2 Kings 22
This chapter begins the story of the reign of good king Josiah, whose
goodness shines the brighter because it came just after so much
wickedness, which he had the honour to reform, and just before so great
a destruction, which yet he had not the honour to prevent. Here, after
his general character
(2 Kings 22:1,2),
we have a particular account of the respect he paid
I. To God's house, which he repaired,
2 Kings 22:3-7
II. To God's book, which he was much affected with the reading of,
2 Kings 22:8-11
III. To God's messengers, whom he thereupon consulted,
2 Kings 22:12-14
And by whom he received from God an answer threatening Jerusalem's
(2 Kings 22:15-17),
but promising favour to him
(2 Kings 22:18-20),
upon which he set about that glorious work of reformation which we have
an account of in the next chapter.
|Josiah's Pious Reign; the Book of the Law Read.
||B. C. 623.|
1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he
reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name
was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.
2 And 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.
3 And 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,
4 Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver
which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of
the door have gathered of the people:
5 And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the
work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let
them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of
the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
6 Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber
and hewn stone to repair the house.
7 Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money
that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt
8 And 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.
9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king
word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that
was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of
them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of
10 And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the
priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the
Concerning Josiah we are here told,
I. That he was very young when he began to reign
(2 Kings 22:1),
only eight years old. Solomon says, Woe unto thee, O land! when thy
king is a child; but happy art thou, O land! when thy king is
such a child. Our English Israel had once a king that was such a
child, Edward VI. Josiah, being young, had not received any bad
impressions from the example of his father and grandfather, but soon
saw their errors, and God gave his grace to take warning by them. See
II. That he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,
2 Kings 22:2.
See the sovereignty of divine grace--the father passed by and left to
perish in his sin, the son a chosen vessel. See the triumphs of that
grace--Josiah born of a wicked father, no good education nor good
example given him, but many about him who no doubt advised him to tread
in his father's steps and few that gave him any good counsel, and yet
the grace of God made him an eminent saint, cut him off from the
wild olive and grafted him into the good olive,
Nothing is too hard for that grace to do. He walked in a good way, and
turned not aside (as some of his predecessors had done who began well)
to the right hand nor to the left. There are errors on both
hands, but God kept him in the right way; he fell neither into
superstition nor profaneness.
III. That he took care for the repair of the temple. This he did in the
eighteenth year of his reign,
2 Kings 22:3.
2 Chronicles 34:8.
He began much sooner to seek the Lord (as appears,
2 Chronicles 34:3),
but it is to be feared the work of reformation went slowly on and met
with much opposition, so that he could not effect what he desired and
designed, till his power was thoroughly confirmed. The consideration of
the time we unavoidably lost in our minority should quicken us, when we
have come to years, to act with so much the more vigour in the service
of God. Having begun late we have need work hard. He sent Shaphan, the
secretary of state, to Hilkiah the high priest, to take an account of
the money that was collected for this use by the door-keepers
(2 Kings 22:4);
for, it seems, they took much the same way of raising the money that
2 Kings 12:9.
When people gave by a little at a time the burden was insensible, and,
the contribution being voluntary, it was not complained of. This money,
so collected, he ordered him to lay out for the repair of the temple,
2 Kings 22:5,6.
And now, it seems, the workmen (as in the days of Joash) acquitted
themselves so well that there was no reckoning made with them
(2 Kings 22:7),
which is certainly mentioned to the praise of the workmen, that they
gained such a reputation for honesty, but whether to the praise of
those that employed them I know not; a man should count money (we say)
after his own father; it would not have been amiss to have reckoned
with the workmen, that others also might be satisfied of their
IV. That, in repairing the temple, the book of the law was
happily found and brought to the king,
2 Kings 22:8,10.
Some think this book was the autograph, or original manuscript, of the
five books of Moses, under his own hand; others think it was only an
ancient and authentic copy. Most likely it was that which, by the
command of Moses, was laid up in the most holy place,
1. It seems, this book of the law was lost or missing. Perhaps it was
carelessly mislaid and neglected, thrown by into a corner (as some
throw their Bibles), by those that knew not the value of it, and
forgotten there; or it was maliciously concealed by some of the
idolatrous kings, or their agents, who were restrained by the
providence of God or their own consciences from burning and destroying
it, but buried it, in hopes it would never see the light again; or, as
some think, it was carefully laid up by some of its friends, lest it
should fall into the hands of its enemies. Whoever were the
instruments of its preservation, we ought to acknowledge the hand of
God in it. If this was the only authentic copy of the Pentateuch then
in being, which had (as I may say) so narrow a turn for its life and
was so near perishing, I wonder the hearts of all good people did not
tremble for that sacred treasure, as Eli's for the ark, and I am sure
we now have reason to thank God, upon our knees, for that happy
providence by which Hilkiah found this book at this time, found it when
he sought it not,
If the holy scriptures had not been of God, they would not have been in
being at this day; God's care of the Bible is a plain indication of his
interest in it.
2. Whether this was the only authentic copy in being or no, it seems
the things contained in it were new both to the king himself and to the
high priest; for the king, upon the reading of it, rent his clothes. We
have reason to think that neither the command for the king's writing a
copy of the law, nor that for the public reading of the law every
had been observed for a long time; and when the instituted means of
keeping up religion are neglected religion itself will soon go to
decay. Yet, on the other hand, if the book of the law was lost, it
seems difficult to determine what rule Josiah went by in doing that
which was right in the sight of the Lord, and how the priests
and people kept up the rites of their religion. I am apt to think that
the people generally took up with abstracts of the law, like our
abridgements of the statutes, which the priests, to save themselves the
trouble of writing and the people of reading the book at large, had
furnished them with--a sort of ritual, directing them in the
observances of their religion, but leaving out what they thought fit,
and particularly the promises and threatenings
&c.), for I observe that these were the portions of the law which
Josiah was so much affected with
(2 Kings 22:13),
for these were new to him. No summaries, extracts, or collections, out
of the Bible (though they may have their use) can be effectual to
convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will like the Bible
itself. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt when the book
of the law was such a scarce thing among them; where that vision is not
the people perish. Those that endeavoured to debauch them no doubt used
all the arts they could to get that book out of their hands. The church
of Rome could not keep up the use of images but by forbidding the use
of the scripture.
3. It was a great instance of God's favour, and a token for good to
Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably
brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which
Josiah had begun. It is a sign that God has mercy in store for a people
when he magnifies his law among them and makes that honourable, and
furnishes them with means for the increase of scripture-knowledge. The
translating of the scriptures into vulgar tongues was the glory,
strength, and joy of the Reformation from Popery. It is observable that
they were about a good work, repairing the temple, when they found the
book of the law. Those that do their duty according to their knowledge
shall have their knowledge increased. To him that hath shall be given.
The book of the law was an abundant recompence for all their care and
cost about the repair of the temple.
4. Hilkiah the priest was exceedingly well pleased with the discovery.
"O," says he to Shaphan, "rejoice with me, for I have found the book
of the law, eureka, eureka,--I have found, I have
found, that jewel of inestimable value. Here, carry it to the king;
it is the richest jewel of his crown. Read it before him. He walks in
the way of David his father, and, if he be like him, he will
love the book of the law and bid that welcome; that will be his delight
and his counsellor."
|The Ruin of Judah Foretold; the Favour Shown to Josiah.
||B. C. 623.|
11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of
the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the
son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the
scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,
13 Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and
for all Judah, concerning 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
14 So 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;) and they communed
15 And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
Tell the man that sent you to me,
16 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this
place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of
the book which the king of Judah hath read:
17 Because 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 kindled against
this place, and shall not be quenched.
18 But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the
LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of
Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;
19 Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled
thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake 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, saith the LORD.
20 Behold 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.
We hear no more of the repairing of the temple: no doubt that good work
went on well; but the book of the law that was found in it occupies us
now, and well it may. It is not laid up in the king's cabinet as a
piece of antiquity, a rarity to be admired, but it is read before the
king. Those put the truest honour upon their Bibles that study them and
converse with them daily, feed on that bread and walk by that light.
Men of honour and business must look upon an acquaintance with God's
word to be their best business and honour. Now here we have,
I. The impressions which the reading of the law made upon Josiah. He
rent his clothes, as one ashamed of the sin of his people and afraid of
the wrath of God; he had long thought the case of his kingdom bad, by
reason of the idolatries and impieties that had been found among them,
but he never thought it so bad as he perceived it to be by the book of
the law now read to him. The rending of his clothes signified the
rending of his heart for the dishonour done to God, and the ruin he saw
coming upon his people.
II. The application he made to God hereupon: Go, enquire of the Lord
2 Kings 22:13.
1. Two things we may suppose he desired to know:--"Enquire,
(1.) What we shall do; what course we shall take to turn away God's
wrath and prevent the judgments which our sins have deserved."
Convictions of sin and wrath should put us upon this enquiry, What
shall we do to be saved? Wherewithal shall we come before the Lord?
If you will thus enquire, enquire quickly, before it be too late.
(2.) "What we may expect and must provide for." He acknowledges,
"Our fathers have not hearkened to the words of this book; if
this be the rule of right, certainly our fathers have been much in the
wrong." Now that the commandment came sin revived, and appeared
sin; in the glass of the law, he saw the sins of his people more
numerous and more heinous than he had before seen them, and more
exceedingly sinful. He infers hence, "Certainly great is the wrath
that is kindled against us; if this be the word of God, as no doubt
it is, and he will be true to his word, as no doubt he will be, we are
all undone. I never thought the threatenings of the law so severe, and
the curses of the covenant so terrible, as now I find them to be; it is
time to look about us if these be in force against us." Note, Those who
are truly apprehensive of the weight of God's wrath cannot but be very
solicitous to obtain his favour, and inquisitive how they may make
their peace with him. Magistrates should enquire for their people, and
study how to prevent the judgments of God that they see hanging over
2. This enquiry Josiah sent,
(1.) By some of his great men, who are named
2 Kings 22:12,
2 Kings 22:14.
Thus he put an honour upon the oracle, by employing those of the first
rank to attend it.
(2.) To Huldah the prophetess,
2 Kings 22:14.
The spirit of prophecy, that inestimable treasure, was sometimes put
not only into earthen vessels, but into the weaker
vessels, that the excellency of the power might be of God.
Miriam helped to lead Israel out of Egypt
Deborah judged them, and now Huldah instructed them in the mind of God,
and her being a wife was no prejudice at all to her being a prophetess;
marriage is honourable in all. It was a mercy to Jerusalem that
when Bibles were scarce they had prophets, as afterwards, when prophecy
ceased, that they had more Bibles; for God never leaves himself without
witness, because he will leave sinners without excuse. Jeremiah and
Zephaniah prophesied at this time, yet the king's messengers made
Huldah their oracle, probably because her husband having a place at
court (for he was keeper of the wardrobe) they had had more and longer
acquaintance with her and greater assurances of her commission than of
any other; they had, it is likely, consulted her upon other occasions,
and had found that the word of God in her mouth was truth. She was
near, for she dwelt at Jerusalem, in a place called Mishneh, the
second rank of buildings from the royal palace. The Jews say that she
prophesied among the women, the court ladies, being herself one of
them, who it is probable had their apartments in that place. Happy the
court that had a prophetess within the verge of it, and knew how to
III. The answer he received from God to his enquiry. Huldah returned it
not in the language of a courtier--"Pray give my humble service to his
Majesty, and let him know that this is the message I have for him from
the God of Israel;" but in the dialect of a prophetess, speaking from
him before whom all stand upon the same level--Tell the man that sent
you to me,
2 Kings 22:15.
Even kings, though gods to us, are men to God, and shall so be dealt
with; for with him there is no respect of persons.
1. She let him know what judgments God had in store for Judah and
(2 Kings 22:16,17):
My wrath shall be kindled against this place; and what is hell
itself but the fire of God's wrath kindled against sinners? Observe,
(1.) The degree and duration of it. It is so kindled that it shall
not be quenched; the decree has gone forth; it is too late now to
think of preventing it; the iniquity of Jerusalem shall not be purged
with sacrifice or offering. Hell is unquenchable fire.
(2.) The reference it has,
[1.] To their sins: "They have committed them, as it were, with design,
and on purpose to provoke me to anger. It is a fire of their own
kindling; they would provoke me, and at length I am provoked."
[2.] To God's threatenings: "The evil I bring is according to the words
of the book which the king of Judah has read; the scripture is
fulfilled in it. Those that would not be bound by the precept shall be
bound by the penalty." God will be found no less terrible to impenitent
sinners than his word makes him to be.
2. She let him know what mercy God had in store for him.
(1.) Notice is taken of his great tenderness and concern for the glory
of God and the welfare of his kingdom
(2 Kings 22:19):
Thy heart was tender. Note, God will distinguish those that
distinguish themselves. The generality of the people were hardened and
their hearts unhumbled, so were the wicked kings his predecessors, but
Josiah's heart was tender. He received the impressions of God's word,
trembled at it and yielded to it; he was exceedingly grieved for the
dishonour done to God by the sins of his fathers and of his people; he
was afraid of the judgments of God, which he saw coming upon Jerusalem,
and earnestly deprecated them. This is tenderness of heart, and thus he
humbled himself before the Lord, and expressed these pious
affections by rending his clothes and weeping before God, probably in
his closet; but he that sees in secret says it was before him,
and he heard it, and put every tear of tenderness into his bottle.
Note, Those that most fear God's wrath are least likely to feel it. It
should seem that those words
much affected Josiah, I will bring the land into desolation; for
when he heard of the desolation and of the curse, that is, that
God would forsake them and separate them to evil (for till it
came to that they were neither desolate nor accursed), then he rent his
clothes: the threatening went to his heart.
(2.) A reprieve is granted till after his death
(2 Kings 22:20):
I will gather thee to thy fathers. The saints then, no doubt,
had a comfortable prospect of happiness on the other side death, else
being gathered to their fathers would not have been so often made the
matter of a promise as we find it was. Josiah could not prevail to
prevent the judgment itself, but God promised him he should not live to
see it, which (especially considering that he died in the midst of his
days, before he was forty years old) would have been but a small reward
for his eminent piety if there had not been another world in which he
should be abundantly recompensed,
When the righteous is taken away from the evil to come he enters
This is promised to Josiah here: Thou shalt go to thy grave in
peace, which refers not to the manner of his death (for he was
killed in a battle), but to the time of it; it was a little before the
captivity in Babylon, that great trouble, in comparison with which the
rest were as nothing, so that he might be truly said to die in peace
that did not live to share in that. He died in the love and favour of
God, which secure such a peace as no circumstances of dying, no, not
dying in the field of war, could alter the nature of, or break in