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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
2 Kings 23

 

 

Verse 1

And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.

The king sent, and ... gathered ... all the elders. This pious and patriotic king, not content with the promise of his own security, felt, after Huldah's response, an increased desire to avert the threatened calamities from his kingdom and people. Knowing the richness of the divine clemency and grace to the penitent, he convened the elders of the people and placing himself at their head, accompanied by the collective body of the inhabitants, went in solemn precession to temple, where he ordered the book of the law to be read the assembled audience, and covenanted, with the unanimous concurrence of his subjects, to adhere stedfastly to all the commandments of the Lord. It was an occasion of solemn interest, closely connected with a great national crisis, and the beautiful example of piety in the highest quarter would exert a salutary influence over all classes of the people, in animating their devotions and encouraging their return to the faith of their fathers.


Verse 2

And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.

He read in their ears - i:e caused to be read.


Verse 3

And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.

All the people stood to the covenant - i:e., they agreed to the proposals made; they assented to what was All the people stood to the covenant - i:e., they agreed to the proposals made; they assented to what was required of them.


Verse 4

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

The king commanded Hilkiah ... - i:e., the high priest and other priests, because there was no greater variety of official gradations in the temple.

All the vessels ... - the whole apparatus of idol worship.

Burned them without Jerusalem. The law required them to be consigned to the flames (Deuteronomy 7:25).

In the fields of Kidron - most probably that part of the Valley of Kidron where lies Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. It is a level, spacious basin, abounding at present with plantations (Robinson, 'Biblical Researches,'

i., pp. 342, 396, 402; 2:, p. 249). The brook winds along the east and south of the city, the channel of which is throughout a large portion of the year almost or wholly dry, except after heavy rains, when it suddenly swells and overflows. There was emptied all the impurities of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:15-16) and the city. His reforming predecessors had ordered the mutilated relics of idolatry to be thrown into that place of graves and receptacle of filth (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 30:14); but Josiah, while he imitated their piety, far outstripped them in zeal; because he caused the ashes of the burnt wood and the fragments of the broken metal to be collected and conveyed to Beth-el, in order thenceforth to associate ideas of horror and aversion with that place, as odious for the worst pollutions.


Verse 5

And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

Put down the idolatrous priests , [ hak


Verse 6

And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.

Brought out the grove - i:e., Asherah the mystic tree, placed by Mannaseh in the temple, removed by him after his conversion, and replaced in the sanctuary by his wicked son Amon. Josiah had it taken to Kidron, burnt the wood ground the metal about it to powder, and strewed the ashes on "the graves of the children of the people." It appears, from this verse recording the action of Josiah, and that of Moses under similar circumstances (Exodus 32:20), that, ordinarily speaking, the Kidron was not a running stream of water; for, lacking water, Josiah cast the powder upon the graves, then, as now, plentiful in that valley. The poor were buried in a common on part of the valley of Kidron. But reference is here made to the graves 'of those that had sacrificed' (2 Chronicles 34:4).


Verse 7

And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.

Brake down the houses of the sodomites , [ haq


Verse 8

And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.

He brought all the priests ... and defiled the high places, ... Numbers of the Levitical order, finding in the reigns of Manasseh and Amon the temple worship abolished, and the tithes and other offerings alienated, had been betrayed into the folly of officiating on high places, and presenting such sacrifices as were brought to them. These irregularities, even though the object of that worship was the true God, were prohibited in the law (Deuteronomy 12:11). Those who had been guilty of this sin Josiah brought to Jerusalem, and, regarding them as defiled, debarred them from the service of the temple, but gave them an allowance of the temple revenues, like the lame and disabled members of the priesthood (Leviticus 21:21-22).

From Geba to Beer-sheba - the most northern and the most southern places in Judah; meaning all parts of the kingdom.

The high places ... that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua. The governor's house and gate were on the left of the city gate, and close by the entrance of that civic mansion-house were public altars, dedicated, it might be, to the true God, but contrary to His own ordinance of worship (Isaiah 57:8).


Verse 9

Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 10

And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.

Topbeth - so called from Toph, a drum; the prevailing opinion among Jewish writers being that the cries of the terrified children made to pass through the fire in that place of idolatrous horror were drowned by the sound of that instrument. At the northeast angle of the city, on the slope nearest the city, where there are many Turkish graves, extending beyond the gate of Stephen, this part of the valley was called Hinnom. In it many cruel and idolatrous ceremonies were performed, and children passed through the fire to Moloch by their unnatural parents. The filth of the city was here collected and consumed; and from the fires that were continually kept burning for this purpose, its name was chosen as typical of hell, where "the fire is not quenched." It was defiled by Josiah, that no more human sacrifices might be presented in it to the bloody demon (see Barclay, p. 90).


Verse 11

And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.

He took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun. Amount the people who anciently worshipped the sun, horses were usually dedicated to that divinity, from the supposed idea that the sun himself was drawn in a chariot by horses. In some cases these horses were sacrificed; but more commonly they were employed either in the sacred processions to carry the images of the sun, or for the worshippers to ride in every morning to welcome his rise. This form of superstition prevailed in Asia long before the Persian domination (Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 365; see also Drew, 'Scripture Lands,' p. 196, note; Barclay, p. 99). It seems that the idolatrous kings, Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon, or their great officers, proceeded on these horses early on each day, from the east gate of the temple, to salute and worship the sun at his appearing above the horizon.


Verse 12

And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.

The altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz. Altars were reared on the flat roofs of house, where the worshippers of "the host of heaven" burnt incense (Zephaniah 1:5; Jeremiah 19:13). Ahaz had reared altars for this purpose on the oleah or upper chamber of his palace, and Manasseh on some portion of the roof of the temple. Josiah demolished both of these structures.


Verse 13

And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.

The high places ... the right hand of the mount of Corruption [har hazeeytiym] which Solomon ... had builded - (see the notes at 1 Kings 11:7.) The mount of Olives is a hilly range on the east of Jerusalem. This range has three summits, of which the central one is, by a slight change [ har (Hebrew #2022) ha-Mashchiyt (Hebrew #4889)], the mount of Corruption, so called from the idol temples built there; and of course the hill on the right hand denotes the southernmost peak. (Barclay, p. 65; Osborne, 'Palestine,' p. 107, note; Rosenmuller's 'Geography,' 1:, p. 70). Josiah is said not to have destroyed, but only defiled, 'the high places on the hill of Corruption.' It is most probable that Hezekiah had long before demolished the idolatrous temples erected there by Solomon; but as the superstitious people continued to regard the spot as consecrated ground, Josiah defiled it.


Verse 14

And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.

Filled their places with the bones of men. Every monument of idolatry in his dominions he in like manner destroyed, and the places where they stood he defiled by strewing them with dead men's bones. The presence of a dead carcass rendered both persons and places unclean in the eyes both of Jews and pagans.


Verse 15

Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.

Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el ... Not satisfied with the removal of every vestige of idolatry from his own dominions, this zealous iconoclast made a tour of inspection through the cities of Samaria and all the territory formerly occupied by the ten tribes, destroying the altars and temples of the high places, consigning the Asherim to the flames, putting to death [2 Kings 23:20, yizbach (Hebrew #2076), he sacrificed; Septuagint, ethusiase (cf. 1 Kings 13:2)] the priests of the high places, and chewing his horror at idolatry by ransacking the sepulchres of idolatrous priests, and strewing the burnt ashes of their bones upon the altars before he demolished them. In narrating the proceedings of this stern iconoclast in the cities of Samaria, the sacred historian speaks of his destroying 'all the houses of the high places which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger.'

Whether Josiah interfered with the sauctuaries and altars which the pagan colonists had erected to their idols (see the notes at 2 Kings 17:29-31), we are not informed; but it is distinctly affirmed that his zeal as a theocratic sovereign was specially directed against "the high places" reared and consecrated by Israelite monarchs in all the Samaritan cities, as being indications of the same spirit of disloyalty to Yahweh which the policy of Jeroboam had inaugurated at Beth-el and at Dan. But the altar at Beth-el, which had been sumptuously and elaborately fitted up in the Egyptian style of architecture, and at which the worship of the golden calf was performed with a splendour that rivaled or surpassed the purer ritual celebrated at Jerusalem, was the special object of his abhorrence, both on account of its vicinity to his own kingdom and the outrage which its establishment, on a spot hallowed by the memory of the patriarch Jacob, inflicted on the feelings of all the pious in Judah. The royal sanctuary (Amos 7:13), therefore, with its altar, was overturned, and its huge stones scattered along the adjoining ravines (see Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 219).

The question naturally occurs, Did not Josiah, in thus purging the cities of Samaria of all idolatrous relics, transgress the limits of his proper jurisdiction? Was not the kingdom of Israel, since its conquest and the deportation of its people, a tributary province of Assyria? And must not the proceedings of the king of Judah within that territory have tended to provoke the resentment and vengeance of the Assyrian monarch as an insult to his authority, as well as daring sacrilege in his eyes? The answer is, that Assyria had at this time become so greatly reduced by internal commotions at home, and especially by the invasion and ultimate ascendency of the Scythians in the region of the Euphrates and Tigris, as to have neither power nor leisure to maintain an active and vigorous superintendence of its distant colonies.

For twenty-eight years, during which those barbarians maintained their successful usurpation, the political connection between Assyria and Palestine was virtually, though not actually, dissolved; and Josiah was thus left at liberty, without any risk of molestation or challenge from the Assyrian ruler and without any detriment to his possession, to carry out his thorough-going reforms by demolishing the altar at Beth-el, as well as by extending his measures for the extermination of all idolatrous edifices and symbols throughout the whole length and breadth of the land occupied by the tribes of Israel on the western side of the Jordan.

That altar and ... brake down ... and burned the grove. The altar and high place of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 12:31), with the Asherah and the worship of Astarte that had been gradually clustered around it, he razed, and consumed the fragments in the flames.


Verse 16

And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.

And as Josiah turned himself, he spied, the sepulchres that were there in the mount. 'The "mount," doubtless, is the same as the mountain, on the east of Beth-el, described in the history of Abraham. The "sepulchres" must be the numerous rock-hewn tombs still visible in the whole descent from that "mountain" to the Wady Suweinit. In one of these, though we know not which, lay side by side the bones of the two prophets-the aged, prophet of Beth-el and his brother and victim, "the man of God from Judah" - and they were left to repose. From that time the desolation foretold by Amos and Hosea (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 10:8; Amos 5:5) has never been disturbed; and Beth-el, "the house of God," has become literally Beth-aven, "the house of nought"' (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 220).

According to the word of the Lord ... In carrying on these proceedings, Josiah was prompted by his own intense hatred of idolatry. But it is remarkable that this act was predicted 326 years before his birth, and his name also was expressly mentioned, as well as the very place where it should be done (1 Kings 13:2).


Verse 17

Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel.

What title is that that I see? The king's attention, it is probable, had been arrested by a tombstone more conspicuous than the rest around it, bearing on an inscription the name of him that lay beneath; and this prompted his curiosity to make the inquiry. It seems probable from this instance that epitaphs were inscribed on the tombs of the ancient Jews, especially those which were placed in proper cemeteries. The title or inscription which caught the eye of the king was, there is reason to believe, on an excavated grave; but from the way in which the circumstance is recorded, it may be inferred that the practice of surmounting a tomb with an epitaph was common and familiar. It was followed by the Jews in the mediaeval times; because Buxtorf has preserved numerous specimens from an old Jewish cemetery of Basle. Here is a sample from his work-`I have set this stone over the head of the venerable Rabbi Eliakim, deceased. God grant that he may rest in the garden of Eden with all the saints. Amen, amen. Selah.'

The men of the city - not the Assyrian colonists, because they could know nothing about the ancient transactions of the place, but some of the old people who had been allowed to remain (Hengstenberg, 'On Daniel,' p. 146, and Trench, 'On the Parables,' p. 311, note, deny that any of the Israelites were left), and perhaps the tomb itself might not then have been discoverable, through, the effects of time and neglect, had not some 'Old Mortality' garnished the grave of the righteous. This is one of the most remarkable prophecies contained fin the Bible. It may appear strange and unaccountable that some pious end devoted king, like Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah, had not, at a much earlier period, bestowed upon his son the name of Josiah [ Yo'shiyaahuw (Hebrew #2977), whom Yahweh heals], and thus taken a step which, to a sovereign of such a character, must have appeared so exceedingly desirable-that of overthrowing the establishment of the calf-worship at Beth-el, and vindicating the honour of Yahweh. Had the prediction referred to the entire suppression of idolatry throughout the kingdom of Israel, and its reunion with that of Judah in the common celebration of national worship at Jerusalem, the spirit of patriotism would assuredly have kept alive the remembrance of the announcement both in the court and throughout the country, making a consummation so devoutly to be wished the favourite and distinguishing policy of the best kings. But the demolition of the single altar at Beth-el was too limited an enterprise, too trivial an act to stimulate the ambition of a Jewish king, or to continue a subject of interest in the councils of his cabinet; and hence, the prophecy seems to have fallen into comparative neglect or oblivion.

But not one jot nor title of the divine word ever fails to be fulfilled. God chooses his own time, as well as his own instrument, for the accomplishment of His providential purposes; and although no king of Judah before Manasseh had an opportunity of passing the confines of his kingdom; although Manasseh, with Amon, had not probably the slightest knowledge of the prophecy, and was influenced solely by motives of humble penitence and devout gratitude for his own temporal and spiritual deliverance in bestowing the name of Josiah upon his grandson; he was unconsciously, but by an unseen, overruling power, led to do what verified 'the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed to Jeroboam, regarding the overthrow of the altar at Beth-el.'


Verses 18-20

And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 21

And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.

The king commanded ... Keep the Passover ... It was observed with great solemnity, and was attended not only by his own subjects, but by the remnant people from Israel (see the notes at 2 Chronicles 35:1-19). Many of the Israelites who were at Jerusalem might have heard of, if they did not hear, the law read by Josiah. It is probable that they might even have gotten a copy of the law, stimulated as they were to the better observance of Yahweh's worship by the unusual sad solemn transactions at Jerusalem.


Verse 22-23

Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 24

Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.

Moreover the workers with familiar spirits - (see the notes at Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:7.)

And the wizards - (see the notes at Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11.)

And the images , [ hat


Verse 25

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 26

Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.

Notwithstanding the Lord turned ... The national reformation which Josiah carried on was acquiesced in by the people from submission to the royal will; but they entertained a secret and strong hankering after the suppressed idolatries. Though outwardly purified, their hearts were not right toward God, as appears from many passages of the prophetic writings: their thorough reform was hopeless; and God, who saw no sign of genuine repentance, allowed His decree (2 Kings 21:12-15) for the subversion of the kingdom to take fatal effect.


Verse 27-28

And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there. No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 29

In his days Pharaoh-nechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.

In his days Pharaoh-nechon - (see 2 Chronicles 35:20-27, and 2 Chron.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-23.html. 1871-8.

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Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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