2 KINGS CHAPTER 23
Josiah causeth the law to be read in a solemn assembly; reneweth the covenant of the Lord; destroyeth idolatry, 2 Kings 23:1-14; breaketh down the altar at Beth-el, and burneth thereon dead men’s bones, 2 Kings 23:15-20; keepeth the passover: other evidences of his piety, 2 Kings 23:21-25. God’s final wrath against Judah. 2 Kings 23:26-28. Josiah, warring against Pharaoh-nechoh, is slain: Jehoahaz his son is king: he is imprisoned by Pharaoh-nechoh; who puts Jehoiakim, in his place; who reigneth ill, 2 Kings 23:29-37.
The chief governors both of church and state.
The prophets; either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah; or the sons or disciples of the prophets.
He read; He caused to be read.
By the pillar; of which See Poole "2 Kings 11:14"; See Poole "2 Chronicles 34:31".
To the covenant, to wit, as to the taking of it; they declared their consent to it, and their concurrence with the king in that act, which possibly they did by standing upright, as the king himself stood when he took it.
The priests of the second order; either those two who were next in degree to the high priest, and in case of his sickness were to manage his work; of whom see 2 Samuel 8:17; or the heads of the twentyfour courses which David had appointed, 1Ch 24.
The keepers of the door: See Poole "2 Kings 22:4".
To bring forth, i.e. to take care that they should be brought forth.
For the grove, i.e. the image of the grove; of which See Poole "2 Kings 21:7"; it being most frequent to call images by the names of the persons or things which they represent.
In the fields of Kidron, i.e. adjoining to the brook of Kidron.
Carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el; partly to show his abhorrency of them, and that he would not give the ashes of them a place in his kingdom; and partly to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of idolatry.
The idolatrous priests, Heb. the chemarim; which were ministers of idols, Hosea 10:5, distinct from the priests, Zephaniah 1:4. Possibly they were the highest rank of priests, because they are here employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.
Baal; a particular god, of greatest esteem with them, so called; though elsewhere the name of Baal is common to all false gods.
The grove: See Poole "2 Kings 23:4". Of the children of the people, i.e. of the common people, whose graves were made together in some common place, which was generally accounted very impure and contemptible, and therefore a fit place for this filth to be thrown into. Or, of bastards, who are oft called
the children of the people; who as they had this brand of infamy laid upon them, that they might not enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:2; so possibly they were exposed to this further ignominy, to be buried in a peculiar, and in the most infamous place. Or rather, as it is in the Hebrew, of that people, i.e. those idolatrous people, as it is explained, 2 Chronicles 34:4, and here sufficiently implied in this and the foregoing verse.
The houses of the sodomites; wherein some males prostituted their bodies to the lusts of others; which abominable practice was both a punishment of idolatry, Romans 1:23,24,27, and a part of idol worship, this being done to the honour of some of their idols, and by the appointment and instigation of those impure and diabolical spirits which were worshipped in their idols. See 1 Kings 14:24 15:12 22:46.
Hangings, or curtains, either to draw before the idol or idols which were worshipped in the grove, to preserve them from defilement, or to gain more reverence for them; or which were set up in the grove, that the abominable filthiness last mentioned might be committed within them. Or, garments for the service of the grove, for the idols or the priests belonging to them. Heb. houses, i.e. either little chapels made of woven work, like those which were made of silver, Acts 19:24; within which there were some representations of their grove idols; or rather, tents made of those curtains for the use above mentioned.
For the grove, or, for Asherah, an idol so called, as was noted before.
All the priests, to wit, belonging to the high places there following, whether such as worshipped idols, or rather, such as worshipped God in those forbidden places, Deuteronomy 12:11, as may be gathered from the following verse.
Defiled the high places, by burning dead men’s bones upon them, as 2 Kings 23:14,16,20, or by putting them to some other unclean or filthy use.
From Geba; the northern border of the kingdom of Judah; of which see Joshua 18:24 1 Kings 15:22. To Beer-sheba, which was the southern border; see Genesis 21:31 Jude 20:1; i.e. from one end to the other.
The high places of the gates; which were erected by the gates of the city here mentioned, unto the honour of their tutelary gods, which after the manner of the heathen they owned for the protectors of their city and habitations.
In the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city: this circumstance is noted to show Josiah’s great zeal and impartiality, in rooting out all monuments of idolatry, without any respect unto those great persons who were concerned in them, or affected to them.
The priests of the high places, which worshipped the true God there.
Came not up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, i.e. were not suffered to come thither to the exercise of their priestly function; as a just punishment for the corruption of God’s worship, and the transgression of so plain and positive a law of God, Deuteronomy 12:11, which was much worse in them, who had more knowledge to discern God’s mind therein, and more obligations to observe it, and to engage others to the observation of it. Compare Ezekiel 44:10.
Of the unleavened bread, i.e. of the meat-offerings allotted to the priests, wherein there was to be no leaven, Leviticus 2:4,5,10,11; and consequently of other provisions belonging to the priests, which by a synecdoche are contained under this one kind. Thus their spiritual blemish puts them into the very same state which corporal blemishes brought them, Leviticus 21:17, &c. And thus he mitigates their punishment; he shuts them out from spiritual services, but allows them natural and necessary provisions.
In the valley of the children of Hinnom; of which see Joshua 15:8 Nehemiah 11:30 Jeremiah 7:31 19:6,11.
To pass through the fire to Molech. See Poole "Leviticus 18:21"; See Poole "Deuteronomy 18:10".
The horses; either,
1. The carved or graven horses, to which were adjoined a graven chariot, in which there might be the picture of the sun, which the heathens used to represent in this manner. Or rather,
2. Living horses; for,
1. Such the eastern nations used to consecrate to the sun, to signify the swiftness of his motion.
2. These horses are mentioned apart from the chariots, and are said to be
given to the sun, which is not said of the chariots; and to be taken away, when the chariots were burnt, &c.; and a certain place is here allotted to the horses, not to the chariots. To the sun; either to be sacrificed to the sun; or to draw those chariots in which the kings, or some other in their stead, and by their appointment, went forth every morning to worship the rising sun; for both these were the customs of the Armenians and Persians, as Xenophon testifies.
At the entering in of the house of the Lord, i.e. by the gate of the outward court of the temple; for the courts are oft contained under the name of the house or temple.
The chamberlain, or officer, to whom the care of these horses was committed.
In the suburbs; either,
1. Of the city of David; or rather, of the temple; in certain outward buildings belonging to the temple, and the uses thereof. See Ezekiel 45:2. Heb. in Parvarim; a place near the temple, called also Parbar, 1 Chronicles 26:18, though it be not now known either where it was, or why it was so called. Tie chariots of the sun; which were made for the honour and worship of the sun, as was before expressed.
On the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, i.e. upon the roof of the king’s house. They were so mad upon their idols, that they were not content with all their public high places and altars, but made others upon their house-tops, for the worship of the heavenly bodies. See Jeremiah 19:13 Zephaniah 1:5.
Which Manasseh had made.
Quest. How could this be, when Manasseh had taken them away before, 2 Chronicles 33:15?
Answ. Either these altars were not so fully destroyed as they should have been, the foundations of them being left through the neglect of the officers appointed to do that work, upon which Amon built his new altars; or if they were wholly rooted out, Amon’s new altars are called by his father’s name, because they were built by his example, and in the very same place where his father’s altars were; as the wells which Isaac digged in the same place where Abraham had digged them before, were therefore called by their ancient names, Genesis 26:18. See more on the next verse.
In the two courts; the priests’ and the people’s. See 2 Kings 21:5.
Cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron; partly to show his detestation of them, and partly to abolish the very remembrance of them as far as he could.
The mount of corruption, i.e. the Mount of Olives, 1 Kings 11:7, here called the mount of corruption, for the gross idolatry there practised, which is oft expressed by the name of corruption. See Exodus 32:7 Deuteronomy 32:5. In the Hebrew is an elegant allusion between miscah, anointing, and masheith, corruption, as there is between Beth-el and Beth-aven, Hosea 4:15.
Which Solomon had builded; not the same individual altars; which doubtless either Solomon upon his repentance, or some other of Josiah’s godly predecessors, had taken away long before this time; but other altars built by Manasseh or Amon, which because erected by Solomon’s example, and for the same use, and in the same place, are called by his name; this brand being left by the Holy Ghost upon his name and memory, as a just punishment of that abominable practice, and a mean to deter others from the like.
For Ashtoreth; of which and the rest See Poole "1 Kings 11:5"; See Poole "1 Kings 11:6"; See Poole "1 Kings 11:7".
The abomination, i.e. the idol, so called, because it was abominable, and made them abominable to God.
i.e. of the idolatrous priests, which he caused to be taken out of their graves, 2 Kings 21:18.
The altar that was at Beth-el.
Question. How could he rightly do this, seeing Beth-el was a part of the kingdom of Israel, not of Judah?
Answer. Either, first, This city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long since, 2 Chronicles 13:19. Or, secondly, He did this by virtue of that ancient right which David and his posterity had to the kingdom of Israel, which though suspended for a time by God’s grant of the ten tribes to Jeroboam, and the succeeding kings of Israel; yet these being all extinct, it might seem to return to him, at least so far as to pluck up idolatry out of the land of Israel, as he had opportunity, and especially out of those parts of it which bordered upon Judah. Or, thirdly, The king of Babylon having engaged in a war with the Assyrian, Hezekiah’s great enemy, and having thereupon occasion for Hezekiah’s friendship, did (as some suppose) enlarge his dominion, and give him some power over the kingdom of Israel, at least as to matters of religion; which may seem not improbable from 2 Chronicles 30:1-6. And the same power seems to have been continued, and some kind of league made, between the king of Babylon and Manasseh, (who thereupon was restored to his kingdom, 2 Chronicles 33:13) and after him Josiah, who therefore was so zealous in his quarrel against the king of Egypt, 2 Chronicles 35:20, &c. Or, fourthly, He did it in pursuance of God’s prediction concerning this action, 1 Kings 13:2, which (in a matter so good, and so agreeable to God’s will and word, as the extirpation of idolatry unquestionably was) had the force of a warrant or command upon him to do it, as God’s prediction of the conversion of the Gentiles by the Messias was a command to his apostles to preach to them, Acts 13:47.
The high place; which seems to have been some little temple or house erected for that worship, or for the priests attending upon it.
As Josiah turned himself: Josiah’s care and zeal was so great, that he would not trust his officers with these things, but would see them done with his own eyes. Which the man of God proclaimed three hundred years before it was done.
What title is that that I see? It was the manner then, as now it is, to set up little pillars or stones by or upon the graves of the higher sort of men, upon which the name of the person, and some remarkable passages relating to him, were engraven.
Which were now mixed together.
Samaria; the place of his birth or former abode, though now he were in Beth-el, 1 Kings 13:11.
By what authority he did this, See Poole "2 Kings 23:15".
The priests of the high places; either,
1. The priests which Jeroboam had made of the meanest of the people, whom he slew, both for their presumptuous usurpation of that sacred office, which of itself was punishable with death by God’s law, Numbers 3:10, and for their idolatry. Or rather,
2. The priests of Baalim; by comparing this verse with the former, where speaking of the same high places, he doth not say, which Jeroboam made, as is usual when he speaks of the high places of the calves; but, which the other kings of Israel made, who were divers of them worshippers of Baal; and by considering the parallel place, 2 Chronicles 34:4, where it is said, they brake down the altars of Baalim, &c. By this relation it appears, and from the nature of the thing, and common practice in like cases, it is more than probable, that after the departure of the king of Assyria, divers of the Israelites who had retired to other parts, and kept themselves out of the conqueror’s hands, returned together with their priests to their own land, and to their old trade of worshipping idols; to whom, peradventure, they ascribed this their deliverance from that judgment which Jehovah had brought upon them.
That were there upon the altars; according to that famous prophecy, 1 Kings 13:1,2.
Keep the passover: having abolished false worship, he now endeavours to set up the true worship of the true God.
In this book of the covenant; in this book which I have found; wherein is contained the covenant made between God and Israel, and the terms of it.
Such a passover, i.e. celebrated with such solemn care, and great preparation, and numerous sacrifices. 2 Chronicles 35:7-9, and universal joy of all good men; which was much the greater, because of their remembrance of the former wicked and miserable times under Manasseh and Amon; and the good hopes they now had of the happy establishment of their nation, and the true religion; and of the prevention of God’s judgments denounced against them.
From the days of the judges, or, from the days of Samuel, the last of the judges, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 35:8. None of the kings had taken such care to prepare themselves, the priests, and people, and accurately to observe all the rites, and diligently to purge out all uncleanness, and to renew their covenant with God, so solemnly as Josiah now did.
The wizards; of which see on Leviticus 19:31 20:27 Numbers 22:5 Deuteronomy 18:11.
The images, and the idols, and all the abominations; three words noting the same thing, to show that till the instruments and monuments of idolatry were destroyed, as God had commanded.
That were spied, i.e. all that were discovered; not only such as were in the place and state of worship, but such as their priests or zealots had removed, and endeavoured to hide and secure.
Like unto him there was no king before him, to wit, for his diligent study in God’s law, and his exact care, and unwearied industry, and fervent zeal, in rooting out of idolaters, and all kinds and appearances of idolatry, not only in Judah, but in Israel also; and in the establishment of the true religion in all his dominions, and in the conforming of his own life, and his people’s too, (as far as he could,) to the holy law of God; though Hezekiah might excel him in some other particulars; of whom therefore the like is said above, 2 Kings 18:5.
The Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great, wrath; because though the king was most hearty in his repentance, and acceptable to God, as we said before, and therefore the judgment was delayed for his time; yet the people were generally corrupt, and secretly averse from Josiah’s pious and excellent reformation, and inclined to their old lusts and idols; as appears from the complaints of the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Zephaniah, against them; and by the following history, wherein we see that as soon as ever Josiah was gone, his children, and the princes, and the people suddenly and greedily returned to their former abominations.
Because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal: the sins of Manasseh, and of the men of his generation, who complied and concurred with him in his idolatrous and cruel practices, 2 Kings 24:3,4, are justly punished in this generation; partly, because of God’s sovereign right of punishing sinners (such as these unquestionably were) when and upon what occasion he sees fit; partly, because of that public warning and declaration of God, that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children; and principally, because these men had never sincerely repented of their own nor of their fathers’ sins, but their hearts still hankered after them; which, though not yet seen by men, was manifest to God, who therefore pronounced this terrible sentence against them.
To wit, upon the conditions in sundry places expressed, which they broke, and therefore God justly made them to know his breach of promise, as he threatens, Numbers 14:34.
Pharaoh-nechoh, called Necos by Herodotus, who makes mention of this fight; wherein, as he saith, Necos conquered the Syrians in Magdalo. The king of Assyria, i.e. the king of Babylon, who having formerly rebelled against the Assyrian his lord, had now conquered him; as appears by the course of the sacred, and the concurrence of profane history; and therefore is here and elsewhere called the Assyrian, and the king of Assyria, because now he was the head of that empire. To the river Euphrates, i.e. against Carchemish by Euphrates, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 35:20, which the Assyrian had taken from the Syrians, Isaiah 10:9, Pharaoh’s confederates, who therefore sendeth forces against the Assyrian, that he might both help them, and secure himself.
Josiah went against him; either to defend his own country from Pharaoh’s incursions; or to assist the king of Babylon, with whom he seems to have been in league, as was noted before. He slew him, i.e. gave him his death’s wound there, though he died not till he came to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 35:23,24. When he had seen him, i.e. when he fought with him, or in the first onset. Thus fighting is called a looking in the face, 2 Kings 14:8.
Dead, i.e. mortally wounded, as in the former verse; and as we commonly say of a sick man past hopes of recovery, that he is a dead man: compare Genesis 20:3.
Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, who was younger than Jehoiakim, by comparing 2 Kings 23:31 with 2 Kings 23:36, yet preferred by the people before the elder brother; either because Jehoiakim refused the kingdom for fear of Pharaoh, whom he knew he should hereby provoke; or because Jehoahaz was the more stout and warlike prince; whence he is called a lion, Ezekiel 19:3, though indeed he showed his courage more against his people than his enemies; but they judged that he was most able and willing to defend them against the conquering army.
Anointed him; as they used to do in such extraordinary cases, because this was a troublesome time, and he was not the right heir to the crown, and therefore needed this solemn rite of confirmation, which Solomon had in the same circumstances.
i.e. His grandparents, Manasseh and Amon. He restored that idolatry which his father had destroyed, partly to gratify the generality of the people, who had made him king, and who were inclined to their old superstitions even in Josiah’s time, as was observed before, though restrained from the outward acts by fear; and partly to sweeten the king of Egypt, who possibly was a zealous idolater, by his compliance with him in the worship of idols.
Pharaoh-nechoh put him in bands; either because he presumed to take the kingdom without his leave and consent; or because he renewed the war against Pharaoh, as some affirm, and by him was conquered and taken prisoner.
Riblah; an eminent city in Syria; of which see Numbers 34:11 2 Kings 25:6; where Pharaoh now was to finish or make good his conquests, whither Jehoahaz was carried to receive his sentence.
That he might not reign; or, because he had reigned, i.e. taken the kingdom without right, and without his leave. Or, according to the other reading,
in the beginning of his reign; the word reigning being commonly used for beginning to reign; when he was scarce warm in his throne.
A tribute, to wit, a yearly tribute, whereby they should acknowledge him to be their superior; and for which he would be their protector when they needed his help.
Eliakim the son of Josiah; whom he perceived to be of a more mild and peaceable disposition.
Turned his name to Jehoiakim; because the giving of names was accounted an act and sign of dominion; which therefore parents did to their children, and conquerors to their vassals or tributaries. Compare 2 Kings 24:17 Daniel 1:7.
Took Jehoahaz away; partly as a punishment for him, and partly that he might give no disturbance to his brother.
When he began to reign; either,
1. When he began to reign alone, and with full power, or after Jehoahaz’s death; till which the people would not disown him whom they had anointed king, which was esteemed a great tie, 2 Samuel 19:10; nor own or accept Jehoiakim as their king, but only as his brother’s viceroy, though Pharaoh had by violence forced him upon them. And so Jehoahaz might be his elder brother, and the same who is called Johanan, and is first mentioned, as the eldest son, 1 Chronicles 3:15, though he may be placed first not in regard of his birth, but of his dignity, the crown being first put upon his head. Or,
2. When he was first set up by Pharaoh; and so this was the elder brother, though by popular violence put by his right: See Poole "2 Kings 23:30".
By idolatry, the oppression of his people, and the persecution of the prophets, and other good men, Jeremiah 26:21 Ezekiel 19:5-7.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 23". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34