2 KINGS CHAPTER 23.
The Pure Worship Restored. Judah Conquered by Egypt.
THE COVENANT RENEWED. ó V. 1. And the king sent, solicitous of the welfare of all his people, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem, as representatives of the nation. V. 2. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, in a great assembly of the people, and the priests, and the prophets, the word here probably referring to all those whose duty it was to preach and explain the Law in public, and all the people, both small and great, the lower classes as well as the people of distinction and wealth; and he read in their ears all the words of the Book of the Covenant which was found in the house of the Lord, the covenant to which the nation had been pledged by Moses. V. 3. And the king stood by a pillar, probably a raised dais or platform, and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, in obeying Him and doing His will, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, the precepts of the covenant as well as the more general obligations toward God and the neighbor, with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book, he vowed or pledged the allegiance of all the people, of the entire nation. And all the people stood to the covenant, declaring their willingness to abide by its provisions. V. 4. And the king commanded Hilkiah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, those ordinarily having charge of the sacrifices, and the keepers of the door, the Levites whose duty it was to guard the Temple, to bring forth out of the Temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal and for the grove, for the Asherah statues, and for all the host of heaven, whatever apparatus and equipment in altars and vessels consecrated to idolatry was found there; and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, as material under the Lordís curse, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel, an act which rendered that ancient place of idolatry unclean in the eyes of all worshipers. V. 5. And be put down the idolatrous priests, he put a stop to their pernicious activities, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, for to that extent idolatry had been sanctioned under Manasseh and Amon, 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, the twelve constellations of the zodiac, and to all the host of heaven, for the idolatry practiced in those days was a strange mixture of Canaanitish and Chaldean worship. V. 6. And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, the Asherah-statues installed by Manasseh, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, which flowed between the city and the Mount of Olives, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it, the burned metal, small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people, the cemeteries of the common people, in order to dishonor still more the ashes of the destroyed idols. V. 7. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, the male prostitutes, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women, those who were associated with these lewd practices, wove hangings for the grove, tent-cloth as coverings for the Asherah idols. V. 8. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, where they wore engaged in local worship, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba, on the northern boundary of Judah, to Beersheba, on its extreme southern boundary, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua, the governor of the city, that which was near Millo, the citadel of Jerusalem, which were, or, that also which was, on a manís left hand at the gate of the city, this second altar and place of worship being near a gate where many foreigners passed in and out, the object probably being to afford these people an opportunity to worship their own gods. V. 9. Nevertheless, the priests of the high places, who had partaken in worship forbidden by the Lord, came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, they were not permitted to officiate in the pure worship of Jehovah, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren, they, like the priests disabled by reason of some bodily disfigurement, Lev. 21, 17-22, were given a part of the gifts brought for the sacrifices. V. 10. And he, Josiah, defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, south of the city, where children had been sacrificed to Moloch, Is. 30, 33, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. V. 11. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, those kept in the Temple for the use of the cult of the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech, the chamberlain, the eunuch charged with the care of these horses, which was in the suburbs, in the colonnade, or flight, of cells which served for the keeping of various materials used in the Temple worship, and burned the chariots of the sun, which were used in solemn processions in honor of the sun, with fire. V. 12. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, on the roof of the royal palace, as they had been restored by Manasseh and Amon, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, all devoted to idolatry, chap. 21, 5, did the king beat down, giving orders to remove them with all haste, probably by dumping them into the valley of the Kidron, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them, as they were burned at the foot of the precipice, into the brook Kidron. V. 13. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the Mount of Corruption, the southern summit of the Mount of Olives, also known as the Mount of Offenses, which Solomon, the king of Israel, had builded for Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Zidonians, the goddess whose worship was connected with gross immoral practices, and for Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom, the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. V. 14. And he brake in pieces the images, the stone statues of the idols, and cut down the groves, the wooden pillars dedicated to Asherah-Astarte, and filled their places with the bones of men, thus defiling the very places where they had stood. V. 15. Moreover, the altar that was at Bethel, within the former boundaries of Israel, now near the southern border of Samaria, and the high place which Jeroboam, the son of Nehat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, destroying the entire place of worship, and burned the high place, evidently a house built on this elevation, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove, the Asherah idol, which had taken the place of the calf or had been erected in addition to that. V. 16. And as Josiah turned himself, looking about for further abominations, he spied the sepulchers that were there in the mount, the neighborhood having been used as a burial-place, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, for the contact with human bones and their ashes defiled it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed who proclaimed these words, telling Jeroboam the very name of the man who would overthrow the place of his idolatry, 1 Kings 13, 2. V. 17. Then he said, What title is that that I see? He referred to the gravestone, or monument, of a sepulcher in the neighborhood. And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulcher of the man of God which came from Judah and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel, one of the most remarkable prophecies of the entire Old Testament. V. 18. And he, Josiah, said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones; his bones were not to be used in defiling the sanctuary of idolatry. So they let his bones alone, they saved them from the general defilement, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria, 1 Kings 13, 11. V. 19. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, all the shrines erected for idolatrous purposes, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel, he destroyed and defiled them all. V. 20. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there, heathen priests who had established themselves in the country, upon the altars, which thus became their places of execution, and burned menís bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem. Although militant methods of this kind are no longer permitted by the Lord, the spirit which prompted them is still needed. It is the duty of every Christian congregation to put away all offenses out of its midst, not to tolerate ungodliness or worldliness in any form. The conservative reformation of Luther and his coworkers shows us in what manner we ought to proceed.
THE PASSOVER KEPT. ó V. 21. And the king, probably in the early years of his reformatory labors, commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the Lord, your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant, Ex. 12, 3; Lev. 23, 5; Num. 9, 2; Deut. 16, 2. This command was carried out, as we read 2 Chron. 35, 1-19. V. 22. Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the Judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah, v. 23. but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this Passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem. In point of attendance, in point of strict adherence to the precepts of the Law, this was the most extraordinary festival of its kind ever held. V. 24. Moreover, the workers with familiar spirits, the necromancers, and the wizards, and the images, the household gods, to whom magical power was imputed, and the idols, small gods, which also were used chiefly in the households, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, he put an end to all the superstitious practices and idol-worship which were carried on in private houses, that he might perform the words of the Law which were written in the book that Hilkiah, the priest, found in the house of the Lord. He wanted to see all the precepts of the Lord in actual operation throughout the land. V. 25. And like unto him was there no king before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, which he intended to enforce with all severity; neither after him arose there any like him, he stood alone in this respect. V. 26. Notwithstanding, the Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great wrath wherewith His anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him withal. The offense given by Manasseh had been so great and the consequences of his many transgressions so deep-rooted that even this reformation with all its outward show of success was unable to stem the tide of Godís indignation. V. 27. And the Lord said, I will remove Judah also out of My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there, 1 Kings 8, 29. V. 28. Now, the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? Cp. 2 Chron. 35. V. 29. In his days Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, went up against the king of Assyria, to the river Euphrates, this being probably Nabopolassar, who was ruler of both Babylon and Assyria. And King Josiah went against him, to prevent him from marching through his country; and he, the Egyptian king, slew him at Megiddo when he had seen him, they met in battle at this city, in the Plain of Jezreel, at the foot of Mount Carmel. V. 30. And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulcher. Thus the attempt of Josiah to avert misfortune from his country met with disaster, he died in the defense of his position. Thus the just are mercifully taken away before misfortune breaks upon them, finding peace in the tomb until the great day of resurrection. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his fatherís stead.
THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ AND OF JEHOIAKIM. ó V. 31. Jehoahaz, whom the people of the country had anointed king in preference to his brother Eliakim, was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his motherís name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. Before his accession to the throne he had borne the name Shallum, Jer. 22, 11. V. 32. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, a wicked son of a God-fearing father, according to all that his fathers had done, especially Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon. V. 33. And Pharaoh-nechoh, who had at that time gained the ascendancy over Judah, put him in bands, took him captive, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, as he apparently continued his campaign against the eastern king, that he might not reign in Jerusalem, for Pharaoh was not satisfied with the peopleís choice of king, being glad to get Jehoahaz into his power; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold (a total of some $22,000), this payment being exacted in order to emphasize his supremacy. V. 34. And Pharaoh-nechoh made Ehiakim, the son of Josiah, the heir apparent, king in the room of Josiah, his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away. And he came to Egypt and died there, nothing more being known about his age or the length of his captivity. V. 35. And Jehoiakim, completely dependent upon Pharaoh, gave the silver and the gold, which had been demanded as tribute, to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land to give the money according to the commandment of Pharaoh; he exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, of every one according to his taxation, agreeing with his assessment, to give it unto Pharaoh-nechoh. V. 36. Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his motherís name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah, a town in the neighborhood of Shechem. V. 37. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. Jeremiah speaks of him as a conscienceless, grasping prince, eager to gain riches and power at the expense of his unlucky subjects, Jer. 22, 13-19. The way was being prepared for Godís judgment of anger upon the people which had rejected Him. Even so the coming of the great Day of Judgment is being heralded by the signs which the Lord Jesus bade us observe, Matt. 24.