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Reign of King Josiah - 2 Kings 22:1-23:30
After a brief account of the length and spirit of the reign of the pious Josiah (2 Kings 22:1, 2 Kings 22:2), we have a closely connected narrative, in v. 3-23:24, of what he did for the restoration of idolatry; and the whole of the reform effected by him is placed in the eighteenth year of his reign, because it was in this year that the book of the law was discovered, through which the reformation of worship was carried to completion. It is evident that it was the historian's intention to combine together everything that Josiah did to this end, so as to form one grand picture, from the circumstance that he has not merely placed the chronological datum, “it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah,” at the beginning, but has repeated it at the close (2 Kings 23:23). If we run over the several facts which are brought before us in this section-the repairing of the temple (2 Kings 22:3-7); the discovery of the book of the law; the reading of the book to the king; the inquiry made of the prophetess Huldah, and her prophecy (2 Kings 23:8-20); the reading of the law to the assembled people in the temple, with the renewal of the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3); the eradication of idolatry not only from Jerusalem and Judah, but from Bethel also, and all the cities of Samaria (vv. 4-20); and, lastly, the passover (2 Kings 23:21-23), - there is hardly any need to remark, that all this cannot have taken place in the one eighteenth year of his reign, even if, with Usher ( Annales ad a.m. 3381), we were to place the solemn passover at the close of the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, which is hardly suitable, and by no means follows from the circumstance that the chronological datum, “in the eighteenth year,” stands at the commencement of the complete account of the reform of worship introduced by that king. For we may clearly infer that the several details of this account are not arranged chronologically, but according to the subject-matter, and that the historian has embraced the efforts of Josiah to restore the legal worship of Jehovah, which spread over several years, under the one point of view of a discovery of the law, and therefore within the eighteenth year of his reign, from the fact that he introduces the account of the repairing of the temple (2 Kings 22:3-7) in a period by itself, and makes it subordinate to the account of the discovery of the book of the law, and indeed only mentions it in a general manner, because it led to the finding of the book of the law. It is true that the other facts are attached to one another in the narrative by Vav consec.; but, on a closer inspection of the several details, there cannot be any doubt whatever that the intention is not to arrange them in their chronological order. The repairing of the temple must have commenced before the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, inasmuch as in that year, in which the incident occurred which led to the discovery of the book of the law (2 Kings 22:3-7), not only were the builders occupied with the repairs of the temple, but money had been brought by all the people to the house of God to carry on this work, and had been collected by the Levites who kept the door. Moreover, from the very nature of the case, we cannot conceive of the restoration of the temple, that had fallen to decay, without the removal of the idolatrous abominations found in the temple. And the assumption is an equally inconceivable one, that all the people entered into covenant with the Lord (2 Kings 23:3), before any commencement had been made towards the abolition of the prevailing idolatry, or that the pious king had the book of the law read in the temple and entered into covenant with the Lord, so long as the Ashera was standing in the temple, and the idolatrous altars erected by Manasseh in the courts, together with the horses and chariots dedicated to the sun. If the conclusion of a covenant in consequence of the public reading of the book of the law was to be an act in accordance with the law, the public memorials of idolatry must be destroyed at all events in the neighbourhood of the temple. And is it likely that the king, who had been so deeply moved by the curses of the law, would have undertaken so solemn a transaction in sight of the idolatrous altars and other abominations of idolatry in the house of Jehovah, and not rather have seen that this would be only a daring insult to Jehovah? These reasons are quite sufficient to prove that the extermination of idolatry had commenced before the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, and had simply been carried out with greater zeal throughout the whole kingdom after the discovery of the book of the law.
This view of our account is simply confirmed by a comparison with the parallel history in 2 Chron 34 and 35. According to 2 Chronicles 34:3., Josiah began to seek the God of his father David in the eighth year of his reign, when he was still a youth, that is to say, not more than sixteen years old, and in the twelfth year of his reign began to purify Judah and Jerusalem from idolatry; and, according to 2 Chronicles 34:8., in the eighteenth year of his reign, at the purification of the land and temple, and the renovation of the temple, the book of the law was found by the high priest, and handed over to the king and read before him (vv. 8-28), after which the renewal of the covenant took place, and all the abominations of idolatry that still remained in the land were swept away (2 Chronicles 34:29-33), and, lastly, a solemn passover was celebrated, of which we have an elaborate account in 2 Chron. 35:1-19. Consequently the account given in the Chronicles is, on the whole, arranged with greater chronological precision, although even there, after the commencement of the extermination of idolatry has been mentioned, we have a brief and comprehensive statement of all that Josiah did to accomplish that results; so that after the renewal of the covenant (2 Chronicles 34:33) we have nothing more than a passing allusion, by way of summary, to the complete abolition of the abominations of idolatry throughout the whole land.
Length and spirit of Josiah's reign. - Josiah (for the name, see at 1 Kings 13:2), like Hezekiah, trode once more in the footsteps of his pious forefather David, adhering with the greatest constancy to the law of the Lord. He reigned thirty-one years. As a child he had probably received a pious training from his mother; and when he had ascended the throne, after the early death of his godless father, he was under the guidance of pious men who were faithfully devoted to the law of the Lord, and who turned his heart to the God of their fathers, as was the case with Joash in 2 Kings 12:3, although there is no allusion to guardianship. His mother Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah, was of Boscath, a city in the plain of Judah, of which nothing further is known (see at Joshua 15:39). The description of his character, “he turned not aside to the right hand and to the left,” sc. from that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, is based upon Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 17:11, Deuteronomy 17:20, and Deuteronomy 28:14, and expresses an unwavering adherence to the law of the Lord.
Repairing of the temple, and discovery of the book of the law ( cf. 2 Chronicles 34:8-18). - When Josiah sent Shaphan the secretary of state ( סופר , see at 2 Samuel 8:17) into the temple, in the eighteenth year of his reign, with instructions to Hilkiah the high priest to pay to the builders the money which had been collected from the people for repairing the temple by the Levites who kept the door, Hilkiah said to Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law.” 2 Kings 22:3-8 form a long period. The apodosis to וגו ויהי , “it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah-the king had sent Shaphan,” etc., does not follow till 2 Kings 22:8: “that Hilkiah said,” etc. The principal fact which the historian wished to relate, was the discovery of the book of the law; and the repairing of the temple is simply mentioned because it was when Shaphan was sent to Hilkiah about the payment of the money to the builders that the high priest informed the king's secretary of state of the discovery of the book of the law in the temple, and handed it over to him to take to the king. המּלך שׁלח , in 2 Kings 22:3, forms the commencement to the minor clauses inserted within the principal clause, and subordinate to it: “the king had sent Shaphan,” etc. According to 2 Chronicles 34:8, the king had deputed not only Shaphan the state-secretary, but also Maaseiah the governor of the city and Joach the chancellor, because the repairing of the temple was not a private affair of the king and the high priest, but concerned the city generally, and indeed the whole kingdom. In 2 Kings 22:4, 2 Kings 22:5 there follows the charge given by the king to Shaphan: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may make up the money, ... and hand it over to the workmen appointed over the house of Jehovah,” etc. יתּם , from תּמם , Hiphil, signifies to finish or set right, i.e., not pay out (Ges., Dietr.), but make it up for the purpose of paying out, namely, collect it from the door-keepers, count it, and bind it up in bags (see 2 Kings 12:11). יתּם is therefore quite appropriate here, and there is no alteration of the text required. The door-keepers had probably put the money in a chest placed at the entrance, as was the case at the repairing of the temple in the time of Joash (2 Kings 12:10). In 2 Kings 22:5 the Keri יתנהוּ is a bad alteration of the Chethîb יתנה , “and give (it) into the hand,” which is perfectly correct. המּלאכה עשׁי might denote both the masters and the workmen (builders), and is therefore defined more precisely first of all by יי בּבית המּפקדים , “who had the oversight at the house of Jehovah,” i.e., the masters or inspectors of the building, and secondly by יי בּבית אשׁר , who were (occupied) at the house of Jehovah, whilst in the Chronicles it is explained by י עשׂים ב אשׁר . The Keri יי בּית is an alteration after 2 Kings 22:9, whereas the combination בּבית מפקדים is justified by the construction of הפקיד c. acc. pers. and בּ rei in Jeremiah 40:5. The masters are the subject to ויתּנוּ ; they were to pay the money as it was wanted, either to the workmen, or for the purchase of materials for repairing the dilapidations, as is more precisely defined in 2 Kings 22:6. Compare 2 Kings 12:12-13; and for 2 Kings 22:7 compare 2 Kings 12:16. The names of the masters or inspectors are given in 2 Chronicles 34:12. - The execution of the king's command is not specially mentioned, that the parenthesis may not be spun out any further.
Hilkiah the high priest (cf. 2 Chronicles 34:15) said, “I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah.” התּורה ספר , the book of the law (not a law-book or a roll of laws), 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, in the Chronicles, and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
(Note: Thenius has correctly observed, that “ the expression shows very clearly, that the allusion is to something already known, not to anything that had come to light for the first time; ” but is he greatly mistaken when, notwithstanding this, he supposes that what we are to understand by this is merely a collection of the commandments and ordinances of Moses, which had been worked up in the Pentateuch, and more especially in Deuteronomy. For there is not the smallest proof whatever that any such collection of commandments and ordinances of Moses, or, as Bertheau supposes, the collection of Mosaic law contained in the three middle books of the Pentateuch, or Deuteronomy 1-28 (according to Vaihinger, Reuss, and others), was ever called התורה ספר , or that any such portions had had an independent existence, and had been deposited in the temple. These hypotheses are simply bound up with the attacks made upon the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and ought to be given up, since De Wette, the great leader of the attack upon the genuineness of the Pentateuch, in §162 a of the later editions of his Introduction to the Old Testament, admits that the account before us contains the first certain trace of the existence of our present Pentateuch. The only loophole left to modern criticism, therefore, is that Hilkiah forged the book of the law discovered by him under the name of Moses, - a conclusion which can only be arrived at by distorting the words of the text in the most arbitrary manner, turning “ find ” into “ forge, ” but which is obliged either to ignore or forcibly to set aside all the historical evident of the previous existence of the whole of the Pentateuch, including Deuteronomy.)
The finding of the book of the law in the temple presupposes that the copy deposited there had come to light. But it by no means follows from this, that before its discovery there were no copies in the hands of the priests and prophets. The book of the law that was found was simply the temple copy,
(Note: Whether the original written by Moses ' own hand, as Grotius inferred from the משה ביד of the Chronicles, or a later copy of this, is a very superfluous question; for, as Hävernick says, “ even in the latter case it was to be regarded just in the same light as the autograph, having just the same claims, since the temple repaired by Josiah was the temple of Solomon still. ” )
deposited, according to Deuteronomy 31:26, by the side of the ark of the covenant, which had been lost under the idolatrous kings Manasseh and Amon, and came to light again now that the temple was being repaired. We cannot learn, either from the account before us, or from the words of the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:14), “when they were taking out the money brought into the house of Jehovah, Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord,” in what part of the temple it had hitherto lain; and this is of no importance so far as the principal object of the history is concerned. Even the words of the Chronicles simply point out the occasion on which the book was discovered, and do not affirm that it had been lying in one of the treasure-chambers of the temple, as Josephus says. The expression ויּקראהוּ does not imply that Shaphan read the whole book through immediately.
The reading of the book of the law to the king, and the inquiry made of the prophetess Huldah concerning it. - 2 Kings 22:9, 2 Kings 22:10. When Shaphan informed the king of the execution of his command, he also told him that Hilkiah had given him a book, and read it to the king. דּבר השׁיב , to bring an answer, to give a report as to a commission that has been received. התּיכוּ , they poured out the money, i.e., out of the chest in which it was collected, into bags. ויּקראהוּ , “he read it to the king,” is simplified in the Chronicles (2 Kings 22:18) by בו יקרא , “he read therein.” That יקראהו does not signify that the whole was read, is evident from a comparison of 2 Kings 23:2, where the reading of the whole is expressed by כּל־דּברי ס . Which passages or sections Shaphan read by himself (2 Kings 22:8), and which he read to the king, it is impossible to determine exactly. To the king he most likely read, among other things, the threats and curses of the law against those who transgressed it (Deut 28), and possibly also Lev 26, because the reading made such an impression upon him, that in his anguish of soul he rent his clo thes. Nor is it possible to decide anything with certainty, as to whether the king had hitherto been altogether unacquainted with the book of the law, and had merely a traditional knowledge of the law itself, or whether he had already had a copy of the law, but had not yet read it through, or had not read it with proper attention, which accounted for the passages that were read to him now making so deep and alarming an impression upon him. It is a well-known experience, that even books which have been read may, under peculiar circumstances, produce an impression such as has not been made before. But in all probability Josiah had not had in his possession any copy of the law, or even read it till now; although the thorough acquaintance with the law, which all the prophets display, places the existence of the Pentateuch in prophetical circles beyond the reach of doubt.
In his alarm at the words of the book of the law that had been read to him, Josiah rent his clothes, and sent a deputation to the prophetess Huldah, to make inquiry of Jehovah through her concerning the things which he had heard from the law. The deputation consisted of the high priest Hilkiah, Ahikam the supporter of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24) and the father of Gedaliah the governor (2 Kings 25:22; Jeremiah 39:14, etc.), Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the state-secretary (2 Kings 22:3), and Asahiah the servant (i.e., an officer) of the king.
From the commission, “Inquire ye of Jehovah for me and for the people and for all Judah (i.e., the whole kingdom) concerning the words of this book of the law that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord which has been kindled against us, because our fathers have not heard ...,” we may infer that the curses of the law upon the despisers of the commandments of God in Lev 26; Deuteronomy 28:1, and other passages, had been read to the king. את־יי דּרשׁ means to inquire the will of the Lord, what He has determined concerning the king, his people, and the kingdom. על שׁמע signifies here to hearken to anything, to observe it, for which אל is used elsewhere. על כּתב , to prescribe for performance. עלינוּ , “prescribed for us,” is quite appropriate, since the law was not only given to the fathers to obey, but also to the existing generation-a fact which Thenius has overlooked with his conjecture עליו . To render the king's alarm and his fear of severe judgments from God intelligible, there is no need for the far-fetched and extremely precarious hypothesis, that just at that time the Scythians had invaded and devastated the land.
Nothing further is known of the prophetess Huldah than what is mentioned here. All that we can infer from the fact that the king sent to her is, that she was highly distinguished on account of her prophetical gifts, and that none of the prophets of renown, such as Jeremiah and Zephaniah, were at that time in Jerusalem. Her father Shallum was keeper of the clothes, i.e., superintendent over either the priests' dresses that were kept in the temple (according to the Rabbins and Wits. de proph. in his Miscell. ss. i. p. 356, ed. 3), or the king's wardrobe. The names of his ancestors תּקוה and הרחס are written תּוקהת and חסרה in the Chronicles. Huldah lived at Jerusalem בּמּשׁנה , “in the second part” or district of the city, i.e., in the lower city, upon the hill Ἄκρα (Rob. Pal. i. p. 391), which is called המּשׁנה in Zephaniah 1:10, and משׁנה העיר in Nehemiah 11:9, and ἄλλη πόλις in Joseph. Ant. xv. 11, 5.
The reply of Huldah the prophetess. - Huldah confirmed the fear expressed by Josiah, that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Jerusalem and its inhabitants on account of their idolatry, and proclaimed first of all (2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:17), that the Lord would bring upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants all the punishments with which the rebellious and idolaters are threatened in the book of the law; and secondly (2 Kings 22:18-20), to the king himself, that on account of his sincere repentance and humiliation in the sight of God, he would not live to see the predicted calamities, but would be gathered to his fathers in peace. The first part of her announcement applies “to the man who has sent you to me” (2 Kings 22:15), the second “to the king of Judah, who has sent to inquire of the Lord” (2 Kings 22:18). “The man” who had sent to her was indeed also the king; but Huldah intentionally made use of the general expression “the man,” etc., to indicate that the word announced to him applied not merely to the king, but to every one who would hearken to the word, whereas the second portion of her reply had reference to the king alone. הזּה המּקום , in 2 Kings 22:16, 2 Kings 22:19, and 2 Kings 22:20, is Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom. In 2 Kings 22:16, הסּפר כּל־דּברי is an explanatory apposition to רעה . 2 Kings 22:17. “With all the work of their hands,” i.e., with the idols which they have made for themselves (cf. 1 Kings 16:7). The last clause in 2 Kings 22:18, “the words which thou hast heard,” is not to be connected with the preceding one, “thus saith the Lord,” and על or ל to be supplied; but it belongs to the following sentence, and is placed at the head absolutely: as for the words, which thou hast heart - because thy heart has become soft, i.e., in despair at the punishment with which the sinners are threatened (cf. Deuteronomy 20:3; Isaiah 7:4), and thou hast humbled thyself, when thou didst hear, etc.; therefore, behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, etc. לשׁמּה להיות , “that they (the city and inhabitants) may become a desolation and curse.” These words, which are often used by the prophets, but which are not found connected like this except in Jeremiah 44:22, rest upon Lev 26 and Deut 28, and show that these passages had been read to the king out of the book of the law.
To gather to his fathers means merely to let him die, and is generally applied to a peaceful death upon a sick-bed, like the synonymous phrase, to lie with one's fathers; but it is also applied to a violent death by being slain in battle (1 Kings 22:40 and 1 Kings 22:34), so that there is no difficulty in reconciling this comforting assurance with the slaying of Josiah in battle (2 Kings 23:29). בּשׁלום , in peace, i.e., without living to witness the devastation of Jerusalem, as is evident from the words, “thine eyes will not see,” etc.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Kings 22". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany