.” On 2 Kings 23:23 see the Prelim. Rem.
2 Kings 23:24. Moreover the necromancers.—”After Josiah had completed the reformation of the public worship, he went on to put an end to all the superstitious practices and idol-worship which. were carried on in private houses” (Thenius). The necromancers and wizards had arisen under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6). The Teraphim, or household-images, were the penates, the gods of the fireside, to which a magical power was ascribed. They served as a kind of talisman for the family, and as a kind of private oracle. Cf. Gen. 31:19; Judges 18:14; Ezek. 21:26; Zach. 10:2. On גִּלֻּלִים see 1 Kings 15:12 and 2 Kings 17:12. They were doubtless private household gods. And all the abominations that were spied, i.e., everything which was to be abhorred and which was found anywhere, “for it might well be that many things of this character were concealed” (Thenius). That he might establish, i.e., put in operation. Even private and family religious observances were to be regulated according to the newly discovered book, in order that it might serve as the norm and rule for the entire life of the people. The author therefore proceeds (2 Kings 23:25): And like unto him, &c., by which he means, according to the context, that the entire law of Moses was not so strictly and severely carried out by any king before Josiah, not even by Hezekiah, although the latter was not at all inferior in genuine piety and in trust in the Lord (see notes on 2 Kings 18:5). With all his heart, &., has distinct reference to Deut. 6:5.—In 2 Kings 23:26 and 27 “the author passes on to the story not only of the end of Josiah, but also of the fall of the kingdom” (Keil). שָׁב in 2 Kings 23:26 stands in contrast with שָׁב in 2 Kings 23:25. Josiah turned to Jehovah, but Jehovah turned not from his wrath. Quamvis enim rex religiosissimus esset populusque metu ei pareret, propterea tamen animus populi non erat mutatus, ut satis liquet a castigationibus Jeremiœ, Sophoniœ, et aliorum prophetarum, qui circa hœc tempora et paulo post vaticinati sunt (Clericus). Cf. Jerem. 1:10; Zeph. 1:2–6; 3:1–4. The corruption had struck such deep root during the reign of Manasseh that it could not be eradicated even by Josiah’s severe measures. The Law was observed externally, but the conversion of the entire people was out of the question. This became distinctly apparent after Josiah’s death. Hence the long-threatened judgments of Jehovah must now fall. On 2 Kings 23:27 see Jer. 25:26, and notes on 2 Kings 21:4–7.
2 Kings 23:28. Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, &c. The author now hastens to the close of the history of Josiah. It is necessary to tell how he met his end, but he does this very briefly (2 Kings 23:29). The more specific details are given by the chronicler (II. 35:20–27). Necho (in Chronicles and in Jerem. 46:2: נְכוֹ; in the Sept. and Josephus Νεχαώ) was, according to Herodotus (2:158), who calls him Νεκώς, the son of Psammetich I. According to Manetho he was the sixth king of the twenty-sixth, Saite, dynasty, and was an energetic prince who built fleets both on the Mediterranean and on the Red sea. The King of Assyria, against whom Necho was marching, can hardly have been Sardanapalus, under whom Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians and Medes, but the Babylonian Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who, as ruler of Assyria also, might now be called king of that country. For Necho lost the battle of Carchemish (2 Chron. 35:20) to Nebuchadnezzar (Jerem. 46:2), and Josephus says (Antiq. x. 5, 1) that Necho undertook this expedition against Μήδους καὶ Βαθυλωνίους, οἳ τὴν ’Ασσυρίων κατέλυσαν ἀρχήν, τῆς γὰρ ’Ασίας βασιλεῦσαι πόθον εἶχεν. Evidently Necho desired, now that the Assyrian empire had come to an end, to hinder the Medes and Babylonians from forming a world-monarchy, and to become himself ruler of Assyria (see Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 105 sq. II. s. 143. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums I. s. 499 sq.). He did not take the long and tedious way through the desert et Tih and southern Palestine, but made use of his fleet, and landed probably in the neighborhood of the Phœnician city of Akko, in a bay of the Mediterranean. This is evident from the fact that Josiah did not march southwards to meet him, but northwards, and that they met at Megiddo, in the plain of Jezreel, at the foot of Mount Carmel. On the situation of this city see Exeg. on 1 Kings 4:12 and 9:15. Herodotus calls it Μάγδαλον, and Ewald understands him to refer to Megdel, south-east of Akko; but, as Keil shows in his comment on the verse, this can hardly be correct. He slew him. This curt statement finds its explanation in 2 Chron. 35:22–24, according to which it was not Necho himself that slew Josiah, but the latter was mortally wounded by an arrow from the Egyptian bowmen, and then died at Hadad-Rimmon (Zach. 12:11), not far from Megiddo.—The people of the land (see 2 Kings 21:24) made the younger son of Josiah king, as we see by comparing 2 Kings 23:31 with 2 Kings 23:36, perhaps because they had greater hopes of him, though in this they were mistaken (Jerem. 22:10 sq.). It is stated that they anointed him (a ceremony which is not elsewhere expressly mentioned in speaking of a change upon the throne), perhaps because he was not the son whom Josiah had chosen to succeed him (see notes on 1 Kings 1:5 and 34), but nevertheless they desired to give him the consecration of a legitimate king.
[On the contemporaneous history see the Supplementary Historical Note after the next Exegetical section.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. King Josiah was the last true theocratic king of Judah. Higher praise is given to him than to any other king, even to Hezekiah, namely, that he “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.” Sirach, in his panegyric on the fathers, groups him, as we have said above, with David and Hezekiah, besides whom there was no king who did not more or less abandon the Law of the Lord. He also further says of him what he says of no other king: Μνημόσυνον ’Ιωσίου εἰς σύνθεσιν θυμιάματος, ἐσκευασμένον ἔργῳ μυρεψοῦ, ἐν παντὶ στόματι ὡς μέλι γλυκανθήσεται, καὶ ὡς μουσικὰ ἐν συμποσίῳ οἴνου (Sir. 49:1). Josephus also (Antiq. x. 4, 1) is loud in his praise. If we take into consideration, on the one hand, that under his two immediate predecessors, Manasseh and Amon, who together reigned for sixty years, apostasy and corruption had spread far more widely, and penetrated far more deeply, than under Ahaz, who only reigned sixteen years, and, on the other hand, that Josiah, at the time of his accession, was only a boy of eight years, who might be easily influenced and led astray, then it appears to be almost a miracle that he became what he was. This miracle is not by any means explained by supposing that, after the death of Amon, “the priests of Jehovah once more gained influence at court” (Duncker), or that “the priests of Jehovah succeeded in getting the young prince, whom the opposite party had elevated to the throne, under their control” (Menzel). We have not the slightest hint that Josiah was educated or controlled by any priest of Jehovah, as was the case with Joash under entirely different circumstances (2 Kings 12:2). Neither did the prophet Jeremiah have influence upon his education, for that prophet made his first appearance, while he was yet a young man, in Josiah’s thirteenth year, at Anathoth, from whence he was driven away; moreover he was not the son of the high-priest, but of another Hilkiah (Jerem. 1:1, 6). Ewald’s comment is far better (Gesch. III. s. 696): “We cannot reach an accurate notion of the educational development through which he passed during his minority, but the decision and strictness with which he defended and maintained the more austere religion, in the eighteenth year of his reign and the twenty-sixth of his life, show plainly enough that he had early attained to a firm determination in favor of true nobility and manliness of life. It may well be that the grand old history of Israel, with its fundamental truths, as well as the memory of David’s greatness, of the marvelous deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, and of all else which was glorious in the history of his ancestors, had early made a deep impression upon him.” True as this is, however, it is not sufficient to account for such a phenomenon as Josiah was, since he stands before us almost like a Deus ex machina. His character is, as Hengstenberg says (Christol. III. s. 496), “as little to be comprehended on the basis of mere natural causes as is the existence of Melchisedek … in the midst of the Canaanites, who were hastening on with steady tread and ceaseless march towards the consummation of their sins. The causes which produced Josiah, such as he was, are the same which produced Jeremiah.” If it was marvelous that a man like Hezekiah followed a man like Ahaz, it was still more marvelous that an eight-year old boy like Josiah followed men like Manasseh and Amon, and that he, during all his reign, should have turned “neither to the right hand nor to the left,” and: should have been unexampled in the entire history of the kings. It was no accident that a king like Josiah arose once more, and attained to the height of David as the model of a genuine theocratic king. It was a gracious gift from the God who had chosen Israel as His own peculiar people, for the accomplishment of His redemptive plan, and Who continued to raise up men who were endowed with gifts and strength to work in and for His plans, and to manifest themselves to His people as His instruments. If a king like Josiah could not restore the people to its calling, then the monarchy, as an institution, had failed of its object and was near its end. The kingdom must hasten to its downfall and the threatened judgments must come.
2. We are made acquainted, in this passage, only with those events in the reign of Josiah (thirty-one years) which appertained to the abolition of idolatry, and the restoration of the legitimate Jehovah-worship. It was by virtue of these events that his reign formed an epoch in the history of the kingdom. In comparison with these events, all else, in the judgment of this historian, sank into insignificance. We see, however, from a passage in the book of Jeremiah, that he was remarkable also in other respects, for the prophet presents him to his son, Jehoiakim, as a model: “Shalt thou reign because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?” &c. (Jerem. 22:13–17). Josephus says of him (I. c.): Τὴν δὲ φύσιν αὐτὸς ἄριστος ὑπῆρχε, καὶ πρὸς ἀρετὴν εὖ γεγονώς … ὡς ἂν πρεσβύτατος καὶ νοῆσαι τὸ δέον ἱκανώτατος, … σοφίᾳ καὶ ἐπινοίᾳ τῆς φύσεως χρώμενος … τοῖς γὰρ νόμοις κατακολουθῶν, οὔτω περὶ τὴν τάξιν τῆς πολιτείας καὶ τῆς περὶ τὸ θεῖον εὐσεβείας εὐοδεῖν τε συνέβαινε … ἀπέδειξε δὲ τινὰς κριτὰς καὶ ἐπισκόπους, ὡζ ἂν διοικοῖεν τὰ παρ’ ἑκάστοις πράγματα, περὶ παντὸς τὸ δίκαιον ποιούμενοι, κ. τ. λ. The fact that he extended his reforming work into Samaria shows that he had attained to power and authority there: when and how he obtained this is nowhere stated, but the fact that he had it stands firm, and might be inferred even from other historical hints. After Esarhaddon, the successor of Sennacherib, the Assyrian power began to sink. The Scythians invaded the country from the North; on the East and South it was threatened by the Medes and Babylonians, who sought to make themselves independent of its power. These events belong to the time of the reign of Josiah. Josiah must have made vigorous opposition to the Scythians who were pressing forward in Palestine towards Egypt, devastating everything, for he remained undisturbed by them. It is very probable that it was easy for him, after their departure, to extend his authority over the territory of the former kingdom of the ten tribes, since the Assyrians were not, at that time, in a position to pay much attention to Israel, or to maintain intact their supremacy over it. In the year 625 the Assyrian power was being hard pushed by Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and Josiah’s reformation falls in the year 623, that is, in the time when the Assyrian empire was tottering and falling. Whether Josiah, as “a king who desired in all things to be a genuine successor of David,” had the intention of “restoring the authority of the house of David over all the surrounding peoples” (Ewald), or whether he “regarded himself, after the fall of the northern kingdom, as king of the entire covenant people, and took advantage of the impending or already accomplished dissolution of the Assyrian empire, in order to conciliate to himself the Israelites who remained in Samaria, to make them well disposed towards his authority, and to win them to his reforms” (Keil), we cannot decide, but this is certainly far more probable than that he “as a vassal of the Assyrian king had a certain limited authority over this territory,” and that “his enterprise was permitted by the Assyrian authorities” (Hess), or that he petitioned the new ruler of Assyria (Nabopolassar) for permission to exercise authority there in matters of religion (Thenius). However this may be, Josiah certainly stands before us as a king who was endowed with the above-mentioned virtues of a ruler, and with an enterprising spirit and warlike courage. These last traits are proved by his attempt to resist Necho, in regard to which see below. It is utterly erroneous, therefore, to see in this king, as modern historians are disposed to do, merely a passive instrument in the hands of the priesthood. [See the Supplementary Notes after the Exeg. sections on chaps. 20 and 21, and on the next following section of the text.]
3. The discovery of the book of the Law was, in spite of its apparent insignificance, an event of the first importance for all the subsequent history of Israel. Although Josiah had, before that event, turned to the Lord and sought to inaugurate a reform (see the Prelim. Rem.), yet it was this discovery which determined him to take measures of the utmost severity against all idolatry, and to restore the worship of Jehovah in Judah and in Israel. From this discovery dates the complete revolution in the circumstances of the kingdom, and from this time on this book had such authority that, in spite of all vicissitudes, and in spite of renewed apostasy, yet it held its place in the respect of the nation, it has been recognized until to-day by the Jews as their most sacred religious document, and their religion, in all its distinctive peculiarities, is built upon it. Suppose that this book had never been discovered, but had been lost for ever, so that only incomplete and inauthentic private copies had been preserved, scattered here and there, what would then have been the state of Judaism, and how different must have been the shape which its religious and moral development would have taken. The whole history of Israel bears witness to the guiding and controlling hand of God, but if there is any one event in which, more than in any other, the Providence of God is visible, then it is this important discovery. It was a physical proof that God watches over this document, which is the testimonial to Israel of its election, and the highest divine revelation; that he preserves it from the rage of idolaters; and that, even if it lies long unnoticed and unknown in the night of apostasy, he will bring it again to light, and make it to show its force once more, so that it is like a fire which consumes all which is false and corrupt, and like a hammer which breaks the rocks (Jerem. 23:29). The discovery of the book was a pledge to the king and people of the indestructibility of the divine written word.—Modern historical science has taken an entirely different view of this event. “The impression left by the devastations of the Scythians,” says Duncker (Gesch. d. Alt. I. s. 503 sq.), “who had left the land a desert, was deep and fresh in the minds of the people. The king was young, and, as it seems, open to influence. The priests were bound to take advantage of these circumstances to set up a stronger barrier against the Syrian forms of worship. Manasseh’s persecutions had led the Jehovah-priests to look about for means to prevent the recurrence of similar oppression. They naturally found themselves forced to an attempt to secure their creed and their official position against the changing will of the kings, to emancipate it from the fickle disposition of the people, and to put an end, at last, to the vacillation between Jehovah-cultus and foreign and heathen forms of worship.” There was room to hope that “by means of a law-book, which made the worship of Jehovah the basis of all national life, and embraced all social interests in its scope, all future perils to the priesthood might be prevented, their position might be permanently assured, and the Jehovah-worship might be securely established and strictly carried out. ” A codification of the rules which had been gradually formed by the priests as the scheme of life which would be pleasing to Jehovah, a compendium which should sharply emphasize the chief demands which religion made upon the laity, was, therefore, needed. For such a law-book alone was there hope that it would find acceptance, that it would be recognized by the king and by the people as an unquestionable authority, and as the organic law of the country, and that it might be completely and successfully put in operation. This was the purpose, and these were the fundamental principles on which this book (Deuteronomy), which Hilkiah, the high-priest, sent to the king, was compiled.… Josiah was deeply moved by the contents of it, and by the threats which it pronounced against those who transgressed the Law of Jehovah. In order to convince himself of the genuineness of this book as the real law of Moses, he appealed from the authority of the temple and the high-priest to a female soothsayer. The wife of one of the king’s officers, Huldah, was asked in regard to the genuineness of the book, and she declared that the words of the book were the words of Jehovah.” We have an example, in this entire presentation of the incident, of the inexcusable manner in which modern historical science treats the biblical history. The book which was found was, according to this view, simply the book of Deuteronomy, an assumption which, as we have seen, is so contrary to the text that even the most daring and advanced critical science has recognized its falsehood. This book, too, is represented as having been secretly compiled after the Scythian invasion of Palestine, that is, as we have seen above, after 627 B. C., by the priests, without the knowledge of the king, and then as having been sent to the latter by Hilkiah, as the book written by Moses, and now rediscovered, so that it would be in fact forged. The king permits himself to be deceived, and is deeply moved by the threats invented by the priests, yet he turns, superstitiously to a “female soothsayer,” inquires of her in regard to the genuineness of the book, and she, being of course initiated into the secret of the priests, answers that the words of the priests are the words of Jehovah. The whole affair is thus reduced to cunning, deceit, and falsehood, on the part of the priests, in their own selfish interests. The priests, with the high-priest at the head, are vulgar cheats, and the king and people are cheated. The entire grand reformation, and the complete revolution in the state of the kingdom, with all the religious development which followed, rest upon a forgery. Such an arbitrary and utterly perverse conception refutes itself, and Ewald (l. c. s. 700) justly says: “We must beware of obscuring the view of the incident by any such incorrect hypothesis as that the high-priest composed this book himself, but denied its origin. Want of conscientiousness in the conception of history cannot be more plainly evinced than by such unfounded and unjust suppositions.” Ewald himself, on the other hand, ascribes the composition of Deuteronomy to a prophet who, during the persecution by Manasseh, took refuge in Egypt, and says: “If the book was written thirty or forty years before, by a prophet who, at this time, was dead, and if it found circulation only gradually, so that it finally reached Palestine as it were by accident, a copy might accidentally have found its way into the temple, and there have been found by the high-priest.” But the notion that the book of Deuteronomy was composed in Egypt “stands in the air,” and has thus far been adopted by none but Eisenlohr. Moreover, that it came to Palestine by accident, came into the temple by accident, by the hand of an unknown priest, and without the knowledge of the high-priest, so that it was found by him, again—“by accident,” not only does not explain the incident, but it even makes it still more marvelous and inexplicable than it is according to the biblical account. If we assume that the book of Deuteronomy was first written in the time of Manasseh, or in the time of Josiah, and that the book of the Law thereby first reached its completion, then we are compelled to have recourse to all sorts of arbitrary hypotheses to account for the alleged “discovery” of the book at this time.
[It seems hardly probable that the question of the date and authorship of the book of Deuteronomy will ever be definitely settled. On the one hand, the traditional view is firmly fixed in the belief of the Church. On it are supposed to hang doctrinal inferences which would fall if the Mosaic authorship were surrendered, and these doctrines are regarded as too essential to the structure of the Christian faith to admit of any weakening. Such a position is false philosophically, as it involves a reasoning from dogma to fact, instead of the contrary and only legitimate process. Nevertheless, there seems little reason to expect that this position will be overthrown, at least as far as we can yet foresee. Moreover, the admission that Moses was not the author involves, or seems to involve, the admission of a literary forgery, although no one can believe that Moses wrote the account of his own death in the 34th chapter. On the other hand, the grounds for believing in the comparatively late origin of this book are such as only scholars of great attainments can appreciate or understand. Therefore the position of the question now is, and probably for a long time to come will be, that the opinion which enjoys ecclesiastical sanction is the traditional opinion of the Mosaic authorship, while the scholars (with very few exceptions, and those of inferior authority) are firmly convinced that Deuteronomy was written at a time long after that of Moses, and by an unknown hand. The grounds on which the latter opinion is based are critical and historical. The former are, in the briefest statement, these: (a) The language of the book. It is marked by archaisms such as are peculiar to the other books of the Pentateuch, but these are found side by side with peculiarities of the late language, especially those which mark the book of Jeremiah. It is said that this is a clear proof that the author lived in the later days of the Jewish monarchy, and either unconsciously adopted ancient forms from familiar acquaintance with the old Scriptures, or purposely affected archaic forms. (b) Its literary style. It bears the character of a codification or digest of the previous books. It is also marked by a handling of the ordinances of Moses, in the spirit of their principles, but with the freedom of one who had thoroughly studied them, and digested them, and now purposed to codify and arrange them in a more practical and available form. (c) It presents, however, certain variations from the other books of the Pentateuch, always in the sense of making the ordinances more flexible and of freer application, as it were to a higher civilization and a more complicated society. (d) It contemplates a state of things in which the nation is living a settled and ordered life, under a king, face to face with neighbors, not like the Canaanites, but powerful and large enough, if victorious, to swallow up Israel in captivity. (e) It is too long to be delivered as a speech, as it is represented.—The historical arguments are these: (a) Deuteronomy ordains worship at one central sanctuary, a thing which was not regarded as important until after the time of Solomon, but which, from the time of Josiah on, became a fixed and fundamental doctrine of the Hebrew religion. (b) The spirit of the book of Deuteronomy is that which marked Josiah’s reformation and the preaching of the later prophets. It controlled the ultimate development of the Jewish religion after the captivity.—All these arguments meet with answers from the opposite school, the weight of which depends on the philosophical or dogmatic prepossessions of the persons who are called upon to weigh them. They are only mentioned here to show in general and in brief what is the character of the grounds on which “critical science” has based the belief that Deuteronomy was not written by or in the time of Moses. They are independent and critical throughout. To estimate them requires close knowledge of the Hebrew language and history, a knowledge which goes beyond grammar and dictionary, and involves philosophical insight, and critical sagacity and skill. Certainly it devolves upon all who are charged with the study of the Scriptures to give to the subject a candid and unprejudiced consideration, in order that the truth, on whichever side it may lie, may be established. There is not a subject on which the tyro in biblical learning may more easily fall into rash error, nor one upon which those who cannot, or will not, enter upon the tedious investigation which is involved ought more carefully to refrain from passing a dogmatical judgment.
Strictly speaking, this question lies aside from our present occupation. In commenting on the 23d chapter of the 2d book of Kings, and noticing the bearing of the facts which it records upon the “development of the plan of redemption” (see Preface), we have only to notice the effect produced by the discovery of the “book of the Law.” But it is asserted by some that this book was not the same, nor a mere copy of any, which had existed before, but a revision of the former records, with an addition consisting of a repetition and codification of the ancient ordinances. They assert that this new work was an extension and re-application of the legislation of Moses, which was especially adapted to the time of Josiah, and that herein lie the grounds of its great and peculiar influence. If such an assertion be true, and if the peculiar character of this new revision, as compared with the ancient records, was a new and broader apprehension of the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, and if this new spirit gave to that legislation a new impetus which made it the controlling principle in the subsequent development of the Jewish religion, then certainly it was a most important event in the development of the history of redemption. In fact, if this assertion be true, the composition of the book of Deuteronomy was the most important incident in the history of the Israelites after the time of Moses. Hence the importance of studying the question involved in the most thorough manner, by its proper evidence, with all the light which history or criticism can throw upon it.
Our present chapter bears upon it in so far as we discern in the reformation of Josiah a peculiar character, as compared, for instance, with that of Joash, or that of Hezekiah, and in so far as these peculiar features of this reformation are traceable to Deuteronomy as distinguished from the other books of the Pentateuch. On this point we observe that this book of the Law produced a profound sensation. It brought to the king’s notice things which he had never heard or known of, and which, therefore, were not popularly known of, as parts of the “Law of the Lord,” although something was certainly known under that name. It is also said that the thing in the new book which especially attracted his attention, and stirred him to the action which he took, was the “threats” or denunciations which it contained (cf. Deut. 28 especially Deut. 28:25 and Deut. 28:64). But these only occur in the book of Deuteronomy. When we read the description of future and possible degeneracy under the kingdom, and the threats of captivity, &c., which are contained in the book of Deuteronomy, and compare them with the state of things under Josiah, when the northern kingdom had already disappeared in Assyrian exile, we cannot wonder at the effect produced on the king’s mind. He saw himself and his nation in this description as in a mirror.—We also notice particular expressions: “Turned neither to the right hand nor to the left,” as the description of a perfect king (cf. Deut. 5:32; 17:11, 20; 28:14); the “burning” of idolatrous images and utensils (ver 4. cf. Deut 7:25; 12:3); “With all his heart” (23:25. cf. Deut. 6:5); the death penalty for idolatry (23:20. cf. Deut. 17:2–5). The fact that, from this time on, the “Law” played a far more important part in forming and guiding the faith and practice of the Jews than ever before is indisputable. The author describes its influence above. Whether we can discern in the further developments the peculiar effect of the book of Deuteronomy, so far as that book differs in character from the other books of the Old Testament, or not, is a question which must be left to the study of the passages and books from which it may appear.—W. G. S.]
4. The prophetess Huldah, who is mentioned only here, offers a very remarkable proof that prophecy, “as a free gift of the divine spirit, was not confined to a particular sex,” and that “God imparts the gifts of his spirit, without respect to human divisions and classifications, to whomsoever He will, according to the free determination of His holy love. The people were to recognize the truth, although, it might be, in imperfect measure, that the time would come when there would be a general pouring out of the spirit upon it, Joel 3:1 sq.” (Havernick on Ezek. 13:17.) Besides Huldah there are two women mentioned in the Old Testament who are designated as prophetesses, Miriam (Ex. 15:20), and Deborah (Judges 4:4). But she was a נְבִיאָה in another and fuller sense than they. What they did and said was produced in a state of ecstasy; they did not prophesy in the narrower and stricter sense of the word, i.e., they were not instruments by means of which God made known His will and purpose to those who asked it. She solemnly and expressly pronounces her oracle as the word of Jehovah (2 Kings 22:16, 18: “Thus saith the Lord”), and she uses the manner and form of speech of the true and great prophets. The same or similar fact is not true of any other woman. She stands alone in the history of the old covenant, and it is very significant that just at this point, where the entire future of the people and its grandest and highest interests are at stake, the Lord makes use of a weak and humble instrument to bring about the execution of His purpose. Huldah cannot, therefore, be at all brought into comparison with the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28:7), or with the prophetesses of whom Ezek. speaks (2 Kings 13:17). The wife of Isaiah is also called הַנְּבִיאָה (Isai. 8:3), but in an altogether different sense, viz., as wife of the prophet and mother of the prophet-sons. Finally Noadiah is designated (Nehem. 6:14) as a false prophetess. The rabbis arbitrarily fix the number of prophetesses in the Old Testament at seven (Seder Olam 21). Their statements in regard to Huldah, as, for instance, that an honor was shown her after her death which was not shown to anybody else not of the house of David, namely, to be buried inside of the walls of Jerusalem, belong purely to tradition, it is true, but they show in what high esteem she stood (cf. Witsius, De Prophetissis in the Miscell. Sacr. I. p. 288).
5. The abolition of idolatry and of the illegitimate Jehovah-worship under Josiah is distinguished from every earlier attempt of the kind, even from that under Hezekiah, by the fact that it was far more thorough. It extended not only to the kingdom of Judah but also to the former kingdom of Israel, not only to the public but also to the private life of the people. The evil was everywhere to be torn out, roots and all. Nothing which could perpetuate the memory of heathen, or of illegitimate Jehovah-worship remained standing. All the places of worship, all the images, all the utensils, were not only destroyed but also defiled; even the ashes were thrown into the river at an unclean place that they might be borne away forever. The idol-priests themselves were slain, and the bones of those who were already dead were taken out of the graves and burned. The priests of Jehovah who had performed their functions upon the heights were deposed from their office and dignity, and were not allowed to sacrifice any more at the altar of Jehovah. This reformation has been charged with “violence,” and this has been offered as the explanation of the fact that it was so short-lived. So Ewald: “This attempt at reformation bears the character of violence in all its details of which we have any knowledge. The evil results of such violent conduct in religious and civil affairs soon showed themselves, and all falling together in an accumulated evil produced a discord and confusion which could not be smoothed over,” &c. To this Niemeyer (Charakt. d. Bib. V. s. 100) answers: “In the case of such corruption which had already eaten into the vitals of the State, and, above all, in the face of such unnatural customs as were connected with it, let any one say what he will about the compulsion of conscience and the harshness of compelling a man to adopt a religion which he does not choose, I believe that it was a political right and duty to eradicate the evil, if indeed it was any longer possible to eradicate it. I will not say that the mass of men generally goes whither it is led, and that there is no instruction or improvement possible for them but that which is based upon authority and belief, so that better leaders and a more reasonable authority are a gain at all times. I will only reply to those who charge Josiah with cruelty and tyranny, in putting the priests of Baal to death, that those who should preach murder as a religious duty, and as an exercise pleasing to God, would not be left unpunished in any enlightened State. Josiah, therefore, when he put an end to these abominable sacrifices of innocence, for vengeance for which mankind seemed to stretch forth its hands to him, did no more than the kindest ruler would have considered it his duty to do.” Hess also well remarks (Gesch. d. Kõnige, II. ss. 236 and 238): “To allow them [the priests of Baal] to live would be to nourish seducers for the people, and to transgress the law to which a new oath of allegiance had just been taken, for this demanded that those who introduced idolatry should be exterminated.… Josiah’s fundamental principle was that a half-way eradication of idolatry would be no better than no attempt at all. If anything of this kind had been permitted to remain, the door would have been left open for the evil sooner or later to return. The idolatrous disposition and tendency took advantage of the slightest circumstance, and seized upon the slightest trace of former idolatry, to once more gain a footing.” We should like to know how Josiah should have undertaken to get rid of the harlots and male prostitutes who had settled themselves in the very forecourt of the sanctuary, and there carried on their shameful occupations, or to abolish the horrible and abominable rites of Moloch, with their child-sacrifices and licentiousness. That would never have been possible in the way of kindness, as we see from the attempts of the prophets. When was a reformation ever accomplished, when corruption had reached such a depth, without “violence”? Even Luther, who publicly burned the popish law-books, cannot be acquitted of it; and how would the reformation of the 16th century have come to pass if no violence had been used against the corruptions which had affected not only religious, but also moral and social order, and if those corruptions had been treated only by kind and mild means? Nothing is more mistaken than to criticise and estimate antiquity from the standpoint of modern humanity and religious freedom. Even the Lord Jesus Christ did not pronounce a discourse to those who had made the house of God a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13); he made a whip and scourged them out of the temple (John 2:15). That also was “violence.” It is nowhere hinted that Josiah forced the people to accept the Jehovah-religion against their conviction. He only put an end by violence to the heathen usages and licentious abuses, and this he did not do until after he had collected the people, made them acquainted with the Law-book, and received their assent to it. The Israelitish monarchy was not instituted to introduce religious liberty; on the contrary, it was its first and highest duty to sustain the fundamental law of Israel (Deut. 17:18, 19; 1 Kings 2:3). To use the physical force which it possessed in the service of this law was its right and its duty.
[Let us endeavor to analyze the circumstances, and the principles which are here at stake, and to arrive at a sharper and firmer definition of our position in regard to them. What deserves distinctly and permanently to be borne in mind is this: if mild measures would not have availed to accomplish the desired object of rooting out idolatry and restoring the Mosaic constitution, neither did these violent measures have that effect. Josiah’s reformatory efforts failed of any permanent effect, and his arrangements disappeared almost without a trace. It is very remarkable that the prophets, who might have been expected to rejoice in this undertaking, and to date from it as an epoch and a standing example of what a king of Judah ought to do, scarcely refer to it, if at all. A few pages back we had occasion to use strong terms in condemnation of a violent and bloody attempt of Manasseh to crush out the Jehovah religion and establish the worship of other gods. Violence for violence, can we approve of the means employed in the one case any more than in the other? Is the most highly cultured Christian conscience so uncertain of its own principles that it is incapable of any better verdict than this: violence when employed by the party with which we sympathize is right; when employed against that party it is wrong? We justify Josiah and we condemn the Christian persecutors and inquisitors. Are these views inconsistent, and, if not, how can we reconcile them? We have to bear in mind that it is one thing to admit excuses for a line of conduct, and another to justify it. Judaism certainly had intolerance as one of its fundamental principles. Violence in the support of the Jehovah-religion was a duty of a Jewish king. In attempting to account for and understand the conduct of Josiah, it would be as senseless to expect him to see and practise toleration as to expect him to use fire-arms against Necho. We can never carry back modern principles into ancient times and judge men by the standards of to-day. To do so argues an utter want of historical sense. On the other hand, however, when we have to judge actions which may be regarded as examples for our own conduct, we must judge them inflexibly by the highest standards of right and justice and wisdom with which we are acquainted. How else can we deny that it is right to persecute heresy by violent means when that is justified by the example of Josiah? Judged by the best standards, Josiah’s reformation was unwise in its method. The king was convinced, and he carried out the reformation by his royal authority. The nation was not converted and therefore did not heartily concur in the movement. It only submitted to what was imposed. Hence this reformation passed without fruit, as it was without root in public conviction. We are sure of our modern principles of toleration, and of suffering persecution rather than inflicting it. We believe in these principles even as means of propagating our opinions. Let us be true to those principles, and not be led into disloyalty to them by our anxiety to apologize for a man who is here mentioned with praise and honor. Violence is the curse of all revolutions, political or religious. Has not our generation seen enough of them to be convinced of this at last? Do we not look on during political convulsions with anxiety to see whether the cause with which we sympathize will succeed in keeping clear of this curse? Is it not the highest praise which we can impart to a revolution, and our strongest reason to trust in the permanence of its results, that it was “peaceful”? The Protestant Reformation was indeed violent, but it was weak just in so far as it was violent, and the bitter fruits of the violence which attended it follow us yet in the bitter partisan hatred which marks the divisions of the Church of Christ. The most successful reformation the world has ever seen was the one our Lord brought about—how?—by falling the victim of violence, and by putting the means of force and authority utterly away from himself. Josiah’s reformation is not an example for us. Its failure is a warning. We have not to justify the method of it. We cannot condemn the man, for his intentions and motives were the nest, but we cannot approve of or imitate the method of action. Its failure warns us that no reformation can be genuine which is imposed by authority, or which rests on anything but a converted heart, and that all the plausible justifications of violence which may be invented are delusions. See further the bracketed notes in the next section.—W. G. S.]
6. Josiah’s measures aimed at a thorough reformation of the kingdom. This king, who sought the Lord in his early youth, turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, and had devoted himself to the Lord with all his heart and all his might (2 Kings 22:2; 23:25; 2 Chron. 34:2 and 3), did not aim merely at the extirpation of idolatry and the external observance of all the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, but at the conversion of his entire people to the Lord, and at the renewal of their religious as well as of their moral and political life (see the passage from Josephus under § 2). In spite of all the energy and severity with which he sought to accomplish this, he nevertheless failed. He succeeded in suppressing all public forms of idolatry, and in maintaining the Jehovah-worship in its integrity as long as he lived, but a real and sincere conversion was no longer to be hoped for. The nation had, since the time of Manasseh, advanced so far in the path of corruption that a halt was no longer possible. Apostasy from the living God had gained too strong a hold in all classes, among the rich and great, and even among the priests. It had contaminated all and had corrupted all the relations of life. Judah was in a worse state than any which even Israel had ever been in. The Jehovah-worship which had been reintroduced became a mere external ceremonial worship, and finally degenerated into hypocrisy and pretended righteousness. This is clear from the writings of the contemporary prophets, Jeremiah and Zephaniah (Jerem. 3:6 sq.; Zeph. 3:1 sq.). “The State seemed to arise once more, but it was only like the last flicker of an expiring fire. The internal corruption was so great that the new and good religious order seemed to be only produced by a kind of enchantment. All the props and supports on which it rested broke in pieces when the king, whose early death seemed like an inexplicable dispensation of Providence, closed his eyes” (Vaihinger in Herzog’s Real-Encyc. VII. s. 36). Only the severest chastisements of Providence could avail here, and they were not long in falling. Ewald presents the matter somewhat differently (l. c., s. 700 sq.), and, as usual, Eisenlohr follows him. He finds the grounds of the failure of Josiah’s reformation not so much in the irreformability of the people as in the character of the reform itself. In the first place he says that it was “the spirit of violence which had from the beginning characterized the Jewish nation and which was now reawakened, which necessarily impaired his [Josiah’s] work,” inasmuch as “it might do away for a time with the evils, but could not permanently stop up their sources…… The true religion could only impair its own good effect and progress, if it clung, at this late and changed time, to the narrowness which marked its youth. Since such violence had been used in rooting out all which was heathenish, the reconstruction of all which was peculiar in the Jehovah religion must be carried out in the same spirit. The first new Passover served as a sign of the severity with which the regulations of the Jehovah-worship were hereafter to be observed.” Then again “a new series of evils” was developed from the circumstance that “a book, especially such an imperfect Law-book and history as the Pentateuch, was made the fundamental law of the nation; first of all, that evil which naturally arises where a sacred document is made the basis of all public and social life, viz., a puffed-up book-wisdom, and a hypocritical and false learning in the Scriptures.” Finally, instead of reconciling the parties which had existed ever since the time of Solomon, he thinks that Josiah’s violent reformation intensified the party divisions and sharpened the party lines. “The party which may be called the deuteronomical, or stricter, party demanded unsparing severity in rooting out heathenism; … the heathen, or more liberal, party, on the other hand, … not only allowed the worship of heathen gods, but also took pleasure in the low standard of morality which attended idolatry. While, therefore, the strict party demanded a policy which, in fact, was no longer adapted to the circumstances of the country, and sought to carry it out by force, the liberal party fell short of the standard of morality which the times required. But though the latter no less than the former relied upon physical force, it nevertheless had the entire tendency of the time towards a wider and freer development in its favor. It therefore gained the upper hand immediately after Josiah’s unfortunate death, … so that the whole kingdom fell into a complete confusion which nothing but greater force than either party had at its disposal could put a stop to.” Eisenlohr also, speaking from a similar point of view (Das Volk Israel II. s. 354 sq.), says: “The entire reformation degenerates into a slavish restoration, a seeking out again and dragging forth of all the old institutions and ordinances of the kingdom … if possible, in a still more stiff and immobile form, so that … they produced the strongest reaction under the existing imperfect organization of the religious life. … The State-religion exerted its utmost powers to effect a renewal of the national vigor, and a preservation of the national identity, by setting the theocratic law and constitution in operation in its fullest, and most rigid, and most peculiar, construction,” but “hardly had the State-religion begun, under royal protection, to forcibly control anew the public life, before a cry of sharp complaint began to arise against the evils which are the inseparable concomitants of every privileged form of religion,—hypocrisy, and external or pretended piety.” To this must be added that “a sacred codex became the standard of all public life.… The effects of the entire method in which the reformation exerted its influence on the national life, and sought to accomplish its ends, were, for the moment , all the more disastrous (!) inasmuch as its internal principle was violence and its external policy was bigoted exclusiveness.” It needs no proof to show that this entire manner of conceiving of the circumstances stands in the most pronounced antagonism to the biblical representation. The Scriptures contain no hint of all these reasons why Josiah’s reformation failed, and even became finally disastrous, so that it brought about the downfall of the kingdom. Neither the historical books nor the discourses of the contemporary prophets contain a word of disapproval of the reformation; they offer only one reason for the failure of it, and that is the total corruption and perversity which had grown up since the time of Manasseh (2 Kings 22:16 to 20; 23:26, 27; Jerem. 15:1–4.
[No reason at all is specifically assigned anywhere why this reformation failed. Its failure is not spoken of, recognized, or accounted for. Manasseh’s sins are referred to as the explanation of the judgments which fell upon Judah. But when we speak of the national “corruption” which had been spreading since the time of Manasseh as the ground of the failure of Josiah’s reformation, it is allowable to go farther and ask: In what did this corruption consist? What were the especial forms of vice which were prevalent in Judah? What were the tendencies which the reformation had to encounter? What were the faults of national character which were in play? What were the selfish interests which the reformation threatened? These all make up what we call in a word national corruption and decay. It is only by such analysis that we are able to present to our minds the state of things in detail and to comprehend the situation. “Corruption” is only a general word which serves to cover the state of things, to conceal it from us, and to keep us from penetrating to a satisfactory conception of it. It is not difficult to gather from the documents, historical and prophetical, answers to the above questions. When we examine the subject we find that Ewald’s picture of the parties and their characteristics, of the tendencies in play, &c., is exceedingly faithful. It would certainly be wrong if any one should say that the “violence” of Josiah’s reformation caused the subsequent decay and downfall of Judah. Also the effect of using a document as ultimate authority is exaggerated by Eisenlohr, if not by Ewald. The pedantry of the rabbis, and the ritual righteousness of the Pharisees, did not arise for centuries. But this much is certainly true: The corruption had advanced so far that perhaps all hope of converting the nation by moral and religious appeals was vain. Even, however, if such were the case, a violent reformation, imposed on royal authority, could do no good, but only additional harm. It did not stem the tide of corruption, while it embittered parties and left deep-rooted hatred and thirst for revenge.—Stanley gives tables of the parties which existed in Jerusalem, at this time, in his Lectures on the Jewish Church, II. 565 and 566.—W. G. S.]
In the view above quoted [Ewald’s and Eisenlohr’s] it is really Josiah who, on account of his mistaken zeal and unwise measures, was to blame for the ruin of the kingdom, but the text says of him that there was no king like him before him, who so completely clung to the Lord with all his heart (2 Kings 23:25), and thereby presents him as the one who, among all the kings after David, was just what a king of Israel ought to be. But the charge is entirely incomprehensible that he did not allow to the “liberal party” “the worship of all gods” together with their “baser standard of morality,” and that “a sacred book became the standard of all public life.” Not to speak of anything else, it is exactly for this reason that he received the promise that he should not himself live to see the desolation, but should be gathered to his fathers in peace (2 Kings 22:19, 20). [Josiah is not charged with any fault in not having done this. It is said that the measures which he took did not tend to correct or convert these misguided men, but only to compel them to submit to force, and that thus their opinions were not altered, while their feelings were embittered. As soon as they dared, they returned, with renewed zeal, to the practice of their opinions, and also sought revenge for the oppressive persecution which they (as they thought) had suffered.—W. G. S.] The charge against Josiah of having made a sacred book the standard involves an insult to the fundamental Protestant doctrine of the authority of the Bible as the sole standard of religion and morality, and, therefore, also of civil life. We see here whither we are led when we allow ourselves to be guided, in the interpretation of the Old Testament, by the doctrines of modern liberalism.
[The idea here presented of the danger which attends the use of a written document as the standard of religious truth and of morality is not a liberalistic doctrine. It is a truth which deserves solemn attention, most of all from Protestants. Those who believe in the authority of the Bible, and teach it and use it continually, are the very ones who need to have always distinctly in mind the dangers which inhere in the use of a literary standard, in order that they may guard against them. In the use of any such standard the interpretation of it becomes a matter of transcendent importance. Witness the rabbis, and the scribes and lawyers of Gospel times, that the danger of a class of men growing up who will hold knowledge of the Scriptures to be their privilege, who will develop an artificial and radically false and vicious system of interpretation, and who will overburden the Word with fancies and fables and arbitrary inventions, is no imaginary one. Witness the scholastics of the middle ages that the text of Scripture may be made a stem on which to hang frivolities and casuistical toys without end. Witness the papacy that the interpretation may come to be regarded as a matter so all-important that the Scriptures, except as interpreted, may be reserved as an exclusive possession of a privileged class. The danger of hypocritical book-wisdom and esoteric exegetical knowledge is one to be guarded against continually.
With regard to the general estimate of Josiah’s reformation we may sum up as follows: The attempt, on the part of the king, to arrest the dissolution and corruption of the nation by bringing it back to sincere devotion to the national religion is worthy of our most hearty admiration. The source of his early inclination towards the Jehovah-religion we cannot trace. It is clear that a violent persecution like that of Manasseh must have produced terror, bitterness, stubborn though concealed opposition, and a relentless purpose, on the part of those who had all the law and traditions of their nation, together with patriotism, on their side, and who could compare with pride the moral purity of their religion with those abominations of heathenism which were shocking and abhorrent to the simplest instincts of human nature, to repay their persecutors at the first opportunity. Where those abominations were the only religions observances taught, education might avail to make them pass without protest; but where there was any, even a slight knowledge of a purer religion and a better morality, the protest could never entirely die out. The Jehovah-religion was, as compared with heathen religions, austere. It warred against the base passions of men and the vices which they produce. Heathenism seized upon those passions as its means. It fostered them in the name of developing what was “natural,” and therefore must be right. Modern civilized heathenism does just the same thing. Heathenism therefore seemed to represent enjoyment of life, while the Jehovah-religion seemed to repress pleasure. It is remarkable that a boy-king should have chosen the latter. We are ignorant of the persons or considerations which may have influenced his choice. There is an undeniable resemblance in features between the revolutions of Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah, which seems to point to a relationship between them. A chain of reprisals seems to have been started, and each successive revolution or reformation was more radical, more bloody, and more unsparing than the last. The newly discovered book, with its commands and threats, gave the king a stimulus to undo all that Manasseh had done, to put a stop to the abominations which the latter had firmly established, to reintroduce the ancient national cultus in its perfection, to requite the heathen party for its cruelty, to avenge, the slaughtered servants of Jehovah, to foster those religious observances and moral principles which might regenerate the State, and to establish the new order of things securely. The thought of vengeance he may not have had, but it would be most natural, and not by any means shocking to the mind of a man of his generation. His purpose then was perfectly laudable and good. The means which he adopted for carrying it out were the only ones which could suggest themselves to him. They were the same in kind as Hezekiah had adopted, and as Manasseh had employed on behalf of the contrary interest, only he went still farther. No Jewish king would ever have thought of employing other means. It is idle to sit in judgment on him. His example in this, however, cannot form any rule for an age which enjoys a higher enlightenment, and a truer wisdom. As for the evil effects of the “violence” employed by Josiah, they may be limited to the embittering of those party divisions which seem to have hastened this fall of Jerusalem as they did the one under Titus. The great reason for his failure, however, was that the means which he employed encountered too strong opposition in the popular feelings and tendencies of the nation at the time. He was working up hill, so to speak, in trying to bring back the nation to a more severe religion, a sterner morality, and a purer patriotism. They preferred their luxury, and pleasure, and vice. He had only a small party with him, and the reformation which was accomplished by royal authority controlling the physical force of the realm, which was conducted in the interest of a written code which could not have been thoroughly understood and appreciated, and which did not have the hearty co-operation of the body of the people, failed when the king fell upon whose will it mainly depended. The death of Josiah was a disappointment and discouragement to the Jehovah party far beyond the mere loss of their protector and friend. They no doubt had no little superstitious confidence in the favor of heaven for the pious prince, and this was struck to the ground when the life on which all the prosperity of the Jehovah-worship seemed to depend was taken away, as it were by a stroke of Providence.—W. G. S.]
7. Josiah’s expedition against Necho, which brought about his early death, fell in the year 608 B. C., fifteen years after he accomplished his reformation in Judah and in the former territory of Israel. He must, therefore, have gained possession of the latter, or, at least, must have regarded himself as ruler of it. Necho, therefore, had no right to pass through this territory without paying any respect to Josiah’s authority, even though, as he asserted (2 Chron. 35:21), he had no hostile intention towards the king of Judah. Josiah, therefore, undertook to intercept him, as Josephus says (Antiq. x. 5, 1): μετὰ δυνάμεως εἶργεν αὐτὸν διὰ τῆς ἰδίας ποιεῖσθαι χώρας τὴν ἐπὶ τοὺς Μήδους ἔλασιν, and, in spite of Necho’s assurance that he meant him no harm, Josiah persisted in refusing to allow him τὴν οἰκείαν διέρχεσθαι. The ground for this conduct of Josiah was not, as many have assumed, that he had already formed an alliance with Nabopolassar, the Babylonian, the new ruler of Assyria, or that he desired to secure the favor of this conqueror in the hope that he would thus make sure of being left in undisturbed possession of his kingdom, but the grounds of his conduct were very simple and close at hand. “A very little reflection sufficed to see that it was all over with the independent existence of the kingdom of Judah if the Egyptians secured a foothold in the country to the North” (Ewald). [Judah would thus be placed between Egypt and its outlying conquests, and of course its independence would not be long respected.] Niebuhr justly characterizes Josiah’s undertaking (Gesch. Assyr. s. 364) as a “thoroughly correct policy … Josiah knew that, although Necho asserted that he had no hostile intention towards him, yet, if the Egyptians conquered Cœlo-Syria, the independence of Judah was at an end.” As a true theocratic king, and as a man of warlike courage and disposition (the Sept. translate the words 2 Chron. 35:22 by πολεμεῖν αὐτὸν ἐκραταιώθη ), he did not allow himself to be deceived by Necho. By the dispensation of Providence he fell at the very beginning of the campaign (Josephus: τῆς πεπρωμένης, οἶμαι‚ εἰς τοῦτ’ αὐτὸν παρορμησάσης). His death was a great misfortune for the nation, but it was nevertheless honorable. It was universally lamented, especially by Jeremiah (2 Chron. 35:24 and 25). All felt what they had lost in him. The more detailed account in Chronicles gave occasion to some of the older historians to blame Josiah severely. For instance, Hess (Gesch. der Könige Jud. und Isr. II. s. 455 sq.): “He was so over-hasty as to dispute the passage through the country with Necho, and collected an army at Megiddo.… This was not at all necessary for the security of his own kingdom, for Necho had advanced so far without doing him any harm, and had sent an embassy expressly to assure him that he intended him no harm, but was directing his attack against the mighty monarchy to the East, being stimulated thereto by a divine calling. … To thus attack the Egyptian without the counsel of a prophet, or any sign of divine direction, was not trust in God, but in his own power.… It was, in any case, unwise to offend a ruler who was mighty enough to measure forces with the Babylonian power.” It is incorrectly assumed in this view that the “God,” whose approval Necho claimed, was Jehovah, the God of Israel. It is nowhere asserted that Josiah made this expedition without having consulted “the true oracle of Jehovah,” that is, without the “counsel of a prophet.” To judge from what Jeremiah says about Egypt in his forty-sixth chapter, he would hardly have dissuaded the king from this undertaking. We see how far it was from the intention of the chronicler, in his fuller account, to hint at anything unfavorable to Josiah, for he is the very one who makes especial mention of the universal grief for the death of Josiah, of the songs of lamentation which the singers sang for him “until this day,” and of the lament which Jeremiah wrote. We cannot conceive that all this would have been so if he had entered rashly into the war, contrary to the advice of the prophet, and had thus plunged the nation into misfortune. Von Gerlach very mistakenly infers from the account in Chronicles that “Josiah, in spite of his sincere piety, belonged to the number of weak and inefficient and imprudent rulers who closed the long series of kings of the house of David.” In that case how could Jesus Sirach, who certainly was not ignorant of what is there narrated, say of him, centuries later (Jeremiah 49:1), that the memory of him was like costly incense, and sweet as honey in the mouth of all. [On the historical connections of this event see the Supplem. Note at the end of the next Exeget. section, below.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 22:1 and 2. The panegyric of Josiah, Sir. 49:1 and 2. His name is like costly incense and sweet as honey; for as he walked, &c. Although his father walked in evil ways, yet Josiah did not take him as an example, but that one of his ancestors who was a man after God’s own heart. He sought the Lord while he was yet a boy, and increased in knowledge and in favor as he grew in stature (2 Chron. 34:3; Luke 2:40, 52). “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way, &c.,” Ps. 119:9. STARKE: Beginners in the Christian life must choose good examples and follow them faithfully (Phil. 3:17; 1 John 2:14). He turned not either to the right hand (like the later Pharisees), nor to the left (like the Sadducees); although he lived in a corrupt age, he fell neither into superstition nor unbelief. The way which loads to life is narrow, and it is well to have a firm heart so as not to totter on either side.—WÜRT. SUMM.: We are seduced on the right by hypocrisy, and on the left by epicureanism, but the word of God says: This is the way, walk therein, and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left (Isai. 30:21).—CRAMER: We have in Josiah the mirror of a true ruler. (1) Such an one is given by God, out of pure grace, as a blessing to the country. (2) Such an one is bound, not only to protect the life and property of his subjects, and to preserve peace and order, but also to care for the Church and Kingdom of God.—WÜRT. SUMM.: We ought not to despair of the children of the godless and to give them up; they may become, as in this case Josiah did, the most pious, through whom God accomplishes wonders. Good instruction and discipline may, by the blessing of God, correct much evil which such children have inherited or learned from their parents.
2 Kings 22:3–10. The Discovery of the Law-Book. (a) The occasion of it, 2 Kings 22:3-7. (b) The significance of it, 2 Kings 22:8–10.
2 Kings 22:3–7. The Restoration of the House of God. (a) The king undertakes it impelled by pure love to the Lord (Ps. 26:8). (b) The people of all the provinces willingly contribute to it (2 Chron. 34:9). (c) The laborers work without reckoning, with fidelity.—See the homiletical hints on 2 Kings 12:5–17.—Josiah was zealously interested in the repair of the temple before the law-book was found and he had become acquainted with it. We have not only the old law-book but also the entire word of God; each one may hear and read it, nevertheless the churches are often allowed to fall into decay, and it is only at the last moment that any one thinks of spending money and time upon them.—BERL. BIBEL: All are here earnestly interested in the work upon the house of God. Would that our zeal might be aroused for the same interests! that we might not rest where we should work, nor work where we should rest; not to tear down where we ought to build, nor to build where we ought to tear down, but to carry on the work of the Lord orderly and properly.—CRAMER: The physical temples are useless, if the spiritual temples are not properly cared for.
2 Kings 22:8–10. What is the use of building and arranging and adorning churches, if the word of God is wanting in them, and instead of being a light to shine, and bread to feed, is hid under a bushel or locked up, and concealed by the ordinances of men and their own self-invented wisdom?—PFAFF. BIB.: Wretched times when the law-book has to be concealed; happy times when it is rediscovered. How happy are we who have the word of God in such abundance! WÜRT. SUMM.: As in the times of Josiah the law-book had been pushed aside and become lost by the carelessness of the priests, so that scarcely any one knew anything about the law of God, so, before the time of Luther, under the papacy, the Holy Bible lay, as it were, in the dust, and, although it was not entirely lost, yet there were very many, not only among the common people, but also among the ecclesiastics and men of rank, who had never seen and read the Bible, until God called Luther and others, through whose faithful services the Bible, the holy and divine Scripture, was once more brought forth, brought into the light, and given to every man, in all languages, to read for himself; which goodness of God we still recognize and praise, and read, on account of it, more diligently in the Bible, and exercise ourselves in the word of God day and night, that we may obey the words of the Apostle Paul (Col. 3:16): “Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.”—There is indeed nowadays scarcely a family, in countries where evangelical religion is professed, in which a Bible is not to be found, but it is often laid aside, and covered with dust, or it is regarded as an old book which is no longer adapted to our times. What higher praise, however, could be given to a family than to say: I found therein the Word of God, not hid under a bushel, but set on a candlestick, so that it gave light to the whole house (Matt. 5:15).
2 Kings 22:9 and 10. Nothing which is undertaken with zeal and faith to glorify the name of God ever remains unblessed. Shaphan brought to his master the greatest and best treasure possible out of the temple which was falling to ruin.—The Book of books is there to be read by every one, king or beggar. The minister was not ashamed to read it before the king, and the king was not ashamed to listen with the utmost attention.
2 Kings 22:11–14. The Impression which the Divine Word made on the King when he had heard it. (a) He rent his garments (sorrow and grief on account of the transgressions of the people, horror in view of the divine judgments. PFAFF. BIB.: How profitable it is to have such respect for the word of God and to be terrified at His threats! If the word of God had such effect upon us, how much better it would be for us). (b) He asks how the threatened judgments may be averted. (Wherever the word penetrates to the heart, there the question always follows: What shall I do? Acts 2:37. Felix trembled, but he said: “When I have a more convenient season,” &c., Acts 24:25.)—WÜRT. SUMM.: When we hear of God’s threats against sin, let us not allow them to pass as idle winds, but take them to heart and seek the means of grace. We must only ask of the Apostles and Prophets who wrote as they were impelled by the Holy Ghost. God speaks with us through their words. His answer is: Repent, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and forsake sin.
2 Kings 22:14. See Histor. and Eth. § 4.—STARKE: True fear of God is humble and honors the gifts of God wherever it finds them, but in itself least of all.
2 Kings 22:15–20. The Oracle of the Prophetess a Threat for the people (2 Kings 22:15–17), and a Promise for the King (2 Kings 22:18–20).—The Lord will bring temporal misfortune upon the city which despises and scorns His law; what will He do to that which rejects His Gospel? 2 Tim. 1:8, 9.—Those who humble themselves at the word of the law will come to the grave in peace. The just are taken away before the calamity comes (Isai. 57:1). If the Lord takes thee early away from the earth, submit to His will and say: Lord, let now thy servant depart in peace, as Thou hast said (Luke 2:29).
2 Kings 23:1–25. Josiah’s Great Work of Reformation. (a) He renews the covenant on the basis of the newly discovered law-book, 2 Kings 23:1–3. (b) He puts an end pitilessly to all idolatrous worship in the kingdom, 2 Kings 23:4–20. (c) He restores the legitimate worship with the celebration of the Passover, 2 Kings 23:21–25.—Every true reformation must proceed from the word of God, and have that as its basis; then it is strong, not only in destroying and denying, but also in building up and restoring (Luther and the reformers).
2 Kings 23:1–3. The king collects the entire people and lays the law-book before them; not until after they have approved does he begin the work. The civil and spiritual authorities ought not to proceed violently and in self-will in matters of the highest importance for Church and State, nor to force the consciences of the people. They ought to secure the assent of the latter. The entire people, small and great, learned and unlearned, ought to be made acquainted with the word of God, so that no one can plead ignorance as an excuse. To deny to the people the right to read the Word of God is not to reform, but to destroy. KYBURZ: Josiah caused the light which he had received to shine to all; so do ye also. We ought not to enjoy any treasure which we discover without sharing it with others.—The people joined in the covenant outwardly but not heartily, therefore it had no permanence. How often now a whole congregation promises obedience to God and does not keep it. Do not expect hearty conversion everywhere where you hear assent to the word of God (Matt. 7:21; Isai. 29:13).
2 Kings 23:4–20. WÜRT. SUMM.: Here we may see that when God’s word is laid aside people fall into all kinds of vice. So it was under the papacy. If we observe the word of God we shall be saved from sin and error.—Although the civil authorities ought to apply no force to conscience, yet they ought to punish murder and licentiousness, no matter what may be the pretence under which they are committed. The more severely and more pitilessly they do this, the more honor they deserve.—Weeds grow most rapidly; they can only be destroyed by being pulled up by the roots.—The abominations which took root in Israel were a proof of what St. Paul says, Rom. 1:21–28. In times of corruption, and against inveterate evils, mild measures are of no avail, but only the utmost severity, which has no respect of persons. Ecclesiastics who, instead of being pastors of the people, become their seducers, are doubly worthy of punishment, and ought to be removed without mercy.
2 Kings 23:16, 17. STARKE: Divine prophecies will certainly be fulfilled at last, though the fulfilment may be delayed so long that it seems as if it would never follow (1 Kings 13:2, 31).
2 Kings 23:18. THE SAME: The bones of departed saints ought to be left in their graves and not to be carried about or displayed.
2 Kings 23:21–24. The building up of a new life must follow upon the eradication of sin. The Passover cannot be celebrated until all the old leaven is removed. The Passover was the feast with which each new year began; we also have a passover or Easter lamb (1 Cor. 5:7, 8).—The festivals and fasts are the frame-work of the common life of the congregation; where they are neglected this life is decaying. If Israel had kept up the celebration of its appointed feasts, it would never have fallen so low.
2 Kings 23:25–27. Why did the Lord not return from His anger? Not because Josiah’s efforts were not pure and sincere (on the contrary, they proceeded from pure zeal, and perfect love, and the best intention), but because the people were not converted with their king. They only assented externally and in form; in their hearts they were obstinate and perverse (Jerem. 25:3–7).—ROOS: Jeremiah seems to have fallen on a good time with his warnings and exhortations to repentance, but the contents of his books show that such was not the case. This should be a warning to those who look to the authorities for the chief power to convert men, and do not wish to act without them.—LUTHER: Before God inflicts a severe judgment he always grants a great illumination. Therefore a great judgment will fall upon those who now neglect the Gospel.
2 Kings 23:29 and 30. See 2 Chron. 35. The early death of the king was no punishment for him, for he was thus gathered in peace to his fathers, but it was a chastisement for his unrepentant people, who now lamented him and saw, when it was too late, what noble purposes he had had in their behalf.
2 Kings 22:5.—The chetib, יִתְנֶה, is altogether to be preferred to the keri, יִתְנוּהוּ—Bähr. [The E. V. follows the keri. Böttcher’s explanation is to be preferred. He retains the chetib and punctuates יִתְנֶהָ, explaining the suffix as an irregularity in gender. Cf. Gramm., note on 2 Kings 16:17, and Böttcher § 877, e.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 22:5.—[Here also the chetib, בְּבֵית, is to be preferred to the keri בֵּית. Cf. Jerem. 40:5; 12:15. בֵּית, in 2 Kings 22:9, cannot prove the contrary.—Bähr.
2 Kings 22:9.—[They had emptied out the money from receptacles into which it had been put by the priests as it was offered from time to time by the people, and in which it was stored, so that it was “found” there, as the text says, literally.
2 Kings 22:13.—[Literally, “written upon,” or “against us.”
2 Kings 23:3.—[Literally: stood in. Probably they signified their acquiescence and participation by standing in a certain place. Hence it means “joined in.” So Keil, Thenius, Luther, De Wette, Bähr, Bunsen. Maurer and Gesenius take it to mean persist or persevere, which would be the modern colloquial significance of the “stood to” of the E. V., but is not the proper sense here.
2 Kings 23:4.—[ונשׂא; the strict rule of the language would here require the imperf. consec. Other instances of laxity in the use of this form occur in late books, Jerem. 37:15; Ezek. 9:7; 37:7, 10; Dan. 12:5, and in the book of Ecclesiastes. (Böttcher § 982, II.)
2 Kings 23:5.—[ויקטר; that one might offer׃ the subject is the indef. sing. French, on, Germ. man. The singular, however, is very remarkable, and the text may be incorrect. The versions all translate as if it were לְקַטֵּר, “for which וַיְקַטֵּר is probably an error of the pen” (Keil). Böttcher takes the imperf. consec. as a pluperfect, because it follows another plup., and compares Gen. 31:34, and 1 Sam. 19:18.—”Whom the kings of Judah had appointed and [who, i.e. any one amongst them] had offered incense.” This makes good sense, but the change from passive to active, and from plur. to sing, is awkward, and the grammatical principles are not clear.
2 Kings 23:9.—[Such is the force of the imperf. “They might not,” i.e., they were not allowed to.
2 Kings 23:11.—[Literally: he caused to cease i.e.., these horses of the sun had been kept as an act of worship to the sun. He took them away and put an end to the arrangement.
2 Kings 23:24.—[הָקִים, set upright, i.e., that he might introduce the institutions and customs prescribed in the law and establish them in successful operation.—W. G. S.]