Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings)
Reign of King Joash of Judah, and Repairing of the Temple - 2 Kings 12
All that is recorded of the forty years' reign of Joash, in addition to the general characteristics of the reign (Kg2 12:1-4), is the repairing of the temple which was effected by him (Kg2 12:5-17), and the purchased retreat of the Syrians from their invasion of Judah (Kg2 12:18 and Kg2 12:19), and finally his violent death in consequence of a conspiracy formed against him, of which we have only a brief notice in Kg2 12:20-21. The parallel account in 2 Chron 24 supplies several additions to this: viz., concerning the wives of Joash, the distribution of the Levites at the repairing of the temple, the death of Jehoiada, and the seduction of Joash to idolatry by the chief men of Judah, and the stoning of the prophet Zechariah, who condemned this rebellion - all of which can easily be fitted into our account.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:1
(1-5). Reign of Joash. - Kg2 12:1 (1, 2). His age on ascending the throne, viz., seven years (cf. Kg2 11:4). - Commencement and length of his reign. His mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba.
(3). Joash did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord וגו אשׁר כּל־ימין, "all his days that," etc., i.e., during the whole period of his life that Jehoiada instructed him (for אשׁר after substantives indicating time, place, and mode, see Ewald, 331, c., 3; and for the use of the suffix attached to the noun defined by וגו אשׁר, compare Kg2 13:14); not "all his life long, because Jehoiada had instructed him," although the Athnach under ימין favours this view. For Jehoiada had not instructed him before he began to reign, but he instructed him after he had been raised to the throne at the age of seven years, that is to say, so long as Jehoiada himself lived. The יהוידע כּל־ימי of the Chronicles is therefore a correct explanation. But after Jehoiada's death, Joash yielded to the petitions of the princes of Judah that he would assent to their worshipping idols, and at length went so far as to stone the son of his benefactor, the prophet Zechariah, on account of his candid reproof of this apostasy (Ch2 24:17-22).
(4). But the worship on the high places was not entirely suppressed, notwithstanding the fact that Jehoiada instructed him (on this standing formula see the Comm. on Kg1 15:14).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:4
(5-17). Repairing of the temple (cf. Ch2 24:5-14). - Kg2 12:4, Kg2 12:5. That the temple, which had fallen into ruins, might be restored, Joash ordered the priests to collect all the money of the consecrated gifts, that was generally brought into the house of the Lord, and to effect therewith all the repairs that were needed in the temple. The general expression הקּדשׁים כּסף, money of the holy gifts, i.e., money derived from holy gifts, is more specifically defined by וגו עובר כּסף, according to which it consisted of three kinds of payments to the temple: viz., (1) עובר כּסף, i.e., money of persons mustered (or numbered in the census); עובר is an abbreviated expression for הפּקדים העובר, "he who passes over to those who are numbered" (Exo 30:13), as it has been correctly interpreted by the Chald., Rashi, Abarb., and others; whereas the explanation "money that passes" (Luther), or current coin, which Thenius still defends, yields not suitable sense, since it is impossible to see why only current coin should be accepted, and not silver in bars of vessels, inasmuch as Moses had accepted gold, silver, copper, and other objects of value in natura, for the building of the tabernacle (Exo 24:2-3; Exo 35:5; Exo 36:5-6). The brevity of the expression may be explained from the fact, that עובר כּסף had become a technical term on the ground of the passage in the law already cited. The objection raised by Thenius, that the explanation adopted would be without any parallel, would, if it could be sustained, also apply to his own explanation "current money," in which עובר is also taken as an abbreviation of לסּהר עבר לסּ in Gen 23:16. There is still less ground for the other objection, that if עובר כּסף denoted one kind of temple-revenue, כּל or אישׁ would necessarily have been used. (2) ערכּו...אישׁ, "every kind of souls' valuation money;" אישׁ is more precisely defined by ערכּו, and the position in which it stands before כּסף resembles the בּתרו in Gen 15:10 -literally, soul money of each one's valuation. Thenius is wrong in his interpretation, "every kind of money of the souls according to their valuation," to which he appends the erroneous remark, that אישׁ is also used in Zac 10:1 and Joe 2:7 in connection with inanimate objects as equivalent to כּל. ערכּו...אישׁ, every kind of valuation, because both in the redemption of the male first-born (Num 18:15-16) and also in the case of persons under a vow a payment had to be made according to the valuation of the priest. (3) "All the money that cometh into any one's mind to bring into the house of the Lord," i.e., all the money which was offered as a free-will offering to the sanctuary. This money the priests were to take to themselves, every one from his acquaintance, and therewith repair all the dilapidations that were to be found in the temple. In the Chronicles the different kinds of money to be collected for this purpose are not specified; but the whole is embraced under the general expression "the taxes of Moses the servant of God, and of the congregation of Israel, to the tent of the testimony," which included not only the contribution of half a shekel for the building of the temple, which is prescribed in Exo 30:12., but also the other two taxes mentioned in this account.
(Note: There is no ground either in the words or in the facts for restricting the perfectly general expression "taxes of Moses and of the congregation of Israel" to the payment mentioned in Exo 30:12, as Thenius and Bertheau have done, except perhaps the wish to find a discrepancy between the two accounts, for the purpose of being able to accuse the chronicler, if not of intentional falsification, as De Wette does, at any rate of perverting the true state of the case. The assertion of Thenius, that the yearly payment of half a shekel, which was appointed in the law and regarded as atonement-money, appears to be directly excluded in our text, is simply founded upon the interpretation given to עובר כּסף as current money, which we have already proved to be false.)
Again, according to Kg2 12:7 of the Chronicles, Joash gave the following reason for his command: "For Athaliah, the wicked woman, and her sons have demolished the house of God, and all the dedicated gifts of the house of Jehovah have they used for the Baals." We are not told in what the violent treatment of demolition (פּרץ) of the temple by Athaliah had her sons consisted. The circumstance that considerable repairs even of the stonework of the temple were required in the time of Joash, about 130 or 140 years after it was built, is quite conceivable without any intentional demolition. And in no case can we infer from these words, as Thenius has done, that Athaliah or her sons had erected a temple of Baal within the limits of the sanctuary. The application of all the dedicatory offerings of the house of Jehovah to the Baals, involves nothing more than that the gifts which were absolutely necessary for the preservation of the temple and temple-service were withdrawn from the sanctuary of Jehovah and applied to the worship of Baal, and therefore that the decay of the sanctuary would necessarily follow upon the neglect of the worship.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:6
But when the twenty-third year of the reign of Joash arrived, and the dilapidations had not been repaired, the king laid the matter before the high priest Jehoiada and the priests, and directed them not to take the money any more from their acquaintance, but to give it for the dilapidations of the temple; "and the priests consented to take no money, and not to repair the dilapidations of the house," i.e., not to take charge of the repairs. We may see from this consent how the command of the king is to be understood. Hitherto the priests had collected the money to pay for the repairing of the temple; but inasmuch as they had not executed the repairs, the king took away from them both the collection of the money and the obligation to repair the temple. The reason for the failure of the first measure is not mentioned in our text, and can only be inferred from the new arrangement made by the king (Kg2 12:9): "Jehoiada took a chest-of course by the command of the king, as is expressly mentioned in Ch2 24:8, - bored a hole in the door (the lid) thereof, and placed it by the side of the altar (of burnt-offering) on the right by the entrance of every one into the house of Jehovah, that the priests keeping the threshold might put thither (i.e., into the chest) all the money that was brought into the house of Jehovah."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:10
"And when they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king's writer and the high priest came, and bound up and reckoned the money that was found in the house of Jehovah." צוּר, to bind up the money in bags (cf. Kg2 5:23). The binding is mentioned before the reckoning, because the pieces of money were not counted singly, but packed at once into bags, which were then weighed for the purpose of estimating the amount received.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:11
"They gave the money weighed into the hands of those who did the work, who were placed over the house of Jehovah," i.e., the appointed overlookers of the work; "and they paid it (as it was required) to the carpenters and builders, who worked at the house, and to the masons and hewers of stone, and for the purchase of wood and hewn stones, to repair the dilapidations of the house, and for all that might be spent (יצא, i.e., be given out) for the house for repairing it." It is quite clear from this, that the assertion of J. D. Michaelis, De Wette, and others, that the priests had embezzled the money collected, is perfectly imaginary. For if the king had cherished any such suspicion against the priests, he would not have asked for their consent to an alteration of the first arrangement or to the new measure; and still less would he have commanded that the priests who kept the door should put the money into the chest, for this would have been no safeguard against embezzlement. For if the door-keepers wished to embezzle, all that they would need to do would be to put only a part of the money into the chest. The simple reason and occasion for giving up the first arrangement and introducing the new arrangement with the chest, was that the first measure had proved to be insufficient fore the accomplishment of the purpose expected by the king. For inasmuch as the king had not assigned any definite amount for the repairing of the temple, but had left it to the priests to pay for the cost of the repairs out of the money that was to be collected, one portion of which at least came to themselves, according to the law, for their own maintenance and to provide for the expenses of worship, it might easily happen, without the least embezzlement on the part of the priests, that the money collected was paid out again for the immediate necessities of worship and their own maintenance, and that nothing remained to pay for the building expenses. For this reason the king himself now undertook the execution of the requisite repairs. The reason why the chest was provided for the money to be collected was, first of all, that the money to be collected for the building might be separated from the rest of the money that came in and was intended for the priests; and secondly, that the contributions to be gathered for the building might be increased, since it might be expected that the people would give more if the collections were made for the express purpose of restoring the temple, than if only the legal and free-will offerings were simply given to the priests, without any one knowing how much would be applied to the building. - And because the king had taken the building into his own hand, as often as the chest was full he sent his secretary to reckon the money along with the high priest, and hand it over to the superintendents of the building.
If we compare with this the account in the Chronicles, it helps to confirm the view which we have obtained from an unprejudiced examination of the text as to the affair in question. According to Kg2 12:5 of the Chronicles, Joash had commanded the priests and Levites to accelerate the repairs; "but the Levites did not hurry." This may be understood as signifying that they were dilatory both in the collection of the money and in the devotion of a portion of their revenues to the repairing of the temple. But that the king took the matter in hand himself, not so much because of the dilatoriness or negligence of the priests as because his first measure, regarded as an expedient, did not answer the purpose, is evident from the fact that, according to the Chronicles, he did not content himself with placing the chest at the entrance, but had a proclamation made at the same time in Judah and Jerusalem, to offer the tax of Moses for the repair of the temple (Kg2 12:9) - evidently with no other intention than to procure more liberal contributions. For, according to Kg2 12:10, all the chief men and all the people rejoiced thereat, and cast their gifts into the chest, i.e., they offered their gifts with joy for the purpose that had been proclaimed. - The other points of difference between the Chronicles and our text are unimportant. For instance, that they placed the chest "at the gate of the house of Jehovah on the outside." The הוּצה merely defines the expression in our text, יי בּית בּבוא־אישׁ בּימין, "to the right at the entrance into the temple," more minutely, by showing that the ark was not placed on the inner side of the entrance into the court of the priests, but against the outer wall of it. This is not at variance with המּזבּח אצל in Kg2 12:10; for even apart from the account in the Chronicles, and according to our own text, this cannot be understood as signifying that the ark had been placed in the middle of the court, as Thenius explains in opposition to וגו בּבוא־אישׁ, but can only mean at the entrance which was on the right side of the altar, i.e., at the southern entrance into the inner court. Again, the further variation, that according to the Chronicles (Kg2 12:11), when the chest was full, an officer of the high priest came with the scribe (not the high priest himself), furnishes simply a more exact definition of our account, in which the high priest is named; just as, according to Kg2 12:10, the high priest took the chest and bored a hole in the lid, which no intelligent commentator would understand as signifying that the high priest did it with his own hand. But there is a real difference between Kg2 12:14 and Kg2 12:15 of our text and Kg2 12:14 of the Chronicles, though the solution of this suggests itself at once on a closer inspection of the words. According to our account, there were no golden or silver vessels, basons, knives, bowls, etc., made with the money that was brought in, but it was given for the repairing of the house. In the Chronicles, on the contrary, it is stated that "when they had finished the repairs, they brought the remnant of the money to the king and Jehoiada, and he (the king) used it for vessels for the house of the Lord, for vessels of the service," etc. But if we take proper notice of כּכלּותם here, there is no ground for saying that there is any contradiction, since the words of our text affirm nothing more than that none of the money that came in was applied to the making of vessels of worship so long as the repairing of the building went on. What took place afterwards is not stated in our account, which is limited to the main fact; this we learn from the Chronicles.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:15
No return was required of the inspectors as to the money handed over to them, because they were convinced of their honesty.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:16
The money obtained from trespass-offerings and sin-offerings was not brought into the house of Jehovah, i.e., was not applied to the repairing of the temple, but was left for the priests. In the case of the trespass-offering compensation had to be made for the earthly debt according to the valuation of the priest, with the addition of a fifth in money; and this was assigned to the priests not only in the case of a מעל committed against Jehovah, but also when a neighbour had been injured in his property, if he had died in the meantime (see at Lev 5:16 and Num 5:9). On the other hand, in the case of the sin-offerings the priests received no money according to the law. Most of the commentators therefore assume, that those who lived at a distance had sent money to the priests, that they might offer sin-offerings with it, and what money as over they had retained for themselves. But there is not the slightest trace of any such custom, which is quite at variance with the idea of the sin-offering. It may probably have become a customary thing in the course of time, for those who presented these offerings to compensate the officiating priest for his trouble by a free-will gift.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:17
The brief account of Hazael's campaign against Jerusalem is completed by Ch2 24:23-24. Hazael had gone down along the coast after defeating Israel (see Kg2 13:3), for the purpose of making war upon Judah also, and had taken Gath, which Rehoboam had fortified (Ch2 11:8). He then set his face, i.e., determined, to advance to Jerusalem; and Joash took the temple treasures, etc. According to the Chronicles, he sent an army against Judah and Jerusalem, which destroyed all the princes of the nation and sent much booty to the king to Damascus, as the small army of the Syrians had smitten the very large army of Judah. To protect Jerusalem, after this defeat, from being taken by the Syrians, Joash sent all the treasures of the temple and palace to Hazael, and so purchased the withdrawal of the Syrians. In this way the two brief accounts of the war may be both reconciled and explained; whereas the opinion, still repeated by Thenius, that the two passages treat of different wars, has no tenable ground to rest upon. The Philistian city of Gath (see the Comm. on Jos 13:3) appears to have belonged at that time to the kingdom of Judah, so that the Gathites were not among the Philistines who made an incursion into Judah in the reign of Joram along with the Arabian tribes of the south (Ch2 21:16). And it is impossible to determine when Gath was wrested from the Syrians again; probably in the time of Joash the son of Jehoahaz of Israel, as he recovered from the Syrians all the cities which they had taken from the Israelites under Jehoahaz (Kg2 13:25), and even smote Amaziah the king of Judaea at Bethshemesh and took him prisoner (Kg2 14:13; Ch2 25:21.). "All the consecrated things, which Jehoshaphat, Joram, and Ahaziah had consecrated, and his own consecrated things," i.e., what he (Joash) himself had consecrated. The existence of such temple treasures is not at variance either with the previous account of the repairing of the temple, for Joash would not use the consecrated offerings for the restoration of the temple, as the current revenue of the temple was sufficient for the purpose, or with Ch2 24:7, where it is stated that Athaliah and her sons had applied all the יהוה בּית קרשׁי to the Baals (see at Kg2 12:5); for even if we are to understand by the sons of Athaliah not bastard sons (Ewald, Gesch. iii. p. 582), but the brethren of Joram whom the Philistines and Arabians had carried off, Ahaziah and Joram, although they both of them served Baal, may, from political considerations, have now and then made consecrated gifts to the temple, if only in a passing fit of religious fear.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 12:19
Conspiracy against Joash. - Not long after the departure of the Syrians, who had left Joash, according to Ch2 24:25, with many wounds, his servants formed a conspiracy against him and slew him upon his bed in the house Millo, which goeth down to Silla. This description of the locality is perfectly obscure for us. The conjecture that בּית־מלּא was the house in the castle of Millo which is so frequently mentioned (see at Kg1 9:15 and Sa2 5:9), is precluded by the fact that this castle is always called המּלּא (with the article). סלּא is regarded by many as an abbreviation of מסלּה, "which goes down by the road;" and Thenius supposes that the reference is to the road which ran diagonally through the city from the Joppa gate to the Haram-area, corresponding to the present David's road. Others regard סלּא as the proper name of a place in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It is impossible to get any certain meaning out of it, unless we alter the text according to arbitrary assumptions, as Thenius has done. The conspirators were Jozachar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, according to Kg2 12:21; but according to the Chronicles (v. 26), they were Zabad the son of Shimeath the Ammonitess, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabitess. The identity of the first names is perfectly obvious. זבד is a copyist's error for זכר, and this is the contracted form of יוזכר. The difference in the second: son of Shomer according to our text, and son of the Shimrith according to the Chronicles, has probably also arisen from a slip of the pen, since שׁמר might easily be occasioned by the dropping out of the ת from the defectively written שׁמרת, although it is also possible that Shomer may be the name of the grandfather. Joash was buried with his father sin the city of David; but according to v. 25 of the Chronicles he was not buried in the graves of the kings. The two statements are not irreconcilable; and there may be good historical ground for the account in the Chronicles, as Bertheau acknowledges with perfect justice, in spite of the suspicion which has been cast upon it by Thenius.