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CRITICAL NOTES.] Destruction of idolatry (2 Chronicles 31:1); H. appoints courses and contributions (2 Chronicles 31:2-10); and arranges the chambers and officers (2 Chronicles 31:11-21).
2 Chronicles 31:1.—Idol. destroyed (cf. 2 Kings 18:4). After festival, all Judah and Benj., i.e. from southern kingdom; in Eph. and Man., i.e., in northern kingdom. Images, statues of Baal; groves, stocks representing Ashtaroth (2 Chronicles 14:3); utterly destroyed, had made an end.
2 Chronicles 31:2-10.—H. appoints courses and contributions. Courses as appointed by David (1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 24:1). The tents, i.e., within the gates (precincts) of the Temple. 2 Chronicles 31:3. King’s portion. H. set example in giving tithes (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 32:27-29 for what possession consisted). 2 Chronicles 31:4. Portion. Having set example, people called to do their part. Priests, i.e., first-fruits (Numbers 18:12-18) and tithe (ib. 21–24); encouraged, i.e., that they, priests and Levites, might devote themselves wholly to their proper work, the service of sanctuary and teaching of God’s law (ch. 2 Chronicles 17:7-9), and not engage in secular occupations (cf. Nehemiah 13:10-14) [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 31:5. Improved state of feeling stirred up to generosity; honey (dates), and tithes brought from Israel in Jerusalem. Others (2 Chronicles 31:6) in country districts brought first-fruits and tithe of sheep and oxen; heaps upon heaps. 2 Chronicles 31:7. Seventh month, which completed the harvesting. 2 Chronicles 31:9. Questioned. Whether all he saw was sufficient to maintain priests and Levites. 2 Chronicles 31:10. Azar., possibly A. of ch. 2 Chronicles 26:17; replied that there was enough, and that the people were grateful to Jehovah for his goodness.
2 Chronicles 31:11-20.—H. provides store-chambers and officers. Chambers (storehouses) always among rooms (1 Kings 6:5) or among outer buildings attached to courts. But disused of late years, required to be prepared afresh. Faithfully, acting carefully and honestly, not appropriating for common use (ch. 2 Chronicles 19:9). Shimei (ch. 2 Chronicles 29:14). 2 Chronicles 31:13. Jehiel and Mah. (ch. 2 Chronicles 29:14). 2 Chronicles 31:14. Doorkeeper toward east (1 Chronicles 9:18); freewill, i.e., voluntary offerings to God (Deuteronomy 12:17); holy things, portion of sin-offerings, which had to be eaten by priests in a holy place (Leviticus 6:10-22; Leviticus 7:6). 2 Chronicles 31:15. Six Levites situated in cities of priests to distribute to priestly families, old or young, great or small, their due share of temple offerings. Those at Jerusalem obtained their share at the temple. 2 Chronicles 31:17. “The writer here proceeds to state nature of lists which guided officers who made distributions. Three enumerated—one of priests made out according to families; one of Levites, including all above twenty years of age, and made out according to courses; and a third of priestly and Levitical families, containing wives, sons, and daughters of both priests and Levites indiscriminately [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 31:19. In fields, not even country priests and Levites neglected.
2 Chronicles 31:20-21.—Hez.’s thoroughness. Good acting as servant of Jehovah; integrity and benevolence attested. All his heart, a perfect heart (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 19:9; 2 Kings 20:3; Isaiah 38:3).
A POPULAR MOVEMENT.—2 Chronicles 31:1
Many indications in this history that the power of Hebrew kings over people was not so arbitrary as that of Eastern monarchs in general. Here the people began a movement, a revival, which ended in destruction of high places, and establishment of one form of worship.
I. The enthusiasm from which it sprang. Not mere excitement, not violence and tumult, but holy fervour. Iconoclasm came from religious enthusiasm; inspiration from God (en and theos). Different from the wild fanaticism of heathen gods. All reform from deep religious conviction, from real intercourse with God. The heart must be filled before the hand can strike.
II. The extent to which it reached. Jerusalem cleansed before Passover, and all signs of idolatry removed. Now the land had to be purged. In the northern and southern kingdoms the movement spread. Amendment must begin in the heart first, the centre and source of action; outward sins may be forsaken, and the heart unrenewed. “Cleanse your heart,” and then “make your ways and your doings good.”
III. The thoroughness with which it was finished. They began and made a complete finish; did not give up, nor act partially, “all was finished.” Destruction entire. “Statues” broken in pieces, “the groves cut down.” “High places,” time-honoured centres removed; “altars,” and all remnants of idolatry, “utterly destroyed.” Every evil must be forsaken, no sin spared through favour or affection. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”
IV. The national peace which resulted from its completion. “Then the children of Israel returned,” &c. Though long absent, they could not return and feel secure, “every man in his possession,” until images were destroyed. Idols no longer their gods and defence. They returned to Him from whom they had deeply revolted. “For in that day every man cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which his own hands had made unto him for a sin” (Isaiah 31:7; Isaiah 2:20).
HEZEKIAH ESTABLISHES ORDERLY PERFORMANCE OF TEMPLE WORSHIP.—2 Chronicles 31:2-10
H. now turns attention to public worship, suspension of which had disarranged the courses appointed by David, which were intended to relieve each other in perpetual succession (1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 24:1)
I. The arrangement of priests and Levites in courses. The order settled afresh in which they should undertake their parts of service. Every man found his work, put into his place, and made to contribute to the whole. “Levites after their courses;” priests “for burnt-offerings and for peace-offerings,” and Levites to “minister” to priests, or “give thanks and praise.” But place, time, and position nothing without heart. They must represent the man himself. Allegiance to God inspires worship, and worship inspires and sanctions duty. No motives so strong and overpowering as those which worship kindles and sustains; self-approbation, self-respect, regard for esteem of others fail to take hold of conscience and life. Faith in the ever-present God, actual communion with the Father of Spirits, will create homage in worship, and faithfulness in sanctuary work.
II. The commands for payment of dues from the people. When every one had his proper place assigned him, an edict was issued for the regular payment of dues for revenues of the temple.
1. The king set an example. Contributions from privy purse and royal estate to defray expenses of altar. A generous act, honouring God, and relieving his people; after the example of David and Solomon before him (ch. 2 Chronicles 8:14; 1 Kings 9:25). Kings not exempt; may be noble examples of liberality and duty to their subjects.
2. The people responded to the call. Formerly the sacred tribute entirely neglected or withheld by the people because misappropriated by idolatrous princes; now improved state of public feeling prompts to ready compliance. First-fruits and tithes poured in from all parts of Judah and Israel, which astonished the king, proved sufficient for the priests, and expressed gratitude to God, whose law was obeyed (cf. Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:21), who had crowned the year with his goodness and mercy. Loyal hearts secure liberal contributions; liberal contributions will secure God’s blessing. “Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour (empty) you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
HEZEKIAH’S PROVISION OF STORE CHAMBERS.—2 Chronicles 31:11-19
I. Chambers Were prepared. Storehouses, granaries, or cellars. Old ones had fallen into decay and needed repairing or fresh ones built. Tithes and offerings not left exposed in heaps and disorder, liable to be wasted or taken away, but preserved, consecrated to right use. People encouraged when their contributions are well received and properly used.
II. Officers were appointed to distribute Stores. Officers chosen for different departments, and distribution made “by courses” according to three lists of priestly families.
1. Impartial distribution. “As well to the great as to the small.” Those near, in actual attendance (2 Chronicles 31:17), and those “in the fields of the suburbs” were not overlooked (2 Chronicles 31:19).
2. Conscientious distribution. “One list of priests made out according to families; one of Levites, including all above twenty years of age, and made out according to courses; and a third of priestly and Levitical families containing wives, sons, and daughters of both priests and Levites indiscriminately.” “They sanctified themselves,” conscientiously devoted themselves to their duties, “in their (trust) set office,” in confidence of support, and were not disappointed. “Attend to my duties,” said Queen Elizabeth to a courtier, “and I will attend to thy wants.”
HEZEKIAH’S THOROUGHNESS IN GOD’S SERVICE.—2 Chronicles 31:20-21
Other kings good, did right as Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, and Amaziah, but fell away from God. Hezekiah remained firm to the last, and prospered in all things.
I. The work he performed. He displayed qualities of a constitutional sovereign, restored cities and institutions of the land, and gained renown equal to his predecessors. His work summarised—
1. In temple service.
2. “In the law.”
3. “In the commandments.”
II. The spirit in which he performed it.
1. A spirit of impartiality. Not religious merely at home and in the temple, but before his people, “throughout all Judah.”
2. A spirit of integrity. He was faithful to God like Abraham, and could appeal to divine justice. He “wrought that which was good, and right, and truth before the Lord his God.”
3. A spirit of zeal. “He did it with all his heart,” a heart filled with earnestness and sincerity, and not shared or swayed with rival deities (1 Kings 11:4).
III. The blessing of God which followed its performance. “And prospered.” In expeditions and in all undertakings “the Lord was with him.” He had enormous wealth, shared in authority over northern kingdom, and had great influence over surrounding nations (cf. 2 Kings 18:7; 2 Chronicles 32:22-29). Regard to God’s glory will secure honour here and reward hereafter.
The text speaks of work. Only adopt Hezekiah’s plan, and “in every work that you begin to do with all your heart, you may prosper.” I. We learn from Hezekiah a lesson of concentration of energy. He did not begin half a dozen things at once, and drivel his energy away upon them; he did not commence one thing till he had finished another. II. Method and punctuality, too, seem to be indirectly hinted at in the text, and they are almost indispensable to prosperity. III. But the great lesson we learn from the text is the value of thoroughness in doing whatever we undertake with our whole heart and doing it well. Do nothing as if it were trifling; if it be so, it is unworthy of you. IV. Emulate Hezekiah’s ardent and consistent piety. He stands in the front rank among the saints of Scripture as a man of prayer. Every difficulty and trouble he took straight to God, and spread it out before Him [J. Thain Davidson].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 31:1. Religion at home. Well to attend public worship, but “show piety at home.”
1. Not in temples and cathedrals, churches and chapels, in ritual and forms.
2. Not at feasts, in excitement, numbers, and haste.
3. Not in organisations and agencies. In quietness and domestic duty; before friends and your own family. Display the good received in ordinances in the strength and example of home. “Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.”
2 Chronicles 31:2. Gates of the tent—lit., the camps of the Lord. Jehovah’s camp. “Fitly compared to a camp, for the watch and ward there kept by the priests, and for the convention of the people thither, as to their rendezvous, to pray, which is the chief service of our spiritual warfare” [Trapp]. I. Its orderly arrangements. II. Its sure defences. III. Its enlisted tribes. IV. Its central worship. V. Its great commander.
2 Chronicles 31:2-5. Priestly maintenance.
1. Due from all those near the temple at Jerusalem, those in cities of Judah.
2. Due according to the law of God.
3. Due that they might devote themselves entirely to their proper work, the service of the sanctuary and the exposition of the law, and not engage in secular occupations (cf. Nehemiah 13:10-14).
2 Chronicles 31:8. They bleated the Lord. The source of all good.
1. For a bountiful year.
2. For disposition to consecrate its gifts.
3. For abundance which is left (2 Chronicles 31:10). Nothing should be wasted, only right use of everything brings blessings.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 31
2 Chronicles 31:1. Reform. Men cannot strike finally if they only act as reformers. Reform is an active word, and is to be regarded with great favour, and is the only word that is permissible under some circumstances; but the greater word is regeneration. Reform that does not point to regeneration is a waxen flower that will melt when the sun is well up in the heavens. It is not in man to regenerate, therefore; this is the mystery of God’s action in the soul. When the man is new the action will be new. The great process does not begin with the action, but with the soul. Make the tree good, then the fruit will be good [Dr. Parker].
2 Chronicles 31:2-10. Service maintained. This careful and bountiful provision is painfully deficient in present church economics, but manifestly essential to liberal and cheerful giving. No rate of giving to God, short of sacrifice, is worthy of those who are redeemed by the priceless sacrifice of a Saviour’s blood, or is adequate to the vast requirements of a ruined world [J. Ross].
2 Chronicles 31:20-21. All his heart. Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that zeal for God and his gospel which is nothing else than our own tempestuous and stormy passion. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame which maketh us active for God, but always within the sphere of love [Cudworth]. Prosperity. Hezekiah “prospered.” God walks with the good man. God rewards enthusiasm. We do not throw our divinely-inspired passion away to a cold, selfish world. Our passion may appear to be frenzy, enthusiasm, insanity, but the reply is before us, we can return to it, and if we can return with a sound heart, blessed are we; then we can say with moral emphasis, If we be beside ourselves it is to God. May we understand what it is to eat the passover, and having eaten it, to rise with moral dignity, that we may smite every unholy thing and go about our whole business with a united heart, expecting the blessing of God which created the enthusiasm daily to sustain its holy fury [Dr. Parker].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 31". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany