Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.
Verse 1. - As much as the last verse of the foregoing chapter was all of the religious fervour of the occasion, this verse is all of the, practical honest work of the people and their leaders. All Israel that were present; i.e. present (or Hebrew, "found") in Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Feast of the Passover. Jerusalem had already been attended to (ver. 14 of foregoing chapter). Now the right mind of the people bore the reformation with a wave of enthusiasm over all Judah and Benjamin; and their righteous zeal carried them also over the strict limits of their own kingdom into Ephraim... and Manasseh - a course the more practicable, and even the more technically correct, because of the crippled state of the northern kingdom, and the probably still continued captivity of King Hoshea of Israel (2 Kings 17:1-4; 2 Kings 18:1-7; compare also the matter of our 2 Chronicles 29:24). Images... groves... high places... altars (comp. 2 Chronicles 14:3, etc.).
And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.
Verse 2. - And Hezekiah appointed the courses. The twenty-fourth and following two chapters of 1 Chronicles give in full the appointment and arrangement of these courses, now again thrown out of order. Appointed; Hebrew, וַיַּעֲמֵר. It is equivalent to saying Hezekiah re-established the courses. Of the tents. The word is not "tents," but the expressive and emphatic "camps" (מַחֲגות). Order of the divinest kind, discipline of the most perfect sort, are the glory of the temple and temple service of old, of the Church, her ministers, her members, and all her pious work of more modern date.
He appointed also the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.
Verse 3. - Also the king's portion of his substance; i.e. Hezekiah did not evade his own responsibilities in the matter of contribution. His "port, on" was the tithe, and he was evidently liable on "substance very much" (2 Chronicles 32:29). Numbers 28, 29, and Leviticus 23. give us the particulars of the offerings and set feasts, respectively here alluded to, in their original prescription.
Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.
Verse 4. - He commanded... to give the portion of the priests... that they might be encouraged. Hezekiah's object was to send impulses of energy through the whole nation. The portions here spoken of are described originally in Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:11-27; Deuteronomy 14:22, 23. After our word "encouraged," we may probably supply the words "to teach;" for see our ch. 2 Chronicles 17:9.
And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
Verse 5. - Honey; Hebrew, דְּבַשׁ. This is no doubt the proper word for the honey of bees, for see Judges 14:8-18; 1 Samuel 14:27; Psalm 19:11, and many other passages. It is not certain, however, that the word did not cover other sweet preparations, as probably in Genesis 43:11; Ezekiel 27:17. The alternative reading, "dates," has thus come into the margin, but on very insufficient title, as, while there is doubt as to whether the honey of bees was generally tithed, there is none at all that the people's pious zeal might prompt them to bring tithe of it voluntarily, among other things, that they at any time held in honour and had in abundance.
And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.
Verse 6. - That dwelt in the cities of Judah. As vers. 4 and 5 referred to the dwellers in Jerusalem, so this verse tells of the dwellers in other cities, villages, etc., of the surrounding country (so 2 Chronicles 30:25). Their tithes of holy things probably denote the "heave offerings" of Aaron (Numbers 18:8; for other references to the matter of this verse, see Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:28).
In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.
Verse 7. - The third month... the heaps... the seventh month. The grain harvest closed with the Feast of Weeks, about the sixth day of the third month so that tithe in kind would be paid. The seventh month brought the Feast of Ingathering, when the vintage was over. For illustration of the despatch with which Hezekiah proceeded in his reforming works, comp. our 2 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 30:2, 13.
And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.
Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.
Verse 9. - The questioning had no doubt to do with the subject how the superabundant contributions should be utilized or preserved.
And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.
Verse 10. - Azariah... chief priest of the house of Zadok. Though this Azariah be of the house of Zadok, he is not of the line of Jozadak; and we cannot be certain that he is one with him of 2 Chronicles 26:17, 20; in which case his grandson Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:1) would be grandfather of Hezekiah, inferring a long term both for his office and his life.
Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them,
Verse 11. - To prepare chambers; i.e. to prepare for present use the chambers constructed for the purpose (1 Kings 6:5).
And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next.
Verse 12. - Faithfully. A pleasant reminiscence of 2 Chronicles 19:9. Shimei (see 2 Chronicles 29:14). Ruler... the next (so note, 1 Chronicles 5:12).
And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.
Verse 13. - Of these ten subordinates, Jehiel and Nahath are found in 2 Chronicles 29:12, 14.
And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of the LORD, and the most holy things.
And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the great as to the small:
Verse 15. - Eden... Shemaiah (see 2 Chronicles 29:12, 14). In the cities (see Joshua 21:19). In their set office; i.e. in their appointed duty. The word (בֶּךאמוּנָה) here used bespeaks the important and trustworthy nature of the duty committed to those spoken of, and probably betrays the fact that the duty had not always in the past been honestly discharged (see same word in ver. 12).
Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his daily portion for their service in their charges according to their courses;
Verse 16. - Beside their genealogy of males; i.e. except (מִלְבַד) the family count of males, etc., the remainder of the verse describing those who are meant by the excepted. They were excepted because for themselves and their little ones, their daily present temple service brought their daily maintenance as of course. The "unto every one" of our version is misleading. Keil translates perspicuously, "of all those who entered the house of the Lord, to the daily portion for their service," etc. The glimpse of the picture of the little children fed for the sake of their fathers' sanctuary service, so true to the true religion even of nature, is a pleasant glimpse to catch.
Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges by their courses;
Verse 17. - It is hard to feel certain as to the exact construction of this and the following verse. Keil would translate here," And concerning the catalogue of the priests, it was according, etc.; and the Levites, they were from twenty years," etc. And arrived at ver. 18, and unable to proceed in like manner with it, he reverts to the "to give" of ver. 15, as what is to stand before the words," to the genealogy [or, 'catalogue'] of all their little ones." He thus treats both vers. 16 and 17 as parenthetical. It seems quite as probable that the "to give" should be shown before ver. 17 as well as ver. 18. On the whole, this seems to suit best the entire passage. The significant וְאֵת, at the beginning of ver. 17, neutralizes then the מִלְבַד of ver. 16, and connects vers. 15 and 17. (On the words, from twenty years old, comp. 1 Chronicles 23:27. See also Numbers 4:3; Numbers 8:24.)
And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their set office they sanctified themselves in holiness:
Verse 18. - (Comp. our 2 Chronicles 20:13.)
Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.
Verse 19. - The much more manifest meaning of this verse confirms the interpretation favoured just above for vers. 15, 17, 18. The men that were expressed by name; translate, men were expressed... to give. The purport of this verse is to say that all priests and Levites of full age were sacredly remembered and similarly carefully provided for, viz. those also who lived in the fields of the suburbs of the cities (Leviticus 25:32-34; Numbers 35:2-5).
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.
Verse 20. - This verse, when rendered with literal exactness, is a fine instance of the force and brevity of the Hebrew style in Old Testament history; And thus did Hezekiah in all Judah, and he did the good and the right and the truth in the sight of Jehovah his God.
And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
Verse 21. - In every work; translate, and in all work. The "all work" being in the following clause triply described as pertaining to the service of the house of God, the observance of the sacred Law, and of any individual commandments flowing from it.