And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel.
Verse 1. - Hezekiah sent... wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh. Some have sought to bring into the appearance of harmony the two first clauses of this verse by supposing that the former clause purports to say that Hezekiah sent messengers to all Israel and Judah, and in particular letters in addition to Ephraim and Manasseh, the chief tribes of the northern kingdom and the Joseph tribes. Vers. 6 and 10, however, seem to dispose effectually of this offer of explanation; while another explanation, that the names of the two tribes are simply to be taken as equivalent to "all Israel," seems true, though, in fact, it may be to advance us no way at all. We should prefer in the difficulty, unimportant though it is, yet one facing us, rather to assume that the verse wishes to say that Hezekiah sent (i.e. sent messengers, which prove to be the runners, rendered the "posts") to all Israel and Judah, and to Ephraim, Manasseh, and the rest of their allied tribes by implication, but not to Judah wrote letters also which were carried by the posts (.or runners). It is true that ver. 6 may negative even this conjecture for getting over the difficulty, but not necessarily no, for it only says that the posts went throughout Israel and Judah with the letters, which they may be supposed to have dropped only to some, not to all, and those some Israel, or Ephraim, Manasseh, and brethren. There will have been to hand other, the usual methods of communication with Judah, from Jerusalem its metropolis, and from its king. The thing different from "letters" that was circulated may have been just the "proclamation" of ver. 5. It has been suggested that the now King of Israel, Hoshea, was very probably a captive of Assyria at this exact time (2 Kings 17:4).
For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month.
Verse 2. - This and the following verse are well explained by Numbers 9:6-13, where the particular instance of the "defilement by a dead body" simply exemplified other legitimate instances of defilement or non-sanctification (2 Chronicles 29:5, 15, 34), and where absence on a journey similarly exemplified other unavoidable absence.
For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem.
Verse 3. - At that time. The words seem like a reminiscence of the "at that day," twice occurring in ver. 6 of Numbers 9. But anyway the meaning is plain "at the appointed season."
And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.
Verse 4. - This verse betokens the careful consideration on the part of "king, princes, and all the congregation," that had been given to the distinct question, whether the exact present circumstances legitimately fell under the description of Numbers 9:6-13; and the issue was that they decided that they did, they "ruled the thing right" (וַיִּישַׁר הַדָבָר)
So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.
Verse 5. - Of a long time. Though the idea expressed in this rendering must, under any circumstances, attach to this passage, yet it can scarcely be understood to be given in the one Hebrew word we have here (לָרֹב); out of nearly a hundred and fifty occurrences of the word, and often with its present preposition, this is the solitary occasion of its being turned into a mark of time. The translation should read, for they had not kept it in multitude, i.e. in proper multitudes, and in the multitude of an undivided and holy kingdom. The force of the reference lies in the fact just stated, that Hezekiah, ignoring all the worse precedents of now many generations, and ignoring the iniquity of the duality of the kingdom, manfully caused his writ to run from south to north unchecked! As it was written; i.e. in the book of the Law of Moses. So runs the full and frequent and honoured phrase: כַּכָּתוּב בְסֵפֶר תּורַת־משֶׁה (2 Kings 14:6; 1 Kings 2:3; Joshua 3:34; 2 Chronicles 35:26, etc.).
So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.
Verse 6. - So the posts (see note on ver. 1). The remnant of you... escaped... of Assyria. Hezekiah had, no doubt, already made his account with the fact that the injured and crushed state of the northern kingdom might be of salutary omen for the attempt on his part to bring them to a sense of their past sins, specially perhaps of omission. Of the calamities of Israel, and their captivity in large part, and in the rest subjection by tribute to Assyria, there is clear testimony in 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:1-6.
And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see.
Verse 7. - A strange and significant snatch of corroborating history is to be found in 1 Chronicles 5:23-26.
Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.
Verse 8. - Be ye not stiff-necked (see Deuteronomy 16, 17). Yield yourselves; literally, give the hand (see 1 Chronicles 29:24; Ezra 10:19, etc.). Which he hath sanctified for ever (see Psalm 132:13, 14).
For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.
Verse 10. - Through... Ephraim and Manasseh. The way in which the names of these two tribes are here used may explain in part the use of them in brief for simple reasons of the convenience of brevity in ver. 1. They laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. These two words speak significant description of the exact moral state in which Israel's tribes were now to be found. Even unto Zebulun. What of the country lay north of Zebulun had been so wasted by Assyria that practically Zebulnn is spoken of as what was most northerly.
Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.
Verse 11. - Adding the tribes of Ephraim and Issachar mentioned in ver. 18, and bearing in mind the contents of our ver. 7 (with note), we have really only to account for Dan, which was no longer classed with Israel, and Naphtali and Simeon. The probable significance of the passage is not to lay stress upon the tribes represented, but on the scattered, though sparse, attendants at the Passover who came.
Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD.
Verse 12. - Also in Judah the hand of God was. Considering the difference of preposition, this expression can perhaps scarcely cite as its parallel Ezra 7:9. "The hand of God" here means rather his effectual working, which effectual working produced a hearty unanimity, that contrasted well with the bearing of the northern tribes.
And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation.
Verse 13. - This verse purports to say that the total, at any rate, of the attendance on the Passover was very large.
And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron.
Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD.
Verse 15. - Were ashamed; Hebrew, גִכְלְמוּ. This word, occurring in one conjugation or another thirty-eight times, expresses in every instance a genuine shame. It now was the forerunner of a practical repenting. And brought in... into; better rendered, and carried up to the house of the Lord.
And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites.
Verse 16. - They stood in their place after their manner (see Leviticus 1:11-13, and many other references in Leviticus).
For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD.
Verse 17. - Therefore the Levites had the charge (see Leviticus 1, etc., which repeatedly affirms that the original directions of Moses were that the person who brought the victim to offer it was to slay it, and to bring the blood).
For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one
Verse 18. - So also the original Law of Moses prescribed that the uncleansed must not eat the Passover (Numbers 9:6).
That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.
And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.
Verse 20. - Healed the people. The Hebrew word here is the strict word for physical healing, and is a slight but significant indication of the reality of the spiritual view contemplated in Moses' Law in this matter.
And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.
Verse 21. - See Exodus 12:18, and many repetitions of the same matter, respecting the duration of the Passover and eating of unleavened bread. With loud instruments. Some render this, "instruments ascribing might to Jehovah." There seems no necessity for this; and the plain Hebrew text is "instruments of might," i.e. strong or loud instruments.
And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD God of their fathers.
Verse 22. - Spake comfortably; literally, to the heart of, etc. That taught the good knowledge. This rendering is in some error, and is awkward in not indicating the direction of the knowledge. A better rendering (see Revised Version) will be, who were well skilled in rendering such service to Jehovah. And perhaps the simplest rendering, "who served with good service to Jehovah," will be the most correct to the real meaning of the Hebrew text (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 13:15). Making confession; i.e. the confession or uttering forth of praise (so Psalm 75:2; Psalm 92:1; 1 Chronicles 16:4, 7, 35, 41; 1 Chronicles 23:30; 1 Chronicles 25:3; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, 6; 2 Chronicles 31:2).
And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.
Verse 23. - This and the following verso should read as one. Hezekiah no doubt wished, by prolonging the feast and the joy, to make the more lasting impression on the people and the more hopeful conversion of them.
For Hezekiah king of Judah did give to the congregation a thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave to the congregation a thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep: and a great number of priests sanctified themselves.
Verse 24. - Did give. This is an inadequate rendering. Revised Version reads, did give for offerings; others read, "gave as an heave offering." In the light of our 2 Chronicles 35:7-9, the Revised Version rendering seems sufficient.
And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced.
Verse 25. - The strangers. Some consider this describes "proselytes from Israel, who were non-Israelites." But this seems a most gratuitous supposition. The Hebrew גֵרִים does, in fact, purport only "sojourners," and is frequently so translated, and our next clause corroborates this view. The interesting aspect of it is, that probably the persons described had emigrated from their own tribes, as they longed for Jerusalem, "their chief joy."
So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.
Verse 26. - Since the time of Solomon. The reference is to Solomon's "Feast of Tabernacles" (2 Chronicles 7:9).
Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.
Verse 27. - The priests the Levites; i.e. the priest-Levites, and not other Levites (Deuteronomy 17:18; Joshua 3:3). The Septuagint, therefore, is wrong in inserting "and." A parallel expression in the New Testament is "Men brethren" (Acts 1:16; Acts 2:29, etc.). The priests were those authorized to bless (Numbers 6:23-26; 1 Chronicles 23:13).