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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-21

C.—The reign of Joash (or Jehoash)

2 Kings 11:21 to 2 Kings 12:21 (2 Chronicles 24:0)

21Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign.

2 Kings 12:1 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba. 2And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein [because] Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. 4And Jehoash said to the priests, All the [consecrated] money [omit of the dedicated things] that is [wont to be] brought into the house of the Lord, even the money of every one that passeth the account [current money, both], the money that every man is set at, and all the money that cometh into any man’s heart to bring into the house of the Lord, 5let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance: and let them repair the breaches of the house, wheresoever any breach [every defect which] 11 shall be found. 6But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house. 7Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but [save that ye] deliver it for the breaches of the house. 8And the priests consented to receive12 no more money of the people, neither to repair the breaches of the house. 9But Jehoiada the priest took a chest,13 and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord. 10And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they put [it] up in bags, and told the money that was found in the house of the Lord. 11And they gave the money, being told, into the hands of them that did the work, that had the oversight of the house of the Lord: and they laid it out to the carpenters and builders, that wrought upon the house of the Lord, 12and to masons, and hewers of stone, and to buy timber and hewed stone to repair the breaches of the house of the Lord, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair14 it. 13Howbeit there were not made for the house of the Lord bowls of silver, snuffers, basins [for sprinkling], trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of the Lord: 14but they gave that to the workmen [commissioners], and repaired therewith the house of the Lord. 15Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: 16for they dealt faithfully. The trespass-money and sin-money was not brought into the house of the Lord: it was the priests’.

17Then Hazael king of Syria went up, and fought against Gath, and took it: and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem. 18And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and in the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem.

19And the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? 20And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy, and slew Joash in the house of Millo, which goeth down to Silla. 21For Jozachar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, smote him, and he died; and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David: and Amaziah his son reigned in his stead.


2 Kings 11:21. Jehoash was seven years old, &c. The parallel record in 2 Chronicles 24:0 is indeed more detailed than the one before us, and supplements it in some essential particulars, but it is not by any means an “actual transmutation” of it (Bertheau). Both accounts may well have been drawn from the same original document, since they are word for word the same in some parts.—The name of the mother of Jehoash is given, as is usual in regard to the kings of Judah throughout the history. On Beersheba see note on 1 Kings 19:3.—The words in 2 Kings 12:2 : All his days that Jehoiada the priest instructed him, cannot have the sense that Jehoash did, his whole life long, that which was right in the sight of God (Thenius, Ewald), for this was not true in view of what is related in 2 Chronicles 24:17-25, which is confirmed by Matthew 23:35, and which Thenius himself admits must have “historical foundation.” The Chronicler writes: “All the days of Jehoiada the priest,” i. e., so long as Jehoiada lived. The sense is, therefore, that Jehoash did what was right because, and so long as, Jehoiada was his instructor. Hence the Sept. translate; πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας, ἃς ἐφώτιζεν αὐτὸν ’Ιωιαδὲ ὁ ἱερεύς; and the Vulgate: cunctis diebus, quibus docuit eum Jojada sacerdos; so also De Wette and Luther [and the E. V.]. Keil: “All his days that, i. e., all that part of his life in which Jehoiada instructed or guided him.” For the use of אשׁר he refers to Ew. § 331, c, 3. [The suffix is repeated after אשׁר except in general expressions of time, place, and manner.] For the suffix in ימיו he refers to 2 Kings 13:14. The athnach cannot be held to be decisive in this case. For the rest, it does not follow, when we translate: “All his days, because Jehoiada instructed him,” that he continued to do well even after Jehoiada’s death. Grotius remarks on the statement: “Sic bonus Nero, quamdiu Seneca usus est magistro. [If the suffix in ימיו is retained, then the massoretic punctuation is correct; the athnach has its ordinary force; אשׁר must be translated “because;” and the sense is that he was a good king all his life long, because of the good instruction which he received in his youth from Jehoiada. That is the simple grammatical statement of the book of Kings. If the ו at the end of ימיו can be sacrificed, then the athnach must be removed and Jehoiada is a genitive depending on ימי. Let it be observed that this suffix is neglected in the versions of the Chron., Sept., and Vulg., quoted above. The sense then is that he was good as long as Jehoiada lived. This last has in its favor that it is consistent with the account in Chron. Bähr translates by “because,” preserving the suffix in ימיו, and tries to interpret the other meaning into this translation. The words: “He did well all his days, because Jehoiada was his instructor,” would never suggest that he ceased to do well after his teacher died. This attempt is fruitless, and we must make choice between the alternatives presented above—either to sacrifice the suffix in ימיו, and bring the account here into consistency with that in Chron., or to hold to the text and admit the discrepancy. It is a proceeding which a sound criticism cannot approve, to alter the text in the interest of supposed reconciliations. The rendering of the E. V. saves the suffix, and still produces the other sense by translating אשׁר, “wherein,” but this is entirely contrary to the usage of the language. It would require a prep. and suffix after אשׁר, referring back to ימיו.—W. G. S.] On sacrifices on the high places, see note on 1 Kings 3:2.

2 Kings 12:4. And Jehoash said to the priests, &c. The temple had fallen out of repair, not so much on account of its age (it had only been standing for 130 years) as because it had not been properly preserved under the previous reigns, nay, even had been injured by Athaliah and her sons, and the money intended to keep it in repair had been misappropriated to the worship of Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7). The king therefore called upon the priests, whose calling it was, to take measures for the restoration and repair of the building, and, to this end, to collect the same tax which Moses had once laid for the purpose of building the tabernacle (2 Chronicles 24:6). כַּל כֶּסֶף הַקֳּדַשִׁים וגו, i. e., all the sliver which was wont to be brought into the sanctuary, and to be given for its purposes. This is now defined more particularly by the following words, כֶּסֶף עֹבֵר, i. e., not “floating money,” irregular income, money from mere accidental gifts (Ewald), but current money (Luther: das gang und gebe ist. Cf. Genesis 23:16, where the expression cannot be taken in any other way). It does not mean coined money, for the Hebrews had no coined money before the exile, so far as we know, but pieces of silver which had a fixed weight, and which were weighed out from man to man in the transaction of business. The reason why this kind of money was called for was, that “it was to be paid out at once to mechanics for their labor” (Thenius). Keil, following the rabbis, insists upon the translation: “money of the numbered,” referring back to Exodus 30:13 sq. (כָּל־הַעֹבֵר עַל־הַפְּקֻדִים); but against this translation there is the decisive consideration that it does not say: “money of him who passeth among the numbered,” but simply: “money which passes over,” that is, which passes from hand to hand in the transaction of affairs. The special cases are then mentioned in which this kind of money usually came into the treasury. The first is the one mentioned and ordained Leviticus 27:2 sq. (cf. Numbers 18:15), when any one fulfilled a vow. In this case, the priest had to fix the sum to be paid according to the sex, age, &c., of the one who had made the vow. This ransom was appropriated in the time of Moses to the support of the sanctuary. The second case was where any one brought money as a gift to the sanctuary of his own free will.—According to the account in 2 Chron., the king ordered the priests to go out through the cities of Judah, and to collect the tax year by year. This does not contradict the statement before us, but rather serves to explain the words in 2 Kings 12:5 : “every man of his acquaintance.” The dependence was upon free-will offerings, as was the case in reference to the tabernacle (Exodus 35:21); the priests and levites were to exert themselves to collect these, each one in his own city and in his own circle. It is to be observed that the king did not demand of the priests that they should give up, for the repairs of the temple, any income which properly came to themselves, but that he only laid claim, for this purpose, to the funds which Moses had ordained should be used in this way.

2 Kings 12:6. But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year, &c. According to 2 Chronicles 24:5, the king had commanded the priests to hasten, “but they did not hasten.” Even in the 23d year of the reign of Jehoash, i. e., in the year in which there was a change of occupant of the throne of Israel (2 Kings 13:1), the priests had not yet attended to the repairs of the temple, or, at best, had only attended to them very imperfectly. We cannot tell how long before his 23d year he had commanded them to see to it, but it was certainly not in his first year, when he was only seven years old. He now proposes that he will take the matter into his own hands, and adopt other measures for accomplishing it, to which they agree. This interpretation is enforced by יֵאֹתוּ, 2 Kings 12:8 : “they consented” (Sept., συνεφώνησαν, cf. Genesis 34:15; Genesis 34:22-23), which cannot possibly mean: “They were obliged to yield to the determination of the king” (Thenius). תִּקְחוּ and the following words, 2 Kings 12:7, “It was placed בְּשַׁעַר of the House of the Lord, do not contain a strict command, but rather a proposal: nolite ergo amplius accipere (Vulg.), otherwise the corresponding statement would be that they “obeyed,” not that they “consented.” Only after the king had taken the matter into his own hands did he give orders (2 Chronicles 24:8) to make a chest, &c. [The commentators differ widely in their judgment of the conduct of the priests in this matter, some seizing eagerly upon an incident which reflects discreditably upon them, others insisting upon a construction which shall exonerate them entirely. Bähr does not take up the point distinctly in this place. Yet 2 Kings 12:8 is very obscure, and it is important for its elucidation to understand the attitude of the priests. The disposition of the priests is the key to the situation, and the correct conception of that point is the key to the correct exegesis of the verse. The impression is unavoidable that the first effort failed because it was in the hands of the priests. The payments in liquidation of vows were appropriated to the support of the worship. According to the Chronicler an especial demand was made for free-will offerings for the repairs, and “that which it came into the heart of any man to give” must be understood of offerings for this special end. Otherwise we might think that it referred simply to pious gifts, which the priests were wont to retain for themselves, and which the giver expected that they would retain. If we adopt the statement of the Chronicler, then, it is clear that the priests could not have used the money for themselves without embezzlement. In any case the re-appropriation to the repairs of the temple of sums which they had probably been using for some time (especially during the prevalence of idolatry) for their own support, must have curtailed their resources. That they gave them up willingly, is not to be supposed. Sums thus appropriated, but left in the administration of persons all whose interests were opposed to this use, would not probably be found to suffice for an energetic prosecution of the work. This would also check the zeal, and stop the offerings, of the people. The systematic revenue of the priests under the Mosaic constitution had been broken up during the time of apostasy; they had been obliged to make use of all the revenues of whatever kind for their own support; and the incident does not seem, when viewed fairly, to prove any extraordinary selfishness on their part. The king now, seeing that the measures he had taken to accomplish his object had only served to frustrate it, ordered them not to receive any more money for themselves, but to devote all they received to this object. Between 2 Kings 12:7-8 a discussion must be understood in which the priests explained the defects in the practical workings of this scheme, and the result was an agreement that they should neither serve as collectors of the money nor be responsible for the repairs. They put the whole matter out of their hands. (See Histor. § 3.)—W. G. S.]

2 Kings 12:9. But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, &c. The king did not even now exclude the priests from all share in the work, but took his measures in conjunction with the chief-priest, and also appointed “the priests that kept the door” to receive the money. The chest had a hole in its lid, into which the money was dropped. It was locked, and was only opened when it was full. Its position was by the side of the altar, on the right as one entered the temple. Instead of this we read in Chronicles: חוּצָה, i. e., “outside.” It did not, therefore, stand in the middle of the priests’ court (Thenius), but outside of it, at the entrance-gate which was on its right. According to 2 Chronicles 24:9-10, the king caused this arrangement to be proclaimed throughout the whole country; it was joyfully heard, and the people now gave abundantly. [The most reasonable explanation of this is, that, under the new arrangement, a man saw his gift placed in the chest. He knew that this was inaccessible to all except the appointed officers, and that his gift was, therefore, sure to be applied to the object for which he gave it. The share of the priests was reduced to the mechanical duty of receiving the money and placing it in the chest.—W. G. S.] When the chest was full, the priest sent his scribe, i. e., a civil secretary, and, in his presence, the chest was opened. This “was done, not out of distrust of the priests, but because the repairs were a matter of state interest, and not merely an affair of the priests. The temple was the chief sanctuary of the nation, of the theocracy, and it was under the supervision of the king” (Lisco). The money was bound up in bags and counted (cf. 2 Kings 5:23). (The Chronicler has וִיעָרוּ for וַיָּצֻרוּ, i. e., they emptied out. So the Vulg. also on the verse before us: effundebantque et numerabant pecuniam.) “The binding up in bags is mentioned before the counting because the pieces were not counted separately. They were bound up in bags and these were weighed in order thus to estimate the sum which had been received” (Keil).—Them… that had the oversight of the House of the Lord, to whom the money was given (2 Kings 12:11), are those who had to oversee the building. According to 2 Chronicles 34:12, they were levites. The keri המפקדים is supported by 2 Kings 22:5. The sense remains the same. These overseers then paid the wages to the artisans of different kinds, and purchased the necessary building materials.—The statement in 2 Kings 12:13-14 does not contradict 2 Chronicles 24:14. It is there stated that, when the building was finished, and still some money remained, this was placed at the disposition of the king and the high-priest, who used it to procure gold and silver utensils. On these utensils, see 1 Kings 7:50.—No accounts were demanded of the overseers of the building, we are told in 2 Kings 12:15, because they were implicitly trusted. 2 Kings 22:7 shows that there is no reference here to a presumed infidelity of the priests, for the same words are used there, where the priests had not had anything at all to do with the work. It is only intended to call attention to the conscientiousness with which this work was taken in hand, inasmuch as the most trustworthy men were charged with it. The remark in 2 Kings 12:16 has a similar object, viz., to show that the priests did not suffer on account of the new arrangement, but that the revenues which properly belonged to them, those from the trespass-offerings and the sin-offerings, were still given to them. On the trespass-offerings, see Numbers 5:8 sq., and Leviticus 5:16. According to the law, the priest received no money from the sin-offering. We must, therefore, suppose that it had become customary to give them a voluntary gift of money besides the flesh of the sacrifice (Leviticus 6:24).

2 Kings 12:17. Then Hazael, king of Syria, went up, &c. This expedition belongs to the time when Jehoiada was already dead, and Jehoash had fallen into sin, as is clear from 2 Chronicles 24:15-22. As Gath, one of the five cities of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3), lay much farther south than Samaria, and was almost due west of Jerusalem towards the sea-coast, this expedition against it forces us to assume that Israel had been already conquered by Hazael (2 Kings 13:3). We must leave undecided whether Gath at that time belonged to Judah, or had fallen again into the possession of the Philistines. As Jerusalem was not far off, the conqueror was led to attack it next, but he was induced, by the surrender of the treasures, to withdraw. It is certain that 2 Chronicles 24:23 sq. does not refer to another, earlier expedition, as Thenius asserts. That account does not contradict the one before us; on the contrary it supplements it “most fittingly, for it is very improbable à priori that Jehoash purchased peace by this heavy sacrifice, until after he had suffered the shameful defeat of which the Chronicler gives an account. Moreover, the fact that the Syrians withdrew without prosecuting their victory farther is explained by this peace thus purchased” (Bertheau).

2 Kings 12:18. And Jehoash…. took all the hallowed things, &c. Clericus answers the question why, if there was such a store of these valuable articles, they were not used for the repairs, instead of collecting taxes and offerings, as follows: Credibile est, res consecratas, quarum hic fit mentio, vasa fuisse sacra, quae vendere aut in monetam constare et cudere nolebant, ut servarentur in extremæ necessitatis casus, qualis hic erat, ubi Jerosolymæ et totius regni agebatur. In regard to the implied statement that offerings had been dedicated by Jehoram and Ahaziah, who walked in the way of the house of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18; 2 Kings 8:27), let it be observed that these kings did not formally abolish the worship of Jehovah, but only introduced the worship of Baal by the side of it, and, in order not to come into an open conflict with the people and the influential priesthood, they even made offerings to the temple of Jehovah. The utensils which, according to 2 Chronicles 24:7, Athaliah and her sons had taken from the temple, and misappropriated to the service of Baal, “had no doubt been restored to their original purpose before the occasion mentioned in 2 Kings 11:18” (Thenius).

2 Kings 12:20. And his servants arose, &c. The Chronicler here gives a very essential addition to the narrative. He states in detail the reasons for the conspiracy, and the occasion of it. The conspirators murdered the king in his bed, where he was confined by wounds, probably by those received in the war with the Syrians.—בֵּית מִלֹּא Thenius translates: “In the castle-palace.” Millo was a castle or tower, it is true (see above, note on 1 Kings 9:15; cf. 2 Samuel 5:9), but בֵּית can hardly refer to a particular building inside this castle. If it did, we should need to have הַמִּלֹּא, with the article, as in the other places. As a complete fortress in itself, Millo might be called בּית. The more definite description הַיֹּרֵד סִלָּא is itself obscure. No one of the explanations proposed deserves decided preference to the others. All the old versions take סִלָּא as a proper name, and this certainly seems more correct than to consider it identical with מְסִלָּה, a street, as Grotius and Thenius do, or with סֻלָּם, slope or ascent, as Ewald does.—In 2 Kings 12:21, instead of: “Jozachar, the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad, the son of Shomer,” the Chronicler has: “Zabad, the son of Shimeath, an Ammonitess, and Jehozabad, the son of Shimrith, a Moabitess.” We must give the preference to this latter statement as the more complete, for the designation of the two mothers instead of the two fathers, as an Ammonitess and a Moabitess, cannot be an invention of the Chronicler, but is taken from the original document. Perhaps it is stated to show that the murderers were not of Jewish descent, but came from foreign mothers. “זָבָד is a mistake for זָכָר, and this is a shorter form for יוֹזכר” (Keil), and שֹׁמר may have arisen from the defective form שִׁמרת by dropping the ת. [“Although the names (as given in Kings) are certainly historical, yet it is very remarkable that the etymology of them, Jehovah-remembers, son of Hearing, and Jehovah-awards, son of Watcher, suggests the last words of Zechariah: ‘Jehovah sees it and will requite it’ ” (Thenius).] The further statement of the Chronicler: “and they buried him in the city of David, but they buried him not in the sepulchres of the kings,” does not contradict this record. “He was buried in the city of David, where his fathers were buried, but not in the sepulchres of the kings” (Bertheau), probably on account of the action mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:17 sq.


1. The author chooses out of the history of the forty years’ reign of Jehoash the restoration of the temple, of which he speaks particularly, and passes over the other incidents which the Chronicler narrates. He would hardly have done this if he had seen in this restoration nothing more than a matter of ordinary business routine, a necessity which had arisen in the course of time. The temple, as the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people, is the visible sign and pledge of the covenant (see note on the Temple after the Exeg. section on 1 Kings 6:0). The covenant of Jehovah was solemnly restored and renewed at the elevation of the rescued scion of the house of David to the throne, and the temple, the sign and pledge of this covenant, which had become dilapidated, and had been plundered, under Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah, could not be left in that condition. On the contrary, it must be the chief task of the new king of the dynasty of David, who had sworn to the covenant on his accession, to restore the temple during his reign. As David was the founder, and Solomon the builder, of the House of Jehovah, so Jehoash, with whom the House of David recommenced, as it were, was the restorer of the sanctuary. We have here, therefore, a theocratic action, a physical confession of faith, and a seal upon the renewal and restoration of the covenant. This is why it is so especially mentioned as the most important incident in the reign of Jehoash. The reason why Jehoash, when he undertook the restoration of the temple, unquestionably at the instigation of Jehoiada, did not carry out the work at the expense of the royal treasury, but called upon the whole people to contribute, as Moses had once done for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:2-9), was not that “the crown was not then by any means able, as it had been in Solomon’s time, to carry out such, works by itself” (Ewald), but rather, in order that the entire people might give a physical proof that it had renewed the covenant with Jehovah (2 Kings 11:17).

2. King Jehoash was not by any means a ruler who was distinguished for intellect and strength. Lack of independence, and moral weakness, were the most noticeable features of his character. He had in Jehoiada the support which he needed. After the death of this counsellor and guide, he became, although he was already advanced in life, vacillating, and fell into evil courses. It was a great weakness on the part of one who had renewed the covenant with Jehovah, and rebuilt the temple, to yield to the entreaties of the chiefs of Judah, who flattered him by their cringing sub-missiveness, and to allow them (2 Chronicles 24:17 sq.) the forbidden, lascivious worship of Astarte (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 11:5). It was something more than weakness that he caused Zechariah, the son of his former counsellor, to be stoned, when he condemned this mistaken course, and predicted calamity (2 Chronicles 24:20 sq.). No less weak was his conduct in his dealings with Hazael. Instead of making a vigorous opposition to him, trusting in God, as Hezekiah did (chap. 19), he surrendered to him, although he had only a small force, all the consecrated offerings which his ancestors had made to the temple, and all those which he himself had dedicated up to this point in his reign, in order to induce him to withdraw (2 Kings 12:18 sq.; 2 Chronicles 24:24). [Observe, however, the Exegetical note on 2 Kings 12:17, quotation from Bertheau, at the end.—W. G. S.] It is very possible that he had embittered the people against him by all this, and thus given occasion for the conspiracy, as a result of which he fell. “He was the first king of Judah who came to a violent end at the hands of his own subjects, and the discontent was so great that he was not even buried in the royal sepulchres. Such was the disgraceful end of one whose childhood was marked by such wonderful providences” (Schlier). He shows us, by his example, whither weakness in a prince may lead. It is not only a something wanting, but it is the weightiest sin. Ewald contradicts himself when he says, basing the statement upon בָּל־יָמָיו, 2 Kings 12:2 : “He adopted the principles of his teacher with such docility that he remained true to them even after he came of age,” and then says again, a few pages further on: “Heathenism may indeed have gained a footing again under his weak rule.” This view also contradicts the statement in 2 Chronicles 24:22, whose historical truth is admitted. Thenius also forces the words כָּל־יָמָיו in such a way that he calls Jehoash a “praiseworthy king,” and speaks of his “good reign,” and of his “continuous good conduct.” In regard to the narrative of the Chronicler, which is inconsistent with this view, he remarks, giving it a strained and unnatural construction: “Probably this command (to stone Zechariah) was given by Jehoash in a moment of rage, and was forced from him, as it were, by Zechariah’s enemies.” But, even if we let this pass, the “purchase of a peace from Hazael by a shameful surrender” was not the act of a. “praiseworthy king;” and the murder of Jehoash was not a “mere act of revenge.” The pains which are taken to present this king in any other light than that in which he appears in these two biblical records, are all spent in vain. The opinion that “Psalms 51:0 contains a prayer of Jehoash in deep penitence for his error” (Thenius), must be regarded as very mistaken. Neither can it be inferred from these historical records, as it is by Vaihinger (in Herzog, Realencyc., vi. s. 717), that the prophet Joel belongs to the time of this king, and that his prophecies apply to the events of this reign.

3. In regard to the conduct of the priests in reference to the restoration of the temple which the king had commanded, the opinions are very divergent. The assertion of J. D. Michaelis and De Wette, that the priests had embezzled the funds collected for this object, is to be summarily dismissed. Thenius goes still further, and says: “They (the priests) did nothing towards carrying out the project, because the royal command appropriated a part, probably no insignificant part, of the revenues of the priests, in the intention of diminishing their arrogance.… The priesthood may have fallen greatly in a moral point of view since Athaliah’s influence had brought the Jehovah-religion into neglect, and their attention may have been exclusively directed to their own selfish interest.… Probably the priests had kept the free-will offerings, which were intended for the repairs of the temple, entirely for their own use, contrary to law.” But the text does not say that the king intended to restrict the revenues of the priests; on the contrary, it is expressly stated (2 Kings 12:16) that this was not done. Neither is there any hint of any moral decay in the priesthood. [The idea that the priests were guilty of any arrogance which needed curbing is certainly imported into the case. It is à priori very unlikely that they would be guilty of this fault on emerging from the circumstances in which they had been during the previous years. Arrogance is the sin of long and great prosperity. The à priori probability that the priesthood had suffered in morale during the prevalence of idolatry is great, also that their revenues had been greatly impaired.—W. G. S.] The king would never have commissioned them to undertake the management of this work, if they had had the reputation of being dishonest in money matters. Still less, if unfaithfulness and cheating on their part had been the cause that the contributions did not flow in in sufficient abundance, would he have “asked these priests for their consent (2 Kings 12:8) to the change of his first arrangements, and to the new measures which he proposed. Moreover, he would not have charged the priests who guarded the door to receive the money and put it in the chest, which arrangement still left them an opportunity for dishonesty” (Keil). [The circumstantial description of the box, its arrangement and position, show that it was intended to free the priests from any suspicion, just or not, which attached to them. If the suspicion was unjust, they were most interested in a public arrangement for the reception of these contributions which should free them from it. It is enough to suppose that, when all the money, that intended for themselves and that intended for the repairs, came into their hands, the distribution of it according to the intentions of the givers may have been uncertain and imperfect. At any rate, the givers could not be certain that their money would reach its destined object. Any such popular distrust would, according to all experience, speedily reduce the contributions to a very languid flow. The chest-arrangement now accomplished two objects. It permitted the giver to divide his offering for the temple from the offering for the priests, and to see for himself that it was at once put where it could not be applied otherwise than as he intended. The true force of 2 Kings 12:16 is that, at this time, the revenues of the temple were divided and definitely appropriated, and that the sorts of revenue there mentioned were specifically set apart for the support of the priests. When the priests’ share in the transaction was limited to the reception of the money and its immediate deposition in a receptacle, which is expressly declared to have been in the most public place in the temple enclosure, it was impossible to suspect them any longer of dishonesty, unless they were most accomplished rogues. There is no express mention of any dishonesty in the record, but this arrangement with the chest has unquestionably suggested a suspicion which has always been felt by readers of the passage. See also bracketed note under Exegetical on 2 Kings 12:8.—W. G. S.] On the other hand, the reason for the new scheme was not “simply this, that the first plan had proved inadequate for the purpose,” because the king “had not appropriated any definite sum for the repairs of the temple, but had left it to the priests to pay for the repairs out of the gross sum received” (Keil). The text itself gives the true reason in clear and definite words (2 Chronicles 24:5): “The levites hastened it not,” as the king had commanded them. [If this were the only reason, the pertinency of the arrangement with the chest would not be apparent.—W. G. S.] The reason was not, therefore, dishonesty and embezzlement on the part of the priests and levites, but their lack of zeal, their indifference and neglect in an affair in which they, as servants of the sanctuary, ought to have been most interested. It is as impossible to acquit them of all blame as it is to convict them of dishonesty. When a chest was placed in the temple for the sole purpose of receiving the offerings for this purpose, and when particular officers were designated to take charge of the fund, there was an end of the languid activity of the priests and levites in the collection of the contributions. Each one who came to the temple brought his gift cheerfully, as is distinctly stated in 2 Chronicles 24:10. De Wette’s assertion that the Chronicler “smoothed over” the matter, out of his well-known affection for the priesthood, is entirely arbitrary, for the record does not contain a syllable about unfaithfulness; it states, on the contrary, that it was the priests who received the money and placed it in the chest, under the second plan.

[From the note on 2 Kings 12:8 and the inserted remarks in the above section, it will be seen that this delineation of the “conduct of the priests” in this matter is not satisfactory. If we look at the record without unfair partisan feeling either against or in behalf of the priests, we cannot avoid the conviction that their fault was not limited to a want of zeal in the collection of funds, but that it was connected with their administration of the money. In 2 Kings 12:4 the king charged them to take certain moneys and use them for the repairs of the temple. He addressed them because they were the proper parties to be commissioned to do this work. It was not until they proved incompetent, in some way or other, that it was taken out of their hands, or that they gave it up. The revenues which are specified in 2 Kings 12:4 are, 1, that at which “every man is set,” which is to us very obscure, but is probably correctly explained in the Exegetical note on the verse; and 2, free-will offerings which the priests were to solicit of their acquaintances. In the king’s twenty-third year the work had not been done. There was fault somewhere. In 2 Kings 12:7 the king’s address distinctly implies that the work had not been done because the money which had been received from the “acquaintances” of the priests had not been appropriated to this purpose. Various reasons for this are suggested in the translator’s note on 2 Kings 12:7, which are sufficient without assuming that the priests had dishonestly taken for themselves what had been intended for another use. It is very probable that the revenues had never been distinguished in a manner sufficiently definite, or that, if they had formerly been definitely distinguished and appropriated, they had been used indiscriminately for the support of the priests, during the troubles of the last two reigns, and had not all together more than sufficed for this purpose. 2 Kings 12:16 implies that the various revenues were now definitely appropriated, and one of the advantages of the chest-plan was that it served to distinguish them. The reply of the priests to this reproach and command (2 Kings 12:7) is not given, but they consented to yield up the entire work and the entire responsibility. This gap between 2 Kings 12:7-8 is the place at which the various inventions, more or less derogatory to the priests, find entrance. It is as fair as any supposition which can be made, and accords as well with 2 Kings 12:8, to suppose that they denied the imputation, pointed out the difficulty in distinguishing the revenues intended for the temple from those intended for the priests, and surrendered the responsibility both for the money and for the work. The plan then adopted, which put this money by itself, and out of the control of the priests, proves conclusively that the work had not been accomplished because the money intended for it passed through their hands. Their administration of it had been defective, to say the least; it is not necessary to conclude that it had been intentionally dishonest.—W. G. S.]


(2 Chronicles 24:0 is to be compared throughout as a supplementary record.) 2 Kings 12:1-21. The Reign of King Jehoash. (a) During Jehoiada’s life-time, 2 Kings 12:1-16; (b) after his death, 2 Kings 12:17-21.

2 Kings 12:1-4. Kyburz: Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child! (Ecclesiastes 10:16) but blessed is the nation, the youth of whose prince is in just and holy guidance. Such good fortune had Judah under the guardian care of the wise and experienced Jehoiada.—That which appears to be the greatest misfortune for a child, to be left fatherless and motherless at an early age, often becomes a great blessing in the gracious Providence of God. What would have become of Jehoash if he had been brought up at the court of his idolatrous father and his depraved mother? God gave him in Jehoiada far more than he had lost in his father and his mother.—There is no greater blessing possible for a young prince, who comes to the throne in his youth, than to have a wise counsellor. Would that God might give to every prince a Jehoiada! The first duty of a prince is to pray God for such an one, and to listen to his counsel.—None need instruction more than those who are called to govern; there is no more responsible calling than that of instructing those who will have to rule. Unfortunately this task is rarely entrusted to those who, like Jehoiada, are fitted for it by age, learning, experience, and piety. Würt. Summ.: We ought to pray to God for wise counsellors, to thank Him for them, to pray for long life for them, and to regard it as a heavy divine punishment when He takes them away (Jeremiah 3:4).

2 Kings 12:3. The same: Rulers ought not to allow themselves to be restrained from carrying out what is good and right from any fear of persons, lest they may possibly incur the disfavor of the people. There never was a prince who was not himself guilty of faults and errors, as we see here from the example of Jehoash, who did not abolish the sacrifices on the high places.

2 Kings 12:4-16. The Restoration of the Sanctuary. (a) The king’s command to undertake it; (b) the conduct of the priests in the matter (see Historical, § 3). It is true that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48); we can worship Him as well in a ruin as in the most magnificent church. But when the building, in which a congregation assembles to worship God, to hear His word, and to receive the means of grace, is left ruinous, God does not receive the honor which belongs to Him. Where the churches fall to ruins, there religion and piety also fall into decay; but where there is love of God and joy in His word, there no ruinous churches are seen. A time in which magnificent palaces, theatres, and ball-rooms are repaired or built at great expense, but in which the houses of God are left small, wretched, dirty, and ruinous, is a time of religious decay, and resembles the time of Athaliah in Judah.—The apostle says of the Christian church: “For ye are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). This temple also may in time become ruinous through unbelief, worldly life and behavior, and immorality. Where are the congregations in which there is nothing ruinous or decayed, in which nothing could be improved? How many are in ruins and are ready to fall! He who destroys the temple of God, or allows it to be destroyed, him will God destroy (1 Corinthians 3:17). We cannot indeed repair those breaches by money. They can only be repaired by coming to the living stone, which is rejected of men, but which is chosen of God (1 Peter 2:4-6).

2 Kings 12:4-5. The congregation ought to be called upon to contribute to religious objects, which can only be accomplished by expending money. How long a time often elapses before means enough are collected even for the most necessary objects, not to mention that many give unwillingly (2 Corinthians 9:7).

2 Kings 12:6-8. Works which are pleasing to God cannot be accomplished by careless hands. They are only accomplished where zeal is united with perseverance, patience, and fidelity.—There have always been such careless, indifferent priests and pastors, and there are such yet. They execute their traditional, official duties, but only by routine, and from a sense of duty, not with zeal and enthusiasm. No zeal for the kingdom of God (John 2:17) and for the salvation of souls can be noticed in them. How many a congregation has fallen into decay and remained so, because those who were appointed to be the builders of it, who ought to have repaired and built it, have not raised their negligent hands (Hebrews 12:12). “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully” (Jeremiah 48:10). Although no earthly king may ever call them to account, yet the heavenly king, before whose judgment-seat they must appear to give an account of their office, will ask: “Why repair ye not the breaches of the house?”

2 Kings 12:10 sq. Würt Summ.: In former times, under the papacy, the church authorities excluded all secular persons from the affairs which belonged to the clergy: under the gospel, in some places, secular persons aim to exclude the clergy from all participation in church affairs, and claim to rule alone; so the matter is always wrongly treated, and men go from one mistake to another; this should not be so.—Public account should be rendered of all moneys and gifts which are collected for religious or benevolent purposes, in order that it may be known that they are applied as was designed, and that the giver may be encouraged to further liberality.

2 Kings 12:11-12. The laborer is worthy of his hire. Wages ought to be given punctually to diligent and faithful workmen (Jeremiah 22:13; Leviticus 19:13).

2 Kings 12:13-14. What is necessary and useful is always to be preferred to what is beautiful; only when the former is provided may the latter be thought of. How often the contrary course is pursued.

2 Kings 12:15. What a proud thing it is for builders and workmen when they can be trusted, and it is not necessary to oversee them. When work is carried on honestly and faithfully, then God’s blessing follows.

2 Kings 12:16. Starke: To every one his own, to God what is God’s, to the priests what is theirs (Sir 7:32; 1 Corinthians 9:11).—Let not anything which justly belongs to any one be taken from him.

2 Kings 12:17-21. The Pall of King Jehoash and its Consequences, (a) As long as Jehoiada lived, Jehoash did what was right: when he had lost this support he fell (2 Chronicles 24:15-22). “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). “It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace” (Hebrews 13:9). How many have begun in the spirit and ended in the flesh (Galatians 3:3). The best instruction cannot preserve against a fall, if the heart is not firm and strong. Only he who endures unto the end shall be saved, therefore: “Be thou faithful,” &c. (Revelation 2:10). The noblest commencement is vain, if the end is perverse and wicked; on the contrary: “All is well that ends well.” (b) At the time when Jehoash had sinned so grievously, one calamity after another came upon him; first, the great defeat (2 Kings 12:17-18), by which he lost all his treasures, then, the conspiracy which cost him his life (2 Kings 12:20-21). So the words of the dying prophet (2 Chronicles 24:22) were fulfilled: “The Lord look upon it and require it!” (2 Chronicles 24:22). So Jehoash was taught what calamities it brings to abandon the Lord God (Jeremiah 2:19). The Lord rewards every one according to his works, whether in this or the next world. What a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Jehoash was marvellously preserved as an infant (2 Kings 11:2-3), he ends his life wretchedly.—Starke: This is an example how near the ruin of a man is when he abandons the good to which he was educated from his youth up, nay, even is glad to be rid of those who annoy him by their warnings.

2 Kings 12:18. A man may buy with money his acquittal from a human tribunal, but not from the just judgment of God; nothing helps here but repentance and a new life (Ezekiel 18:26-28).

2 Kings 12:20-21. All the people shouted to the child-king: “Long live the king!” and rejoiced and blew the trumpets. Conspiracy and murder were the end of his forty-years’ reign. Sic transit gloria mundi.


2 Kings 12:5; 2 Kings 12:5 (6 of the Hebrew text).—[בָּדֶק at the end is a predicate defining אשׁר, all which shall be founddefective, i.e., all the defective places which shall be found. Cf. 2 Kings 8:12.]

2 Kings 12:8; 2 Kings 12:8 (9).—[קְחַת for קַחַת, the fem. inf. shortened before makkeph. Cf. Ewald, § 213, a.]

2 Kings 12:9; 2 Kings 12:9 (10).—[אחד—אֲרוֹן אֶחָד is commonly adjective, but is sometimes used as a dependent substantive, as here. Ew. § 286, d.]

2 Kings 12:12; 2 Kings 12:12 (13).—[חָזְקָה, fem. abstract subst. In verbs which denote a state we find that the infin. is often supplanted by the subst. which expresses the abstract of the verbal idea. “For repairs” = to repair, with which, however, the object must be supplied (Böttcher, § 277, 8).—W. G. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/2-kings-12.html. 1857-84.
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