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CRITICAL NOTES.] The preparations for the Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1-9); the actual celebration (2 Chronicles 35:10-19); Josiah’s defeat by Necho (2 Chronicles 35:20-27). 2 Kings 23:21-30 corresponds to this chap.
2 Chronicles 35:1-9.—The preparation. Day not irregular, but time appointed (Exodus 12:6). Priests re-established in their courses and duties, as prescribed (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 30:16). 2 Chronicles 35:3. Taught, instructed people in matters pertaining to worship. Put, for some reason removed during repairs. Burden, ark once in its place, to remain; not to be carried about, as customary before Temple built. 2 Chronicles 35:4. Prepare, other duties devolved upon them; they must attend with diligence to regulations of public service (cf. 1 Chronicles 23-26). 2 Chronicles 35:5. A section of Levites to attend to every division of families of people. 2 Chronicles 35:6. So, particular direction required. Personal purity required that brethren may be prepared. 2 Chronicles 35:7-9. King and princes give animals. J. gave (ch. 2 Chronicles 30:24) lambs and kids for the meal; bullocks for burnt-offerings (Numbers 28:19) and thank-offerings. 2 Chronicles 35:8. Willingly, number not given, unless included in next verses. Unto priests, for poor families of their own order; leading priests furnished offerings; chief Levites also gave to poor Levitical families.
2 Chronicles 35:10-19.—The celebration of Passover. So, everything ready, according to law. 2 Chronicles 35:11. Sprinkled (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:16). Flayed, removed skins. Priests and Levites performed their parts. 2 Chronicles 35:12. Removed, parts to be consumed on the altar, viz., fat, kidneys, &c.; parts cut off by Levites and given to offerers for burnt-offerings. 2 Chronicles 35:13. Roasted (Exodus 12:8-9, peace-offerings boiled and eaten on days of unleavened bread. 2 Chronicles 35:14. Therefore, because priests too much engaged to prepare food for themselves. 2 Chronicles 35:15. Singers divided like other Levites, divided into courses, took service in turn; the order determined by lot, first lot to sons of Asaph (1 Chronicles 25:8-31). “Probably this course retained its presidency over the rest, and now commenced in the Temple the restored choral service” [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 35:16. Same day, at that time. 2 Chronicles 35:17. Seven days, Israel, i.e., the whole people (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:3 and 2 Chronicles 35:18). Hezekiah’s kept fourteen days (2 Chronicles 30:26). 2 Chronicles 35:18. Like, for exact conformity to Mosaic law and legal purity. 2 Chronicles 35:19. Year, culminating point in reforms (2 Kings 22:3).
2 Chronicles 35:20-27.—The defeat of Josiah. After, thirteen years after, B.C. 608. A blank in Jewish history. Necho, son of Psammetichus, king of Egypt, against Babylonian forces which he expected to find near Charchemish, chief city of Northern Syria. N. did not wish to embarrass Josiah. 2 Chronicles 35:21. House, with which at war and against which he was commissioned by God. 2 Chronicles 35:22. J. disguised; some, equipped himself; others, was eager; Sept., strengthened himself to fight. Meg., between Magdol and Hadadrimmon. 2 Chronicles 35:23. Shot by an arrow, J. ordered his servants to carry him away; put in a second chariot, reserved for flight probably, lighter than a war-chariot, and taken to Jer. 2 Chronicles 35:25 His death lamented by Jeremiah in words no longer extant, but preserved and chanted by professional singers long after the event. “Some find the prophet’s elegy in the entire Book of Lamentations; others in a part of it (ch. 4); most critics of opinion that the lament is lost” [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 35:25. Ordinance, not minstrels, but those in authority. A certain day set apart, a standing custom to lament. 2 Chronicles 35:26. Goodness, good deeds, religious faithfulness, acts of kindness or goodwill, according to that law which he found, read, and remembered.
A CELEBRATED PASSOVER.—2 Chronicles 35:1-19
Great events and remarkable days—“red letter days”—relieve monotony of life; stand out prominently in history and create epochs in memory. Such times afford comfort, inspiration, and never forgotten. No such passover as this. Notice—
I. The devout preparation for its celebration. “So the service was prepared.” King exhorted and stimulated the indifferent and unwilling.
1. By rightly fixing the ark. Put away by idolatrous Manasseh, who set a carved image in its place; or temporarily removed by Josiah during repairs; it was replaced in temple, not carried about any longer. Now the priests were discharged from this burden, they must be careful for other duties.
2. By personal sanctification. “Sanctify yourselves” by separation from uncleanness and consecration to God. But not to end here, “prepare their brethren,” by instruction, exhortation, and example. Self first, others after.
3. By orderly arrrangement of classes. “He set them in their charge.” Not any new work nor novel method; just a return to written divine order. The written word the rule to which magistrates and ministers should appeal. “Walk by the same rule.”
II. The unlimited numbers which attended. “Neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” “If we allow thirteen persons for each lamb or kid, there were upwards of 500,000 communicants, while so far as we know, there were only 17,000 sheep presented by Hezekiah and his princes (2 Chronicles 30:24), which would not supply more than half the number of partakers” [Murphy].
III. The earnest spirit by which it was characterised. Remarkable for enthusiasm, holy excitement, and unity of heart.
1. A spirit of unbounded liberality. Multitudes reduced to poverty, especially from Israel by Assyrian devastations; unprovided with means of commemorations. The king gave to the people lambs, kids, and bullocks (2 Chronicles 35:7). Princes gave to priests and Levites; and chiefs of these officers remembered poor families of their order. Hearts touched, a spirit of brotherhood prevailed and all “gave willingly.”
2. A spirit of thorough consecration. “The priests stood” waiting “in their place,” the singers in their station, all “busied in offering that they might not leave their place” (2 Chronicles 35:15). None left their posts unless relieved by brethren, and then return to duty with delight.
3. A spirit of hearty co-operation. They urged and helped one another, did their work “speedily.” Places not long empty, viands lost not heat nor flavour through delay.” The service of the Lord was prepared the same day” (2 Chronicles 35:16).
IV. The loyal obedience by which it was observed. In accordance with law in time, method, and spirit.
1. Right time observed. Day appointed by law (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 30:2; 2 Chronicles 30:13), “fourteenth day of the month” (Exodus 12:6). Nothing must be done untimely.
2. Personal purity observed. Priests and people sanctified. “So the service was prepared.” Need for cleansing with more than sprinkling of blood and water with hyssop—withdrawal from more than earthly pollution. God’s service pure and loving, “sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7), like God who is holy (1 Peter 1:13) and light and love.
3. Legal authority observed. Not according to the will of the king, the conjecture of the court, but “according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses” (2 Chronicles 35:6), “the writing of David and the writing of Solomon” (2 Chronicles 35:5). “As many as walk according to this rule (lit. straight line, e.g. of a mason’s rule or a surveyor’s chain), peace be on them and mercy upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
THE DISTURBED REIGN.—2 Chronicles 35:20-25
If Josiah thought that after restoration of divine worship and revival of religion he would have a period of settled peace and national prosperity, he was disappointed. The bright interval brief. “Too late is written on the pages even which describe this momentary revival,” says Stanley (Jew. Ch., vol. ii.), from whom we condense this outline. “It did not reach the deeply-seated, widespread corruption which tainted rich and poor alike. Large as is the space occupied by it in the historical books, by the contemporary prophets it is never mentioned at all.” The kingdom doomed, though day delayed; two calamities the immediate precursors.
I. The invasion of the Scythians (B.C. 634–639). “The earliest recorded movement of Northern populations, hid behind the long mountain barrier, reared by nature between civilised and uncivilised races of old world. Suddenly appeared those strange, uncouth, fur-clad forms, hardly to be distinguished from their horses and waggons, fierce as their own wolves or bears, sweeping towards the southern regions which seemed to them their natural prey. No wonder that now all the ancient monarchies of the south—Assyria, Babylon, Media, Egypt, even Greece and Asia Minor—stood aghast at the spectacle of savage hordes rushing down on seats of luxury and power. About the middle of Josiah’s reign one division broke into Syria, penetrated on their way to Egypt, to the southern frontier of Palestine, were bought off by Psammetichus and retired, after sacking the temple of Astarte at Ascalon. They left one permanent trace as they scoured through the plain of Esdrœlon. The old Canaanitish city of Bethshan, at eastern extremity of that plain, from them received the name, which it bore throughout the Roman Empire, in the mouths of Greeks, Scythopolis, ‘the city of the Scythians.’ ”
II. The invasion of Necho. “Strengthened by influx of Northern nations, Babylon now rising into overwhelming predominance. Necho, the vigorous King of Egypt, wished to anticipate that growth by securing himself on east and north. Kingdom of Judah between these contending powers. Necho advanced through Palestine towards passes of Lebanon on his way to the great battlefield of Carchemish. In the plain of Esdrœlon, the scene of so many combats in earlier history of Israel, Josiah determined, with a rashness which appeared to be against the counsels of Providence (2 Chronicles 35:21; 1Es. 1:27-28), to stay the progress of the Egyptian army. No details given of the battle. Everything absorbed in one tragical event which closed it” [Stanley]. “What stability is there in earthly things? How seldom is excellency of any kind long-lived? In the very strength of his age, in the height of his strength, is Josiah withdrawn from the earth: as not without a merciful intention of His glory on God’s behalf; so not without some weakness on his own … Sometimes both grace and wit are asleep in the wariest and holiest breasts. The best of God’s saints may be sometimes miscarried by their passions to their cost” [Bp. Hall].
GOD’S COMMAND TO MAKE HASTE.—2 Chronicles 35:21
Applying this to Christians, observe on what command founded. A distinction between moral and positive duties. Positive right because commanded; moral commanded because right, founded on the very nature of things. We may be satisfied, therefore, with God’s revealed will, because sure that it is founded on rectitude. Here command to make haste founded on three principles—First, because of the importance of the thing itself. Not a trifle, but our life, cannot neglect without infinite loss, and plunging into lamentation and woe. If religion be anything, it is everything; the “one thing needful.” Secondly, because of the limitation of our opportunities. We have only one season to regard these things, the world over. “No work, nor device, nor knowledge in the grave, &c.” Several circumstances to be mentioned in regard to this season of attention. It is short. “What is thy life? &c.” It is uncertain. “Boast not thyself of to-morrow, &c.” It has also much in it not applicable to any serious and important service. The whole of infancy, much of childhood and youth; lawful business, allowed recreation and necessary sleep. Observe also that of this only season for action, many favourable periods may fail before the end of it. “The harvest may be passed and the summer ended, &c.” Then of this season much is already gone. Only a day and sun risen very high with some. “It is high time to awake, &c.” And if this applies to all, with what force to those of sixty or seventy or more? Thirdly, because of the advantages to be derived from ardour. Often said, and is literally true, that “the lazy take the most pains.” They make no progress, because everything a diversion or hindrance; have to begin again and again. How often have we succeeded beyond expectation when we have applied ourselves with decision and vigour! A pleasure in acting with vigour which listless, inert, lounging and yawning never know. Never so happy as in application. Slothful say, “See a lion in the way, &c.” But zeal clears the way of the lion, removes impediments, or turns them into auxiliaries [Jay, “Evenings with Jesus”].
RASHNESS AND RISKS.—2 Chronicles 35:20-24
From the time of Manasseh, Judah had been a vassal of Assyria, the rival of Egypt. In this war Josiah might feel bound as a matter of honour to support the interests of his northern liege-lord and oppose Necho. Might think it perfectly legitimate to prevent the march of the enemy through his own territories—might doubt Necho’s faith in “Elohim,” whom, he said, gave him commission. Warnings unheeded, attack made, and results sad!
I. Josiah rash in his conduct. May be excused in some things, but erred in others. All not good that good men do. “Great men are not always wise.”
1. Josiah’s action was unwise. Intermeddled with strife not belonging to him. “His best apology,” says one, “perhaps would be that Necho was marching through a part of Judea. But then, first, this part did not belong to him; and, secondly, if Necho had passed through, he might have done so, as Israel formerly desired to pass through the borders of Moab, engaging to commit no injury, and to pay for all they used.”
2. Josiah acted from impulse and not conviction. Passion worse than conviction, and never a wise counsellor. “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”
3. Josiah sought not divine counsel. Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah, and a college of seers with him, but did not ask counsel of the Lord. “Shall I go up, or shall I forbear?” If we reject divine counsel, it betrays consciousness of wrong, and leads to risks in any enterprise.
4. Josiah rejected urgent warnings. Necho, calm and conciliatory, sent ambassadors. “What have I to do with thee? &c.” But J. despised—
(1) Appeals to reason. “I come not against thee.”
(2) Appeals to religion. “For God commanded me to make haste.”
(3) Appeals to self-interest. “Forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that He destroy thee not.”
II. Josiah’s rash conduct brought fearful results. “J. would not turn his face from him, &c.”
1. Upon himself. “In his chariot, but disguised, according to the practice of the royal families of Israel (2 Chronicles 35:22; 1 Kings 22:30) in moments of extreme emergency. The Egyptian archers, such as we see on their monuments, discharged a volley of arrows against him. He fell, was placed in his second chariot of reserve, and carried to Jerusalem to die” [Stanley]. A death untimely, which might have been avoided, but permitted by God, a mystery and a correction.
2. Upon the nation. Unworthy of such a prince, he was taken away from impending calamities. A striking illustration how “the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” God’s decree took fatal effect, after delay, in Josiah’s life. Jerusalem taken, and inhabitants carried to Babylon.
THE DEATH OF KING JOSIAH.—2 Chronicles 35:23-25
I. The mystery of the event. A good man’s end often strange. Steps taken which result in failure and death. One event, specially stamped with uncertainty, but linked with God’s purpose. “A time to die.” “Who can tell a man when it shall be?” “In the day of death,” the king impotent to resist as the beggar; depends upon God’s will, not man’s effort. Drawn by policy, alhance, or apparent duty; “so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”
II. The memorial of the event. A mournful death, without precedent in annals of Judah. Commemorated—
1. In prophetic dirge. “Jeremiah lamented,” and minstrels, male and female, sang dirges of the event.
2. In national mourning. “All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.” A contrast to the unwept fates of those who depart “without being desired” (ch. 2 Chronicles 21:20).
3. In appointed ordinance. “Made them an ordinance in Israel.” The elegy of prophet, chanted at stated public occasions, long perpetuated, and the lamentation became proverbial for any great and extraordinary sorrow (Zechariah 12:11). Good men valued by their loss, honoured by those who live contrary to their teaching, and survive after death. In long continuance, in holy influence, “the memory of the just is blessed.”
“Unblemish’d let me live, or die unknown:
O grant an honest fame, or grant me none” [Pope].
I. The striking feature of the story is the picture it gives of the quiet manner in which God’s servants are sometimes allowed to pass away when they have finished their work. The history of Josiah’s death compared with his life puts things in right order; his life active, hard-working, and zealous; death quiet, unexciting, what we call inglorious. The history fitted to check tendency to lay too much stress upon circumstances of a man’s death; to be fond of exciting death-bed scenes, to delight in religious books which vividly describe last moments of departing friends. He who will stand least reprovable at last day, will be he who has worked most earnestly and vigorously in cause of holiness and of Christ when all temptations of the world and the strength of Satan have been opposed to him. II. The moral we draw from the text is that he who does his work in the proper time, who does not put off till old age the work of youth, nor the hour of death the labour of life, may be quiet and unconcerned for the way in which God may please to call him. If called by sudden providence when engaged in work, or summoned by speedy sickness, he may be of good cheer and of quiet mind, knowing that God will do all things well [Bp. Harvey Goodwin].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 35:3. Ark replaced. Change of circumstances, relief of burden, and opportunity for more vigorous service in known duty. Pray not for a larger sphere, for more work. Do what is appointed, and fill well present sphere. Stand in your place.
2 Chronicles 35:4. Prepare. Heathens saw that God was not to be served but by those who were prepared aforehand. Solon willed in his laws that the sacrifices should be chosen and selected, and the sacrifices should purify themselves some days before [Trapp]. Should not people long before prepare, when they come to the Lord’s table? [Ibid.].
2 Chronicles 35:15. Singers in their place. Song in God’s house.
1. Its nature. Spiritual, appropriate, and spirited. Certain Psalms 113-118 inclusive. Resolve, “I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.”
2. Its leaders. Numbered, stationed, and qualified. This needful and helpful. Organist, clerk, and choir should be early in place, devout in spirit, and orderly in all things.
3. Its design. Not a musical performance for gratification of the people; not to display ability, culture, and efficiency in singers: but to please God (Philippians 2:8-10), and praise Christ. Pliny found in worship of Bithynians a hymn “to Christ as God.” “Sentimental twaddle, sung by a congregation, is essentially carnalising and paganising. What sort of a nation will our ‘Songs of Zion’ make? Are they of Zion? Some of them have a look of Rome, and some of Racow [Prof. J. Macgregor, D.D.].
2 Chronicles 35:21. Haste. Three things concerning which God “commands to make baste”—1st, To secure the salvation of the soul; 2nd, To a course of godliness; 3rd, To efforts in seeking the welfare of others [Jay].
2 Chronicles 35:22. Hearkened not.
1. Providence asserted in Necho. Individual and supreme—“Commanded me.”
2. Providence contravened in Josiah. Ignorantly in some degree, yet really opposed to divine plan. “Woe then to such as hearken not to the undoubted words of God, in the mouths of his faithful ministers.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 35
2 Chronicles 35:7-9. Gave willingly. If a wealthy man promise much and perform nothing, a poor man who is unable to undertake or perform is better than he [Bp. Hall]. Rich men’s presents are gold and silver or other costly things. Mine must be recommended by the affectionate pleasure with which I give them [Ver. Bede when dying].
2 Chronicles 35:16. Prepared the same day. Life is a short day, but it is a working day. “Oh I my Father, help me to finish my work in Thine honour” [Livingstone’s Journal, Jan. 1st, 1871].
2 Chronicles 35:21. Haste. These are remarkable words in the mouth of a heathen; but they are not without a parallel in the remains of ancient Egypt that have come down to us. Piankhi, for instance, King of Egypt, about B.C. 750, says in an inscription which has been translated by the Rev. Canon Cook, “Didst thou not know that the Divine shade was over me? I have not acted without his knowledge; He commanded my acts” [Speak. Com.].
2 Chronicles 35:23-25. Lamented. While the living minister is neglected, the dying one may be lamented, and lamented the more when dead because he was neglected while living. The children of Israel were always complaining of Moses, and frequently threatening him, yet they wept for him on the Plains of Moab thirty days, and we are persuaded sincerely. Want endears and increases worth [Jay].
“How mercies brighten as they take their flight!” [Young].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 35". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26