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2 KINGS 23
THE REIGNS OF THE LAST THREE KINGS OF GOD'S PEOPLE;
ZEDEKIAH WAS A PUPPET OF BABYLON;
THE CONCLUSION OF JOSIAH'S REFORMATION (2 Kings 23:1-30)
And the king stood by the pillar
(2 Kings 23:3). This refers to one of the two great pillars set up in front of the temple by Solomon, either the Jachin or the Boaz.F1
All the people stood to the covenant
(2 Kings 23:3). This seems to be a reference to the ancient custom in the making or renewing of covenants, in which the parties to it passed between the portions of the sacrifice that accompanied such ceremonies, as in the instance of Abraham's covenant (Genesis 15:17). In no sense was this the making of a new covenant, but the renewed promise of the people to perform their part of the one already in existence. The people's standing to it may refer to their position between the portions of the sacrifice probably offered on that occasion.
"The effect of this was to give the Deuteronomic Code the force of statute law."F2 This common error popular among the radical critics is rejected out of hand, because Huldah had already confirmed the Holy Books of Moses (which were really "the book" discovered) as being absolutely true and certain and that God would "Bring upon Jerusalem all the words of this book" (2 Kings 22:16). Nothing that either Josiah or his whole nation could do would have made "a new covenant." Furthermore, nothing that any of them could do, not even the extensive reformations, would change the fact that the Real Covenant had already been so hopelessly broken by Judah that their destruction and removal out of God's sight was already a foregone certainty.
The nation had already broken the only covenant that mattered, and they had done so in such an offensive fashion that the doom of all Israel was already sealed and settled. Every word of that was reiterated by Huldah. The critical community have never erred more fundamentally than in their invention of that silly so-called "Deuteronomic Code." The purpose of the ceremony mentioned here was neither that of cutting a new covenant, nor of confirming the old one. The old and true covenant did not NEED confirming. Yes, our text reads, "to confirm the words of this covenant," (2 Kings 23:3), but that is a mistranslation, corrected in the RSV to read, "perform the words of this covenant." indicating that no change in the covenant was needed, but that the standard of Judah's performance was what should have been changed. And it was already too late for that to do much good!
Josiah's extensive reformations were carried out in Jerusalem, Judea and in Samaria, but our Biblical account mixes the report of these reforms in the record that is given here. The Bible does not follow the classical lines of organization that are popular among modern writers.
And for all the host of heaven
(2 Kings 23:4). This expression, used again in 2 Kings 23:5, is a reference to the constellations. The word from which this comes is a Hebrew term used only here in the Bible, and, according to the rabbis, it means the signs of the zodiac and the planets.F3
The idolatrous priests
(2 Kings 23:5). The word for priests in this verse always refers to the priests of a foreign religion (Hos. 10:5; Zeph. 1:4).F4 The word is [~chemarin], the usual Aramaic word for `priest,' which comes from a root meaning, to be black.F5 It means black-robed and is used in Hos. 10:5; Zeph. 1:4; and in 2 Kings 23:5.F6 Snaith denied this on the false premise that the white robes of Biblical priests was due to their having, Followed an ancient custom,F7 namely, that of the pagan priests. On the contrary, the Law of Moses, not the habit of pagan priests, prescribed the dress of the priests of Jehovah, and it is our conviction that the change was to distinguish God's priests from the idolaters. Furthermore, it would appear that the apostate church of Rev. 17 never made a more shocking error than that of dressing their priests in black!
We have already pointed out that the suppression of the idolatrous priests is not even mentioned in that alleged "Deuteronomic Code," and not even in the whole Book of Deuteronomy.
And he brought out the Asherah
(2 Kings 23:6). Really out! Not merely out of the temple but out of the city of Jerusalem, where it was totally destroyed and the remains of it cast upon the graves of the common people, which was considered to be its utmost defilement. This Asherah was the `graven image' of 2 Kings 21:7.F8
He brake down the houses of the sodomites
(2 Kings 23:7). The word for sodomites here, despite its being masculine, Includes both men and women of that depraved class,F9 as indicated by the mention of the women in the same verse. They were the cult prostitutes of paganism which the kings of Judah had brought into the very temple itself. Snaith mentions that, the hangings here were actually curtains or tents,F10 the usage of which was to provide privacy for the people practicing the gross immoralities accompanying the worship of the Asherah. (See Ezek. 8:14; 16:16; Amos 5:26; 2:8). It was an especially despicable thing that the clothes of the poor, left as pledges in the temple, were used in exactly the same manner.
FURTHER EXTENSIONS OF JOSIAH'S REFORMATION
From Geba to Beersheba
(2 Kings 23:8). Geba is used here as the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah.F11
The priests of the high places came not to the altar of Jehovah
(2 Kings 23:9). Apparently, what is indicated here is that the Levites who had accepted positions at the high places were brought back to Jerusalem and maintained there, but they were never again accepted as true priests with access to Jehovah's altar. Ezekiel reported this in greater detail (Ezekiel 44:10-14).
He defiled Tophet
(2 Kings 23:10). Of course, this is a reference to the shrine of Molech, erected in the valley of Hinnom by king Solomon. The root of the word Tophet means `a drum,'F12 the same being a reference to the drums that were used to drown out the cries of the helpless infants that were cast into the red hot arms of that horrible god.
He took away the horses. given to the sun ... and ... burned the chariots with fire
(2 Kings 23:11). The ancient mythological conception of the sun-god pictured him as driving a chariot across the sky every day. The reprobate kings of Judah had not overlooked anything. If anyone on earth worshipped something, they adopted it! It is not hard to understand that the whole Jewish nation had, in the excesses mentioned here, passed the point of no return in their rejection of their true God.
And the altars. which the kings of Judah made
(2 Kings 23:12). These `kings of Judah' we may identify as Ahaz who first constructed them and dedicated them to the host of heaven, and also Manasseh and Amon who later restored them following Hezekiah's reformation.F13
And the high places. did the king defile
(2 Kings 23:13). God had warned Israel prior to the Conquest under Joshua that the Canaanite high places were to be destroyed (Num. 33:52; Lev. 26:27-30), but the people had rebelliously kept them for the purpose of gratifying their sensual lusts. The destruction of those high places was, in no sense whatever, due to that imaginary Deuteronomic Code. The undeniable source of the order to destroy them was firmly reiterated in the whole Law of Moses. The usual error of radical critics is that of attributing the destruction, not to Moses, but to that mythical D document, as stated by Dentan, The code of Deuteronomy solved the problem by ordering them (the high places) to be destroyed.F14 The reason why God had decreed the destruction of those high places was that, They were so closely associated with the old Canaanite gods and goddesses of fertility and their immoral rites that it was absolutely impossible to purify them.F15
Montgomery's opinion that one "could hardly destroy a high place,"F16 might, in a sense be true, because "the place" would remain, but it is nevertheless incorrect. When Josiah was finished with breaking down and defiling their images and burning their buildings, the usefulness of such a place for the pagan worship no longer existed.
The mount of corruption
(2 Kings 23:13). This title came to be applied to that ridge of hills where Solomon had constructed pagan temples for his wives, Because of the rites which he had allowed to be established there.F17
JOSIAH EXTENDED HIS REFORMATION TO SAMARIA
Even that altar he brake down. burned the high place ... and burned the Asherah
(2 Kings 23:25). Thus there was rampant paganism in vogue at that altar in Bethel. The golden calf was only the half of it. His burning the high place is a reference to his burning all the buildings connected with it. This extension of the reformation to what had been Northern Israel was due to the dissolution of the northern kingdom; so that Josiah then regarded himself as king over the entire covenant people,F18 a fact also indicated by his inviting members of all the tribes to the Passover celebration.
What monument is that which I see?. It is the sepulchre of the man of God ... who proclaimed these things that thou hast done to the altar of Bethel
(2 Kings 23:17). Josiah was totally unaware of the fulfillment of the prophecy in 1 Kings 13:3 which his defilement of the altar of Bethel had accomplished, but the citizens of the place, who remembered it well, told him about it. Josiah did not act as he did to fulfill the prophecy, but in thus acting he unconsciously fulfilled it.F19
It is of very great significance that the prophecy of 1 Kings 13:2f gives the very name of the king of Judah who would defile the altar of Bethel. The passage reads: "O altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah: Behold a man shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall they burn upon thee." Thus, we have another prophecy comparable to that of Isaiah who prophesied the name of the king who would terminate the captivity of Israel, namely Cyrus (Isa. 44:28--45:1). Note also that Josiah's father Amon was a pagan and that he, in no sense, would have named a son as indicated in the prophecy, if he had been aware of it.
Radical and unbelieving critics can have a fit about such prophecies as these, but the ingenuity of all the infidels on earth can not get either one of them out of the Bible. There they are!
He slew all the priests of the high places upon the altars
(2 Kings 23:20). The severity of this destruction of the priests of the high places in what had been Northern Israel was explained by Keil as being, Because they were idolatrous priests,F20 completely devoted to paganism.
THE CELEBRATION OF THAT WONDERFUL PASSOVER
The Passover as a home festival is unduly stressed by critics, vainly seeking to establish their "Deuteronomic Code," as the origin of the passover. The Passover was never a home festival, except in the case of the first one, which was necessarily so in the absence of any other possibility. But Moses, writing in Deut. 16:1-8, instructed the children of Israel to observe the Passover in the place that "Jehovah should choose, for his name to dwell there." (Deuteronomy 16:2). The Book of Deuteronomy is ABSOLUTELY Mosaic, there being no evidence of any kind whatever of any other author having ever touched it. The instructions which the king ordered to be followed in the observance of this passover were not in that alleged "D" document, but in "this book of the covenant," namely, the Torah, or Pentateuch.
It is also a gross mistake to suppose that no Passover had ever been observed throughout the long history from the Judges to the times of Josiah. The text states that there had not been throughout that long period "such a passover" as this one. This merely means that there were marked differences in this one. Keil noted that, "What distinguished this passover was: (1) that all the Jews of all the tribes were invited to participate in it; and (2) that it was kept in strict accordance with the precepts of the Mosaic book of the law. In the reign of Hezekiah a great passover had been observed, but there were many violations of the Mosaic precepts, especially in the fact that it had to be delayed for a whole month to give the priests time to purify themselves."F21 It is important to notice that the Divine regulations for the Passover were known by Josiah's grandfather Hezekiah, and that there was nothing new about the regulations observed by the people of Josiah's Passover.
The Word of God that required a central sanctuary for the great festivals of Israel was known and observed even in the times of the Judges. The text here virtually says that.
The short account of this passover in Kings is supplemented by a much fuller record of it in some nineteen verses of 2 Chr. 35. "In those verses we learn that this Passover duly observed all the rites prescribed in the Pentateuch, whether written in Exodus, Leviticus or Deuteronomy."F22
The false theory regarding that "discovery" alleges that this Passover was the FIRST one celebrated at a central sanctuary, but the fact of Hezekiah's passover being also celebrated in Jerusalem contradicts the theory. Therefore, the die-hard critics assert that, "2 Kings 23:22 here denies that Hezekiah kept a similar feast."F23 This is a good illustration of what must be recognized as "dishonesty" in the advocates of the false theory. Note:
2 Chr. 30 says that Hezekiah kept a Passover in Jerusalem.
2 Kings 23:22 here says prior to Josiah's passover for a long while, "There was not kept such a Passover."
Does this deny what is said in Chronicles? Certainly not! What is stated is merely that Josiah's Passover was uniquely different in some ways from previous Passovers reaching back for generations. And how was that? All of the twelve tribes attended it! In no sense whatever does this DENY that Hezekiah kept the Passover, only that this one was different.
STILL FURTHER REFORMS ACHIEVED BY JOSIAH
The wizards. did Josiah put away
(2 Kings 23:24). Snaith and other critics have ERRONEOUSLY supposed that the reforms in these verses, fulfilled the Deuteronomic ideal,F24 overlooking the fact that the command to put wizards to death is not in Deuteronomy but in Lev. 20:27, additional proof that it was not the Book of Deuteronomy alone, nor a portion of it, that was found in the temple by Hilkiah, it was the entire law of Moses. Note the last phrase of 2 Kings 23:25, according to all the law of Moses.
That he might confirm the words of the law
(2 Kings 23:24). The marginal note gives perform instead of confirm here. (See comments on 2 Kings 23:3, above.) The RSV translates the word establish. What is stated is that Josiah was doing all of those reforms according to the commandments of God in the Books of Moses. Josiah was the last chance Israel had, because all of his four successors -- Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin and Zedekiah were, one and all, wicked princes.F25
Jehoahaz is the same king as Shallum (Jer. 22:10ff.)
GOD'S PUNISHMENT OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE NOT AVERTED
In the reign of Manasseh Judah had gone past the terminal day of the grace of God, the point of no return. It must have come as a definite shock to the devout souls in Judah that the extensive reforms of Josiah had, in no sense, averted the dreadful punishment which the nation so richly deserved. The people had not in their hearts accepted Josiah's reforms. Not even Josiah's wicked sons honored them, and, in the general sense, no one else did so. Judah had become just as fundamentally wicked as Northern Israel ever was, and the eternal justice of God demanded the same punishment for Judah that had been executed upon Israel, namely, destruction, defeat, deportation and removal from the land that God had given to their fathers.
The snide critical comment that, "The Deuteronomic compiler blamed Manasseh for the disaster (that overcame Judah),"F26 is incorrect. Although Manasseh alone is mentioned in this passage, it was merely because he was the most recent and most flagrant violator of the sacred covenant. Hosea spelled out the wickedness of the Chosen People extensively in Hos. 9, a wickedness that reached some kind of a climax in the days of Manasseh, but which, in fact, was an uninterrupted chain of evil reaching all the way back to the wilderness wanderings.
There is another ridiculous position of the advocates of the "D" document myth, namely, their allegation that "the Deuteronomic editor" could not understand why Josiah's reforms did not turn away God's wrath from Judah, a position dearly discernible in Snaith's remark above. LaSor pointed out the error in that false assumption. "There is little point in supposing that `the editor' could not understand why God's wrath was not turned away by Josiah's reforms, and that he then added 2 Kings 23:26,27, fixing the blame on Manasseh."F27 That mythical "Deuteronomic compiler" must have been the prime dunce of the entire 7th-century B.C. if he could have held any such alleged views. "The great 8th-century prophets had spoken, and Jeremiah and Zephaniah were even then speaking; and if we remove from their prophecies all of the warnings like these here, there would be little left."F28 Dentan also accepted the myth that "The Deuteronomists had supposed that Josiah's reign marked the beginning of a golden age."F29 This, of course, could have been true only if those so-called "`Deuteronomists" had never heard of the writings of any of the major or minor prophets of the O.T. Therefore, the mythical "Deuteronomists" is simply an impossible creation of the imagination of critics.
THE DEATH OF KING JOSIAH
The complex and troubled history of this particular period is an extensive study. The Assyrian empire was in a state of collapse. Nineveh had fallen in 612 B.C., and Pharaoh-necoh was ambitious to succeed Assyria as the world ruler. It is not exactly clear why Josiah felt it necessary to challenge the king of Egypt, but he did, losing his life as a result. Yes, God had promised through Huldah that Josiah would die in peace, but it is sinful to allege the fact of his being killed in battle as "a contradiction."
(1) The "in peace" of God's promise may have referred to the fact that Jerusalem would not be under attack at the time of his death.
(2) All of God's promises are conditional (Jeremiah 18:7-10), and it is simply astounding how many learned men apparently remain ignorant of this simple truth. In the light of it, Josiah's engagement of the king of Egypt in battle might have been contrary to God's will, nullifying the promise altogether.
See 2 Chr. 35 for other details of Josiah's death.
Pharaoh-necoh went up against the king of Assyria
(2 Kings 23:29). That king of Assyria was Nabopolassar the father of Nebuchadnezzar. His proper title was `King of Babylon';F30 a fact that became crystal clear following the battle of Charchemish (605 B.C.). This pharaoh was Pharaoh-Necoh II, the second pharaoh of the twenty-sixth dynasty.F31
The death of Josiah brings us very near the end of the story of the Kings of Judah. Three of Josiah's sons succeeded him. Jehoahaz (Shallum) for a brief period of about three months, Eliakim (Jehoaikim) who reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem, Jehoichin (Coniah) who reigned three months, and Zedekiah who reigned eleven years. Brief mention of the first two of these kings is made here, but the author of kings moved very rapidly to the fall of Jerusalem.
The prophet Jeremiah has written a great deal about these terminal kings of Judah in Jer. 20--39 on which we have written more than two hundred pages of comments (pp. 225-436 of Vol. 2 in my commentaries on the major prophets). For additional information about these kings, the reader is referred to that volume. From the times of Josiah, Judah was no longer an independent nation, being a vassal either of Egypt or of Babylon.
THE THREE MONTHS' REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ
Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign
(2 Kings 23:31). Only three months later when Jehoahaz's brother Eliakim (Jehoiakim) succeeded him, Eliakim was twenty-five years old; so Jehoahaz (Shallum) was the younger brother. The reason why he was made king before his brother might have been due to the fact, as supposed by Hammond, that, Eliakim had been captured upon the occasion of Josiah's death, and that he was still in the possession of Pharaoh-necoh.F32 The fact of Pharaoh's being able to depose Shallum and put his brother Eliakim on the throne supports that assumption.
His mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah
(2 Kings 23:31). The Jeremiah here was not the prophet, because the prophet Jeremiah was from Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1).
Ezekiel wrote an elegy concerning both of these kings (Ezekiel 10:1-8). The wickedness of both of them is recorded here in terminology that means they were gross idolaters contrary to all that their father had believed.
Pharaoh-necoh made Eliakim king in the room of Josiah his father
(2 Kings 23:34). This shows that Pharaoh-necoh did not recognize the three month rule of Jehoahaz at all. Keil's opinion is doubtless correct that, When Pharaoh heard that they had made Jehoahaz king, he at once sent a detachment of soldiers to Jerusalem and deposed him and placed Eliakim on the throne as his puppet.F33 This would appear to be verified by the declaration in 2 Chr. 36:3 that Pharaoh deposed him at Jerusalem.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF JEHOIAKIM
Jehoiakim was an exceedingly covetous oppressor of the Lord's people. His reign was marked by the shedding of innocent blood, the oppression of his subjects with forced labor, and all kinds of injustices. Jeremiah has a report of the conduct of this evil ruler (Jeremiah 22:13-17), and we have commented on this under those references.
He executed the prophet Urijah for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 26:20-23). He was an idolater, referred to by Josephus as, "An unjust man, and an evil-doer, neither pious in his relations toward God, nor equitable in his dealings with his fellowmen."F34
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.