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2 Kings 23:2. The priests and the prophets— The priests and the Levites. Houbigant. 2 Chronicles 34:30.
2 Kings 23:5. The idolatrous priests— In the Hebrew כמרים kemarim. It is plain from this place, that their particular business was to burn incense. Hence the faithful Jews seem to call them כמרים in contempt, as being continually scorched by their fumigating fires. Bishop Patrick thinks, that they were so called from being clothed in black; for the Egyptians, as well as many other pagan nations, made use of black garments when they sacrificed to the infernal deities: in opposition to which, the Jewish priests were clothed in white at their sacrifices.
2 Kings 23:6. And he brought out the grove— And he brought out Aschera. Houbigant.
2 Kings 23:10. And he defiled Topheth— Topheth תפת comes from תפ top, a musical instrument, a drum or tabor; and the place was so called, according to the general opinion of the Jews, because drums or tabors in this horrid valley were used to be beaten, in order to drown the cries and shrieks of the hapless little innocents who were burned alive to the idol Molech. Hence Milton, speaking of Moloch, calls him,
——Horrid king, besmear'd with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears, Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud Their children's cries unheard, that pass'd through fire To his grim idol.—— MILTON'S Par. Lost, book 1: line 392.
2 Kings 23:11. He took away the horses—given to the sun—and burned the chariots, &c.— Whether these horses and chariots were real, or only carved or molten, is not easy to determine. The ancient Persians used to consecrate white horses and chariots to the sun, with which they adorned their processions, wherein they were imitated afterwards by other nations. See Hyde's Relig. Ver. Persar. We can see no reason; therefore, why so many learned commentators should scruple to suppose that the Jews had adopted this among other far worse heathenish idolatries; especially considering how soon the prophet Amos, and from him St. Stephen, charged them with having carried about the tabernacle of Moloch or the sun, and the star of their god Remphan. What convinced us further that these were real chariots, drawn by horses, and bearing some image of the sun, is, that the text expressly says, that Josiah did not burn chariots and horses, as he would have done if they had been only carved and painted; but that he took away the horses, and burned the chariots. Bochart supposes that these horses and chariots were designed to carry the king and his great officers out of the east gate of the city, every morning, to salute and adore the sun at its coming above the horizon, according to the custom of the Persian idolaters. See Univ. Hist. and Boch. Hieroz. pars 1: lib. 11.
2 Kings 23:12. The altars that were on the top of the upper chamber— Or, The altars on the house-top. The ancient idolaters and the magi were wont to sacrifice not only upon high places and mountains, but also upon the housetops. See Jeremiah 32:29.
2 Kings 23:13. Mount of corruption— Mount of olives; Houbigant; who supposes the word משׁחית mashchith, which we render corruption, to be derived from משׁח mashach, to anoint.
2 Kings 23:15. High place— Houbigant thinks it may be collected from hence, that the high places were made of wood raised up in the manner of a theatre. See 2 Kings 23:13.
2 Kings 23:17. What title is that that I see?— The Jews have some ridiculous fables concerning this matter. We may suppose, agreeably to the text, that the king espied a stone or a pillar more eminent than the rest, with an inscription upon it, not legible. This caused him to ask the question of the men of the city; i.e. some of the old inhabitants who had escaped the captivity, and not any of those new comers whom the king of Assyria had sent thither; for these could have given no account of the ancient history of the Israelites; neither can we suppose that the sepulchre itself, after so many years standing, could have been distinguishable, had not some pious person or other, with an intent to perpetuate the memory of the thing, taken care to preserve and repair it. Matthew 23:29. See the note on 1 Kings 13:1.
2 Kings 23:19. Cities of Samaria— City of Samaria; Houbigant. Josiah, perhaps, may be thought by some to have followed the dictates of his zeal rather too far, in destroying the images and altars, and other monuments of idolatry, in the kingdom of Israel, where he had neither any regal nor judicial authority; but it should be remembered, that his authority in this regard was founded upon an ancient prediction, wherein he is particularly named and appointed to this work of reformation by God himself, and that consequently he could not be guilty of an infringement upon another's right, even though he had no further permission. But the ten tribes, we are to recollect, being now gone into captivity, the ancient right which David and his posterity had to the whole kingdom of Israel, before it was dismembered by Jeroboam and his successors, devolved upon Josiah. The people who escaped the captivity were united with his subjects, and put themselves under his protection; they came to the worship of God at Jerusalem, and, doubtless, gladly complied with the extirpation of idolatry; at which the Cuthites, the new inhabitants of the country, who worshipped their gods in another manner, were not at all offended. The kings of Assyria, it is true, were the lords and conquerors of the country; but from the time of Manasseh's restoration they seem to have conferred upon the kings of Judah, who might thereupon become their homagers, a sovereignty in all the land of Canaan. So that Josiah, upon various pretensions, had sufficient power and authority to visit the kingdom of Israel, and to purge it from idolatry, as well as his own. See Le Clerc and Calmet.
2 Kings 23:22. Surely there was not holden such a passover, &c.— These words, taken in a literal sense, must denote that this passover, which was celebrated by two tribes only, was more numerous and more magnificent, than all those that were observed in the days of David and Solomon, in the most happy and flourishing states of the Jewish monarchy, and when the whole twelve tribes were met together to solemnize that feast. It may not be amiss therefore to allow, that in these expressions there is a kind of auxesis or exaggeration not unusual in sacred as well as in profane authors: for, nothing is more common than to say, never was so much splendour and magnificence seen, when we mean no more than that the thing we speak of, was very splendid and magnificent: unless we suppose with some, that a preference is given to this passover above all the rest, on account of the exact observation of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it, which at other times were performed according to custom, and several things either altered or omitted; whereas at this, every thing was performed according to the prescribed form of the law, from which, since the finding of the authentic copy of it before mentioned, Josiah enjoined them not to vary a tittle. See Calmet and Le Clerc.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, To avert, if possible, the threatened wrath, Josiah, with earnest solicitude, seeks the reformation of the people.
1. In a general assembly of the elders, priests, prophets, and people, convened on purpose for the occasion, he himself, as it seems, read in their ears the words of the book found in the house of the Lord, that it might more deeply engage their attention.
2. The book of the covenant being rehearsed, the tenor of which was, that on their fidelity they were assured of God's blessing, the king, to encourage and engage the people, solemnly, as in the presence of God, declared his purpose of walking after the Lord, in all the ways of his instituted worship, and observing all his commandments moral, judicial, and ceremonial; and this with all simplicity and sincerity, trusting in God to enable him to perform what was so plainly his duty, and so greatly his desire. The people join the king in his engagement, and, promising all fidelity, stand to the covenant. Note; (1.) A good and great example is very influential. (2.) Jesus our king, is our covenant-head; faith in him is now our security. (3.) God's people are bound to him, not so much by bonds of vows and promises, as by better bonds of divine love.
2nd, In consequence of his solemn engagements, Josiah without delay set himself to remove all the abominations contrary to the book of the law, which were found in the land.
1. He began with Judah and Jerusalem; where, shocking to tell! the most gross and strange monuments of idolatry remained. To purge the house of the Lord was his first concern: thence he fetched all the vessels which had been consecrated to and employed in the service of Baal and Astoreth, and the hosts of heaven; and having burnt them, he carried their ashes to Beth-el, that hated beginning of idolatry, which now he would make a dunghill, and lay there the filth and off-scouring of all these abominations. The idolatrous priests, (for such there will be, when court-favour follows Baal's worship,) he put down, destroying all the high places where they offered incense, which, though Hezekiah had ruined, his wicked successors had restored. These were degraded from their office; and though they had a portion with the priests for their maintenance, they were no more suffered to approach the altars of the Lord. The images of their false deities he stamped to powder, and, to render them more loathsome, cast the dust on the graves of their worshippers, as a reproach to their memory, and in contempt to their idols; whilst he dug up the bones of the priests, and scattered them upon the high places, where they had used to sacrifice. Topheth he defiled, making it a burying-place. The horses which had been dedicated to the sun, he took away, and burnt the chariots. His own house also he thoroughly purged: the altar of Ahaz, which was on the roof, and those which Manasseh had made, he beat to powder, and threw the dust into the brook Kidron. Throughout Judah, he put away all wizards and workers with familiar spirits; and in short, every abomination that he found, after the strictest search made according to the word of the Lord, he utterly abolished. Note; True conversion to God makes thorough work, casting away every weight, and the sin which doth most easily beset us.
2. He proceeded to carry the reformation that he had begun in Judah, into the cities of Israel. The altar at Beth-el he defiled; and, after sacrificing the idolatrous priests, and burning the bones of dead men upon it, destroyed it, with the high place and the grove adjoining. And as he did at Beth-el, he did in the other cities of Samaria, utterly rooting out every monument of idolatry. Note; Though God's word be long ere it be fulfilled, whether it be promise or threatening, the accomplishment is sure.
3. The land being thus cleansed from idols, and the people, according to their engagements, returning in truth to the worship of God; a solemn passover is proclaimed and kept, with such exactness and conformity to the divine institution, with such delight and joy, that since the days of the judges, even under the best of their kings, no such passover had been observed. Note; They who are faithful in the covenant, will be happy to partake of the seals of it. Neglect of the table of the Lord, is a sure mark of the continuing apostacy of the heart from God.
2 Kings 23:25. Like unto him was there no king before him, &c.— As it is mentioned to the particular praise of Hezekiah, chap. 2 Kings 18:5., that there was no king like him, who trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so the preference given to Josiah is here limited to his turning to the Lord with all his heart, &c. by which is partly meant that he made a more thorough and complete reformation than any of his predecessors. But however sincere he was in this reformation, omitting nothing to restore the purity of God's worship wherever his power extended, yet a great part at least of the people still had a hankering after the corruption of the former part of Manasseh's reign. They complied indeed with the present reformation, but this was only through fear of incurring the king's displeasure, or of feeling the severity of his justice. Their hearts were not right towards God, as appears fully from the writings of the prophets of those times; and therefore, seeing no sign of their repentance, God had no reason to reverse his decree, nor to turn from the fierceness of his great wrath; 2 Kings 23:26.
2 Kings 23:29. In his days Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, went up, &c.— We have heretofore observed, that Pharaoh in the Egyptian language signifies king: but Nechoh, according to Herodotus, was the proper name of this monarch; though some will have it to be an appellative signifying lame, because this Pharaoh, as they suppose, had a lameness, proceeding from some wound which he had received in war. The same historian tells us, that he was the son and successor of Psammeticus, king of Egypt, and a man of a bold enterprising spirit; that he made an attempt to join the Nile and the Red Sea by drawing a canal from one to the other; that, though he failed in this design, yet by sending a fleet from the Red Sea through the straits of Babelmandel, he discovered the coast of Africa; and in this his expedition to the Euphrates resolved, by destroying the united force of the Babylonians and Medes, to bid fair for the whole monarchy of Asia. Megiddo was a city in the half tribe of Manasseh, not far from the Mediterranean sea. Houbigant renders the last clause of this verse, and king Josiah, &c.—who slew king Josiah coming against him, as soon as he had him for an adversary; and instead of dead in the next verse, he reads dying, as it appears from 2Ch 35:24 that he died at Jerusalem. See Prideaux and Calmet.
2 Kings 23:31. Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old— Jehoahaz was not the eldest son of Josiah, as appears from this; he was but three and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned but three months; after which his brother Jehoiakim, when he was made king, was five and twenty years old, 2 Kings 23:36. For this reason, it is said, that the people anointed him; because, as he did not come to the crown by right of succession, his title might have otherwise been disputed. See the note on chap. 2 Kings 9:3. At this time, however, the Jews might have some reason to prefer the younger brother, because very probably he was of a more martial spirit, and better qualified to defend their liberties against the king of Egypt. His proper name, it is thought, was Shallum. The Scripture nowhere tells us upon what occasion it was that he fell into the king of Egypt's hands, or for what reason it was that he used him so severely; but it is probable, that, to revenge his father's death, he might raise an army, and engage him in a pitched battle, though he failed in the attempt: for why should he put him in bands, if he voluntarily went and surrendered himself at Riblah, 2 Kings 23:33.? Or why be so highly offended at him for accepting a crown which the people conferred on him? The general opinion therefore is, that he was a man of a bold and daring spirit; and the words in the prophet Ezekiel, chap. 2 Kings 19:2. &c. are applied to him. See also Jer 22:11 and Calmet.
2 Kings 23:33. Riblah— Riblah was a city of Syria, upon the Orontes, afterwards called Antioch. As it was one of the pleasantest places in all Syria, Nebuchadnezzar lay there to attend the success of the siege of Jerusalem, to send his army proper supplies, and to intercept any relief that might come to the besieged.
2 Kings 23:34. Turned his name to Jehoiakim— It was usual for conquerors to change the names of the persons whom they vanquished in war, in testimony of their absolute power over them. Thus we find the king of Babylon changing the name of Mattaniah into Zedekiah, when he constituted him king of Judah; ch. 2 Kings 24:17. Archbishop Usher has further remarked, that the king of Egypt gave Eliakim the name of Jehoiakim, (that is, "the God of Israel hath, or shall make it to prosper,") thereby to testify that he ascribed his victory over the Babylonians to Jehovah, the God of Israel, by whose excitation, as he pretended, 2Ch 35:21-22 he undertook the expedition.
Note; With Josiah perished all the glory of Judah. Like a man mortally wounded, the kingdom gasped a while under his sons, and then expired, as it were, under Nebuchadhezzar's invasion.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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