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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Chronicles 34

 

 

Verses 1-33

EXPOSITION

This chapter, with the following, embraces the entire of the beneficent reign of Josiah, son of Amon—the son an illustrious contrast to the father. The parallel (2 Kings 22-23:30) is less full, and also, so far as chronology goes, less clear in the earlier verses. For once the writer of Kings spends his strength more largely than our compiler on the moral and religious aspects of Josiah's work, and is rather scantier in the detail of his external works for his nation, city of Jerusalem, and temple. He, however, gives very much less prominence to the matter of the celebration of the Passover.

2 Chronicles 34:1

Again the name of the mother is omitted. From the parallel we learn she was "Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath."

2 Chronicles 34:3

This, with the following four verses, forms the commentary on the statement of 2 Chronicles 34:2, that Josiah "declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left." We cannot mistake the allusion in this verse to his personal religion at, say, sixteen years of age, as the foundation of his religious reign and of the practical devotion to reformation, instanced as commencing with his twentieth year. It may be here noted that the Prophet Jeremiah was called to his work in the year following thereupon, or, perhaps, the very same year (Jeremiah 1:1, Jeremiah 1:2). It is highly likely that Josiah and Jeremiah were given to one another providentially, to cooperate in all good works, now so needed for Church and state. The three dates of the eighth, twelfth, and (verse 8) the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign wore dates memorable in his life. For the two kinds of images of this verse, see succeeding note.

2 Chronicles 34:4

Note references in Le 2 Chronicles 26:1, 30. The images, that were on high above them; i.e; as Revised Version, the sun-images ( הַחַמָּנִים). The word and name occur only eight times—in Leviticus as just quoted; in our Second Book of Chronicles three times; in Isaiah twice; and in Ezekiel twice. The groves; i.e. the Asherim; again as last verse. The carved images; Revised Version, graven images; Hebrew, הַפְסִלִים. This word is found twenty-two times, occurring in Deuteronomy, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Micah. The molten images; Hebrew, הַמַּסֵּכוֹת. This word also occurs just twenty-two times, from Exodus downwards. Made dust of them and strewed it (so Exodus 32:20; 2 Kings 23:6).

2 Chronicles 34:5

Note herein the striking fulfilment of 1 Kings 13:1-3, of which our parallel (2 Kings 23:12-14, 2 Kings 23:16-20) gives a more detailed account, especially as regards Israel, though not failing to recognize Judah and Jerusalem's share in the need of purgation and punishment.

2 Chronicles 34:6

In the cities of Manasseh,… Ephraim,… Simeon, even unto Naphtali. Manasseh and Ephraim lay very nearly in the centre of the whole land, while Simeon and Naphtali were respectively at the southern and northern extremities. With their mattocks. This rendering may be correct, and cannot be said to be foreign to the sense and connection of the passage, the Hebrew word in that ease being the feminine plural of חֶרֶב Perhaps, however, the word is one with that found in Psalms 109:10, and may be rendered "in their ruined," i.e. semi-ruined, "condition." Note Keri also, which favours the latter reading; the Septuagint shows simply words which may best translate, and in their neighbourhoods respectively.

2 Chronicles 34:7

When. Cut out this word, which represents nothing in the original.

2 Chronicles 34:8

It is in some sense as though the work of purification, atoning, penitence, must precede that of practical repentance, of repairing, restoring, rebuilding. The original, however, does not warrant the laying of any stress on the when, found again in the Authorized Version. Shaphau. In the parallel (2 Kings 22:3) Shaphan is designated "the scribe." His descendants, to the second generation, at all events, did him honor (Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 29:3; Jeremiah 36:10, Jeremiah 36:12, Jeremiah 36:25; Ezekiel 8:11; see also 2 Kings 25:22). The names of Masseiah (Jeremiah 35:4) and Joah (2 Kings 18:18) are known, but not marking the present persons.

2 Chronicles 34:9

Hilkiah the high priest. Of Hilkiah's ancestors and descendants we learn something in the following references: 1 Chronicles 6:13, 1 Chronicles 6:14; 1 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Kings 25:18; Nehemiah 11:11; Ezra 7:1. They delivered. This means that Hilkiah's people delivered of what they had collected to Shaphan and his colleagues, who again in their turn (Ezra 7:10) "put it into the hand of the workmen,' etc. This is certainly the meaning of 2 Kings 22:4-9. And they returned to Jerusalem; translate, and of the dwellers in Jerusalem. Note Keri, and see 2 Chronicles 35:18; and Septuagint rendering here and there.

2 Chronicles 34:10

And they put it; i.e. Shaphan and colleagues, according to the parallel.

2 Chronicles 34:11

The exact work done we are unable to follow with precision. The parallel describes it, in more general terms, as "repairing the breaches." The repairs here spoken of, however, betoken, to say the least the rough usage, as well as "negligence," of kings like Manasseh and Amen, and suggest a further question as to the nature of those heathen and idolatrous practices, which cost so much to the very structure of temple and houses, i.e. probably the contiguous chambers of the main building (1 Kings 6:5), the exact style of which, however, is very doubtful.

2 Chronicles 34:12

Faithfully, Refer back to note, 2 Chronicles 31:12. To set … forward; Hebrew, לְנַחֶּהַ; the idea, of course, not so much that of expediting, as of guiding and instructing. The mention of those Levites whoso business was music is rather a surprise, and is not found in the parallel.

2 Chronicles 34:13

Scribes. Considering the mention of "scribes" in the plural in 1 Kings 4:3, although it stands alone, till, at all events, the time of Hezekiah (as testified by Proverbs 25:1), it is at any rate not improbable that an order of scribes was instituted by Solomon; that it fell into desuetude immediately under the divided kingdom, and, coming into vogue again under Hezekiah, is now mentioned in the natural way we here find it. The mention of the "scribe" in the singular number is of frequent occurrence in the historic books, and in Isaiah (Isaiah 33:18; Isaiah 36:22). The officers. This word reproduces, in the Hebrew, the familiar shoterim of Exodus 5:10 (see also 1 Chronicles 23:3-6).

2 Chronicles 34:14

The time of this verse is not free from ambiguity, which the parallel does not remove. It purports either that, on occasion of "bringing out the money," Hilkiah providentially lighted on his find, or that he availed himself of that occasion to report and give up the find made some time or other previously. The italic-type word "given," in this verse, it is better to discard, and to restore the omitted words, "by the hand of;" i.e. the book was either Moses' original handwriting and solemn deposit (Deuteronomy 31:26)—in that ease nearly eight centuries and a half old-or, at any rate, the standard copy and authorized successor of it, though we nowhere read of such a copy having been made, nor is it necessary to doubt the durability of the original. A book should be rendered the book.

2 Chronicles 34:18

The implication on the face of this verse as of the parallel (2 Kings 22:10), is that Shaphan leaves the king to surmise (which he very quickly does), from hearing a portion (Hebrew here, read in it; in parallel, "read it") of the book, what it was.

2 Chronicles 34:19

With one insignificant exception (the omission here of the word סֶפֶר), the words of this verse are identical with the parallel in its 2 Chronicles 34:11. The same, to all purposes, may be said of our twelve succeeding verses, compared with the parallel in its 2 Chronicles 34:12 - 2 Chronicles 23:3. The king rent his clothes, in grief that the practice of his nation had diverged so terribly from their ever-to-be-venerated Law.

2 Chronicles 34:20

Ahikam the son of Shaphan (see Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 40:5). Abdon the son of Micah. The parallel (2 Kings 22:12) and the Syriac Version have "Achbor the son of Michaiah" (see also Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12).

2 Chronicles 34:21

For me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah. The parallel shows, "For me, and for the people, and for all Judah" (2 Kings 22:13), without any apparent specific reference to Israel. Our present passage may intend to glance at the fact that the bettor part of Israel were in captivity; and it will be possible, at any rate, to read the last clause as intending, not "for them that are left in Judah," but "and for them in Judah." That is poured out; Hebrew, גִחְכָה. The parallel shows, "that is kindled;" Hebrew, נִצְחָה. The considerable resemblance between the Hebrew words is worthy of passing note.

2 Chronicles 34:22

The question may suggest itself, Why was not Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25; 2 Chronicles 36:21) at once consulted? Probably he was at Anathoth, and not immediately accessible. Tikvath. In Hebrew, Tokhath; and in parallel, Tikvah. Hasrah. In parallel, Harhas. In the college; Revised Version, following Hebrew, in the (Mishneh) second quarter. Nothing is known of Huldah, nor of Shallum her husband, except what lies in this and the parallel place.

2 Chronicles 34:23

The oracular answer of Huldah, contained in this and the following five verses, is very closely paralleled by the six verses of 2 Kings 22:15-20.

2 Chronicles 34:25

Poured out. So here again, as above (2 Chronicles 34:21). Yet our Septuagint has "kindled;" and also the parallel in the Hebrew. The word "quenched," which immediately follows, suits the word "kindled," and what with the testimony of the Septuagint, both here and in 2 Chronicles 34:21, and the Hebrew in both passages of the parallel, suggests that "poured" is the substitution, by some mishap, of a copyist—a mishap, for instance, that might result from the copyist writing from the speech of some one, and not from his own inspection. Exactly similar mistakes may often be seen in our maps, where the spelling and misspelling of the name of some place seem only to be accounted for by the same supposition. The catastrophe now foretold befell the nation manifestly in the reigns of the succeeding sovereigns, whose days were emphatically both few and evil, viz. the two sons of Josiah, Jehoahaz and Eliakim, whose name was changed to Jehoiakim; and the two sons of this latter, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (according to 2 Kings 24:17, the same with Mattaniah, and son of Josiah).

2 Chronicles 34:29

The wise, religious, and unselfish conduct of the king is clearly betokened in the course he took, as narrated here and in the succeeding three verses.

2 Chronicles 34:30

The Levites. The parallel mentions "prophets" and omits "Levites," which latter our compiler is safe not to forget. When it is said in this verse, he read, the meaning, of course, is "the priests" read (Deuteronomy 31:9).

2 Chronicles 34:31

The king stood in his place; i.e. not simply]in his order, but upon his royal pedestal, or platform; possibly following a mere suggestion, originating with the word used in the parallel, "by his pillar" (so Revised Version).

2 Chronicles 34:32

Some think the text hero corrupt, both for the presence of the words, and in Benjamin, and the absence of the words, "in the covenant." Their case, however, is scarcely conclusive (see 2 Kings 23:3).

2 Chronicles 34:33

The parallel (2 Kings 23:4-20) gives some succinct account of Josiah's removal of abominations, here glanced at so briefly.

HOMILETICS

2 Chronicles 34:1-33

The reign of Josiah-its unexpected boon, in a republication of revealed religion, with the legitimate and happy results following thereupon.

In the reign and person of Josiah, once more and for the last time in the now numbered years of the kingdom of Judah, the light of piety and "goodness" flickered up in the socket. His reign began when his yearn numbered but eight; it lasted thirty-one years. Four reigns succeeded his to the date of the destruction of Jerusalem, but the four together occupied but twenty-two or twenty-three years in all. The term of life is run, therefore, within a very short length, and the pensive sadness of the coming end falls upon us before the horrors of the end itself overwhelm us. Josiah's care for the reformation of the national religion emulated, rather exceeded, that of any predecessor (2 Kings 23:22, 2 Kings 23:25). He boldly denounced and destroyed, enlisted help and spiritual sympathy, and reconstructed. And, both by word and deed, laid most solemn stress on the immaculate celebration of the sacred Passoverse And explain it as we may, there was granted to him and his reign an opportunity, and it not neglected, which bid fair, going to the root of the matter, to promise brighter days—days of more lasting brightness for the welfare of the people, in the true security of religion. But the knell of doom was already clanging. To the piety of Josiah, it was not so much that respite of the dread sentence on Judah was given, but this was given, the condescending information and merciful assurance that it was dated to a time when he would be "gathered to his fathers, and gathered to his grave in peace, and his eyes not see all the evil" (2 Chronicles 34:27, 2 Chronicles 34:28). This, with some special emphasis, came true; for Josiah, though slain in battle, and so far not dying "in peace," did die in peace, so far as the end or captivity of Judah was concerned; and he was the last of the kings who received honourable burial in Jerusalem. Three of his successors and descendants died in captivity, and if Jehoiakim, the other of the four last kings, eventually "slept with his fathers' (2 Kings 24:6), in the sense of his dust resting with theirs, it was not so at first (Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 36:30; Ezekiel 19:8, Ezekiel 19:9). The remarkable opportunity already spoken of, which was granted to Josiah in the interest of religion for his nation, which came on him so unexpectedly, which made such deep impression on him, and which he endeavoured with all his might to turn to the greatest and best advantage, may be dwelt upon, in all its lasting significance, for every time of day. The fact of the sudden discovery of "the book of the Law of the Lord by Moses" (Deuteronomy 31:26; also 10-13) loses its wonder perhaps for ourselves, as we look back on that history, as compared with the other extraordinary fact and appalling thought, that it had been lost, so lost that its very existence, the tradition of it, seemed as a thing unknown to Josiah. Counting the years of the reign of Manasseh, of Amon, and those which had already elapsed of Josiah, we may say that the sacred manuscript had been lost for some eighty years. In point of fact, some pious priest among the degenerate rank-and-file of the priests had probably carefully hidden it at the beginning of the iniquities of Manasseh. The wonder nevertheless is still left, that no quest of it, no literal active search for it, seems to have been made, and no perpetuation of the tradition of it even, by priest or prophet, seems to have been at hand, for Josiah to have had the opportunity of availing himself of it. It is not impossible to surmise partial explanations to meet the difficulty, but the surprising fact is full of significance. Practically the incident amounted to this—that to Josiah was vouchsafed some "republication of revealed religion." And his treatment of the novel, the startling message of revelation is a very parable in itself. We may for the text of this parable, to call it such, be reminded of the reputed words of "father Abraham," in our blessed Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says of the five brethren of the rich man in torments, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." They had not heard them, i.e. had not practically heeded them. But Josiah hears and heeds. And are we not confronted very happily and very suggestively, though in very brief, with these examples of the just demands of revealed religion, justly met? viz. when we read how—

I. JOSIAH "HEARS" IT.

II. BELIEVES IT.

III. REVERENTLY FEARS IT, AS HE PERMITS IT TO SINK INTO HIS VERY SOUL, AND DOES NOT RESIST IT, NOR TRY TO DROWN IT, NOR PUT IT OFF TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION AT A MORE CONVENIENT SEASON.

IV. WITH ALL URGENCY MAKES FULL INQUIRY, AND THAT IN THE RIGHT QUARTERS RESPECTING ITS FULL AND MOMENTOUS IMPORT.

V. DILIGENTLY GUIDES HIMSELF PRACTICALLY BY IT.

VI. CALLS WITH THE VOICE OF A TRUE PREACHER ALL AROUND HIM TO HEAR AND HEED THE SAM, E, AND WITHOUT A QUIBBLE OR DELAY TO ENTER INTO COVENANT WITH THAT GOD, WHO SO REVEALS HIMSELF, HIS TRUTH, HIS WILL, HIS COMMANDS, AND THE FEARFUL OR OTHERWISE THE AWE-INSPIRING SANCTIONS BY WHICH THEY ARE ACCOMPANIED. The rich man, the five brethren of the rich man, Judah and Israel, and countless millions upon millions of others, would have been saved and blessed had they been followers of Josiah. How many of modern days, how many of ourselves have neglected, are neglecting, and are making a mock of sin, because of neglecting the simple, faithful example of Josiah, as to the way to receive God's revelation of his truth and will for our lives!

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 34:3

(first part).

Piety in youth.

That Josiah "while he was yet young … began to seek after the God of David his father" is to us an interesting fact; it provides an example to the young and an incentive to those who have charge of their welfare. Respecting piety in youth it is well to consider—

I. HOW MUCH THERE IS TO COMMEND IT.

1. All life belongs to God, and therefore this part of it. Unto him who gave us our existence and all our powers, and in whom we live and move and have our being, surely the whole of our life belongs; it cannot be withheld without wrong, without keeping back the "glory due to his Name," the gratitude and the love and the service due to himself. Therefore does this part of it along with the rest. Audit is certain that when life is past and we come to have it in review we shall be most happy in the thought, if we can but cherish it, that our youth also was spent in the fear of God, in the love and service of Jesus Christ.

"'Twill please us to look back and see

That our whole lives were thine."

2. Each period of life has its own peculiar offering to bring. If age has its patience and submissiveness, and if elderliness has its experience, and if prime has the fulness of its strength for service, and if young manhood has its hopefulness and its ardour, then has youth also its especial offering to bring to its Redeemer; it has its affectionateness, its trustfulness, its docility, its readiness to obey, its beauty. Truly, the "flower when offered in the bud:' is "no vain sacrifice."

3. It saves the growth of injurious weeds in the garden of the soul. When the sense of sacred obligation is absent, youth is apt to let various evil habits grow up—habits which choke much that is good, which constitute a serious drawback to Christian worth, and which require much effort and much time also for their extraction. But when the curly days are spent in the service and in the friendship of Christ, his holy will being the one rule of the heart and life, such evil habits are unformed, and all the after-days are stronger and better and more beautiful for their absence.

4. Each period in life is a stepping-stone to the next, is a preparation for the next. We sow in youth what we reap ill young manhood; as we go on our way we gather in the harvest of the thought and toil of the years that came before it. But this applies to our moral and spiritual character more perfectly than to anything else. How, then, can we afford to lose the great advantage of building up from the beginning? Our manhood will be much the weaker for an ill-spent youth, and much the stronger for a well-spent one. Our whole life will be greatly impoverished by the one, greatly enriched by the other.

5. Godly youth is a source of pure and deep joy to those whom the young should be most desirous of pleasing—to those that have loved them and served them with tenderest solicitude and unfailing devotion.

II. OUR DUTY IN REGARD TO IT.

1. To abstain most carefully from forcing it. No deadlier injury can be done to the young than forcing a religious habit; constraining them to affect a language and to make a profession which is unreal, which will soon break down, and which will leave the heart far less open to all heavenly influences than it would have been.

2. To encourage it in every way that is in our power; more particularly by the exhibition of a consistent life and the manifestation of a loving spirit toward them. Whom we win for ourselves we may lead to our Lord.

III. THE WISDOM AND THE DUTY OF THE YOUNG. This is to enter the service of Jesus Christ without delay. He does not require of them anything they cannot offer. He does not demand of them that they should use the language or do the work which is appropriate, to other conditions; he asks them to receive him as their Divine Teacher, as their Divine Friend, as their Divine Lord. He asks them to trust, to love, to serve him to the height of their present power. This they can do; this they should do; this they will be truly and deeply wise if they do. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near."—C.

2 Chronicles 34:12

Faithful work.

"And the men did the work faithfully." It became a godly King of Judah to do anything and everything that was required for the strength and beauty of the temple. For in that sacred edifice centred the religious life of the nation, and there God manifested himself as nowhere else. With us religious thought and spiritual earnestness are not thus localized; and though, after the manner as well as in the spirit of Josiah, we may concern ourselves much with the erection or the repair of some "house of the Lord," yet Christian zeal now shows itself in a hundred ways;. it branches and bears fruit in all directions. There is, however, a sense in which it is all building. We who are at work for our Lord and for our neighbour are building up the kingdom of Christ, and, at the same time, are building up a peaceful, happy, holy community. It is probable that we have all undertaken some specific work of this kind, some ministry; that we have committed ourselves to some office which makes certain demands on our intelligence, our strength, our time. That being so, it is well that we realize the importance of "doing the work faithfully" which we have in hand.

I. WHAT CONSTITUTES FAITHFULNESS. TO be faithful is clearly a very different thing from being successful. Some men are successful, as men count success, who are not faithful in the sight of God; others are faithful who are not "successful." To be faithful is to act with rightful, earnest, patient effort in the sphere in which our Lord has placed us.

1. Doing our work honestly, fairly, conscientiously, keeping in view the revealed will of God and the claims of men (see 2 Timothy 2:5).

2. Acting with earnestness; not languidly and listlessly, but devotedly and energetically.

3. With patient, persevering effort; not daunted by the first nor by the fiftieth difficulty that presents itself, not silenced by clamour, not forsaking the path of holy service because prosperity seems long in coming; but calmly, patiently, thoroughly proceeding with and completing our work; holding on and bearing up until we can say, thankfully and reverently, "It is finished."

II. WHAT INDUCEMENTS WE HAVE TO BE FAITHFUL IN OUR WORK.

1. Our Lord requires it. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). "Be thou faithful unto death," says the ascended Lord with commanding voice. There were "overseers," our text says, to "set forward" the work in which these artificers were engaged. We have one great Divine Overseer, who is ever looking on and taking account, desiring of us that we "do the work faithfully," and it behoves us to do everything we undertake, both that which does and that which does not directly belong to the affairs of his kingdom, "as ever in the great Taskmaster's eye."

2. By so doing we take rank with the best of the sons of men. Of Moses we read that "he was faithful in all his house" (Hebrews 3:2). He did not seem to be remarkably successful; probably in the eyes of his contemporaries he appeared positively unsuccessful. But when he lay down to die on Nebo he could feel that he had done his work faithfully. And thus with Paul. And so with the best and worthiest of our race. To be faithful in our work is to stand with the best of men.

3. Thus only can we secure the approval of our own conscience. But thus we shall; and how great a victory it will be to be able to feel as Paul felt when his course was run, "I have fought a good fight,… I have kept the faith"!

4. We shall receive a large reward. If we arc but faithful in a few things here, we shall be rulers over many things hereafter (Matthew 25:21). If faithful unto death, Christ will give us "a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Life in all its glorious fulness, in all its perfect blessedness, will be ours for ever.—C.

2 Chronicles 34:14-28

The hidden treasure.

Whether this "book of the Law of the Lord" was indeed the original copy in the handwriting of Moses is a matter of sacred curiosity; but it is nothing more than that. The surprising and all but incredible thing is that Judah should have been reduced to any one copy of the "Law of the Lord." This discovery of Hilkiah and the surprise and the eagerness it occasioned speak to us of—

I. THE GUILTY NEGLIGENCE OF WHICH NATIONS AND MEN ARE CAPABLE. Judah had been concerning itself, had been "careful and troubled" about many things, but it had not thought it worth while to multiply copies of the "Law of the Lord," of its own sacred books; so negligent had it been that when one is accidentally discovered its warnings are read for the first time by its own sovereign in his manhood! Of what great and guilty negligence are we capable! We may be spending our time and strength, we may be exhausting ourselves and endangering our health and life in all kinds of unprofitable occupation, in fruitless labour or in amusement which begins and ends in itself, and all the time may be neglecting that one study or that one habit in the pursuit of which "standeth our eternal life." There are many men in Christian countries who expend their substance upon, and occupy their very life with, horses, or dogs, or guns, who do not afford even a few hours a year to the serious study of the will of God as revealed by his Son and recorded in his Word. The treasure which cannot be estimated in gold or silver lies untouched, as much buried from sight and use as if it had been hidden in some crypt of the temple. It may not be our deeds, but our negligences, that we shall most fear to face in the great day of account.

II. THE MELANCHOLY USE WE MAY MAKE OF DIVINE TRUTH. In that book of the Law of the Lord there were instructions and admonitions which, if duly heeded, would have ensured abiding peace and honour to the inhabitants of Judah. These had been waywardly and flagrantly disregarded. And now the time for employing them had well-nigh gone. What was left was the sad opportunity of verifying by bitter experience the truth of its threatenings. This was the alternative now open to Judah. Let us take care lest, by our disregard of the promises, we bring upon ourselves the warnings of the Word of God. "If we will not be ruled by the rudder, we must be ruled by the rock." If we will not take advantage of the beneficent laws and the gracious overtures of God, we must "show forth" the severity of those righteous laws which attach suffering and shame to vanity and guilt.

III. THE URGENT NEED OF KEEPING AN OPEN MIND AND A SENSITIVE SPIRIT. We are almost startled when we read of Josiah's vehemence (2 Chronicles 34:19). These solemn threats do not affect us in that degree. But we have to consider that he was hearing them read for the first time; to him they were new and fresh, and therefore striking and forcible. Here lies one of our great perils. Familiarity covers the truth of God with its own veil, so that we do not see what we are looking at. We want to read the words of Jesus Christ, to listen to the story of his great sacrifice, to hearken to his words of gracious invitation, as if we had never met with them before; we want to bring to them all the force of an unclouded intelligence, of an undulled interest. And so with the warnings as well as with the promises of Scripture.

IV. THE ATTENTION GOD PAYS TO INDIVIDUAL SOULS. (2 Chronicles 34:26-28.) Wrath was to be poured out upon Judah, but Josiah was to be treated mercifully because he had acted rightly. Whatever penalties are due to our country, however we may be, as we are, suffering as the members of a guilty race, we may be quite sure that God has regard to the life we are living, to the choice we are making. If our heart is tender, and if our will is obedient and submissive, we also shall find mercy of the Lord. God has his dealings with communities and with Churches; but his most constant relation is with men, with individual souls. "The Lord looketh upon me; … Christ died for me;" "What wilt thou have me to do?" And according to our individual choice will be our destiny. "Every man must bear his own burden."—C.

2 Chronicles 34:29-33

Communication and continuance.

Josiah's wise and devout concern, when he discovered the Word and knew more fully the will of God, was to communicate his own earnestness to others, and to secure for future years this new and good departure. He took the most natural and wise measures to attain his object.

1. He summoned all the elders in particular and all the people who could meet together, and made known to them in its fulness the truth that had been revealed to himself (2 Chronicles 34:29, 2 Chronicles 34:30).

2. He pledged all those who were with him, and who represented the nation, to continuance in the service of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 34:31, 2 Chronicles 34:32).

3. He took away the standing temptation from the path of the people. He thus made obedience easier while he made the sense of obligation firmer.

I. OUR DUTY TO COMMUNICATE DIVINE TRUTH. When we consider:

1. How essential to life and all that life includes is the familiar knowledge of the will of God.

2. How possible and how practicable it is for all who know the will of God in Jesus Christ to pass it on to others.

3. How willingly men will listen if we give them the simplest and best guarantee of our sincerity—consistency of conduct and excellency of spirit; we shall see how right and how urgent it is upon us that we should all "hold forth the Word of life," make known the goodness and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

II. OUR DUTY TO SECURE IT SO FAR AS LIES IN OUR POWER. The text suggests three ways of doing this.

1. Pledge ourselves to abide in its light. Josiah covenanted for himself to "keep his commandments … with all his heart … to perform the words … written in this book." That was his first, plain duty. And that is ours also; to undertake, solemnly and openly before God and his people, to walk in righteousness and in holy service; to" take the vows of the Lord" upon us. By so doing we give the strongest possible and the greatest practical encouragement to all others to come and "do likewise."

2. Induce others to enter into the same solemn undertaking. As the king with his countrymen (2 Chronicles 34:32), so we with our kindred and friends, with our fellow-worshippers and neighbours, should do all in our power to pledge them to the service of God. "Join us," we should say, "in taking a solemn and sacred pledge to live consciously in the presence and continuously in the service of the Divine Saviour." In every considerable company of worshippers there are those who are unpledged, but who, for their own sake and for that of others related to them, ought to be the avowed disciples of Christ. It is our sacred duty, it is our high privilege, it will prove a service rich in the best reward, to speak the encouraging and inviting word which will lead them to take this important step.

3. Remove temptation from the path of those who might not be able to resist it. This is ground on which we must exhibit both understanding and earnestness, both sagacity and self-sacrifice. There are things which may be said. to be "abominations" (2 Chronicles 34:33) because they prove to be irresistible and ruinous temptations to some sincere disciples. In these cases, it is not enough to warn against them—we must go further than that; we must do anything and everything that is needful to get the temptation as much out of the path of our neighbours as the images which were ground to dust (2 Chronicles 34:4) were removed from the way of the people of Judah. We may add a fourth measure which may be suggested by the twenty-ninth verse:

4. Prevail upon our friends to come into the near presence and under the power of the truth of God; and this not (as in the text) on one particular occasion, but frequently and regularly. For much fellowship with Christ and much hearkening to his voice as he speaks to us in the sanctuary will give strength unto the soul.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 34:1-7

Josiah the good.

I. HIS EARLY ACCESSION. "Josiah ['Whom Jehovah heals'] was eight years old when he began to reign" (2 Chronicles 34:1). Manasseh, Uzziah, and Joash had been twelve, sixteen, and seven respectively when they ascended the throne. Generally speaking, it is perilous to have greatness thrust upon one at too early an age; sometimes premature responsibility calls forth capacities that might otherwise have continued latent. Edward VI; who assumed the crown of England in his tenth year, Charles IX; who was of the same age when he was raised to the throne of France, and Kang Hi, who became Emperor of China in his seventh year, were examples of the truth here stated.

II. HIS FERVENT RELIGION. Josiah's piety was:

1. Ancestral. If his father Amen was not a good man, but the opposite—an insensate idolater and a hardened trangressor (2 Chronicles 33:22, 2 Chronicles 33:23)—his mother Jedidah, "Beloved," the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath (2 Kings 22:1), may have been a good woman, who, like Eunice of later times (2 Timothy 1:5), nurtured her son in the fear of Jehovah. Besides, as that son was six years of age before Manasseh died, he may have received from his aged grandfather such instructions as disposed him to the choice of the true religion of Jehovah. In any case, in him was reproduced the piety of the best sovereigns that had preceded him—in particular of Hezekiah, Jotham, Jehoshaphat, and David.

2. Early. "In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father" (verse 3). Youthful piety, of which Scripture furnishes numerous examples—Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26), Abijah (1 Kings 14:13), Obadiah (1 Kings 18:12), John (Luke 1:80), Jesus (Luke 2:52), Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5)—while beautiful in all, is specially attractive in princes. King Edward VI; besides being a good linguist, "had a particular regard for the Holy Scriptures" (Bishop Burnet). That religion which begins in youth is most likely to be permanent, and certain to be most useful. Christ commends religion to the young (Matthew 6:33).

3. Sincere.

III. HIS ZEALOUS REFORMATION. I. The period of it. Beginning in his twelfth year of reign, i.e. the twentieth of his life, and terminating in his eighteenth year of reign, or the twenty-sixth of his life, it occupied six years in all (verses 3, 8).

2. The scene of it.

3. The manner of it. With "The violence—probably hinted at in the phrase, with their axes". "The reformation executed by the king was earnestly intended; it was thorough, it was comprehensive; but it was above everything violent" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:237). This appears more distinctly from 2 Kings (2 Kings 23:4-20). But the extirpation of religious, no more than of political abuses, can be carried out without a degree of harshness. Privileged iniquity in Church or in state is always difficult to dislodge.

4. The extent of it. Judah, Jerusalem, and the Israelitish cities already mentioned were purged from high places, Asherim, images and altars (verses 3-7). Particularly

LESSONS.

1. The beauty of early piety.

2. The excellence of Christian zeal.

3. The difficulty of executing reformations.—W.

2 Chronicles 34:8-13

The repairing of the temple by Josiah.

I. THE COMMISSIONERS.

1. Their names. Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the king's secretary (2 Chronicles 34:15); Maaseiah the governor of the city; and Josh the son of Joahaz, the recorder or chronicler.

2. Their business. To repair the house of the Lord. This had been done two centuries before by Joash (2 Chronicles 24:12), and nearly one century before by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:12-19). During the reigns of Manasseh and Amon it had fallen into such disorder that it a third time demanded renovation. In this respect the temple was a melancholy symbol of all human institutions—not excepting such as are religious—which constantly exhibit a tendency as they grow old to become degenerate, and, as a consequence stand in need of periodic reformation and rejuvenescence.

3. Their procedure. Along with Hilkiah the priest—as Joash had acted in concert with Jehoiada, and the king's scribe had co-operated with the high priest's officer (2 Chronicles 24:11, 2 Chronicles 24:12)—they received the money which the Levites that kept the temple doors had collected from the people of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and from the inhabitants of all Judah and Benjamin, who, following the plan in vogue since the days of Joash and Jehoiada, cast in their free-will offerings into a box placed in the temple court for the purpose of receiving the voluntary contributions of the faithful towards the good end the king had in view, the repairing of the temple. Having received this money, the three commissioners, along with the high priest, paid it over to the superintendents who had the oversight of the house of the Lord.

II. THE OVERSEERS.

1. Their names.

2. Their duties.

III. THE ARTISANS.

1. Carpenters, or workers in wood, whose business was to prepare timber for couplings and to make beams for the houses, i.e. for the temple and its courts, which the kings of Judah had permitted to fall into decay.

2. Masons, or workers in stone; not to hew, since the stones were already hewn when purchased, but to build—in this perhaps designedly following the example given in the building of the temple (1 Kings 6:7).

IV. THE ASSISTANTS.

1. Scribes, who kept a record of the progress of, as well as the necessary accounts connected with, the work.

2. Officers, who served in different capacities under superiors.

3. Porters, who watched at the several gates of the temple while the work was going on.

LESSONS.

1. The beauty of order,

2. The efficiency secured by division of labour.

3. The value of co-operation.—W.

2 Chronicles 34:14-28

The book of the Law.

I. THE FINDING OF THE BOOK. (2 Chronicles 34:14, 2 Chronicles 34:15.)

1. The finder. Hilkiah the priest (2 Chronicles 34:18), the high priest (2 Chronicles 34:9), the son of Shallum (1 Chronicles 6:13), the son of Zadok; not to be identified with either the father of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1) or the father of Gemariah (Jeremiah 29:3); and certainly to be distinguished from the father of Eliakim, Hezekiah's house-steward (Isaiah 22:20).

2. The place. The temple (verse 15), though in what part is not stated (verse 14); perhaps the treasure-chest out of which Hilkiah was fetching gold. to make cups and other vessels (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 10.4. 2), but more probably the vicinity of the ark in the holy of holies.

3. The time. The eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, when he was in the middle of his reformation work (verse 8), and just before the celebration of the Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1)—a circumstance calculated to suggest the presence of God's finger in the opportune discovery of a book which exercised so powerful an influence upon the religious life of the nation at this critical juncture in its history; though the same circumstance has been used (Wellhausen, Kuenen, Ewald, Colenso, R. Smith, Cheyne) to support the theory that the book was now or shortly before for the first time written, by either Hilkiah himself, Jeremiah, or some other unknown prophet, as the legislative programme of the reforming party.

4. The book.

(a) The title of the book—"the book of the Law" (verse 15), "a book of the Law of the Lord" (verse 14)—a designation which appears to be reserved for the fifth alone of the so-called Mosaic books (Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 30:10; Deuteronomy 31:26). But it is likewise styled "the book of the covenant" (verse 30); and this phrase occurs only in the second of the Pentateuchal books (Exodus 24:7). Whence, by parity of reasoning, the book found must have been the Book of Exodus alone. The probability, however, is, that the volume contained both the second and the fifth books of Moses; in other words, that it was the whole Pentateuch.

(b) The size of the book. As Shaphan is said to have read it through at a sitting (verse 18), it is hardly likely to have been the whole Pentateuch, but may have been Deuteronomy. But the revised translation, "therein" (verse 8), has deprived this of the force it was formerly sup, posed to possess as an argument.

(c) The teaching of the book. The principle of Josiah's reformation, which it is argued was based upon the book—the principle, viz; of the abolition of local sanctuaries and the centralization of worship in the temple at Jerusalem—corresponds exactly with the legislation of the Deuteronomic code, which declares the law of one central altar, and forbids the erection of local sanctuaries (Deuteronomy 12:5-8). This, however, may be conceded without holding that Hilkiah's Law-book contained nothing but Deuteronomy or the original draft thereof—unless, indeed, it be assumed that Deuteronomy was only then for the first time written—against which stands the fact that the law of the king (Deuteronomy 17:18) appears to have been known and observed in the days of Jehoiada and Jonah (2 Chronicles 23:11; 2 Kings 11:12). Besides, it is too readily assumed that Josiah had no knowledge of the sinfulness of local sanctuaries and the imperative obligation of a central altar until he heard Hilkiah's book read, and that from the hearing of that book he derived his impulse to destroy the heathen altars in Jerusalem, Judah, and certain cities of Israel. As to the first, if Josiah had no acquaintance with the law of one altar, it would seem that Hezekiah had (2 Kings 18:4-6); while, with reference to the second, the Book of Kings indeed adopts the view here stated; but the Chronicler represents the finding of the book as having taken place after the purgation of the land (verse 8).

(d) The style of the book. On the ground of certain linguistic resemblances between Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, it is argued that the former must have been Hilkiah's book, and composed about Josiah's time. But this reasoning is not good. As Hilkiah's book contained Deuteronomy, whatever else it contained, it would most likely make on Jeremiah, as on Josiah, a deep impression, which would reflect itself upon his own writings. Hence, from mere verbal correspondences, it cannot be inferred that Deuteronomy was not written till the age of Josiah; and if' this position be abandoned, it will not be necessary to maintain that Hilkiah's book was only the last of the (so-called) books of Moses.

(a) The fact that "it was a common practice of Egyptian scribes to insert in their transcripts of great religious or scientific works a statement that the writing in question had been 'found' in a temple," hardly warrants the suggestion that Deuteronomy 31:6 was "an imitation of this custom," or that Hilkiah's book "was not lost by accident, nor yet placed in the sanctuary with the intention to deceive, but simply taken to the temple and formally placed there, and then communicated to Josiah with a view to its promulgation".

(b) The phrase, "by Moses," is not sufficiently explained by saying that the author meant that Moses, had he been alive, would have so written.

(c) It is difficult to perceive why Hilkiah, Shaphan, and Josiah should have given out that the work was by Moses, if they really knew that it was not, but was merely an "imitation" of the great lawgiver.

(d) It is too much to ask any but the credulous to believe that Josiah was not acting a part in pretending to be impressed by the contents of the book, if he knew it was not by the lawgiver, but by an unknown and recent author. That it was the autograph copy of the lawgiver's work (Kennicott) is an unverifiable surmise; that it was "the three middle books of the Pentateuch" (Bertheau) or only the second (Gramberg) does not seem likely.

II. THE READING OF THE BOOK. (Deuteronomy 31:18, Deuteronomy 31:19)

1. The reader. Shaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah (Deuteronomy 31:8), the son of Meshullam (2 Kings 22:1-20 :37, one of Josiah's commissioners for the repairing of the temple.

2. The auditor. Josiah (2 Kings 22:18), to whom Shaphan carried the book in obedience to Hilkiah's instructions.

3. The lesson. "It" or "in it" (Revised Version). Not necessarily the whole book, but only portions of it, as e.g. those containing the curses against disobedience (Deuteronomy 27-31.; Le Deuteronomy 26:14 -46), warnings against idolatry (Le 26:1-30; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 27:15), and perhaps also the directions relating to the observance of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-51.7 and the making of a covenant (Exodus 24:1-18.).

4. The impression. Josiah rent his clothes (Exodus 12:19).

(1) In astonishment (cf. Genesis 37:29; Genesis 44:13) at the teaching rather than at the finding of the book. Many persons still would be surprised at the contents of the Bible if they only read it. The Bible is often rejected by those who are entirely ignorant of it.

III. THE INQUIRING ABOUT THE BOOK. (Exodus 12:21-28.) Done at Josiah's instance.

1. The reason of this inquiry. The terror in which the king was about the wrath of Jehovah against himself and people on account of the failure of their fathers to do after all that was written in the book. Josiah recognized the solidarity of the race, according to which the proverb held good, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezekiel 18:2). Besides, Josiah must have known the reforming zeal of the people was at best but superficial (Jeremiah 3:10). Hence, though the land and the house had been purged, he was uncertain whether the curses denounced against idolatry might not still overtake them. It is good when"the terror of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:11) persuades men to inquire about escaping, from the wrath to come.

2. The quarter at which this inquiry was made.

3. The persons through whom this inquiry was made. The deputation sent by the king consisted of five individuals, most likely all high officials connected with his court.

4. The answer returned to this inquiry.

Learn:

1. The inspiration of Scriptures.

2. The profitableness of Scripture-reading.

3. The testimony of conscience to the Word of God.

4. The certainty of God's anger against sin.

5. The blessedness of sincere mourning on account of sin.

6. The mercifulness of God in the providential preservation of his Word.

7. The certainty that God never loses sight of the Bible, though man often does.—W.

2 Chronicles 34:30

The value of the Bible.

I. THE BIBLE LOST. An unspeakable calamity.

1. To literature. Remark on the indebtedness of modern literature to the Bible.

2. To religion. Without the support and quickening derived from Scripture religion would speedily become languid.

3. To morality. Contrast in respect of morality countries possessing and countries lacking the Bible.

II. THE BIBLE FOUND. A great mercy. More to be prized than the discovery of gold-mines, which can only contribute to man's material wealth, or even of rare manuscripts by human authors, which enrich chiefly the intellect, the finding of the Bible by an individual or a nation for the first time, or the recovery of it after it has been for some time lost, is:

1. An occasion of great joy, and is usually felt to be such. Witness the gladness of Luther at finding the Bible in the convent at Erfurth. And ought to be:

2. A reason for special thankfulness, as it generally is to all who know its value as a revelation of Divine wisdom and love, and can appreciate its power to influence the hearts and lives of men.

III. THE BIBLE READ. A blessed privilege.

1. Many might read the Bible who do not have it. A sad deprivation. This the case of the heathen generally and of numbers at home. An argument for missions.

2. Many have the Bible, yet do not read it. A grievous sin. This the case with thousands in Christendom to whom God's Word is a strange book. An argument for preaching.

3. Many have the Bible, but cannot read it. A pitiful condition. This the case of those who through defective education or blindness are unable to read. An argument for Christian philanthropy.

4. Many have the Bible and read it. A happy experience. This the case of those who have learnt to recognize in the Bible God's Word, and to appreciate its suitability to their soul's needs. An argument for the inspiration of the Scriptures.

IV. THE BIBLE OBEYED. An indispensable duty.

1. Obedience the end and aim of the Bible. The Bible not written for information merely, but for direction also. Designed not simply for the construction of creeds, but likewise for the regulation of conduct (Matthew 6:24; James 1:22).

2. Obedience the only homage acceptable to the Bible. To read it, admire its literary beauty, study its theology, extol its excellences, circulate it, are good if these acts are accompanied by obedience, but if not they are comparatively worthless.

3. Obedience the best witness to the Divinity of the Bible. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). Those who know the Bible best, by giving practical obedience to its precepts are most fully convinced of its heavenly and supernatural origin.

4. Obedience the necessary means for obtaining the blessing of the Bible. Not the hearers of the Word, but the doers thereof, are justified before God (Matthew 7:21; Luke 11:28; Romans 2:13).—W.

2 Chronicles 34:29-33

Judah's last national covenant.

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. The time.

2. The place.

II. THE PARTIES.

1. The king. As was most appropriate, Josiah led the way. Though sovereigns have no right under the gospel to enforce religion on their subjects, they may nevertheless, by means of personal example, persuade their subjects to embrace religion.

2. The elders. These were the heads of the houses, and therefore the representatives of the inhabitants both of Judah and Jerusalem. Unless the chiefs in a state and the fathers in a family precede, it is not likely the inferiors in the former or the children in the latter will follow after in the paths of piety.

3. The priests and Levites. Instead of "the Levites," 2 Kings (2 Kings 23:2) reads "prophets," which has been explained by supposing that the prophets, among whom probably were Jeremiah, Baruch, Zephaniah, and Urijah, belonged to priestly and Levitical families, or that they were Levites whose duty it was to preach and to interpret the Law (2 Chronicles 17:8, 2 Chronicles 17:9; cf. Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 33:10). Those who ascribe it to an error of the pen are uncertain whether that error should be charged against the author of the Kings (Keil) or against the Chronicler (Bertheau).

4. The people. Great and small—the people of distinction and the lower classes, perhaps also the grown-up persons and the children—were assembled as participants in this high transaction (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:13; Deuteronomy 1:17).

III. THE PRELIMINARIES.

1. The reading of the book of the covenant. The part read most likely included Exodus 24:1-18; the readers being, not the king himself (Adam Clarke), but others, presumably Shaphan, Hilkiah, Jeremiah, etc. The reading was "in their ears," from which may be inferred that it was audible and distinct.

2. The standing of the king in his place. This was the platform beside the brazen altar, upon which the sovereign was accustomed to stand in high religious and national ceremonies (2 Chronicles 6:13; 2 Chronicles 23:13).

IV. THE ENGAGEMENTS.

1. To walk after the Lord. The common phrase for observing the worship of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 11:17; 2 Kings 17:8; 2 Kings 21:22; Micah 4:5; Micah 6:16). Distinguish the similar phrases, "to walk before God" (2 Chronicles 6:14; Genesis 17:1), and "to walk with God" (Genesis 5:24). The ideas in the first are perhaps those of imitation and obedience; in the second, those of sincerity and purity; in the third, those of communion and concord.

2. To keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes. Explanatory of the foregoing; to walk after Jehovah, signifying to keep his commandments, etc. The three terms—commandments, testimonies, statutes—occasionally occur together or in contiguity (Psalms 19:7, Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:21, Psalms 119:22, Psalms 119:23), and though etymologically distinguishable, are practically synonymous. They are employed here perhaps for variety, but chiefly for emphasis (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The obedience required by Jehovah and promised by the people was not formal and superficial, but earnest and sincere—"with all the heart, and with all the soul." God for Christ's sake may accept less, but for his own sake he never can demand less, while God's people and Christ's should strive never to present less.

3. To perform the words of the covenant written in the book of the Law. The ultimate standard of duty for king and people was to be the words of the book, and neither the opinions of others nor the imaginations of themselves. So for Christians the supreme rule of faith and practice is the Holy Scriptures.

V. THE RESULTS.

1. The people assented to the covenant. At the king's command—whether with perfect free-will (2 Kings 23:3) is not clear—they bound themselves to its observance (verse 32). Without the concurrence of the will there can be no true religious service.

2. The king purged the land of Israel from abominations. He allowed no external observance of idolatry. To cleanse the hearts of his people from idol-worship was beyond his power. Human enactments, by whatever power promulgated, can only effect external reformation; the regeneration of the heart and renewal of the mind are competent to God alone.

3. The nation kept true to the covenant while Josiah lived. The practice of idolatry had been suppressed, but the spirit of idolatry had not been killed. After Josiah's death it again raised its head (2 Chronicles 36:5; 2 Kings 23:32), as it had frequently done before after periods of reformation.

LESSONS.

1. The Word of God the supreme directory to a Christian both for faith and practice.

2. The prime duty of man to keep God's commandments and testimonies.

3. The highest evidence of piety in either individual or nation is holiness.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 34:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-34.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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