And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
Verse 1. - And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem; i.e. all the elders of Jerusalem and of the rest of Judah. (On the important position held by "the elders" in the undivided kingdom, see 1 Kings 8:1, and the comment ad loc.; and on their position in the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, see 1 Kings 20:7, 8; 1 Kings 21:8, 11; 2 Kings 10:1, etc.)
And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.
Verse 2. - And the king went up into the house of the Lord. No place could be so suitable for the renewal of the covenant between God and his people as the house of God, where God was in a peculiar way present, and the ground was, like the ground at Horeb, holy. Josiah "went up" to the temple from the royal palace, which was on a lower level (comp. 1 Kings 10:5). And all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him. Not only the "elders," who had been summoned, but of the people, as many as chose to attend, besides. The gathering was no doubt great; but the expressions used are (as with the Orientals generally) hyperbolical. And the priests, and the prophets. The representation would have been incomplete without these two classes - the priests, the ordinary and regular readers (Deuteronomy 31:11) and teachers (Deuteronomy 33:10) of the Law; and the prophets, the extraordinary and occasional teachers, inspired from time to time, and commissioned to enforce the Law, and futile to declare God's will to the people. And all the people, both small and great; i.e. without distinction of classes - all ranks of the people, high and low, rich and poor, noble and base-born. All were concerned, nay, concerned equally, in a matter which touched the national life and the prospects of each individual. And he read in their ears. There is no reason for translating, with Keil, "he caused to be read in their ears," as though either the Jewish kings could not read, or would be usurping the functions of the priests in publicly reading the Law to the people. If a king might, like Solomon (1 Kings 8:22-61), lead the prayers of the congregation of Israel in the temple, much more might he read the Law to them. The readers in the Jewish synagogues are ordinarily lay people. All the words of the book of the covenant. Perhaps there is here some exaggeration, as in the phrases, "all the men of Judah," and "all the inhabitants of Jerusalem." The entire Pentateuch could scarcely be read through in less than ten hours. Possibly, the Book of Deuteronomy was alone read. Which was found in the house of the Lord (see above, 2 Kings 22:8).
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
Verse 3. - And the king stood by a pillar - עַל חָעַמּוד is not "by the pillar," but (as in 2 Kings 11:14) "on the platform" (see the comment on that place) - and made a covenant before the Lord; literally, made the covenant (as in 2 Kings 11:17); i.e. made, or renewed, the old covenant with God (Exodus 24:5-8), which had been broken by the complete neglect of the Law, and the manifold idolatries of Manasseh and Amon. He renewed this covenant "before the Lord," i.e. from his platform in the court, directly opposite the entrance to the temple, through which he could, perhaps, see the veil hanging in front of the holy of holies-at any rate being, and feeling himself to be, in the immediate presence of God. To walk after the Lord - i.e. to be his true follower and servant - and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes. (On the multiplication of such terms, see the comment upon 1 Kings 2:3.) They are intended to express "the totality of the Law," all its requirements without exception. With all their heart and all their soul - obedience was worthless, unless paid from the heart and soul (see Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 30:2; Joel 2:12, 13) - to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. The representatives of the people, one and all, were parties to the premise made on their behalf by the king, and signified their consent, probably as they had done in Horeb, when "Moses took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that the Lord has said will we do, and be obedient" (see Deuteronomy 24:7).
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
Verses 4-27. - Josiah's reformation of religion. The reformation of religion by Josiah next engages the writer's attention, and is treated, not chronologically, but rather gee-graphically, under the three heads of
(1) reforms in Jerusalem;
(2) reforms outside Jerusalem, but in the kingdom of Judah; and
(3) reforms in the territory which had belonged to the kingdom of Samaria (vers. 4-20).
The celebration of the Passover is then briefly noticed (vers. 21-25); and the section concludes with a eulogy of Josiah (vers. 24, 25), who, however, it is noticed could not, with all his piety, obtain a revocation of the sentence passed on Judah in consequence of the sins of Manasseh. The fate of Judah was fixed (vers. 26, 27). Verse 4. - And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order. Not the "deputy-high priests," of whom there seems to have been only one at this period of the history (2 Kings 25:18); nor the "heads of the courses," who were not recognized as a distinct class of priests till much later; but merely the common priests, as distinguished from the high priest. (So Keil, Bahr, and others.) And the keepers of the door; literally, the keepers of the threshold; i.e. the Levites, whose duty it was to keep watch and ward at the outer temple gates (see 1 Chronicles 26:13-18). Their importance at this time appears again in 2 Kings 25:18. To bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal. The reformation naturally began with the purging of the temple. So the reformation under Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:18) and that of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:15). Under "the vessels" (הַכֵּלִים) would be included the entire paraphernalia of worship, even the two altars which had been set up in honor of Baal in the outer and the inner courts (comp. 2 Kings 21:5). And for the grove (see 2 Kings 21:3), and for all the host of heaven. The three worships are here united, because there was a close connection between them. Baal was, in one of his aspects, the sun; and Astarte, the goddess of the "grove" wet-ship, was, in one of her aspects, the moon. The cult of "the host of heaven," though, perhaps, derived from a different source, naturally became associated with the cults of the sun and moon. And he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron. The Law required that idols should be burnt with fire (Deuteronomy 7:25), and likewise "groves" (Deuteronomy 12:3). It was enough to "overthrow" altars (Deuteronomy 12:3) and to "break" pillars. But Josiah seems to have thought it best to destroy by fire, i.e. in the completest possible way, all the objects, of whatever kind, which had been connected with the idol-worship (see vers. 6, 12, 15, 16). The burning took place in "the fields of Kidron," i.e. in the upper part of the Kidron valley, to the northeast of Jerusalem, in order that not even the smoke should pollute the town (comp. 1 Kings 15:13). And carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. This was a very unusual precaution, and shows Josiah's extreme scrupulousness. He would not have even the ashes of the wooden objects, or the calcined powder of the metal ones, remain even in the vicinity of the holy city, but transported them to a distance. In selecting Bethel as the place to convey them to, he was no doubt actuated by the circumstance that that village was in some sense the fount and origin of all the religious impurities which had overflowed the land. That which had proceeded from Bethel might well be taken back thither.
And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
Verse 5. - And he put down the idolatrous priests; literally, the chemarim. The same word is used of idolatrous priests in Hosea 10:5 and Zephaniah 1:4. It is best connected with the Arabic root chamar, colere deum, and with the Syriac cumro, "priest" or "sacrificer." The Syrian priests were probably so called at the time, and the Hebrews took the word, and applied it to all false priests or idolatrous priests, reserving their own cohanim (כֹּהֲנִים) for true Jehovistic priests only. Whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem. This practice had not been mentioned previously, and can scarcely have belonged to the earlier kingdom of Judah, when "the people" (as we are told so often) "worshipped and burnt incense in the high places." But it is quite in harmony with the other doings of Manasseh and Amen, that, when they re-established the high places (2 Kings 21:3, 21), they should have followed the custom of the Israelite monarchs at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-32), and have "ordained priests" to conduct the worship at them. Them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon (on the Baal-worship of Manasseh and Amen, see 2 Kings 21:3; on the sun-worship, compare below, ver. 11; the moon-worship was probably a form of the worship of Astarte), and to the planets; rather, to the twelve signs. The constellations or signs of the zodiac are, no doubt, intended (comp. Job 38:32, where the term מַזָּדות may be regarded as a mere variant form of the מַזָּלות of this passage). The proper meaning of the term is "mansions;" or "houses," the zodiacal signs being regarded as the "mansions of the sun" by the Babylonians (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. p. 419). And to all the host of heaven (see the comment on 2 Kings 21:3).
And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
Verse 6. - And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord. The Asherah set up by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:3 and 7), and if removed (2 Chronicles 33:15), then replaced by Amon (2 Chronicles 33:22), is intended. (On its probable form, see the comment upon 2 Kings 21:7.) Without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron (see the comment on ver. 4), and burned it at the brook Kidron. After the example of Asa, who had treated in the same way the idol of the queen-mother Maachah (1 Kings 15:13). Asa followed the example of Moses (Exodus 32:20), when he destroyed the golden calf. And stamped it small to powder. Metals may be calcined by intense heat, and reduced into a state in which a very small application of force will crush them into a fine powder. It is clear from the present passage, that Manasseh's Asherah was made of metal, at any rate in part. And cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people; i.e. "upon the graves of the common people" (comp. Jeremiah 26:23, where the expression used in the Hebrew is the same). The common people were not buried, like the better sort, in rock-hewn sepulchers, but in graves of the ordinary description. Burial-places were regarded as unclean, and were thus fit receptacles for any kind of impurity.
And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
Verse 7. - And he brake down the houses of the sodomites; literally, of the consecrated ones. (See the comment on 1 Kings 14:24; and note that the male prostitutes, or Galli, who consecrated themselves to the Des Syra, formed an essential element in the Astarte-worship, and accompanied it wherever it was introduced.) Dollinger says ('Jew and Gentile,' vol. 1. pp. 430, 431) of these wretched persons, "To the exciting din of drums, flutes, and inspired songs, the Galli cut themselves on the arms; and the effect of this act, and of the music accompanying it, was so strong upon mere spectators, that all their bodily and mental powers were thrown into a tumult of excitement, and they too, seized by the desire to lacerate themselves, deprived themselves of their manhood by means of potsherds lying ready for the purpose. Thereupon they ran with the mutilated part through the city, and received from the houses which they threw them into, a woman's gear. Not chastity, but barrenness, was intended by the mutilation. In this the Galli only desired to be like their goddess. The relation of foul lust, which they thenceforward occupied towards women, was regarded as a holy thing, and was tolerated by husbands in their wives." That were by the house of the Lord. The near vicinity is an indication that the Galli took part in the foreign rites introduced into the temple by Manasseh and Amon. The awful profanation of the house of God by such orgies is too terrible to dwell on. Where the women wove hangings for the grove. "The women" are no doubt the priestesses of the Dea Syra, who are constantly mentioned with the Galli, and, indeed, lived with them. They employed themselves, among other occupations, in weaving "hangings" (literally, "houses," i.e. "coverings") for the Asherah. It may be gathered from Ezekiel 16:16 that these "coverings" were dainty fabrics of many colors.
And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.
Verse 8. - And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah. Here the writer diverges from his proper subject - the reforms in and near Jerusalem - to speak of changes which were made in other parts of Judaea. The Levitical priests, who in various cities of Judah had conducted the worship at the high places, were summoned to Jerusalem by Josiah, and forced to remain there, that the unauthorized worship which they had conducted might be brought to an end. And defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense. Hezekiah had "removed the high places, and broken the images, and cut down the groves" throughout his dominions (2 Kings 18:4), but he had not in any way "defiled the high places;" and therefore no sooner did a king take a different view of his duties than the worship was at once restored (2 Kings 21:3), and flourished as before. Josiah conceived the idea that, if the high places were "defiled," it would be impossible to renew the worship at them. From Geba to Beersheba. Geba takes here the place of Bethel as the northern limit of Judah. It was situated at a very short distance from Bethel, and was made to supersede it on account of the idolatries by which Bethel had been disgraced. The exact site is probably the modern Jeba, on the southern edge of the Wady Suweinit. And brake down the high places of the gates. The high-place worship had, it would seem, invaded Jerusalem itself. In some of the gates of the city, which were "large open buildings for public meetings and intercourse" (Bahr), altars, or more elaborate places of worship, had been established, and an unauthorized ritual of the high-place type had been set up. That were - rather, that which was - in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city. This and the succeeding clauses are limitations of the general statement concerning the "high places of the gates," and indicate that two gates only had been polluted by high-place worship, viz. "the gate of Joshua," and the gale known κατ ἐξοχὴν as "the city gate." Neither of these can be determinately fixed, since they are only mentioned in the present passage. Which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city; rather, and also that which was on the left-hand side in the gate of the city. (So Thenius, Keil, and Bahr.)
Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
Verse 9. - Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem. Though Josiah recalled to Jerusalem the Levitical priests who had recently been attached to the various high places, yet he did not attach them to the temple, or assign them any part in its services. Their participation in a semi-idolatrous service had disqualified them for the temple ministrations. But they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. They were allowed, i.e., their maintenance out of the priestly revenues, as were priests disqualified by a personal blemish (Leviticus 21:21, 22). Practically they lived on the altar gifts intended for the priests (Leviticus 6:9, 10, 22), in which it was unlawful to mix leaven.
And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
Verse 10. - And he defiled Topheth. "To-pheth" or "Tophet" was the name given to the place in the valley of Hinnom where the sacrifices were offered to Moloch. The root of the word is thought by some to be taph (תַּף), "a drum," because the cries of the children burnt there were drowned by the beating of drums. Others suggest as the root, tuph (תּוּף), "to spit," because the place was "spat at" by the orthodox. But Gesenius and Bottcher derive it from an Aryan root, taph, or tap, "to burn," whence Greek θάπτειν τέφρα, Latin tepidus, Mod. Persian taftan, Sanskrit tap, etc., and regard the meaning as simply "the place of burning" (see the comment on Isaiah 30:33). Which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom. The valley of Hinnom, or of the sons of Hinnom, is generally allowed to be that which sweeps round the more western of the two hills whereon Jerusalem was built, in a direction at first south and then east, uniting itself with the Kidron valley a little to the south of Ophel. The origin of the name is uncertain; but it is most likely that the Beni-Hinnom were a tribe of Canaanites, settled on this side of Jerusalem in the time of Joshua (Joshua 15:8). The "valley" is a ravine, deep and narrow, with steep, rocky sides. When the Moloch-worship first began in it we cannot say; but it was probably before the time of Solomon, who built a high place for Moloch (1 Kings 11:11), on one of the heights by which the valley is enclosed. (On the horrible profanations of the Moloch-worship, see Jeremiah 7:31, 32; Jeremiah 19:4-13; Jeremiah 32:35.) After the Captivity, the valley of Hinnom - Ge-Hinnom - was reckoned an accursed and abominable place, a sort of earthly counterpart of the place of final punishment, which. thence derived its name of "Geheuna" (Γέεννα); (see Matthew 5:22, 29, etc.). That no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch (see the comment on 2 Kings 16:3).
And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
Verse 11. - And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun. The custom of dedicating horses to the sun was practiced by many ancient nations; but it is only in Persia that we find horses and chariots so dedicated (Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:3. § 12). The idea of the sun-god as a charioteer, who drove his horses daily across the sky, is one common to several of the Aryan nations, as the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindoos, and others;but we do not find it either in Egypt or among the Semitic peoples. The sacrifice of the horse to the sun was more general (Herod., 1:216; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:3. § 24; 'Anab.,' 4:5. § 35; Rig Veda, vol. 2. pp. 112, et seqq., etc.), but does not seem to have been adopted by the Hebrews. It is not at all clear whence the "kings of Judah" - i.e. Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon - derived the idea of maintaining sacred chariots and horses to be used in their sun-worship. They certainly could not have received it, as Keil thinks, "through the Assyrians." At the entering in of the house of the Lord - the horses, i.e., were kept near one of the entrances to the temple, to be ready for use in sacred processions - by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs. There were many "chambers" attached to the temple, which were sometimes used as store-rooms for different materials (1 Chronicles 9:26; 2 Chronicles 31:11, 12; Nehemiah 10:38; Nehemiah 13:5), sometimes as residences (Nehemiah 13:7). In Josiah's time, "Nathan-melech the chamberlain," or rather "the eunuch," occupied one of these. It was situated בַפַדְוָרִים - "in the outskirts" or "purlieus" of the temple. And burned the chariots of the sun with fire (comp. vers. 4, 6, 15, etc.). Josiah burnt all the material objects that had been desecrated by the idolatries; the persons and animals so desecrated he "removed," or deprived of their functions.
And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
Verse 12. - And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz. It would seem that "the upper chamber of Ahaz" was within the temple precincts, since the pollutions spoken of, both before and after, are pollutions belonging to the temple. It may have been erected on the flat roof of one of the gates, or on the top of a store-chamber. Altars upon roofs were a new form of idolatry, apparently connected with the worship of the "host of heaven" (see Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5). Which the kings of Judah - i.e. Manasseh and Amen, perhaps also Ahaz - had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord (see above, 2 Kings 21:4, 5). As Manasseh, on his repentance, merely "cast these altars out of the city" (2 Chronicles 33:15), it was easy for Amen to replace them. They belonged to the worship of the "host of heaven." Did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and east the dust of them into the brook Kidron (comp. ver. 6, and the comment ad loc.).
And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
Verse 13. - And the high places that were before Jerusalem. The high places which Solomon established in the neighborhood of Jerusalem for the use of his wives, and in the worship at which he became himself entangled in his old age, appear to have been situated on the ridge of the mountain which lies over against Jerusalem to the east, a part of which is Olivet. The southern summit, the traditional roans offensionis, was probably the high place of Moloch (Milcom), while the most northern summit (now called Karem-es-Seyad) has some claim to be regarded as the high place of Chemosh. (So Broeardus in A.D. .) The site of the high place of Ashtoreth is doubtful. Which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption. The name "mount of corruption" seems to have been given after Solomon's time to the entire ridge of hills which lies over against Jerusalem to the east, on account of the rites which he had allowed to be established on it. The "right hand" of the mountain would, according to Jewish notions, be the more southern part. Which Solomon the King of Israel - rather, King of Israel, since there is no article - had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians (see 1 Kings 11:7). Though Ashtoreth, or Astarte, or Ishtar, or the Dea Syra, was worshipped generally throughout Phoenicia, and perhaps even more widely, yet she was in a peculiar way "the abomination of the Zidonians," being the deity to whom the city of Sidon was especially dedicated (see the inscription on the tomb of Eshmunazar, published in the 'Records of the Past,' vol. 9. pp. 113, 114). And for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites. Chemosh appears as the special god of the Moabites on the famous Moabite Stone in eleven places. The stone itself was dedicated to Chemosh (line 3). The Moabites are spoken of as "the people of Chemosh" (lines 5, 6). Success in war comes from him, and defeat is the result of his anger. One of his designations is "Ashtar-Chemosh" (line 17), or "Chemosh, who is also Ashtar," Ashtar being the male principle corresponding to the female Astarte or Ashtoreth. And for Milcom. Moloch was called by the Jews "Milcom," or "Malcam" - "their king" i.e. the king of the Ammonite people, since he was the sole god whom they acknowledged (see 1 Kings 11:5; Jeremiah 49:3 compared with Jeremiah 48:7; Amos 1:15; Zephaniah 1:5). The abomination of the children of Ammon (see 1 Kings 11:5, 7; and compare the comment on 1 Kings in the 'Pulpit Commentary,' p. 222). Did the king defile. The manner of the defilement is stated in the next verse.
And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.
Verse 14. - And he brake in pieces the images - or, pillars (see the comment on 1 Kings 14:23) - and out down the groves - i.e. the asherirn, or "sacred trees" - and filled their places with the bones of men. Whatever spoke of death and dissolution was a special defilement to shrines where the gods worshipped were deities of productivity and generation. Bones of men had also the actual taint of corruption about them. The "uncleanness" of dead bodies arose first out of man's natural shrinking from death, and was then further confirmed by the horrors accompanying decay. The notion was probably coeval with death itself. It received a sanction from the Law, which made it a legal defilement to touch a corpse (Numbers 19:11, 16), and placed under a sentence of uncleanness all that was in the tent where a man died (Numbers 19:14, 15).
Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
Verse 15. - Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place; rather, the altar that was at Bethel, the high place, without any "and." הַבָמָה is in apposition with הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. By setting up an altar at Bethel, Jeroboam constituted Bethel a "high place." Which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made (comp. 1 Kings 12:33; 1 Kings 13:2), both that altar end the high place he brake down. "The high place" is here equivalent to the "house of high places" in 1 Kings 12:31, and designates "the buildings of this sanctuary" (Keil). At such a national center as Bethel a temple would, of course, accompany the altar. Whether the temple and altar were in use or not at the time when Josiah destroyed them, is uncertain. The mixed race which had superseded the Israelites in the country (2 Kings 17:24-41) may have continued the worship, or may have set it aside. And burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder. It is not clear that this latter clause applies to the high place. Perhaps we should translate - And stamped small to powder, and burned, the grove. It is for the most part only comparatively small objects that are "stamped small to powder" (see vers. 6, 12, and comp. 2 Chronicles 15:21).
And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
Verse 16. - And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchers that were there in the mount. The Israelite sepulchers, excavated in the reeky sides of hills, are everywhere conspicuous. Those of Bethel may have been in the low hill on which the town stands, or in the sides of the Wady Suweinit, a little further to the south. His accidentally "spying the sepulchers" gave Josiah the thought of completing his desecration of Bethel by having bones brought from them and burnt upon the altar - whereby he exactly accomplished the old prophecy (1 Kings 13:2), which was not at all in his mind. And sent, end took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it (see the comment on ver. 14), according to the word of the Lord which the men of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words; rather, who prophesied these things. The reference is to 1 Kings 13:2, and the meaning is, not that Josiah acted as he did in order to fulfill the prophecy, but that in thus acting he unconsciously fulfilled it.
Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.
Verse 17. - Then he said, What title is that that I see? rather, What pillar is that that I see? Josiah's eye caught sight of a "pillar" or obelisk (צִיון) among the tombs, or in their neighborhood, and he had the curiosity to ask what it was. And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulcher of the man of God, which earns from Judah (see 1 Kings 13:1). The "pillar" could not have been the actual "sepulcher," but was no doubt a monument connected with it. Many of the Phoenician excavated tombs are accompanied by monuments above ground, which are very conspicuous (see Renan's 'Mission de Phenicie,' pls. 11, et seq.). And proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel (see 1 Kings 13:2). According to the present text of Kings, Josiah was prophesied of by name, as the king who would defile the altar; but it is possible that the words, "Josiah by name" (יאשִׁיָהוּ שְׂמו), have crept in from the margin.
And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.
Verse 18. - And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. Josiah remembered the circumstances when they were recalled to him, and, in order to show honor to the "man of God" (1 Kings 13, passim), commanded that his tomb should be undisturbed. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria; i.e. with the bones of the Israelite prophet, who had taken care to be buried with him. The reference is to 1 Kings 13:31.
And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
Verse 19. - And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria. The writer of Chronicles enters into more detail. Josiah, he says, carried out his destruction of the high places, the groves, and the images "in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali" (2 Chronicles 34:6) - i.e. to the northern limit of the Holy Land, which was occupied by Naphtali and Asher. By what right Josiah exercised sovereign authority in the old kingdom of Samaria, which the Assyrians had conquered and attached to their empire, can only be conjectured. Some have supposed that the Assyrians had enlarged his sovereignty, and placed Samaria under his rule; others regard him as having transferred his allegiance to Nabopolassar, and having been made by him viceroy over Palestine. But it is, perhaps, most probable that he merely took advantage of the political commotions of the time to extend his dominion so far as it seemed safe to do so. Asshur-bani-pal, the last energetic King of Assyria, appears to have ceased to reign in Josiah's fourteenth year, when he was succeeded by a weak monarch, Asshur-ebil-ili. Great troubles now broke out. The Scythians ravaged Western Asia far and wide. Assyria was attacked by the Medea and Babylonians in combination. Under these circumstances, Josiah found himself practically independent, and began to entertain ambitious projects. He "extended his dominion from Jerusalem over Samaria" (Ewald). Assyria was too much occupied to take any notice. Baby-Ionia was in the thick of the struggle. Josiah found himself able to reunite under his own headship all the scattered portions of the old Israelite kingdom, except, perhaps, the trans-Jordanic district. He levied taxes in Samaria as freely as in Judaea (2 Chronicles 33:9). He reformed on the same model the religions of both countries. When finally he had to fight for his throne, he marched his army into the northern portion of Samaria, and there fought the battle which cost him his life. Which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger. The earlier kings of Israel had simply allowed the "high places" to continue, without actively increasing or multiplying them; but Manasseh had re-established them after their destruction by Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:3), and Amen had probably done the same after Manasseh's tardy reformation. Jonah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he done in Bethel (see above, ver. 15).
And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
Verse 20. - And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars. It is not directly said that he had done this at Bethel, though it had been prophesied that he would do so (1 Kings 13:2). Possibly there were no priests at Bethel at the time, since the "calf" set up by Jeroboam had been carried off (Hosea 10:6) by the Assyrians. The difference between the treatment of the high-place priests in Israel and in Judah (ver. 9) clearly implies that the former were attached to the worship of false gods, while the latter were priests of Jehovah who worshipped him with superstitious and unauthorized rites and ceremonies. And burned men's bones upon them (comp. ver. 16), and returned to Jerusalem.
And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.
Verse 21. - And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover. The account given of Josiah's Passover is much more full in Chronicles than in Kings. In Chronicles it occupies nineteen verses of 2 Chronicles 35. We learn from Chronicles that all the rites prescribed by the Law, whether in Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy, were duly observed, and that the festival was attended, not only by the Judaeans, but by many Israelites from among the ten tribes, who still remained intermixed with the Assyrian colonists in the Samaritan country (see 2 Chronicles 35:17, 18). Unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. The ordinances for the due observance of the Passover feast are contained chiefly in Exodus (Exodus 12:3-20; Exodus 13:5-10). They are repeated, but with much less fullness, in Deuteronomy 16:1-8. The "book of the covenant" found by Hilkiah must, therefore, certainly have contained Exodus (see below, ver. 25).
Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;
Verse 22. - Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah. Such a Passover, one so numerously attended (2 Chronicles 35:18). and so exactly kept according to every ordinance of the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 35:6), had not been celebrated during all the period of the judges, from Joshua to Samuel, nor under the kings of all Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, nor under those of the separated kingdom of Judah, from Rehoboam to this year (the eighteenth) of Josiah. It is an extraordinary perversity which concludes (as do De Wette and Thenius), from this comparison of the present with former Passovers under the judges and the kings, that there had been no such former Passovers at all! Two, at any rate, are recorded (Joshua 5:10, 11; 2 Chronicles 30:13-26). Ewald has the good sense to express his dissent from this view, and to declare the meaning of the writer to be simply that "since the time of the judges there had never been such a celebration of the Passover, in such strict accordance, that is, with the prescriptions of a sacred book as that which now took place" (see his 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 239, Eng. trans.).
But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.
Verse 23. - But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this Passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem (compare, on the date, 2 Kings 22:3 and 2 Chronicles 35:19). The eighteenth year of Josiah corresponded probably, in part to B.C. 622, in part to B.C. 621.
Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
Verse 24. - Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards. Persons of these classes had been encouraged by Manasseh, in his earlier reign (2 Kings 21:6), and probably by Amon (2 Kings 21:21). As Josiah designed a thorough reformation, it was necessary for him to put them down. And the images; literally, the teraphim, which are thought to have been small images kept as household gods in many Israelite families from a very ancient date (see Genesis 31:19-35). The superstition was exceedingly persistent. We find it under the judges (Judges 18:14), under Saul (1 Samuel 19:13), here under the later kings, and it is still mentioned after the return from the Captivity (Zechariah 10:2). The superstition was, apparently, Babylonian (Ezekiel 21:21), and brought from Ur of the Chaldees by the family of Abraham. Besides being regarded as household gods, the teraphim were used in divination. And the idols, and all the abominations that were spied. The "idols," gillulim, are probably, like the teraphim, of a private nature, figures used as amulets or talismans. Excepting in Ezekiel, the word is an uncommon one. By the "abominations that were spied" are meant secret defilements and superstitious practices in households, which needed to be searched out. (So Thenius and Bahr.) In the land of Judah and in Jerusalem. Not, apparently, in the cities of Samaria, where such a rigid inquisition would perhaps have provoked a stubborn resistance. Did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the Law; rather, that he might establish the words of the Law. Laws against such practices as Josiah now put down will be found in Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12. Which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord (see 2 Kings 22:8).
And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.
Verse 25. - And like unto him was there no king before him (see the comment on 2 Kings 18:5). The writer of Kings cannot be said to place Josiah above Hezekiah, or Hezekiah above Josiah. He accords them the same degree of praise, but, in Hezekiah's case, dwells upon his trust in God; in Josiah's, upon his exact obedience to the Law. On the whole, his judgment accords very closely with that of the son of Sirach (Ecclus. 49:4). "All, except David and Ezekias and Josias, were defective: for they forsook the Law of the Most High." That turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might. This triple enumeration is intended to include the whole moral and mental nature of man, all the energies of his understanding, his will, and his physical vitality (see the comment on Deuteronomy 6:5 - a passage which is in the writer's mind). According to all the Law of Moses. This is an indication that, in the writer's view, the whole Law was contained in the book found by Hilkiah. Neither after him arose there any like him. This is but moderate praise, since the four kings who reigned after him - Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah - were, one and all, wicked princes.
Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.
Verse 26. - Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath. It was too late, not for God to forgive upon repentance, but for the nation to repent sincerely and heartily. Sin had become engrained in the national character. Vain were the warnings of Jeremiah, vain were his exhortations to repentance (Jeremiah 3:12-14, 22; Jeremiah 4:1-8; Jeremiah 7:3-7, etc.), vain his promises that, if they would turn to God, they would be forgiven and spared. Thirty years of irreligion and idolatry under Manasseh had sapped the national vigor, and made true repentance an impossibility. How weak and half-hearted must have been the return to God towards the close of Manasseh's reign, that it should have had no strength to resist Amon, a youth of twenty-two, but should have disappeared wholly on his accession! And how far from sincere must have been the present conformity to the wishes of Josiah, the professed renewal of the covenant (ver. 3), and revival of disused ceremonies (vers. 21-23)! Jeremiah searched in vain through the streets of Jerusalem to find a man that executed judgment, or sought the truth (Jeremiah 5:1). The people had "a revolting and rebellious heart; they were revolted and gone" (Jeremiah 5:23). Not only idolatry, but profligacy (Jeremiah 5:1) and injustice and oppression everywhere prevailed (Jeremiah 5:25-28). "From the least to the greatest of them, every one was given to covetousness" (Jeremiah 6:13); even the prophets and the priests "dealt falsely" (Jeremiah 6:13), The state of things was one which necessarily brought down the Divine judgment, and all that Josiah's efforts could do was a little to delay it. Wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. Manasseh's provocations lived in their consequences. God's judgment upon Israel was not mere vengeance for the sins that Manasseh had committed, or even for the multitudinous iniquities into which he had led the nation (2 Kings 21:9). It was punishment rendered necessary by the actual condition of the nation - the condition whereto it had been reduced by Manasseh's evil doings.
And 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.
Verse 27. - And the Lord said - God said in his secret counsels, came to the determination, and pronounced the sentence in his thoughts - I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel (comp. 2 Kings 17:18, "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight"). The sins of Judah were now as great as those of Israel had been; therefore her punishment must be the same, as God is no respecter of persons. And I will east off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen (comp. 1 Kings 8:44, 48; 1 Kings 11:13, 32, 36, etc.). God "chose" Jerusalem when he put it into the heart of David to bring up the ark thither (2 Samuel 6:1-17). And the house of which I said, My Name shall he there (see Deuteronomy 12:11; 1 Kings 8:29, etc.). A visible confirmation was given to all that David and Solomon had done in establishing the temple at Jerusalem as the head-quarters of the national religion, when "fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices" made there, and "the glory of the Lord filled the house" (2 Chronicles 7:1; comp. 2 Chronicles 5:13, 14).
Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
Verses 28-30. - The events of Josiah's reign from his eighteenth to his thirty-first year are left a blank, both here and in Chronicles. Politically, the time was a stirring one. The great invasion of Western Asia by the Scythic hordes (Herod., 1:103-106), which is alluded to by Jeremiah 6:1-5; Ezekiel 38, 39, and perhaps by Zephaniah 2:6, probably belongs to it; as also the attack of Psamatik I. upon Philistia (Herod., 2:105), the fall of the Assyrian empire (circ. B.C. 617), and the destruction of Nineveh: the establishment of the independence of Babylon, and her rise to greatness; together with the transfer of power in the central part of Western Asia, from the Assyrians to the Medea. Amid the dangers which beset him, Josiah appears to have conducted himself prudently, gradually extending his power over Samaria and Galilee, without coming into hostile collision with any of the neighboring nations, until about the year B.C. 609 or 608, when his land was invaded by Pharaoh-Nechoh, the Neku of the Egyptian monuments. Josiah felt himself called upon to resist this invasion, and, in doing so, met his death (vers. 29, 30). Verse 28. - Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did. Josiah was reckoned a good rather than a great king. No mention is made of his "might." The writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 35:26) commemorates his "kindnesses" or "his good deeds." The son of Sirach speaks of his "upright" behavior (Ecclus. 49:2). Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:4. § 1) praises his "justice" and his "piety," and says (ibid., 10:4. § 5) his later years were passed "in peace and opulence." Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (see 2 Chronicles 35:27).
In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.
Verse 29. - In his days Pharaoh-Nechoh King of Egypt went up against the King of Assyria. Neku, the "Pharaoh-Nechoh" of this passage, and the Necos of Herodotus (2. 158, 159), was the son of Psamatik I., and succeeded his father on the throne of Egypt, probably in B.C. 610. He was one of the most enterprising of the later Egyptian kings, and appears to have made this expedition in his second or third year. The unsettled condition of Western Asia after the Scythic invasion, and the fall of the Assyrian empire, seemed to give an opportunity for Egypt to reclaim her old dominion over Syria and Mesopotamia. The "King of Assyria," against whom Pharaoh-Nechoh "went up," was probably Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. His proper rifle was "King of Babylon," which is what Nebuchadnezzar always calls him ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 113, line 22; vol. 7. p. 71, line 6; p. 75, line 9); but the Jews not unnaturally regarded him as the inheritor of the Assyrian empire, as indeed they regarded the Persian monarchs also (Ezra 6:22), and therefore gave him the title of "King of Assyria." To the river Euphrates. The author of Chronicles says that "Necho King of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish" (or "at Carehemish") "by Euphrates," which shows that his design was to penetrate into Northern Syria, where Carchemish (now Jerabus) was situated, with a view probably of crossing the Euphrates by the ford at Bir, or by that at Balis, into Mesopotamia. And King Josiah wont against him. It is possible that Josiah had accepted the position of Babylonian tributary after the fall of the Assyrian kingdom, and thought himself bound to resist an attack upon his suzerain. Or he may simply have resented the violation of his territory, without his permission, by a foreign army. Certainly, if he had allowed the free passage of the Egyptian troops, backwards and forwards, through his country, he would in a short time have lost even the shadow of independence. Nechoh's assurance that his expedition was not against him (Josiah), but against the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 35:21), was not a thing to be relied upon, any more than his declaration that God had commanded his expedition. And he slew him at Megiddo, when he had soon him. Megiddo is, beyond all doubt, the present El-Ledjun on the northern outskirt of the range of hills which separates the Plain of Esdraelon from that of Sharon. It is certainly surprising to find that Josiah had taken up a position so far to the north, leaving Jerusalem, and, indeed, all Judaea, unprotected. But he may have thought the advantages of the position such as to compensate for any risk to the Judaean cities, in which he would, of course, have left garrisons. Or, possibly, as Keil and Bahr suppose, Nechoh may have conveyed his troops to the Syrian coast by sea, and have landed in the Bay of Acre, close to the Plain of Esdraelon. In this case Josiah would have no choice, but, if he opposed the Egyptian monarch at all, must have met him where he did, in the Esdraelon plain, as he entered it from the Plain of Acre.
And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.
Verse 30. - And his servants carried him in a chariot - his "second chariot," according to the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 35:24), which was probably one kept in reserve in case flight should be necessary, of lighter construction, and drawn by fleeter horses, than his war-chariot - dead from Megiddo. Wounded to death, that is. From Chronicles we gather that his wound, which was from an arrow, was not immediately fatal (2 Chronicles 35:23, 24); but that he died of it on his way to Jerusalem, or directly after his arrival. And brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulcher (comp. 2 Kings 21:18 and 26). The writer of Chronicles says, "in the sepulcher of his fathers," apparently meaning the burial-place in which were interred the bodies of Manasseh and Amen. We learn from Chronicles that a great lamentation was made for Josiah, the only King of Judah slain in battle, the last good king of David's line, the pious prince whose piety had not sufficed to avert the anger of Jehovah. Jeremiah "lamented for him" (2 Chronicles 35:25), perhaps in a set composition (Josephus, ' Ant. Jud.,' 10:5. § 1); though that composition is certainly not either the Book of Lamentations or the fourth chapter of that book. He was further mourned by "all the singing men and the singing women" (2 Chronicles, l.s.c.), who "spake of him in their lamentations, and "made them an ordinance in Israel," and entered these "lamentations," apparently in a book, which was called 'The Book of Lamentations,' or 'of Dirges.' And the people of the laud took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah. Jehoahaz was otherwise named "Shallum" (1 Chronicles 3:15; Jeremiah 22:11). On what grounds the people preferred him to his elder brother, Eliakim, we do not know. Perhaps Eliakim had accompanied his father to Megiddo, and been made prisoner by Nechoh in the battle. And anointed him (see the comment on 1 Kings 1:34, and supra, 2 Kings 11:12), and made him king in his father's stead.
Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
Verses 31-33. - SHORT REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ. Pharaoh-Nechoh, having defeated Josiah, left Jerusalem and Judaea behind him, while he pressed forward on his original enterprise (see ver. 29) into Northern Syria and the district about Carehemish, or the tract north-east of Aleppo. It was three months before he had completed his conquests in these quarters, and, having arranged matters to his satisfaction, set out on his return to Egypt. During these three months Jehoahaz bore rule at Jerusalem (ver. 31), and "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (ver. 32). Ezekiel compares him to "a young lion," which "learned to catch the prey, and devoured men" (Ezekiel 19:3). It may be suspected that he re-established the idolatries which Josiah had put down; but this is uncertain. Pharaoh-Nechoh, on his return from Carehemish, learning what the Jews had done, sent envoys to Jerusalem, and summoned Jehoahaz to his presence at Riblah, in the territory of Hamath (ver. 33; comp. Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 10:5. § 2). Je-hoahaz obeyed the summons; and Nechoh, having obtained possession of his person, "put him in bands," and carried him off to Egypt, where he died (ver. 34; comp. Jeremiah 22:10-12; Josephus, l.s.c.) Verse 31. - Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign. He was, therefore, younger than his brother Eliakim, who, three months later, was "twenty-five years old" (ver. 36). His original name seems to have been "Shallum," as above noticed (see the comment on ver. 30). Probably he changed it to "Jehoahaz" ("Possession of Jehovah") on his accession. And he reigned three months in Jerusalem - three months and tern days, according to Josephus - and his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. The father of Hamutal was not, therefore, Jeremiah the prophet, who was a native of Anathoth (see Jeremiah 1:1).
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
Verse 32. - And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord (see the comment on vers. 31-33). Josephus says that he was ἀσεβὴς καὶ μιαρὸς τὸν τρόπον (l. s. c.) - "irreligious and of impure habits." Ezekiel (Ezekiel 19:3) seems to call him a persecutor. According to all that his fathers had done. As idolatry was the chief sin of his "fathers," Jehoahaz must have been an idolater.
And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.
Verse 33. - And Pharaoh-Nechoh put him in bands at Riblah. "Riblah," which retains its name, was situated in the Coele-Syrian plain, on the right bank of the Orontes, in lat. 34° 23' N. nearly. It commanded a ford over the river (Condor, 'Heth and Moab,' p. 17), and is in the midst of a rich, corn-producing country. Hamath, to which it was regarded as belonging, is situated more than fifty miles further down the river. Riblah was well placed as a center for communication with the neighboring countries. As Dr. Robinson says ('Researches,' vol. 3. p. 545), "From this point the roads were open by Aleppo and the Euphrates to Nineveh, or by Palmyra (Tadmor) to Babylon, by the end of Lebanon and the coast to Palestine (Philistia) and Egypt, or through the, Buka'a and the Jordan valley to the center of the Holy Land." Nebuchadnezzar followed the example of Nechoh in making Ribiah his headquarters during his sieges of Tyro and Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 25:21; Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:9, 10, 26, 27). In the land of Hamath. The "land of Hamath" was the upper part of the Coele-Syrian valley from about lat. 34° to lat. 35° 30' N. That he might not reign in Jerusalem. Nechoh might naturally distrust the people's choice. He might also regard the setting up of any king at Jerusalem without his sanction as an act of contumacy on the part of a nation which had been practically conquered by the complete defeat of Josiah at Megiddo. Whether his conduct in seizing Jehoahaz after inviting him to a conference was justifiable or not may be questioned; but, in point of fact, he did but use the right of the conqueror somewhat harshly. And put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. (So Josephus, l.s.c.) The tribute was a very moderate one. A century earlier Sennacherib had enacted a tribute of three hundred talents of silver, and thirty of gold (see above, 2 Kings 18:14). We may conjecture that Nechoh wished to conciliate the Jews, regarding them as capable of rendering him good service in the struggle, on which he had entered, with Babylon.
And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.
Verses 34-37. - ACCESSION AND EARLY YEARS OF JEHOIAKIM. Pharaoh-Nechoh, when he deposed Jehoahaz, at once supplied his place by another king. He had no intention of altering the governmental system of Palestine, or of ruling his conquests in any other way than through dependent monarchs. His choice fell on Josiah's eldest surviving son (1 Chronicles 3:15), Eliakim, who was the natural successor of his father. Eliakim, on ascending the throne, changed his name, as Jehoahaz appears to have done (see the comment on ver. 31), and reigned as Jehoiakim. For three years (B.C. 608-605) he continued a submissive vassal of the Egyptian monarch, and remitted him his tribute regularly (ver. 36). But his rule was in all respects an evil one. He "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord" (ver. 37). He leant towards idolatry (2 Chronicles 36:8); he was oppressive and irreligious (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.' 10:5. § 2); he "shed innocent blood" (Jeremiah 22:17); he was luxurious (Jeremiah 22:14, 15), covetous (Jeremiah 22:17), and tyrannical (Ezekiel 19:6). Verse 34. - And Pharaoh-Nechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father. (On the general inclination of Oriental monarchs to support the hereditary principle, and to establish sons in their fathers' governments, even when the father's had been rebels or enemies, see Herod., 3:15.) And turned his name to Jehoiakim. We may understand that Nechoh required him to take a new name, as a mark of subjection (comp. Genesis 41:45; Ezra 5:14; Daniel 1:7; and also 2 Kings 24:17), but left the choice of the name to himself. He made the change as slight as possible, merely substituting "Jehovah" for "El" as the initial element. The sense of the name remained the same, "God will set up." The idea that Nechoh was pleased with the new name on account of its apparent connection with the Egyptian moon-god, Aah (Menzel), is very fanciful. And took Jehoahaz away - i.e. carried him captive to Egypt (see Jeremiah 22:10, 11; Ezekiel 19:4), a very common practice of Egyptian conquerors, and one often accompanied by extreme severities - and he cams to Egypt, and died there (see Jeremiah 22:12, where this is prophesied).
And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh; but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, to give it unto Pharaohnechoh.
Verse 35. - And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh. Jehoiakim, i.e., paid the tribute, which Nechoh had fixed (ver. 33), regularly. He did not, however, pay it out of the state treasury, which was exhausted. But he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh: he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, to give it unto Pharaoh-Nechoh; rather, he had the land valued (comp. Leviticus 27:8), and "exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his valuation."
Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.
Verse 36. - Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign - he was therefore two years older than his brother Jehoahaz (see the comment on ver. 31) - and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem - probably from B.C. 608 to B.C. 597 - and his mother's name was Zebudah - he was, therefore, only half-brother to Jehoahaz and Zedekiah, whose mother was "Hamutal" (see ver. 31 and 2 Kings 24:18) - the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. "Rumah" is probably the same city as the "Arumah" of Judges 9:41, which was in the vicinity of Shechem.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
Verse 37. - And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. Jeremiah says of Jehoiakim, "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; that saith, I will build me a large house and wide chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is coiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. 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? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it" (Jeremiah 22:13-17). Josephus calls him "an unjust man and an evil-doer, neither pious in his relations towards God nor equitable in his dealings with his fellow men" ('Ant. Jud.,' 10:5. § 2). His execution of Urijah, the son of Shemalah, for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 26:20-23), was an act at once of cruelty and impiety. It is suspected (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 252) that, besides reintroducing into Judah all the foreign rites extirpated by his father, he added Egyptian rites to their number. The tyranny which he practiced was likewise of an Egyptian cast, including, as it did, the exaction of forced labor from his subjects (Jeremiah 22:13), an old custom of the Pharaohs, and it is quite possible that his "passion for building splendid and costly houses" (Ewald) was awakened by his knowledge of the magnificence which characterized the monarchs of the Saitic dynasty, who revived in Egypt the architectural glories of the Ramessides (see Herod., 2:153, 175, 176).