INTRODUCTION TO JOSIAH’S REIGN, 2 Kings 22:1-2.
1.Josiah — A name forever honoured in Jewish history.
Eight years old — Born when his father was sixteen years old. Compare 2 Kings 21:19. On the early maturity of persons in the East, see note on 2 Kings 18:2. His mother was probably queen-regent during the earlier years of his reign. Boscath is the same as Bozkath in the plain of Judah, apparently between Lachish and Eglon, (Joshua 15:39,) but its site has not been identified.
PREPARATIONS MADE TO REPAIR THE TEMPLE, 2 Kings 22:3-7.
3.The eighteenth year of king Josiah — This is a memorable date, and made especially prominent by the writer of Kings, because it was in this year that the book of the law was discovered, and the celebrated passover held. Hence he repeats the mention of this date in 2 Kings 23:23, and seems to fasten all his narrative upon it. But from the parallel history in 2 Chronicles 34, 35, we learn that in his eighth year Josiah “began to seek after the God of his father David,” and in his twelfth year he began to destroy the idolatrous images not only in “Judah and Jerusalem,” but also “in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali.” Hence we conclude that various reforms and extensive destruction of images were commenced by Josiah before this eighteenth year, but after the discovery of the law the work was carried out with far greater zeal and thoroughness.
Shaphan’ the scribe — He was also the father of Ahikam, mentioned 2 Kings 22:12; 2 Kings 22:14. On the office and work of scribe, see note on 2 Samuel 8:17.
4.Hilkiah the high priest — Son of Shallum and grandson of Zadok. 1 Chronicles 6:12-13. His name is immortalized by his discovery of the book of the law.
Sum the silver — Ascertain the sum or complete amount of the silver now on hand.
Which the keepers of the door have gathered — The arrangement for receiving money was like that in the time of Jehoash, (2 Kings 12:9-12,) when a chest was placed at the door of the temple into which the people put their contributions for repairing the house of the Lord; and “when they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they put up in bags and told the money that was found in the house of the Lord.” The keepers of the door were Levites, (1 Chronicles 23:5,) sometimes priests. 2 Kings 12:9.
5.The doers of the work — All that laboured in repairing the temple, both masters or superintendents and under-workmen. The former are designated as those that have the oversight of the house; the latter, those who are in the house of the Lord. This is more clearly stated in 2 Chronicles 34:10-13, where also the names of the masters or overseers are given.
To repair the’ house — For since the time of Jehoash no repairing had been done, and the temple had suffered repeated spoliation. Comp. 2 Kings 14:14; 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 16:17-18; 2 Kings 18:15-16.
7.No reckoning — See 2 Kings 12:15.
DISCOVERY OF THE BOOK OF THE LAW, 2 Kings 22:8-11.
8.I have found the book of the law — The traditional and most probable meaning is, that this was the same book of the law (or a true and complete copy of it) which Moses wrote and ordered the Levite-priests to deposit and keep in the side of the ark of God, (Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:26) — the entire Pentateuch. Against this traditional belief and most obvious sense of the words, the bare assumption that it was only our present book of Deuteronomy, or a digest of the laws of Moses, is destitute of any force. The statement in 2 Chronicles 34:14, that it was the book of the law of Jehovah by the hand of Moses, has led many to believe that it was the ancient autograph copy which came from the hand of the great lawgiver. This, Kitto thinks, was one reason why its discovery made such an extraordinary impression — “an impression which may in part, though still imperfectly, be understood by him who has been privileged to examine some one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures now existing; and whom the very oldness of the vellum, and the antique style of the writing, with the knowledge of the long ages through which its existence may be traced, seem to take back so much nearer to the time of the writer, and give a vividness to his impressions of ancient truth which no modern copy can impart.”
It is certainly possible, and, indeed, probable, that the original copy of the law might have existed in Josiah’s time, having been long concealed in some secret place of the temple. But it is not likely that this was the only copy of the law then in existence, and the finding of it by Hilkiah was not the discovery of something which had never before been heard of, and which had now, for the first time, come to light. We naturally infer from the course of the history that during the last great apostasy of more than half a century (from the beginning of Manasseh’s reign even up to this eighteenth year of Josiah — seventy-five years) the book of the law had been utterly neglected, and the knowledge of it existed only as a tradition among the better classes of the people. Copies probably existed here and there, especially among the prophets, but they were not generally known, and their owners may have been careful to keep their existence a secret.
In what part of the temple the book was found is a question that cannot be answered. It had probably been concealed, during a period of apostasy and persecution, by some faithful priest, who feared that the growing wickedness and the impious sacrilege of his age might destroy the sacred treasure.
10.The priest hath delivered me a book — Shaphan had already read the book (2 Kings 22:8) sufficiently, doubtless, to satisfy himself of its character and value, but he did not tell the king that it was the law of Moses; he spoke of it as a book, an ancient manuscript, worthy of attention, and then read it before the king. From this last expression we are not to understand that Shaphan read at that one time all the pentateuch to the king. Chronicles says, he read in it; that is, portions of it. From the impression the reading made upon the king, and from the language of the prophetess in 2 Kings 22:16, (comp. 2 Chronicles 34:23,) it is commonly supposed that the scribe opened upon the latter portion of the book of Deuteronomy, especially chaps. 28-31. And this would be very natural if the book were in the form of a scroll, and the scribe unrolled the last part first.
11.Rent his clothes — So sudden and profound was his grief and terror on fully realizing the extent and fear-fulness of the nation’s apostasy from the law of Jehovah.
THE ORACLE OF HULDAH THE PROPHETESS, 2 Kings 22:12-20.
12.Hilkiah’ Ahikam’ Achbor’ Shaphan’ Asahiah — A truly honourable and imposing delegation, and indicative of the king’s profound earnestness and anxiety. Here was first the high priest: then Ahikam, who afterwards appears as the friend of Jeremiah, and father of the governor of the cities of Judah; (Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 40:5;) then Achbor, whose eminence in the kingdom is shown further by the fact that his son Elnathan was one of Zedekiah’s chief ministers; (Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12;) then Shaphan, the scribe, who must now have been an old and venerable man to have a son so eminent in the kingdom as Ahikam; and, lastly, a servant of the king’s named Asahiah, who seems, from his association with the other deputies, to have been some honourable officer.
13.Inquire of the Lord for me — He does not instruct them where to go, or say whether they shall inquire by urim or by the prophets. He assumes that they know better where to go than he.
Concerning the words of this book — Not whether it were really the book of the law of Moses, and its words to be credited, for he had no doubt of this when he rent his clothes, (2 Kings 22:11; 2 Kings 22:19,) but to know whether the words of the book are to be immediately fulfilled, and what he is to do and expect under the fearful state of things that has come upon the nation for its sins.
14.Huldah the prophetess — All we know of this celebrated woman is recorded here and in the parallel history of Chronicles. Even her husband and his ancestors are mentioned nowhere else. But this short narrative has immortalized her name, and her oracle on the occasion has given her a place above many of the prophets of Judah. The loftiness of her position is enhanced by the fact that the high priest and the king’s most honourable ministers seek knowledge at her hand. In the bestowal of the Divine gift of the Spirit Jehovah is no respecter of persons or of sex, yet in the field of prophecy woman has appeared less frequently than man. Only two other women of the Old Testament bear the title of prophetess, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, (Exodus 15:20,) and Deborah, (Judges 4:4;) but they seem not to have attained the spiritual elevation of Huldah. In the spirit of ecstasy they sang sacred songs, and aroused the people to enthusiasm after signal victories; but they did not prophesy in that loftier sphere of Divine authority which is expressed in “Thus saith Jehovah.” 2 Kings 22:15-16.
The wardrobe — Either of the king or of the priests. Compare 2 Kings 10:22.
In the college — This rendering seems to have been taken from the Targum of Jonathan, which reads, house of instruction, and probably originated in the supposition that Huldah had charge of a school of the prophets. The Hebrew is במשׁנה, in the Mishna, and is thus translated as a proper name in the Septuagint; but it means literally, in the second, and is so rendered in Zephaniah 1:10, where it means the second part, or a later addition to the city. Thus the word designates the section or district of Jerusalem in which Huldah lived. This quarter of the city might have been called the second for various reasons now unknown to us. Josephus (Ant., 2 Kings 15:11; 2 Kings 15:5) speaks of the other city (αλλη πολις ) as of a well-known section of Jerusalem.
15.Tell the man that sent you — 2 Kings 22:16-17 contain a prophecy of which every Israelite should be informed, and are communicated to the king as the representative of every man of his kingdom; 2 Kings 22:18-20 are particularly for the king alone.
16.This place — Jerusalem.
All the words of the book — Chronicles reads all the curses, from which it has naturally been inferred that the words of the law which had especially impressed the king were the curses which are announced in Leviticus 26, and the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, as sure to come, in case of disobedience, upon the sinful nation. Compare note on 2 Kings 22:10.
18.To the king of Judah — What follows is solely for the king; the preceding part of the oracle was “to the man that sent you,” (2 Kings 22:15,) because it contained announcements which it concerned not only the king, but every other man, to hear.
19.Thine heart was tender — Yielding and impressible.
A desolation and a curse — These words indicate that Leviticus 26 (compare especially Leviticus 22:31-32) had also been read before the king.
20.Gathered into thy grave in peace — For although slain by the king of Egypt, he was brought to Jerusalem, and peacefully buried in his own family tomb, (2 Kings 23:39, 40,) mourned by all the people. And he was spared the bitter woe of living to see all the evil which subsequently befel his people, and of which the law gave warning and the prophets spoke.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany