2 Kings 23

CHAPTER XXIII

Josiah reads in the temple to the elders of Judah, the priests,

the prophets, and the people, the book of the covenant which

had been found, 1, 2.

He makes a covenant, and the people stand to it, 3.

He destroys the vessels of Baal and Asherah, and puts down the

idolatrous priests; breaks down the houses of the sodomites,

and the high places; defiles Topheth; takes away the horses of

the sun; destroys the altars of Ahaz; breaks in pieces the

images; and breaks down and burns Jeroboam's altar at Beth-el,

4-15.

Fulfils the word of the prophet, who cried against the altar at

Beth-el, 16-18.

Destroys the high places in Samaria, slays the idolatrous

priests, and celebrates a great passover, 19-23;

and puts away all the dealers with familiar spirits, &c., 24.

His eminent character; he is mortally wounded at Megiddo, and

buried at Jerusalem, 25-30.

Jehoahaz reigns in his stead, and does evil in the sight of the

Lord, 31, 32.

Is dethroned by Pharaoh-nechoh; and Eliakim, his brother, called

also Jehoiakim, made king in his stead; the land is laid under

tribute by the king of Egypt, and Jehoiakim reigns wickedly,

33-37.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXIII

Verse 2. The king went up into the house of the Lord] Here is

another very singular circumstance. The high priest, scribes,

priest, and prophets, are gathered together, with all the elders

of the people, and the king himself reads the book of the covenant

which had been lately found! It is strange that either the high

priest, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, or some other of the prophets, who

were certainly there present, did not read the sacred book! It is

likely that the king considered himself a mediator between God and

them, and therefore read and made the covenant.

Verse 3. Stood by a pillar] He stood, al haammud,

"upon the stairs or pulpit." This is what is called the brazen

scaffold or pulpit which Solomon made, and on which the kings were

accustomed to stand when they addressed the people. See 2Ch 6:13,

and the parallel places.

Made a covenant] This was expressed, 1. In general. To walk

after Jehovah; to have no gods besides him. 2. To take his law for

the regulation of their conduct. 3. In particular. To bend their

whole heart and soul to the observance of it, so that, they might

not only have religion without, but, piety within. To this all the

people stood up, thus giving their consent, and binding themselves

to obedience.

Verse 4. The priests of the second order] These were probably

such as supplied the place of the high priest when he was

prevented: from fulfilling the functions of his office. So the

Chaldee understood the place-the sagan of the high priests. But

the words may refer to those of the second course or order

established by David: though it does not appear that those orders

were now in use, yet the distinction was continued even to the

time of our Lord. We find the course of Abia, which was the

eighth, mentioned Lu 1:5; where see the note.

See Clarke on Lu 1:5.

All the vessels] These had been used for idolatrous purposes;

the king is now to destroy them; for although no longer used in

this way, they might, if permitted to remain, be an incentive to

idolatry at a future time.

Verse 5. The idolatrous priests] hakkemarim. Who these

were is not well known. The Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, call them

the priests simply, which the kings of Judah had ordained.

Probably they were an order made by the idolatrous kings of Judah,

and called kemarim, from camar, which signifies to be

scorched, shrivelled together, made dark, or black, because

their business was constantly to attend sacrificial fires, and

probably they were black garments; hence the Jews in derision call

Christian ministers kemarim, because of their black clothes and

garments. Why we should imitate, in our sacerdotal dress, those

priests of Baal, is strange to think and hard to tell.

Unto Baal, to the sun] Though Baal was certainly the sun, yet

here they are distinguished; Baal being worshipped under different

forms and attributes, Baal-peor, Baal-zephon, Baal-zebub, &c.

The planets] mazzaloth. The Vulgate translates this

the twelve signs, i.e., the zodiac. This is as likely as any of

the other conjectures which have been published relative to this

word. See a similar word Job 37:9; 38:32.

Verse 6. He brought out the grove] He brought out the idol

Asherah. See Clarke on 2Ki 21:26.

Upon the graves of the children of the people.] I believe this;

means the burial-place of the common people.

Verse 7. The houses of the sodomites] We have already often met

with these kedeshim or consecrated persons. The word

implies all kinds of prostitutes, as well as abusers of themselves

with mankind.

Wove hangings for the grove.] For Asherah; curtains or tent

coverings for the places where the rites of the impure goddess

were performed. See Clarke on 2Ki 21:26.

Verse 8. The gate of Joshua] The place where he, as governor of

the city, heard and decided causes. Near this we find there were

public altars, where sometimes the true God, at other times false

gods, were honoured.

Verse 9. The priests of the high places came not up] As these

priests had offered sacrifices on the high places, though it was

to the true God, yet they were not thought proper to be employed

immediately about the temple; but as they were acknowledged to

belong to the priesthood, they had a right to their support;

therefore a portion of the tithes, offerings, and unleavened

bread, shew-bread, &c., was appointed to them for their support.

Thus they were treated as priests who had some infirmity which

rendered it improper for them to minister at the altar. See

Le 21:17, &c., and particularly Le 21:22, 23.

Verse 10. He defiled Topheth] St. Jerome says that Topheth was a

fine and pleasant place, well watered with fountains, and adorned

with gardens. The valley of the son of Hinnom, or Gehenna, was in

one part; here it appears the sacred rites of Molech were

performed, and to this all the filth of the city was carried, and

perpetual fires were kept up in order to consume it. Hence it has

been considered a type of hell; and in this sense it is used in

the New Testament.

It is here said that Josiah defiled this place that no man might

make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire. He

destroyed the image of Molech, and so polluted the place where he

stood, or his temple, that it was rendered in every way

abominable. The rabbins say that Topheth had its name from

toph, a drum, because instruments of this kind were used to

drown the cries of the children that were put into the burning

arms of Molech, to be scorched to death. This may be as true as

the following definition: "Topheth, or the valley of the son of

Hinnom, was a place near Jerusalem, where the filth and offal of

the city were thrown, and where a constant fire was kept up to

consume the wretched remains of executed criminals. It was a human

shambles, a public chopping-block, where the arms and legs of men

and women were quartered off by thousands." Query, On what

authority do such descriptions rest?

Verse 11. The horses that the kings of Judah had given to the

sun.] Jarchi says that those who adored the sun had horses

which they mounted every morning to go out to meet the sun at his

rising. Throughout the East the horse, because of his swiftness

and utility, was dedicated to the sun; and the Greeks and Romans

feigned that the chariot of the sun was drawn by four

horses-Pyroeis, Eous, AEthon, and Phlegon.

See Clarke on 2Ki 2:11.

Whether these were living or sculptured horses, we cannot tell;

the latter is the more reasonable supposition.

Verse 12. On the top of the upper chamber] Altars built on the

flat roof of the house. Such altars were erected to the sun,

moon, stars, &c.

Verse 13. Mount of corruption] This, says Jarchi, following the

Chaldee, was the mount of Olives, for this is the mount

hammishchah, of unction; but because of the idolatrous purposes

for which it was used, the Scripture changed the appellation to

the mount hammashchith, of corruption.

Ashtoreth the abomination, &c.] See on 1Ki 11:7.

Verse 14. Filled their places with the bones of men.] This was

allowed to be the utmost defilement to which any thing could be

exposed.

Verse 16. And as Josiah turned himself] This verse is much more

complete in the Septuagint, and in the Hexaplar Syriac version

at Paris. I shall give the whole, making a distinction where, in

those versions, any thing is added: "And 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 burnt them upon the

altar, and polluted it: according to the word of the Lord which

the man of God proclaimed [when Jeroboam stood by the altar at the

feast. And turning about, he cast his eyes on the sepulchre of the

man of God] who proclaimed these words." See 1Ki 13:2, where

these things were predicted, and see the notes there.

Verse 17. What title is that] There was either a stone, an

image, or an inscription here: the old prophet no doubt took

care to have the place made sufficiently remarkable.

Verse 18. The prophet that came out of Samaria]

See Clarke on 1Ki 13:32.

Verse 19. That were in the cities of Samaria] Israel had now no

king; and Josiah, of the blood royal of Judah, had certainly a

direct right to the kingdom; he had, at this time, an especial

commission from God, to reform every abuse through the whole

land-all that ground that was given by the Lord as an inheritance

to the twelve sons of Jacob. Therefore he had every right to carry

his plans of reformation into the Samaritan states.

Verse 20. Slew all the priests] The lives of these, as

corrupters of the people, were forfeited to the law.

Verse 22. Surely there was not holden such a passover] Not one

on purer principles, more heartily joined in by the people

present, more literally consecrated, or more religiously observed.

The words do not apply to the number present, but to the manner

and spirit. See the particulars and mode of celebrating this

passover in 2Ch 35:1-18.

Verse 24. The workers with familiar spirits] See on 2Ki 21:5.

And the images] The teraphim. See Clarke on Ge 31:19.

Verse 25. Like unto him was there no king] Perhaps not one from

the time of David; and, morally considered, including David

himself, none ever sat on the Jewish throne, so truly exemplary in

his own conduct, and so thoroughly zealous in the work of God.

David was a greater but not a better man than Josiah.

Verse 26. The Lord turned not] It was of no use to try this

fickle and radically depraved people any longer. They were

respited merely during the life of Josiah.

Verse 29. In his days Pharaoh-nechoh] See the note on the death

of Josiah, See Clarke on 2Ki 22:20.

Nechoh is supposed to have been the son of Psammitichus, king of

Egypt; and the Assyrian king, whom he was now going to attack, was

the famous Nabopolassar. What the cause of this quarrel was, is

not known. Some say it was on account of Carchemish, a city on the

Euphrates, belonging to the Egyptians, which Nabopolassar had

seized. See Isa 10:9.

Verse 30. Dead from Megiddo] The word meth should here be

considered as a participle, dying, for it is certain he was not

dead: he was mortally wounded at Megiddo, was carried in a dying

state to Jerusalem, and there he died and was buried. See

2Ch 35:24.

Herodotus, lib. i., c. 17, 18, 25, and lib. ii. 159, appears to

refer to the same war which is here mentioned. He says that

Nechoh, in the sixth year of his reign, went to attack the king of

Assyria at Magdolum, gained a complete victory, and took Cadytis.

Usher and others believe that Magdolum and Megiddo were the same

place. The exact place of the battle seems to have been

Hadadrimmon, in the valley of Megiddo, for there Zechariah tells

us 2Ki 12:11, was the great mourning for Josiah. Compare this

with 2Ch 35:24, 25.

Verse 31. Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old] This was not

the eldest son of Josiah, which is evident from this, that he was

twenty-three years old when he began to reign; that he reigned

but three months; that, being dethroned, his brother Eliakim was

put in his place, who was then twenty-five years of age. Eliakim,

therefore, was the eldest brother; but Jehoahaz was probably

raised to the throne by the people, as being of a more active and

martial spirit.

Verse 33. Nechoh put him in bands] But what was the cause of his

putting him in bands? It is conjectured, and not without reason,

that Jehoahaz, otherwise called Shallum, raised an army, met

Nechoh in his return from Carchemish, fought, was beaten, taken

prisoner, put in chains; and taken into Egypt, where he died;

2Ki 23:34, and Jer 22:11, 12.

Riblah or Diblath, the place of this battle, was probably a town

in Syria, in the land or district of Hamath.

Verse 34. Turned his name to Jehoiakim] These names are

precisely the same in signification: ELIAKIM is God shall arise;

JEHOIAKIM, Jehovah shall arise; or, the resurrection of God; the

resurrection of Jehovah. That is, God's rising again to show his

power, justice, &c. The change of the name was to show Nechoh's

supremacy, and that Jehoiakim was only his vassal or viceroy.

Proofs of this mode of changing the name, when a person of greater

power put another in office under himself, may be seen in the case

of Mattaniah, changed into Zedekiah; Daniel, Mishael, Hananiah,

and Azariah, into Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego;

and Joseph into Zaphnath-paaneah. See Da 1:6, 7; Ge 41:45.

Verse 35. Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold] Nechoh had

placed him there as viceroy, simply to raise and collect his

taxes.

Every one according to his taxation] That is, each was assessed

in proportion to his property: that was the principle avowed: but

there is reason to fear that this bad king was not governed by it.

Verse 37. He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord]

He was a most unprincipled and oppressive tyrant. Jeremiah gives

us his character at large, 2Ki 22:13-19, to which the reader will

do well to refer. Jeremiah was at that time in the land, and was

an eyewitness of the abominations of this cruel king.

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