Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Reign of Josiah - 2 Chronicles 34-35
The account of Josiah in the Chronicle agrees in all essential points with the representation in 2 Kings 22 and 23, but is chronologically more exact, and in many parts more complete than that. In the second book of Kings, the whole reform of the cultus carried out by Josiah is viewed in its connection with the discovery of the book of the law, on the occasion of the temple being repaired; and the narrative comprehends not only the repair of the temple, the discovery, the reading of the book of the law before the assembled people, and the renewal of the covenant, but also the extirpation of idolatry in Jerusalem and Judah and in all the cities of Israel, and the celebration of the passover in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign; see the introductory remarks to 2 Kings 22. In the Chronicle, on the contrary, these events are more kept apart, and described according to their order in time. As early as in the eighth year of his reign, Josiah, still a youth, began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in his twelfth year to purge Jerusalem and Judah of idolatry (Ch2 34:3). In the eighteenth year the book of the law was discovered in the temple, brought to the king, and read before him (Ch2 34:8-18); whereupon he, deeply moved by the contents of the book which had been read, and by the answer of the prophetess Huldah when inquired of concerning it (Ch2 34:19-28), went into the temple with the elders of the people, caused the law to be read to the whole people, and made a covenant before the Lord to obey the law (Ch2 34:29-32). He then caused all the idolatrous abominations which were still to be found in the land of Israel to be removed (Ch2 34:33), and prepared to hold the passover, as it had not been held since the days of Solomon (2 Chron 35:1-19). In other respects the main difference between the two accounts is, that in 2 Kings the suppression of idolatry is narrated with greater minuteness; the passover, on the contrary, being only briefly noticed; - while in the Chronicle the purification of Jerusalem, Judah, and the kingdom of Israel is shortly summarized (Ch2 34:3-7), but the celebration of the passover is minutely described on its ceremonial side (2 Chron 35:1-19).
2 Chronicles 34:1
Duration and spirit of Josiah's reign; agreeing with Kg2 22:1, Kg2 22:2, only the note as to Josiah's mother being here omitted.
2 Chronicles 34:3
Extirpation of idolatry. In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a youth, being then only sixteen years old, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year of his reign he commenced to purify Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, Asherim, etc. The cleansing of the land of Judah from the numerous objects of idolatry is summarily described in Ch2 34:4 and Ch2 34:5; and thereupon there follows (Ch2 34:6 and Ch2 34:7) the destruction of the idolatrous altars and images in the land of Israel, - all that it seemed necessary to say on that subject being thus mentioned at once. For that all this was not accomplished in the twelfth year is clear from the לטהר החל, "he commenced to cleanse," and is moreover attested by Ch2 34:33. The description of this destruction of the various objects of idolatry is rhetorically expressed, only carved and cast images being mentioned, besides the altars of the high places and the Asherim, without the enumeration of the different kings of idolatry which we find in 2 Kings 23:4-20. - On Ch2 34:4, cf. Ch2 31:1. ינתּציּ, they pulled down before him, i.e., under his eye, or his oversight, the altars of the Baals (these are the בּמות, Ch2 34:3); and the sun-pillars (cf. Ch2 14:4) which stood upwards, i.e., above, upon the altars, he caused to be hewn away from them (מעליהם); the Asherim (pillars and trees of Asherah) and the carved and molten images to be broken and ground (הדק, cf. Ch2 15:16), and (the dust of them) to be strewn upon the graves (of those) who had sacrificed to them. הזּבחים is connected directly with הקּברים, so that the actions of those buried in them are poetically attributed to the graves. In Kg2 23:6 this is said only of the ashes of the Asherah statue which was burnt, while here it is rhetorically generalized.
2 Chronicles 34:5
And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, i.e., he caused the bones of the idolatrous priests to be taken from their graves and burnt on the spot where the destroyed altars had stood, that he might defile the place with the ashes of the dead. In these words is summarized what is stated in Kg2 23:13 and Kg2 23:14 as to the defilement of the places of sacrifice built upon the Mount of Olives by the bones of the dead, and in Kg2 23:16-20 as to the burning of the bones of the high priests of Bethel, after they had been taken from their graves, upon their own altars. מזבחותים is an orthographical error for מזבּחותם.
2 Chronicles 34:6
Ch2 34:6 and Ch2 34:7 form a connected sentence: And in the cities of Manasseh ..., in their ruins round about, there he pulled down the altars, etc. The tribe of Simeon is here, as in Ch2 15:9, reckoned among the tribes of the kingdom of Israel, because the Simeonites, although they belonged geographically to the kingdom of Judah, yet in religion remained attached to the worship on the high places practised by the ten tribes; see on Ch2 15:9. "And unto Naphtali" is added, to designate the kingdom of Israel in its whole extent to the northern frontier of Canaan. The form בתיהם בּחר (in the Keth. divided into two words) gives no suitable sense. R. Sal. explains, timentes in planitie habitare, sed fixerunt in monte domicilia, rendering it "in their mountain-dwellings." This the words cannot mean.
(Note: The lxx translate ἐν τοῖς τόποις αὐτῶν, expressing merely the בתיהם. The Targ. has צדיוּתהון בבית, in domo (s. loco) desolationis eorum.)
The Keri בּחרבתיהם, "with their swords," is suggested by Eze 26:9, and is accepted by D. Kimchi, Abu Melech, and others, and understood to denote instruments with which the altars, groves, and images were cut down. But this interpretation also is certainly incorrect. The word is rather to be pointed בּחרבתיהם, in their wastes (ruins) (cf. Psa 109:10), and to be taken as an explanatory apposition to בּערי: in the cities of Manasseh ..., namely, in their ruins round about; for the land had been deserted since the times of Shalmaneser, and its cities were in great part in ruins. The statement as to the locality precedes in the form of an absolute sentence, and that which is predicated of it follows in the form of an apodosis with ו consec. (וינתּץ). להדק כּתּת, he dashed to pieces to crush; the form הדק is not a perfect after ל, but an infinitive which has retained the vowel of the perfect; cf. Ew. 238, d.
2 Chronicles 34:8
The cleansing and repairing of the temple, and the finding of the book of the law. Cf. Kg2 22:3-10. - In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he was purging the land and the house (of God), he sent. לטהר does not indeed signify "after the purging" (De Wette, with the older expositors), but still less is it a statement of the object, "to purge" (Berth.); for that is decisively disposed of both by its position at the beginning of the sentence, where no statement of the object would stand, but still more by the fact that a statement of the object follows, וגו לחזּק. ל used of time denotes "about," and so with the inf., e.g., Jer 46:13 : at (his) coming = when he came. Shaphan was סופר, state secretary, according to Kg2 22:3. With him the king sent the governor of the city Maaseiah, and the chancellor Joah. These two are not mentioned in Kg2 22:3, but have not been arbitrarily added by the chronicler, or invented by him, as Then. groundlessly supposes. "To repair the house of Jahve." What these high royal officials had to do with it we learn from what follows.
They, together with the high priest, gave the money which had been received for the repair of the temple to the overseers of the building, who then gave it to workmen to procure building materials and for wages, just as was done when the temple was repaired by Joash, Ch2 24:11-13. The Keri ויּשׁבוּ is a correction resulting from a misinterpretation of the Keth. וישׁבי, "and of the dwellers in Jerusalem." The enumeration, "from the hand of Manasseh, Ephraim," etc., is rhetorical. In ויּתּנוּ, Ch2 34:10, the verb of Ch2 34:9 is again taken up: they handed it to the overseers of the building, and they to the workmen. הם עשׂה is a rare form of the plur. עשׁי; see on Ch1 23:24. The overseers of the building (המפקדים - עשׁי) are the subject of the second ויּתּנוּ; and before the following עשׂי ל, which stands in 2 Kings, is to be supplied. בדוק is a denom. from בּדק, and signifies to repair what has been damaged. The statement of Ch2 34:10 is made more definite by Ch2 34:11 : they gave it, namely, to the workers in stone and wood, and to the builders to buy hewn stones and timber for couplings, and for the beams of the houses (לקרות, to provide with beams; הבּתים are the various buildings of the temple and its courts), which the kings of Judah had allowed to decay (השׁחית, not of designed destroying, but of ruining by neglect). - In Ch2 34:12 we have still the remark that the people did the work with fidelity, and the money could consequently be given to them without reckoning, cf. Kg2 22:7; and then the names of the building inspectors follow. Two Levites of the family of Merari, and two of the family of Kohath, were overseers; לנצּח, i.e., to lead in the building, to preside over it as upper overseers; and besides them, the Levites, all who were skilled in instruments of song (cf. Ch1 25:6.). As men who by their office and their art occupied a conspicuous place among the Levites, the oversight of the workmen in the temple was committed to them, not "that they might incite and cheer the workmen by music and song" (Berth.).
Ch2 34:13 is probably to be taken, along with Ch2 34:12, in the signification, "All the Levites who were skilled in music were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all the workmen in reference to every work." The ו before הס על appears certainly to go against this interpretation, and Berth. would consequently erase it to connect הסּבּלים על with the preceding verse, and begin a new sentence with וּמנצּחים: "and they led all the workmen." But if we separate וּמנצּחים from הסּבּלים על, this mention of the bearers of burdens (סבלים) comes awkwardly in between the subject and the predicate, or the statement as to the subject. We hold the text to be correct, and make the w before הס על correspond to the ו before מנצחים, in the signification, et - et. The Levites, all who were skilled in instruments of song, were both over the bearers of burdens, and overseeing the workmen, or leading the workmen. Besides, of the Levites were, i.e., still other Levites were, scribes and officers and porters, i.e., were busied about the temple in the discharge of these functions.
In bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the high priest found the book of Moses' law. It is not clearly implied in the words, that he found it in the place where the money was laid up. The book of the law which was found is merely characterized as the book of the Mosaic law by the words בּיד־משׁה, not necessarily as Moses' autograph. The communication of this discovery by the high priest to the state secretary Shaphan, and by him to the king, is narrated in Ch2 34:15-18, just as in Kg2 22:8-10. The statement, Ch2 34:16, "And Shaphan brought the book to the king," instead of the words, "and Shaphan the ספר came (went) to the king," involves no difference as to the facts; it rather makes the matter clear. For since in Kg2 22:10, immediately after the statement that Hilkiah gave him the book, it is said that Shaphan read from it to the king, he must have brought it to the king. With this elucidation, both the omission of ויּקראהוּ (Kg2 22:8), and the insertion of עוד after ויּשׁב, Ch2 34:16, is connected. The main thing, that which it concerned the author of the Chronicle to notice, was the fact that the book of the law which had been discovered was immediately brought and read to the king; while the circumstance that Shaphan, when the book was given him, also opened it and read in it, is omitted, as it had no further results. But since Shaphan did not go to the king merely to bring him the book, but rather, in the first place, to report upon the performance of the commission entrusted to him in respect of the money, this report required to be brought prominently forward by the עוד: He brought the book to the king, and besides, made his report to the king. All that has been committed to thy servants (בּיד נתן), that they do; they have poured out the money, etc. The עבדים are not Shaphan and the others mentioned in Ch2 34:8, but in general those who were entrusted with the oversight of the repair of the temple, among whom, indeed, the chief royal officials were not included. After this report there follows in Ch2 34:18 an account of the book which Shaphan had brought, and which, as we were informed in Ch2 34:16, in anticipation of the event, he gave to the king.
2 Chronicles 34:19
The dismay of the king at the contents of the book which was read to him, and his inquiry of the prophetess Huldah as to the judgments threatened in the law. - Compare with this the parallel account in Kg2 22:11-20, with the commentary there given, as both accounts agree with the exception of some unimportant variations in expression. Instead of Abdon ben Micah (Ch2 34:20) we find in 2 Kings Achbor ben Micayahu, perhaps the correct reading. In Ch2 34:21, the expression, "and for those that are left in Israel and Judah," i.e., for the remainder of the people who were left in Israel after the destruction of the kingdom, and in Judah after the divine chastisements inflicted, mainly by the Assyrians under Hezekiah and Manasseh, is clearer and more significant than that in Kg2 22:13, "and for the people, and for all Judah." נתּכה, to pour itself forth (of anger), is quite as suitable as נצּתה, inflame, kindle itself, in Kg2 22:13. In Ch2 34:22, those sent with the high priest Hilkiah are briefly designated by the words המּלך ואשׁר, and whom the king, scil. had sent; in Kg2 22:14, on the contrary, the individual names are recorded (Ewald, Gramm. 292, b, would supply אמר, after the lxx). The names of the ancestors of the prophetess Huldah also are somewhat different. כּזאת, as the king had said to him, is omitted in 2 Kings. - In Ch2 34:24, כּל־האלות, all the curses, is more significant than כּל־דּברי, Kg2 22:16. ותּתּך (Ch2 34:25) is a statement of the result of the עזבוּני: Because they have forsaken me, my anger pours itself forth. In Ch2 34:27, the rhetorical expansion of the words which God had spoken of Jerusalem in the law, וגו לשׁמּה להיות, inserted in Kg2 22:19 as an elucidation, are omitted. After the preceding designation of these words as "the curses written in the law," any further elucidation was superfluous. On the contents of the saying of the prophetess Huldah, see the commentary on Kg2 22:16.
2 Chronicles 34:29
The reading of the book of the law in the temple, and the solemn renewal of the covenant, to which the king assembled the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, with all the people, after the saying of the prophetess Huldah had been reported to him, are recorded in Kg2 23:1-3 as they are in the Chronicle, and have been commented upon at the former passage. Only Ch2 34:32, the contents of which correspond to the words, "And the whole people entered into the covenant" (Kg2 23:3), will need explanation. ויּעמד is usually translated, "he caused the people to enter into the covenant" (after 2 Kings). This is in substance correct, but exegetically cannot be defended, since בּבּרית does not precede, so as to allow of its here being supplied from the context. ויּעמד only signifies, he caused all who were in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand, and they did according to the covenant of God; whence we can easily supply in the first clause, "and to do according to the covenant." The collocation, "in Jerusalem and in Benjamin," is an abbreviation of the complete formula, "in Jerusalem and Judah and Benjamin;" then in the following clause only the inhabitants of Jerusalem are named as representatives of the inhabitants of the whole kingdom.
2 Chronicles 34:33
But not only his own subjects did Josiah induce to act towards God in accordance with the covenant; in all the districts of the sons of Israel he removed the idolatrous abominations, and compelled every one in Israel to serve Jahve. The "sons of Israel," as distinguished from the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Benjamin (Ch2 34:32), are the remnant of the ten tribes in their land, where Josiah, according to Ch2 34:6., had also destroyed the idolatrous places of worship and the images. The statement in our verse, with which the account of Josiah's cultus reform is concluded, refers to that. לעבד ויּעבד, he made to serve, compelled them to serve. By the abolition of idolatry he compelled them to worship Jahve. The last words of the verse are accordingly to be interpreted as signifying that Josiah, so long as he lived, allowed no open idolatry, but externally maintained the worship of Jahve. These measures could not effect a real, heartfelt conversion to God, and so the people fell again into open idolatry immediately after Josiah's death; and Jeremiah continually complains of the defection and corruption of Judah and Israel: cf. Ch2 11:1, Ch2 13:1, Ch2 25:1, etc.