Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 23:5

He did away with the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah and in the surrounding area of Jerusalem, also those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon and to the constellations and to all the host of heaven.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Baal;   Iconoclasm;   Israel, Prophecies Concerning;   Josiah;   Moon;   Prophecy;   Stars;   Thompson Chain Reference - False;   High Places;   Idolatrous;   Idolatry;   Leaders;   Places;   Priests;   Religious;   Worship, False;   Worship, True and False;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Idolatry;   Moon, the;   Stars, the;   Sun, the;   Temple, the First;   Zeal;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Astrologers;   Astronomy;   Chemarim;   Planets;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jeremiah;   Josiah;   Moon;   Stars;   Zephaniah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Gods and Goddesses, Pagan;   Heaven, Heavens, Heavenlies;   Priest, Priesthood;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Chemarim;   Hilkiah;   Host of Heaven;   Jeremiah;   Mazzaroth;   Moon;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ashtoreth;   Baal (1);   Chemarim;   High Places;   Kedron;   Mazzaroth;   Moloch;   Moon;   Sun;   Zephaniah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Bethel;   Chemarim;   Deuteronomy, the Book of;   Ezekiel;   High Place;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Mazzaroth;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Altar;   Canon of the Old Testament;   Chemarim;   Deuteronomy;   Hexateuch;   High Place, Sanctuary;   Hilkiah;   Host of Heaven;   Idolatry;   Moon;   Stars;   Sun;   Temple;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - New Moon;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Chemarim ;   Josiah ;   Mazzaroth ;   Ordain;   Planets;   Sun;   Zephaniah, Prophecy of;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Cedron;   Raca;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chemarim;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Chem'arim, the;   Idolatry,;   Mo'lech;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Baal;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Astrology;   Chariots of the Sun;   Chemarim;   Horses of the Sun;   Host of Heaven;   Moon;   Ordain;   Sun-Worship;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Astronomy;   Baal;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Astronomy;   Chemarim;   High Place;   Host of Heaven;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The idolatrous priests - הכמרים hakkemarim . Who these were is not well known. The Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, call them the priests simply, which the kings of Judah had ordained. Probably they were an order made by the idolatrous kings of Judah, and called kemarim, from כמר camar, which signifies to be scorched, shriveled together, made dark, or black, because their business was constantly to attend sacrificial fires, and probably they were black garments; hence the Jews in derision call Christian ministers kemarim, because of their black clothes and garments. Why we should imitate, in our sacerdotal dress, those priests of Baal, is strange to think and hard to tell.

Unto Baal, to the sun - Though Baal was certainly the sun, yet here they are distinguished; Baal being worshipped under different forms and attributes, Baal-peor, Baal-zephon, Baal-zebub, etc.

The planets - מזלות mazzaloth . The Vulgate translates this the twelve signs, i.e., the zodiac. This is as likely as any of the other conjectures which have been published relative to this word. See a similar word Job 37:9; Job 38:32.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-kings-23.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he put down the idolatrous priests,.... The Cemarim, so called, because they wore black clothes, as Kimchi and others, whereas the priests of the Lord were clothed in white linen; see Gill on Zephaniah 1:4.

whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places, in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; for though those high places were destroyed by Hezekiah, they were rebuilt by Manasseh his son, and priests put in them to officiate there, whom Josiah now deposed, 2 Kings 21:3,

them also that burnt incense unto Baal; in the same high places; these were the priests, and the others in the preceding clause are thought to be ministers unto them:

to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets; the five planets besides the sun and moon, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus; or to the twelve celestial signs in the firmament, as someF20David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 77. 3. ; though Theodoret takes it to be a single star, the evening star:

and to all the host of heaven; or even to the host of heaven, all the stars thereof: this part of worship:

burning incense, which was peculiar to the most high God, yet was frequently made by idolaters to their deities; and from the wordF21קטר "suffitum fecit. Et diis acceptus--" Nidor. Ovid. Metamorph. 1. 12, fab. 4. by which it is here and elsewhere expressed may "nectar" be derived, so much spoken of by the Heathen poets as of a sweet smellF23Theocrit. Idyll. xvii. ver. 29. , and as delicious to their gods; and so PorphyryF24De Abstinentia, l. 2. c. 42. Celsus apud Origen. l. 8. p. 417. represents the gods as living on smoke, vapours, and perfumes; and frankincense is said, by Diodorus SiculusF25Biblioth. l. 2. p. 132. , to be most grateful to them, and beloved by them; this therefore is a much better derivation of the word "nectar" than what SuidasF26In voce νεκταρεου. gives, that is, as if it was "nectar", because it makes those young that drink it; or than the account AthenaeusF1Deipnosophist. l. 1. gives of it, that it is a wine in Babylon so called.

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-23.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(f) Or Chemarims, meaning the priests of Baal who were called Chemarims either because they wore black garments or else were smoked with burning incense to idols.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-kings-23.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

put down the idolatrous priestsHebrew, {(chemarim}, “scorched,” that is, Guebres, or fire-worshippers, distinguished by a girdle (Ezekiel 23:14-17) or belt of wool and camel‘s hair, twisted round the body twice and tied with four knots, which had a symbolic meaning, and made it a supposed defense against evil.

them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, etc. — or Baal-shemesh, for Baal was sometimes considered the sun. This form of false worship was not by images, but pure star-worship, borrowed from the old Assyrians.

and )— rather, “even to all the host of heaven.”

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-kings-23.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

Priests — Heb. the Chemarim; the highest rank of priests, employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-kings-23.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

A ROYAL ICONOCLAST

‘He put down the idolatrous priests.’

2 Kings 23:5

I. What deserves to be borne in mind is this: If mild measures would not have availed to accomplish the desired object of rooting out idolatry and restoring the Mosaic constitution, neither did these violent measures have that effect.—Josiah’s reformatory efforts failed of any permanent effect, and his arrangements disappeared almost without a trace. It is very remarkable that the prophets, who might have been expected to rejoice in this undertaking, and to date from it as an epoch and a standing example of what a king of Judah ought to do, scarcely refer to it, if at all. There was a violent and bloody attempt by Manasseh to crush out the Jehovah religion, and establish the worship of other gods. Violence for violence, can we approve of the means employed in the one case any more than in the other? Is the most highly cultured Christian conscience so uncertain of its own principles that it is incapable of any better verdict than this: violence when employed by the party with which we sympathise is right; when employed against that party it is wrong? We justify Josiah, and we condemn the Christian persecutors and inquisitors. Are these views inconsistent, and, if not, how can we reconcile them?

II. We have to bear in mind that it is one thing to admit excuses for a line of conduct, and another to justify it.—Judaism certainly had intolerance as one of its fundamental principles. Violence in the support of the Jehovah religion was a duty of a Jewish king. In attempting to account for and understand the conduct of Josiah, it would be as senseless to expect him to see and practise toleration as to expect him to use firearms against Necho. We can never carry back modern principles into ancient times, and judge men by the standards of to-day. To do so argues an utter want of historical sense. On the other hand, however, when we have to judge actions, which may be regarded as examples for our own conduct, we must judge them inflexibly by the highest standards of right and justice and wisdom with which we are acquainted. How else can we deny that it is right to persecute heresy by violent means when that is justified by the example of Josiah?

III. Judged by the best standards, Josiah’s reformation was unwise in its method.—The king was convinced, and he carried out the reformation by his royal authority. The nation was not converted, and therefore did not heartily concur in the movement. It only submitted to what was imposed. Hence this reformation passed without fruit, as it was without root in public conviction. We are sure of our modern principles of toleration, and of suffering persecution rather than inflicting it. We believe in these principles even as means of propagating our opinions. Let us be true to those principles, and not be led into disloyalty to them by our anxiety to apologise for a man who is here mentioned with praise and honour. Violence is the curse of all revolutions, political or religious. Has not our generation seen enough of them to be convinced of this at last? Do we not look on during political convulsions with anxiety to see whether the cause with which we sympathise will succeed in keeping clear of this curse? Is it not the highest praise which we can impart to a revolution, and our strongest reason to trust in the permanence of its results, that it was ‘peaceful’? Josiah’s reformation is not an example for us. Its failure is a warning. We have not to justify the method of it. We cannot condemn the man, for his intentions and motives were the best, but we cannot approve of or imitate the method of action. Its failure warns us that no reformation can be genuine which is imposed by authority, or which rests on anything but a converted heart, and that all the plausible justifications of violence which may be invented are delusions.

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/2-kings-23.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Kings 23:5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

Ver. 5. And he put down the idolatrous priests.] Heb., Chemarims, Baal’s chimney-chaplains, {see Zephaniah 1:14, with the note there} black sooty fellows, like those greasy mass priests, or abbey lubbers, amongst the Papists.

And to the planets.] Or, Influences: a radice Nazal fluxit.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-23.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Kings 23:5. The idolatrous priests In the Hebrew כמרים kemarim. It is plain from this place, that their particular business was to burn incense. Hence the faithful Jews seem to call them כמרים in contempt, as being continually scorched by their fumigating fires. Bishop Patrick thinks, that 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 in white at their sacrifices.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-kings-23.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The idolatrous priests, Heb. the chemarim; which were ministers of idols, Hosea 10:5, distinct from the priests, Zephaniah 1:4. Possibly they were the highest rank of priests, because they are here employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.

Baal; a particular god, of greatest esteem with them, so called; though elsewhere the name of Baal is common to all false gods.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-kings-23.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

5.Put down — The margin is better, he caused to cease; he set them aside by prohibiting their idolatrous service, and destroying all their places of worship.

The idolatrous priests — The chemarim, (כמרים,) These are mentioned again at Hosea 10:5, and Zephaniah 1:4, where they seem to be the priests of the calf-worship. Here they are described as those whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places, and are distinguished from the priests of Baal and other idolaters. Of the word chemarim, over which there has been dispute, Furst says: “The application to idolatrous priests is obviously only a Hebrew peculiarity, since the Syriac chumero denotes any priest; and it is a question how this designation is united with the meaning of the stem. According to Kimchi, the idolatrous priest is so named from his gloomy, black dress; or, from the Syriac meaning of the stem, to mourn, then, to be an ascetic. But if a particular fundamental signification of the stem should be assumed for this noun, it would be appropriate to take כמר=עמר, (Arabic, amar, coluit deum,) and accordingly כמר would be a serving one, a servant, like כהן, priest, in its fundamental meaning.”

To the sun, and to the moon — The worship of Baal was really a worship of the sun and moon, for these luminaries were the real gods represented by Baal and Ashtoreth. See note on Judges 2:13.

The planets מזלות, synonymous with מזרות of Job 38:32, stands for the twelve signs or constellations of the zodiac, which the ancients conceived of as so many stations of the sun in his course through the heavens. “In Arabic the twelve stations are called twelve palaces of the sun, and the zodiac is named the circle of palaces.” — Furst.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-23.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-kings-23.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Soothsayers. Protestants, "the idolatrous priests." Grotius thinks that camilli, or "ministers of the gods," (Serv.[Servius?] and Varro. vi.) may be derived from the Hebrew hacemarim, "the black-vested," or cryers. The Rabbins give this title in derision to the religious of the Christian Church. There were some melanophori, or people "in black," who honoured Isis, or the moon, by this dress; as if to condole with her on the absence of the sun. Plutarch Apuleius describes a shining black veil, which was carried in the procession of her statue. --- Baal. Hebrew, "to Baal the son;" (Calmet) or rather, "to Baal, to the son." (Haydock) --- The Hebrew mazatoth, (Calmet) Septuagint Mazouroth (Haydock) is not better understood. St. Jerome translates signs of the zodiac; others have, influences, planets, Lucifer, Venus, &c. Job (xxxviii. 32.) designates some stars by the name of Mozruth, and Mozrim. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-kings-23.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

idolatrous priests = black-robed; not kohen, as appointed by God, but kemarlm, as appointed by man. Compare Hosea 10:5, Zephaniah 1:4.

Planets = stations: i.e. the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Hebrew. mazzaloth. Spelled Mazzaroth in Job 38:32 = stations. The Babylonian name for the divisions of the zodiac. Called in the Assyrian inscriptions "Mauzalti". (See Western Asiatic Inscriptions.)

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-23.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

Put down the idolatrous priests, [ hak

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-23.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) He put down.—Syriac and Arabic, he slew.

The idolatrous priests.—The kěmârîm, or black-robed priests (Hosea 10:5, of the priests of the calf-worship at Beth-el). Only occurring besides in Zephaniah 1:4. Here, as in the passage of Hosea, the word denotes the unlawful priests of Jehovah, as contrasted with those of the Baal, mentioned in the next place. Whether the term really means black-robed, as Kimchi explains, is questionable. Priests used to wear white throughout the ancient world, except on certain special occasions. Gesenius derives it from a root meaning black, but explains, one clad in black, i.e., a mourner, an ascetic, and so a priest. Perhaps the true derivation is from another root, meaning to weave: weaver of spells or charms; as magic was an invariable concomitant of false worship. (Comp. 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 21:6.) It is a regular word for priest in Syriac (chûmrâ; Psalms 110:4; and the Ep. to the Heb., passim.)

To burn incense.—So Syriac, Vulg., and Arabic. The Hebrew has, and he burnt incense. Probably it should be plural, as in the Vatican LXX. and Targum.

In the places round about.—1 Kings 6:29. Omit in the places.

Unto Baal, to the sun.—Unto the Baal, to wit, unto the sun. But it is better to supply and with all the versions. Bel and Samas were distinct deities in the Assyro-Babylonian system. When Reuss remarks that “the knowledge of the old Semitic worships, possessed by the Hebrew historians, appears to have been very superficial, for Baal and the sun are one and the same deity,” he lays himself open to the same charge.

The planets.—Or, the signs of the Zodiac. The Heb. is mazzalôth, probably a variant form of mazzarôth (Job 38:32). The word is used in the Targums, and by rabbinical writers, in the sense of star, as influencing human destiny, and so fate, fortune, in the singular, and in the plural of the signs of the Zodiac (e.g., Ecclesiastes 9:3; Esther 3:7). It is, perhaps, derived from ’azar, “to gird,” and means “belt,” or “girdle;” or from ’azal, “to journey,” and so means “stages” of the sun’s course in the heavens. (Comp. Arab, manzal.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-23.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
put down
Heb. caused to cease. the idolatrous priests. Heb. Chemarim.
Hosea 10:5; "Foretold.:
planets
or, twelve signs, or constellations. So the Vulgate duodecim signa, "the twelve signs," i.e., the zodiac; which is the most probable meaning of the word mazzaloth, from the Arabic manzeel, a caravanserai, house, or dwelling, as being the apparent dwellings of the sun in his annual course; and the Targumists and Rabbins often employ the words tereysar mazzalaya, to denote the signs of the zodiac.
all the host
21:3,4; Jeremiah 8:1,2; 44:17-19
Reciprocal: Deuteronomy 4:19 - when thou;  2 Kings 23:11 - the sun;  2 Chronicles 33:3 - the host;  2 Chronicles 34:4 - images;  Job 31:26 - beheld;  Job 38:32 - Mazzaroth;  Jeremiah 11:13 - For according;  Ezekiel 8:16 - their faces;  Ezekiel 16:24 - thou hast;  2 Corinthians 6:16 - what

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-23.html.