2 Chronicles 34
Before we see Judah and Jerusalem ruined we shall yet see some glorious
years, while good Josiah sits at the helm. By his pious endeavours for
reformation God tried them yet once more; if they had known in this
their day, the day of their visitation, the things that belonged to
their peace and improved them, their ruin might have been prevented.
But after this reign they were hidden from their eyes, and the next
reigns brought an utter desolation upon them. In this chapter we have,
I. A general account of Josiah's character,
2 Chronicles 34:1,2.
II. His zeal to root out idolatry,
2 Chronicles 34:3-7.
III. His care to repair the temple,
2 Chronicles 34:8-13.
IV. The finding of the book of the law and the good use made of it,
2 Chronicles 34:14-28.
V. The public reading of the law to the people and their renewing their
covenant with God thereupon,
2 Chronicles 34:29-33.
Much of this we had
2 Kings 22:1-20
|The Reign of Josiah.
||B. C. 623.|
1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he
reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.
2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD,
and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined
neither to the right hand, nor to the left.
3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young,
he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the
twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high
places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten
4 And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and
the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the
groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in
pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves
of them that had sacrificed unto them.
5 And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and
cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.
6 And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and
Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.
7 And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and
had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the
idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to
Concerning Josiah we are here told,
1. That he came to the crown when he was very young, only eight years
old (yet his infancy did not debar him from his right), and he reigned
(2 Chronicles 34:1),
a considerable time. I fear, however, that in the beginning of his
reign things went much as they had done in his father's time, because,
being a child, he must have left the management of them to others; so
that it was not till his twelfth year, which goes far in the number of
his years, that the reformation began,
2 Chronicles 34:3.
He could not, as Hezekiah did, fall about it immediately.
2. That he reigned very well
(2 Chronicles 34:2),
approved himself to God, trod in the steps of David, and did not
decline either to the right hand of to the left: for there are
errors on both hands.
3. That while he was young, about sixteen years old, he began to
seek after God,
2 Chronicles 34:3.
We have reason to think he had not so good an education as Manasseh had
(it is well if those about him did not endeavour to corrupt and debauch
him); yet he thus sought God when he was young. It is the duty and
interest of young people, and will particularly be the honour of young
gentlemen, as soon as they come to years of understanding, to begin
to seek God; for those that seek him early shall find him.
4. That in the twelfth year of his reign, when it is probable he took
the administration of the government entirely into his own hands, he
began to purge his kingdom from the remains of idolatry; he
destroyed the high places, groves, images, altars, all the utensils of
2 Chronicles 34:3,4.
He not only cast them out as Manasseh did, but broke them to pieces,
and made dust of them. This destruction of idolatry is here said to be
in his twelfth year, but it was said
(2 Kings 23:23)
to be in his eighteenth year. Something was probably done towards it in
his twelfth year; then he began to purge out idolatry, but that good
work met with opposition, so that it was not thoroughly done till they
had found the book of the law six years afterwards. But here the whole
work is laid together briefly which was much more largely and
particularly related in the Kings. His zeal carried him out to
do this, not only in Judah and Jerusalem, but in the cities of Israel
too, as far as he had any influence upon them.
8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged
the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and
Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the
recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.
9 And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered
the money that was brought into the house of God, which the
Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh
and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah
and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.
10 And they put it in the hand of the workmen that had the
oversight of the house of the LORD, and they gave it to the
workmen that wrought in the house of the LORD, to repair and
amend the house:
11 Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy
hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses
which the kings of Judah had destroyed.
12 And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of
them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of
Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the
Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all
that could skill of instruments of music.
13 Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were
overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service:
and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and
1. Orders are given by the king for the repair of the temple,
2 Chronicles 34:8.
When he had purged the house of the corruptions of it he began to fit
it up for the services that were to be performed in it. Thus we must do
by the spiritual temple of the heart, get it cleansed from the
pollutions of sin, and then renewed, so as to be transformed into the
image of God. Josiah, in this order, calls God the Lord his God.
Those that truly love God will love the habitation of his house.
2. Care is taken about it, effectual care. The Levites went about the
country and gathered money towards it, which was returned to the three
2 Chronicles 34:8.
They brought it to Hilkiah the high priest
(2 Chronicles 34:9),
and he and they put it into the hands of workmen, both overseers and
labourers, who undertook to do it by the great, as we say, or in the
2 Chronicles 34:10,11.
It is observed that the workmen were industrious and honest: They
did the work faithfully
(2 Chronicles 34:12);
and workmen are not completely faithful if they are not both careful
and diligent, for a confidence is reposed in them that they will be so.
It is also intimated that the overseers were ingenious; for it is said
that all those were employed to inspect this work who were skilful in
instruments of music; not that their skill in music could be of
any use in architecture, but it was an evidence that they were men of
sense and ingenuity, and particularly that their genius lay towards the
mathematics, which qualified them very much for this trust. Witty men
are then wise men when they employ their wit in doing good, in helping
their friends, and, as they have opportunity, in serving the public.
Observe, in this work, how God dispenses his gifts variously; here were
some that were bearers of burdens, cut out for bodily labour and
fit to work. Here were others (made meliori luto--of finer
materials) that had skill in music, and they were overseers of
those that laboured, and scribes and officers. The former were the
hands: these were the heads. They had need of one another, and the work
needed both. Let not the overseers of the work despise the bearers of
burdens, nor let those that work in the service grudge at those whose
office it is to direct; but let each esteem and serve the other in
love, and let God have the glory and the church the benefit of the
different gifts and dispositions of both.
14 And when they brought out the money that was brought into
the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law
of the LORD given by Moses.
15 And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have
found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah
delivered the book to Shaphan.
16 And Shaphan carried the book to the king, and brought the
king word back again, saying, All that was committed to thy
servants, they do it.
17 And they have gathered together the money that was found in
the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hand of the
overseers, and to the hand of the workmen.
18 Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the
priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
19 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of
the law, that he rent his clothes.
20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of
Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and
Asaiah a servant of the king's, saying,
21 Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left
in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is
found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out
upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD,
to do after all that is written in this book.
22 And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went
to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath,
the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in
Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that
23 And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
Tell ye the man that sent you to me,
24 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this
place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses
that are written in the book which they have read before the king
25 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 poured out upon
this place, and shall not be quenched.
26 And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the
LORD, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel
concerning the words which thou hast heard;
27 Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble
thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this
place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself
before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have
even heard thee also, saith the LORD.
28 Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be
gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all
the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the
inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
This whole paragraph we had, just as it is here related,
2 Kings 22:8-20,
and have nothing to add here to what was there observed. But,
1. We may hence take occasion to bless God that we have plenty of
Bibles, and that they are, or may be, in all hands,--that the book of
the law and gospel is not lost, is not scarce,--that, in this sense,
the word of the Lord is not precious. Bibles are jewels,
but, thanks be to God, they are not rarities. The fountain of the
waters of life is not a spring shut up or a fountain sealed, but the
streams of it, in all places, make glad the city of our God. Usus
communis aquarum--These waters flow for general use. What a great
deal shall we have to answer for if the great things of God's law,
being thus made common, should be accounted by us as strange things!
2. We may hence learn, whenever we read or hear the word of God, to
affect our hearts with it, and to get them possessed with a holy fear
of that wrath of God which is there revealed against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men, as Josiah's tender heart was. When he heard
the words of the law he rent his clothes
(2 Chronicles 34:19),
and God was well pleased with his doing so,
2 Chronicles 34:27.
Were the things contained in the scripture new to us, as they were here
to Josiah, surely they would make deeper impressions upon us than
commonly they do; but they are not the less weighty, and therefore
should not be the less considered by us, for their being well known.
Rend the heart therefore, not the garments.
3. We are here directed when we are under convictions of sin, and
apprehensions of divine wrath, to enquire of the Lord; so Josiah did,
2 Chronicles 34:21.
It concerns us to ask (as they did,
Men and brethren, what shall we do? and more particularly (as
the jailor), What must I do to be saved?
If you will thus enquire, enquire
and, blessed be God, we have the lively oracles to which to apply with
4. We are here warned of the ruin that sin brings upon nations and
kingdoms. Those that forsake God bring evil upon themselves
(2 Chronicles 34:24,25),
and kindle a fire which shall not be quenched. Such will the
fire of God's wrath be when the decree has gone forth against those
that obstinately and impenitently persist in their wicked ways.
5. We are here encouraged to humble ourselves before God and seek unto
him, as Josiah did. If we cannot prevail thereby to turn away God's
wrath from our land, yet we shall deliver our own souls,
2 Chronicles 34:27,28.
And good people are here taught to be so far from fearing death as to
welcome it rather when it takes them away from the evil to come.
See how the property of it is altered by making it the matter of a
promise: Thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, housed in
that ark, as Noah, when a deluge is coming.
29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of
Judah and Jerusalem.
30 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the
men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests,
and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read
in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was
found in the house of the LORD.
31 And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before
the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments,
and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and
with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are
written in this book.
32 And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and
Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did
according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.
33 And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the
countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made
all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the
LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from
following the LORD, the God of their fathers.
We have here an account of the further advances which Josiah made
towards the reformation of his kingdom upon the hearing of the law read
and the receipt of the message God sent him by the prophetess. Happy
the people that had such a king; for here we find that,
1. They were well taught. He did not go about to force them to do their
duty, till he had first instructed them in it. He called all the people
together, great and small, young and old, rich and poor, high and low.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear the words of the book
of the covenant; for they are all concerned in those words. To put
an honour upon the service, and to engage attention the more, though
there were priests and Levites present, the king himself read the book
to the people
(2 Chronicles 34:30),
and he read it, no doubt, in such a manner as to show that he was
himself affected with it, which would be a means of affecting the
2. They were well fixed. The articles of agreement between God and
Israel being read, that they might intelligently covenant with God,
both king and people with great solemnity did as it were subscribe the
articles. The king in his place covenanted to keep God's commandments
with all his heart and soul, according to what was written in the
(2 Chronicles 34:31),
and urged the people to declare their consent likewise to this
covenant, and solemnly to promise that they would faithfully perform,
fulfil, and keep, all and every thing that was on their part to be
done, according to this covenant: this they did; they could not for
shame do otherwise. He caused all that were present to stand
(2 Chronicles 34:32),
and made them all to serve, even to serve the Lord their God
(2 Chronicles 34:33),
to do it and to make a business of it. He did all he could to
bring them to it--to serve, even to serve; the repetition
denotes that this was the only thing his heart was set on; he aimed at
nothing else in what he did but to engage them to God and their duty.
3. They were well tended, were honest with good looking to. All his
days they departed not from following the Lord; he kept them, with
much ado, from running into idolatry again. All his days were
days of restraint upon them; but this intimated that there was in them
a bent to backslide, a strong inclination to idolatry. Many of
them wanted nothing but to have him out of the way, and then they would
have their high places and their images up again. And therefore we find
that in the days of Josiah
God charged it upon treacherous Judah that she had not returned to
him with all her heart, but feignedly
(2 Chronicles 34:10),
nay, had played the harlot
(2 Chronicles 34:8)
and thereby had even justified backsliding Israel,
2 Chronicles 34:11.
In the twenty-third year of this reign, four or five years after this,
they had gone on to provoke God to anger with the works of their
and, which is very observable, it is from the beginning of Josiah's
reformation, his twelfth or thirteenth year, that the iniquity of
the house of Judah, which brought ruin upon them, and which the
prophet was to bear lying on his right side, was dated
for thence to the destruction of Jerusalem was just forty years. Josiah
was sincere in what he did, but the generality of the people were
averse to it and hankered after their idols still; so that the
reformation, though well designed and well prosecuted by the prince,
had little or no effect upon the people. It was with reluctancy that
they parted with their idols; still they were in heart joined to them,
and wished for them again. This God saw, and therefore from that time,
when one would have thought the foundations had been laid for a
perpetual security and peace, from that very time did the decree go
forth for their destruction. Nothing hastens the ruin of a people nor
ripens them for it more than the baffling of hopeful attempts for
reformation and a hypocritical return to God. Be not deceived, God
is not mocked.