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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Kings 22

 

 

Verse 1-2

THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF JOSIAH; AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE HOLY BOOKS OF MOSES;

JOSIAH CAME TO THE THRONE AT AGE EIGHT

"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 Bozkath. And he did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left."

"He reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem" (2 Kings 22:1). The date of this reign by Montgomery was 639-608 B.C.[1] "The death of Josiah may be accurately dated by the Babylonian Chronicle in 609 B.C; therefore, he became king in 639 B.C."[2] This period of almost forty years was a crucial one in world history. "The Scythian invasion, the fall of Assyria, the formation of the Median empire, and the foundation of the Babylonian empire by Nabopolasar all occurred during this time."[3]

The righteousness of this monarch is recorded here in words that are matched only by the sacred records regarding the reign of Hezekiah, the great-grandfather of Josiah.


Verses 3-7

REPAIRING THE BREACHES IN THE TEMPLE

"And 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 Jehovah, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the High Priest, that he may sum the money which is brought into the house of Jehovah, which the keepers of the threshold have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen that have the oversight of the house of Jehovah; and let them give it to the workmen that are in the house of Jehovah, to repair the breaches of the house, unto the carpenters and to the builders, and to the masons, for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the house. Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand; for they dealt faithfully."

The appearance of this paragraph just here was to set the occasion for the discovery of The Book mentioned in the next verse. The parallel account in 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 indicates that Josiah's reforms had already been going forward for a number of years. Keil referred to this paragraph as "a parenthesis."[4] "He began the purging of the temple and of Jerusalem in his twelfth year, six full years before the events in 2 Kings 22:8, and the repairs on the temple mentioned in 2 Kings 22:9 were probably commenced at the same time."[5] "The greater part of Josiah's reforms preceded the finding of the Book of the Law."[6]

"Shaphan" (2 Kings 22:3). This man was the father of Jeremiah's friend Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24) and the grandfather of Gedaliah, who was made governor of Judea by the Babylonians after the fall of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:22).

"Hilkiah" (2 Kings 22:4) "was the father, or grandfather, of Seriah (Nehemiah 11:11), High Priest at the time of the captivity, and an ancestor of Ezra the scribe."[7]

A SPECIAL EXCURSUS ON THE BOOK WAS DISCOVERED BY HILKIAH

This writer has long been fully convinced that the fraudulent claims of radical critics regarding the discovery of what they have dared to call "a portion of the Book of Deuteronomy," is in no sense whatever supported either by any known fact, by any text in the Word of God, or by any rational argument whatever:

  1. We shall first review the allegations that have been popular among critics throughout the first half of this century.
  2. Then we shall cite the writings of some of the greatest scholars of the ages who have effectively denied the unsupported, imaginary claims.
  3. Then we shall cite some of impossibilities which attend any logical acceptance of that great critical fraud, comparable in every way with another great scholarly fraud known as Piltdown Man.

I. A SUMMARY OF FALSE ALLEGATIONS REGARDING THAT BOOK

In 1936, Edgar J. Goodspeed, writing from that hotbed of atheism, in the University of Chicago, wrote that, "It was the Book of Deuteronomy, in substance, that was found and put into effect by Josiah in 621 B.C."[8] Thenius alleged that this nucleus was later "worked up into the Pentateuch."[9]

A great critical scholar named Wette, quoted by Charles G. Martin in The New Layman's Bible Commentary, wrote regarding this discovery, that, "It was a pious fraud planted by priests wishing to reform the abuses of Manasseh's reign."[10] This of course (if true) makes the entire Book of 2Kings nothing but a falsehood!

"It was the early critical view that the book which was found was the so-called `D' document (probably Deuteronomy 12-26) which had been recently written (Snaith placed the date of its being written as during the period of Manasseh's evil reign, and before his conversion),[11] and was `found' to give it prestige"![12] LaSor added that, "Radical scholars have so often modified this view that little remains of the original theory."[13]

Dentan expressed another erroneous view of "that book." "It converted Josiah's rather superficial attempt at national renewal into a basic reformation."[14] This is contrary to the fact that the reformation had already been in progress for six years!

In addition to the outright charges of fraud and hypocrisy by the high priest, and by that alleged "Prophetical Party" that manipulated the discovery of that "pious fraud," there are also some BASIC ASSUMPTIONS of the radical, destructive critics which must be included as part of their foolish and erroneous allegations!

A. It is ASSUMED that the Holy Books of Moses which had existed from the times of the Exodus were either non-existent, or totally forgotten by the entire Jewish nation. This canard limits the reforms of Josiah to that alleged "D" document. As a matter of fact, the suppression of the idolatrous priests, a key factor in the reformation is not even mentioned in Deuteronomy! The reforms of Josiah were influenced by only, "Limited stipulations in the Book of Deuteronomy."[15]

B. It is a part of the evil theory that what is now known as the Law of Moses was unknown by Josiah, and that his knowledge of it was LIMITED to that imaginary "D" document. All of those reforms which had been in progress for six years were following instructions already known to all in the Law of Moses. The so-called "D" document, and for that matter, even the whole Book of Deuteronomy had but little to do with the reformation.

C. It is SUPPOSED that Josiah's inquiry of Huldah was for the purpose of learning whether or not that "D" document was really God's Word or not. On the contrary, that was, in no sense, the request he made of Huldah, as definitely indicated by Huldah's prophetic answer.

D. It is ASSUMED that the Jewish people had no way of knowing whether or not that "D" document was inspired or not, except by the testimony of Huldah. There were, on the contrary, many proofs available to expose the fraud of that discovery, if it had been a fraud.

E. Josiah's reformation is treated as if it were SOMETHING BRAND NEW in Judah, which it was not!

F. It is FALSELY SUPPOSED that Josiah regarded that alleged "D" document as a new thing, but such a view is contrary to repeated statements in Kings.

G. "The general agreement is that `the scroll discovered contained the nucleus of the present Book of Deuteronomy' (Deuteronomy 12-26)."[16] This CONCEIT among critical scholars is rather amazing, because it is so blatantly incorrect. There is NO SUCH GENERAL AGREEMENT, not even among the critics themselves who issue a new revision of their crooked theory every few years, every time some new seminarian sees the foolishness of it and attempts to revise it to fit the facts. Also the great scholars of the present generation have rejected the theory outright!

The general statements that we have made here with reference to this "D" document theory will now be pinpointed with specific findings of some of the great scholars of the past and of our own generation.

II. SCHOLARLY REFUTATION OF THE "D" DOCUMENT THEORY

Josephus, the great Jewish historian, appealed to frequently by the radical critics, but rejected when his writings contradict their theories, tells us exactly what was discovered by those workmen in the temple. "As the High Priest was bringing out the gold, he lighted upon the Holy Books of Moses that were laid up in the temple; and he gave them to Shaphan the scribe, who when he had read them, he brought them to the king, and informed him that all the work he had commanded had been finished."[17] (1) The "discovery" was at the end of the period of repairing the temple. (2) The scribe read the books before presenting them to the king, and that enabled him to focus upon certain pertinent passages which he then read to king Josiah. Now the odds against Josephus being wrong about any of this are a billion to one!

"I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah" (2 Kings 22:8) The testimony of the Word of God as we have received it is emphatic. C. F. Keil, certainly the equal or superior, of any scholar of the last century, wrote that, "The Hebrew word here rendered `THE BOOK OF THE LAW' (not `a law book' or `a scroll') cannot mean anything else, either grammatically or historically, than the Mosaic Book of the Law, the Pentateuch, which is so designated, as is generally admitted, and as the word is used throughout the Chronicles and in Ezra and Nehemiah."[18] If one will not receive the testimony of Josephus, let him receive the testimony of the Word of God.

"The book of the law that was found was simply the temple copy of the Pentateuch, deposited by the side of the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 31:26)."[19] This copy had either been misplaced, or, as is most likely, hidden during the abominable reigns of Mannasseh and Amon. There is no valid reason whatever for rejecting the opinion of Adam Clarke that, "The simple fact seems to be this, that this was the original book of the covenant renewed by Moses on the plains of Moab, and which the Great Lawgiver ordered to be laid up beside the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 31:26)."[20] Clarke defended this viewpoint on the basis that the remarkable attention paid to the "discovery" can be explained only on the basis of: "(1) the unexpectedness of its being found; (2) its manifest antiquity; (3) the glorious historical occasion of its having been made and placed in the tabernacle by Moses himself; (4) the deplorable circumstances in which God's people found themselves; and (5) the happy coincidence of such a discovery being made during that great reformation under Josiah which was still in progress."[21] It seems to this writer that such considerations as these, alone could have produced the effect that surely followed the discovery. The ridiculous notion that some unheard of "brand new scroll," however cleverly forged and imposed upon the king as genuine, could possibly explain what happened here is rationally untenable.

We shall now review the basic assumptions that are necessarily a part of this false theory, those that are mentioned under the alphabetical sections above.

(A) It is not only untrue, but PREPOSTEROUS TO SUPPOSE that there were no copies of the Torah (the Pentateuch) extant in Judah in the days of Josiah. "All of the Jewish liturgies used in the daily services in the temple embodied large sections of the Law of Moses; the Samaritans (adjacent to Judah) possessed the Samaritan Pentateuch; there were doubtless many copies throughout Judah found among learned and devout Jews, and in the schools of the prophets, either in fragments or entire sections and books; furthermore, there were nearly innumerable quotations of the Pentateuch found throughout the entire literature of ancient Israel, notably in the Psalms and in the writings of both the major prophets and the minor prophets, in which direct quotations from the Books of Moses are found on almost every page"![22] All of the Pentateuch is represented in those quotations.

In this connection, this writer would also like to testify that there is hardly a page in any of the prophets, or in the Psalms, which does not reflect either direct or indirect quotations from the Torah (all of it). All the infidels on earth cannot hide the fact that the entire O.T. following the Pentateuch is written in the shadow of it, as attested by almost innumerable references to it, and we have cited literally hundreds of these in our commentaries on those books.

(B) The FALSE THEORY that Josiah's reforms were founded on that ALLEGED "D" document is disproved by the facts that: (1) Manasseh himself had undertaken to effect such reforms and bring all the people back to Jehovah (2 Chronicles 33:14ff), basing such reforms on the Torah which certainly existed when he did so. (2) Likewise, Jehoash repaired the temple and instituted reforms founded upon the same source, namely the Torah (2 Kings 12ff). One of the great things that Josiah did was to suppress the idolatrous priests (2 Kings 23:5), and that is not even mentioned in Deuteronomy. Thus, it is clear that no "D" document had anything to do with his reforms, nor for that matter, in any exclusive sense, the whole Book of Deuteronomy!

(C) On the ALLEGATION of the critics that Josiah inquired of Huldah as to the validity of those Holy Books of Moses found in the temple, the answer of Huldah denies such an opinion altogether. Regarding this, we submit the words of Dr. Harold Stigers, in Covenant College and Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He paraphrased the king's inquiry of Huldah thus, "Go find out if these eminent judgments can be stayed."[23]

That this is indeed what king Josiah inquired of Huldah is evident in her reply which addressed exactly that question and none other. There was never any question in anybody's mind regarding the authenticity of the Holy Books of Moses, their antiquity alone was all the proof needed. Some nine centuries had passed since Moses had ordered those books to be deposited beside the ark of God; but the fact of their being so long preserved is not a problem. Today, we may read the Dead Sea Scrolls, after more than two millenniums. Besides that, new copies might have been prepared and deposited in later times following Moses' death.

(D) The notion that the Jews had no way of evaluating the "discovery" as to its authenticity or not, except by an appeal to Huldah overlooks completely the THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE of the Jews of their sacred writings. As apparently assumed by the critical enemies of our text, the Jews were a nation of ignoramuses who could have been easily imposed upon and deceived by such a dirty little fraud as what underlies their fairy-tale theory. This writer cannot believe a word of it. The knowledge and intellectual ability of the great prophets known throughout Israel during that very period, namely, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the others, constituted the intellectual cream of that entire seventh century. The critics have over-reached themselves in this worthless theory!

(E) We have already noted that Josiah's reformation was exactly the SAME kind of reform as that improperly carried out by Jehoahaz, Hezekiah, and even by Manasseh.

(F) It is ASSUMED by critics that Josiah considered that alleged "D" document as SOMETHING NEW, but note these words:

"King Josiah said, Our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us (2 Kings 22:13). This says, in tones of thunder, that Josiah recognized that "discovery" as something the fathers had possessed for ages and that they had disobeyed its commandments. It takes some kind of a fantastic imagination to get some "brand new document," and a forged one at that, out of the sacred words recorded here.

III. SOME IMPOSSIBILITIES THAT FORBID ACCEPTANCE OF THIS GREAT CRITICAL FRAUD

This writer prays that his readers will not feel that the severe charges here leveled against false critics is in any sense uncharitable. It is not this writer who initiated the charges of fraud. It is THEY, the unbelieving radical critics, who charge Hilkiah, the High Priest of Israel, with fraud in pretending to have found a true book when he KNEW it was false! They also accuse the whole of what they call "The Prophetical Party" with FRAUD AND COMPLICITY in a wicked deception in passing off a book that they themselves had recently written as an authentic, inspired document written by Moses himself. One may take his choice, whether the noblest men of all antiquity were guilty of a base and crooked deception, or if these Johnny-come-lately critics, nearly three thousand years after the events related, are the ones most likely guilty of fraud! As far as this writer is concerned, the decision is quite simple. "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).

And speaking of harsh, uncharitable judgments, take a glance at what the advocates of this crooked theory have alleged against the prophetess Huldah.

Do they allow this prophetess the honor due her? Certainly not! Their theory makes a PERFECT DUNCE out of her! They ALLEGE that, when she was consulted regarding that document, she ERRONEOUSLY accepted it as genuine. However, as a matter of fact, any of God's true prophets (or prophetesses) would have instantly recognized any kind of fraud or deception. The inherent slander of this wicked theory is exceedingly broad, including alike the prophetic community, the High Priest of Judah and the prophetess Huldah. Advocates of such slanders against the holiest persons of that generation are themselves the fraudulent slanderers. Satan himself must have been the author of this despicable theory!

Of course, the gargantuan deception attempted by the radical, destructive critics, has required countless fraudulent allegations and charges which have only a single purpose, namely, the support of their theory. Hundreds of valid passages are "cast out" by them as interpolations, editorial opinions, later accretions, the false words of some mythical "Deuteronomist," or upon any other false excuse, without any evidence whatever to support such deletions. The impossibility of any intelligent acceptance of all such changes in the Sacred Text forbids the attribution of any credibility whatever to the theory.

And then there's another impossibility, known as the Dating Fraud. Every sacred predictive prophecy of the Holy Bible is either rationalized or denominated as a "post eventum" passage, written long after the event prophesied. Any high school student can easily understand the colossal fraud of such false dating. The examples of this fraud are very numerous, but we shall cite only the fact before us, namely, the false dating of the Pentateuch in the seventh century or the sixth century B.C. instead of the fifteenth century B.C. The only reason for such a false date being their evil efforts to DENY the prophetic predictions of the holy prophets. (See Vol. 1 (Genesis) of my series of commentaries on the Pentateuch, pp. 18-22, for the true date of the Pentateuch.)

This writer is not willing to allow any man to do a scissors-and-paste job on the Holy Scriptures and then receive their efforts as having any validity whatever! A good rule for Christian Bible students is to treat all late-dating of Biblical books, and the vast majority of alleged "interpolations" as fraudulent efforts to support some false theory. Genuine scholarship is appreciated and has made exceedingly valuable contributions to our knowledge of the Bible, but true believers must be able to separate the chaff from the wheat!


Verses 8-13

THE DISCOVERY OF THE BOOK AND THE MISSION TO HULDAH

"And Hilkiah the High Priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen that have the oversight of the house of Jehovah. And Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaph the king's servant, saying, Go ye, inquire of Jehovah for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of Jehovah that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according to do all that which is written concerning us."

Much of this paragraph was discussed in the excursus above, but two or three things should be emphasized. It is especially important to note that before the scribe read that book to the king, he first read the whole book himself (see the comment by Josephus above), enabling him to read only selected, special portions of it to the king. That this is true appears from Josiah's response and from his message to the prophetess. This effectively refutes the conclusion of radical critics who make what they call the brief time indicated for the reading the book the false basis of their judging the size of it to be very, very small. "Shaphan read only portions of the book to the king."[24] This conclusion is mandatory, "Because, where the author intended to say that the whole book was read, he used a different set of words altogether: `The king read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant (2 Kings 23:2)."[25] Such was not said here.

"Go ye, inquire of Jehovah for me" (2 Kings 22:13). "From the times of Moses to David, inquiring of the Lord was by means of the Urim and Thummin; but after David's time, such inquiries were always made by the consultation of a prophet."[26] Jeremiah and other prophets were contemporary with Josiah, and it seems strange that Huldah, the prophetess hitherto unknown, was the person through whom the inquiry was made. As Dentan said, "This is a useful reminder of the truth that posterity often has a more accurate judgment of a man's importance than do his contemporaries."[27] A more likely explanation, however, is that Huldah lived in Jerusalem (which is here stated), whereas Jeremiah lived in Anathoth.

It should be noted especially that Josiah's inquiry had nothing whatever to do with whether or not "the book" was authentic; there could have been no doubt whatever in any person's mind about that. The question in Josiah's mind regarded whether or not the great curses and penalties foretold by the prophet Moses as the consequence of Israel's apostasy were due for an immediate fulfillment. Huldah's answer indicated that she understood exactly that as the king's question.


Verses 14-20

THE PROPHETESS ANSWERED THE KING'S INQUIRY

"So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaph, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tkivah, the son of Harhaz, keeper of the wardrobe (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the second quarter); and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith Jehovah the God of Israel: Tell ye the man that sent you unto me, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read. Because they have forsaken me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and it shall not be quenched. But unto the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of Jehovah, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith Jehovah the God of Israel; As touching the words which thou hast heard, because thy heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before Jehovah, when thou heardest what I spake 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 have heard thee, saith Jehovah. Therefore, behold, I shall gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again."

Note that Huldah does not even mention any query about the authenticity of that discovery, simply because no question about that was necessary. It was at once recognized for what it was, namely, either the original Book of the Covenant (the Torah, called also the Pentateuch) which had been placed beside the ark of God upon the command of Moses, or an authentic copy of the same replacing it. What Huldah did was to answer the king's inquiry about whether the terrible curses and penalties were due for an immediate fulfillment or not. The key part of her reply was that the penalties would not be executed during Josiah's lifetime.

"She dwelt in Jerusalem, in the second quarter" (2 Kings 22:14). "Second quarter in this place is literally, the lower city."[28]

"Thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace" (2 Kings 22:20). Of course, Josiah died in battle, and that fact gives the critics a cue to allege "contradiction," or "multiple sources," or "a later editor."[29] Keil gave the true explanation. "The expression `slept with his fathers,' while usually applicable to a peaceful death, was also applied to a violent death by being slain in battle."[30] In mercy, the life of Josiah ended without his living to see the devastation and destruction of his beloved city and its people, and that, of course, was the full and adequate fulfillment of the words of the prophetess. "Thus Josiah was taken away from the evil to come and died `in peace' (as regarded Jerusalem) prior to the attack,"[31] of the destroying army.

We have devoted much more space to our discussion of this chapter than some might consider necessary, but this very chapter is the tap-root of the most destructive criticism of the Bible which Satan ever launched. Right here is where they digged up the Piltdown Man of modern criticism (See the encyclopaedia), and we felt that it was necessary to expose and denounce the Great Fraud for what it most certainly is!

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 22:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-kings-22.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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