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This chapter of twenty-seven Verses, occupied with the account of Josiah's great Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1-19), and his death in the battle of Megiddo, waged by Necho King of Egypt with "Carchemish by Euphrates" (2 Chronicles 35:20-27), is paralleled by the ten verses of 2 Kings 23:21-30.
2 Chronicles 35:1
They killed the Passover on the fourteenth … of the first month; i.e. on the day appointed originally (Exodus 12:6). It will be remembered that, under special circumstances, the same day of the second month was authorized by "Hezekiah and his princes" (2 Chronicles 30:2).
2 Chronicles 35:2
Comp. 2Ch 7:6; 2 Chronicles 31:2; 1 Chronicles 23:32; and our notes in those places.
2 Chronicles 35:3
That taught (see 2Ch 17:7, 2 Chronicles 17:9 : Deuteronomy 33:8-10). Which were holy (so 2 Chronicles 23:6). Put the holy ark … net to you a burden on the shoulder. There is a double difficulty, though not of a very formidable character, in this portion of the verse. We can only conjecture why the ark was not in its proper place, probably having been temporarily removed during Josiah's own restorations, or possibly having never been yet replaced from the date of some earlier removal of an iniquitous character and on the part of an iniquitous king. Secondly, as to the burden, some would explain the language as a reminiscence of the general and ever-applicable principle found in 1 Chronicles 23:26. This, at any rate, would seem rather more satisfactory than the suggestion conveyed by the italic type of our Authorized Version. Perhaps the explanation may rather be that the ark had latterly again and again been shifted, and Josiah wishes to protest that neither for one reason nor another shall it be again moved.
2 Chronicles 35:4
According to the writing of David … and … of Solomon. It is more than possible that the fullest tabulation of arrangements of this kind has not come down to us.
2 Chronicles 35:5
In brief, this verse purports to say that, for this special occasion of the Passover, the Levites shall take special care that, as stationed in the holy precincts, there shall be a family of themselves ready to minister to a family … of the people, each to each.
2 Chronicles 35:6
Prepare your brethren; i.e. as betokened by the wording of the foregoing verse, their brethren, the people. The Levites were to purify themselves, perform their other duties of killing the victims, and withal to use their opportunities of instructing the people to the better order and performance of the whole solemn service.
2 Chronicles 35:7
Lambs … kids … bullocks. The variety of sacrificial offerings is specifically noticed in our 2 Chronicles 35:13. While kids ("Ye shall take it out from the sheep or from the goats," Exodus 12:5) as well as lambs answered for the Paschal feast, the bullocks served for "burnt" and "peace offerings" (Numbers 28:16-25).
2 Chronicles 35:8
The princes; i.e. the three immediately mentioned by name. Jehiel (see Ezra 8:2).
2 Chronicles 35:9
Conaninh … Shemaiah … Jozabad (see 2 Chronicles 31:12, 2 Chronicles 31:15).
2 Chronicles 35:10
According to the king's commandment (see 2 Chronicles 30:16, where the sanction is referred further back, "according to the Law of Moses, the man of God").
2 Chronicles 35:11
Comp. 2Ch 29:1-36 :84; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Leviticus 1:1-17; Leviticus 3:1-17; Leviticus 4:1-35, passim.
2 Chronicles 35:12
Removed; i.e. cut off; the verso purporting that those who officiated cut off those portions of the animals slain which were of the nature of burnt offering, that they might be taken by the offering worshippers to the priests at the altars, there to be entirely consumed. Of the people; probably better, literally, to the children of the people, i.e. "to the people" (Le 2 Chronicles 3:3-16).
2 Chronicles 35:13
Roasted. (For the emphatic and repeated command to roast, see Exodus 12:8, Exodus 12:9; Deuteronomy 16:7.) Sod. The sodden or boiled offerings, peace offerings, were ordinarily eaten on the days of unleavened bread, and then particularly on the first and seventh (Leviticus 23:4-8, etc.). Divided them speedily among all the people. The marginal rendering of the original, and the Revised Version rendering, carried them quickly, may be noted; nevertheless attention is invited, probably not so much to the speed or quickness in question, but to the fact that "all the people" were carefully attended to.
2 Chronicles 35:15
To the marginal references of 1 Chronicles 25:1-31.; 1 Chronicles 9:0.; 1 Chronicles 26:0.; add 2Ch 6:33 -47.
2 Chronicles 35:16
The same day; literally, that day, as next verse, "at that time." No stress belongs to the day as the same day evidently.
2 Chronicles 35:18
Upon this verse Professor Murphy says, "The Passover in Hezekiah's time was great (2 Chronicles 30:26), but this was greater. For it was kept on the proper day in the first month, and was not a mere supplementary Passover; it was observed with due regularity, and not by worshippers some of whom were unclean; and if we allow thirteen persons for each lamb or kid, there were upwards of half a million communicants; while, so far as we know, there were only seventeen thousand sheep presented by Hezekiah and his princes (2 Chronicles 30:24), which would not supply more than half the number of partakers.
2 Chronicles 35:19
The date is stamped as ever-memorable, ever-honorable landmark in Josiah's reign.
2 Chronicles 35:20
After all this. A period of about thirteen years of happy retrospect is now the portion of the good king. This period brings itself to an unhappy and even fatal termination in the year B.C. 608; when, as it would appear by the result, King Josiah did wrong, and went out of his way, in opposing the march of Pharaoh-Necho, successor of Psammetichus King of Egypt, against Cyaxares King of Assyria (2 Kings 23:29), or King of Babylon at Circesium on the River Phrat, the head-quarters now of the united Assyrian and Babylonian power. Where the fault or sin of Josiah lay—whether he ran before he was sent, or whether, according to our following two verses, he set out against the Divine word by Necho—is certainly a question left in obscurity. Nothing is said in our history or its parallel to accredit the tale of Necho, or to discredit the heart and motive of Josiah—nothing except what silence and the result seem to say. One other clement of interest and of difficulty may be added to the question; for of the thirteen years' interval, which we have described above as one presumably of happy retrospect in certain aspects for Josiah, we know nothing from Scripture, but have every reason to suppose that during it Josiah and his kingdom had become subject, if only nominally, to Nabopolassar; so that, in offering to resist Necho of Egypt, he was offering to strengthen so far forth the royal line which did dishonour to his own country and his country's God. Upon this supposition, however, we can lay no stress.
2 Chronicles 35:21
Not against thee this day. Possibly the suggestion couched in these last two words may have been the opposite of agreeable to King Josiah. For God commanded me to make haste. The margin reading of the Revised Version seems preferable, both for the Hebrew text and the connection, hath given command to speed me.
2 Chronicles 35:22
Would not turn his face (so 2 Chronicles 25:17 and its parallel, 2 Kings 14:8). Disguised himself. This is, possibly enough, the intention of the word, but it is more probable that the simple meaning is fully armed himself. The Septuagint has strengthened himself. Hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God. Unless these words are intended to convey really their patent and most natural import, it is tenfold strange that they should find a place in the compilation of the Chronicles. It is indeed possible that they might purport, from the pen of the writer of Chronicles, that in point of fact the words of Necho had been the permitted warning, though not the actually dictated language of God. The genius of the whole passage strongly reminds us of 2 Chronicles 25:17, 2 Chronicles 25:19-21; and its parallel in 2 Kings 14:1-29. In the valley of Megiddo; i.e. among those hills which separate the country of the coast from Esdraelon—a valley as that "of Kishon".
2 Chronicles 35:24
And he died. If the form of words used in the parallel, 2 Kings 23:30, be followed, Josiah was dead before they reached Jerusalem. And all … mourned for Josiah. We still find no note whatever of blame attributed to Josiah, and the general mourning (Zechariah 12:11) appears to have been most genuine.
2 Chronicles 35:25
If Jeremiah's lamenting on this occasion was one committed to writing, it has not survived. To this day; i.e. probably anniversary after anniversary to the time of the writer to whom this statement belongs, the authority from which our compiler draws his materials. Written in the lamentations. We have here another glimpse of a work which has not been handed down to us.
2 Chronicles 35:26
Goodness; Hebrew text, kindnesses. According to that … written in the Law. This sentence pictures Josiah a careful, loving student of the Word, to the end that he might become a "doer" of it.
2 Chronicles 35:1-19
solemn celebration of the Passover.
(For the homiletics of this passage, or the subject of it, see those written on 2 Chronicles 30:1-27.)
2 Chronicles 35:20-27
The lamentations for Josiah's death.
Some cloud of mystery, but, so far as we can see, none of shame, hangs over the closing events of Josiah's reign and life. His determined resolution to oppose Necho King of Egypt, when he came to "Charchemish by Euphrates," with the view of engaging in battle with the forces of Babylon or Assyria, had no doubt some strong motive, It is not at all impossible to imagine and even to assign some alternative motives as those most probably at work. One element in the obscurity concerns the question—What was the operating and determining reason? The larger source of difficulty, however, lies in the obscurity surrounding the question whether any blame whatsoever attached to Josiah for his immovable resolution. That he paid no heed to the representations and remonstrances of the King of Egypt, as that king made very free use, but by no means necessarily equally intelligent and religious use, of the name of God, was very natural, and surely diplomatically justifiable. We can, meantime, find nowhere any reflection passed on Josiah for neglecting the pretended anxious warning of Necho, which may be construed to mean all anxiety for himself only. No condemnation of Josiah's conduct is written on the page of Scripture, either before or after his death, in connection with this subject. And, lastly, the allusions which the writings of the prophets contain (Jeremiah 22:10, Jeremiah 22:18; Jeremiah 34:5; Zechariah 12:11) are not only equally clear of any suspicion of reflecting blame upon him, but also are of the most touching, tender, and sympathetic character. The probability seems to be that, after the earnest, religious work of Josiah to the date of the Passover, special and solemn celebration (in "the eighteenth year of his reign," and twenty-seventh of his life), with its last effort to bring in the hapless remnant of Israel also, and after the lapse of another period of some thirteen years, the doings of which, on the part of Josiah, are nowhere recorded, he is to be permitted, before the sad plot thickens, to be "taken away from the evil to come;" and as his life was by no means in the sere and yellow leaf, the method of his departure shall be ordained mercifully—not one of sickness, or stricken plague, or ignominious "accident," but in the honourable risk and challenge of battle. Occasion may be taken here to consider the mingled mysteries and mercies that mark the Divine methods of summoning men from this present life, the methods of him whose wisdom is unchallengeable, whose ways are so often a profound deep, but of whom this may ever be recorded as comforting certainty, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The phenomenon before us is that of a good man and a good king, placed at a most remarkable juncture of history; one, indeed, without the possibility of an exact parallel, who has served his day and generation and his God with singular fidelity amid circumstances of singular difficulty. He is the last true king, and the short following of his descendants and his successors on the throne are not in any degree the inheritors of his virtues and goodness. He has made one more, one last protest for his God and against that idolatry of his nation which has cankered to the very heart its religious and its national health. Such a stand he has boldly and for a year successfully made; but he has been told, and doubtless has seen, that all was too late, and that the tide could not be turned. He is but thirty-nine years of age. And the appearance is as of a man rushing on his fate. But there is no appearance of recklessness or of intemperateness. He does not sport nor gamble away his life; and if in any partial aspect it looks for a moment like a gratuitous hazarding, it cannot be said to come of any of the ordinary impulses in any such cases. It is not for self, for sense, for sin; not for the gratification of any of these; and, meantime, it is not plain for what it is! It is the parable of providence—a parable by no means unfamiliar to us; known, indeed, to many an age, many a nation, many a family, and full of silent, deep, useful lesson and suggestion. It teaches—
I. THAT WHAT WE KNOW AS DEATH IS NOT EXTINCTION OF LIFE. Let alone whatever else, what it simply and by itself means is the merging of one cycle of existence in another; the removal of life from one school of knowledge to another; the shifting of it from one sphere of activity to another. All the living force and excellence and virtue of Josiah are not quenched, cannot be merely thrown away; and if in one sense broken in twain—though all the analogies of sense must here in this very respect fail—only in one sense. Such a death at such a time of present life, under such circumstances, is one of the strongest moral persuasives—a source of moral conviction irresistible as to what death is.
II. THE THING CALLED DEATH, IN ITSELF, ASKS ABSOLUTELY MORE TITAN ANY OTHER OF THE FACTS OF LIFE, THE THING CALLED FAITH. It is itself a fact of life—the last fact of the series known here. To be understood rightly, and to be used rightly, and to yield anything like its full fruit of advantage, it demands to be "mixed with faith" more than any preceding fact of life. Therefore it is that sometimes it actually gives birth to faith, sometimes greatly strengthens it, or, lastly, supposing it is absolutely wanting, condemns the forlorn mourner to utter darkness.
III. THE METHODS OF DEATH OFTEN SERVE, EVEN BEYOND THE FACT ITSELF, TO SURPRISE, TO STARTLE INTO EXISTENCE A WONDER THAT WILL NOT REST. That irrepressible and often agonized wonder assists to tear open the eye of flesh and sense, and operates to find deep within, or deep behind, the dormant but now struggling germ of other and more real vision. Sorrow, grief, and wonder are three of the greatest moral forces of our nature, and their agonized unanswered questions avail to sound some of the deeper depths of that nature. The mystery of death is one thing, but the mysteries of the methods of death—the victims of death, the apparently capricious or arbitrary action of death in those taken—of youth and excellence and usefulness, in the height of their service to the world, add where heads and hearts are, in consequence, literally mowed down in widest sweep and circles—are other things. It is, indeed, sometimes not impossible to imagine the gain to those who go; but what a wrecked scene for all that is left behind—with work that must be abandoned, schemes that must be abortive, hopes that must be dashed to the ground—a widespread field of desolation and devastation! For the whole scene there is one refuge. It is one which postulates, for its highest safety, and adequacy, not merely the existence and presence of faith, but faith of overcoming and dominant quality. Wanting this, which so uniformly is wanting, it may yet be that faith learns life, and lifts itself to bud and to begin to unfold its buds.
IV. THOUGH DEATH IS SUCH A VIGOROUS AND RELENTLESS BIDDER FOR FAITH, BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS CIRCUMSTANCE, YET IT DOES ALSO INFER SOME VERY CERTAIN PRESENT USE AND SIGNIFICANCE. In every case, for instance, of deep sorrow and sincere expression of it in "lamentation," what (comparatively speaking) healthy action of living hearts is betokened, and what a pure tribute of unharmful and direct honour is rendered to the vanished goodness! Upon this ancient sorrow, so far removed from ourselves, of "all Judah and Jerusalem … and of Jeremiah … and of all the singing men and the singing women"—so that they made "an ordinance of it in Israel," and recorded the words of their lamentation in their historical writings—with what pathetic interest we nevertheless look back! And we wish there were no sadder end to the history of Judah and her kings impending, no bitterer tears to flow, no anguished cries to be heard, no shame to be bowed beneath! So the death of Josiah, and his place after death yet on earth, in memory, in heart, and in song, are fraught with no little interest, apart from faith's higher action, and are charged incentives to zeal, devotion, pure religion, and sensitiveness of conscience even for ourselves.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 35:3-7
The preferable service.
There is considerable uncertainty as to the meaning of the words (2 Chronicles 35:3), "put the holy ark in the house," etc. (see Exposition). But whatever interpretation we give them, it is clear that Josiah intended the Levites to understand that he required them to render a different and a higher service than that of carrying the ark as a burden on their shoulders; they were to "serve now the Lord their God, and his people Israel;" they were to do this by "standing in the holy place," by "killing the Passover," and thus enable "their brethren to do according to the Word of the Lord." In other words, instead of the work of sacred porterage to which they had been accustomed, they were to render important services in the sanctuary; were to be instrumental in the keeping of a sacred feast by all their brethren; were to render valuable assistance in aiding them to carry out the commandments of the Lord. They were to give up the lower for the higher service, the mechanical one for that which was more spiritual; one that was no longer needed for that which was urgent; the comparatively unprofitable for that which was likely to be fruitful of devotion and piety. We thus judge—
I. THAT ALL WORK FOR GOD MAY BE GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE. Josiah could not have meant that the carrying of the ark was not "service." Although the words, as they stand in the third verse, certainly bear that construction, we conclude that he could not have intended them to have that significance. No devout Jew would have questioned the statement that the work of carrying the ark of the covenant under Divine commandment was an act of sacred service. Indeed, it matters not how humble or even slight and trivial be the work we do in the cause of God, so long as it is rendered
(1) cheerfully, and not of constraint or grudgingly
(2) faithfully, diligently, taking our part and carrying it out with loyalty and thoroughness;
(3) harmoniously, in concert with our fellow-labourers;
(4) religiously, devoutly, doing what we do as unto Christ, and not only as unto man; it is then good and sacred and acceptable unto God our Saviour.
"All works are good, and each is best
As most it pleases thee;
Each worker pleases when the rest
He serves in charity;
And neither work nor man unblest
Wilt thou permit to be."
But there is another side to this truth. There are works which are to be preferred to others, if they can be rightly undertaken, because they are intrinsically better. Hence we urge—
II. THAT THERE IS WORK WHICH IS TO BE PREFERRED WHEN THE CHOICE IS OFFERED US.
1. The spiritual to the mechanical; e.g. leading in prayer or urging to religious decision or to deeper and fuller devotedness, (to be preferred) to the work of "the doorkeeper in the house of the Lord," good as that is in its time and way.
2. The practical to the speculative; e.g. doing some work of rescue or reformation rather than indulging in speculations as to the employments of the heavenly country, or trying to read the riddle of the Apocalypse.
3. The sympathetic to the argumentative. It may be well to demolish the arguments of the assailant of the faith; it is better to "visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction;' to carry consolation and hope to those who are ready to.faint or to despair. The logical man does well to argue, but the work of "the man who is a hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the tempest" is of a nobler, a Christlier kind.
4. The costly to the costless. No sum is too small for the treasury of the Lord, no word too simple for the sanctuary; yet is it a better thing to bring to Jesus Christ that which costs us something (2 Samuel 24:24)—the work which commands and requires our strength, the word on which we have spent patient and prayerful thought, the feeling which is a real expenditure of ourselves.—C.
2 Chronicles 35:6-16
The service of the Lord.
From this account of Josiah's great Passover we may learn—
I. THAT RELIGIOUS LIFE INCLUDES A FEW GREAT OCCASIONS. The religious life of Israel included some special occasions, of which this was one. Provision was made in the Law for one event of surpassing solemnity in every year (Leviticus 16:1-34.). And the very checkered course the nation ran provided a few extraordinary scenes which were great and sacred opportunities. Thus is it with individual lives. During a life of ordinary length and interest there will occur some few events which are signal, striking, critical. Much may depend on them; much use should be made of them. But, after all, it is not by them that our life will be sustained, and it is not upon them that any wise man will rely. It is the regular worship; it is the daily devotion; it is the habitual recognition of God and appeal to him that determines our spiritual position, that makes us to "live before" him and in him.
II. THAT THE SERVICE OF GOD PROVIDES A VERY WIDE OPPORTUNITY. How many men, how many classes or orders of men, contributed to this one service! The king inspired and directed it (2 Chronicles 35:1, 2 Chronicles 35:2); the Levites "killed the Passover" (2 Chronicles 35:6-11); the priests "sprinkled the blood" (2 Chronicles 35:11). The heads of the orders, from the king downwards, contributed generously of their flocks to supply the people's need (2 Chronicles 35:7-9). The singers sang (2 Chronicles 35:15); the porters "waited at every gate" (2 Chronicles 35:15). So "all the service of the Lord' was rendered, every one taking his place and doing his best thereat (2 Chronicles 35:16). The Church of Christ is one Body with many members, and all the members have not the same office; very various indeed are the offices which are rendered by the disciples of the one Lord. And as, year by year, Christian life, as well as civilized life, becomes more complex and intricate, it becomes more decisively and imperatively our duty to recognize the fact that, while our own particular function has its importance, it is only one among many others, and that every one of us is beholden to his fellows for valuable services which it is not in his own power to render. And it is well also to mark that, in a state so complicated, with so many posts to be filled, there is the less excuse for any idle member.
III. THAT THE SERVICE OF OTHERS SHOULD PRECEDE PROVISION FOR OURSELVES. "Afterward they made ready for themselves" (2 Chronicles 35:14). In the kingdom of Christ we are not to stand upon our official rights; we are to claim the supreme honour of serving others, after the manner of our Divine Leader. He was "among us as one that serveth;" he was here "not to be ministered unto, but to minister;" and we never stand nearer to him than when we abnegate any right we might officially claim, and prefer to wait upon others' wants; to minister to their necessities; to make them glad, or to do them good. Of ourselves we may think and for ourselves we may care, but afterward, not first.
IV. THAT WE MAY RENDER AN EXCELLENT SERVICE BY A REVIVAL OF THE FORGOTTEN. It does not follow that old usages, though they once had the sanction of Christian custom, should be revived. Possibly they are better left alone. "The old order changeth," etc. On the other hand, the time may come for their revival, if not in the same form, in a different one. That usage, in some form, deserves to be restored which promotes devotion, humility, charity.—C.
2 Chronicles 35:17-19
The moral of the Passover.
The keeping of this Passover is very particularly described in this chapter, and we may be sure that it was entered into and enjoyed, as a religious festival, with exceeding zest. We naturally ask—What was its significance? What did it mean to those who celebrated it? We reply that in it and by it—
I. THEY RECOGNIZED THEIR UNITY AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. They went back in thought to the time when they were bound together in the strong bond of a common sorrow; when they were a suffering people bent beneath the same yoke, bleeding with the same blows; and they recognized the fact that they were all the children of their fathers to whom Moses came as the great prophet and saviour. And the lamb of which they partook, with not a bone of its body broken, was the symbol of the national unity.
II. THEY REJOICED IN A GREAT DIVINE DELIVERANCE—A DELIVERANCE THROUGH SACRIFICE. The prevailing thought of the whole institution was God's merciful and mighty interposition on their behalf, redeeming them from the land of bondage and misery, bringing them out into liberty and happiness, and constituting them a nation, holy unto himself. And closely connected with the main idea of deliverance was that of sacrifice; they commemorated the fact that through the sacrifice of a slain lamb they had been spared and redeemed.
III. THEY HAD FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AND WITH ONE ANOTHER. The Feast of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread was one in which they rejoiced together both as families and as a congregated nation "before the Lord." Then they had true fellowship with one another, meeting and greeting one another as members of the same redeemed nation, whom the Lord had pitied and restored; and while they were thus gladdened in heart as they associated one with another, they were also solemnized by the thought that they met together in the city of God, in the courts of the Lord's house, in his own presence. Theirs was a sacred union and communion; it was fellowship with the Supreme.
When we meet, as Christian men, in ordinary worship, and more particularly when we gather together at the Lord's table, we are moved and animated by this same spirit, by these same convictions and considerations.
1. We realize our essential unity, our oneness in Jesus Christ. Are we not all members of that race on which, in all its distance from the home of God, he had compassion and which he stooped to save? Are we not bound together, not only as partakers of the same human nature, but as those who have bowed beneath the same yoke, who have needed the same Divine Redeemer, who have suffered in the same affliction?
2. We rejoice together in the same glorious redemption—a redemption that
(1) not only was designed and begun, but was triumphantly completed;
(2) a redemption which, in its spiritual character and its everlasting issues, dwarfs even such a great national deliverance as that which this Passover commemorated;
(3) a redemption which could only be (and was) accomplished through the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God," slain from the foundation of the world for the recovery of the world.
3. We meet to have holy and happy fellowship with one another, and also hallowed and elevating fellowship with our Father and his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).—C.
2 Chronicles 35:24, 2 Chronicles 35:25
An early sunset.
That very good men may make very great mistakes we hardly need to be told; unfortunately, we have all too many illustrations of that fact. The text provides us with a very melancholy instance. What had Josiah to do with this contest between the kings of Egypt and Assyria? Was his heart, too, "lifted up," that he thought himself and his people more than a match for the disciplined hosts of Egypt? Had he been attacked, and had he cast himself on God as Hezekiah did when Sennacherib appeared against him, then he might have hoped confidently for victory. But to contest with a great world-power on worldly principles was a supreme and a fatal error. He paid the penalty of his folly with his life. "His sun went down while it was yet day." So passed, needlessly and unfortunately, one of the best and boldest spirits that occupied the throne of Judah. Regarding his death as that of one early removed from the scenes of earthly activity, we are naturally affected by—
I. ITS EXTREME SADNESS. We are not surprised to read of so demonstrative and so fervent-natured a people as the Jews were, that "all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah;" nor that Jeremiah uttered his prophet's plaint concerning him. It was a time for profound sorrow; and even passionate grief might, under such circumstances, be excused. For the nation had not merely lost its chief; it had lost an invaluable leader, a king who was leading in the paths of righteousness and therefore of prosperity. There must come occasions to the country, to the Church, to the city, to the family, when one man's death will be felt to be a calamity. Very wise is that community, sacred or secular, national or domestic, that recognizes this fact and provides against it; that secures such resources, material or spiritual, that when such a blow comes everything will not be lost; that when its best is taken it has still much in reserve; that it is not dependent for the maintenance of its liberty, or its security, or its vigorous existence on anything so precarious as one human being's life.
II. ITS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Why did God not interpose to prevent Josiah from throwing his life away? Why did he let darkness come down at noon, and put an end to this bright and useful day? Why does he not now intervene between us and the death we speak of as premature? Why does he permit the young statesmen to overtax his strength and die in his prime; the young minister to commit himself to the treacherous tide and be drowned in the very fulness of his powers and the midst of his usefulness; the young missionary to expose his life to the savages who pierce him with the poisoned spear? We ask such questions, wondering, if not complaining, at the Divine inaction. But we might very justly and more properly ask ourselves another question—What right have we to expect that God will give to any man a particular term of earthly life that we may choose for him? Has he promised to confer any one length of days on his servants? Is not the gift of every added day a prolongation of his goodness and his mercy? Ought we not, rather than complain, to bless him for the number of years he does bestow—a number which is greater than our deserving? Would it be really wise or kind of our heavenly Father if he were always interposing to prevent us from suffering the natural consequences of our error or our negligence, because we were right at heart with him? Would that be the way to discipline, to purify, to perfect his children? No! when God lets death
"Descend in sudden night
On manhood's middle day,"
he is not unrighteous, nor is he really unwise or unkind. Get down far enough, and we stand on the rock of righteousness and wisdom and love. We may look at—
III. ALLEVIATING ASPECTS OF IT. No doubt, when Josiah found that he was "sore wounded," and that he could not recover, he would grieve more or less, as Hezekiah did. But as he confronted death he would become reconciled to the will of God, and he would, probably, have some hope concerning himself for the future, and would entrust his country to the care of God. But we have a much larger measure of alleviation than Josiah had. For there has visited us and spoken to us that Divine One who is the Resurrection and the Life indeed. And in the light of his revealing truth, and in the hope of his gracious promise, we look upon death as introducing us into another part of the kingdom of God—another and a better; a sphere from which sin is shut out;—and not only sin, but weariness and disappointment and sorrow; a sphere that will be ever brightening and broadening as added years reveal in us and to us "enlarged and liberated powers.'—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 35:1-19
The great Passover of Josiah.
I. GREAT IN RESPECT OF ITS CONFORMITY TO THE LAW. To suppose (De Wette, Thenius, and others) that never before had a Passover been observed in Israel or Judah since the days of Samuel (2 Chronicles 35:18; 2 Chronicles 1:0 Esdras 1:20, 21) or of the judges (2 Kings 23:22), is not only to extract an unwarrantable inference from the sacred text, but is contradicted by the fact that Hezekiah, a former King of Judah, celebrated a Passover in Jerusalem which was not merely a Passover of his own arranging, but the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1, 2 Chronicles 30:2) prescribed by the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 35:16, 2 Chronicles 35:18). That this Passover, however, should have adhered more closely to the prescriptions of the lawgiver than any former, demands no additional explanation beyond the fact that it was celebrated in Josiah's eighteenth year (2 Chronicles 35:19), and after the discovery of the book of the Law (2 Chronicles 34:14, 2 Chronicles 34:15). The stricter adherence to Mosaic regulation appeared in three things.
1. The exactness of the date. The solemnity began "on the fourteenth day of the first month" (2 Chronicles 35:1), as the book of the Law commanded (Exodus 12:1-51.). Hezekiah's festival commenced "in the second month" because of the difficulty of getting ready for the stipulated time (2 Chronicles 30:2, 2 Chronicles 30:3). The Passover proper also ended on one day, i.e. all were able to eat the sacrificial lamb at the appointed time (2 Chronicles 35:16), without any requiring to defer their participation thereof for any reason whatever (Numbers 9:6-12).
2. The unity of the place. The feast was held in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:1) by all its celebrants. The same was true of Hezekiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1), though it is doubtful if as much could be said of earlier observances from the days of the judges or of Samuel.
3. The completeness of the ritual. Everything was done "in accordance with the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses" (2 Chronicles 35:6); i.e. the instructions as to the duties of the priests, Levites, and people; as to the killing, burning, eating of the victims; and as to the presentation of mazzoth gifts for the ensuing feast, were faithfully carried out.
II. GREAT IN RESPECT OF THE PREPARATIONS FOR ITS OBSERVANCE. Not greater as to amount of labour than were those made in connection with Hezekiah's festival; but still great.
1. Concerning the priests. These were set in their charges and encouraged to the service of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 35:2). Following the example of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:18), Josiah distributed among the divisions of the priesthood as arranged by David (1 Chronicles 24:1-31.) the different parts of work required by the Law of Moses in the celebration of the Passover, i.e. he set them "according to their daily courses, Being arrayed in long garments, in the temple of the Lord' (1 Esdr. 1:2); after which he strengthened them for their labours by detailed instructions as to their duties, and by encouraging exhortations to its faithful performance.
2. Concerning the Levites. These were:
(1) Defined as to their official work and character; in respect of the former being called "teachers of all Israel" (cf. 2 Chronicles 17:8, 2 Chronicles 17:9; Nehemiah 8:7, Nehemiah 8:9), and with reference to the latter being designated "holy unto the Lord" (Numbers 3:12, Numbers 3:13)—an epithet applied also to the priests (2 Chronicles 23:6; Le 2 Chronicles 21:6), and even to the people (Deuteronomy 7:6); an epithet expressive of outward consecration, which, however, ought in every instance to reflect an inward consecration as its ground and justification.
(2) Directed about the ark, which they were told to "put," or leave (Keil), "in the house which Solomon the son of David King of Israel did build" (2 Chronicles 35:3). The ark, it is supposed, had been removed from the holy of holies during the idolatrous reigns of Manasseh and Amon By these kings themselves (Estius, Piscator), or by the priests who wished to preserve it (A. Clarke), and now was ordered by Josiah to be replaced; but against this stands the fact that the work of placing the ark in the holy of holies belonged not to the Levites, but to the priests (verse 7). It has also been conjectured that the Levites had been accustomed to carry the ark about the temple courts during the Passover celebration "under the impression that they were required so to do by the Law, and that Josiah pointed out to them the alteration which had taken place in this respect since the erection of the temple by Solomon" (Bertheau); but for this conjecture there is no positive historical foundation. A third explanation is that, as the Levites were no longer required to carry the ark about from place to place since it now had a resting-place in the temple, they should leave it there and give themselves to such other duties as were now demanded of them (Keil).
(3) Commanded relative to themselves—to arrange themselves according to their fathers' houses and after their courses according to the writings of David and Solomon (verse 4); to take up their stations in the holy place according to the divisions of the fathers' houses of their lay brethren, so that one of their divisions should fail to each father's house of the laymen (verse 5); to kill the Passover and sanctify themselves, probably by washing themselves, before handing the blood to the priests to sprinkle on the altar (Keil), or after they had done so and before they performed any further duties (Bertheau); and, finally, to prepare, so. the Passover for their brethren the laymen, that they might do according to the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses (verse 6).
3. Concerning the people. These, i.e. such of them as were poor, or had come from a distance without having brought the necessary sacrificial animals, were furnished with lambs, kids, and bullocks, or small cattle and oxen (verses 7-9), without which they could not have taken part in the celebration. At least the poor would have been excluded, which would have marred both the completeness and hilarity of the celebration.
III. GREAT IN RESPECT OF ITS ACCOMPANYING LIBERALITY.
1. On the part of the king. From the royal revenues Josiah contributed for the Passover offerings
(1) largely—thirty thousand lambs and kids and three thousand bullocks (verse 7), a much larger gift than was presented by Hezekiah (ch. 30:24); and
(2) promptly, taking the lead in his good work, and so supplying an example to his subjects.
2. On the part of the royal princes. These, copying the action of their sovereign, likewise made donations
(1) freely, or "for a free-will offering "—an indispensable quality in all religious giving (2 Corinthians 8:12); and it may be hoped
(2) largely, though this is not stated. They would hardly fall behind the princes in the time of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:24).
3. On the part of the rulers of the temple. Hilkiah the high priest (2 Chronicles 34:9), Zechariah, perhaps the next in rank to him, "the second priest" (2 Kings 25:18; Jeremiah 52:24), and Jehiel, the chief of the line of Ithamar (Ezra 8:2), exhibited a similar praiseworthy liberality (verse 8).
4. On the part of the Levite princes. Six of these whose names are recorded—Conaniah, with his two brothers Shemaiah and Nethaneel, with Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozahad also displayed a high degree of generosity (verse 9).
IV. GREAT IN RESPECT OF ITS CO-OPERATING ACTIVITY. Each had his part to perform, and each performed it in such a way as not to hinder, but to accelerate the progress; and not to mar, but to increase the effect of the whole.
1. The priests. These
(1) stood in their place beside the altars (verse 10; 2 Chronicles 30:16);
(2) sprinkled the blood they received from the Levites (verse 11; 2 Chronicles 30:16); and
(3) offered burnt offerings and the fat until night (verse 14).
2. The Levites. These
(1) killed the Passover victims (verse 11);
(2) flayed or skinned them (verse 11); and
(3) removed from their carcases such parts as were designed to be offered as burnt offerings (verse 12); after which they
(4) roasted the Passover with fire, according to the Mosaic ordinance (verse 13; Exodus 12:8, Exodus 12:9);
(5) boiled the other offerings in pots, caldrons, and pans (verse 13);
(6) divided them as they were ready among the people (verse 13); and
(7) prepared the Passover for themselves and for the priests (verse 14).
3. The singers. These, the sons of Asaph, stood in their places, in the court of the temple, discoursing music with harps, psalteries, and cymbals (1 Chronicles 25:1), without once leaving their ranks even to eat the Passover, the Levites preparing for and fetching to them their portion (verse 15).
4. The porters. At every gate these watched, never departing from their service, because the Levites did for them as for the musicians (verse 15). Thus each contributed his part, and all worked harmoniously towards the production of the general result.
V. GREAT IN RESPECT OF ITS CELEBRATING NUMBERS. The feast was attended by:
1. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, including Josiah and his princes, with the priests and the Levites.
2. All Judah, meaning the population beyond the metropolis, in the country districts.
3. The children of Israel; i.e. the members of the northern kingdom who had not been carried into exile, and who had come to Jerusalem to be present at the feast.
1. The duty of observing the public ordinances of religion.
2. The beauty and value of unity and co-operation in Christian work and worship.
3. The propriety of having special seasons of religious service.—W.
2 Chronicles 35:20-27
The death of Josiah.
I. JOSIAH'S MILITARY EXPEDITION. (2 Chronicles 35:20.) Seemingly the only expedition in his reign.
1. When it took place. "After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple;" i.e. after the eighteenth year of his reign, in point of fact, thirteen years after (2 Chronicles 34:1).
2. Against whom it was directed. Necho King of Egypt; in Egyptian, Neku, son of Psammatik I; the illustrious founder of the Saitic or twenty-sixth dynasty, and grandson of Necho I; of the twenty-fifth or Ethiopian dynasty, Necho II. ascended the throne of the Pharaohs in B.C. 612, and reigned sixteen years. A warlike and adventurous prince, he was likewise devoted to commercial pursuits; he possessed two fleets of Greek-made triremes, one in the Mediterranean and another in the Red Sea. In his service Phoenician sailors were the first to circumnavigate Africa (Herod; 4:44).
3. For what reason it was projected. To oppose Necho, who was on his way through Palestine towards Carchemish on the Euphrates, to fight against the King of Assyria. Whether this sovereign was "King of Assyria proper"—in which case he would most likely be Esarhaddon II; the last ruler of Nineveh—or whether he was the Babylonian monarch Nahopolassar, who seized the empire after the overthrow of the Assyrian power, cannot be conclusively determined, although the best authorities favour the latter hypothesis (Ebers, Sayce, Rawlinson). In any ease, Necho, taking advantage either of the declining power of Nineveh, or of the still unsettled state of Babylonian affairs, resolved to strike a blow for the recovery of those Asiatic provinces which had formerly been subject to the Pharaohs; and Josiah, still regarding himself as a tributary of the Assyrian crown, and probably under Jeremiah's teaching (Jer 47:1-7 :25), dreading the rise of the Egyptian power, hastened to resist his advance.
II. JOSIAH'S PROVIDENTIAL WARNING. (Verse 21.)
1. The purport of this warning. Before the two armies met, Necho despatched an embassy to Josiah, requesting him to desist from offering opposition.
(1) Because he, Necho, was not seeking to disturb or injure him, Josiah, but was aiming at Assyria—"the house wherewith I have war." Cf. Joash to Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:18, 2 Chronicles 25:19).
(2) Because he, Necho, was acting in accordance with a Divine commission, so that in opposing him Josiah would be guilty of resisting God, and would only bring ruin upon himself. In claiming to act under the impulse of Heaven, Necho probably meant no more than Pianchi-Mer-Amon of the twenty-fifth dynasty, who, when marching against Tafnakhth and other rebel chieftains, said, "Thou knowest what Amon the great god hath commanded us;" and again, "I am born of the loins, created from the egg, of the deity; the divine procreation is in me. All hail to him, I have not acted without his knowing; he ordained that I should act" ('Records,' etc; 2.84, 91).
2. The author of this warning. Though Necho may have had no other idea in using the term "god" than that above explained, and though certainly it cannot be assumed that he understood himself to be the medium of conveying a Divine warning to the King of Judah, it is nevertheless clear that the Chronicler beheld in the incident the finger of God. Whether Jehovah actually put the words into Necho's mouth, or only permitted him to speak as he did, the Hebrew historian, perhaps judging from the fatal issue of the war, regarded the message of Pharaoh as a clear warning from Heaven which Josiah should have accepted. There is no need for supposing either that Necho spoke of Josiah's God or that Josiah's God spoke to Necho.
III. JOSIAH'S LAMENTABLE OBSTINACY. (Verse 22.)
1. His rejection of the warning. "He hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God." To assume Josiah knew that Necho was going against Nabopolassar with the express sanction of Jehovah, and that Necho's dissuasive admonition proceeded straight from Heaven, and to hold moreover that Josiah, cognizant of all this, nevertheless closed his ear against the voice of the Supreme, is to put the worst construction possible on Josiah's conduct; to understand the sacred writer's language as merely importing, that Josiah was not disposed to hearken to Necho's advice, and so failed to recognize it as "from the mouth of God," is probably to put upon the King of Judah's behaviour the best construction it will admit of. Had Josiah not been bent upon this war, he would have quickly discerned the prudence of Necho's counsel.
2. His determination to fight. "Josiah would not turn his face from him" (Necho), but pushed on and offered battle in the valley of Megiddo, Magdol (Herod; 2.159)—the modern Leijun, west of the Plain of Esdraelon, and near Taanach (Robinson), though a claim has been advanced for the modern Mujedd'a, "an important ruin in the Plain of Beisan, at the foot of Gilbea" (Conder). Here had. once stood an old Canaanitish town, of which the king was conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12:21), and which, though within the territory of Issachar, was yet assigned to Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). In later years Solomon selected it as one of his fortified cities (1 Kings 9:15). In Megiddo Ahaziah sought refuge when mortally wounded by Jehu (2 Kings 9:27). Megiddo had been the scene of a great battle between Thothmes IIL and one of the confederations of the small kings and princes of Palestine, B.C. 1600 ('Records,' etc; 2:35). Now on this historic ground the forces of Josiah and Necho come into collision.
IV. JOSIAH'S FATAL WOUND. (Verse 23.)
1. The ineffectual disguise Like Ahah at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:29), Josiah resorted to a customary hut foolish and, in this case, useless artifice. Josiah should have ventured upon no campaign which demanded such an expedient. Had Josiah been sure of the Divine approbation, he would have needed no protection beyond the invisible shield and buckler of Jehovah (Psalms 91:1-16.).
2. The death-winged arrow. No coat of mail can protect a soldier, or stratagem prolong the days of him whose hour is come. Whether the Egyptian bowmen penetrated through Josiah's disguise or not, Jehovah did. If Necho's archers shot at random, the almighty and omniscient Archer (Lamentations 2:4; Job 6:4; Revelation 6:2) did not. Every shaft that flies from his hand hits. Josiah believed he was only fighting against Necho; Necho told him he was fighting against God. In this unequal contest (Isaiah 27:4) Josiah was of course defeated. "The archers shot at King Josiah; and King Josiah said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded."
V. JOSIAH'S UNTIMELY DEATH. (Verse 24.) It was:
1. Immediate. The pious but mistaken monarch felt he had received his death-blow. Obeying his instructions, his soldiers lifted him from his war-chariot, and, placing him "in a second chariot which belonged to him, and was probably more comfortable for a wounded man" (Keil), conveyed him to Jerusalem, where he shortly after expired.
2. Untimely. What Hezekiah feared was about to happen to him in his thirty-ninth year (Isaiah 38:10), happened in reality to Josiah; he was deprived of the residue of his years. What another singer prayed against (Psalms 102:24) befell him, perhaps, notwithstanding his prayers—he was cut off in the midst of his days. In the language of a Hebrew prophet, "his sun had gone down at noon" (Amos 8:9). Considering his elevated character, the quality of the work he had already performed, and the promise of good for his land and people which lay, or seemed to lie, in his prolonged life, his death could scarcely be pronounced other than premature; it was all too soon for Jerusalem and Judah. Yet was it not too soon for God, who best knew the moment in which to fulfil his own promise (2 Chronicles 34:28; Psalms 31:15); or for Josiah, who was thereby removed from the evil to come (Psalms 12:1; Isaiah 57:1), so that his eyes saw not the calamities which forthwith began to descend upon his country (2 Chronicles 36:3).
(1) Mourned for by the people. When they buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers (verse 24), or in his own sepulchre (2 Kings 23:30)—perhaps in one of the chambers of Manasseh's tomb (2 Chronicles 33:20)—the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem felt that "a prince and a great man" had been taken from them. They sorrowed for him as they had never before sorrowed for a sovereign, "lamenting and grieving on his account many days" (Josephus), with such an intensity of heartfelt anguish that even after the Captivity "the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon" became a proverbial expression for the deepest and truest grief (Zechariah 12:11).
(2) Lamented by Jeremiah. The most plaintive of all the prophets, who had commenced his ministry in the thirteenth year of the deceased sovereign's reign (Jeremiah 1:1), composed a dirge to keep in memory his death. Whether that elegiac hymn was recited at his funeral (Stanley) or not, it was placed in the national collection of such threnodies, and was long after chanted by the singing men and singing women who, on fixed days, were appointed to recall the memory of the good king.
1. The danger of intermeddling with other people's strife (Proverbs 26:17).
2. The folly of rejecting good advice, even though given by an enemy.
3. The probability that he who runs into danger unbidden will not escape unhurt (Psalms 91:11).
4. The certainty that death will overtake all, in such an hour as they think not (Matthew 24:44).
5. The loss which a good man's death is to a community or nation (2 Kings 2:12).
6. The propriety of perpetuating the recollection of noble lives (Proverbs 10:7)
7. The fitness of song to express sorrowful emotions (2 Samuel 1:17; Micah 2:4).—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 35". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19