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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
2 Kings 12

 

 

Verses 1-3

THE RESTORATION OF THE TEMPLE BY JOASH

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki . Jehoash did right all his days wherein Jehoiada, &c.—The word "wherein" may be rendered because, and that alters the meaning from during the period in which Jehoiada instructed him, into "all his days," i.e., during the king's entire life, because Jehoiada instructed him. This difference of meaning depends on the preservation or rejection of the suffix ו in the word יָמָיו. The account, however, in the Chronicles is, that Jehoash acted rightly "all the days of Jehoiada the priest." But the grammatical construction of the sentence in Kings requires אֶשֶר because, rather than "wherein."

2Ki . But the high places were not taken away—See Notes on 1Ki 3:2. Consider the popular fondness for the evil practices, the youthfulness of the king, and the sanction given to all such idolatrous iniquities during the evil sway of Athaliah, and this inability to suppress so gross an impiety is not unaccountable.

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki

THE WORTH OF GODLY COUNSEL

I. That godly counsel is a powerful help to a consistent and upright life. "And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." There is nothing in the history to lead us to suspect the sincerity of Jehoash's religious devotion in the earlier years of his reign. He was carefully instructed in his infancy, and grew up in the midst of godly influences. His religious character was moulded under the wise and capable counsel of good Jehoiada. It is an unspeakable advantage to grow up under the fostering shelter of a good and holy life. A few words of warning or encouragement at the right moment have often saved a soul from ruin. "Good counsels observed are chains to grace which, neglected, prove halters to strange undutiful children." Sometimes bad men will give good advice, and the man who can take it and act upon it shows his good sense and superiority. He who is wise enough in youth to take the advice of his seniors, unites the vivacity and enterprise of early, with the wisdom and gravity of later, life.

II. That godly counsel is potent with some only when under the direct influence of a living personal example. "All his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." While Jehoiada lived, Joash faithfully observed the covenant he had made with Jehovah, and, though the fact is not stated, it is implied that he afterwards departed from the counsels of his benefactor. This defection is related in the Chronicles. It is difficult to do wrong in the presence of the good; their holy and upright example is a rebuke and a deterrent to every evil tendency. The influence of Samuel was a powerful check upon the impulsive rashness and violence of Saul; and when that influence was withdrawn, it is not difficult to trace the degeneracy of the unhappy monarch, and how speedily he came to his doom. We shall never know how much we owe to the holy and consistent lives of those with whom we come in frequent contact. "A virtuous man," says Felltham, "shining in the purity of a righteous life, is a light-house set by the seaside, whereby the mariners both sail aright and avoid danger; but he that lives in noted sins is a false lantern which ship-wrecks those that trust him. Nothing awakens our sleeping virtues like the noble acts of our predecessors. They are flaming beacons that fame and time have set on hills to call us to a defence of virtue whensoever vice invades the commonwealth of man." We all need the encouraging influence of example; but there are some natures so feeble in moral stamina that they cannot stand alone. They have been so accustomed to depend upon others, that when their adviser fails them, they succumb. It would seem Joash's was such a nature.

III. That godly counsel does not always avail to bring about the thorough reform of long standing abuses. "But the high places were not taken away" (2Ki ). The popular fondness for the private and disorderly rites performed in the groves and recesses of hills was so inveterate that even the most powerful monarchs had been unable to accomplish their suppression; no wonder that in the early reign of a young king, and after the gross irregularities that had been allowed during the mal-administration of Athaliah, the difficulty of putting an end to the superstitions associated with the high places was greatly increased (Jamieson). Besides, Jehoiada, while acting with surprising energy in the restoration of the dynasty, was an old man—a hundred years old when Joash was crowned, and he lived thirty years after. He might therefore feel himself unable to cope with the demolition of long-established customs that had baffled and defied younger and stronger men. If his counsel halted at this point, it was so far defective. He knew the danger to Judah of these idolatrous practices, and should not only have counselled their extinction, but have had the courage of carrying out what he counselled. The unreformed abuses were a snare to the people in after years, and, as the sequel showed, led to the ruin of the king whose career begun so auspiciously.

LESSONS:—

1. They who give counsel to others should be exemplary themselves.

2. It is the mark of a noble nature to receive counsel and profit by it without taking offence.

3. We should be prepared to carry out to its consequences the counsel we give to others.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki . That which appears to be the greatest misfortune for a child, to be left fatherless and motherless at an early age, often becomes a great blessing in the gracious providence of God. What would have become of Jehoash if he had been brought up at the court of his idolatrous father and his depraved mother? God gave him in Jehoiada far more than he had lost in his father and his mother. None need instruction more than those who are called to govern; there is no more responsible calling than that of instructing those who will have to rule. Unfortunately, this task is rarely intrusted to those who, like Jehoiada, are fitted for it by age, learning, experience, and piety.

2Ki . A faithful teacher. I. A great boon to a young and inexperienced king. II. Has the opportunity of exerting a potent and widespread influence for good. III. Is all the more powerful when associated with a consistent religious character.

—The part played by Jehoiada raised the priesthood to an importance which, with the single exception of Eli, it had never before attained in the history of the Jewish nation, and which it never afterwards altogether lost. Through the priesthood the lineage of David had been saved, and the worship of Jehovah restored in Judah even more successfully than it had been in Samaria through the prophets. During the minority of Joash, Jehoiada virtually reigned. The very office was in some sense created by himself. He was regarded as a second founder of the Order, so that in after days he, rather than Aaron, is described as the chief (Jer ).—Stanley.

—A statesman, we are told, should follow public opinion. Doubtless as a coachman follows his horses, having firm hold on the reins, and guiding them.—Hare.

2Ki . The inveterate evils of idolatry. I. Have a powerful ally in the corruptions of human nature. II. Are the occasion of worse evils in the future. III. Survive the most violent efforts of reform. IV. Can be cured only by thorough eradication.

—Even these holy and just hands came short of what they might have done. The high places remained still: those altars were erected to the true God, but in a wrong place. It is a marvel if there be not some blemishes found in the best government. I doubt Jehoiada shall once buy it dear that he did not his utmost.—Bp. Hall.

—Custom had so prevailed that Jehoiada durst not advise the king to cross the people in this superstition, lest it should cause a tumult; lest they should more regard commotioners than commissioners, and be more guided by rage than by right—violence and obstinacy, like two untamed horses, drawing their desires in a blind-fold career, as it fell out in England when King Edward VI. began to reform. Trapp.

—Rulers ought not to allow themselves to be restrained from carrying out what is good and right from any fear of persons, lest they may possibly incur the disfavour of the people. There never was a prince who was not himself guilty of faults and errors, as we see here from the example of Jehoash, who did not abolish the sacrifices on the high places.—Lange.


Verses 4-16

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki . All the money of the dedicated things—i.e., consecrated money; and it is specified as threefold:

1. Money of the numbered (so read the words), viz., those who pass through the enumeration (see Exo ).

2. Money of the estimation, viz., the redemption price of a person who had devoted himself or his property to the Lord, and wished to effect his or its redemption (Lev ).

3. Freewill offerings.

2Ki . Why repair ye not the breaches of the house?—The natural interpretation of the failure is that the priests had been negligent, and that the money paid in liquidation of vows, and the voluntary gifts of the people, had been used for other purposes than those the king intended. But that the king consulted these priests concerning a new method indicates that he did not regard them as guilty of embezzlement. The case probably was, that the current expenses of the maintenance of the priests and of the temple worship absorbed all the finances, leaving no surplus for repairs. Yet they ought to have shown more zeal, and this is to their reproach.

2Ki . Jehoiada took a chest—A scheme for preserving the account for repairs separate from the current and incidental expenses. The people welcomed the arrangement (2Ch 24:9-10), for they knew now that their gifts would go to their intended purposes.

2Ki . They put it in bags, and told the money—The king sent his own secretary, together with a scribe of the high priest, that the money might be counted. It was then handed to the overseers, who directed the work of repairs. In Oriental countries money is still counted, put in bags, labelled, and sealed by a duly authorized officer, and then passed into currency.

2Ki . Howbeit there were not made bowls, &c.—Until the repairs were completed, this money was not used for necessary articles of temple furniture.

2Ki . They reckoned not with the men—Their integrity being beyond suspicion.

2Ki . It was the priests—According to direct enactment (Lev 5:16; Num 5:8).

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki

THE RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE OF GOD A WORK OF GENUINE PIETY

THE prominence given in the history to the repair of the Temple by Joash indicates that it was the chief incident of his reign. As David was the founder, and Solomon the builder, of the House of Jehovah, so Joash, with whom the house of David recommenced, was the restorer of the Sanctuary. It must have been an act of gratitude and joy on the part of the king to repair the breaches of that temple which had been his shelter and home from his tenderest years. He engaged the priests and people in the work, to give to the movement a national character, and to give this outward proof that the king and people were sincere in renewing their covenant with Jehovah. Observe—

I. That the restoration of the house of God may be delayed by the indifference of those who might be supposed most anxious for its promotion (2Ki ). The work was committed to the priests, who would naturally be expected to be most interested in hastening its completion; but in this both king and people were disappointed. Years rolled away, and nothing was done. It does not appear that the priests can be charged with any intention to misappropriate the money; but it is evident that there was gross mismanagement and neglect somewhere. It is a painful spectacle when the officers of the temple are apathetic as to its condition, and disappoint the expectations of those who have cheerfully offered their help; worse still when the gifts of the people are wrongfully applied. There are those in the churches to-day who imbibe too much of the spirit of these priests. They would see the sanctuary almost tumble about their heads in ruins before they would initiate any movement to repair and renovate it, and would do all they could to debar others from working in that direction. Piety is at a low ebb in that soul which is so indifferent to the outer fabric of God's house.

II. That the restoration of the house of God is a work worthy of a monarch's zeal (2Ki ). The soul of David burned with a holy and fervent desire to build a house for God; but he was permitted to do nothing more than prepare for it. The climax of Solomon's great works was the building and dedication of the Temple, and now Joash regards it as an honour and privilege to repair the delapidations of that sacred fane. He stirred up the zeal of his aged instructor, rebuked the priests for their supineness and negligence, and organized the enterprise on a sound and popular basis. It is a work befitting a king to be concerned in the honour and beauty of God's house. The prince who is interested in the religious welfare of his people will not be inattentive to inferior matters.

III. That the restoration of the house of God is accomplished only by resolute and united effort.

1. By the willing and liberal offerings of the people. Money is a talent, not to be squandered in reckless extravagance, but to be wisely and discreetly employed. It cannot be better employed than in connection with the house of God. The gift, to be acceptable, must be voluntarily and cheerfully offered: "All the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord" (2Ki ). Where this spirit of generosity prevails there is no difficulty in carrying out great religious undertakings. "The manner of giving," says Lavater, "shows the character of the giver more than the gift itself."

The truly generous is the truly wise;

And he who loves not others, lives unblest.

2. By the strict and impartial administration of funds (2Ki ). The mismanagement of the priests had brought the work into discredit, and checked the flow of offerings into the church treasury. All this was altered. An offertory chest was especially provided; to show that the priests were not regarded as intentionally dishonest in the misappropriation of previous gifts, the chest was placed under their care. At stated times it was opened, the money counted in the presence of the high priest and the king's secretary, and handed over in definite sums to those who had charge of the work. Public confidence was restored, and the people gave cheerfully of their substance. "Put it out of the power of truth to give you an ill character, and if anybody reports you not to be an honest man, let your practice give him the lie; and to make all sure, you should resolve to live no longer than you can live honestly, for it is better to be nothing, than a knave. An honest death is better than a dishonest life."

3. By the judicious avoidance of unnecessary expense (2Ki ). Vessels of silver and gold were afterwards provided (2Ch 24:14); but not until the substantial part of the restoration was completed. Utility and beauty are not antagonistic, but may be gracefully combined.

Thou shalt learn

The wisdom early to discern

True beauty in utility.—Longfellow.

To spend money in decoration and display to the neglect of actual and immediate necessities is an unjustifiable extravagance.

4. By the conscientious and faithful labour of the workmen (2Ki ). A vigorous administration makes itself felt in every detail of the work it undertakes, and communicates its own enthusiasm to the humblest worker. It gives a dignity to labour when it is done conscientiously, and from the love of it. "Where love is, there is no labour; and if there be labour, that labour is loved." In this re-organization of the restoration movement we observe all the elements of success—prompt decided action, generous giving, careful but not stinted expenditure, earnest and united toil. Addison writes: "If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius."

IV. That the restoration of the house of God does not interfere with the necessary maintenance of the duly appointed servants of that house (2Ki ). The priests had surrendered in favour of the restoration fund much of what they had been accustomed to receive (2Ki 12:8), but the revenue from the trespass offerings and sin offerings was still given to them. This belonged to them by law (Num 5:8-9, Lev 5:16). The due maintenance of the ministry is divinely authorized. The necessities of one branch of the service of God ought not to interfere with the claims of another. The minister of God should be so provided for as to raise him above all anxieties that would divert his mind from complete devotion to his proper work.

LESSONS:—

1. The house of God is not only a convenience for worshippers, but also a public witness for religion.

2. The building of a house of God calls for the liberality and united zeal of His people.

3. Suggests the need of continued effort in building up the spiritual temple.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki . The responsibility of wealth. I. Not to be used for personal aggrandisement and indulgence. II. Is most nobly employed in promoting the worship of God. III. Should be offered to God with a liberal hand and a cheerful heart.

2Ki . The decay of God's house a symptom of moral decay. I. Shows the prevalence of a worldly and selfish spirit. II. Shows an indifference to the highest claims of God and the soul. III. An evidence of national deterioration. IV. Calls for repentance and reformation.

—When the building in which a congregation assembles to worship God, to hear His word, and to receive the means of grace, is left ruinous, God does not receive the honour which belongs to Him. Where the churches fall to ruin, there religion and piety also fall into decay; but where there is love of God and joy in His word, there no ruinous churches are seen. A time in which magnificent palaces, theatres, and ball-rooms are repaired, or built at great expense, but in which the houses of God are left small, wretched, dirty, and ruinous, is a time of religious decay, and resembles the time of Athaliah in Judah. The spiritual temple may in time become ruinous through unbelief, worldly life and behaviour, and immorality. Where are the congregations in which there is nothing ruinous or decayed, in which nothing could be improved? How many are in ruins and ready to fall!—Lange.

2Ki . Thorough organization an aid to success. I. Emphasizes the importance of the work to be done. II. Interests and engages all classes of the community. III. Adopts the best methods to elicit the generosity of the people. IV. Creates confidence as to the just administration of the funds. V. Reacts upon the enthusiasm and fidelity of all engaged in the work.

2Ki . "Why repair ye not the breaches of the house?" A searching question. I. Addressed to the wealthy. II. To all the worshippers of Jehovah. III. To all unfaithful ministers. IV. To imperfect believers.

—Works which are pleasing to God cannot be accomplished by careless hands. They are only accomplished where zeal is united with perseverance, patience, and fidelity. How many a congregation has fallen into decay and remained so, because those who were appointed to be the builders of it, who ought to have repaired and built it, have not raised their negligent hands (Heb ; Jer 48:10). Although no earthly king may ever call them to account, yet the Heavenly King, before whose judgment-seat they must appear to give an account of their office, will ask—"Why repair ye not the breaches of the house?"

2Ki . The necessary precedes the ornamental. I. It is so in the economy of nature. II. Should be so in the house of God. III. Should be so in the arrangements of social life. IV. The ornamental is not condemned in itself—only when it supersedes and ignores the necessary and useful.

—The utilitarian. He is a slave to science. He would pull—

Great heaven to pieces, and anatomize

Each fragment of its crystal battlements,

Weigh out its hymns, divide its light, and class

The radiant feathers of archangels' wings.

Do we not know—doth he not know—that still

Mysterious wonder aye must reign above us,

Struggle howe'er we may! Doth he not know

That adoration and great wonder, like

Good deeds which bless the giver, ever lift

The soul above the dust, and strengthen us?

Cornwall.

2Ki . Ministerial maintenance. I. Authorized by the Word of God. II. A just arrangement. III. Not to be interfered with by other claims.


Verses 17-21

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki . Hazael, king of Syria, fought against Gath—Gath, formerly a town of the Philistines According to Chronicles, the expedition against Jerusalem occurred in the last year of Jehoash's reign, and it is there marked that this was a punishment from the Lord for the king's unfaithfulness to Him, and his cruelty to the prophet Zechariah. To secure Jerusalem, the king purchased the withdrawal of the Syrians with the treasures of God's house.

2Ki . His servants arose and slew Jehoash—He was at the time in his bed with wounds, probably received in battle with the Syrians. Comp. the account in Chronicles.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki

THE UNHAPPY FATE OF AN UNFAITHFUL KING

AFTER the death of Jehoiada the career of Joash was a series of disasters. He became unfaithful to his covenant vows, and was seduced into idolatry. Having forsaken Jehovah, he was abandoned to his courses, and soon became a prey to his own evil passions and to the enemies who swooped down upon him with deadly intent.

I. His kingdom is harassed with war and rapine (2Ki ). The Syrians invaded his dominions, and, though insignificant in number, wrought much slaughter, and bore away great spoil. Under the pious rule of the good Jehoiada the nation was in peace, and grew in prosperity and riches. The nation that turns its back on Jehovah will not go unpunished. It is no wonder if it is smitten with the scourge of war and all its attendant woes. "War," says Luther, "is one of the greatest plagues that can afflict humanity. It destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge, in fact, is preferable to it. Famine and pestilence become as nothing in comparison with it. Pestilence is the least evil of the three, and 'twas therefore David chose it, willing rather to fall into the hands of God, than into those of pitiless man." War is the sink of all injustice.

II. He is demoralized with cowardice and fear (2Ki ). Instead of rallying his forces and meeting the enemy with a brave, determined spirit, Joash weakly yielded, and even despoiled the House of God of its valuables, and sacred vessels to bribe the Syrian king to withdraw. Conscious unfaithfulness is the parent of craven fear.

Cowards die many times before their death;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that man should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.—Shakespeare.

III. His life is hurried to an untimely and ignominious end (2Ki ). Joash is smitten with disease, and yet, as if this was too slow a process to end his wretched life, a conspiracy was formed, and he was quickly despatched with the assassin's sword. His murder of the son of his benefactor met with a speedy retribution. His ignominy did not end with his death. To show the popular execration in which he was held, his body was refused burial in the sepulchre of the kings—a terrible warning as to the fate of all apostates. Another illustration of how dark and dismal a night may settle upon a life that opened with so fair and hopeful a morning.

LESSONS:—

1.—It is a fatal step to reject the pious counsels and training of one's youth.

2. A king cannot go wrong without involving a nation in suffering.

3. No rank in life can screen the evil-doer from punishment.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki . The best instruction cannot preserve against a fall if the heart is not firm and strong. Only he who endures unto the end shall be saved. The noblest commencement is vain, if the end is perverse and wicked. Joash was taught what calamities it brings to abandon the Lord God (Jer 2:19). The Lord rewards everyone according to his works, whether in this or the next world. What a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Joash was marvellously preserved as an infant; he ends his life wretchedly. This is an example how near the ruin of a man is when he abandons the good to which he was educated from his youth up, nay, even is glad to be rid of those who annoy him by their warnings.—Lange.

2Ki . A cowardly spirit. I. A result of conscious infidelity. II. Weakly succumbs even to an inferior force. III. Has no scruples as to how money is raised wherewith to bribe an enemy. IV. Is despised by its oppressor. V. Encourages a renewal of hostilities.

2Ki . All the people shouted to the child king, "Long live the king!" and rejoiced and blew trumpets. Conspiracy and murder were the end of his forty years' reign!

2Ki . Assassination. I. A symptom of national discontent. II. A dastardly and brutal method of revenge. III. Brings no advantage to the parties concerned in it.

2Ki . He that was guilty of abominable idolatry, yet, as if God meant to waive that challenge, is called to reckoning for his cruel unthankfulness to Jehoiada. This crime shall make him odious alive, and shall abandon him dead from the sepulchre of his fathers, as if this last royalty were too good for him who had forgotten the law of humanity. Some vices are such as nature smiles upon, though frowned at by Divine justice; others are such as even nature itself abhors. Such is this of ingratitude, which therefore carries so much more detestation from God, as it is more odious even to them who have blotted out the image of God.—Bp. Hall.

—So ended the last remains of the great struggle of the house of Omri for power. So was preserved the house of David through the fiercest struggles, inward and outward, that it witnessed till its final overthrow. So was confirmed the establishment of the priesthood in the heart of the monarchy.—Stanley.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/2-kings-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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