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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
2 Kings 23

 

 

Verse 1

2 Kings 23:1. The king sent and gathered unto him all the elders — Although he had received a message from God, that there was no preventing the ruin of Jerusalem, and that he only should deliver his own soul; yet he does not therefore sit down in despair, and resolve to do nothing for his country, because he could not do all he would. But he will endeavour to do his duty, and then leave the event to God. He knew, if any thing could prevent, delay, or alleviate the threatened ruin, it must be a public reformation. He therefore makes preparations for this, by summoning a general assembly of the magistrates, or representatives of the people, with the priests and prophets, the ordinary and extraordinary ministers of God: that, these all joining in it, what was done might become a national act, and so be the more likely to prevent national judgments; and that so many principal persons advising and assisting in it, the whole business might be transacted with more solemnity, and such as were against it might be discouraged from making any opposition.


Verse 2

2 Kings 23:2. The king went up into the house of the Lord — For as this great meeting was called for a religious purpose, it was to be conducted in a religious manner; and whatever was done in it was to be done as in the presence of God. And all the men of Judah — A very great number of them; for it cannot be supposed that the court of the Lord’s house could contain all the inhabitants of the land at once. And the prophets — Either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah, Huldah, or the sons of the prophets. The people, both small and great — High and low, rich and poor, young and old: for persons of all ranks, conditions, and ages, were present. And he read in their ears, &c. — Josiah himself, for he did not think it beneath him to be a reader, any more than Solomon did to be a preacher, and David even a door-keeper, in the house of God. All people are concerned to know the Scriptures, and all in authority to spread the knowledge of them.


Verse 3

2 Kings 23:3. The king stood by a pillar — Of which see on chap. 2 Kings 11:14. And made a covenant before the Lord — The king himself was the first and principal covenanter, who publicly and solemnly declared his consent to this covenant, to set the elders, priests, and people an example, and to assure them not only of his protection, but of all the furtherance his power could give them in their obedience. And all the people stood to the covenant — They declared their consent to it, and their concurrence with the king in that act, which possibly they did by standing up, as the king himself stood when ha took it. It is of good use, with all possible solemnity, to oblige ourselves to our duty: and he that bears an honest heart, does not startle at assurances.


Verse 4

2 Kings 23:4. The king commanded Hilkiah and the priests of the second order Either those two who were next in degree to the high-priest, and in case of sickness were to manage his work; or the heads of the twenty-four courses which David had appointed. To bring forth out of the temple — Or to take care they should be brought forth. All the vessels made for Baal — So that, even in the house of the Lord, the sacred temple built by Solomon, and dedicated to the honour and worship of the God of Israel, were found vessels, and all manner of utensils, for the worship of Baal, for the grove, and all the host of heaven — It appears, therefore, that although Josiah had suppressed the worship of idols, yet the provisions made for that worship were carefully preserved by some persons in power, even in the temple itself, to be used again whenever the present restraint should be taken off: nay, even the image of the grove, probably Ashtaroth or Venus, was yet kept standing in the temple. How Josiah could suffer all this, till the eighteenth year of his reign, is difficult to say; perhaps it was done without his knowledge. He now, however, gives orders that all these instruments of idolatry should be burned, in the fields adjoining to the brook Kidron; and that the ashes of them should be carried out of his kingdom to Beth-el: in token of his abhorrence of every species of idolatry, and to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of it.


Verse 5

2 Kings 23:5. He put down the idolatrous priests — כמרים, chemarim. Their particular business, as appears from this place, was to burn incense. Hence it is thought by some, that the faithful Jews gave them this name by way of contempt, as being continually scorched by their fumigating fires. But, according to Bishop Patrick, they were so called from being clothed in black: for the Egyptians, as well as many other pagan nations; made use of black garments when they sacrificed to the infernal deities: in opposition to which the Jewish priests were clothed with white at their sacrifices.


Verse 6

2 Kings 23:6. And cast the powder thereof upon the graves — By the law, a ceremonial uncleanness was contracted by the touch of a grave, so that by casting these ashes here, he declared them most impure, and that none could touch them without making themselves unclean thereby. The Chaldee renders it, He cast it into the graves, to signify that he would have all idolatry buried out of his sight, as a loathsome thing. Of the children of the people — The common people, whose graves were made together in some common place, which was generally accounted very impure and contemptible, and therefore a fit place for this filth to be thrown into. But the Hebrew here is more properly rendered, Of that people; that is, those idolatrous people, as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 34:4.


Verse 7

2 Kings 23:7. He brake down the houses of the sodomites — The name sometimes given to the most infamous of all prostitutes, who exposed their bodies to be abused contrary to nature, in honour of those filthy deities whom they worshipped. Their houses were near the temple, and the persons themselves were dedicated to impurity, and, that they might commit their abominations with the greater licentiousness, they had women appointed to make them tents, wherein they were wont to retire upon these detestable occasions. — Calmet. Thus corporal and spiritual whoredoms went together, and the vile affections to which they were given up were the punishment of their vain imaginations. They that dishonoured their God were justly left thus to dishonour themselves. Where the women wove hangings for the grove — For the idols worshipped in the grove, or rather for Asherah, or Ashtaroth, an idol so called, as observed before, and probably the same with the Grecian Venus. These hangings might possibly be curtains to draw before the idol, to preserve it from defilement, or to gain more reverence to it: or garments for it, or for the priests or priestesses belonging to it. But the Hebrew word בתים, bathim, here used, properly means houses; which, most likely, were either little chapels or shrines made of woven work, like those mentioned Acts 19:24, which were made of silver, within which were representations of the idol; or they were tents, encompassing the image, where the worshippers committed all manner of lewdness, and that in or near the house of the Lord, in an impudent defiance of the holiness of God and his temple. Well might the apostle call these kinds of worship abominable idolatries! Can any wonder that wrath, not to be quenched, was kindled against this city and people?


Verse 8

2 Kings 23:8. He brought all the priests — Belonging to the high places following, whether such as worshipped idols, or such as worshipped God in those forbidden places. Out of the cities of Judah — That they might not continue to corrupt the people. And defiled the high places — Casting dead carcasses there, and other such like unclean things, and thus making them receptacles of impurity, and burning dead men’s bones upon the altars that were there. From Geba — The northern border of the kingdom of Judah. To Beer-sheba — The southern border; that is, throughout the whole country. And brake down the high places of the gates — Dedicated to their tutelary gods, whom their idolatrous kings, after the manner of the heathen, owned for the protectors of their city and habitations. These places seem to have been erected at the gates, in order that all who entered or went out of the city might pay some kind of adoration to them. In the gate of Joshua, the governor of the city — This circumstance is mentioned to show Josiah’s great zeal and impartiality in rooting out all monuments of idolatry, without any respect unto those great persons who were concerned in them.


Verse 9

2 Kings 23:9. Nevertheless, the priests of the high places — Who had worshipped the true God there. Came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem — Were not suffered to come thither to exercise their priestly office, as a just punishment for their joining in and contributing to the corruption of God’s worship, and the transgression of so plain and positive a law of God as that in Deuteronomy 12:11; which conduct was much worse in them than in the people, as they had more knowledge to discern the will of God, and were under greater obligations to observe it. But they did eat of the unleavened bread — Of the meat-offerings allotted to the priests, wherein there was to be no leaven, (Leviticus 2:4-11,) and consequently of other provisions belonging to the priests, which are comprehended under this one kind. Thus the king mixed mercy with severity, and they were put into the condition of those priests who had corporal blemishes, (Leviticus 21:17-22,) who might not offer the bread of their God, but might eat the bread of their God, both of the most holy and the holy: they were shut out from spiritual services, but allowed necessary provisions.


Verse 10

2 Kings 23:10. He defiled Topheth — By throwing different kinds of filth and dead carcasses into it, and making it the burying-place of the city. Topheth was a place very near Jerusalem, where was the image of Molech, to whom some sacrificed their children, burning them in the fire, as the reader may see in the note on Leviticus 18:21; and to whom others, as many able interpreters think, only dedicated them, by making them pass between two fires, or by waving them, or making them jump over a fire. It is supposed to be called Topheth, from toph, a drum; because they beat drums at the burning of their children, that their shricks might not be heard. This place, near Jerusalem, was also called the valley of the sons of Hinnom, (2 Chronicles 28:3,) from the yelling of the sacrificed infants. Thus Milton calls Molech: —

Horrid king, besmear’d with blood

Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,

Though for the noise of drums, and timbrels loud,

Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire

To his grim idol. Par. Lost, book 1. 50:392.


Verse 11

2 Kings 23:11. And he took away — Hebrew, וישׁבת, va-jashbeth, he put down, or made to cease; the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun — That is, had consecrated to the sun. It appears, by the testimony of many authors, that among several nations horses were dedicated to the sun, as hawks and some other creatures were, because of the swiftness of their motions. Thus the ancient Persians consecrated white horses and chariots to the sun, as Xenophon testifies, and with them were wont to adorn their processions. See Hyde’s Relig. Ver. Persar. “We can see no reason, therefore,” says Dr. Dodd, referring to the Universal Hist. and Boch. Hieroz., “why so many learned commentators should scruple to suppose that the Jews had adopted this, among other far worse heathenish idolatries; especially considering how soon the Prophet Amos, and from him St. Stephen, charged them with having carried about the tabernacle of Molech, or the sun, and the star of their god Remphan. What convinces us further that these were real chariots, drawn by horses, and bearing some image of the sun, is, that the text expressly says, that Josiah did not burn the chariots and horses, as he would have done if they had been only carved and painted, but that he took away the horses, and burned the chariots. Bochart supposes that these horses and chariots were designed to carry the king and his great officers out at the east gate of the city every morning, to salute and adore the sun, at his coming above the horizon, according to the custom of the Persian idolaters.” At the entering in of the house of the Lord — By the gate of the outward court of the temple. By the chamber of the chamberlain — Or officer, to whom the care of these horses was committed. Which was in the suburbs — Of the temple; in certain outward buildings belonging to the temple. Was it to defy or affront the Lord, that they thus brought the objects and instruments of their various idolatries as near as possible to his house, and some of them even into the courts of it?


Verse 12

2 Kings 23:12. The altars on the top of the upper chamber, &c. — “Read,” says Mr. Locke, “the altars on the house-top.” According to Jeremiah, chap. Jeremiah 32:29, they were so mad upon their idols, that they were not content with their numerous public high places and altars, but made others upon their house-tops for the worship of Baal and others of their false gods. And the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts, &c. — We learn from 2 Chronicles 33:13-15, that when Manasseh repented he took away all the altars he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem; and it is probable those in the court of the priests, and in that of the people, were then removed; but, it seems, Amon set them up again in the very place where Manasseh had erected them, and therefore they are here called his altars. And cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron — To show his detestation of them, and to abolish the very remembrance of them.


Verse 13

2 Kings 23:13. The high places on the right hand of the mount of Corruption That is, the mount of Olives, (1 Kings 11:7,) called the mount of Corruption, for the gross idolatry there practised. Which Solomon had builded for Ashtoreth, &c. — Not the same individual altars; which, doubtless, either Solomon, upon his repentance, or some other of Josiah’s predecessors, had taken away, but other altars built by Manasseh or Amen, which, because erected by Solomon’s example, and for the same use, and in the same place, are called by his name: this brand is left by the Holy Ghost upon his name and memory, as a just punishment of that abominable practice, and a means to deter others from the like. The abomination of the Zidonians — The idol, so called, because it was abominable, and made them abominable to God. Did the king defile — By dead men’s bones and other unclean things.


Verse 14

2 Kings 23:14. And filled their places — The places of the groves; with the bones of men — Of the idolatrous priests, which he caused to be taken out of their graves, 2 Kings 23:18. As he carried the ashes of the images to the graves, to mingle them with dead men’s bones, so he carried dead men’s bones to the places where the images had been, that both ways idolatry might be rendered loathsome. Dead men and dead gods were indeed much alike, and fittest to go together.


Verse 15

2 Kings 23:15. The altar that was at Beth-el he brake down — Probably this city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long before this time. And it is probable, since the ten tribes were carried away, many cities had put themselves under the protection of Judah. The golden calf, it seems, was gone; but Josiah would leave no remains of that idolatry.


Verse 16

2 Kings 23:16. As Josiah turned himself — His care and zeal were so great that he would not trust his officers with these things, but would see them done with his own eyes. He spied the sepulchres that were in the mount — It is not said whose sepulchres they were, but it is probable they were those of the idolatrous priests, (for, 2 Chronicles 34:5, he is said to have burned their bones,) and of the false prophets and great men who had been instruments to promote Jeroboam’s idolatry, and who were so attached to their altar at Beth-el, that they were desirous to have their bones laid near it. And burned them, &c., according to the word which the man of God proclaimed — Who foretold, three hundred and sixty-two years before, that these very things should be done by a king called Josiah, 1 Kings 13:2. God always foresees, and has sometimes foretold as certain, that which yet to us seems most contingent. Of this we have here a remarkable instance. No word of God shall fall to the ground!


Verse 17

2 Kings 23:17. He said, What title is that that I see? — It was the custom then, as it is now, to set up little pillars or stones by or upon the graves of the higher sort of men, upon which the names of the deceased persons, and some remarkable passages relating to them, were engraven. The king observing a stone or pillar of this kind more eminent than the rest, with an inscription upon it not legible, inquired whose title it was. And the men of the city told him — That is, some of the old inhabitants who had escaped the captivity; and not any of those new-comers, whom the king of Assyria had sent thither. For these could have given no account of the ancient history of the Israelites; neither can we suppose that the sepulchre itself, after so many years standing, could have been distinguishable, had not some pious person or other, with an intent to perpetuate the fact, taken care to preserve and repair it. See the note on 1 Kings 13:1.


Verse 18

2 Kings 23:18. He said, Let no man move his bones — It is pertinently observed by Joh. Wolfius, that if pious persons, in those days, had had the same opinion about relics which has long been prevalent in the Church of Rome, the king would not have ordered his bones to remain quiet and undisturbed, but would have put them into golden boxes, and carried them to Jerusalem, to be there regarded with religious, if not idolatrous veneration by the people.


Verse 20

2 Kings 23:20. He slew all the priests of the high places — By this relation it appears, that after the departure of the king of Assyria, divers of the Israelites, who had retired to other parts, and kept themselves out of the conqueror’s hands, returned together with their priests to their own land, and to their old trade, worshipping idols; to whom, peradventure, they ascribed this their deliverance from that judgment which Jehovah had brought upon them. And burned men’s bones upon them — According to that famous prophecy, 1 Kings 13:1-2.


Verse 21

2 Kings 23:21. The king commanded, saying, Keep the passover, &c. — Having abolished false worship, he now endeavours to set up the true worship of the true God. Thus he differed greatly from Jehu, who, when he had destroyed the worship of Baal, took no heed to walk in the commandments and ordinances of God. Josiah considered that we must not only cease to do evil, but also learn to do well, and that the way to keep out all abominable customs is to keep up all instituted ordinances. He therefore commanded all the people to keep the passover, which was not only a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, but a token of their being dedicated to him who brought them out, and of their communion with him. As it is written in this book of the covenant — This book which he had found, wherein is contained the covenant made between God and Israel, and the terms of it.


Verse 22

2 Kings 23:22. Surely there was not holden such a passover, &c. — Celebrated with such solemn care, and great preparation, and numerous sacrifices, and universal joy of all good men; which was much the greater, because of their remembrance of the former wicked and miserable times under Manasseh and Amon; and the good hopes they now had of the happy establishment of their nation, and the true religion; and of the prevention of God’s judgments denounced against them. From the days of the judges — Or, of Samuel, the last of the judges; as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 35:18. None of the kings had taken such care to prepare themselves, the priests, and people, and so accurately to observe all the rites, and diligently to purge out all uncleanness, and to renew their covenant with God. And undoubtedly God was pleased to recompense their zeal in destroying idolatry, with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. All this concurred to make it such a passover as had not been even in the days of Hezekiah. For in his passover many communicated who were not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, and the Levites were permitted to do the work of the priests.


Verse 24

2 Kings 23:24. Workers with familiar spirits, and wizards — Of which see notes on Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Leviticus 19:31; and Leviticus 20:27. And the images — Hebrew, the teraphim, images which were very ancient among idolaters. And idols — Other kinds of images. And all the abominations that were spied — All the instruments and monuments of idolatry that were discovered, were destroyed as God had commanded; not only such as were in the place of worship, but such as their priests or zealots had removed, and endeavoured to hide.


Verse 25

2 Kings 23:25. Like unto him was there no king before him — For his diligent study in God’s law, and his exact care, and unwearied industry, and fervent zeal, in rooting out idolaters, and all kinds and appearances of idolatry, not only in Judah, but in Israel also; and in the establishment of the true religion in all his dominions, and in the conforming of his own life, and his people’s too, (as far as he could,) to the holy law of God: though Hezekiah might excel him in some particulars.


Verse 26

2 Kings 23:26. Notwithstanding, the Lord turned not, &c. — Because, though the king was most hearty in his repentance, and acceptable to God, and therefore the judgment was delayed for his time; yet the people were in general corrupt, and secretly averse from Josiah’s pious reformation, as appears from the complaints of the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Zephaniah, against them; and by the following history, wherein we see, that as soon as ever Josiah was gone, his children, and the princes, and the people, suddenly and greedily returned to their former abominations. Because of all the provocations, &c. The sins of Manasseh, and of the men of his generation, who concurred with him in his idolatrous and cruel practices, are justly punished in this generation: because of God’s sovereign right of punishing sinners when he sees fit; because of that public declaration of God, that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children; and principally, because these men had never sincerely repented of their own nor of their fathers’ sins.


Verse 27

2 Kings 23:27. I will cast off this city, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there — God promised upon conditions, in sundry places expressed, that his name should be there. These conditions they broke, and therefore God justly made them to know his breach of promise.


Verse 29

2 Kings 23:29. In his days Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, went up, &c. — According to Herodotus, Nechoh was the proper name of this monarch, Pharaoh being the general name of all their kings, as has been before observed in these notes. He tells us he was the son and successor of Psammeticus, king of Egypt, and a man of a bold and enterprising spirit; that he made an attempt to join the Nile and the Red sea, by drawing a canal from the one to the other; that, though he failed in this design, yet, by sending a fleet from the Red sea, through the straits of Babelmandel, he discovered the coast of Africa, and in this expedition to the Euphrates, intended to destroy the united force of the Babylonians and Medes, and thereby to obtain the whole monarchy of Asia. See Prideaux’s Connect., and Calmet’s Dict. Went up against the king of Assyria — The king of Babylon, who, having formerly rebelled against the Assyrian, had now conquered him, as appears by the course of the sacred, and the concurrence of profane history; and therefore is here and elsewhere called the Assyrian, and the king of Assyria, because now he was the head of that empire. To the river Euphrates — Against Carchemish by Euphrates, as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 35:20, which the Assyrian had taken from Pharaoh’s confederates, who therefore sends forces against the Assyrian, that he might both help them and secure himself. Josiah went against him — Either to defend his own country from Pharaoh’s incursions, or to assist the king of Babylon, with whom he seems to have been in league. And he slew him at Megiddo — Gave him his death-wound there, though he died not till he came to Jerusalem. When he had seen him — When he fought with him, or in the first onset. Megiddo was a city in the half-tribe of Manasseh, not far from the Mediterranean sea. It does not appear that Josiah had any clear call to engage in this war; possibly he received his death-wound as a punishment of his rashness. Mr. Locke, however, observes, that from the time of the carrying away of Manasseh, the kings of Judah were under the protection of the Babylonians; and that Josiah, being most piously observant of his faith, would not grant a passage to this enemy of the king of Babylon, and therefore went against him.


Verse 30

2 Kings 23:30. His servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo — That is, mortally wounded, as in the former verse; and, as we commonly say of a sick man, past hopes of recovery, that he is a dead man. Instead of dead, Houbigant reads dying. The people took Jehoahaz, and made him king — Who was younger than Jehoiakim, yet preferred by the people before the elder brother; either because Jehoiakim refused the kingdom for fear of Pharaoh, whom he knew he should hereby provoke; or, because Jehoahaz was the more stout and warlike prince: whence he is called a lion, Ezekiel 19:3. And anointed him — Which ceremony was used because this was a troublesome time, and he was not the right heir to the crown, and therefore needed this solemn rite of confirmation, which Solomon had in the same circumstances.


Verse 32

2 Kings 23:32. He did evil, according to all that his fathers had done — That is, his grand-parents, Manasseh and Amon. He restored that idolatry which his father had destroyed. Jerusalem saw not a good day after Josiah was laid in his grave; but one trouble came after another, till, within two and twenty years, it was destroyed.


Verse 33

2 Kings 23:33. Pharaoh-nechoh put him in bands — Either because he presumed to take the kingdom without his consent; or, because he renewed the war against Egypt. At Riblah — An eminent city in Syria, where Pharaoh now was, that he might finish or make good his conquests, and whither Jehoahaz was carried to receive his sentence. That he might not reign — Or, because he had reigned, that is, taken the kingdom without right, and without his leave. And put the land to a tribute — Namely, an annual tribute, whereby they should acknowledge him to be their superior, and for which he would be their protector when they needed his help.


Verse 34

2 Kings 23:34. Pharaoh-nechoh made Eliakim king — Whom he probably perceived to be of a more mild and peaceable disposition. And turned his name to Jehoiakim — It was usual for conquerors to change the names of the persons they vanquished in war, in testimony of their absolute power over them. Thus we find the king of Babylon changing the name Mattaniah into Zedekiah, when he constituted him king of Judah, chap. 2 Kings 24:17. Archbishop Usher further remarks, that the king of Egypt gave Eliakim the name of Jehoiakim, which signifies, God hath made, or shall make it to prosper; thereby to testify, that he ascribed his victory over the Babylonians to Jehovah, the God of Israel, who had excited him, as he pretended, (2 Chronicles 35:21,) to undertake the expedition. And took Jehoahaz away — That he might give no disturbance to his brother, and also probably as a punishment for him. And he came to Egypt, and died there — According to the prophecy of Jeremiah, whom God sent to call this new king and the people to repentance. See Jeremiah 22:1-3; Jeremiah 22:10; Jeremiah 22:12.


Verse 37

2 Kings 23:37. He did that which was evil, &c. — By idolatry, the oppression of his people, and the persecution of the prophets and other good men. For he killed the Prophet Urijah, and was at the charge to fetch him out of Egypt, whither he fled to save his life, Jeremiah 26:20-21, &c. And if it had not been for Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, who had been a great man in his father Josiah’s courts, he would have served Jeremiah in the same manner, 2 Kings 23:24. And from hence it is evident, that the reformation of the people, in general, was not sincere in the time of Josiah, but that they dissembled in obedience to the king’s command; otherwise it cannot be supposed that this young king would have immediately set at naught, and gone directly contrary to, all his father had done: but, Josiah being dead, it is likely the people threw off their mask, and showed how vehemently they were inclined to idolatry, and this young king was thereby soon induced to join with them in it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-kings-23.html. 1857.

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