2 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 34
The Reforms of Josiah.
JOSIAH RESTORES THE TRUE WORSHIP. — V. 1. Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, having been elevated to the throne by the people of the country, who wanted a descendant of David as their king, and not an assassin, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. V. 2. And he did that which was right, in strict accordance with the Law, in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David, his father, and declined neither to the right hand nor to the left. His character and manner of comporting himself throughout his reign was such as to make his rule stand out most honorably among that of the kings of David’s line. V. 3. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, about sixteen years old. he began to seek after the God of David, his father, openly showing his preference for the ancient worship; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, the wooden Asherah-pillars, and the carved images, those fashioned out of wood, and the molten images, those cast of metal. V. 4. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence, wherever these evidences of Canaanitish idolatry were found; and the images, the sun-statues erected according to Chaldean customs, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, the wooden statues consecrated to Astarte, and the carved images and the molten images he brake in pieces and made dust of them, as Moses had done with the golden calf at Horeb, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them, thus exposing the guilt of those who were lying in those graves before all men. V. 5. And he burned the bones of the priests upon their altars, after having taken their skeletons from their graves, thereby defiling the altars of idolatry, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. V. 6. And so, in the course of the next years, did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, the central portion of what had been the northern kingdom, and Simeon, the cities in the south of Judah, even unto Naphtali, what was later known as Upper Galilee, with their mattocks round about, or rather, in their ruins round about, in their deserted suburbs, for the Assyrian kings Shalmaneser and Sargon had devastated their territory, and the people who remained in the mountains of the north turned to Judah and expected the kings of the southern kingdom to protect them as far as possible. V. 7. And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, thus removing all evidences of idolatrous practices as far as his authority extended, he returned to Jerusalem. Note that Josiah did not attempt, to get the people of the northern part of Canaan away from their allegiance to the Assyrian kings, but confined himself strictly to the destruction of idolatry. V. 8. Now, in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, removed the defilement of idolatry from the Temple, he sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah, the governor of the city, and Joah, the son of Joahaz, the recorder, among the highest officials of the realm, to repair the house of the Lord, his God, that is, to order and to supervise the repairs. V. 9. And when they came to Hilkiah, the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, all the members of the northern kingdom who had remained in the devastated territory and had turned back to the ancient worship of Jehovah, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem, rather, and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. All these people brought their Temple tax to Jerusalem and the money was taken care of as provided for. V. 10. And they, the men entrusted with this work, put it in the hand of the workmen that had the oversight of the house of the Lord, that is, the workmasters or foremen, and they gave it to the workmen that wrought in the house of the Lord to repair and amend the house, to strengthen it wherever the walls showed signs of weakness or the floors threatened to give way; v. 11. even to the artificers and builders gave they it to buy hewn stone and timber for couplings, for girders to carry the roof, and to floor the houses, to provide joists for the various buildings of the Temple, which the kings of Judah had destroyed, deliberately letting them go to ruin for want of proper care. V. 12. And the men did the work faithfully, with conscientious care; and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward, to direct the execution of the work with which they were charged, and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of music, literally, “all who had skill in instruments of song,” it being necessary to connect this phrase with the following verse. V. 13. Also they were over the bearers of burdens, over the unskilled laborers, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service; and of the Levites there were scribes and officers and porters. As in the case of Josiah, God still, from time to time, awakens and strengthens pious men who work for the purification of the Church.
THE FINDING OF THE BOOK OF THE LAW AND ITS EFFECTS. — V. 14. And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, and when the Temple itself had thoroughly been searched in order to estimate the extent of the damage, Hilkiah, the priest, found a Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses, very likely the Temple copy, the authentic copy by the hand of Moses, which had been lost during the profanation of the Temple under Manasseh. V. 15. And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan, the scribe, the king’s secretary, I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord, all the books of Moses being included in this designation. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan, this being in the form of a roll, as books were then written. V. 16. And Shaphan carried the book to the king and brought the king word back again, saying, All that is committed to thy servants, they do it. he was able to report that the king’s orders were being executed with proper care. V. 17. And they have gathered together, poured out, weighed out the money that was found in the house of the Lord, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers and to the hand of the workmen. V. 18. Then Shaphan, the scribe, told the king, saying, Hilkiah, the priest, hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king, that is, certain sections of it, probably Deut. 28 to 30. V. 19. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the Law, that he rent his clothes, not that he was unfamiliar with the sacred book, which had certainly been copied frequently, but because the words of the original made a much greater impression upon him, that his heart was affected more deeply than ever before. He showed the great grief and sorrow of his heart by his act of tearing open his garments at the breast. V. 20. And the king commanded Hilkiah and Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, who later was the father of Gedaliah and the protector of Jeremiah, and Abdon (or Achbor), the son of Micah, and Shaphan, the scribe, and Asaiah, a servant of the king’s, his faithful body-guard, saying, v. 21. Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, all the members of the Jewish Church and of the southern nation in particular, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, having been kindled by the many acts of idolatry and wickedness, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord to do after all that is written in this book. V. 22. And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah, the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, the son of Tikvath (or Tokehath), the son of Hasrah (or Harhas), keeper of the wardrobe, either the royal vestments or those of the Temple; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem, in the college, the second quarter, or district, of the lower city;) and they spake to her to that effect, as Josiah had commanded them. V. 23. And she answered them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me, v. 24. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, Lev. 26; Deut. 28, v. 25. because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands, in their entire behavior; therefore My wrath shall be poured out upon this place, like a burning liquid from a vessel, and shall not be quenched. v. 26. And as for the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard: v. 27. Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words against this place and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before Me, and didst rend thy clothes and weep before Me, with all indications of true grief over the transgressions of Israel and Judah, I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. V. 28. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place and upon the inhabitants of the same, Josiah was to be spared the sight of the punishment and sorrow which would come upon Judah-Jerusalem. So they brought the king word again. V. 29. Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, for a service of prayer and penitence. v. 30. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small, those of the rich and influential class together with the poor and unknown; and he read in their ears all the words of the Book of the Covenant that was found in the house of the Lord, in one of the most impressive services ever held in the Temple. V. 31. And the king stood in his place, probably on the pulpit like platform used by Solomon, and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, whether these precepts pertained to the covenant relation or to the general relation of the people to all men, with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. V. 32. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it, to arise in token of their agreement to this pledge. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. V. 33. And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, removing all evidences of idolatry as far as his authority extended, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord, their God; he was very emphatic in binding them to serve the true God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. With Josiah’s example in mind, every Christian congregation will oppose all offenses, every abomination of ungodliness, every indication of worldliness, and strive to walk without blemish before the Lord.