Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lcc/ 2-kings-23.html. 1857-84.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
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B.—The Reign of Josiah; the Discovery of the Boo k of the Law, and Restoration of the Mosaic Ritual
2 Kings 22:1 to 2 Kings 23:30 (2 Chronicles 34, 35)
1Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign [became king], and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. 2And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
3And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying, 4Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is [has been] brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: 5And let them deliver it [and may deliver it]1 into the hand of the doers of the work [commissioners], that have the oversight of the house2 of the Lord: and let them give it to the doers of the work, which is [who are] in the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches of the house, 6Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn 7stone to repair the house. Howbeit, there was [But let] no reckoning [be] made with them of the money that was [is] delivered into their hand, because [for] they dealt [deal] faithfully.
8And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered [emptied out] the money that was found [stored]3 in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work [the commissioners], that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. 10And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. 11And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the 13scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying, Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me [on my behalf] and for [on behalf of] the people, and for [on behalf of] all Judah, concerning [on account of] the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us [prescribed for us].4
14So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college 15[lower city];) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, 16Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will [am about to] bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: 17Because 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; therefore my wrath shall be [is] kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. 18But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; 19Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled [humbledst] thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake [had spoken] against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee [omit thee] saith the Lord. 20Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.
2 Kings 23:1 And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 2And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was [had been] found in the house of the Lord. 3And the king stood by a pillar [or on a platform], and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies [ordinances] and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform [maintain] the words [terms] of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to [joined in]5 the covenant.
4And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove [Astarte], and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried6 the ashes of them unto Beth-el. 5And he put down [caused to desist] the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense7 in the high places in [of] the cities of Judah, and in the places [omit in the places] round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets [constellations of the Zodiac], and to all the host of heaven. 6And he brought out the grove [Astarte-image] from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast. the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people [common people]. 7And he brake down the houses of the sodomites [male-prostitutes], that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove [tent-like shrines for Astarte]. 8And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates [both] that were [which was] in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, [and that] which were [was] on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. 9Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to [were not allowed to sacrifice upon]8 the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the [omit of the] unleavened bread among their brethren. 10And he defiled Topheth, which is the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. 11And he took away9 the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs [colonnade of the temple], and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king beat down [demolish], and brake [tear] them [omit them] down from thence, and [he] cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. 13And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth [or Astarte] the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. 14And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves [Astarte-statues], and filled their places with the bones of men.
15Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and [omit and] the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove [statue of Astarte]. 16And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. 17Then he said. What title [grave-stone] is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed [foretold] these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. 18And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. 19And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, 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 Beth-el. 20And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there [,] upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
21And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the [this] book of this [the] covenant. 22Surely 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; 23But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein [omit, and wherein] this passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem.
24Moreover the workers with familiar spirits [necromancers], and the wizards, and the [household] images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform [establish]10 the words of the law, which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 25And 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; neither after him arose there any like him.
26Notwithstanding, 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. 27And 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. 28Now 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?
29In his days Pharaoh-nechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. 30And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.
The parallel account in the book of Chronicles coincides perfectly with the above in all its details. In some passages, indeed, it is identically the same (2 Kings 22:8-20; 2 Kings 23:1-3 compared with 2 Chronicles 34:19-32); but the Chronicler cannot have made use of the book of Kings as his authority, for he gives a number of chronological data, and also certain proper names (2Ch 34:3; 2 Chronicles 34:8; 2 Chronicles 34:12; 2 Chronicles 35:8-9), which are wanting in the book of Kings, and which cannot possibly have been invented at a later time. The case is the same with this passage as with 2 Kings 11:1-20. Both accounts are taken from one and the same original source, viz., the work which both refer to at the close of the passage (2 Kings 23:28; 2 Chronicles 35:27). Their principal points of difference are two; viz., that each one describes in great detail certain ones of the facts noticed, which in their turn are passed over more summarily by the other, and that the facts are not narrated by both in the same chronological order.
In the book of Kings the extirpation of idolatry and of illegitimate Jehovah-worship is described with care and detail, so that the passage here which deals with this point (2 Chronicles 23:4-20) is, as regards its external form, longer than the corresponding one in Chronicles; moreover, as regards its contents, it is by far the most important passage in the entire narrative, all that goes before it (2 Chronicles 22:3-12 and 2 Chronicles 23:1-3) serving only as an historical introduction, and all which follows (2 chron23:21–24) only as the conclusion and sequel to it. In Chronicles, on the other hand, the description of the passover festival is the object of greatest interest, as is evident, in the first place, from the fulness with which it is given (2 Chronicles 35:1-19), while the extirpation of the false worship is very briefly recorded. [This is in accord with what we observe in general in regard to the characteristics of the two books. The book of Kings attaches the interest to the religious and theocratic features of the history, while the book of Chronicles is especially interested in its ecclesiastical details. In Kings we have the history studied from the standpoint of the prophets; in Chronicles, from that of the levitical priesthood. In Kings we find those details especially prominent which refer to ethical, religious, and monotheistic truth; in Chronicles the fortunes of the priesthood, and the ritualistic and hierarchical developments, are all fastened upon and described in detail.—W. G. S.] Evidently these fundamental charactisterics of the two authors present themselves in their accounts of this reign. The older author gives us an account from his theocratic and pragmatic standpoint. He desires to show that king Josiah stands alone in the history of the Jewish kings, in that he carried out in practice and execution the fundamental law of the theocracy with a zeal and severity equalled by none of his predecessors or successors (2 Kings 23:24-25. The statement is wanting in Chronicles.) The latter author, on the contrary, adopts the levitical and priestly standpoint. He desires to show that the passover had not been so solemnly or correctly celebrated since the time of Samuel as it was under Josiah. For this reason we must regard the account in Kings as more important, and use that in Chronicles merely as a valuable complement to it.—As for the chronological succession of the events, the author of the book of Kings puts the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign at the head of the narrative. He says that the repair of the temple, during which the Book of the Law was found, took place in this year; that the reading of this book agitated the king so much that he sought higher guidance in regard to it; that he, after this guidance had been given him through the prophetess Huldah, collected the people and bound them to observe the covenant prescribed in this book; that he then proceeded to extirpate all false worship, and abolish idolatry, first in Jerusalem and Judah, and then in Samaria, and when he had accomplished this, that he ordained an observance of the passover according to the strict prescriptions of the book. It must be admitted that this is a sequence of events in which each one follows naturally and necessarily from the preceding. The Chronicler, on the other hand, begins his account with these words: “In the eighth year of his [Josiah’s] reign, while he was a boy [נַעַר], he commenced to seek the God of his father David, and in his twelfth year he commenced to purify Judah and Jerusalem from the high-places, and the Astarte-images, and the idols of stone and the molten images, and they tore down before him the altars of the Baalim,” &c. After the same had been done in “the land of Israel” he “returned to Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). After this followed, still in the eighteenth year, the repair of the temple, during which the Book of the Law was found. This occasioned the oracle of the prophetess and the oath of fidelity to the covenant from the assembled people. Immediately after the description of the last event follows the remark: “And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God” (2 Chronicles 34:33). Then, in chap. 35, follows the description of the passover. The chronicler, therefore, puts the extirpation of idolatry before the repair of the temple and the discovery of the Book of the Law, and before the oath of fidelity to the covenant. This cannot, however, be the correct chronological sequence of the events, for the incentive which moved Josiah to collect the people and exact an oath of fidelity to the covenant from them was the threats of the newly discovered Law-book. Such an oath would have been useless and destitute of significance if every illegitimate cultus had already been abolished. The chronicler seems to have perceived this himself, for he repeats, in brief and condensed form, after the narrative of the discovery of the book, and after the public oath of fidelity, the statement of the reformation in the cultus which he had already given in 2 Chronicles 22:4-7. On the other hand, his definite chronological statements in 2 Chronicles 22:3 : In the eighth and in the twelfth years of Josiah, statements which are wanting in the book of Kings, cannot be pure inventions of his own, especially if it is true that the sixteenth year of life, that is, in this case, the eighth year of the reign, was “the year in which, according to numerous indications, the king’s sons became of age” (Ewald). It is also unlikely that the king, who had been remarkable for his piety from his youth up, should have suddenly undertaken such a startling reformation in the eighteenth year of his reign. The repair of the temple previous to the discovery of the book shows that he was disposed to foster the Jehovah-worship. What he did in his eighth and twelfth years may have been a commencement and preparation for what he carried out in his eighteenth year with thoroughness and severity, being impelled by the threats contained in the book which had been discovered. This eighteenth year was, therefore, the real year of the reformation, the year in which there was a complete change in the religious worship of the nation, and in which Josiah accomplished the work by virtue of which he stands alone in the history of the kingdom. This is the reason why the author of the book of Kings puts this date at the head of his narrative, omitting any mention of the eighth and twelfth years, and also repeats it at the close (2 Kings 23:23). The chronicler, on the contrary, who only mentions the abolition of the illegal and illegitimate worship in the briefest manner, desired to add to his statement that Josiah “began” in his twelfth year “to purify Judah and Jerusalem” the further information how he carried this out, although somewhat later, in the land of Israel also. This uncertainty in the arrangement of the historical material is due to the imperfectness of the art of the historian, and it is not right to ascribe to the account in general, as De Wette does, “distortion of the sense, confusedness, and obscurity.” Neither is it by any means correct to assert, as Keil and Movers do, that “the account of the chronicler is, on the whole, more correct, chronologically,” for it is not possible that the abolition of idolatry, even in Judah, should have taken place before the discovery of the Law-book, as 2 Chronicles 34:6-7 seems to assert. The assertion that “not all the events mentioned in this account (2 Kings 22:3 to 2 Kings 23:23) could have taken place in the one eighteenth year,” especially seeing that the passover feast belonged in the commencement and not at the end of the year (Keil), is not founded on conclusive arguments, for the eighteenth year is a year of the reign, not a calendar year, and its end may very well have fallen at the commencement of the calendar year; moreover, we do not see why the work of destruction might not have been accomplished in one year, seeing that it met with no opposition. Thenius even thinks that it was accomplished “in a period of four months.” [Nevertheless, as Keil says (Comm. s. 352): “If we take in review the separate events and incidents which are narrated in this passage, the repair of the temple, the discovery of the Law-book, the reading of it to the king, the inquiry of the prophetess and her oracle, the reading of the book to the people in the temple with the renewal of the covenant, the abolition of idolatry not only in Judah, but also in Bethel and the other cities of Samaria, and, finally, the passover festival, it is hardly necessary to remark that all this cannot have taken place in the one eighteenth year of his reign.”] It is not necessary to suppose, as Bertheau does, that both narratives are chronologically inaccurate, inasmuch as “events are included in the narrative [2 Chronicles 23:4-20] which belong to the time before the eighteenth year.” It is certain that Josiah “began” to reform before his eighteenth year, but the events mentioned in 2 Chronicles 34:4-7 belong not to this time, but to the eighteenth year, and there is no reason to transfer to the time before this year events which belong to this year itself. [The author’s opinion is, therefore, that Josiah’s undertaking to repair the temple bears witness to his disposition to reform the cultus, and that this, in connection with the assertion of the chronicler that he made certain efforts to this end in his twelfth year, forces us to the conviction that the reformation commenced before the eighteenth year of the reign, but that those efforts in this direction which he is said by the chronicler to have made before his eighteenth year really belong to that year, including all the reformatory measures of which the Scripture has preserved a record.—W. G. S.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 22:1. Josiah was eight years old, &c. Amon was twenty-four years old when he died (2 Kings 21:19). He must have begotten Josiah when he was only sixteen years old. This is not astonishing in view of the early marriages which are common in the Orient (see notes on 2 Kings 16:2). Whether the young king was under a regency, or had an elderly man as tutor and governor, as Joash did (2 Kings 12:3), is not stated. We know nothing of Boscath, the birth-place of his mother, except that it was in the plain of Judah (Joshua 15:39). 2 Kings 22:2 characterizes in general the reign of Josiah, and forms, as it were, the title of the entire following passage. The expression: “Turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (see Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 28:14) is only used of this king in this book.—On the chronological date: “in the eighteenth year,” see Preliminary Remarks. The addition in the Sept.: ἐν τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ὀγδόῳ, is not found anywhere else, and does not deserve any attention. In Chronicles (2 Chronicles 34:8) two other persons are mentioned whom the king sent with Shaphan, Maaseiah, the governor, and Joah, the recorder. Shaphan alone is mentioned here, as he was the one who had charge of the money. The others were merely companions. On סֹפֶר, see notes on 1 Kings 4:3.
2 Kings 22:4. Go up to Hilkiah, the high-priest, &c. Since the time of Joash (2 Kings 12:5), a period of 250 years, the temple had not been repaired. It had, therefore, become very much dilapidated. Josiah went to work according to the precedent established by Joash. “The fact that we find here almost the same account as in 2 Kings 12:11 sq. is due to the similarity of the two incidents, and is perfectly natural, so that it cannot be regarded as a proof that the account is untrue (Stähelin, Krit. Untersuch. s. 156)” (Thenius). The account is here somewhat abbreviated and presupposes some things which are there distinctly stated. The author only mentions the temple-repairs because they brought the Law-book to light. The high-priest Hilkiah is mentioned in the list of the high-priests, and is designated as the son of Shallum (1 Chronicles 6:13). Nothing further is known in regard to him. Many have supposed that he was the father of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1), (Eichhorn, Von Bohlen, and Menzel), but this is certainly an error, as Hitzig in the prolegomena to his Comm. on Jeremiah has shown. יַתֵּם is hifil from תָּמַם, and means, to make perfect (see Fürst s. v.) not, to pay (Gesen.). [This money was the result of offerings which came in slowly and steadily. The force of יַתֵּם is to take up the money which had been paid in up to this time, make an account and settlement, and so finish up, make complete, the sum on hand. The E. V. “sum” is, therefore, quite accurate.—W. G. S.] Hilkiah’s duty in the circumstances was that which is described more fully in 2 Kings 12:10 sq. The conjecture וַחֲתֹם, i. e., and seal up (Thenius) is entirely unnecessary. The translation of the Sept., χωνεύσατε, is incorrect. So is also that of the Vulg.: confletur pecunia. According to 2 Chronicles 34:9 the money was paid in “by Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel, as well as by all Judah and Benjamin, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The names of the commissioners or inspectors are also given there (2 Kings 22:12), but they have no further interest or importance.
2 Kings 22:8. I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. The emphasis lies here, as the position of the words [Hebr. text] shows, on סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה, words which can only be translated “the book of the Law,” according to the familiar rule: “If a compound notion, expressed by a governing noun and a dependent genitive, has to have the article, this is regularly placed before the genitive, but it then affects the entire compound” (Gesenius, Gramm. § 109, 1 [19th Ed. § 111, 1]; Ewald, Lehrb. § 290, a, 1). מָצָא is here emphatic, and does not mean, to fall in with something which is known to be somewhere at hand, but to discover something which is concealed (cf. Levit. 5:22 and 23 [English text Leviticus 6:3-4], where we find with it אֲבֵדָה, i.e., something lost). [מָצָא means to find in three different senses: (a) to find a thing of whose existence one has knowledge, and which one therefore seeks for; (b) to find, by accident, a thing whose existence was known, but which had for some time been lost sight of; (c) to find a new thing which one never had seen or heard of before. The author thinks that the second meaning is the one which it has here. Ewald, quoted immediately below, takes it in the third sense.—W. G. S.] We see in the course of the narrative that this book is always referred to as that which had been “found” [i.e., rescued from concealment] (2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 23:2; 2 Kings 23:24; 2 Chronicles 34:14; 21:30). It is, therefore, arbitrary and violent of Ewald, who established the above rule, to give to these words, on account of other considerations, the “indefinite sense:” “Hilkiah also (!) spoke with Shaphan about a (!) book of the law which he said he had found in the temple,” and to assert in the note: “There is no possible reference here to an old already known, and now only rediscovered, book of the Law.” The appeal to סֵפֶר (2 Kings 22:10) has no force, for there הַתּוֹרָה is to be supplied from 2 Kings 22:8, for Hilkiah had already definitely described it as the book of the Law, and Shaphan brought it to the king as such. [We have no right to interpolate the הַתּוֹרָה in 2 Kings 22:10. The fact is rather as follows: In 2 Kings 22:8 Hilkiah calls it “the book of the Law,” because he is convinced that it is so; in 2 Kings 22:10 Shaphan presents it to the king as a book, in regard to whose character he does not himself express any opinion, nor desire to raise any prejudice. It is simply an interesting book deserving the king’s attention and examination. Such is the true meaning of the text as it stands with הַתּוֹרָה in Hilkiah’s description, but omitted in Shaphan’s. We obliterate this feature of the narrative if we supply התורה in 2 Kings 22:10.—W. G. S.] Thenius justly says, in contradiction of Ewald: “The expression shows distinctly that it refers to a book which was known in earlier times, not to one which had now for the first time come to light,” and Bunsen says: “It certainly refers to a work which had been previously known.” Nothing but the critic’s preconceived notion could lead him to contradict this. Now there can be no doubt as to what is meant by the expression סֵפֶו הַתּוֹרָה, for it is the well-known technical expression for the books of Moses as a whole. In the parallel passage in Chronicles we read (2 Chronicles 34:14): “Hilkiah, the priest, found אֶת־סֵפֶר תּוֹרַת־יְהוָֹה בְּיַד־ משֶׁה,” and according to Deuteronomy 31:24-26, Moses, after he had finished writing out the whole law (עַד־תֻּמָּם), said to the levites: “Take אֵת סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה, and lay it by the side of the ark of the covenant.” In 2 Kings 23:2-3; 2 Kings 23:21; 2 Chronicles 34:30-31, we find instead סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית, but this expression also designates the books of Moses as a whole. It is the same as כָּל תּוֹרַת משֶׁה, 2 Kings 23:25. This expression is never used of a portion, or of a single one, of the books of Moses, so that it proves that the “book” which was found could not be, as has often been supposed, the book of Deuteronomy. That book was certainly contained in it, for it was the “threats” contained in that book (Deuteronomy 28:0) which made such a deep impression on the king (2 Kings 22:11), and which were affirmed by the prophetess (2 Kings 22:16). It, however, presupposes the other books, and never formed a separate book by itself.
Josiah certainly could not renew the covenant on the basis of one book only, but only on the basis of the whole book of the law (2 Kings 23:1-3). The opinion that this book was Deuteronomy alone has, therefore, been almost universally abandoned, and Bertheau justly observes of this opinion (Zur Gesch. Isr. s. 375): It “lacks all foundation, and only rests upon favorite assumptions, which cannot stand before a critical science which examines more carefully.” It is now commonly assumed hat “the law-book was a document which formed he basis of Deuteronomy at the final redaction” Hitzig on Jerem. xi. s. 90), or that it was a “collection of the commands and ordinances of Moses which has been since incorporated in the Pentateuch, especially in Deuteronomy” (Thenius on the place), or that it was “a collection of the laws of Moses; in fact, that formally arranged collection of them which is contained in the three middle books of the Pentateuch” (Bertheau on 2 Chronicles 34:14). But there is not the slightest hint of my such “collection” as existing before, or by the side of, the Pentateuch; much less is there any lint that any such collection was designated as “the book of the Law,” or “the book of the Covenant.” It is a pure hypothesis in which refuge has been sought, because, on the one hand, it was impossible to understand by the newly discovered “book” any one of the books of the Pentateuch; while, on the other hand, it was believed that the composition of the Pentateuch must be ascribed to a later date. This is not the place for an investigation into the origin of the Pentateuch. We simply hold firmly to this, on the authority of the text before us, that the newly discovered book was the entire Pentateuch. De Wette, even, declares (Einleit. § 162, a): “The discovery of he book of the law in the temple in the reign of Josiah is the first (?) certain hint which we find of the existence of the Pentateuch as we have it to-day.”
[In the above discussion there are two points involved: (a) the general question of the date of the origin of Deuteronomy, and (b) the especial evidence of the text before us on that question. I dismiss the former point with the following remarks. (a) It is a question of great scope, involving the examination of many texts (very few of which are mentioned above), and calling for a comprehensive treatment. Such an undertaking is out of place and impossible here. (b) This question requires freedom, and scholarly independence from dogmatic prepossessions, for its discussion. It requires also thorough and wide knowledge of a variety of subjects. It cannot be settled by any arbitary and dogmatic assertions. (c) The reasons which are adduced for believing in the comparatively late origin of the book of Deuteronomy, if not convincing, are at least such as to demand the candid consideration of honest scholars. (For the summary of the arguments on either side see the Introductory Essays in the Commentary on Genesis, and the articles “Pentateuch” and “Deuteronomy,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.)
The other question, as to the bearing of this verse on the question of the date of the origin of Deuteronomy, is in place here, but, in fact, the text bears little or no evidence on that point. The reasons for thinking that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, but at some time long after his death, are critical and independent of the verse before us. When this opinion had gained ground the question arose, when was it written? then attention was turned to this passage, and it was suspected that this was the time of its publication, if not of its composition. Then the text was tortured to try to make it bear evidence either to confirm or overthrow this suspicion. There is evidence to this point drawn from other sources, but the text before us yields none to either side.
(a) In the first place, “the Book of the Law” is a name which may have referred at one time to the Decalogue, at another time to a collection of laws, at another time to a still later revision, and so on until it was applied finally to the Pentateuch in its present form, and so came down to us with that meaning. This is what the “critical school” affirm to have been the fact, and so far as the name, “The Book of the Law” goes, it is not inconsistent with that assertion. The “Revised Statutes” of a State, at any given time, means the volume of law as fixed, up to that time. Ten years later, the same title refers, perhaps, to a very different set of laws. The illustration answers rudely for the development which is supposed to have taken place from the original writings of Moses to the historical, political, religious, and ritual work which now bears his name. We have some indications of the extent of what is called “the Law of Moses,” in the time which seems to have been required for reading it, but they are vague and uncertain. In Joshua 8:32, however, we read that Joshua “wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.” Probably no one will think that, in this case, it refers to the Pentateuch. Therefore, in the verse before us, “the Book of the Law” refers to whatever was so considered, or passed as such at this period, but what that was is exactly the point in dispute.
(b) The word מצא, as was said above, is used for different kinds of finding. It does not, therefore, give us any clue as to whether the thing found was an old thing, whose location had not, for some time, been known, or a thing which had not previously been known to be in existence at all. However, no one believes that nothing had previously existed, or been known to exist, which passed under the name of the “Law of the Lord.” The question in dispute is, whether the thing now so designated was identical with what had previously been so called, or was a revision and extension of the same, containing especially, as a recent addition, the book of Deuteronomy. On that question the word מצא casts no light.
(c) Hilkiah uses the definite article. Let us endeavor to realize the state of things, and see what inference flows from this fact. We know that, at this time, certain religious doctrines were known and believed, and certain rites of worship were practised in Judah by those who maintained the worship of Jehovah. We also know (so much, at least, no one disputes) that Moses had given certain revelations of religious truth, and certain religious ordinances to the Israelites, in the name of Jehovah, and had written them down. The only dispute on these points can be as to the degree of knowledge, faith, and worship which existed in Judah, and as to the amount of revelation and law which Moses gave and wrote. It follows that the writings of Moses, either in their original, or in a modified and extended form, served as the authority for the doctrine and worship which still remained in Judah, or else, that this written law had passed from human knowledge, lost in the flood of heathenism which had poured over the nation during the last century, in which case the doctrine and worship which remained would be based on a tradition of the ancient writings as such; and the name “The Law” would refer only to the substance of them, so far as it was remembered. Hilkiah’s announcement throws light on this alternative. If he had said: I have found a book of the Law,—it would have implied that he had found a copy of a generally well known volume. But he says: I have found “the Book of the Law.” He refers to it as something known or heard of before, yet the tone of the announcement and the effect of the discovery show that no other copies of this book could have been known to be in existence, or else that this copy was different from all others. If the latter were the case, the suspicion would be forced upon us, by the reference to “threats” in the book, that what marked this copy, as distinguished from all others, was just the book of Deuteronomy. Many scholars so regard the incident. However, it is strange that, if other copies existed, while this copy contained matter which was missing from them, no hint of this should be found in the context. How was it that no one produced a copy of the “Law,” or challenged the new copy as a forgery? Or, if it passed at once as genuine, because it was not in the “spirit of the age” to be critical about literary authorship, and if it was well known, from easy comparison with existing copies, that this copy gave new and valuable knowledge of the Law, why do we find no hint of this gain? The argument from silence is never conclusive, but in this case it is very strong. It seems rather that Hilkiah refers, by his words, to a book which was unique, so far as his, or the general public knowledge went, and that he meant to announce the discovery of the Book which contained that Law which was known to them by tradition, which formed the basis of their faith and worship, of whose existence, at a former time, in a written codex, they had also heard, but of which they possessed no written copy.
The only true inference from this text is, therefore, this, that during the time of apostasy, the Scriptures had been lost to public knowledge, and “the Law” existed only as a tradition and memory. This leaves us face to face with the question: Of what did “this book of the Law” consist,—of our Pentateuch, or of some imperfect form of what we now call the Pentateuch? We must look for the answer to that question elsewhere. We shall not find it in this verse.—W. G. S.]
As for the particular copy of the book which was found, the Rabbis and many of the old expositors, Grotius, Piscator, Hess, and others inferred from the words 2 Chronicles 34:14 : “The book of the law of Jehovah בְּיַר משֶׁה,” that it was “the original manuscript from the hand of Moses,” and Calmet was of the opinion that this supposition could alone account for the great effect which the discovery produced. In Numbers 15:23 we find the same expression, but there it cannot possibly be understood literally of the “hand” of Moses. It is used in the sense in which we often find בְּיַד elsewhere (1 Kings 12:15; Jeremiah 37:2), simply to denote the medium through which Clericus’ statement is correct: Satis est, exemplar quoddam Legis antiquum fuisse, idque authenticum. As it was found “in the house of Jehovah,” it was most probably the temple-copy, i.e., the official one which, as the documentary testimony to the covenant, was deposited in the temple, according to Deuteronomy 31:12; Deuteronomy 31:26, and was used for public reading from time to time before the people. Perhaps this copy was distinguished by its external appearance, size, material, beauty of the writing, &., from the ordinary private copies. [The passage in Deuteronomy must then be interpreted as a general injunction always to keep a copy in the tabernacle or temple, an interpretation which a glance will show to be incorrect, and it is assumed that there were private copies in existence. If private copies of “the Book of the Law” were common, or if a single one was known to be in existence, then we cannot understand why the discovery produced such a sensation, unless indeed we suppose that the newly discovered copy contained something which the other copies did not. In that case the reference to the “threats” contained in the book, as one of its prominent characteristics, would awaken the gravest suspicion that what it contained over and above the other copies was just the book of Deuteronomy. There is no reason to believe that private copies existed, and the definite article סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה bears witness to the contrary, as above stated.—W. G. S.] It is nowhere stated when and how this official copy was thrown aside and lost sight of. According to the tradition of the rabbis, this took place under Ahaz, who, they say, caused all the copies to be burned, but Kimchi justly objected that the reformation under Hezekiah presupposed the existence of the Law-book, and acquaintance with it. The supposition is therefore naturally suggested that under the fanatical idolater Manasseh, who sought to destroy all Jehovah-worship, and who reigned for fifty-five years, some faithful servant of Jehovah, perhaps the high-priest himself, took care to conceal and preserve the sacred Scriptures, and that the book only came to light again at the repairing of the temple under Josiah, after sixty or seventy years of concealment. During this period the priests “followed an imperfect tradition in their execution of the public worship of Jehovah, instead of being guided by the legal prescriptions” (Von Gerlach), and “it may be that the active practice of religious observances (which we must take for granted as existing in a well-ordered State) saved them from feeling the necessity for written rules” (Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 610). The discovery of the authentic Law-book was all the more important on this account, for by means of it the pure and correct worship of Jehovah could now be re-established. The idle question, where the book was found? whether under the roof, or under a heap of stones, or in one of the treasure chambers, may be left to the rabbis to contend over.
2 Kings 22:11. When the king had heard the words of the book of the law, &c. Shaphan did not read to the king the whole book, but he read therein (2 Chronicles 34:18 : בּוֹ). Judging from the impression which the words made upon the king (rending one’s clothes is a sign of the deepest anxiety and terror; see 2 Kings 6:30; 2 Kings 19:1), those passages seem to have been read in which the transgressors of the law are threatened with the hardest punishments; such, for instance, as Deuteronomy 28:0. “Perhaps the last part of the book-roll was unrolled first” (Richter).—The king now sends a deputation of his highest officers, as Hezekiah had done in similar uncertainty, to inquire of the Lord; not, as Duncker (Gesch. des Alt. I. s. 504) states, “in order to find out whether this really was the law of Moses,” but rather, because the genuineness of the book appears to him to be beyond question, he sends to inquire whether and how the punishments which are threatened may be averted. “He desires to learn whether the measure of sin is already full or whether there is yet hope of grace” (Von Gerlach). Only a prophetical declaration—the word of the Lord—could give him an answer to this question. Ahikam appears afterwards as the friend and protector of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24), and as father of Gedaliah, the governor of the cities of Judah (Jeremiah 40:5). Achbor is called, 2 Chronicles 34:20, Abdon, perhaps only by a mistake of the letter characters. According to Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12, he was the father of Elnathan, who belonged to the most intimate associates of king Zedekiah. Asahiah, who is only mentioned here, is spoken of as “the servant of the king,” that is, as an officer in his immediate service.—Unto Huldah, the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14). The king had commanded the deputation to inquire of the Lord without directing them to go to any particular person. The reason why they sought her is probably hinted at in the remark which is added, and which in itself appears unimportant, that “she lived in Jerusalem.” The two prophets who made their appearance during Josiah’s reign were Jeremiah and Zephaniah. The former came from Anathoth in Benjamin (Jeremiah 1:1). He was probably at this time still in that city. The latter, according to Pseudoepiphanius (De prophet. 19), belonged to the tribe of Simeon and came ἀπὸ ὄρους Σαραβαθά. The deputation went to Huldah because she was the only one at Jerusalem who had the gift of prophecy. In order to show that she was a person of good position, not only the name and office of her husband are given, but also the name of two of his ancestors. He was keeper of the wardrobe, “either of the royal wardrobe, or of that of the sanctuary; the latter is more probable on comparing 2 Kings 10:22” (Bertheau). “In the second part,” i.e., in the lower city. See Nehemiah 11:9; Zephaniah 1:10. Josephus: ἄλλη πόλις. Thenius: “In the second district of the (lower) city, which was afterwards included within the walls.” [He thus identifies it with a small hill which formed the extreme north-western suburb of the city.]
2 Kings 22:15. And she said unto them, &c. She addressed her reply in the first place to the man that sent you (2 Kings 22:15-17), afterwards to the king of Judah which sent you (2 Kings 22:18-20). The first part was addressed not only to the king but to “every one who would hear;” the second part was addressed to the king especially (Keil). This is more simple and natural than Thenius’ notion: “In the first part, Huldah has only the subject matter in mind, while in 2 Kings 22:18, in the quieter (?) flow of her words, she takes notice of the state of mind of the particular person who sent to make the inquiry.”—All the words of the book (2 Kings 22:16), stands in apposition with רָעָה which precedes. In Chronicles we find instead: “All the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 34:24). הַדְּבָרִים in 2 Kings 22:18 is not to be connected with what follows: “Thy heart was tender on account of these words” (Luther), but it is to be taken as a nominative absolute: as for the words which, &c. The sense of 2 Kings 22:18-19 is: Because thou hast heard me and taken heed to my threats, I will also hear thee and not fulfil these threats upon thee. רַק is to be taken here in the sense of timid, Deuteronomy 20:8; Jeremiah 51:46. The threats had awakened terror and dismay in him.—A desolation and a curse, see Jeremiah 44:22. The fact that Josiah was slain in battle (2 Kings 23:29) does not contradict בְּשָׁלוֹם in 2 Kings 22:20. That only means to say that he should die “without surviving the desolation of Jerusalem, as we see from the added promise: thine eyes shall not see, &c.” (Keil). According to 2 Chronicles 35:24-25, Josiah was laid in the sepulchre with high honors, followed by the lamentations of the whole people.
2 Kings 23:1. And the king sent and they gathered unto him, &c. Although the king had received an answer which was favorable only in its bearings on himself, his first care was to bring together the entire people, to make them acquainted with the law-book, to lead them to repent, and so to avert as far as possible the threatened punishment. In 2 Kings 23:2 all the classes of the population are mentioned in order to show how much Josiah had it at heart that the entire people, without distinction of rank or class, should become acquainted with the Law. Among these classes the priests and prophets are mentioned. Keil supposes that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were among these “in order that they might, by their participation, accomplish the renewal of the covenant, and that the prophets might then undertake the task of bringing home to the hearts of the people, by earnest preaching in Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, the obligations of the covenant.” If that had been so, however, the prophets could not have been merely incidentally mentioned, but they would have been especially pointed out as prominent agents in the work. The נְבִיאִים, who here stand with the priests and form one class with them, are evidently not the prophets in the narrower and more especial sense [i.e., as persons who foretold future events and pronounced the oracles of God], but the word is a general designation of the persons whose duty it was to preach and to explain the Law. The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 34:30) has instead הַלְוִיִּם, which is no contradiction or arbitrary alteration, for it was the duty and calling of the house of Levi to preach and to interpret the Law (Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 31:9 sq.;2 Chronicles 33:10; 2 Chronicles 17:8-9; 2 Chronicles 35:3); the Chaldee paraphrase therefore interprets נביאים here by וְסָפְרָיָּא, γρα̣μματεῖς.
[What we understand by “interpretation of the law” did not exist until after the captivity. The levites are represented in Deuteronomy as the guardians and readers of the Law, and in Chronicles we find them charged with its publication, but nowhere are they represented as doing what the “scribes” did at a later time. That is an interpretation of the rabbis which is borrowed from their own time, and is unhistorical as applied to this text. Neither were the prophets divided into two classes, one of which was charged with the office of interpretation. There is no evidence of such a division, or of such a duty of the prophets. Certainly if the duty of interpreting the jaw had been given by Moses to the levites, the whole spirit of the Israelitish constitution forbids us to believe that other persons—prophets—persons of every tribe, could have interfered with hat duty or shared in it. We cannot thus reconcile our text with that of Chronicles.—We may get a correct idea of the incident referred to by observing: (a) that the class of prophets was, at this time, very large. The name נביא applies to them all. No distinction is made, and the name is even applied to false prophets, whether with an epithet, marking them as false (Ezekiel 13:2-3; Isaiah 9:14; Jeremiah 6:13, &c.), or without any such epithet (Hosea 4:5; Hosea 9:7-8). The same tame is given to the “prophets” of Baal. The original meaning of the word is speaker or orator, but it is essential to the idea of a נביא in the O. T. that he speaks under the influence of divine illumination or inspiration. He may be false, and pretend to an illumination which he has not, or he nay speak in the name of a false god, but, as one who claims and pretends to illumination, he is a נביא. (b) There were schools in which persons were trained to this office and work. Originally such persons were few in number, but the book of Jeremiah shows conclusively that, in the time of that prophet, they were numerous, and that many had the name without the spirit. Many were called, but few chosen. (c) The aim of the schools of the prophets was to nourish faith in Jehovah and worship of Him; to cultivate men who preserved the traditions of the Jehovah religion, perpetuated the great doctrines which the prophets continually reiterate, and cultivated insight into divine truth, (d) The schools could do no more than spend their labor on those who offered themselves for the work. The truth of their calling could only appear in their subsequent work. Hence the authority of the prophets was nothing more or less than their divine calling, which manifested itself in their later labors. In fact, it was lot until Isaiah and Jeremiah had been long dead that their labors were ratified and could be estimated. (e) The words or writings of the fifteen or sixteen whose works remain to us comprise, if we may so speak, only the cream of the prophetic utterances of centuries. (f) The prophets never base their teachings on Moses, but teach originally. They do not say: Thus saith Moses. They do not quote the Pentateuch as an authority. They never impress their commands by quoting the “Law of Moses” as the supreme authority of faith and duty. If they did, their works would not be Holy Scripture, but commentaries, or, at most, sermons. On the contrary, they say: Thus saith the Lord. Their work is original and creative; it is not merely in the way of application or reflexion. When they quote the “Law of the Lord” they quote principles and doctrines which were fundamental in the Israelitish constitution. They do not refer to specific ordinances and enactments, but to the spirit and principles of the Jehovah-religion. We have an analogy in the frequent reference in modern sermons to “the will of God.” This refers only generally to the Bible, and includes those things also which are not specifically ordained in the Bible, but which a Christian conscience recognizes as God’s will. (g) It is, therefore, an error to attempt to enhance the character and authority of the great prophets by supposing that, during their life-time, they were separated from others of their class. (h) It is also an error to suppose that they held any insubordinate or independent place in the body politic. We admire these men who rebuked kings, and dictated public policy in great crises, but we do them injustice if we believe that, on ordinary occasions, and in ordinary duties, they emancipated themselves from the obligations of subjects of the kingdom.—In the present case the text shows us the place of the prophets. They ranked with the priests as religious persons. If Jeremiah was in Jerusalem we may be sure that he took his place, simply and without ostentation, among his comrades in station and calling. We do not need to invent any special reason for the presence of the prophets. They were there simply as a class amongst the multitude assembled. (i) It is also an error to reconcile the text of Kings with that of Chronicles by identifying the levites, in function, with the prophets, or any class of the prophets. In the time of the chronicler the prophets had ceased to exist, certainly as a class. He was accustomed to see levites in this place by the side of the priests on such occasions, and that is the simple reason why he mentions them as occupying that place in the present instance.—W. G. S.]
Both small and great. This does not mean both the children and the grown-up persons, but, both the lower classes and the people of distinction. No doubt the king left to the priests or prophets the duty of reading the book, but himself took the oath of fidelity to the covenant from the people. He therefore took his place upon the platform (see notes on 2 Kings 11:14).
2 Kings 23:4. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, &c. As in 2 Kings 11:17-18, the conclusion of the covenant was followed by the extirpation of idolatry, first by the removal of the utensils of this cultus (ver 4), then by the execution of the priests of it (ver 5), then by the destruction and desecration of the places in which it was practised (2 Kings 23:6 sq.). כֹּהֲנֵי הַמִּשְׁנֶה are not, as the rabbis say, the deputies of the high-priest, but, in contrast with him, the younger and subordinate priests. See 1 Chronicles 15:18; 2Ch 31:12; 1 Samuel 8:2. The keepers of the door are the levites whose duty it was to guard the temple (2 Kings 22:4; 1 Chronicles 23:5). On Baal and Aschera and upon the host of heaven, see notes on 2 Kings 21:3 [also notes on 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:17]. This burning took place in obedience to Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:3. It was accomplished outside of Jerusalem, because the things were unclean, on the fields of the Kidron, north-east of the city, where the Kidron valley is broader than between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Asa had caused an idol to be burned there (1 Kings 15:13), and Hezekiah caused all the impure things which were found in the temple to be carried thither (2 Chronicles 29:16). Not even the ashes, however, might remain there. They were carried to Bethel, certainly for no other reason than because that had been the chief place of origin for all idolatrous and illegitimate worship ever since the time of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:33). That which had proceeded from thence Josiah sent back thither—in ashes. Thenius’ conjecture: “בֵּית־אַל, he carried the ashes into the house of nothingness, i.e., he scattered them on all the winds,” is, to say the least, unnecessary.
2 Kings 23:5. And he caused to desist the idolatrous priests, &c.: Not, he caused to perish, put to death (Sept. κατέκαυσε; Vulg. delevit), but, he caused to cease, or set aside. The word בְּמָרִים occurs besides only in Hosea 10:5 and Zephaniah 1:4. The etymology of the word is uncertain. The rabbis derive it from כמר, nigredo, because they wore black garments, but we have no instance of priests who wore black garments, and this etymology is certainly false. According to Gesenius it comes from כמר, to execute or accomplish, and means the celebrant (of the sacred offices), ἔρδων, sacrificed. [This is Keil’s opinion, not Gesenius’. The latter, in the Thesaurus s. v. follows the etymology above ascribed to the rabbis. He says that it means “blackness, sadness, and so, concretely, one who walks in black garments, i.e., a grieving, sad, ascetic, priest.” As it is only used of the priests of false worship, it would be very remarkable that the name applied to them should mean, strictly, ascetics.—W. G. S.] Fürst connects it with the Arabic chamar = coluit deum, hence, one who serves, a servant. It certainly refers to a kind of priests, not necessarily of idols, for in Hosea 10:5 the priests of Jeroboam’s Jehovah-calf-worship are so called, and here they are distinguished from those who offered incense to Baal. Probably it refers to those who without actually being priests, exercised sacerdotal functions either in the service of the calves or of false divinities. Baal “serves as a designation of the entire cultus which was covered by his name, as if it were said: Baal, i.e., the sun, &.” (Thenius). The מַזָּלוֹת, from מַזָּל, lodging, dwelling, station, are the twelve divisions of the Zodiac marked by the figures and names of animals; the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, which are called in Job 38:22 מַזָּרוֹת (see Gesen. Thes. II. 869). הָאֲשֵׁרָה (2 Kings 23:6), means not one but many Astarte-statues which Manasseh had set up in the temple (2 Kings 21:7). If he removed them after his return from Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:15), they were reinstated by Amon.—On the graves of the common people. The chronicler says: “On the graves of those who had sacrificed to them” (the false gods). Evidently this is a gloss added by the chronicler himself. Persons of the common folk [as the text reads literally] are not worshippers of false gods, but common people. These did not have hereditary sepulchres hewn out of the rock (Winer, R.-W.-B. I. 444), as the rich and noble had. They were buried in the open fields where the corpses were more likely to be dug up by wild animals. The present burying-place of the Jews is in the Kidron valley. It is evident from Jeremiah 26:23 that this burial was not disgraceful, although it was less honorable than that in a rock-hewn sepulchre. If this had been the burying-place for idol-worshippers, it would have been the usual burying-place in the time of Manasseh, whereas at that time it was rather the faithful servants of Jehovah who were dishonorably buried. Josiah’s reason for throwing the ashes on these graves was, therefore, not “to desecrate them as the graves of idolaters” (Keil), but in order still further to dishonor the ashes of the destroyed idols.—On הַקְּרֵשִׁים (2 Kings 23:7) see note on 1 Kings 14:24. Only male prostitutes, not female (Thenius) can be understood. They had their dwellings (tents or cabins) near the temple, perhaps in the outer court. In these also dwelt the women who wove בָּתִּים for the Ashera. Whether these were “tents,” and, if so, of what kind they were (hardly, as Ewald thinks, “garments” [he alters the text and reads בְּגָדִים Gesch. III. 718]) is not clear. 2 Kings 17:30 does not throw any light on it. Movers (Phœn. I. s. 686) says: “The castrated male prostitute (קָדֵשׁ) imagines or pretends that he is a woman: negant se viros esse * * * mulieres se volunt credi. Firmic. He lives in association with women, and the latter, in their turn, have a peculiar inclination towards him.”
2 Kings 23:8. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah. 2 Kings 23:8-9 belong together. The true levitical priests, who exercised their functions on the high places instead of in the temple, he caused to come to Jerusalem in order to make them desist from this. He caused the high-places to be made unfit for use by desecrating them. However, these priests, since they had forfeited their priestly dignity, were not allowed to perform priestly offices in the temple. They were employed simply as levites. They were allowed to eat unleavened, or sacrificial, bread, but not in company with the other priests (cf. Ezekiel 44:10-14). They were, therefore, placed in the same category with those sons of Aaron who were prevented by some physical defect from undertaking the hereditary functions of their family (Leviticus 21:21). It is not stated in the text that they continued to be participes emolumentorum sacerdotalium (Clericus).—From Geba to Beer sheba, that is, throughout the entire kingdom. Geba is the Gibea in the territory of Benjamin, near Ramah, the home of Saul. See notes on 1 Kings 15:22, and Knobel on Isaiah 10:29. It is mentioned as the northern limit. Beersheba is mentioned as the southernmost and last seat of illegal worship (Amos 5:5; 8:15).—The high-places of the gates were places of worship (in this case simply altars), either close to the gates, or, since these were large open buildings for public meetings and intercourse (Nahum 8:16; Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 22:22), even inside of them. Probably these altars served for the foreigners as they came in or went out to offer sacrifices of prayer or of thanksgiving in reference to the transactions in which they were about to engage, or which they had just completed. The two following clauses, each of which begins with אֲשֶׁר, define these high-places more nearly, and it is not admissible to supply prœsertim or imprimis (Clericus, Dathe, Maurer) before the first אֲשֶׁר, and then to regard the second relative as referring to this. How can we comprehend the description of a high-place which was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua, and at the same time on the left hand of the gate of the city? As reference is made to two high-places in two different gates, the verse cannot be otherwise understood than as it is interpreted by Thenius: “He tore down the high-places of the gates, (the high-place) which was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua (as well as that) which was on the left hand in the gate of the city.” So also Keil and Ewald. Neither of these gates is mentioned anywhere else, at least by the same name. Thenius locates the former in the inside of the city, because he assumes that the governor of the city must have lived in the citadel, Millo, and that, this gate must have been one which connected the lower city with the citadel, and was close to his dwelling. This gate was called, in later times, Gennath. This, however, is a pure guess. The “gate of the city” may have been the valley-gate, or the Jaffa-gate, on the west side of the city towards the valley of Gihon, through which the traffic with the Mediterranean passed.
2 Kings 23:10. And he defiled Topheth. הַתֹּפֶת is a special designation of the spot in the valley of Hinnom, south of the city, where, during the time of apostasy, children were sacrificed to Moloch. In Isaiah 30:33 this place is called the “pyre.” Fürst derives the word from the unused root תּוּף, to burn up. The majority of the expositors, however, derive it from תּוּף, to spit or vomit, that is, to detest, hold in abhorrence. תֹּפֶת would then mean abomination (see Rödiger in Gesenius’ Thesaurus, p. 1497). The place either had this name from the time of Josiah, who defiled it by burning there the bones of the dead (2 Kings 23:16), or else it was thus named still earlier, by the faithful servants of Jehovah, on account of the detestation they felt for the abominable child-sacrifices which were practised there. Hitzig and Böttcher take הִנֹּם as an appellative from הנם, to groan, and translate: “Valley of the wailings of children.”—And he took away the horses, 2 Kings 23:11. The same expressions are used here in regard to the horses as in 2 Kings 23:5 in regard to the בְּמָרִים. They were given (נתן), that is, established or instituted, and he took them away (שׁבת). Both expressions must therefore be understood here as they are there. He did away with the horses, but did with the chariots as he had done with the idol-images (2 Kings 23:6), he burned them (שׂרף). If the horses had been of wood he would have burned them also. It follows that they were living horses. Horses are often mentioned as animals sacred to the sun among Oriental peoples (see the proofs quoted in Bochart, Hieroz. I. 2, 10). Horses were not only sacrificed to the sun, as the supreme divinity (Herod. 1:216), but they were also used to draw the sacred chariot (Curt. 2 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 3:11; see Herod. 1:189). This latter was the purpose for which they were kept here. They served to draw the sacred chariot in solemn processions, representing the course of the sun through the zodiac, not, as Keil asserts, following the rabbis, “to go forth to meet the rising sun.” [This custom of keeping horses sacred to the sun is connected with the idea of the sun as a flaming chariot drawn through the heavens. Hence horses and a car were kept on earth as sacred to, and symbolical of, the sun.] מִבֹּא is not to be translated, as it is by De Wette: “so that they came no more into the house of Jehovah,” nor is it to be connected with וַיַּשְׁבֵּת (he removed them from the entrance of the temple), but it states where the place was where the horses were ordinarily kept: from the coming into the house, that is, when any one came into the temple (through the western or rear door of the fore-court, the gate שַׁלֶּבֶת, 1 Chronicles 26:16), the place of the horses was on the side of him to or towards (אֶל) the chamber of Nathan-melech. This chamber was בַּפַּרְוָרִים. The לְשָׁכוֹת in the outer court (see notes on 1 Kings 6:36) were side rooms which served for different purposes; not only as dwellings for the priests who were on duty (Ezekiel 40:45 sq.), but also as store-rooms for different materials (1 Chronicles 9:26; 2 Chronicles 31:12). This chamberlain (2 Kings 20:18), Nathan-Melech, of whom nothing further is known, was, no doubt, charged with the care of the sacred horses. It is impossible to decide whether the לִשְׁבָּה was his dwelling, and the stable of the horses was near by (Thenius), or whether this chamber itself was arranged as a stable for them (Keil). No one disputes that פַּרְוָר is the same as פַּרְבָּר, 1 Chronicles 26:18. In the latter place the divisions of the gate-keepers of the temple are stated in 2 Kings 23:12-19. As these had their posts only in and near the temple, and two of them were especially appointed for the פַּרְבָּר, the word cannot mean suburb (the rabbis and De Wette), nor any other locality outside of the fore-court of the temple. The ordinary interpretation of the word as the colonnade (Gesenius, Bunsen) is also excluded, for the Parbar is distinctly designated in the place quoted as lying on the west or rear side of the temple, where certainly it is least likely that a colonnade was built which formed the feature distinguishing that side from the others. [Bähr, in his translation, renders בַּפַּרְבָּר by in den Säulenhallen, in the colonnades.] We have rather to think of some specially marked space on the west side, inside of the fore-court. Of the six watchmen who were posted at the west side, four had posts assigned them on the street, that is, at the gate which led to the street, and only two in the Parbar. The latter must therefore have been inside the court, otherwise it could not have been left to the weaker guard. It is not stated what particular use this space, called the Parbar, was put to. We can only suppose that it was used for purposes for which the other sides of the court were not well adapted. The more specific details as to the size of the space, the wall by which it was surrounded, &c., which Thenius gives in his notes on the passage, are the result of mere combinations.
2 Kings 23:12. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz. The עֲלִיָּה of Ahaz was certainly not the upper chamber which was above the sanctuary of the temple (see notes on 1 Kings 6:20), but only a chamber which was first erected by this idolatrous king, and which was probably over one of the outbuildings in the forecourt, which, according to Jeremiah 35:4, at least some of them, had different stories one above another. Perhaps it was over a gate. It probably served for observations on the stars, and the altars were for the worship of the constellations (Zephaniah 1:5; Jeremiah 19:13). [It therefore proves that the Assyrio-Chaldean star-worship was introduced in the time of Ahaz and Pekah. See notes on 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:17, above, pp. 169 and 186.] He tore down the altars which Manasseh had made (2 Kings 21:5). נת is used as in verse 7. Keil translates the following וַיָּרָץ: “He crushed them from thence,” taking it from רָצַץ, to crush, pulverize, and making it equivalent to וַיָּדֶק in 2 Kings 23:6. But מִשָּׁם doos not coincide well with the notion, of crushing, which, moreover, is fully expressed in נתץ. It must be taken from רוּץ, to run, in the sense of to hasten (Isaiah 59:7); he hastened thence since he had yet all the high-places outside of Jerusalem to destroy (2 Kings 23:13). The Chaldee paraphrase explains it by וְאַרְחֵיק מִתַּמָּן, that is, he removed from thence (Ps. 88:19); the Sept.: καὶ καθεῖλεν αὐτὰ ἐκεῖθεν. Thenius therefore agrees with Kimchi in reading וַיָּרֵץ: “He caused to run—and cast, &c, that is, He gave orders to remove and cast with all haste, &c. (Jeremiah 49:19). In this case he probably cast the débris directly over the wall of the temple enclosure down into the valley.” And the high-places that were before Jerusalem, &c. 2 Kings 23:13-14 are a direct continuation of 2 Kings 23:12, and they state what Josiah did in regard to the high-places before the city, which had existed long before Ahaz and Manasseh. On these high-places, see notes on 1 Kings 11:7. The Mount of Corruption is the southernmost peak of the Mount of Olives which lay to the East (עַל־פְּנֵי) of Jerusalem. It received this name on account of the idolatry which was practised there. Among Christians it is now called, Mount of Offence, mons offensionis, which the Vulg. has in the place before us. On the images and Astarte-statues (2 Kings 23:14) see notes on 1 Kings 14:23. מְקוֹמָם does not mean “their elevated pedestals” (Thenius), for וַיְמַלֵּא would not fit into this meaning, but, in general, their places. It is to be observed that it is not said in reference to Solomon’s high-places (in 2 Kings 23:13) that he tore them down, as it is said of those which were of later origin (2 Kings 23:6-8; 2 Kings 23:12), but only that he defiled them. No doubt this is because they had been already torn down by Hezekiah, or perhaps even before his time (2 Chronicles 31:1). He only defiled the places where they had been (perhaps some parts were still remaining) in order to obliterate thoroughly all the false worship. Thenius is certainly mistaken when he asserts: “The idol-temples which Solomon had erected remained until the time of Josiah, though they were several times, e.g., under Hezekiah, placed under interdict.” How could Hezekiah, who even removed the heights where Jehovah was worshipped (2 Kings 18:4), have allowed idol-temples to stand untouched, with their images, over against Jerusalem? [As far as the text gives any information in regard to the matter, either here or elsewhere, Solomon’s heights, &c., remained until this time. The inference as to what other reformers must have done, is only an inference. If we allow ourselves to infer that such and such things had been done before this time, we obliterate those peculiarities of Josiah’s reformation which make it especially interesting.—W. G. S.] We do not need to assume, as Menochius does: Ab impiis regibus excitata sunt fana et idola iis similia, quœ excitaverat Salomon iisdem locis, ideoque Salomoni tribuuntur primo illorum auctori.
2 Kings 23:15. Moreover the altar that was at. Beth-el.—After Josiah had put an end to all illegal worship in Judah, he extended the reformation to the former kingdom of Israel, whence that worship had originally sprung, and where it had been made the basis of the political constitution (1 Kings 12:26 sq.). It is told in 2 Kings 23:15-20 what he did there. From the time of Jeroboam Bethel had been the chief seat of the calf-worship (1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 13:1; Amos 3:14; Amos 7:10; Amos 7:13; Jeremiah 48:13; see Hosea 10:5). This altar was the one mentioned in 1 Kings 12:33; 1 Kings 13:1. The first הַבָּמָה in 2 Kings 23:15 cannot be taken as an accusative of place, “on the high-place,” as Thenius takes it, but only as apposition to “altar.” The Bamah was a house on an elevation, for he tore it down and burned it. The altar did not stand in the house, but before it. In what follows the statement is clearer: “that altar and the high-place.” After the immigration of the heathen colonists an Astarte-statue seems to have taken the place of the calf-image there.—On 2 Kings 23:16 sq. see the Prelim. Rem. on 1 Kings 13:0. 2 Kings 23:16-18 belong, according to Stähelin (Krit. Untersuch. s. 156), to the author and not to the document which served him as authority. According to Thenius they are taken from the sequel to 1 Kings 13:1-32. This, he says, is evident “from וְגַם in 2 Kings 23:19, which corresponds to that in 2 Kings 23:15, and, still more distinctly, from the consideration that Josiah could not defile the altar by burning men’s bones upon it (2 Kings 23:16) after he had broken it in pieces (2 Kings 23:15).” But, if the remarkable incident in 2 Kings 23:16-18 was to be narrated, it could not be mentioned anywhere but here, because it took place at the destruction of the high-place at Bethel. 2 Kings 23:19 then carries on the history of the destruction and extirpation of the illegal cultus throughout Samaria, and goes on to tell what was done elsewhere than at Bethel. As for the difficulty about the altar, the author must have been very careless to make a statement in 2 Kings 23:16 which was inconsistent with what he had said in 2 Kings 23:15. He says nothing in 2 Kings 23:15 about burning the altar, but only about burning the house and the Astarte-statue. He caused bones to be burned on the spot where the altar had stood in order that that also might become unclean and never more be fit for an altar, i.e., for a place of worship. The author, no doubt, in many ways made use of old authorities and incorporated them into his work, but he certainly never thoughtlessly patched separate pieces together, or arbitrarily inserted a bit here and there.—He turned himself, i.e., to look about; cf. Exodus 2:12; Exodus 16:10. The “mount,” where the sepulchres were, cannot be the one on which the altar and the Bamah stood, but one in the neighborhood, which was to be seen from the one where the Bamah stood. After אִשׁ הָאֱלֹהִים the Sept. have the words: “When Jeroboam, at the festival, stood at the altar, and he turned his eyes upon the sepulchre of the man of God who had spoken these words.” Thenius regards this addition as originally having belonged to the perfect text, but it may easily be recognized as a gloss.
2 Kings 23:17. What grave-stone is that? The sepulchres of prominent persons were marked by monuments placed before them (Ezekiel 39:15; Genesis 35:20; Jeremiah 31:21). This monument attracted the king’s attention and he asked whom it commemorated.
2 Kings 23:18. Out of Samraia. The name here refers not to the city but to the country, and stands in contrast with the words “from Judah” in 2 Kings 23:17. It therefore marks the origin of this prophet; “he was an Israelitish, not a Jewish prophet” (Thenius). The priests whom Josiah caused to be put to death (2 Kings 23:20) were not levitical or Israelitish priests at all, but, unquestionably, idol-priests who had established themselves in the country. וַיִּזְבַּח cannot be understood as if Josiah offered these priests as a sacrifice to God. If that were so he would have helped to establish the human sacrifices which it was the object of his reformation to root out. זבח here has the sense of to slaughter, as often elsewhere (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 19:21). They suffered upon their own altars the death-penalty imposed by the Law (Deuteronomy 17:2-5). At the same time these altars were thereby defiled and made unfit for use. According to Tertullian public child-sacrifices lasted in Africa usque ad proconsulatum Tiberii, qui eosdem sacerdotes in iisdem arboribus templi votivis crucibus exposuit.
2 Kings 23:21. And the king commanded all the people. Josiah had abolished with relentless severity all which was forbidden in the book of the covenant and the Law to which he had bound the people by an oath of allegiance (2 Kings 23:3); now, however, he proceeded to perform all which was there commanded, and he began, as Hezekiah had done (2 Chronicles 30:1), by ordaining a passover, for this feast had been instituted to commemorate the exodus and the selection of Israel to be the peculiar people, which was the foundation of its national destiny, and of its calling in human history. No other feast could have served so well to inaugurate the restored order as this one, which had been celebrated even in Egypt. The statement: כַּכָּתוּב in the book of this covenant does not mean: which is mentioned in this book. That would be a superfluous remark, and the translation would not be a correct rendering of the original. It means that the Passover was to be observed according to the regulations prescribed in the book which had been found. The translation of Luther [E. V. also] following the Sept. and Vulg. is not correct: “Im Buck dieses Bundes” [in the book of this covenant], for that would require הַזוֹת. The emphasis falls on “book.” Josiah does not wish that the passover shall be celebrated according to precedent and tradition, but according to the regulations of the book which had been read before the people. This is the only conception of its meaning according to which we get a good sense, for the remark in 2 Kings 23:22 : surely there was not holden such a passover, &c. כִּי refers to what immediately precedes: “In this book of the covenant,” so that the sense is: No passover had been so strictly observed according to the regulations of the Law since the times of the judges. Even the Passover of King Hezekiah had not been perfectly conformed to the law, for he was compelled by circumstances to deviate in some respects (2 Chronicles 30:2; 2 Chronicles 30:17 sq.). Clericus: Crediderim hoc velle scriptorem sacrum: per tempora regum nunquam ab omnibus secundum omnes leges Mosaicas tam accurate Pascha celebratum fuisse. Consuetudinem antea, etiam sub piis regibus, videntur secuti potius quam ipsa verba legis; quod cum fit, multa necessario mutantur ac negliguntur. Sed inventi nuper libri verba attendi diligentissime voluit Josias. It is difficult to understand how any one could understand from this passage, as De Wette does, that no Passover had ever been celebrated before this one. Thenius also asserts that “it can hardly be doubted that the celebration of the Passover was neglected from the time of the Judges on, and that it did not begin again until after the ordinances of the Law in regard to it had once more become known under Josiah,” because “there is no reference whatever to the Passover either under Samuel, or David, or Solomon.” He therefore infers that “in order to bring about an accord with the story in Chronicles of the Passover feast instituted by Hezekiah” הַזֶּה was substituted for הַזּוֹת in 2 Kings 23:21, and כַּפֶּסַח for הַפֶּסַח in 2 Kings 23:22. In this way, of course, anything may be found in the text which any one wants to read there. Neither the day of Atonement not the Feast of Pentecost is expressly mentioned in the historical books, and the Feast of Tabernacles is only mentioned in connection with the consecration of the temple (1 Kings 8:2). It would therefore follow that the Israelites alone of all ancient peoples had no religious festivals from the time of the Judges. If, however, one festival was celebrated it was certainly the feast of the Passover, which was moreover a natural festival (Leviticus 23:10 sq.; Deuteronomy 16:9). The same chronicler who recorded the Passover under Hezekiah also gives a detailed account of the one under Josiah, and adds at the close of his account (2 Chronicles 35:18) the same comment which we here find in 2 Kings 23:22. We cannot, therefore, assume that 2 Kings 23:22 has suffered any alterations “in order to bring it into accord with the record of the Passover under Hezekiah.” On 2 Kings 23:23 see the Prelim. Rem.
2 Kings 23:24. Moreover the necromancers.—”After Josiah had completed the reformation of the public worship, he went on to put an end to all the superstitious practices and idol-worship which. were carried on in private houses” (Thenius). The necromancers and wizards had arisen under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6). The Teraphim, or household-images, were the penates, the gods of the fireside, to which a magical power was ascribed. They served as a kind of talisman for the family, and as a kind of private oracle. Cf. Genesis 31:19; Judges 18:14; Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 10:2. On גִּלֻּלִים see 1 Kings 15:12 and 2 Kings 17:12. They were doubtless private household gods. And all the abominations that were spied, i.e., everything which was to be abhorred and which was found anywhere, “for it might well be that many things of this character were concealed” (Thenius). That he might establish, i.e., put in operation. Even private and family religious observances were to be regulated according to the newly discovered book, in order that it might serve as the norm and rule for the entire life of the people. The author therefore proceeds (2 Kings 23:25): And like unto him, &c., by which he means, according to the context, that the entire law of Moses was not so strictly and severely carried out by any king before Josiah, not even by Hezekiah, although the latter was not at all inferior in genuine piety and in trust in the Lord (see notes on 2 Kings 18:5). With all his heart, &., has distinct reference to Deuteronomy 6:5.—In 2 Kings 23:26-27 “the author passes on to the story not only of the end of Josiah, but also of the fall of the kingdom” (Keil). שָׁב in 2 Kings 23:26 stands in contrast with שָׁב in 2 Kings 23:25. Josiah turned to Jehovah, but Jehovah turned not from his wrath. Quamvis enim rex religiosissimus esset populusque metu ei pareret, propterea tamen animus populi non erat mutatus, ut satis liquet a castigationibus Jeremiœ, Sophoniœ, et aliorum prophetarum, qui circa hœc tempora et paulo post vaticinati sunt (Clericus). Cf. Jeremiah 1:10; Zephaniah 1:2-6; Zephaniah 3:1-4. The corruption had struck such deep root during the reign of Manasseh that it could not be eradicated even by Josiah’s severe measures. The Law was observed externally, but the conversion of the entire people was out of the question. This became distinctly apparent after Josiah’s death. Hence the long-threatened judgments of Jehovah must now fall. On 2 Kings 23:27 see Jeremiah 25:26, and notes on 2 Kings 21:4-7.
2 Kings 23:28. Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, &c. The author now hastens to the close of the history of Josiah. It is necessary to tell how he met his end, but he does this very briefly (2 Kings 23:29). The more specific details are given by the chronicler (2 Chronicles 35:20-27). Necho (in Chronicles and in Jeremiah 46:2 : נְכוֹ; in the Sept. and Josephus Νεχαώ) was, according to Herodotus 2:158), who calls him Νεκώς, the son of Psammetich I. According to Manetho he was the sixth king of the twenty-sixth, Saite, dynasty, and was an energetic prince who built fleets both on the Mediterranean and on the Red sea. The King of Assyria, against whom Necho was marching, can hardly have been Sardanapalus, under whom Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians and Medes, but the Babylonian Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who, as ruler of Assyria also, might now be called king of that country. For Necho lost the battle of Carchemish (2 Chronicles 35:20) to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 46:2), and Josephus says (Antiq. x. 5, 1) that Necho undertook this expedition against Μήδους καὶ Βαθυλωνίους, οἳ τὴν ’Ασσυρίων κατέλυσαν�, τῆς γὰρ ’Ασίας βασιλεῦσαι πόθον εἶχεν. Evidently Necho desired, now that the Assyrian empire had come to an end, to hinder the Medes and Babylonians from forming a world-monarchy, and to become himself ruler of Assyria (see Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 105 sq. II. s. 143. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums I. s. 499 sq.). He did not take the long and tedious way through the desert et Tih and southern Palestine, but made use of his fleet, and landed probably in the neighborhood of the Phœnician city of Akko, in a bay of the Mediterranean. This is evident from the fact that Josiah did not march southwards to meet him, but northwards, and that they met at Megiddo, in the plain of Jezreel, at the foot of Mount Carmel. On the situation of this city see Exeg. on 1Ki 4:12; 1 Kings 9:15. Herodotus calls it Μάγδαλον, and Ewald understands him to refer to Megdel, south-east of Akko; but, as Keil shows in his comment on the verse, this can hardly be correct. He slew him. This curt statement finds its explanation in 2 Chronicles 35:22-24, according to which it was not Necho himself that slew Josiah, but the latter was mortally wounded by an arrow from the Egyptian bowmen, and then died at Hadad-Rimmon (Zechariah 12:11), not far from Megiddo.—The people of the land (see 2 Kings 21:24) made the younger son of Josiah king, as we see by comparing 2 Kings 23:31 with 2 Kings 23:36, perhaps because they had greater hopes of him, though in this they were mistaken (Jeremiah 22:10 sq.). It is stated that they anointed him (a ceremony which is not elsewhere expressly mentioned in speaking of a change upon the throne), perhaps because he was not the son whom Josiah had chosen to succeed him (see notes on 1 Kings 1:5; 1 Kings 1:34), but nevertheless they desired to give him the consecration of a legitimate king.
[On the contemporaneous history see the Supplementary Historical Note after the next Exegetical section.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. King Josiah was the last true theocratic king of Judah. Higher praise is given to him than to any other king, even to Hezekiah, namely, that he “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.” Sirach, in his panegyric on the fathers, groups him, as we have said above, with David and Hezekiah, besides whom there was no king who did not more or less abandon the Law of the Lord. He also further says of him what he says of no other king: Μνημόσυνον ’Ιωσίου εἰς σύνθεσιν θυμιάματος, ἐσκευασμένον ἔργῳ μυρεψοῦ, ἐν παντὶ στόματι ὡς μέλι γλυκανθήσεται, καὶ ὡς μουσικὰ ἐν συμποσίῳ οἴνου (Sir 49:1). Josephus also (Antiq. x. 4, 1) is loud in his praise. If we take into consideration, on the one hand, that under his two immediate predecessors, Manasseh and Amon, who together reigned for sixty years, apostasy and corruption had spread far more widely, and penetrated far more deeply, than under Ahaz, who only reigned sixteen years, and, on the other hand, that Josiah, at the time of his accession, was only a boy of eight years, who might be easily influenced and led astray, then it appears to be almost a miracle that he became what he was. This miracle is not by any means explained by supposing that, after the death of Amon, “the priests of Jehovah once more gained influence at court” (Duncker), or that “the priests of Jehovah succeeded in getting the young prince, whom the opposite party had elevated to the throne, under their control” (Menzel). We have not the slightest hint that Josiah was educated or controlled by any priest of Jehovah, as was the case with Joash under entirely different circumstances (2 Kings 12:2). Neither did the prophet Jeremiah have influence upon his education, for that prophet made his first appearance, while he was yet a young man, in Josiah’s thirteenth year, at Anathoth, from whence he was driven away; moreover he was not the son of the high-priest, but of another Hilkiah (Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 1:6). Ewald’s comment is far better (Gesch. III. s. 696): “We cannot reach an accurate notion of the educational development through which he passed during his minority, but the decision and strictness with which he defended and maintained the more austere religion, in the eighteenth year of his reign and the twenty-sixth of his life, show plainly enough that he had early attained to a firm determination in favor of true nobility and manliness of life. It may well be that the grand old history of Israel, with its fundamental truths, as well as the memory of David’s greatness, of the marvelous deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, and of all else which was glorious in the history of his ancestors, had early made a deep impression upon him.” True as this is, however, it is not sufficient to account for such a phenomenon as Josiah was, since he stands before us almost like a Deus ex machina. His character is, as Hengstenberg says (Christol. III. s. 496), “as little to be comprehended on the basis of mere natural causes as is the existence of Melchisedek … in the midst of the Canaanites, who were hastening on with steady tread and ceaseless march towards the consummation of their sins. The causes which produced Josiah, such as he was, are the same which produced Jeremiah.” If it was marvelous that a man like Hezekiah followed a man like Ahaz, it was still more marvelous that an eight-year old boy like Josiah followed men like Manasseh and Amon, and that he, during all his reign, should have turned “neither to the right hand nor to the left,” and: should have been unexampled in the entire history of the kings. It was no accident that a king like Josiah arose once more, and attained to the height of David as the model of a genuine theocratic king. It was a gracious gift from the God who had chosen Israel as His own peculiar people, for the accomplishment of His redemptive plan, and Who continued to raise up men who were endowed with gifts and strength to work in and for His plans, and to manifest themselves to His people as His instruments. If a king like Josiah could not restore the people to its calling, then the monarchy, as an institution, had failed of its object and was near its end. The kingdom must hasten to its downfall and the threatened judgments must come.
2. We are made acquainted, in this passage, only with those events in the reign of Josiah (thirty-one years) which appertained to the abolition of idolatry, and the restoration of the legitimate Jehovah-worship. It was by virtue of these events that his reign formed an epoch in the history of the kingdom. In comparison with these events, all else, in the judgment of this historian, sank into insignificance. We see, however, from a passage in the book of Jeremiah, that he was remarkable also in other respects, for the prophet presents him to his son, Jehoiakim, as a model: “Shalt thou reign because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?” &c. (Jeremiah 22:13-17). Josephus says of him (I. c.): Τὴν δὲ φύσιν αὐτὸς ἄριστος ὑπῆρχε, καὶ πρὸς� … ὡς ἂν πρεσβύτατος καὶ νοῆσαι τὸ δέον ἱκανώτατος, … σοφίᾳ καὶ ἐπινοίᾳ τῆς φύσεως χρώμενος … τοῖς γὰρ νόμοις κατακολουθῶν, οὔτω περὶ τὴν τάξιν τῆς πολιτείας καὶ τῆς περὶ τὸ θεῖον εὐσεβείας εὐοδεῖν τε συνέβαινε … ἀπέδειξε δὲ τινὰς κριτὰς καὶ ἐπισκόπους, ὡζ ἂν διοικοῖεν τὰ παρ’ ἑκάστοις πράγματα, περὶ παντὸς τὸ δίκαιον ποιούμενοι, κ. τ. λ. The fact that he extended his reforming work into Samaria shows that he had attained to power and authority there: when and how he obtained this is nowhere stated, but the fact that he had it stands firm, and might be inferred even from other historical hints. After Esarhaddon, the successor of Sennacherib, the Assyrian power began to sink. The Scythians invaded the country from the North; on the East and South it was threatened by the Medes and Babylonians, who sought to make themselves independent of its power. These events belong to the time of the reign of Josiah. Josiah must have made vigorous opposition to the Scythians who were pressing forward in Palestine towards Egypt, devastating everything, for he remained undisturbed by them. It is very probable that it was easy for him, after their departure, to extend his authority over the territory of the former kingdom of the ten tribes, since the Assyrians were not, at that time, in a position to pay much attention to Israel, or to maintain intact their supremacy over it. In the year 625 the Assyrian power was being hard pushed by Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and Josiah’s reformation falls in the year 623, that is, in the time when the Assyrian empire was tottering and falling. Whether Josiah, as “a king who desired in all things to be a genuine successor of David,” had the intention of “restoring the authority of the house of David over all the surrounding peoples” (Ewald), or whether he “regarded himself, after the fall of the northern kingdom, as king of the entire covenant people, and took advantage of the impending or already accomplished dissolution of the Assyrian empire, in order to conciliate to himself the Israelites who remained in Samaria, to make them well disposed towards his authority, and to win them to his reforms” (Keil), we cannot decide, but this is certainly far more probable than that he “as a vassal of the Assyrian king had a certain limited authority over this territory,” and that “his enterprise was permitted by the Assyrian authorities” (Hess), or that he petitioned the new ruler of Assyria (Nabopolassar) for permission to exercise authority there in matters of religion (Thenius). However this may be, Josiah certainly stands before us as a king who was endowed with the above-mentioned virtues of a ruler, and with an enterprising spirit and warlike courage. These last traits are proved by his attempt to resist Necho, in regard to which see below. It is utterly erroneous, therefore, to see in this king, as modern historians are disposed to do, merely a passive instrument in the hands of the priesthood. [See the Supplementary Notes after the Exeg. sections on chaps. 20 and 21, and on the next following section of the text.]
3. The discovery of the book of the Law was, in spite of its apparent insignificance, an event of the first importance for all the subsequent history of Israel. Although Josiah had, before that event, turned to the Lord and sought to inaugurate a reform (see the Prelim. Rem.), yet it was this discovery which determined him to take measures of the utmost severity against all idolatry, and to restore the worship of Jehovah in Judah and in Israel. From this discovery dates the complete revolution in the circumstances of the kingdom, and from this time on this book had such authority that, in spite of all vicissitudes, and in spite of renewed apostasy, yet it held its place in the respect of the nation, it has been recognized until to-day by the Jews as their most sacred religious document, and their religion, in all its distinctive peculiarities, is built upon it. Suppose that this book had never been discovered, but had been lost for ever, so that only incomplete and inauthentic private copies had been preserved, scattered here and there, what would then have been the state of Judaism, and how different must have been the shape which its religious and moral development would have taken. The whole history of Israel bears witness to the guiding and controlling hand of God, but if there is any one event in which, more than in any other, the Providence of God is visible, then it is this important discovery. It was a physical proof that God watches over this document, which is the testimonial to Israel of its election, and the highest divine revelation; that he preserves it from the rage of idolaters; and that, even if it lies long unnoticed and unknown in the night of apostasy, he will bring it again to light, and make it to show its force once more, so that it is like a fire which consumes all which is false and corrupt, and like a hammer which breaks the rocks (Jeremiah 23:29). The discovery of the book was a pledge to the king and people of the indestructibility of the divine written word.—Modern historical science has taken an entirely different view of this event. “The impression left by the devastations of the Scythians,” says Duncker (Gesch. d. Alt. I. s. 503 sq.), “who had left the land a desert, was deep and fresh in the minds of the people. The king was young, and, as it seems, open to influence. The priests were bound to take advantage of these circumstances to set up a stronger barrier against the Syrian forms of worship. Manasseh’s persecutions had led the Jehovah-priests to look about for means to prevent the recurrence of similar oppression. They naturally found themselves forced to an attempt to secure their creed and their official position against the changing will of the kings, to emancipate it from the fickle disposition of the people, and to put an end, at last, to the vacillation between Jehovah-cultus and foreign and heathen forms of worship.” There was room to hope that “by means of a law-book, which made the worship of Jehovah the basis of all national life, and embraced all social interests in its scope, all future perils to the priesthood might be prevented, their position might be permanently assured, and the Jehovah-worship might be securely established and strictly carried out. ” A codification of the rules which had been gradually formed by the priests as the scheme of life which would be pleasing to Jehovah, a compendium which should sharply emphasize the chief demands which religion made upon the laity, was, therefore, needed. For such a law-book alone was there hope that it would find acceptance, that it would be recognized by the king and by the people as an unquestionable authority, and as the organic law of the country, and that it might be completely and successfully put in operation. This was the purpose, and these were the fundamental principles on which this book (Deuteronomy), which Hilkiah, the high-priest, sent to the king, was compiled.… Josiah was deeply moved by the contents of it, and by the threats which it pronounced against those who transgressed the Law of Jehovah. In order to convince himself of the genuineness of this book as the real law of Moses, he appealed from the authority of the temple and the high-priest to a female soothsayer. The wife of one of the king’s officers, Huldah, was asked in regard to the genuineness of the book, and she declared that the words of the book were the words of Jehovah.” We have an example, in this entire presentation of the incident, of the inexcusable manner in which modern historical science treats the biblical history. The book which was found was, according to this view, simply the book of Deuteronomy, an assumption which, as we have seen, is so contrary to the text that even the most daring and advanced critical science has recognized its falsehood. This book, too, is represented as having been secretly compiled after the Scythian invasion of Palestine, that is, as we have seen above, after 627 b. c., by the priests, without the knowledge of the king, and then as having been sent to the latter by Hilkiah, as the book written by Moses, and now rediscovered, so that it would be in fact forged. The king permits himself to be deceived, and is deeply moved by the threats invented by the priests, yet he turns, superstitiously to a “female soothsayer,” inquires of her in regard to the genuineness of the book, and she, being of course initiated into the secret of the priests, answers that the words of the priests are the words of Jehovah. The whole affair is thus reduced to cunning, deceit, and falsehood, on the part of the priests, in their own selfish interests. The priests, with the high-priest at the head, are vulgar cheats, and the king and people are cheated. The entire grand reformation, and the complete revolution in the state of the kingdom, with all the religious development which followed, rest upon a forgery. Such an arbitrary and utterly perverse conception refutes itself, and Ewald (l. c. s. 700) justly says: “We must beware of obscuring the view of the incident by any such incorrect hypothesis as that the high-priest composed this book himself, but denied its origin. Want of conscientiousness in the conception of history cannot be more plainly evinced than by such unfounded and unjust suppositions.” Ewald himself, on the other hand, ascribes the composition of Deuteronomy to a prophet who, during the persecution by Manasseh, took refuge in Egypt, and says: “If the book was written thirty or forty years before, by a prophet who, at this time, was dead, and if it found circulation only gradually, so that it finally reached Palestine as it were by accident, a copy might accidentally have found its way into the temple, and there have been found by the high-priest.” But the notion that the book of Deuteronomy was composed in Egypt “stands in the air,” and has thus far been adopted by none but Eisenlohr. Moreover, that it came to Palestine by accident, came into the temple by accident, by the hand of an unknown priest, and without the knowledge of the high-priest, so that it was found by him, again—“by accident,” not only does not explain the incident, but it even makes it still more marvelous and inexplicable than it is according to the biblical account. If we assume that the book of Deuteronomy was first written in the time of Manasseh, or in the time of Josiah, and that the book of the Law thereby first reached its completion, then we are compelled to have recourse to all sorts of arbitrary hypotheses to account for the alleged “discovery” of the book at this time.
[It seems hardly probable that the question of the date and authorship of the book of Deuteronomy will ever be definitely settled. On the one hand, the traditional view is firmly fixed in the belief of the Church. On it are supposed to hang doctrinal inferences which would fall if the Mosaic authorship were surrendered, and these doctrines are regarded as too essential to the structure of the Christian faith to admit of any weakening. Such a position is false philosophically, as it involves a reasoning from dogma to fact, instead of the contrary and only legitimate process. Nevertheless, there seems little reason to expect that this position will be overthrown, at least as far as we can yet foresee. Moreover, the admission that Moses was not the author involves, or seems to involve, the admission of a literary forgery, although no one can believe that Moses wrote the account of his own death in the 34th chapter. On the other hand, the grounds for believing in the comparatively late origin of this book are such as only scholars of great attainments can appreciate or understand. Therefore the position of the question now is, and probably for a long time to come will be, that the opinion which enjoys ecclesiastical sanction is the traditional opinion of the Mosaic authorship, while the scholars (with very few exceptions, and those of inferior authority) are firmly convinced that Deuteronomy was written at a time long after that of Moses, and by an unknown hand. The grounds on which the latter opinion is based are critical and historical. The former are, in the briefest statement, these: (a) The language of the book. It is marked by archaisms such as are peculiar to the other books of the Pentateuch, but these are found side by side with peculiarities of the late language, especially those which mark the book of Jeremiah. It is said that this is a clear proof that the author lived in the later days of the Jewish monarchy, and either unconsciously adopted ancient forms from familiar acquaintance with the old Scriptures, or purposely affected archaic forms. (b) Its literary style. It bears the character of a codification or digest of the previous books. It is also marked by a handling of the ordinances of Moses, in the spirit of their principles, but with the freedom of one who had thoroughly studied them, and digested them, and now purposed to codify and arrange them in a more practical and available form. (c) It presents, however, certain variations from the other books of the Pentateuch, always in the sense of making the ordinances more flexible and of freer application, as it were to a higher civilization and a more complicated society. (d) It contemplates a state of things in which the nation is living a settled and ordered life, under a king, face to face with neighbors, not like the Canaanites, but powerful and large enough, if victorious, to swallow up Israel in captivity. (e) It is too long to be delivered as a speech, as it is represented.—The historical arguments are these: (a) Deuteronomy ordains worship at one central sanctuary, a thing which was not regarded as important until after the time of Solomon, but which, from the time of Josiah on, became a fixed and fundamental doctrine of the Hebrew religion. (b) The spirit of the book of Deuteronomy is that which marked Josiah’s reformation and the preaching of the later prophets. It controlled the ultimate development of the Jewish religion after the captivity.—All these arguments meet with answers from the opposite school, the weight of which depends on the philosophical or dogmatic prepossessions of the persons who are called upon to weigh them. They are only mentioned here to show in general and in brief what is the character of the grounds on which “critical science” has based the belief that Deuteronomy was not written by or in the time of Moses. They are independent and critical throughout. To estimate them requires close knowledge of the Hebrew language and history, a knowledge which goes beyond grammar and dictionary, and involves philosophical insight, and critical sagacity and skill. Certainly it devolves upon all who are charged with the study of the Scriptures to give to the subject a candid and unprejudiced consideration, in order that the truth, on whichever side it may lie, may be established. There is not a subject on which the tyro in biblical learning may more easily fall into rash error, nor one upon which those who cannot, or will not, enter upon the tedious investigation which is involved ought more carefully to refrain from passing a dogmatical judgment.
Strictly speaking, this question lies aside from our present occupation. In commenting on the 23d chapter of the 2d book of Kings, and noticing the bearing of the facts which it records upon the “development of the plan of redemption” (see Preface), we have only to notice the effect produced by the discovery of the “book of the Law.” But it is asserted by some that this book was not the same, nor a mere copy of any, which had existed before, but a revision of the former records, with an addition consisting of a repetition and codification of the ancient ordinances. They assert that this new work was an extension and re-application of the legislation of Moses, which was especially adapted to the time of Josiah, and that herein lie the grounds of its great and peculiar influence. If such an assertion be true, and if the peculiar character of this new revision, as compared with the ancient records, was a new and broader apprehension of the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, and if this new spirit gave to that legislation a new impetus which made it the controlling principle in the subsequent development of the Jewish religion, then certainly it was a most important event in the development of the history of redemption. In fact, if this assertion be true, the composition of the book of Deuteronomy was the most important incident in the history of the Israelites after the time of Moses. Hence the importance of studying the question involved in the most thorough manner, by its proper evidence, with all the light which history or criticism can throw upon it.
Our present chapter bears upon it in so far as we discern in the reformation of Josiah a peculiar character, as compared, for instance, with that of Joash, or that of Hezekiah, and in so far as these peculiar features of this reformation are traceable to Deuteronomy as distinguished from the other books of the Pentateuch. On this point we observe that this book of the Law produced a profound sensation. It brought to the king’s notice things which he had never heard or known of, and which, therefore, were not popularly known of, as parts of the “Law of the Lord,” although something was certainly known under that name. It is also said that the thing in the new book which especially attracted his attention, and stirred him to the action which he took, was the “threats” or denunciations which it contained (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0 especially Deuteronomy 28:25 and Deuteronomy 28:64). But these only occur in the book of Deuteronomy. When we read the description of future and possible degeneracy under the kingdom, and the threats of captivity, &c., which are contained in the book of Deuteronomy, and compare them with the state of things under Josiah, when the northern kingdom had already disappeared in Assyrian exile, we cannot wonder at the effect produced on the king’s mind. He saw himself and his nation in this description as in a mirror.—We also notice particular expressions: “Turned neither to the right hand nor to the left,” as the description of a perfect king (cf. Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 17:20; Deuteronomy 28:14); the “burning” of idolatrous images and utensils (ver 4. cf. Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:3); “With all his heart” (2 Kings 23:25. cf. Deuteronomy 6:5); the death penalty for idolatry (2 Kings 23:20. cf. Deuteronomy 17:2-5). The fact that, from this time on, the “Law” played a far more important part in forming and guiding the faith and practice of the Jews than ever before is indisputable. The author describes its influence above. Whether we can discern in the further developments the peculiar effect of the book of Deuteronomy, so far as that book differs in character from the other books of the Old Testament, or not, is a question which must be left to the study of the passages and books from which it may appear.—W. G. S.]
4. The prophetess Huldah, who is mentioned only here, offers a very remarkable proof that prophecy, “as a free gift of the divine spirit, was not confined to a particular sex,” and that “God imparts the gifts of his spirit, without respect to human divisions and classifications, to whomsoever He will, according to the free determination of His holy love. The people were to recognize the truth, although, it might be, in imperfect measure, that the time would come when there would be a general pouring out of the spirit upon it, Joel 3:1 sq.” (Havernick on Ezekiel 13:17.) Besides Huldah there are two women mentioned in the Old Testament who are designated as prophetesses, Miriam (Exodus 15:20), and Deborah (Judges 4:4). But she was a נְבִיאָה in another and fuller sense than they. What they did and said was produced in a state of ecstasy; they did not prophesy in the narrower and stricter sense of the word, i.e., they were not instruments by means of which God made known His will and purpose to those who asked it. She solemnly and expressly pronounces her oracle as the word of Jehovah (2 Kings 22:16; 2 Kings 22:18 : “Thus saith the Lord”), and she uses the manner and form of speech of the true and great prophets. The same or similar fact is not true of any other woman. She stands alone in the history of the old covenant, and it is very significant that just at this point, where the entire future of the people and its grandest and highest interests are at stake, the Lord makes use of a weak and humble instrument to bring about the execution of His purpose. Huldah cannot, therefore, be at all brought into comparison with the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7), or with the prophetesses of whom Ezek. speaks (2 Kings 13:17). The wife of Isaiah is also called הַנְּבִיאָה (Isaiah 8:3), but in an altogether different sense, viz., as wife of the prophet and mother of the prophet-sons. Finally Noadiah is designated (Nehemiah 6:14) as a false prophetess. The rabbis arbitrarily fix the number of prophetesses in the Old Testament at seven (Seder Olam 21). Their statements in regard to Huldah, as, for instance, that an honor was shown her after her death which was not shown to anybody else not of the house of David, namely, to be buried inside of the walls of Jerusalem, belong purely to tradition, it is true, but they show in what high esteem she stood (cf. Witsius, De Prophetissis in the Miscell. Sacr. I. p. 288).
5. The abolition of idolatry and of the illegitimate Jehovah-worship under Josiah is distinguished from every earlier attempt of the kind, even from that under Hezekiah, by the fact that it was far more thorough. It extended not only to the kingdom of Judah but also to the former kingdom of Israel, not only to the public but also to the private life of the people. The evil was everywhere to be torn out, roots and all. Nothing which could perpetuate the memory of heathen, or of illegitimate Jehovah-worship remained standing. All the places of worship, all the images, all the utensils, were not only destroyed but also defiled; even the ashes were thrown into the river at an unclean place that they might be borne away forever. The idol-priests themselves were slain, and the bones of those who were already dead were taken out of the graves and burned. The priests of Jehovah who had performed their functions upon the heights were deposed from their office and dignity, and were not allowed to sacrifice any more at the altar of Jehovah. This reformation has been charged with “violence,” and this has been offered as the explanation of the fact that it was so short-lived. So Ewald: “This attempt at reformation bears the character of violence in all its details of which we have any knowledge. The evil results of such violent conduct in religious and civil affairs soon showed themselves, and all falling together in an accumulated evil produced a discord and confusion which could not be smoothed over,” &c. To this Niemeyer (Charakt. d. Bib. V. s. 100) answers: “In the case of such corruption which had already eaten into the vitals of the State, and, above all, in the face of such unnatural customs as were connected with it, let any one say what he will about the compulsion of conscience and the harshness of compelling a man to adopt a religion which he does not choose, I believe that it was a political right and duty to eradicate the evil, if indeed it was any longer possible to eradicate it. I will not say that the mass of men generally goes whither it is led, and that there is no instruction or improvement possible for them but that which is based upon authority and belief, so that better leaders and a more reasonable authority are a gain at all times. I will only reply to those who charge Josiah with cruelty and tyranny, in putting the priests of Baal to death, that those who should preach murder as a religious duty, and as an exercise pleasing to God, would not be left unpunished in any enlightened State. Josiah, therefore, when he put an end to these abominable sacrifices of innocence, for vengeance for which mankind seemed to stretch forth its hands to him, did no more than the kindest ruler would have considered it his duty to do.” Hess also well remarks (Gesch. d. Kõnige, II. ss. 236 and 238): “To allow them [the priests of Baal] to live would be to nourish seducers for the people, and to transgress the law to which a new oath of allegiance had just been taken, for this demanded that those who introduced idolatry should be exterminated.… Josiah’s fundamental principle was that a half-way eradication of idolatry would be no better than no attempt at all. If anything of this kind had been permitted to remain, the door would have been left open for the evil sooner or later to return. The idolatrous disposition and tendency took advantage of the slightest circumstance, and seized upon the slightest trace of former idolatry, to once more gain a footing.” We should like to know how Josiah should have undertaken to get rid of the harlots and male prostitutes who had settled themselves in the very forecourt of the sanctuary, and there carried on their shameful occupations, or to abolish the horrible and abominable rites of Moloch, with their child-sacrifices and licentiousness. That would never have been possible in the way of kindness, as we see from the attempts of the prophets. When was a reformation ever accomplished, when corruption had reached such a depth, without “violence”? Even Luther, who publicly burned the popish law-books, cannot be acquitted of it; and how would the reformation of the 16th century have come to pass if no violence had been used against the corruptions which had affected not only religious, but also moral and social order, and if those corruptions had been treated only by kind and mild means? Nothing is more mistaken than to criticise and estimate antiquity from the standpoint of modern humanity and religious freedom. Even the Lord Jesus Christ did not pronounce a discourse to those who had made the house of God a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13); he made a whip and scourged them out of the temple (John 2:15). That also was “violence.” It is nowhere hinted that Josiah forced the people to accept the Jehovah-religion against their conviction. He only put an end by violence to the heathen usages and licentious abuses, and this he did not do until after he had collected the people, made them acquainted with the Law-book, and received their assent to it. The Israelitish monarchy was not instituted to introduce religious liberty; on the contrary, it was its first and highest duty to sustain the fundamental law of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:18-19; 1 Kings 2:3). To use the physical force which it possessed in the service of this law was its right and its duty.
[Let us endeavor to analyze the circumstances, and the principles which are here at stake, and to arrive at a sharper and firmer definition of our position in regard to them. What deserves distinctly and permanently 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. A few pages back we had occasion to use strong terms in condemnation of a violent and bloody attempt of 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 sympathize 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? 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 fire-arms 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? 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 apologize for a man who is here mentioned with praise and honor. 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 sympathize 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”? The Protestant Reformation was indeed violent, but it was weak just in so far as it was violent, and the bitter fruits of the violence which attended it follow us yet in the bitter partisan hatred which marks the divisions of the Church of Christ. The most successful reformation the world has ever seen was the one our Lord brought about—how?—by falling the victim of violence, and by putting the means of force and authority utterly away from himself. 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 nest, 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. See further the bracketed notes in the next section.—W. G. S.]
6. Josiah’s measures aimed at a thorough reformation of the kingdom. This king, who sought the Lord in his early youth, turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, and had devoted himself to the Lord with all his heart and all his might (2Ki 22:2; 2 Kings 23:25; 2 Chronicles 34:2-3), did not aim merely at the extirpation of idolatry and the external observance of all the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, but at the conversion of his entire people to the Lord, and at the renewal of their religious as well as of their moral and political life (see the passage from Josephus under § 2). In spite of all the energy and severity with which he sought to accomplish this, he nevertheless failed. He succeeded in suppressing all public forms of idolatry, and in maintaining the Jehovah-worship in its integrity as long as he lived, but a real and sincere conversion was no longer to be hoped for. The nation had, since the time of Manasseh, advanced so far in the path of corruption that a halt was no longer possible. Apostasy from the living God had gained too strong a hold in all classes, among the rich and great, and even among the priests. It had contaminated all and had corrupted all the relations of life. Judah was in a worse state than any which even Israel had ever been in. The Jehovah-worship which had been reintroduced became a mere external ceremonial worship, and finally degenerated into hypocrisy and pretended righteousness. This is clear from the writings of the contemporary prophets, Jeremiah and Zephaniah (Jeremiah 3:6 sq.; Zephaniah 3:1 sq.). “The State seemed to arise once more, but it was only like the last flicker of an expiring fire. The internal corruption was so great that the new and good religious order seemed to be only produced by a kind of enchantment. All the props and supports on which it rested broke in pieces when the king, whose early death seemed like an inexplicable dispensation of Providence, closed his eyes” (Vaihinger in Herzog’s Real-Encyc. VII. s. 36). Only the severest chastisements of Providence could avail here, and they were not long in falling. Ewald presents the matter somewhat differently (l. c., s. 700 sq.), and, as usual, Eisenlohr follows him. He finds the grounds of the failure of Josiah’s reformation not so much in the irreformability of the people as in the character of the reform itself. In the first place he says that it was “the spirit of violence which had from the beginning characterized the Jewish nation and which was now reawakened, which necessarily impaired his [Josiah’s] work,” inasmuch as “it might do away for a time with the evils, but could not permanently stop up their sources…… The true religion could only impair its own good effect and progress, if it clung, at this late and changed time, to the narrowness which marked its youth. Since such violence had been used in rooting out all which was heathenish, the reconstruction of all which was peculiar in the Jehovah religion must be carried out in the same spirit. The first new Passover served as a sign of the severity with which the regulations of the Jehovah-worship were hereafter to be observed.” Then again “a new series of evils” was developed from the circumstance that “a book, especially such an imperfect Law-book and history as the Pentateuch, was made the fundamental law of the nation; first of all, that evil which naturally arises where a sacred document is made the basis of all public and social life, viz., a puffed-up book-wisdom, and a hypocritical and false learning in the Scriptures.” Finally, instead of reconciling the parties which had existed ever since the time of Solomon, he thinks that Josiah’s violent reformation intensified the party divisions and sharpened the party lines. “The party which may be called the deuteronomical, or stricter, party demanded unsparing severity in rooting out heathenism; … the heathen, or more liberal, party, on the other hand, … not only allowed the worship of heathen gods, but also took pleasure in the low standard of morality which attended idolatry. While, therefore, the strict party demanded a policy which, in fact, was no longer adapted to the circumstances of the country, and sought to carry it out by force, the liberal party fell short of the standard of morality which the times required. But though the latter no less than the former relied upon physical force, it nevertheless had the entire tendency of the time towards a wider and freer development in its favor. It therefore gained the upper hand immediately after Josiah’s unfortunate death, … so that the whole kingdom fell into a complete confusion which nothing but greater force than either party had at its disposal could put a stop to.” Eisenlohr also, speaking from a similar point of view (Das Volk Israel II. s. 354 sq.), says: “The entire reformation degenerates into a slavish restoration, a seeking out again and dragging forth of all the old institutions and ordinances of the kingdom … if possible, in a still more stiff and immobile form, so that … they produced the strongest reaction under the existing imperfect organization of the religious life. … The State-religion exerted its utmost powers to effect a renewal of the national vigor, and a preservation of the national identity, by setting the theocratic law and constitution in operation in its fullest, and most rigid, and most peculiar, construction,” but “hardly had the State-religion begun, under royal protection, to forcibly control anew the public life, before a cry of sharp complaint began to arise against the evils which are the inseparable concomitants of every privileged form of religion,—hypocrisy, and external or pretended piety.” To this must be added that “a sacred codex became the standard of all public life.… The effects of the entire method in which the reformation exerted its influence on the national life, and sought to accomplish its ends, were, for the moment , all the more disastrous (!) inasmuch as its internal principle was violence and its external policy was bigoted exclusiveness.” It needs no proof to show that this entire manner of conceiving of the circumstances stands in the most pronounced antagonism to the biblical representation. The Scriptures contain no hint of all these reasons why Josiah’s reformation failed, and even became finally disastrous, so that it brought about the downfall of the kingdom. Neither the historical books nor the discourses of the contemporary prophets contain a word of disapproval of the reformation; they offer only one reason for the failure of it, and that is the total corruption and perversity which had grown up since the time of Manasseh (2 Kings 22:16-20; 2 Kings 23:26-27; Jeremiah 15:1-4.
[No reason at all is specifically assigned anywhere why this reformation failed. Its failure is not spoken of, recognized, or accounted for. Manasseh’s sins are referred to as the explanation of the judgments which fell upon Judah. But when we speak of the national “corruption” which had been spreading since the time of Manasseh as the ground of the failure of Josiah’s reformation, it is allowable to go farther and ask: In what did this corruption consist? What were the especial forms of vice which were prevalent in Judah? What were the tendencies which the reformation had to encounter? What were the faults of national character which were in play? What were the selfish interests which the reformation threatened? These all make up what we call in a word national corruption and decay. It is only by such analysis that we are able to present to our minds the state of things in detail and to comprehend the situation. “Corruption” is only a general word which serves to cover the state of things, to conceal it from us, and to keep us from penetrating to a satisfactory conception of it. It is not difficult to gather from the documents, historical and prophetical, answers to the above questions. When we examine the subject we find that Ewald’s picture of the parties and their characteristics, of the tendencies in play, &c., is exceedingly faithful. It would certainly be wrong if any one should say that the “violence” of Josiah’s reformation caused the subsequent decay and downfall of Judah. Also the effect of using a document as ultimate authority is exaggerated by Eisenlohr, if not by Ewald. The pedantry of the rabbis, and the ritual righteousness of the Pharisees, did not arise for centuries. But this much is certainly true: The corruption had advanced so far that perhaps all hope of converting the nation by moral and religious appeals was vain. Even, however, if such were the case, a violent reformation, imposed on royal authority, could do no good, but only additional harm. It did not stem the tide of corruption, while it embittered parties and left deep-rooted hatred and thirst for revenge.—Stanley gives tables of the parties which existed in Jerusalem, at this time, in his Lectures on the Jewish Church, II. 565 and 566.—W. G. S.]
In the view above quoted [Ewald’s and Eisenlohr’s] it is really Josiah who, on account of his mistaken zeal and unwise measures, was to blame for the ruin of the kingdom, but the text says of him that there was no king like him before him, who so completely clung to the Lord with all his heart (2 Kings 23:25), and thereby presents him as the one who, among all the kings after David, was just what a king of Israel ought to be. But the charge is entirely incomprehensible that he did not allow to the “liberal party” “the worship of all gods” together with their “baser standard of morality,” and that “a sacred book became the standard of all public life.” Not to speak of anything else, it is exactly for this reason that he received the promise that he should not himself live to see the desolation, but should be gathered to his fathers in peace (2 Kings 22:19-20). [Josiah is not charged with any fault in not having done this. It is said that the measures which he took did not tend to correct or convert these misguided men, but only to compel them to submit to force, and that thus their opinions were not altered, while their feelings were embittered. As soon as they dared, they returned, with renewed zeal, to the practice of their opinions, and also sought revenge for the oppressive persecution which they (as they thought) had suffered.—W. G. S.] The charge against Josiah of having made a sacred book the standard involves an insult to the fundamental Protestant doctrine of the authority of the Bible as the sole standard of religion and morality, and, therefore, also of civil life. We see here whither we are led when we allow ourselves to be guided, in the interpretation of the Old Testament, by the doctrines of modern liberalism.
[The idea here presented of the danger which attends the use of a written document as the standard of religious truth and of morality is not a liberalistic doctrine. It is a truth which deserves solemn attention, most of all from Protestants. Those who believe in the authority of the Bible, and teach it and use it continually, are the very ones who need to have always distinctly in mind the dangers which inhere in the use of a literary standard, in order that they may guard against them. In the use of any such standard the interpretation of it becomes a matter of transcendent importance. Witness the rabbis, and the scribes and lawyers of Gospel times, that the danger of a class of men growing up who will hold knowledge of the Scriptures to be their privilege, who will develop an artificial and radically false and vicious system of interpretation, and who will overburden the Word with fancies and fables and arbitrary inventions, is no imaginary one. Witness the scholastics of the middle ages that the text of Scripture may be made a stem on which to hang frivolities and casuistical toys without end. Witness the papacy that the interpretation may come to be regarded as a matter so all-important that the Scriptures, except as interpreted, may be reserved as an exclusive possession of a privileged class. The danger of hypocritical book-wisdom and esoteric exegetical knowledge is one to be guarded against continually.
With regard to the general estimate of Josiah’s reformation we may sum up as follows: The attempt, on the part of the king, to arrest the dissolution and corruption of the nation by bringing it back to sincere devotion to the national religion is worthy of our most hearty admiration. The source of his early inclination towards the Jehovah-religion we cannot trace. It is clear that a violent persecution like that of Manasseh must have produced terror, bitterness, stubborn though concealed opposition, and a relentless purpose, on the part of those who had all the law and traditions of their nation, together with patriotism, on their side, and who could compare with pride the moral purity of their religion with those abominations of heathenism which were shocking and abhorrent to the simplest instincts of human nature, to repay their persecutors at the first opportunity. Where those abominations were the only religions observances taught, education might avail to make them pass without protest; but where there was any, even a slight knowledge of a purer religion and a better morality, the protest could never entirely die out. The Jehovah-religion was, as compared with heathen religions, austere. It warred against the base passions of men and the vices which they produce. Heathenism seized upon those passions as its means. It fostered them in the name of developing what was “natural,” and therefore must be right. Modern civilized heathenism does just the same thing. Heathenism therefore seemed to represent enjoyment of life, while the Jehovah-religion seemed to repress pleasure. It is remarkable that a boy-king should have chosen the latter. We are ignorant of the persons or considerations which may have influenced his choice. There is an undeniable resemblance in features between the revolutions of Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah, which seems to point to a relationship between them. A chain of reprisals seems to have been started, and each successive revolution or reformation was more radical, more bloody, and more unsparing than the last. The newly discovered book, with its commands and threats, gave the king a stimulus to undo all that Manasseh had done, to put a stop to the abominations which the latter had firmly established, to reintroduce the ancient national cultus in its perfection, to requite the heathen party for its cruelty, to avenge, the slaughtered servants of Jehovah, to foster those religious observances and moral principles which might regenerate the State, and to establish the new order of things securely. The thought of vengeance he may not have had, but it would be most natural, and not by any means shocking to the mind of a man of his generation. His purpose then was perfectly laudable and good. The means which he adopted for carrying it out were the only ones which could suggest themselves to him. They were the same in kind as Hezekiah had adopted, and as Manasseh had employed on behalf of the contrary interest, only he went still farther. No Jewish king would ever have thought of employing other means. It is idle to sit in judgment on him. His example in this, however, cannot form any rule for an age which enjoys a higher enlightenment, and a truer wisdom. As for the evil effects of the “violence” employed by Josiah, they may be limited to the embittering of those party divisions which seem to have hastened this fall of Jerusalem as they did the one under Titus. The great reason for his failure, however, was that the means which he employed encountered too strong opposition in the popular feelings and tendencies of the nation at the time. He was working up hill, so to speak, in trying to bring back the nation to a more severe religion, a sterner morality, and a purer patriotism. They preferred their luxury, and pleasure, and vice. He had only a small party with him, and the reformation which was accomplished by royal authority controlling the physical force of the realm, which was conducted in the interest of a written code which could not have been thoroughly understood and appreciated, and which did not have the hearty co-operation of the body of the people, failed when the king fell upon whose will it mainly depended. The death of Josiah was a disappointment and discouragement to the Jehovah party far beyond the mere loss of their protector and friend. They no doubt had no little superstitious confidence in the favor of heaven for the pious prince, and this was struck to the ground when the life on which all the prosperity of the Jehovah-worship seemed to depend was taken away, as it were by a stroke of Providence.—W. G. S.]
7. Josiah’s expedition against Necho, which brought about his early death, fell in the year 608 b. c., fifteen years after he accomplished his reformation in Judah and in the former territory of Israel. He must, therefore, have gained possession of the latter, or, at least, must have regarded himself as ruler of it. Necho, therefore, had no right to pass through this territory without paying any respect to Josiah’s authority, even though, as he asserted (2 Chronicles 35:21), he had no hostile intention towards the king of Judah. Josiah, therefore, undertook to intercept him, as Josephus says (Antiq. x. 5, 1): μετὰ δυνάμεως εἶργεν αὐτὸν διὰ τῆς ἰδίας ποιεῖσθαι χώρας τὴν ἐπὶ τοὺς Μήδους ἔλασιν, and, in spite of Necho’s assurance that he meant him no harm, Josiah persisted in refusing to allow him τὴν οἰκείαν διέρχεσθαι. The ground for this conduct of Josiah was not, as many have assumed, that he had already formed an alliance with Nabopolassar, the Babylonian, the new ruler of Assyria, or that he desired to secure the favor of this conqueror in the hope that he would thus make sure of being left in undisturbed possession of his kingdom, but the grounds of his conduct were very simple and close at hand. “A very little reflection sufficed to see that it was all over with the independent existence of the kingdom of Judah if the Egyptians secured a foothold in the country to the North” (Ewald). [Judah would thus be placed between Egypt and its outlying conquests, and of course its independence would not be long respected.] Niebuhr justly characterizes Josiah’s undertaking (Gesch. Assyr. s. 364) as a “thoroughly correct policy … Josiah knew that, although Necho asserted that he had no hostile intention towards him, yet, if the Egyptians conquered Cœlo-Syria, the independence of Judah was at an end.” As a true theocratic king, and as a man of warlike courage and disposition (the Sept. translate the words 2 Chronicles 35:22 by πολεμεῖν αὐτὸν ἐκραταιώθη ), he did not allow himself to be deceived by Necho. By the dispensation of Providence he fell at the very beginning of the campaign (Josephus: τῆς πεπρωμένης, οἶμαι‚ εἰς τοῦτ’ αὐτὸν παρορμησάσης). His death was a great misfortune for the nation, but it was nevertheless honorable. It was universally lamented, especially by Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:24-25). All felt what they had lost in him. The more detailed account in Chronicles gave occasion to some of the older historians to blame Josiah severely. For instance, Hess (Gesch. der Könige Jud. und Isr. II. s. 455 sq.): “He was so over-hasty as to dispute the passage through the country with Necho, and collected an army at Megiddo.… This was not at all necessary for the security of his own kingdom, for Necho had advanced so far without doing him any harm, and had sent an embassy expressly to assure him that he intended him no harm, but was directing his attack against the mighty monarchy to the East, being stimulated thereto by a divine calling. … To thus attack the Egyptian without the counsel of a prophet, or any sign of divine direction, was not trust in God, but in his own power.… It was, in any case, unwise to offend a ruler who was mighty enough to measure forces with the Babylonian power.” It is incorrectly assumed in this view that the “God,” whose approval Necho claimed, was Jehovah, the God of Israel. It is nowhere asserted that Josiah made this expedition without having consulted “the true oracle of Jehovah,” that is, without the “counsel of a prophet.” To judge from what Jeremiah says about Egypt in his forty-sixth chapter, he would hardly have dissuaded the king from this undertaking. We see how far it was from the intention of the chronicler, in his fuller account, to hint at anything unfavorable to Josiah, for he is the very one who makes especial mention of the universal grief for the death of Josiah, of the songs of lamentation which the singers sang for him “until this day,” and of the lament which Jeremiah wrote. We cannot conceive that all this would have been so if he had entered rashly into the war, contrary to the advice of the prophet, and had thus plunged the nation into misfortune. Von Gerlach very mistakenly infers from the account in Chronicles that “Josiah, in spite of his sincere piety, belonged to the number of weak and inefficient and imprudent rulers who closed the long series of kings of the house of David.” In that case how could Jesus Sirach, who certainly was not ignorant of what is there narrated, say of him, centuries later (Jeremiah 49:1), that the memory of him was like costly incense, and sweet as honey in the mouth of all. [On the historical connections of this event see the Supplem. Note at the end of the next Exeget. section, below.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 22:1-2. The panegyric of Josiah, Sir 49:1-2. His name is like costly incense and sweet as honey; for as he walked, &c. Although his father walked in evil ways, yet Josiah did not take him as an example, but that one of his ancestors who was a man after God’s own heart. He sought the Lord while he was yet a boy, and increased in knowledge and in favor as he grew in stature (2 Chronicles 34:3; Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52). “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way, &c.,” Psalms 119:9. Starke: Beginners in the Christian life must choose good examples and follow them faithfully (Philippians 3:17; 1 John 2:14). He turned not either to the right hand (like the later Pharisees), nor to the left (like the Sadducees); although he lived in a corrupt age, he fell neither into superstition nor unbelief. The way which loads to life is narrow, and it is well to have a firm heart so as not to totter on either side.—Würt. Summ.: We are seduced on the right by hypocrisy, and on the left by epicureanism, but the word of God says: This is the way, walk therein, and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left (Isaiah 30:21).—Cramer: We have in Josiah the mirror of a true ruler. (1) Such an one is given by God, out of pure grace, as a blessing to the country. (2) Such an one is bound, not only to protect the life and property of his subjects, and to preserve peace and order, but also to care for the Church and Kingdom of God.—Würt. Summ.: We ought not to despair of the children of the godless and to give them up; they may become, as in this case Josiah did, the most pious, through whom God accomplishes wonders. Good instruction and discipline may, by the blessing of God, correct much evil which such children have inherited or learned from their parents.
2 Kings 22:3-10. The Discovery of the Law-Book. (a) The occasion of it, 2 Kings 22:3-7. (b) The significance of it, 2 Kings 22:8-10.
2 Kings 22:3-7. The Restoration of the House of God. (a) The king undertakes it impelled by pure love to the Lord (Psalms 26:8). (b) The people of all the provinces willingly contribute to it (2 Chronicles 34:9). (c) The laborers work without reckoning, with fidelity.—See the homiletical hints on 2 Kings 12:5-17.—Josiah was zealously interested in the repair of the temple before the law-book was found and he had become acquainted with it. We have not only the old law-book but also the entire word of God; each one may hear and read it, nevertheless the churches are often allowed to fall into decay, and it is only at the last moment that any one thinks of spending money and time upon them.—Berl. Bibel: All are here earnestly interested in the work upon the house of God. Would that our zeal might be aroused for the same interests! that we might not rest where we should work, nor work where we should rest; not to tear down where we ought to build, nor to build where we ought to tear down, but to carry on the work of the Lord orderly and properly.—Cramer: The physical temples are useless, if the spiritual temples are not properly cared for.
2 Kings 22:8-10. What is the use of building and arranging and adorning churches, if the word of God is wanting in them, and instead of being a light to shine, and bread to feed, is hid under a bushel or locked up, and concealed by the ordinances of men and their own self-invented wisdom?—Pfaff. Bib.: Wretched times when the law-book has to be concealed; happy times when it is rediscovered. How happy are we who have the word of God in such abundance! Würt. Summ.: As in the times of Josiah the law-book had been pushed aside and become lost by the carelessness of the priests, so that scarcely any one knew anything about the law of God, so, before the time of Luther, under the papacy, the Holy Bible lay, as it were, in the dust, and, although it was not entirely lost, yet there were very many, not only among the common people, but also among the ecclesiastics and men of rank, who had never seen and read the Bible, until God called Luther and others, through whose faithful services the Bible, the holy and divine Scripture, was once more brought forth, brought into the light, and given to every man, in all languages, to read for himself; which goodness of God we still recognize and praise, and read, on account of it, more diligently in the Bible, and exercise ourselves in the word of God day and night, that we may obey the words of the Apostle Paul (Colossians 3:16): “Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.”—There is indeed nowadays scarcely a family, in countries where evangelical religion is professed, in which a Bible is not to be found, but it is often laid aside, and covered with dust, or it is regarded as an old book which is no longer adapted to our times. What higher praise, however, could be given to a family than to say: I found therein the Word of God, not hid under a bushel, but set on a candlestick, so that it gave light to the whole house (Matthew 5:15).
2 Kings 22:9-10. Nothing which is undertaken with zeal and faith to glorify the name of God ever remains unblessed. Shaphan brought to his master the greatest and best treasure possible out of the temple which was falling to ruin.—The Book of books is there to be read by every one, king or beggar. The minister was not ashamed to read it before the king, and the king was not ashamed to listen with the utmost attention.
2 Kings 22:11-14. The Impression which the Divine Word made on the King when he had heard it. (a) He rent his garments (sorrow and grief on account of the transgressions of the people, horror in view of the divine judgments. Pfaff. Bib.: How profitable it is to have such respect for the word of God and to be terrified at His threats! If the word of God had such effect upon us, how much better it would be for us). (b) He asks how the threatened judgments may be averted. (Wherever the word penetrates to the heart, there the question always follows: What shall I do? Acts 2:37. Felix trembled, but he said: “When I have a more convenient season,” &c., Acts 24:25.)—Würt. Summ.: When we hear of God’s threats against sin, let us not allow them to pass as idle winds, but take them to heart and seek the means of grace. We must only ask of the Apostles and Prophets who wrote as they were impelled by the Holy Ghost. God speaks with us through their words. His answer is: Repent, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and forsake sin.
2 Kings 22:14. See Histor. and Eth. § 4.—Starke: True fear of God is humble and honors the gifts of God wherever it finds them, but in itself least of all.
2 Kings 22:15-20. The Oracle of the Prophetess a Threat for the people (2 Kings 22:15-17), and a Promise for the King (2 Kings 22:18-20).—The Lord will bring temporal misfortune upon the city which despises and scorns His law; what will He do to that which rejects His Gospel? 2 Timothy 1:8-9.—Those who humble themselves at the word of the law will come to the grave in peace. The just are taken away before the calamity comes (Isaiah 57:1). If the Lord takes thee early away from the earth, submit to His will and say: Lord, let now thy servant depart in peace, as Thou hast said (Luke 2:29).
2 Kings 23:1-25. Josiah’s Great Work of Reformation. (a) He renews the covenant on the basis of the newly discovered law-book, 2 Kings 23:1-3. (b) He puts an end pitilessly to all idolatrous worship in the kingdom, 2 Kings 23:4-20. (c) He restores the legitimate worship with the celebration of the Passover, 2 Kings 23:21-25.—Every true reformation must proceed from the word of God, and have that as its basis; then it is strong, not only in destroying and denying, but also in building up and restoring (Luther and the reformers).
2 Kings 23:1-3. The king collects the entire people and lays the law-book before them; not until after they have approved does he begin the work. The civil and spiritual authorities ought not to proceed violently and in self-will in matters of the highest importance for Church and State, nor to force the consciences of the people. They ought to secure the assent of the latter. The entire people, small and great, learned and unlearned, ought to be made acquainted with the word of God, so that no one can plead ignorance as an excuse. To deny to the people the right to read the Word of God is not to reform, but to destroy. Kyburz: Josiah caused the light which he had received to shine to all; so do ye also. We ought not to enjoy any treasure which we discover without sharing it with others.—The people joined in the covenant outwardly but not heartily, therefore it had no permanence. How often now a whole congregation promises obedience to God and does not keep it. Do not expect hearty conversion everywhere where you hear assent to the word of God (Matthew 7:21; Isaiah 29:13).
2 Kings 23:4-20. Würt. Summ.: Here we may see that when God’s word is laid aside people fall into all kinds of vice. So it was under the papacy. If we observe the word of God we shall be saved from sin and error.—Although the civil authorities ought to apply no force to conscience, yet they ought to punish murder and licentiousness, no matter what may be the pretence under which they are committed. The more severely and more pitilessly they do this, the more honor they deserve.—Weeds grow most rapidly; they can only be destroyed by being pulled up by the roots.—The abominations which took root in Israel were a proof of what St. Paul says, Romans 1:21-28. In times of corruption, and against inveterate evils, mild measures are of no avail, but only the utmost severity, which has no respect of persons. Ecclesiastics who, instead of being pastors of the people, become their seducers, are doubly worthy of punishment, and ought to be removed without mercy.
2 Kings 23:16-17. Starke: Divine prophecies will certainly be fulfilled at last, though the fulfilment may be delayed so long that it seems as if it would never follow (1 Kings 13:2; 1 Kings 13:31).
2 Kings 23:18. The Same: The bones of departed saints ought to be left in their graves and not to be carried about or displayed.
2 Kings 23:21-24. The building up of a new life must follow upon the eradication of sin. The Passover cannot be celebrated until all the old leaven is removed. The Passover was the feast with which each new year began; we also have a passover or Easter lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).—The festivals and fasts are the frame-work of the common life of the congregation; where they are neglected this life is decaying. If Israel had kept up the celebration of its appointed feasts, it would never have fallen so low.
2 Kings 23:25-27. Why did the Lord not return from His anger? Not because Josiah’s efforts were not pure and sincere (on the contrary, they proceeded from pure zeal, and perfect love, and the best intention), but because the people were not converted with their king. They only assented externally and in form; in their hearts they were obstinate and perverse (Jeremiah 25:3-7).—Roos: Jeremiah seems to have fallen on a good time with his warnings and exhortations to repentance, but the contents of his books show that such was not the case. This should be a warning to those who look to the authorities for the chief power to convert men, and do not wish to act without them.—Luther: Before God inflicts a severe judgment he always grants a great illumination. Therefore a great judgment will fall upon those who now neglect the Gospel.
2 Kings 23:29-30. See 2 Chronicles 35:0. The early death of the king was no punishment for him, for he was thus gathered in peace to his fathers, but it was a chastisement for his unrepentant people, who now lamented him and saw, when it was too late, what noble purposes he had had in their behalf.
2 Kings 22:5; 2 Kings 22:5.—The chetib, יִתְנֶה, is altogether to be preferred to the keri, יִתְנוּהוּ—Bähr. [The E. V. follows the keri. Böttcher’s explanation is to be preferred. He retains the chetib and punctuates יִתְנֶהָ, explaining the suffix as an irregularity in gender. Cf. Gramm., note on 2 Kings 16:17, and Böttcher § 877, e.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 22:5; 2 Kings 22:5.—[Here also the chetib, בְּבֵית, is to be preferred to the keri בֵּית. Cf. Jeremiah 40:5; Jeremiah 12:15. בֵּית, in 2 Kings 22:9, cannot prove the contrary.—Bähr.
2 Kings 22:9; 2 Kings 22:9.—[They had emptied out the money from receptacles into which it had been put by the priests as it was offered from time to time by the people, and in which it was stored, so that it was “found” there, as the text says, literally.
2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 22:13.—[Literally, “written upon,” or “against us.”
2 Kings 23:3; 2 Kings 23:3.—[Literally: stood in. Probably they signified their acquiescence and participation by standing in a certain place. Hence it means “joined in.” So Keil, Thenius, Luther, De Wette, Bähr, Bunsen. Maurer and Gesenius take it to mean persist or persevere, which would be the modern colloquial significance of the “stood to” of the E. V., but is not the proper sense here.
2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:4.—[ונשׂא; the strict rule of the language would here require the imperf. consec. Other instances of laxity in the use of this form occur in late books, Jeremiah 37:15; Ezekiel 9:7; Ezekiel 37:7; Ezekiel 37:10; Daniel 12:5, and in the book of Ecclesiastes. (Böttcher § 982, II.)
2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:5.—[ויקטר; that one might offer׃ the subject is the indef. sing. French, on, Germ. man. The singular, however, is very remarkable, and the text may be incorrect. The versions all translate as if it were לְקַטֵּר, “for which וַיְקַטֵּר is probably an error of the pen” (Keil). Böttcher takes the imperf. consec. as a pluperfect, because it follows another plup., and compares Genesis 31:34, and 1 Samuel 19:18.—”Whom the kings of Judah had appointed and [who, i.e. any one amongst them] had offered incense.” This makes good sense, but the change from passive to active, and from plur. to sing, is awkward, and the grammatical principles are not clear.
2 Kings 23:9; 2 Kings 23:9.—[Such is the force of the imperf. “They might not,” i.e., they were not allowed to.
2 Kings 23:11; 2 Kings 23:11.—[Literally: he caused to cease i.e.., these horses of the sun had been kept as an act of worship to the sun. He took them away and put an end to the arrangement.
2 Kings 23:24; 2 Kings 23:24.—[הָקִים, set upright, i.e., that he might introduce the institutions and customs prescribed in the law and establish them in successful operation.—W. G. S.]
The Monarchy From The Reign Of Jehoahaz To That Of Zedekiah
(2 Kings 23:31 to 2 Kings 25:30)
A.—The Reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah
2 Kings 23:31 to 2 Kings 25:7
31Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that his fathers had done. 33And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands [took him captive] at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign1 in Jerusalem; and put the land to [laid upon the land] a tribute of a hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold. 34And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah 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: 35And Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold 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 [each] one according to his taxation [assessment], to give it unto Pharaohnechoh.
36Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37And he did that which was evil in the sight of 2 Kings 24:1 the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. 2And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy [devastate] it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by 3his servants the prophets. Surely [Only] at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to [in]2 all that he did; 4And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon. 5Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they 6not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. 7And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.
8Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that his father had done. 10At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came3 up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. 12And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his 13[the king of Babylon’s] reign. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. 14And he carried away [captive] all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. 15And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. 17And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
18Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according [like] to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence [.] that [omit that; insert And] Zedekiah rebelled 2 Kings 25:1 against the king of Babylon. And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched 2against it; and they built forts [siege-works] against it round about. And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 3And on the ninth day of the fourth [omit fourth]4 month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. 4And the city was broken up [a breach was made in the city], and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden (now the Chaldees were against the city round about [had invested the city]:) and the king5 went the way toward the plain. 5And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. 6So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. 7And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and [he] put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and [they] bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 23:31. Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old. This son of Josiah is called by Jeremiah (22:11) Shallum (שַׁלֻּם), which name, according to Hengstenberg, Keil, and Schlier, is significant, and means: “He who shall be recompensed,” referring to his fate (2 Kings 23:33-34). But why should this king be expressly so named when others, as, for instance, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, met with a similar fate (chaps. 24:15; 25:7)? According to Junius, Hitzig, and Thenius, Jeremiah gave him the name Shallum, with reference to his reign of three months (2 Kings 15:13), in the same manner as Jezebel named Jehu “Zimri, murdered of his master” (2 Kings 9:31). But this also is forced and invented. In 1 Chronicles 3:15, in the enumeration of the sons of Josiah, he is called Shallum instead of Jehoahaz, but we may be certain that the chronicler did not put in a “symbolical” name, which the prophet only once used with particular significance and emphasis, by the side of three other actual names, and in a dry genealogical list. Shallum was the name which this king actually bore before his accession to the throne. When he became king he received another name, just as Eliakim and Mattaniah did (2 Kings 23:34; 2 Kings 24:17). Shallum took the name Jehoahaz, i.e., He-whom-Jehovah-sustains. The people made him king in place of his elder brother, and Shallum seemed a name of evil omen, inasmuch as the former king Shallum [of Israel] only reigned for one month. According to Josephus, Jehoahaz reigned three months “and ten days.”
2 Kings 23:33. And Pharaoh-necho took him captive at Riblah in the land of Hamath. וַיַּאַסְרְהוּ is generally translated: he bound him, or put him in bands, but אסר has also “the primary meaning, to make captive, without the notion of fettering, Genesis 42:16” (Gesenius), and, taking into consideration 2 Kings 17:4, this more general signification is here to be preferred.—The city of Riblah (now the village Ribleh) belonged to the district of the Syrian city Hamath at the foot of Mt. Hermon (Antilebanon), on the river Orontes, that is, therefore, on the northernmost boundary of Palestine towards Damascus (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14). Riblah lay in a large and fruitful plain on the high-way which led, by way of the Euphrates, from Palestine to Babylon. At a later time Nebuchadnezzar also established his headquarters there (2Ki 25:6; 2 Kings 25:20-21. See Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 323). It can hardly be the same Riblah which is mentioned in Numbers 34:11 (see Keil on that passage). If Necho had already advanced, since the battle of Megiddo in which Josiah fell (2 Kings 23:29), on his way to the Euphrates, as far as Riblah, it cannot be that, during the three months that Jehoahaz reigned, he had also made a detour to Jerusalem and besieged and taken that city. Shalmaneser spent three years in besieging and taking Samaria, which was not so strongly fortified (2 Kings 17:5). Moreover, Necho did not probably “quit the main army without great necessity while it was advancing against a powerful enemy” (Winer). The text says distinctly that he took Jehoahaz prisoner in Riblah and not in Jerusalem, and it gives no support to Keil’s statement, that, while the main army advanced slowly towards Riblah, “he sent a detachment to Jerusalem to take that city and dethrone the king.” In that case he must have captured the king in Jerusalem and not in Riblah. The attempt has been made to sustain this notion that Necho took Jerusalem by a statement of Herodotus (II. 159): μετά τήν μάχην (at Megiddo) Κάδυτιν πόλιν τῆς Συρίης ἐοῦσαν μεγάλην εἶλε. But it is now universally admitted that Κάδυτις cannot mean Jerusalem, but rather that it was some sea-port (cf. Herod. III. 5), although this does not necessarily imply that it was Gaza, as Hitzig and Starke affirm. [It is Kadesh, a city of Syria, on the Orontes, near to Emessa, the ruins of which have lately been discovered.—Lenormant.] We are not told how Jehoahaz came to Riblah, but it certainly was not, as the old expositors supposed, with a large army in the intention of repeating his father’s attempt to arrest Necho’s advance, for the army of Judah had perished in the battle of Megiddo. According to Josephus, who says nothing of any capture of Jerusalem by Necho, the latter summoned Jehoahaz to come to his camp (μεταπέμπεται πρὸς αὐτὸν), and took him captive when he came. This is more probable than that he came of his own accord, “perhaps to seek from the victor the ratification of his election to the throne” (Thenius). However that may be, he was unexpectedly made a captive at Riblah. We may infer, as Ewald does, from Ezekiel 19:4, where he is likened to a young lion whom “the nations” had taken “in their pit” (certainly not, therefore, at Jerusalem), that he was “treacherously” bound and carried away captive to Egypt. [See the Supplem. Note below, at the end of this section.]—The words בִּמְּלֹךְ בִּירוּשָׁלָםִ are translated by Keil: “When he had become king in Jerusalem.” That, however, had been said just before in 2 Kings 23:31, and is understood from the connection as a matter of course, so that it would be a mere idle remark. Neither can the translation: “Because he had exalted himself to be king in Jerusalem” (Dereser), or, dum regnaret (Vatablus) be sustained. We must, therefore, adopt the keri מִמְּלֹךְ, as is done by the Chaldee version, the Sept. (τοῦ μὴ βασιλεύειν ἐν ’Ιερουσαλήμ), and the Vulg. (ne regnaret in Jerusalem). This is further confirmed by the parallel passage (2 Chronicles 36:3) in which the verse is abbreviated: “And the king of Egypt put him down (וַיְסִירֵהוּ) [i.e., removed him, set him aside] at Jerusalem.” (The Sept. have in that place ἔδησεν which represents the Hebrew of Kings, and they have here μετέστησεν which represents the Hebrew of Chronicles.) In 3 Esra 1:3 also we find: καὶ� ’Ιερουσαλήμ. It is not necessary to suppose, with Ewald, that מִמְּלֹךְ was “dropped out” from 2 Chronicles 36:3; still less, with Thenius, to read in this place, וַיְסִירֵחוּ instead of וַיַּאַסְרֵהוּ.—And laid upon the land a tribute. The relative amount of the silver and the gold is remarkable, one hundred talents of silver to one of gold, but, as the same figures are given in 2 Chronicles 36:3 and in 3 Esra 1:36, we are not justified in changing them, as Thenius does, appealing to 2 Kings 18:14, and adopting the statement of the Sept. that there were ten talents of gold instead of one. It may be that Necho wanted silver, which was rarer in the Orient, or that he did not wish to alienate the country too much from himself by pitiless severity. The entire tribute amounted, according to Thenius, to 230,000 thaler [$165,600]; according to Keil the gold amounted to 25,000 thaler [$18,000], and the silver to 250,000 thaler [$180,000].
2 Kings 23:34. And Pharaoh-necho made Eliakim, son of Josiah, king, &c. After the victory at Megiddo and the death of Josiah, Necho regarded himself as master of the country, and therefore he would not recognize as king Jehoahaz, who had been elevated to the throne by the people without his (Necho’s) consent. Possibly also, as has often been assumed, either the elder brother Eliakim, who had been passed over, had appealed to Necho, or the Egyptian party had, by its intrigues, induced Necho, after setting aside Jehoahaz, to appoint the elder brother, and not a foreigner, for instance one of his own generals. He changed his name, as was the customary sign of subjection and vassalage (2 Kings 24:17; Daniel 1:7). It appears that the choice of a name was left to Eliakim, who only changed—אֶל to—יְהוֹ in the composition of his former name so that its signification: God (Jehovah) will-establish, remained the same. Whether he did this “in intentional contradiction to the humiliation of the royal dynasty of David, which Jeremiah and the other prophets had threatened” (Keil), is very doubtful. Menzel very mistakenly infers that the name Jehoiakim pleased Necho better “on account of the connection with the Egyptian moon-God.”—And took Jehoahaz away, לקח does not mean here: “He had taken prisoner,” any more than it does in 2 Kings 23:30. This much has already been stated in 2 Kings 23:33. It only means that he did not leave him in Riblah where he had taken him captive, but took him away from there (Genesis 2:15). The Sept. and the Vulg. read, instead of וַיּבֵא ,וַיָּבֹא; et duxit, and in Chronicles we find וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, but וַיָּבֹא implies that Jehoahaz came to Egypt before Necho returned thither.—”In 2 Kings 23:35 the details in regard to the payment of the tribute imposed by Necho are given before the history of the reign of Jehoiakim is entered upon, because the payment of that tribute was one of the conditions on which he was elevated to the throne” (Keil). אַךְ = nevertheless, but in order to obtain the sum; he did not pay it out of his own means. He demanded contributions “from each one, even from the humblest inhabitant” (Ewald). This place shows that by “the people of the land” we have not to understand, as Thenius does, the “national militia,” or the “male population fit for war.”
2 Kings 23:36. Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old. He was therefore two years older than Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31), and must have been begotten by Josiah in the fourteenth year of the latter’s age. His mother was not the same person as the mother of Jehoahaz. Rumah, her native place, is probably identical with Arumah in the neighborhood of Shechem (Judges 9:41).—
2 Kings 24:1. In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up. On the name נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּר (Jeremiah generally, and Ezekiel always, writes it נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר), its different forms, and its significance, see Gesenius, Thesaurus, II. p. 840, and Niebuhr, Gesch. Assyr. s. 41. [The name is Nabu-kudurri-uzur, and means either Nebo-protects-the-youth (Oppert), or, Nebo-is-the-protector-of-landmarks (Sir H. Rawlinson)—Rawlinson, Five Great Mon. III. 80.] He was the son of Nabopolassar, and he appears here for the first time in this history. The question as to the time in Jehoiakim’s reign at which he made this expedition can be answered from other data with tolerable certainty. According to Jeremiah 25:1, the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign was the first of Nebuchadnezzar, and according to Jeremiah 46:2 this fourth year of Jehoiakim was the year in which Nebuchadnezzar inflicted a decisive defeat upon Necho near Carchemish, a large well-fortified city at the junction of the Chaboras and the Euphrates (Winer. R.-W.-B. I. s. 211 sq.). Moreover, according to Jeremiah 36:1, Jeremiah commissioned Baruch, in this fourth year of Jehoiakim, to write down his discourses in a book which was read in public on a great fast day which was held in the ninth month, that is, towards the end of the fifth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 24:9). This fast-day was not ordained on account of a misfortune which had already been experienced. “in order, by humiliation and submission, to turn aside the wrath of God, and to implore the divine pity” (Keil), but “evidently, because Jehoiakim was alarmed at the approach of the Chaldeans, and saw in it danger of a calamity to the country which might perhaps yet be averted” (Ewald); for Jehoiakim, when he heard that the book had been read, commanded it to be brought, and then cast it into the fire, because there was written in it: “The king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land” (22 Kings 24:29, cf. also Jeremiah 24:3). At the time of this fastday, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar had not yet come. His coming was something to be looked forward to even in the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim. It follows that his expedition took place, at the very earliest, at the end of the fifth, or at the beginning of the sixth, year of Jehoiakim’s reign. How far southward he penetrated, whether as far as Egypt, as some suppose, is uncertain. The supposition that he at this time captured the strongly fortified city of Jerusalem (Keil), and even took captive a part of the inhabitants of the city or country, as he did at a later time under Jehoiachin, is not sustained by anything in the Book of Kings or in Jeremiah. It is inconceivable that he should have done so and yet no mention of it be found in Scripture. This much only is certain: that Jehoiakim then “became subject to him for three years,” that is, until the eigth or ninth year of his reign (Jeremiah 24:1), which may well have come to pass without the capture of Jerusalem, or the deportation of its inhabitants, although we do not know the manner in which it did come about. We have, therefore, to present to our minds the course of events as follows: After Necho had defeated Josiah at Megiddo and taken Jehoahaz captive at Riblah, and had made Jehoiakim king, he pushed on northeasterly towards the Euphrates, but he was met and so severely defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish that he was obliged to give up his plan of conquering Assyria and retreat to Egypt. The victor, Nebuchadnezzar, then advanced through the territory east of Jordan, where he had little opposition to encounter (Knobel, Prophet. II. s. 227), and made the king of Judah, who had for five years been a vassal of the king of Egypt, subject to himself. After three years, however, Jehoiakim revolted, but for the remaining two or three years of his reign he was hard pressed by bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites, who were probably incited to invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, for he was too much occupied in other directions, in consequence of the death of his father, to march against Judah in person. When he found opportunity he appeared in person with an army “to punish the revolt, and he took vengeance for it upon the son [Jehoiachin] who had recently succeeded Jehoiakim” (Thenius), especially because Jehoiachin had not at his accession, immediately submitted to the Babylonian authority.
Against this natural and simple conception of the course of events two biblical texts may be cited. 2 Chronicles 36:6 reads: “Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried [some] of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.” It is not here asserted that Jehoiakim was actually brought as a captive to Babylon, and this can, in fact, hardly have been the fact, for he was king in Jerusalem not eight or nine but eleven years (2 Kings 23:36; 2 Chronicles 36:5). It would be necessary, therefore, to assume that he was set at liberty again and came back to Jerusalem as king, of which we have no hint anywhere, and which is highly improbable. Certainly he did not die in Babylon (2 Kings 24:6; cf. Jeremiah 22:17-19). The Sept. filled out the meagre story of Jehoiakim in Chronicles from this account, but omitted entirely the words: “And bound him in fetters,” &c., evidently because they considered them incorrect. In view of the remarkable brevity and superficiality with which the chronicler treats the history of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, it appears, as Hitzig supposes (note on Daniel 1:2), that he confused the two, for, according to our more detailed and more accurate account, the incidents which he mentions as having occurred to Jehoiakim really happened to Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:13-15). Josephus (Antiq. x. 6, 1) seems to have made the same mistake, for he confuses the history of the two kings. He says that Jehoiakim, on the promise that no harm should happen to him, admitted Nebuchadnezzar into the city, but that the Babylonian broke his word and put to death the king and the principal men threw the body of the king under the wall, and left it unburied, took about 3,000 Jews, among whom was Ezekiel, away captive to Babylon, and placed Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, on the throne. Then that, fearing lest Jehoiachin might, out of revenge for his father’s murder, lead the city to revolt, he sent an army to Jerusalem, but gave an oath to Jehoiachin that, in case the city should be taken, no harm should befall him. That then the king of Judah surrendered, in order to spare the city, but was nevertheless taken away into captivity with 10,000 other captives. It appears that Josephus was not able to harmonize the account in Chronicles with the account here, and so he mixed them both up together, not writing history but inventing it.—
The other text which may be cited against the construction of the history above given is Daniel 1:1 : “In the third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem and besieged it (וַיַּצַר [pressed it hard] see Isaiah 21:2; Judges 9:31; Esther 8:11), and the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God,” &c. It is true that this passage does not say that the city was besieged and taken, and that then the king was bound and taken away to Babylon. When the Chaldeans had driven the Egyptians out of Palestine, Jehoiakim found himself in great distress, and, in order not to lose his crown and his kingdom, he surrendered to the king of Babylon, gave him some of the temple ornaments and utensils, and, probably enough, also gave him certain hostages, among whom was Daniel. But the statement that this took place in the third year of Jehoiakim does not agree with the statements above quoted from Jeremiah. No one has yet succeeded in removing the discrepancy, although very many attempts have been made (see a critical analysis of these attempts by Rösch in Herzog’s Real-Encyc. XVIII. s. 464). The latest of these attempts, that of Keil, which insists that we “must regard the third year of Jehoiakim, in Daniel 1:1, as the terminus a quo of Nebuchadnezzar’s coming, i.e., must understand that statement to mean that Nebuchadnezzar began the expedition against Judah in that year; that Necho was defeated at Carchemish in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s fourth year, and that, in consequence of this victory, Jerusalem was taken and Jehoiakim was made tributary in the same year,” is unsatisfactory especially in view of Jeremiah 36:9. There is scarcely any escape remaining except to assume that Daniel reckoned from some other point of time which we cannot now specify. It is not admissible to give his one statement the preference over the numerous chronological statements of Jeremiah, since these are consistent with one another, and with the historical connection, and are, moreover, as will be shown below in the review of the chronology of this period, in perfect harmony with all the other chronological data both in Jeremiah and in the Book of Kings, while the statement in Daniel, if it is taken as fixed and correct, introduces confusion. [See the Supplement. Note below.]
2 Kings 24:2. And the Lord sent against him bands, &c. It is not stated what impelled Jehoiakim after three years to try to throw off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps his courage rose again when Nebuchadnezzar had withdrawn and was fully occupied in other parts of his immense kingdom. Perhaps also he hoped for aid from Egypt. Before Nebuchadnezzar himself could come, “bands” (גְּדוּדִים in distinction from חַיִל, 2 Kings 25:1, not an organized army) devasted the country, though they could not take the capital. “All the nationalities here mentioned had no doubt been obliged to recognize Nebuchadnezzar’s supremacy, and they gratified their own hate against Judah at the same time that they served his purposes” (Thenius). The וֹ in לְהֵאַּבִידוֹ does not refer to Jehoiakim (Luther: dass sie ihn umbrächten [that they might put him to death]), but to “Judah” which immediately precedes. This is evident from 2 Kings 24:3. On 2 Kings 24:2-4 Starke observes: “It is expressly said: ‘The Lord sent,’ and again: ‘According to the word of the Lord,’ and in 2 Kings 24:3 again: ‘Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this’ (i.e., it came to pass only because the Lord had commanded it), and again in 2 Kings 24:4 : ‘The Lord would not pardon,’ in order that in all this the hand of God might appear and be recognized, and that men might not think that these judgments came upon Judah by accident, or merely on account of the physical strength of the Babylonians.” The author means to say that the judgments which had long been threatened and predicted by the prophets (Isaiah, Micah, Huldah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah) now began. The invasion of all these bands on every side was the presage of the downfall of the kingdom, for from this time on came one misfortune after the other, and the kingdom and nation moved on steadily towards their downfall.
2 Kings 24:3. Only at the commandment of the Lord, i.e., it came only for the reason that God had so willed it. Instead of עַל־פִּי Ewald and Thenius desire to read עַל־אַף as in 2 Kings 24:20, i.e., because of the wrath of God. The Sept. have: πλὴν θυμὸς κυρίου ἦν ἐπὶ τὸν ’Ιούδαν; the Vulg. has: per verbum. The change in the text is not necessary. For the sins of Manasseh, see notes on chap. 21. The sin of Manasseh was far greater and heavier than that of Jeroboam. Judah gave itself up to this sin so entirely that not only were all the warnings and exhortations of the prophets ineffectual, but also the stern measures of Josiah could not effect anything in opposition; on the contrary, as we see from the words of Jeremiah, after his death this sin once more permeated the national life. The sins of Manasseh were not, therefore, avenged upon the people, but, because they persisted in them, they fell under the judgments of God. [That is, the nation was not punished under Jehoiakim for sins which Manasseh and his contemporaries had committed. The “sins of Manasseh” had become a designation for a certain class of offences, and a particular form of public and social depravity, which was introduced by Manasseh, but of which generation after generation continued to be guilty.—W. G. S.] Keil is mistaken when he thus states the connection between 2 Kings 24:1 and 2 Kings 24:2, and the following verses: “After God had given the nation into subjection to the Babylonian supremacy, as a punishment for its sins, every revolt against that power was a revolt against Him.”—In 2 Kings 24:5 we find the last reference to the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah. The history of Jehoiakim therefore seems to have formed the conclusion to this book.
2 Kings 24:6. So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers. The details which are given elsewhere in mentioning the death of a king, as to his burial and the place of his sepulture, are here wanting, certainly not through accident or error. Jeremiah says of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 22:19 : “He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem,” and, Jeremiah 36:30 “He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat and in the night to the frost.” As the statement that he “slept with his fathers” means neither more nor less than that he came to death, this text does not exclude or deny the fulfilment of the prophecy; nor can the statement which is interpolated in the Sept.: καὶ ἐκοιμήθη ’Ιωακεὶμ μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ ἐτάφη ἐν γανοζὰν μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἑαυτοῦ, for which there are no corresponding words in the Hebrew, avail, as Thenius believes, to prove the non-fulfilment of the prophecy. On the contrary, Ewald infers from the prophecy, which, however, he says “was written, in its present form, after the event,” that the following is the circumstantial story of Jehoiakim’s death: “Probably he had complied with a treacherous invitation of the enemy to visit his camp, for the purpose of making a treaty, and as soon as he came out he was taken prisoner in the very sight of his own capital. But as he resisted with rage and violence, he was borne away by force, and shamefully put to death. Even an honorable burial, for which his family no doubt entreated, was harshly refused.” This representation of the incident goes beyond the prophecy even, and builds history upon it. Winer supposes that Jehoiakim’s body was thrown out after, and in consequence of, the capture of the city in the reign of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:10), “on which occasion either the enemy, or perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves, showed their rage against the hated king,” but, according to Jeremiah, he met with no burial at all. We therefore limit ourselves to the assumption, which is also made by Keil, “that he perished in a battle with some one of the irregular marauding bands mentioned above, and was not buried.”
2 Kings 24:7. And the king of Egypt came not again any more, &c. This remark is here inserted in order to show under what circumstances Jehoiachin succeeded his father (2 Kings 24:6), and how it came that he only reigned for so short a time (2 Kings 24:8). Necho had retired finally from Asia after such losses that he could not venture again to meet his victorious enemy, therefore Judah could expect no more support from him. Much less could it attempt alone to resist the conqueror from whom it had revolted. The river of Egypt is not the Nile, but the stream now known as Arish, which forms the southern boundary of Palestine (1 Kings 8:65; Isaiah 27:12).
2 Kings 24:8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old, &c. The form of the name יְהוֹיָכִין which occurs here and in Chronicles (II. 36:8, 9), is the full and original form. The signification is “He-whom-Jehovah-confirms.” In Ezekiel 1:2 we find יוֹיָכִין; in Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4 : יְכָנְיָהוּ; and in Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 22:28 : בָּנְיָהוּ, which last is probably a popular abbreviation of the name. Instead of eighteen years the chronicler gives eight years, evidently through an omission of י = 10. The grounds adduced by Hitzig (note on Jeremiah 22:28) in favor of eight are swept away by ver 15 of this chapter, where the king’s “wives” are mentioned. There is no reason to cast suspicion upon the more accurate statement of the chronicler: “three months and ten days,” as Thenius does. Elnathan belonged to the שָׁרִים at the court of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 26:22; Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:25.
2 Kings 24:10. At that time, &c. The chronicler says instead: “When the year was expired” [more correctly it would read: “At the turning-point of the year,” i.e., either the spring equinox, or the beginning of the Jewish year, both of which came at nearly the same time; the time at which military movements were commenced], i.e., in the spring, not “late in the summer or in the autumn” (Thenius). Nebuchadnezzar sent out his generals (עֲבָדִים), in the first place, with the army to besiege the city. Afterwards he came himself, in order to be present at the capture (see notes on 2 Kings 24:2).—And Jehoiachin, king of Judah, went out, &c., 2 Kings 24:12. יָצָא, as in 2 Kings 18:31, is the ordinary expression for besieged who go out to surrender to the besiegers (1 Samuel 11:3; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:17). Jehoiachin perceived that the city would not be able to hold out very long, and therefore determined to surrender, in the hope of meeting with grace from Nebuchadnezzar, and of being allowed to keep his kingdom, though as a vassal. He therefore went out with his mother as the Gebirah (1 Kings 15:13), and with his ministers and officers, but his hopes were all disappointed. Nebuchadnezzar distrusted him, not without reason, and he desired to punish the father in the son. וַיִּקַּח, he seized him, not “he received him graciously” (Luther and the Calw. Bib.), for, if the latter were the meaning, he would have restored him as a vassal, but he dethroned him and took him into exile. The eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, who became king in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 25:1), fell in the year after the eleven-year reign of Jehoiakim had closed. On Jeremiah 52:28 sq. see below.
2 Kings 24:13. And he carried out thence, &c., that is, from the city which he had entered after seizing the king and his chief men. In the first place he took all there was in the treasuries of the temple and the royal palace, and then he took the utensils of the temple. The meaning of וַיְקַצֵּץ is not altogether clear. “To tear off the gold surface” (Keil) is a meaning which is not applicable to “all the vessels,” for many of these were entirely of gold, as, for instance, the candlesticks, and such, we may be sure, he did not leave behind. The Sept. have συνέκοψε, the Vulg. concidit or confregit (2 Kings 18:16), hence Thenius renders it: “to crush into shapeless masses,” but, if this had been done, Cyrus would not have been able to give these articles back again to the Jews, as it is stated in Ezekiel 1:7-11 that he did do. We must understand it to mean, to tear away violently, avellit (Winer), for the most of these articles were no doubt fastened to the floor of the temple. הֵיכָל does not mean the temple as a whole, but the sanctuary, the “dwelling,” all the articles in which were of gold. Nebuchadnezzar did not take away the brazen vessels from the forecourt until he destroyed Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:13 sq.).—As the Lord had said, 2 Kings 20:17; cf. Jeremiah 15:13; Jeremiah 17:3.
2 Kings 24:14. And he carried away captive all Jerusalem. He left only the poorest and humblest of the population, because nothing was to be feared from them (see Jeremiah 39:10 : “the poor of the people which had nothing”). 2 Kings 24:14 states in general, and in round numbers, what persons were taken into exile. There were two classes: first, the שָׂרִים, the chiefs [E. V. “princes”], not the military chiefs, but the chief men of rank, the nobles, and the גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל, i.e., the mighty men of wealth, the rich (2 Kings 15:20); and second, הֶחָרָשׁ, the artisans, the workers either in brass, or iron, or wood (Isaiah 44:12-13; Genesis 4:22; 1 Kings 7:14), and הַמִּסְגֵר, i.e., not “common laborers who broke stone and carried burdens” (Hitzig on Jeremiah 24:1), but, literally, one who shuts in, encloses, or locks up, from סגר, to close, or shut up, and so, according to Ewald: “persons who are skilled in siege operations (from הסגיר, to invest or enclose, cf. Jeremiah 13:19),” but we prefer to understand by it locksmiths, inasmuch as these also made weapons (1 Samuel 13:19). When these persons were taken away into captivity the rest were deprived of the power to revolt or to make war. There were in all ten thousand of the exiles. 2 Kings 24:15-16 are not a mere repetition of 2 Kings 24:14; they particularize what 2 Kings 24:14 stated in general. The king and his court are mentioned first, then the אוּלֵי הָאָרֶץ (keri, אֵילֵי), that is, the mighty men of the land, who are included in the שָׂרִים in 2 Kings 24:14, then the אַנְשֵׁי הַחַיִל, who are there called גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל. There were seven thousand of the rich and noble, and one thousand of the two classes of artisans. הַכֹּל in 2 Kings 24:16 (not וְכֹל) “gathers in one all who have been mentioned, and it is then specified in regard to them that they were all men in the prime of life, and that they were familiar with the use of weapons” (Thenius). We see from Jeremiah 29:0. that there were also priests and prophets among them, and according to Josephus, (Antiq. x. 6, 3) especially ὁ προφήτης ’Ιεζείλος παῖς ὤν. Cf. Ezekiel 1:1-3. 2 Kings 24:17. Mattaniah was, according to 1 Chronicles 3:15, the third son of Josiah, so that he was the uncle of the exiled king Jehoiachin (Jeremiah 37:1). אָחִיו, 2 Chronicles 36:10, must not, therefore, be translated: “his brother,” but: “his cousin,” or, “his relative,” a sense in which it frequently occurs. (Sept. ἀδελφὸν τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ). On the change of name see notes on 2 Kings 23:34. Nebuchadnezzar did not choose the name, he only approved of the new name chosen by the king, as Necho had done in the case of Jehoiakim. מַתָּן, gift, is changed to צֶדֶק, justice, righteousness, so that the name means: “the righteousness of Jehovah,” that is, “he by whom Jehovah executes justice.” It is hardly probable that the king meant by this name to identify himself with יְהוָֹה צִדְקֵנוּ promised by Jeremiah (23:6), as Hengstenberg and Von Gerlach think; it is much more likely that the prophet took occasion from the king’s name, with which his character did not at all correspond, to promise that one should come to whom alone this name might justly be applied.—Nebuchadnezzar showed himself merciful in that he put another member of the native dynasty on the throne, and did not appoint a stranger and foreigner as viceroy.
2 Kings 24:18. Zedekiah was twenty and one years old. Of the passage from this verse on to the end of the book, Jeremiah 52:1-34 is a duplicate, almost word for word. The only differences are that Jerem. lacks 2 Kings 25:22-26, and 2 Kings lacks Jeremiah 52:28-30. It follows that neither one is borrowed from the other. Moreover there are also a few other slight differences, as, for instance, 2 Kings 25:16-17 compared with Jeremiah 52:20-23. It is certain that the fifty-second chapter of Jeremiah is an appendix to the discourses of that prophet, and that it does not come from his hand, for it is impossible that he should have survived the liberation of Jehoiachin (Jeremiah 52:31). (See the Introd. § 1.) Although it is not true that the text in Kings is “thoroughly corrupt” (Hitzig), yet that in Jerem. is, on the whole, to be preferred, and is therefore the more original. On the other hand, that of Kings has some peculiar excellences, as, for instance, 25:6, 7, 11, 17 compared with Jeremiah 52:9-10; Jeremiah 52:15; Jeremiah 52:20. We are driven to a conclusion similar to that which we reached in regard to the history of Hezekiah (see p. 201), and which is adopted also by Keil and Thenius, that both narratives were borrowed from one source which is now lost.—The mother of Zedekiah was also, according to 2 Kings 23:31, the mother of Jehoahaz; he was, therefore, the full brother of the latter, and the step-brother of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 23:36). On 2 Kings 24:20 see notes on 24:3. The author means to say that, as this king and the people persisted in their evil ways, the judgment which had long been threatened was executed in this reign. The special occasion of it was his revolt from Nebuchadnezzar who had put him upon the throne, and, according to 2 Chronicles 36:13 and Ezekiel 17:13, had taken an oath of fidelity from him. The year of this revolt cannot be accurately determined. At the commencement of his reign he sent an embassy to Babylon, as it seems, in order to bring about the release of the captives who had been carried away under Jehoiachin (Jeremiah 29:3 sq.). In his fourth year he himself went thither with Seraiah, probably with the same intention, but in vain (Jeremiah 51:59). Then came ambassadors from the neighboring peoples who wanted to unite with Zedekiah in a common effort to cast off the Babylonian yoke (Jeremiah 27:3). False prophets encouraged him to agree to this (Jeremiah 28:0). This led him to send to Egypt “that they might give him horses and much people” (Ezekiel 17:15). As the Chaldean army was before Jerusalem in Zedekiah’s ninth year, the revolt must have taken place, at the latest, in his eighth year, but it probably took place in his seventh, or perhaps even earlier.
2 Kings 25:1. And it came to pass in the ninth year, &c. These dates can be given thus accurately to the month and the day, because the Jews were accustomed during the exile to fast on the anniversary of these days of disaster (Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19). It is evident from 2 Kings 25:6 that Nebuchadnezzar did not come to Jerusalem himself, but remained at Riblah (2 Kings 23:33), and sent his army from thence against Jerusalem. According to Jeremiah 34:7 they also besieged Lachish and Azekah, the only two strongholds remaining. The word דָּיֵק cannot mean a “wall” (De Wette), for it stands in contrast with סֹלְלָה as something different (Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:27). It is ordinarily derived from דּוּק speculari, to observe, to watch, and is understood to mean a “watch-tower,” or, collectively, “watch-towers” (Hävernick on Ezekiel 4:2; Gesenius, Keil), but סָבִיב, which does not refer to observation but to an encircling on all sides, does not fit this meaning. The Sept. translate it in Ezekiel 4:2, by προμαχών, a bulwark, a rampart, in Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 21:27 by βελόστασις, a machine for throwing missiles, and this place they translate: περιῳκοδόμησεν ἐπ’ αὐτὴν τεῖχος κύκλῳ; the Vulg. has munitiones. Hitzig understands by it “lines of circumvallation,” and Thenius “the outermost of the siege lines, built only of palisades, and intended to prevent the introduction of supplies,” &c., but this last cannot be so accurately determined. We must, therefore, content ourselves with the less definite meaning, “bulwark,” or, “siege-work.” Vatablus: Machinam bellicam, qualisqualis fuerit.
2 Kings 25:2. Unto the eleventh year, &c. The siege lasted in all one year five months and twenty-seven days, for the city was very strongly fortified (2 Chronicles 32:5; 2 Chronicles 33:14). This is conclusive against the assumption that a capture of the city is implied in 24:1 sq. According to Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:11, the besieging army, or at least a part of it, raised the siege and marched against the Egyptian army which was coming to the help of the Jews. It would thus appear that the siege was interrupted for a time.—Jeremiah gives the date in 2 Kings 25:3 more accurately (see Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6): “In the fourth month, on the ninth [day] of the month.” The first words בַּחֹרֶשׁ הָרְבִיעִי have been omitted by some accident in the version, in Kings, and they must be supplied. How severe the famine was, and what horrors came to pass as a consequence of it, may be seen from Lamentations 2:11-12; Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 4:3-10 (Ezekiel 5:10; Bar 2:3). See also Jeremiah 37:21. The famine did not begin on the ninth of the fourth month, but had become so severe at that time that the people were no longer capable of making a strong resistance; so on that day the enemy was able to storm the city.
2 Kings 25:4. And a breach was made in the city. This breach was on the north side, for, according to Jeremiah 39:3, the leaders of the Chaldean army, when they came in, halted and seated themselves in “the middle gate,” that is, in the gate which was in the wall between the upper, southern city (Zion), and the lower northern city, and which led from one of these into the other. When the king learned of this he took to flight with his warriors by night. In the text before us not only is “Zedekiah, king of Judah” (Jeremiah 39:4) omitted after הָעִיר, but also the predicate יִבְרְחוּ וַיֵּצְאוּ (Jeremiah 39:4; Jeremiah 52:7) is omitted after “men of war.” All the old versions supply at least one of these words. They fled towards the south, because the enemy had penetrated by the north side, and there was no hope of escaping that way, but even on this side they had to fight their way through, for the Chaldeans had invested the entire city (סָבִיב). The attempt derived its only hope of success from the darkness, and from the greater weakness of the besieging force on the south side.—By the way of the gate between, &c. This gate, called the gate of the fountain (Nehemiah 3:15), was at the southern end of the ravine between Ophel and Zion, the Tyropoion. At this point, inasmuch as it was the site of the pool of Siloam and there were cisterns to be protected, and inasmuch also as the formation of the ground made it a convenient place for the enemy to attack (Thenius), two walls had been built, between which was this gate (Sept.: ὀδὸν πύλης τῆς�, and in Jeremiah 52:7 : ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ τείχους καὶ τοῦ προτειχίσματος. This double wall is also mentioned in Isaiah 22:11. The way of the gate is the way through that gate out of the city. It is not quite certain whether the king’s garden was inside or outside of this double wall; Thenius assumes that it was outside (see Map of Jerusalem Before the Exile, appended to his commentary). It is said in Ezekiel 12:12 : “The prince … shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth; they shall dig through the wall (בַקִיר) to carry [him] out thereby.” Here קִיר cannot be understood to refer to either of those walls, for he went through the gate; moreover it would have been impossible to break through such a wall in the night. We must therefore understand it of that wall which the enemy had built all around the city (2 Kings 25:1), and which it was necessary to break through. The fugitives then took the way to the plain (הָעֲרָבָה), that is, to the plains or meadows through which the Jordan flows, and which were called the plain (Joshua 11:2; Joshua 12:3; 2 Samuel 2:29; 2 Samuel 4:7). Their intention was to cross the Jordan and escape, but they were overtaken near Jericho, six hours journey from Jerusalem.
2 Kings 25:6. So they took the king, &c. On Riblah see notes on 2 Kings 23:33. “Nebuchadnezzar was not present at the storming of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:3), he awaited the result in his camp” (Thenius). Instead of the plurals וַיְּדַבְּרוּ and שָׁחֲטוּ in 2 Kings 25:7, we find in Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:9 the singular with Nebuchadnezzar as the subject. Although the latter may be the more original reading, the sense is the same in either case, for Nebuchadnezzar certainly did not put Zedekiah’s sons to death with his own hand; he appointed a tribunal which judged and executed them. Instead of the singular מִשְׁפָּט Jeremiah has, in the places quoted and elsewhere, the plural, מִשְׁפָּטִים. With דִבֶּר it means, to deal with and decide a question of law. This trial cannot have occupied much time, for it was a matter of common notoriety that Zedekiah had broken his oath of allegiance and revolted. The sons of Zedekiah, not all his children, had fled with him. They also were regarded as rebels and put to death, in order to put an end to the dynasty. His daughters were taken away as captives according to Jerem. 41:20. As for Zedekiah himself, he was to suffer a painful punishment as long as he lived. His eyes were put out. This form of punishment was used by the Chaldeans and ancient Persians (Herod. 7:18). Princes are still disabled in this way in Persia when it is desired to deprive them of any prospect of the throne. “A rod of silver (or of brass), heated glowing hot, is passed over the open eye” (Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 15). The Vulg. has oculos ejus effodit, and on Jeremiah 52:11 : oculos eruit. It was also a customary mode of punishment in the Orient to pierce out the eyes (Ctes. Proverbs 5:0Proverbs 5:0). “Plate No. 18 in Botta (Monum. de Nin.) represents a king who is in the act of piercing out with a lance the eyes of a captive of no ordinary rank who kneels before him” (Thenius). See Cassel on Judges 16:21. However the act of piercing out the eyes is not generally expressed by עִוִּרִ, but by נִקַּר, Judges 16:21; 1 Samuel 11:2; Numbers 16:14.—With fetters of brass, and double fetters at that, נְחֻשְׁתַּיםִ. He was doubly fettered hand and foot, and brought to Babylon. In Jeremiah 52:11 the words follow: “And put him in prison till the day of his death.” The Sept. have: εἰς οἰκίαν μύλωνος, evidently having in mind Judges 16:21. The author of the Book of Kings may have thought that this statement was unnecessary, since every person who was in chains was put in the prison as a matter of course. According to Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:10, “All the nobles of Judah” were put to death with the sons of Zedekiah, that is, those who had fled with him. There is no reason to regard this as a false feature of the story borrowed from 2 Kings 25:21, as Thenius does.
[Supplementary Note on contemporaneous history. In the note on p. 247 we brought our notice of contemporaneous history down to the year 640, the year in which Josiah ascended the throne. The commotion of the next sixty years, during which Assyria ceased to be a nation, Egypt was humbled, and the Median and Babylonian empires advanced to the first place, amounted to an historical cataclysm. In the Bible we have references to these movements only when, and in so far as, they affected the fortunes of the Jewish people. This they did in the most important manner, and, in order to understand the influence of the neighboring nations on Judah at this time, it is necessary to have a comprehensive, if not exhaustive, knowledge of the historical movements which were in progress in Asia.
It should be distinctly understood that the history of the period now before us is very obscure. We have no historical inscriptions to guide us, and are thrown upon the authority of literary remains which are imperfect and inconsistent. Our chief authorities, Rawlinson and Lenormant (Sir H. Rawlinson and Oppert) differ very materially. It is therefore to be understood that what is here given is only conjectural and provisional.
The great question in dispute, on which the adjustment of the fragments of information which we possess into a smooth narrative depends, is as to the year in which Nineveh was taken, whether it was in 625 (Rawlinson), or in 606 (Lenormant). The weight of authority is in favor of the latter, though it is open to serious historical objections. It is, at present, impossible to bring this question to a final decision.
In 640 Asshur-edil-ilani (L.), or, Asshur-emidilin (R.) was on the throne of Assyria. His reign ended about 626–5. Rawlinson, putting the fall of Nineveh at this date, identifies this king with the Saracus, or Assaracus, of Abydenus. Lenormant, putting the fall of Nineveh in 606, supposes that Saracus was another and the last king, who reigned from 625 to 606. The last king was far inferior to his ancestors. Under him the empire was unable to meet the attacks which fell upon it.
The Medes, whose first attack on Assyria, under Phraortes, we mentioned above (p. 247), were a hardy mountain people who now arose into prominence. Cyaxares, the successor of Phraortes, made elaborate preparations to renew the attempts at conquest towards the west. He was ready for the attack (Rawl.), or made it (Lenor.), either alone (R.) or in conjunction with the Chaldeans, under Nabopolassar (L.), either in 634 (R.) or in 625 (L.). This attack was interrupted by the appearance of new actors on the scene. A horde of barbarians from the north, Scythia, poured down upon the nations in the Euphrates valley. They were of the same origin as the Goths, Huns, Avari, and Vandals, who appeared in Europe early in the Christian era, and their behavior, whithersoever they came, was the same as that of the barbarians who entered Europe. They poured over Media, Assyria, and Babylonia, and spread westward into Syria and Palestine. On the borders of Egypt they found Psammetichus besieging Ashdod. He persuaded them by gifts to turn back, and thus checked their advance in this direction. Herodotus says that their sway lasted for nineteen years. It is difficult to tell what this means, for in some countries, Media for instance, the natives overcame them sooner than in others. They were not able to found any permanent authority in any country. They perished by luxury and vice, were slain, or employed as mercenaries. Jeremiah refers to them in Jeremiah 6:22 sq.; Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 5:15, and, in the 50th chap., where he foretells the destruction of Babylon, the Scythian invasion furnishes the colors of the picture in which he describes it. Rawlinson puts their invasion in 632; Lenormant in 625. Rawlinson supposes, that after the Scythian invasion had subsided, the Medes renewed the attack on Nineveh, and secured the alliance of Nabopolassar, in 625, when Nineveh was taken and destroyed.
In 610 Psammetichus died, and Necho succeeded on the throne of Egypt. Necho reigned from 610 to 595. He was young and ambitious, and he planned an expedition into Asia, no doubt, if Assyria had already fallen, with the intention of winning the western provinces for himself. He marched through Philistia and Samaria. Here Josiah of Judah marched out to meet him (2 Kings 23:29). We do not need to seek far for a reason for Josiah’s action. It may have been inspired, as is generally supposed, by a desire to manifest fidelity to his suzerain, Babylon (R.), but it is a more simple explanation to notice that, under the existing weakness of Assyria, Josiah had been able to exercise sovereignty over some portion of Samaria (2 Kings 23:15 sq.). If the Babylonians were already the supreme power, they had not interfered with this. If Egypt conquered Samaria, it was at an end. Josiah, therefore, had a very natural and simple interest in opposing the Egyptian invasion. If Necho intended at this time to measure his strength with the Babylonians, he certainly desisted from that project. The words in 2 Chronicles 35:21 throw no light on the party he intended to attack. There is ground here for believing that Nineveh had not yet fallen, and that the Babylonians had not yet displayed their power. Necho saw in the feebleness of Assyria an opportunity to conquer its western provinces, and the force which he had was probably only such an one as he considered necessary for this purpose. Josiah was not, therefore, as rash as we might at first suppose (cf. Ewald III. 762–3d ed. He seems to think, however, that Necho may have taken Carchemish at this time, cf. ss. 782–3). However, the Jewish king was killed in the battle, and his second son Jehoahaz was made king. Necho pursued his course of conquest with success for three months. On his return, he regarded Judah also, by virtue of his victory at Megiddo, as a conquered province, although he had declared at the outset that he had no hostile design against that country (2 Chronicles 35:21). He refused to ratify the election of Jehoahaz, but took him (probably sent a detachment to bring him) from Jerusalem to the camp at Riblah (2 Kings 23:33), where he put him in chains, and carried him captive to Egypt. He made Judah tributary. Jeremiah (22:10) calls Jehoahaz more worthy of pity in his captivity than his father in his death, and Ewald, with good reason, interprets the parable (Ezekiel 19:0, especially 2 Kings 23:2-4) of Jehoiakim. Necho put the elder brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34). This was in 609 or 608. Necho at this time took Gaza (Jeremiah 47:1), and remained sovereign over the western provinces for two or three years.
We come now to the year 606 in which Nineveh was taken according to Oppert, Lenormant, Ewald, and others. The historical features of this event, aside from the question of its date, are as follows. The king of Assyria sent to Babylon, as satrap, a general named Nabopolassar (Nebo-protects-my-son), probably an Assyrian. It is certain that, when the final attack was made, it was twofold, both from Media and from the south. Nabopolassar and Cyaxares formed an alliance which was cemented by the marriage of Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, with Amyitis, daughter of Cyaxares. Rawlinson’s idea is that Nabopolassar was charged with the defence against the attack from the south, but turned traitor. This supposition is necessary since he does not think that the Chaldeans participated in the first attack. Lenormant supposes that Nabopolassar was sent to Babylon as satrap, that he matured plans of revolt, that he joined in the first attack, and that he employed the interval of nineteen years in establishing his independence. He also thinks that Nabopolassar was, in 607, an old and broken man, that he associated his son Nebuchadnezzar with himself on the throne in that year, and that, therefore, the capture of Nineveh is really to be reckoned among the exploits of that prince. He supposes that certain chronological discrepancies are to be accounted for by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar became joint ruler in 607, so that two starting-points for his reign were confused. (See 2 Kings 25:8, and Jeremiah 52:28-30.) The attack of the confederated Medes and Chaldeans was successful, and Saracus perished with his court and treasures in the downfall of the city.
Nebuchadnezzar now becomes the chief figure in the drama. He was a prince of extraordinary talents and energy, and he consolidated, if we may not say that he actually established, the Babylonian monarchy. Having destroyed Nineveh, his next task was to recover that portion of his new conquest which the Egyptians had held in possession for two or three years. In 605, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 46:2), he met Necho, who came out to defend his possessions, at Carchemish, on the Euphrates, and totally defeated him. He pursued the Egyptians to the border of Egypt (2 Kings 24:7), and no doubt intended to push on into that country, when news came to him (604) that his father was dead. He hastened to Babylon with a small escort through the nearer, but more dangerous, way of the desert. He met with no opposition in ascending the throne, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim of Judah (Jeremiah 25:1).
In the haste of these movements, Judah had remained secure in its mountains. Nebuchadnezzar’s army marched to Egypt in two columns, one through Philistia and one through Perea (Lenormant). But Nebuchadnezzar soon returned to Palestine and Phœnicia to complete the work of conquest. In 602 or 601 he made Jehoiakim tributary (2 Kings 24:1) and took away certain hostages or captives. In 599 or 598 Jehoiakim planned a revolt (2 Kings 24:1), relying on help from Egypt. Rawlinson thinks that the embassy mentioned in Jeremiah 26:22 had for its object to form this alliance, and that the matter of Urijah was only a pretext. Nebuchadnezzar first incited the neighboring nations against him (2 Kings 24:2), and then himself marched into Judah. Jehoiakim died at this time, and Jehoiachin, his son, succeeded (2 Kings 24:8). He was not able to resist the Chaldeans, and surrendered at discretion (2 Kings 24:12). He was taken away prisoner, with 10,000 other captives (2 Kings 24:13-14), the most energetic and independent portion of the people. The city and temple were plundered, and Mattaniah, the youngest son of Josiah, was put upon the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, under the name of Zedekiah (24:17).
Lenormant justly says of Zedekiah that he was only a Babylonian satrap. A strong party urged him continually to revolt, but Jeremiah counselled patience and submission. In 595 the princes of the neighboring countries met at Jerusalem (Jeremiah 27:3) to plan a concerted revolt, but Zedekiah was persuaded by Jeremiah to renounce this plan (Jeremiah 27:0.). He went to Babylon (in his fourth year, 594) to counteract suspicions of his fidelity which had been aroused (Jeremiah 51:59). However, he again cherished similar plans, and entered into negotiations with Uaprahet (Uaphris, Apries. Hophra) of Egypt. The Chaldeans again invaded Judah in 590. The siege of Jerusalem began early in January, 589 (Lenorm.). During this siege the serfs were manumitted, that they might help in the defence (Jeremiah 34:0.). The Egyptians advanced to the relief of Jerusalem, the Chaldeans turned to meet the attack, and the hopes of the Jews revived so far that the freedmen were once more enslaved. This diversion, however, produced no effect. It is uncertain whether a battle was really fought and lost by the Egyptians (Josephus, Antiq. X. vii. 3), or whether they retreated without fighting at all. In 588 a breach was made and the Chaldeans entered the city (Jeremiah 25:3-4). Zedekiah fled (Jeremiah 25:4), hoping to break through the investing lines, but he was captured and taken to Riblah (Jeremiah 25:6), where Nebuchadnezzar was encamped. His sons were slain before his eyes. He was then blinded and taken captive to Babylon. One month later (Jeremiah 25:8; cf. Jeremiah 25:3) Nebuzaradan was deputed to carry out the systematic destruction of Jerusalem, and deportation of the most influential of its population. This he did thoroughly, though not without some slight leniency (Jeremiah 25:12-22). However, the fanaticism of Ishmael and his party destroyed the last hope of maintaining the Jewish nationality, even in the pitiful form in which the Chaldeans had yet spared it (Jeremiah 25:25). The history of Judah, from this time on, is merged in that of the great world-monarchies.—W. G. S.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
6 1. The author treats very curtly the history of the last four kings of Judah. In Chronicles we find a still more abbreviated account. He passes hastily over this part of the history of Judah, just as he did over the similar part of the history of Israel (see p. 162 sq.), for it is the twenty-three years of the “death-agony of the nation” (Ewald). Josiah was the last genuine theocratic king. With his death begins the end of the kingdom; the history of his four successors, three of whom were his sons and one his grandson, is nothing more than the story of this end. The author tells no more in regard to them than appears to him from his theocratic and pragmatic standpoint to be absolutely necessary. So he tells first what the attitude of each was towards Jehovah, that is, toward the covenant or the Mosaic law, and then so much of their history as pertains to the downfall of the kingdom, which was approaching step by step. We therefore learn rather what happened to them according to the counsel of God than what they themselves did. Essential additions to the history are contributed by Jeremiah, especially by the historical portions, but also by the prophetical discourses, though it is not always easy to determine which reign these latter belong to, nor what events they refer to. It is very remarkable that this great prophet, who certainly was an important personage during these last four reigns, and who is one of the most remarkable individuals mentioned in the Old Testament, is not mentioned or referred to at all in the historical book, perhaps for the reason that the acquaintance of the readers with the book of the prophet is taken for granted. [This is one reason for thinking that Jeremiah himself wrote the Books of Kings. See Introd. § 1.—W. G. S.]
2. The reign of king Jehoahaz, although it only lasted for three months, had important influence on the course of the history, inasmuch as it broke with Josiah’s theocratic régime, and introduced another policy which hastened on the downfall of the kingdom. All that Josiah had built up with such anxious care and labor fell in ruins in a few months. Although the Jehovah-worship was not formally abrogated again, yet the door was opened for all manner of heathen falsehood and corruption to re-enter, and no one of the following kings abandoned the new policy which was thus inaugurated. This is the heavy guilt which rests upon Jehoahaz. How he came to adopt this course we can only guess, since we have no explanation of it offered in the Scriptures. The notion of some of the old expositors, that he was seduced by his mother, is entirely without foundation, and is especially improbable as she came from the ancient priest-city Libnah, and so cannot certainly have been bred to idolatry. It is much more probable that the heathen-party, to which many persons of rank and influence belonged, but which had been repressed under Josiah, arose once more after his death, and sought to regain its power. He either brought them over to his side or sought to win them by concessions. It does indeed seem probable, from the course which Necho adopted towards him, that “he continued to be hostile to Egypt” (Ewald), but the text nowhere states that “he resisted unworthy proposals of the Egyptian king.” Niemeyer (Character der Bibel V. s. 105) says of him: “When compared with his elder brothers and successors, he seems to have been superior to them in many respects. One passage in Jeremiah would almost lead us to the opinion that the people longed for his return from Egypt.” Umbreit also remarks on Jeremiah 22:11 sq.: “He seems, during his reign of three months, to have made himself very much beloved.” But it by no means follows, because the people passed over his elder brothers to make him king, that he was in any way better than they, for he certainly did not fulfil any hopes which may have been formed in regard to him, and Josephus (Antiq. X. v. 2), who certainly would not contradict the general verdict in regard to him which had been crystallized in tradition, calls him ἀσεβὴς καὶ μιαρὸς τὸν τρόπον. As for the text, Jeremiah 22:10-12, in which he is called Shallum, it certainly cannot mean that Shallum deserved to be lamented more than the model king, Josiah, who walked in the way of his father David, and turned neither to the right hand nor to the left, whereas Jehoahaz followed in the ways of Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon (2 Kings 22:2; 2 Kings 23:32). The prophet there threatens the house of David (2 Kings 25:1) with destruction, because it has abandoned the covenant of Jehovah (2 Kings 25:5-9). He says that one king has already been carried away captive out of his land,—the land of promise,—that he will die and be buried in a foreign land (a great calamity and disgrace, according to Israelitish notions), and that another will be cast out before the city like a dead animal and find no burial at all. There is, therefore, no syllable here of desire and longing on the part of the people for the return of Jehoahaz as one who was better than the rest. Why should the people long for the return of a king who had disappointed all their hopes and expectations?
3. Josephus says (Antiq. X. v. 2) of king Jehoiakim: ἐτύγχανε ὤν τὴς φύσιν ἄδικος καὶ κακοῦργος, καὶ μήτε πρός Θεὸν ὄσιος, μήτε πρὸς�. The correctness of this criticism appears especially from the passages in Jeremiah which serve as supplements to the history before us, Jeremiah 22:13-19; Jeremiah 26:20-24; Jeremiah 36:20-32. The idol-worship which Jehoahaz had tolerated once more grew and spread with great rapidity under Jehoiakim. All the abominations which had existed under Manasseh reappeared. Ewald and Vaihinger infer from Ezekiel 8:7-13 that he “added to” the Asiatic forms of idolatry which had existed under Manasseh, “by introducing also the Egyptian cultus,” but the reference in that passage is to the worship of Thammuz (Adonis), a well-known deity of Western Asia, the chief seat of whose worship was the ancient Phœnician city of Byblus, and to whose cultus belong the representations of worms and unclean animals on the walls (2 Kings 25:10.—See Hävernick on Ezek. s. 98 and 108). Moreover, the question may be raised whether this cultus was introduced under Jehoiakim, or not until the reign of Zedekiah. However that may be, there is no hint of any Egyptian cultus under Jehoiakim, although he was a vassal of Egypt, and in fact there is no hint at all of any Egyptian forms of idolatry among the Hebrews. Jehoiakim was the tool of the heathen party; he not only did not listen to the prophets, he hated and persecuted them. He caused the prophet Urijah, who had fled from him to Egypt, to be brought back from thence, to be put to death, and then his corpse to be shamefully handled (Jeremiah 26:20-24). Jeremiah barely escaped death (Jeremiah 36:26). 2 Kings 24:3-4 also shows that Jehoiakim shed much innocent blood. He had also a passion for building, and he caused expensive structures to be erected unjustly, and without paying wages to the laborers. [Jeremiah 22:13 sq.] He exacted the tribute which Necho had imposed upon him from the people instead of using the royal treasures for this purpose. Even after the resources of the country were exhausted he continued his exactions so that the courageous prophet rebuked him: “Thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence to do it” (Jeremiah 22:17). Therefore the prophet warns him that he will not be lamented nor buried, but that, in spite of all his royal grandeur and glory, he will be dragged forth and cast upon the field like a dead ass. No doubt he early showed what sort of a disposition he had, and it is not strange that the people, after Josiah’s death, passed him over and made his brother king. He was a tyrant who was forced upon the nation by a victorious enemy, through whom it was punished for its apostasy. His reign formed a part of the divine judgment which had already begun to fall.
4. King Jehoiachin is placed before us by both the historical narratives (2 Kings 24:9; 2 Chronicles 36:9) as just like the three other kings as regards his attitude towards Jehovah. It is simply said of him without restriction: “He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, like to all that his father had done.” The only thing further which is related in regard to him is that, when the Babylonian army appeared before Jerusalem to besiege it, he went out and surrendered himself, begging for mercy. Josephus (Antiq. X. vii. 1) regards this as a praiseworthy action. He says: ὁ δὲ φύσει χρηστὸς ὤν καὶ δίκαιος οὐκ ἡξίου τὴν πόλιν κινδυνεύουσαν δι’ αὐτὸν περιορᾷν; that the king had a solemn promise from the generals whom Nebuchadnezzar had sent that no harm should happen to him or to the city, but that this promise was broken, for Nebuchadnezzar had given orders that all who were in the city should be taken captive and brought into his presence. Niemeyer also says (Charact. d. B. V. s. 107): “Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, was undeniably a better king than his father. He does that which wisdom and humanity require under the circumstances. He desists from the active prosecution of a revolt which could only result in greater cruelty from the enemy, and greater exhaustion of the land, which was already thoroughly worn out. He must have been regarded, even in his captivity, as a man who deserved great respect (Jeremiah 52:31).” Similarly Ewald (Gesch. III. s. 734) says: “This prince was obliged to yield, in religious matters, to the prevailing depravity, but he did not lack good features of character which served to excite good hopes of him. There was a greater feeling of happiness under him than under his father, and there was great lamentation when he was obliged, at an early age, to go into captivity. Probably the touching Psalms 42, 43, , 84 are from his hand.” Vai-hinger also (Herzog, Real-Encyc. VI. s. 787) agrees with this general opinion: “Although he had not reigned in the spirit of the Jehovah-religion, yet there continued to be among the people a longing for his return. The false prophets especially nourished this hope (Jeremiah 28:4).” These favorable opinions, however, are not at all well founded. From his sudden surrender of the city we may rather infer that he was weak and cowardly than anything else. [It should be noticed, however, that this is just what Jeremiah urged Zedekiah to do afterwards, viz., to yield to the Babylonians and sue for mercy (Jeremiah 37:17 sq., cf. also Jeremiah 37:2). Jehoiachin, by surrendering, seems to have saved the city from sack and pillage and burning, which was its fate after Zedekiah’s resistance. We cannot condemn Jehoiachin for pusillanimity in surrendering at discretion, and Zedekiah for obstinacy in resisting to the end. See next section. The surrender is as much a sign of wisdom as of weakness.—W. G. S.] There is no support in this text nor in Jeremiah for what Josephus adds in regard to the promise which had been given him and was broken. The words of the prophet (Jeremiah 22:24-30), where he pronounces the divine oracle, come in here with peculiar significance: “As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah [Jehoiachin], the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence! And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country where ye were not born, and there shall ye die, but to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Is [then, do ye ask] this man Coniah a despised, broken, idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he, and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O! earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord: Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days, for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” This stern condemnation by Jehovah cannot rest upon any other foundation than the fact that Jehoiachin had done “that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like to all that his father had done.” It would have been a very unjust condemnation, if Jehoiachin had been “a man deserving of the highest respect,” and if, by virtue of his good traits, he had been “superior to his brothers and his uncle,” or had belonged to the better portion of the nation. The comparison to a signet ring, which has been so often interpreted to Jehoiachin’s advantage, does not mean, if he were as dear to me as such a ring, nevertheless I would cast him away. Only those are dear to Jehovah who walk in His ways, and such he does not cast away. The meaning rather is, as is shown by the tearing off from the hand, this: however firmly he supposes that, as a king [of the House of David], he is held by me, even like the signet on my hand, nevertheless I will cast him away on account of his own sins and the sins of the people. When the false prophet Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:5 sq.) foretells that Jehovah will bring back all the vessels of the house of Jehovah, and king Jehoiachin, and all who are captive with him, and will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, this does not express any especial “longing” for the return of this king, but only a general desire for deliverance from the Babylonian yoke, and the restoration of the kingdom with its independent dynasty. On the other hand it is generally understood, and with far more apparent reason, that the “young lion,” Ezekiel 19:5 sq., represents Jehoiachin but this also is impossible; because all that is there implied in regard to him cannot possibly have taken place within three months (Schmieder on that passage). In the abbreviated name Coniah (see the Exeg. notes on 2 Kings 24:8), which is there used, many old expositors, such as Grotius and Lightfoot, and also Hengstenberg and Schmieder, have seen an intention to figure forth to the king his approaching doom: “The future is put first in order by cutting off the י to cut off Lope: a Schoniah with J. a God-will-confirm without the ‘will’ ” (Hengstenberg). Not to speak of any other objection to this, it is enough that the abbreviated form Coniah is used instead of Jeconiah not only in prophetical but also in historical passages (Jeremiah 37:1), where there is no possible intention to signify the “cutting off of hope.”
[Bähr seems to allow his judgment of Jehoiachin to be too much controlled by the standing formula that “he did that which was evil,” &c. This formula covered many grades of evil, and no violence is done to the general justice of this verdict upon him, if we recognize the fact that he was not one of the worst among the bad. Ewald is justified in saying; “The king meant no harm, but he was negligent in his duties. He did not look forward to the future with good judgment. He was a tool of the nobles, and he was far too weak for the bitter crisis in which he was called to reign.” Stanley also gives a fair estimate of the king and of the popular feeling in regard to him: “With straining eyes the Jewish people and prophets still hung on the hope that their lost prince would be speedily restored to them. The gate through which he left the city was walled up like that by which the last Moorish king left Grenada, and was long known as the gate of Jeconiah. From his captivity as from a decisive era the subsequent years of the history were reckoned (Ezekiel 1:2; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 24:1; Ezekiel 26:1; Ezekiel 29:1; Ezekiel 31:1 [2 Kings 25:27]. The tidings were treasured up with a mournful pleasure, that, in the distant Babylon, where, with his royal mother (Jeremiah 22:26; 2 Kings 24:15), he was to end his days, after many years of imprisonment, the curse of childlessness, pronounced upon him by the prophet (Jeremiah 22:30), was removed; and that, as he grew to man’s estate, a race of no less than eight sons were born to him, by whom the royal race of Judah was carried on (1 Chronicles 3:17-18; cf. Susan. 1–4); and yet more, that he had been kindly treated by the successor of his captor (2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34); that he took precedence of all of the subject kings at the table of the Babylonian monarch; that his prison garments and his prison fare were changed to something like his former state.… More than one sacred legend—enshrined in the sacred books of many an ancient Christian Church—tells how he, with the other captives, sat on the banks of the Euphrates (Bar 1:3-4), and shed bitter tears as they heard the messages of their brethren in Palestine; or how he dwelt in a sumptuous house and fair gardens, with his beautiful wife, Susannah, ‘more honorable than all others’ (Susannah i.–iv.).”—W. G. S.]
5. The account of the eleven years’ reign of Zedekiah only states how that reign came to an end, for besides the standing formula that he did evil in the sight of the Lord, it contains only the remark that he revolted from the king of Babylon. We obtain a more complete picture of this reign from the descriptions and historical accounts which are preserved in the book of Jeremiah, and also to some extent in the book of Ezekiel. As concerns his attitude towards Jehovah and the law of Moses, he does not seem to have been himself devoted to idolatry, but he did not oppose it any more than his brother Jehoiakim had done. On the contrary, heathenism and immorality rather increased and spread during his reign. The stone was rolling; it could not be stayed any more. The class whose especial duty it was to oppose this tendency, namely, the priests and prophets, sank during this time lower and lower (see Jeremiah 23:0.). Then, too, the revolt of Zedekiah from Nebuchadnezzar was of a very different kind from that of Hezekiah from Sennacherib (see notes on Jeremiah 18:7), nay, it was even worse than that of his brother Jehoiakim from Pharaoh-Necho, for he not only owed to Nebuchadnezzar his crown and his throne (as Jehoiakim had owed his to Pharaoh-Necho), but he had also sworn an oath of allegiance to him, as is expressly stated in the brief account, 2 Chronicles 36:13. This oath he broke in a frivolous way without any sufficient reason. The prophet Ezekiel declares that this oath-breaking was a great sin, not only against him to whom it was sworn, but also against him by whom it was sworn, Jehovah, and he even gives this as the reason for the ruin of the king and of the nation (Ezekiel 17:18-20): “Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when lo! he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head. And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespasses that he hath trespassed against me.” He does not appear in a much better light according to some facts which Jeremiah mentions. During the siege of Jerusalem he entered into a solemn covenant with all the people “that every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being a Hebrew or a Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.” The “princes” and the “people” agreed to this and manumitted the serfs or slaves. But when it was heard that the Egyptian army was coming to help them, and they thought that they would not need the freed people any more, they broke the covenant and reduced them once more to slavery. This led the prophet to declare: “Therefore, thus saith the Lord; ‘Ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth … And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which are gone up from you. Behold, I will command,’ saith the Lord, ‘and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it and take it and burn it with fire, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant’ ” (Jeremiah 34:8-22). What is narrated in Jeremiah 37-38 is still more significant. At that time of great anxiety and distress the king sent messengers with this request: Pray for us to Jehovah! then, however, he allowed the officers to seize Jeremiah, maltreat him, and cast him into prison, because they were angry at his threats. Not until some time afterwards did he send for Jeremiah, though secretly, and ask of him an oracle of the Lord. Even yet he did not set him free, but only granted him a somewhat less severe imprisonment. Then, when the prophet repeatedly foretold the victory of the Chaldeans, the officers and chiefs demanded his death, and the king replied: “Behold he is in your hand; for the king is not he that can do anything against you.” Then they lowered him into a dungeon in which there was no water, indeed, but slime, into which he sank, and where he would have perished wretchedly, if he had not been rescued through the efforts of an Ethiopian, Ebedmelech. Even yet, however, he was held as a prisoner. Still again the king sought a secret interview with him, but did not obey his counsel to give himself up, because he feared that he should be despised and maltreated by those Jews who had deserted to the Chaldeans. He commanded the prophet to keep the interview a secret, and especially not to let the “princes” know of it. When finally the Chaldeans penetrated into the lower city, he took flight by night with his immediate attendants from the opposite side of the city, but was soon caught by the Chaldeans, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar, who caused him to be blinded, and his sons to be put to death. From this entire story we see what was the chief feature in Zedekiah’s character: “Weakness, and weakness of the saddest kind” (Niemeyer). Instead of ruling as king, he allows himself to be controlled by those who stand nearest to him; he cannot do anything against them. [Yet it would not be fair to overlook the fact that a powerful party of nobles, in a besieged city, where excitement and confusion and anxiety reigned, might make a strong king powerless to resist a policy on which they were determined. The party of the “princes” seems to have been possessed by that fanatical patriotism which not unfrequently takes possession of men under such circumstances, and drives them to heroic folly or foolish heroism. This passion appeared among the Jews in every crisis of their history. In this case it pushed the nation on to its fate, and though Zedekiah was a weak king, he might have been a strong one and not have been able to stem this tide.—W. G. S.] He has good inclinations, but he never attains to what is good. He demands an oracle of God but in secret, and, when he receives it, he does not obey it. His weakness of character makes him vacillating, false to his word and oath, unjust and pitiless, cowardly and despondent, and finally leads him into misery. We have here another example which shows that weakness and want of character are the very gravest faults, nay, even a vice, in a ruler. Josephus (Antiq. X. vii. 2) justly says of Zedekiah: τῶν δὲ δικαίων καὶ τοῦ δέοντος ὑπερόπτης. καὶ γὰρ οἱ κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν ἧσαν�, καὶ ὁ πᾶς ὄχλος ἐπ’ ἐξουσίας ὔβριζεν ἃ ἤθελε.
6. Zedekiah’s end was the end of the royal house of David and of the Israelitish monarchy. This dynasty had remained on the throne for nearly 500 years, while, in the seceded kingdom of the ten tribes, within a period of 250 years, nine dynasties of nineteen kings reigned, of which each one dethroned and extirpated the preceding one. “What a wonder it is to see one dynasty endure through almost five entire centuries, and that too in the ancient times when dynasties usually had but brief duration, and to see this dynasty, in the midst of perils and changes, form a centre around which the nation always formed, so that when it perished at last, it perished only in the downfall of the nation itself.… Such a kingdom might fall into grievous error for a time, but in the long run it must be brought back by the example of its great hero and founder David, and by the wealth of experience which it had won in its undisturbed development, to the eternal fundamentals of all true religion, and all genuine life” (Ewald, Gesch. III. s. 419). This “wonder,” however, of the uninterrupted existence of the dynasty of David does not rest upon human will or power, but upon the promise which was given to David (2 Samuel 7:8 sq.): “And thy house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). The premise on which this promise was based was the idea that the Old Testament theocratic monarchy was realized in David. This monarchy is, as it were, realized in him, and he is not only the physical ancestor of his family, but the model for all his successors, according to their fidelity to which their reigns are estimated and judged (1 Kings 11:38; 1Ki 15:3; 1 Kings 15:11; 2 Kings 14:3; 2 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 22:2). God sustains the monarchy in their hands for David’s sake, even when they do not deserve it, for their own (1 Kings 11:12; 1Ki 13:32; 1 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19). When he went the way of all the earth he left as a bequest to his son the following words: “Be strong and show thyself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the Lord may continue his word, which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth, with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee, said he, a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:2-4). When, however, after Josiah’s death, four kings in succession abandoned the way of David, and apostasy became a fixed and permanent tradition, the monarchy ceased to be what it was its calling and purpose to be; it was necessarily doomed to perish. “When the traditions of evil are maintained, or at least tolerated, then the monarchy suffers a transformation. Kings become incapable of executing the duties of their office, and a divine judgment becomes inevitable. So it was with the sons of Josiah, whose fate is a warning beacon on the horizon of history” (Vilmar). But, in spite of the inevitable doom of the nation, the promise to David was fulfilled in its integrity. Although the external authority of the house of David ceased with Zedekiah, yet from the time of his fall the preparation went on, all the more surely, for the coming of that Son of David who was to be a king over the house of David forever, and whose kingdom should have no end (Luke 1:33). The place of the light of the house of David, which had been extinguished (1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19), was taken, when the time was fulfilled, by the true light which illumines the whole world (John 1:9), and which will not be extinguished to all eternity. The last king who sat upon the throne of David, and who falsely called himself צִרְקִיָּהוּ [The righteousness of God], served to point forward, in the Providence of God, and according to the words of the prophet, to the coming king and shepherd of his people, whose name should be called: יְהוָֹה צִדְקֵנוּ, “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See the above paragraphs and compare the additional information afforded by the passages above quoted from Jeremiah.
2 Kings 23:31 to 2 Kings 25:7. The Four Last Kings of Judah. (a) The way in which they all walked. (They all abandoned the living God and His law, though they had the best model and example in their ancestor. They did not listen to the warnings and exhortations of the prophets, but followed their own lusts. Instead of being good shepherds of their people, they led them into deeper and deeper corruption.) (b) The end to which they all came. (They all learned what misery comes of abandoning the Lord, Jeremiah 2:19. Two of them reigned for only three months each; their glory was like the grass, which in the morning groweth up, but in the evening is cut down, dried up, and withered. One of them was forced to go to Egypt, where he died, and another to go to Babylon, where he remained a captive for thirty-seven years. Two of them died miserably: one was dragged to death and his corpse was thrown out like that of a dead animal; the other was forced to see his sons slain before his eyes, then he was blinded and ended his days in a prison. The godless, even though they be princes, perish utterly, Psalms 73:19. The judgments of God are true and righteous, Revelation 16:7; Psalms 145:17.)—Kyburz: We are surprised that Jehoiakim did not take warning by Jehoahaz, and that Jehoiachin and Zedekiah did not take warning by Jehoiakim, but that all made themselves abominable to God by the same sin; but how many great families and races have we seen since then come to a fearful end, without taking warning by their fate. On the contrary, we have made ourselves guilty in his sight with the same or greater sins.—A dynasty in which apostasy has become hereditary and traditional has no blessing or happiness; it must sooner or later perish. The words of Psalms 89:14 : “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” apply also to an earthly throne. A throne or a government which lacks this “habitation” [more correctly, stronghold] has no sure foundation. It rocks and reels and finally falls. This is shown by the history of these four kings, all of whom departed from righteousness and the law of God, and were guided in their rule only by political considerations. They became the sport of ambitious conquerors.—There can be no greater disgrace or humiliation for a country than that foreigners should set up or depose rulers for it according to their whim.
2 Kings 23:31 sq. The son’s want of loyalty to the law of God tore down in three months what the father’s zeal had built up by thirty-one years of anxious labor. How often a son squanders in a short time what a father has collected by years of careful toil.—What a responsibility falls upon the ruler who opens the door again for the return of the evils which a former government has earnestly labored to shut out.
2 Kings 23:34. Two brothers stand in hostile relations to each other. One deposes the other. They are both sons of the same pious father, but they resemble him in nothing.—Jehoiakim and Zedekiah each receive a new name when they ascend the throne. What is the use, however, of changing the name when the character is not changed, or of taking on a name to which the life does not correspond?—A throne which is bought with money won by exactions is an abomination in the sight of God. Jehoiakim does not contribute anything from his own treasures, but exacts all from his subjects. He builds great houses and lives in abundance and luxury, but does not give to the laborers the wages which they have so well earned. This is the way of tyrants, but they receive their reward from him who recompenses each according to his works (Jeremiah 22:15-19). Avarice is the root of evil, even among the great and rich; it brings them into temptation, 1 Timothy 6:9.—2 Kings 24:1. To-day the mighty king of Egypt makes Jehoiakim his vassal, to-morrow the still more mighty king of Babylon; such is the fate of princes who put their trust in an arm of flesh, and turn away from the Lord instead of calling after him: “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in him will I trust” (Psalms 91:2).
2 Kings 23:2. Würt. Summ.: It is not a mere chance when an armed enemy invades a country; they are sent by God, without whom not one could set a foot therein. It is a punishment for sin. Therefore let no man take courage in sin because there is profound peace. Peace is never so firm that God cannot put an end to it and send war.—He revolted. He who cannot bend under the mighty hand of God will not submit to the human powers in subjection to which he has been placed by God. Resistance, however, is vain, for God resisteth the proud.—Kyburz: Hear, ye kings and judges of the earth! God demands that ye shall humble yourselves before His messengers. David did this before Nathan. Do not think that your majesty is thereby diminished; God can exalt again those who humble themselves before him. But, if ye do not do this, God will do to you as he did to Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.—The word of the Lord, which He spake to Jehoiakim by His prophet, the king threw into the fire and thought that he had thus reduced it to naught (Jeremiah 36:23), but he was brought to the bitter experience that the word of the Lord cannot be burned up, but is, and remains to all eternity, true and sure.
2 Kings 23:3-4. The sin of Manasseh was not visited on his descendants in such a way that they could say: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jeremiah 31:29), for “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20), but the punishment fell upon Judah because it had made itself a participant in the crime of Manasseh, and, like him, had shed innocent blood (Jeremiah 26:20-23; see also Ezekiel 33:25 sq.).
2 Kings 23:7. Easy won, easy lost. This has always been the fortune of conquerors. What one has won by robbery and force another mightier takes from him. The Lord in heaven makes the great small, and the rich poor (1 Samuel 2:7; Psalms 75:7).
2 Kings 23:8-16. Osiander: As long as the people of God does not truly repent it has little cause to rejoice that one or another tyrant is removed, for a worse one may follow.—“Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:28). A nation which is in decay attracts the conquerors, who do not quit it until it is torn to pieces.—Starke: There is always misery and danger where there is war, therefore let us pray to be preserved from war and bloodshed.
2 Kings 23:12. Instead of calling upon God, Jehoiachin surrenders himself at once and asks for mercy. He who does not trust in God soon falls into despondency. Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.
2 Kings 23:14-16. Notice God’s mercy and longsuffering even in his judgments. He still allows the kingdom to stand, and turns the heart of the enemy so that he does not yet make an utter end of it (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 18:32; see notes on 2 Kings 25:21).
2 Kings 24:17 to 2 Kings 25:7. Zedekiah, the last king on David’s throne. See Historical § 5. Roos: Zedekiah is an example of a man who, in spite of some good traits, finally perishes because he never can attain to victory over the world and over sin. He listened unmoved to Jeremiah 27:12 sq. and 34:2 sq. He made an agreement with the people to keep a year of manumission (Jeremiah 34:8). He desired that Jeremiah should pray to the Lord for him and for his people (Jeremiah 37:3). He rescued Jeremiah from a fearful dungeon into which he had been cast without the king’s authority, asked of him secretly a divine oracle, and caused him to be brought into an endurable prison (Jeremiah 37:17 sq.). He saved him once more from a terrible prison and asked once more privately for the divine oracle (Jeremiah 38:0). Yet in the midst of all this he remained a slave of sin. He asked and listened, but did not obey. His purposes had no endurance or energy. He was a king whom his nobles had succeeded in overpowering. He feared them more than God. He had no courage to trust God’s word and he feared where there was no reason (Jeremiah 38:19 sq.). On the other hand he allowed himself to be persuaded by his counsellors and nobles (Jeremiah 38:22). He hoped for miracles such as had been performed in early times, particularly in the time of Hezekiah (Jeremiah 21:2), although he had no promises of God to serve as a ground for such hope. He trusted in the strength of the fortification of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 21:13), and did not believe what Jeremiah foretold in regard to the destruction of this city.
2 Kings 24:20. Zedekiah broke his oath for the sake of earthly gain and honor. Be not deceived, God will not be mocked. He who calls upon God and then fails of his word mocks at Him who can ruin soul and body in hell. All the misery and woe which befell Zedekiah came from his perjury (Ezekiel 17:18 sq.). Pfaff: We must keep faith even with unbelievers and enemies (Joshua 9:19).—A prince who breaks his own oath cannot complain when his subjects break their oath of allegiance to him.
2 Kings 25:1 sq. Starke: When the rod does not avail, God sends the sword (Ezekiel 21:13-14).
2 Kings 25:3. Cramer: God often punishes loathing of His word by physical hunger (Lamentations 4:10).
2 Kings 25:4-6. Würt. Summ.: When God means to punish a sinner no wall or weapon avails to protect him (Jeremiah 46:6).—Starke: If we will not take that road to escape which God has given us we cannot escape at all (Hos. 13:19; Jeremiah 2:17).
2 Kings 25:7. Starke: Many parents, by their godless behavior, bring their children into temporal and eternal ruin. Such children will some day have just cause to cry out against their parents (Sir 41:10).—A punishment which is deserved must be inflicted upon the just condemnation of the proper authority, but even the mightiest earthly power has no right to torture a convict. The civil authority is indeed an avenger to punish the guilty, and it does not carry the sword in vain, but it ceases to be God’s servant when it becomes bloodthirsty and delights in pain.
2 Kings 23:33; 2 Kings 23:33. On the keri see remarks under Exegetical.
2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 24:3. [כְּ ·כְּכֹל here has peculiar force. It means in or throughout all that he did, infecting all according to a certain measure. Whatever he did there was a certain measure of wickedness in it according to its character. The somewhat subtle force of the particle led to variants. “One codes has כְּכֹל, Sept. and Syr. וּבְכֹל. The reading in the text is correct” (Thenius).—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 24:10; 2 Kings 24:10. The keri is to be preferred.—Bähr. [The chetib is sing. The keri is a grammatical correction. The sing, may have been written with the mind fixed on Nebuchadnezzar. This point has importance for the question whether he accompanied the expedition from the outset. Cf2 Kings 24:11.
2 Kings 25:3; 2 Kings 25:3. [The statement that it was the fourth month is here imported into the text by the translators from Jeremiah, who gives it in both places; Jeremiah 3:0 and Jeremiah 39:0.
2 Kings 25:4; 2 Kings 25:4. [וילךְ is singular, and our version supplies “the king” as the subject. It is more likely that it is a case of the indefinite subject “one” (Fr. on; Germ. man). The army went, or, as we are obliged to translate, they went. The king’s presence in the train is implied and assumed. In Jeremiah 52:7 we find וַיֵּלְכוּ, and in Jeremiah 39:4, the sing. וַיֵּצֵא, but there the king is mentioned in the context.—W. G. S.]
 [Genealogical Table of the Last Kings of Judah.Sovereigns in small capitals. the numbers designate the order of succession on the throne.—W.G.S]