Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 23:1
Instead of resting content with the fact that he was promised deliverance from the approaching judgment, Josiah did everything that was in his power to lead the whole nation to true conversion to the Lord, and thereby avert as far as possible the threatened curse of rejection, since the Lord in His word had promised forgiveness and mercy to the penitent. He therefore gathered together the elders of the nation, and went with them, with the priests and prophets and the assembled people, into the temple, and there had the book of the law read to those who were assembled, and concluded a covenant with the Lord, into which the people also entered. After this he had all the remnants of idolatry eradicated, not only in Jerusalem and Judah, but also in Bethel and the other cities of Samaria, and directed the people to strengthen themselves in their covenant fidelity towards the Lord by the celebration of a solemn passover.
Reading of the law in the temple, and renewal of the covenant (cf. Ch2 34:29-32). Beside the priests, Josiah also gathered together the prophets, including perhaps Jeremiah and Zedekiah, that he might carry out the solemn conclusion of the covenant with their co-operation, and, as is evident from Jer 1-11, that they might then undertake the task, by their impressive preaching in Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, of making the people conscious of the earnestness of the covenant duties which they had so recently undertaken (see Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.). Instead of the prophets, the Levites are mentioned in the Chronicles, probably only because the Levites are mentioned along with the priests in other cases of a similar kind. ויּקרא, he read, i.e., had it read; for the duty of reading the law in the temple devolved upon the priests as the keepers of the law (Deu 31:9.).
The king stood העמּוּד על, as in Kg2 11:14. For וגו ויּכרת see Kg2 11:17. ללכת, i.e., he bound himself solemnly to walk after the Lord, that is to say, in his walk to follow the Lord and keep His commandments (see at Kg1 2:3). - בּבּרית...ויּעמוד, all the people entered into the covenant (Luther and others); not perstitit, stood firm, continued in the covenant (Maurer, Ges.), which would be at variance with Jer 11:9-10; Jer 25:3., and other utterances of the prophets.
2 Kings 23:4-20
The eradication of idolatry. - According to Ch2 34:3-7, this had already begun, and was simply continued and carried to completion after the renewal of the covenant.
In Jerusalem and Judah. Kg2 23:4. The king commanded the high priest and the other priests, and the Levites who kept the door, to remove from the temple everything that had been made for Baal and Asherah, and to burn it in the valley of Kidron. המּשׁנה כּהני, sacerdotes secundi ordinis (Vulg., Luth., etc.), are the common priests as distinguished from הגּדול הכּהן, the high priest. The Rabbins are wrong in their explanation vicarii summi sacerdotis, according to which Thenius would alter the text and read כּהן for כּהני. הסּף שׁמרי, the keepers of the threshold, are the Levites whose duty it was to watch the temple, as in Kg2 22:4 (cf. Ch1 23:5). כּל־הכּלים (alles Zeug, Luth.), i.e., all the apparatus, consisting of altars, idols, and other things, that had been provided for the worship of Baal and Astarte. Josiah had these things burned, according to the law in Deu 7:25, and that outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron valley. The קדרון שׁדמות (fields of Kidron) are probably to be sought for to the north-east of Jerusalem, where the Kidron valley is broader than between the city and the Mount of Olives, and spreads out into a basin of considerable size, which is now cultivated and contains plantations of olive and other fruit-trees (Rob. Pal. i. p. 405). "And he had their dust carried to Bethel," i.e., the ashes of the wooden objects which were burned, and the dust of those of stone and metal which were ground to powder, to defile the idolatrous place of worship at Bethel as the chief seat of idolatry and false worship.
"He abolished the high priests." כּמרים are also mentioned in Hos 10:5 and Zac 1:4 : they were not idolatrous priests or prophets of Baal, but priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to offer incense upon the altars of the high places; for they are distinguished from the idolatrous priests, or those who burnt incense to Baal, the sun, etc. In Hos 10:5 the priests appointed in connection with the golden calf at Bethel are called כמרים; and in Zep 1:4 the כמרים are not exclusively idolatrous priests, but such as did service sometimes for Jehovah, who had been degraded into a Baal, and sometimes to actual idols. Now as כּהנים who burnt incense upon high places are also mentioned in Kg2 23:8, we must understand by the כמרים non-Levitical priests, and by the כהנים in Kg2 23:8 Levitical priests who were devoted to the worship on the high places. The primary signification of כּמר is disputed. In Syriac the word signifies the priest, in Hebrew spurious priests, probably from כּמר in the sense of to bring together, or complete, as the performers of sacrifice, like ἕρδων, the sacrificer (Dietr.); whereas the connection suggested by Hitzig (on Zeph.) with (Arabic) kfr, to be unbelieving, in the opposite sense of the religious, is very far-fetched, and does not answer either to the Hebrew or the Syriac use of the word.
(Note: In any case the derivation from כמר, to be black (Ges. Thes. p. 693), and the explanation given by Frst from vi occultandi magicasque, h. e. arcanas et reconditas artes exercendi, and others given in Iden's Dissertatt. theol. philol. i. diss. 12, are quite untenable.)
The singular ויקטּר is striking, inasmuch as if the imperf. c. Vav rel. were a continuation of נתנוּ, we should expect the plural, "and who had burnt incense," as it is given in the Chaldee. The lxx, Vulg., and Syr. have rendered לקטּר, from which ויקטּר has probably arisen by a mistake in copying. In the following clause, "and those who had burnt incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon," etc., Baal is mentioned as the deity worshipped in the sun, the moon, and the stars (see at Kg2 21:3). מזּלות, synonymous with מזּרות in Job 38:32, does not mean the twenty-eight naxatra, or Indian stations of the moon,
(Note: According to A. Weber, Die vedischen Nachrichten von den naxatra, in the Abhandlungen der Berl. Acad. d. Wiss. 1860 and 1861. Compare, on the other hand, Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibliographie, 1861, No. 22, pp. 93, 94, his article in the Deutsch. morgld. Zeitschrift, 1864, p. 118ff.)
but the twelve signs or constellations of the zodiac, which were regarded by the Arabs as menâzil, i.e., station-houses, in which the sun took up its abode in succession when describing the circuit of the year (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 869, and Delitzsch on Job 38:32).
The image of Asherah (האשׁרה = הא פּסל, Kg2 21:3, Kg2 21:7), which Manasseh placed in the temple and then removed after his return from Babylon (Ch2 33:15), but which Amon had replaced, Josiah ordered to be burned and ground to powder in the valley of Kidron, and the dust to be thrown upon the graves of the common people. ויּדק, from דקק, to make fine, to crush, refers to the metal covering of the image (see at Exo 32:10). Asa had already had an idol burned in the Kidron valley (Kg1 15:13), and Hezekiah had ordered the idolatrous abominations to be taken out of the city and carried thither (Ch2 29:16); so that the valley had already been defiled. There was a burial-place there for העם בּני, i.e., the common people (cf. Jer 26:23), who had no graves of their own, just as at the present day the burial-ground of the Jews there lies to the north of Kefr Silwn. Josiah ordered the ashes to be cast upon these graves, probably in order to defile them as the graves of idolaters.
הקּדשׁים בּתּי, the houses (places of abode) of the paramours (for הקדשים see at Kg1 14:24), were probably only tents or huts, which were erected in the court of the temple for the paramours to dwell in, and in which there were also women who wove tent-temples (בּתּים) for Asherah (see at Kg2 17:30).
(Note: On this worship Movers has the following among other remarks (Phn. i. p. 686): "The mutilated Gallus (קדש) fancies that he is a woman: negant se viros esse ... muleires se volunt credi (Firmic.). He lives in close intimacy with the women, and they again are drawn towards the Galli by peculiar affection." He also expresses a conjecture "that the women of Jerusalem gave themselves up in honour of the goddess in the tents of the Galli which were pitched in the temple circle, on which account the כלב מחיר went to the temple treasury.")
All the (Levitical) priests he sent for from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, and defiled the altars of the high places, upon which they had offered incense, from Geba to Beersheba, i.e., throughout the whole kingdom. Geba, the present Jeba, about three hours to the north of Jerusalem (see at Jos 18:24), was the northern frontier of the kingdom of Judah, and Beersheba (Bir-seba: see the Comm. on Gen 21:31) the southern frontier of Canaan. It is evident from Kg2 23:9 that כּהנים are Levitical priests. He ordered them to come to Jerusalem, that they might not carry on illegal worship any longer in the cities of Judah. He then commanded that the unlawful high places should be defiled throughout the whole land, for the purpose of suppressing this worship altogether. He also destroyed "the altars of the high places at the gates, (both that) which was at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, (and also that) which was at the left of every one (entering) by the city gate." The two clauses beginning with אשׁר contain a more precise description of השּׁערים בּמות. The gate of Joshua the governor of the city is not mentioned anywhere else, but it was probably near to his home, i.e., near the citadel of the city; but whether it was the future gate of Gennath, as Thenius supposes, or some other, it is impossible to determine. This also applies to the opinion that העיר שׁער is the valley gate or Joppa gate (Thenius) as being the gate of greatest traffic; for the traffic through the northern or Ephraim gate was certainly not less. אישׁ על־שׂמאול, at the left of every one, sc. going into the city.
"Only the priests of the high places did not sacrifice, ... but ate unleavened bread in the midst of their brethren." The אך is connected with Kg2 23:8 : Josiah did not allow the priests, whom he had brought out of the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice upon the altar of Jehovah in the temple, i.e., to perform the sacrificial service of the law, though he did allow them "to eat that which was unleavened," i.e., to eat of the sacred altar-gifts intended for the priests (Lev 6:9-10 and Lev 6:22); only they were not allowed to consume this at a holy place, but simply in the midst of their brethren, i.e., at home in the family. They were thus placed on a par with the priests who were rendered incapable of service on account of a bodily defect (Lev 21:17-22).
He also defiled the place of sacrifice in the valley of Benhinnom, for the purpose of exterminating the worship of Moloch. Moloch's place of sacrifice is called התּפת, as an object of abhorrence, or one to be spat at (תּפת: Job 17:6), from תּוּף, to spit, or spit out (cf. Roediger in Ges. thes. p. 1497, where the other explanations are exploded).
(Note: Jerome (on Jer 7:31) says: Thophet, quae est in valle filiorum Enom, illum locum significat, qui Silo fontibus irrigatur et est amoenus atque nemorosus, hodieque hortorum praebet delicias. From the name Gehinnom the Rabbins formed the name Γέεννα, Gehenna (Mat 5:22, Mat 5:29, etc.), with special reference to the children burnt here to Moloch, to signify hell and hell-fire.)
On the valley Bne or Ben-hinnom, at the south side of Mount Zion, see at Jos 15:8.
He cleared away the horses dedicated to the sun, and burned up the chariots of the sun. As the horses were only cleared away (ויּשׁבּת), whereas the chariots were burned, we have not to think of images of horses (Selden, de Diis Syr. ii. 8), but of living horses, which were given to the sun, i.e., kept for the worship of the sun. Horses were regarded as sacred to the sun by many nations, viz., the Armenians, Persians, Massagetae, Ethiopians, and Greeks, and were sacrificed to it (for proofs see Bochart, Hieroz. i. lib. ii. c. 10); and there is no doubt that the Israelites received this worship first of all from Upper Asia, along with the actual sun-worship, possibly through the Assyrians. "The kings of Judah" are Ahaz, Manasseh, and Amon. These horses were hardly kept to be offered to the sun in sacrifice (Bochart and others), but, as we must infer from the "chariots of the sun," were used for processions in connection with the worship of the sun, probably, according to the unanimous opinion of the Rabbins, to drive and meet the rising sun. The definition יי בּית מבּא, "from the coming into the house of Jehovah," i.e., near the entrance into the temple, is dependent upon נתנוּ, "they had given (placed) the horses of the sun near the temple entrance," אל־לשׁכּת, "in the cell of Nethanmelech." אל does not mean at the cell, i.e., in the stable by the cell (Thenius), because the ellipsis is too harsh, and the cells built in the court of the temple were intended not merely as dwelling-places for the priests and persons engaged in the service, but also as a dept for the provisions and vessels belonging to the temple (Neh 10:38.; Ch1 9:26). One of these depts was arranged and used as a stable for the sacred horses. This cell, which derived its name from Nethanmelech, a chamberlain (סריס), of whom nothing further is known, possibly the builder or founder of it, was בּפּרורים, in the Pharvars. פּרורים, the plural of פּרור, is no doubt identical with פּרבּר in Ch1 26:18. This was the name given to a building at the western or hinder side of the outer temple-court by the gate Shalleket at the ascending road, i.e., the road which led up from the city standing in the west into the court of the temple (Ch1 26:16 and Ch1 26:18). The meaning of the word פרור is uncertain. Gesenius (thes. p. 1123) explains it by porticus, after the Persian frwâr, summer-house, an open kiosk. Bttcher (Proben, p. 347), on the other hand, supposes it to be "a separate spot resembling a suburb," because in the Talmud פרורין signifies suburbia, loca urbi vicinia.
The altars built upon the roof of the aliyah of Ahaz were dedicated to the host of heaven (Zep 1:5; Jer 19:13; Jer 32:29), and certainly built by Ahaz; and inasmuch as Hezekiah had undoubtedly removed them when he reformed the worship, they had been restored by Manasseh and Amon, so that by "the kings of Judah" we are to understand these three kings as in Kg2 23:11. We are unable to determine where the עליּה, the upper chamber, of Ahaz really was. But since the things spoken of both before and afterwards are the objects of idolatry found in the temple, this aliyah was probably also an upper room of one of the buildings in the court of the temple (Thenius), possibly at the gate, which Ahaz had built when he removed the outer entrance of the king into the temple (Kg2 16:18), since, according to Jer 35:4, the buildings at the gate had upper stories. The altars built by Manasseh in the two courts of the temple (see Kg2 21:5) Josiah destroyed, משּׁם ויּרץ, "and crushed them to powder from thence," and cast their dust into the Kidron valley. yaarots, not from רוּץ, to run, but from רצץ, to pound or crush to pieces. The alteration proposed by Thenius into ויּרץ, he caused to run and threw = he had them removed with all speed, is not only arbitrary, but unsuitable, because it is impossible to see why Josiah should merely have hurried the clearing away of the dust of these altars, whereas רצץ, to pound or grind to powder, was not superfluous after נתץ, to destroy, but really necessary, if the dust was to be thrown into the Kidron. ויּרץ is substantially equivalent to ויּדק in Kg2 23:6.
The places of sacrifice built by Solomon upon the southern height of the Mount of Olives (see at Kg1 11:7) Josiah defiled, reducing to ruins the monuments, cutting down the Asherah idols, and filling their places with human bones, which polluted a place, according to Num 19:16. Kg2 23:14 gives a more precise definition of טמּא in Kg2 23:13 in the form of a simple addition (with Vav cop.). הר־המּשׁחית, mountain of destruction (not unctionis = המּשׁחה, Rashi and Cler.), is the southern peak of the Mount of Olives, called in the tradition of the Church mons offensionis or scandali (see at Kg1 11:7). For מצּבוה and אשׁרים see at Kg1 14:23. מקומם are the places where the Mazzeboth and Asherim stood by the altars that were dedicated to Baal and Astarte, so that by defiling them the altar-places were also defiled.
Extermination of idolatry in Bethel and the cities of Samaria. - In order to suppress idolatry as far as possible, Josiah did not rest satisfied with the extermination of it in his own kingdom Judah, but also destroyed the temples of the high places and altars and idols in the land of the former kingdom of the ten tribes, slew all the priests of the high places that were there, and burned their bones upon the high places destroyed, in order to defile the ground. The warrant for this is not to be found, as Hess supposes, in the fact that Josiah, as vassal of the king of Assyria, had a certain limited power over these districts, and may have looked upon them as being in a certain sense his own territory, a power which the Assyrians may have allowed him the more readily, because they were sure of his fidelity in relation to Egypt. For we cannot infer that Josiah was a vassal of the Assyrians from the imprisonment and release of Manasseh by the king of Assyria, nor is there any historical evidence whatever to prove it. The only reason that can have induced Josiah to do this, must have been that after the dissolution of the kingdom of the ten tribes he regarded himself as the king of the whole of the covenant-nation, and availed himself of the approaching or existing dissolution of the Assyrian empire to secure the friendship of the Israelites who were left behind in the kingdom of the ten tribes, to reconcile them to his government, and to win them over to his attempt to reform; and there is no necessity whatever to assume, as Thenius does, that he asked permission to do so of the newly arisen ruler Nabopolassar. For against this assumption may be adduced not only the improbability that Nabopolassar would give him any such permission, but still more the circumstance that at a still earlier period, even before Nabopolassar became king of Babylon, Josiah had had taxes collected of the inhabitants of the kingdom of Israel for the repairing of the temple (Ch2 34:9), from which we may see that the Israelites who were left behind in the land were favourably disposed towards his reforms, and were inclined to attach themselves in religious matters to Judah (just as, indeed, even the Samaritans were willing after the captivity to take part in the building of the temple, Ezr 4:2.), which the Assyrians at that time were no longer in a condition to prevent.
"Also the altar at Bethel, the high place which Jeroboam had made-this altar also and the high place he destroyed." It is grammatically impossible to take הבּמה as an accusative of place (Thenius); it is in apposition to המּזבּח, serving to define it more precisely: the altar at Bethel, namely the high place; for which we have afterwards the altar and the high place. By the appositional הבּמה the altar at Bethel is described as an illegal place of worship. "He burned the בּמה," i.e., the buildings of this sanctuary, ground to powder everything that was made of stone or metal, i.e., both the altar and the idol there. This is implied in what follows: "and burned Asherah," i.e., a wooden idol of Astarte found there, according to which there would no doubt be also an idol of Baal, a מצּבה of stone. The golden calf, which had formerly been set up at Bethel, may, as Hos 10:5-6 seems to imply, have been removed by the Assyrians, and, after the settlement of heathen colonists in the land, have been supplanted by idols of Baal and Astarte (cf. Kg2 17:29).
In order to desecrate this idolatrous site for all time, Josiah had human bones taken out of the graves that were to be found upon the mountain, and burned upon the altar, whereby the prophecy uttered in the reign of Jeroboam by the prophet who came out of Judah concerning this idolatrous place of worship was fulfilled; but he spared the tomb of that prophet himself (cf. Kg1 13:26-32). The mountain upon which Josiah saw the graves was a mountain at Bethel, which was visible from the bamah destroyed. ציּוּן, a sepulchral monument, probably a stone erected upon the grave. וימלּטוּ: "so they rescued (from burning) his bones (the bones of the prophet who had come from Judah), together with the bones of the prophet who had come from Samaria," i.e., of the old prophet who sprang from the kingdom of the ten tribes and had come to Bethel (Kg1 13:11). משּׁמרון בּא in antithesis to מיהוּדה ot sisehtit בּא denotes simply descent from the land of Samaria.
(Note: Kg2 23:16-18 are neither an interpolation of the editor, i.e., of the author of our books of Kings (Staehelin), nor an interpolation from a supplement to the account in 1 Kings 13:1-32 (Thenius). The correspondence between the וגם in Kg2 23:15 and the וגם in Kg2 23:18 does not require this assumption; and the pretended discrepancy, that after Josiah had already reduced the altar to ruins (Kg2 23:15) he could not possibly defile it by burning human bones upon it (Kg2 23:16), is removed by the very natural solution, that המזבח in Kg2 23:16 does not mean the altar itself, but the site of the altar that had been destroyed.)
All the houses of the high places that were in the (other) cities of Samaria Josiah also destroyed in the same way as that at Bethel, and offered up the priests of the high places upon the altars, i.e., slew them upon the altars on which they had offered sacrifice, and burned men's bones upon them (the altars) to defile them. The severity of the procedure towards these priests of the high places, as contrasted with the manner in which the priests of the high places in Judah were treated (Kg2 23:8 and Kg2 23:9), may be explained partly from the fact that the Israelitish priests of the high places were not Levitical priests, but chiefly from the fact that they were really idolatrous priests.
The passover is very briefly noticed in our account, and is described as such an one as had not taken place since the days of the judges. Kg2 23:21 simply mentions the appointment of this festival on the part of the king, and the execution of the king's command has to be supplied. Kg2 23:22 contains a remark concerning the character of the passover. In 2 Chron 35:1-19 we have a very elaborate description of it. What distinguished this passover above every other was, (1) that "all the nation," not merely Judah and Benjamin, but also the remnant of the ten tribes, took part in it, or, as it is expressed in Ch2 35:18, "all Judah and Israel;" (2) that it was kept in strict accordance with the precepts of the Mosaic book of the law, whereas in the passover instituted by Hezekiah there were necessarily many points of deviation from the precepts of the law, more especially in the fact that the feast had to be transferred from the first month, which was the legal time, to the second month, because the priests had not yet purified themselves in sufficient numbers and the people had not yet gathered together at Jerusalem, and also that even then a number of the people had inevitably been allowed to eat the passover without the previous purification required by the law (Ch2 30:2-3, Ch2 30:17-20). This is implied in the words, "for there was not holden such a passover since the days of the judges and all the kings of Israel and Judah." That this remark does not preclude the holding of earlier passovers, as Thenius follows De Wette in supposing, without taking any notice of the refutations of this opinion, was correctly maintained by the earlier commentators. Thus Clericus observes: "I should have supposed that what the sacred writer meant to say was, that during the times of the kings no passover had ever been kept so strictly by every one, according to all the Mosaic laws. Before this, even under the pious kings, they seem to have followed custom rather than the very words of the law; and since this was the case, many things were necessarily changed and neglected." Instead of "since the days of the judges who judged Israel," we find in Ch2 35:18, "since the days of Samuel the prophet," who is well known to have closed the period of the judges.
Conclusion of Josiah's reign. - Kg2 23:24. As Josiah had the passover kept in perfect accordance with the precepts of the law, so did he also exterminate the necromancers, the teraphim and all the abominations of idolatry, throughout all Judah and Jerusalem, to set up the words of the law in the book of the law that had been found, i.e., to carry them out and bring them into force. For האבות and היּדּענים see at Kg2 21:6. תּרפים, penates, domestic gods, which were worshipped as the authors of earthly prosperity and as oracular deities (see at Gen 31:19). גּלּלים and שׁקּצים, connected together, as in Deu 29:16, as a contemptuous description of idols in general. - In Kg2 23:25 the account of the efforts made by Josiah to restore the true worship of Jehovah closes with a general verdict concerning his true piety. See the remarks on this point at Kg2 18:5. He turned to Jehovah with all his heart, etc.: there is an evident allusion here to Deu 6:5. Compare with this the sentence of the prophet Jeremiah concerning his reign (Jer 22:15-16).
Nevertheless the Lord turned not from the great fierceness of His wrath, wherewith He had burned against Judah on account of all the provocations "with which Manasseh had provoked Him." With this sentence, in which שבּ לא אך forms an unmistakeable word-play upon יי אל שבּ אשׁר, the historian introduces the account not merely of the end of Josiah's reign, but also of the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. Manasseh is mentioned here and at Kg2 24:3 and Jer 15:4 as the person who, by his idolatry and his unrighteousness, with which he provoked God to anger, had brought upon Judah and Jerusalem the unavoidable judgment of rejection. It is true that Josiah had exterminated outward and gross idolatry throughout the land by his sincere conversion to the Lord, and by his zeal for the restoration of the lawful worship of Jehovah, and had persuaded the people to enter into covenant with its God once more; but a thorough conversion of the people to the Lord he had not been able to effect. For, as Clericus has correctly observed, "although the king was most religious, and the people obeyed him through fear, yet for all that the mind of the people was not changed, as is evident enough from the reproaches of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and other prophets, who prophesied about that time and a little after." With regard to this point compare especially the first ten chapters of Jeremiah, which contain a resum of his labours in the reign of Josiah, and bear witness to the deep inward apostasy of the people from the Lord, not only before and during Josiah's reform of worship, but also afterwards. As the Holy One of Israel, therefore, God could not forgive any more, but was obliged to bring upon the people and kingdom, after the death of Josiah, the judgment already foretold to Manasseh himself (Kg2 21:12.).
The Lord said: I will also put away Judah (in the same manner as Israel: cf. Kg2 17:20, Kg2 17:23) from my face, etc. ויּאמר expresses the divine decree, which was announced to the people by the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Zephaniah.
Compare Ch2 35:20-24. The predicted catastrophe was brought to pass by the expedition of Necho the king of Egypt against Assyria. "In his days (i.e., towards the end of Josiah's reign) Pharaoh Necho the king of Egypt went up against the king of Asshur to the river Euphrates." Necho (נכה or נכו, Ch2 35:20; Jer 46:2; called Νεχαώ by Josephus, Manetho in Jul. Afric., and Euseb., after the lxx; and Νεκώς by Herod. ii. 158,159, iv. 42, and Diod. Sic. i. 33; according to Brugsch, hist. d'Eg. i. p. 252, Nekou) was, according to Man., the sixth king of the twenty-sixth (Saitic) dynasty, the second Pharaoh of that name, the son of Psammetichus I and grandson of Necho I; and, according to Herodotus, he was celebrated for a canal which he proposed to have cut in order to connect the Nile with the Red Sea, as well as for the circumnavigation of Africa (compare Brugsch, l.c., according to whom he reigned from 611 to 595 b.c.). Whether "the king of Asshur" against whom Necho marched was the last ruler of the Assyrian empire, Asardanpal (Sardanapal), Saracus according to the monuments (see Brandis, Ueber den Gewinn, p. 55; M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs, pp. 110ff. and 192), or the existing ruler of the Assyrian empire which had already fallen, Nabopolassar the king of Babylon, who put an end to the Assyrian monarchy in alliance with the Medes by the conquest and destruction of Nineveh, and founded the Chaldaean or Babylonian empire, it is impossible to determine, because the year in which Nineveh was taken cannot be exactly decided, and all that is certain is that Nineveh had fallen before the battle of Carchemish in the year 606 b.c. Compare M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Assurs, pp. 109ff. and 203, 204. - King Josiah went against the Egyptian, and "he (Necho) slew him at Megiddo when he saw him," i.e., caught sight of him. This extremely brief notice of the death of Josiah is explained thus in the Chronicles: that Necho sent ambassadors to Josiah, when he was taking the field against him, with an appeal that he would not fight against him, because his only intention was to make war upon Asshur, but that Josiah did not allow himself to be diverted from his purpose, and fought a battle with Necho in the valley of Megiddo, in which he was mortally wounded by the archers. What induced Josiah to oppose with force of arms the advance of the Egyptian to the Euphrates, notwithstanding the assurance of Necho that he had no wish to fight against Judah, is neither to be sought for in the fact that Josiah was dependent upon Babylon, which is at variance with history, nor in the fact that the kingdom of Judah had taken possession of all the territory of the ancient inheritance of Israel, and Josiah was endeavouring to restore all the ancient glory of the house of David over the surrounding nations (Ewald, Gesch. iii. p. 707), but solely in Josiah's conviction that Judah could not remain neutral in the war which had broken out between Egypt and Babylon, and in the hope that by attacking Necho, and frustrating his expedition to the Euphrates, he might be able to avert great distress from his own land and kingdom.
(Note: M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. Ass. p. 364) also calls Josiah's enterprise "a perfectly correct policy. Nineveh was falling (if not already fallen), and the Syrian princes, both those who had remained independent, like Josiah, and also the vassals of Asshur, might hope that, after the fall of Nineveh, they would succeed in releasing Syria from every foreign yoke. Now well-founded this hope was, is evident from the strenuous exertions which Nabukudrussur was afterwards obliged to make, in order to effect the complete subjugation of Syria. It was therefore necessary to hinder at any price the settlement of the Egyptians now. Even though Necho assured Josiah that he was not marching against him (Ch2 35:21), Josiah knew that if once the Egyptians were lords of Coele-Syria, his independence would be gone.")
This battle is also mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 159); but he calls the place where it was fought Μάγδολον, i.e., neither Migdol, which was twelve Roman miles to the south of Pelusium (Forbiger, Hdb. d. alten Geogr. ii. p. 695), nor the perfectly apocryphal Magdala or Migdal Zebaiah mentioned by the Talmudists (Reland, Pal. p. 898,899), as Movers supposes. We might rather think with Ewald (Gesch. iii. p. 708) of the present Mejdel, to the south-east of Acca, at a northern source of the Kishon, and regard this as the place where the Egyptian camp was pitched, whereas Israel stood to the east of it, at the place still called Rummane, at Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo, as Ewald assumes (Gesch. iii. p. 708). But even this combination is overthrown by the face that Rummane, which lies to the east of el Mejdel at the distance of a mile and three-quarters (geogr.), on the southern edge of the plain of Buttauf, cannot possibly be the Hadad-Rimmon mentioned in Zac 12:11, where king Josiah died after he had been wounded in the battle. For since Megiddo is identical with the Roman Legio, the present Lejun, as Robinson has proved (see at Jos 12:21), and as is generally admitted even by C. v. Raumer (Pal. p. 447, note, ed. 4), Hadad-Rimmon must be the same as the village of Rmmuni (Rummane), which is three-quarters of an hour to the south of Lejun, where the Scottish missionaries in the year 1839 found many ancient wells and other traces of Israelitish times (V. de Velde, R. i. p. 267; Memoir, pp. 333, 334). But this Rummane is four geographical miles distant from el Mejdel, and Mediggo three and a half, so that the battle fought at Megiddo cannot take its name from el Mejdel, which is more than three miles off. The Magdolon of Herodotus can only arise from some confusion between it and Megiddo, which was a very easy thing with the Greek pronunciation Μαγεδδώ, without there being any necessity to assume that Herodotus was thinking of the Egyptian Migdol, which is called Magdolo in the Itin. Ant. p. 171 (cf. Brugsch, Geogr. Inschriften altgypt. Denkmler, i. pp. 261,262). If, then, Josiah went to Megiddo in the plain of Esdrelom to meet the king of Egypt, and fell in with him there, there can be no doubt that Necho came by sea to Palestine and landed at Acco, as des Vignoles (Chronol. ii. p. 427) assumed.
(Note: This is favoured by the account in Herodotus (ii. 159), that Necho built ships: τριήρεες αἱ μὲν ἐπὶ τῇ βορηΐ́η θαλάσσῃ ... αἱ δὲ ἐν τῷ Ἀραβίῳ κόλπῳ (triremes in septentrionale et australe mare mittendas. Bhr) - καὶ ταυτῃσί τε ἐχρᾶτο ἐν τῷ δέοντι· καὶ Σύροισι πεζῇ ὁ Νεκὼς συμβαλὼν ἐν Μαγδόλῳ ἐνίκησε; from which we may infer that Necho carried his troops by sea to Palestine, and then fought the battle on the land. M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. p. 365) also finds it very improbable that Necho used his fleet in this war; but he does not think it very credible "that he embarked his whole army, instead of marching them by the land route so often taken by the Egyptian army, the key of which, viz., the land of the Philistines, was at least partially subject to him," because the ὅλκαδες (ships of burden) required for the transport of a large army were hardly to be obtained in sufficient numbers in Egypt. But this difficulty, which rests upon mere conjecture, is neutralized by the fact, which M. Duncker (Gesch. i. p. 618) also adduces in support of the voyage by sea, namely, that the decisive battle with the Jews was fought to the north-west of Jerusalem, and when the Jews were defeated, the way to Jerusalem stood open for their retreat. Movers (Phniz. ii. 1, p. 420), who also imagines that Necho advanced with a large land-army towards the frontier of Palestine, has therefore transferred the battle to Magdolo on the Egyptian frontier; but he does this by means of the most arbitrary interpretation of the account given by Herodotus.)
For if the Egyptian army had marched by land through the plain of Philistia, Josiah would certainly have gone thither to meet it, and not have allowed it to advance into the plain of Megiddo without fighting a battle.
The brief statement, "his servants carried him dead from Megiddo and brought him to Jerusalem," is given with more minuteness in the Chronicles: his servants took him, the severely wounded king, by his own command, from his chariot to his second chariot, and drove him to Jerusalem, and he died and was buried, etc. Where he died the Chronicles do not affirm; the occurrence of ויּמת after the words "they brought him to Jerusalem," does not prove that he did not die till he reached Jerusalem. If we compare Zac 12:11, where the prophet draws a parallel between the lamentation at the death of the Messiah and the lamentation of Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo, as the deepest lamentation of the people in the olden time, with the account given in Ch2 35:25 of the lamentation of the whole nation at the death of Josiah, there can hardly be any doubt that Josiah died on the way to Jerusalem at Hadad-Rimmon, the present Rummane, to the south of Lejun (see above), and was taken to Jerusalem dead. - He was followed on the throne by his younger son Jehoahaz, whom the people (הארץ עם, as in Kg2 21:24) anointed king, passing over the elder, Eliakim, probably because they regarded him as the more able man.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 23:31
Reign of Jehoahaz (cf. Ch2 36:1-4). - Jehoahaz, called significantly by Jeremiah (Jer 22:11) Shallum, i.e., "to whom it is requited," reigned only three months, and did evil in the eyes of the Lord as all his fathers had done. The people (or the popular party), who had preferred him to his elder brother, had apparently set great hopes upon him, as we may judge from Jer 22:10-12, and seem to have expected that his strength and energy would serve to avert the danger which threatened the kingdom on the part of Necho. Ezekiel (Eze 19:3) compares him to a young lion which learned to catch the prey and devoured men, but, as soon as the nations heard of him, was taken in their pit and led by nose-rings to Egypt, and thus attributes to him the character of a tyrant disposed to acts of violence; and Josephus accordingly (Ant. x. 5, 2) describes him as ἀσεβὴς καὶ μιαρὸς τὸν τρόπον.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 23:33
"Pharaoh Necho put him in fetters (ויּאסרהוּ) at Riblah in the land of Hamath, when he had become king at Jerusalem." In Ch2 36:3 we have, instead of this, "the king of Egypt deposed him (יסירהוּ) at Jerusalem." The Masoretes have substituted as Keri ממּלך, "away from being king," or "that he might be no longer king," in the place of בּמלך, and Thenius and Bertheau prefer the former, because the lxx have τοὺ μὴ βασιλεύειν not in our text only, but in the Chronicles also; but they ought not to have appealed to the Chronicles, inasmuch as the lxx have not rendered the Hebrew text there, but have simply repeated the words from the text of the book of Kings. The Keri is nothing more than an emendation explaining the sense, which the lxx have also followed. The two texts are not contradictory, but simply complete each other: for, as Clericus has correctly observed, "Jehoahaz would of course be removed from Jerusalem before he was cast into chains; and there was nothing to prevent his being dethroned at Jerusalem before he was taken to Riblah."
We are not told in what way Necho succeeded in getting Jehoahaz into his power, so as to put him in chains at Riblah. The assumption of J. D. Michaelis and others, that his elder brother Eliakim, being dissatisfied with the choice of Jehoahaz as king, had recourse to Necho at Riblah, in the hope of getting possession of his father's kingdom through his instrumentality, is precluded by the face that Jehoahaz would certainly not have been so foolish as to appear before the enemy of his country at a mere summons from Pharaoh, who was at Riblah, and allow him to depose him, when he was perfectly safe in Jerusalem, where the will of the people had raised him to the throne. If Necho wanted to interfere with the internal affairs of the kingdom of Judah, it would never have done for him to proceed beyond Palestine to Syria after the victory at Megiddo, without having first deposed Jehoahaz, who had been raised to the throne at Jerusalem without any regard to his will. The course of events was therefore probably the following: After the victory at Megiddo, Necho intended to continue his march to the Euphrates; but on hearing that Jehoahaz had ascended the throne, and possibly also in consequence of complaints which Eliakim had made to him on that account, he ordered a division of his army to march against Jerusalem, and while the main army was marching slowly to Riblah, he had Jerusalem taken, king Jehoahaz dethroned, the land laid under tribute, Eliakim appointed king as his vassal, and the deposed Jehoahaz brought to his headquarters at Riblah, then put into chains and transported to Egypt; so that the statement in Ch2 36:3, "he deposed him at Jerusalem," is to be taken quite literally, even if Necho did not come to Jerusalem in propri person, but simply effected this through the medium of one of his generals.
(Note: Ewald (Gesch. iii. p. 720) also observes, that "Necho himself may have been in Jerusalem at the time for the purpose of installing his vassal:" this, he says, "is indicated by the brief words in Kg2 23:33-34, and nothing can be found to say against it in other historical sources;" though he assumes that Jehoahaz had allowed himself to be enticed by Necho to go to Riblah into the Egyptian camp, where he was craftily put into chains, and soon carried off as a prisoner to Egypt. - We should have a confirmation of the taking of Jerusalem by Necho in the account given by Herodotus (ii. 159): μετὰ δὲ τήν μάχην (i.e., after the battle at Megiddo) Κάδυτιν πόλιν τῆς Συρίης ἐοῦσαν μεγάλην εἶλε, if any evidence could be brought to establish the opinion that by Κάδυτις we are to understand Jerusalem. But although what Herodotus says (iii. 5) concerning Κάδυτις does not apply to any other city of Palestine so well as to Jerusalem, the use of the name Κάδυτις for Jerusalem has not yet been sufficiently explained, since it cannot come from קדושה, the holy city, because the ש of this word does not pass into t in any Semitic dialect, and the explanation recently attempted by Bttcher (N. ex. Krit. Aehrenlese, ii. pp. 119ff.) from the Aramaean חדיתא, the renewed city (new-town), is based upon many very questionable conjectures. At the same time so much is certain, that the view which Hitzig has revived (de Cadyti urbe Herod. Gott. 1829, p. 11, and Urgeschichte der Philister, pp. 96ff.), and which is now the prevalent one, viz., that Κάδυτις is Gaza, is exposed to some well-founded objections, even after what Stark (Gaza, pp. 218ff.) has adduced in its favour. The description which Herodotus gives (iii. 5) of the land-road to Egypt: ἀπὸ Φοινίκης μέχρι οὔρων τῶν Καδύτιος πόλιος ἥ ἐστι Σύρων τῶν Παλαιστινῶν καλεομένων· ἀπὸ δὲ Καδύτιος, ἐούσης πόλιος (ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκέει) Σαρδίων ου ̓ πολλῷ ἐλάσσονος, ἀπὸ ταύτης τὰ ἐμπόρια τὰ ἐπὶ θαλάσσης μέχρι Ἰηνύσου πόλιός ἐστι τοῦ Ἀραβίου· does not apply to Gaza, because there were no commercial towns on the sea-coast between the district of Gaza and the town of Yenysus (the present Khan Ynas); but between the district of Jerusalem and the town of Yenysus there were the Philistian cities Ashkelon and Gaza, which Herodotus might call τὰ ἐμπόρια τοὺ Ἀραβίου, whereas the comparison made between the size of Kadytis and that of Sardes points rather to Jerusalem than to Gaza. Still less can the datum in Jer 47:1, "before Pharaoh smote Gaza," be adduced in support of Gaza. If we bear in mind that Jeremiah's prophecy (2 Kings 47) was not uttered before the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, and therefore that Pharaoh had not smitten Gaza at that time, supposing that this Pharaoh was really Necho, it cannot have been till after his defeat at Carchemish that Necho took Gaza on his return home. Ewald, Hitzig, and Graf assume that this was the case; but, as M. v. Niebuhr has correctly observed, it has "every military probability" against it, and even the incredibility that "a routed Oriental army in its retreat, which it evidently accomplished in one continuous march, notwithstanding the fact that on its line of march there were the strongest positions, on the Orontes, Lebanon, etc., at which it might have halted, should have taken the city upon its flight." And, lastly, the name Κάδυτις does not answer to the name Gaza, even through the latter was spelt Gazatu in early Egyptian (Brugsch, Geograph. Inschr. ii. p. 32) since the u (y) of the second syllable still remains unexplained.)
Riblah has been preserved in the miserable village of Rible, from ten to twelve hours to the S.S.W. of Hums (Emesa) by the river el Ahsy (Orontes), in a large fruitful plain of the northern portion of the Bekaa, which was very well adapted to serve as the camping ground of Necho's army as well as of that of Nebuchadnezzar (Kg2 25:6, Kg2 25:20-21), not only because it furnished the most abundant supply of food and fodder, but also on account of its situation on the great caravan-road from Palestine by Damascus, Emesa, and Hamath to Thapsacus and Carchemish on the Euphrates (cf. Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 542-546 and 641).
In the payment imposed upon the land by Necho, one talent of gold (c. 25,000 thalers: 3750) does not seem to bear any correct proportion to 100 talents of silver (c. 250,000 thalers, or 37,500), and consequently the lxx have 100 talents of gold, the Syr. and Arab. 10 talents; and Thenius supposes this to have been the original reading, and explains the reading in the text from the dropping out of a y (= 10), though without reflecting that as a rule the number 10 would require the plural כּכּרים.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 23:34
From the words "Necho made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of his father Josiah," it follows that the king of Egypt did not acknowledge the reign of Jehoahaz, because he had been installed by the people without his consent. "And changed his name into Jehoiakim." The alteration of the name was a sign of dependence. In ancient times princes were accustomed to give new names to the persons whom they took into their service, and masters to give new names to their slaves (cf. Gen 41:45; Ezr 5:14; Dan 1:7, and Hvernick on the last passage). - But while these names were generally borrowed from heathen deities, Eliakim, and at a later period Mattaniah (Kg2 24:17), received genuine Israelitish names, Jehoiakim, i.e., "Jehovah will set up," and Zidkiyahu, i.e., "righteousness of Jehovah;" from which we may infer that Necho and Nebuchadnezzar did not treat the vassal kings installed by them exactly as their slaves, but allowed them to choose the new names for themselves, and simply confirmed them as a sign of their supremacy. Eliakim altered his name into Jehoiakim, i.e., El (God) into Jehovah, to set the allusion to the establishment of the kingdom, which is implied in the name, in a still more definite relation to Jehovah the covenant God, who had promised to establish the seed of David (Sa2 7:14), possibly with an intentional opposition to the humiliation with which the royal house of David was threatened by Jeremiah and other prophets. - "But Jehoahaz he had taken (לקח, like יקּח in Kg2 24:12), and he came to Egypt and died there" - when, we are not told. - In Kg2 23:35, even before the account of Jehoiakim's reign, we have fuller particulars respecting the payment of the tribute which Necho imposed upon the land (Kg2 23:33), because it was the condition on which he was appointed king. - "The gold and silver Jehoiakim gave to Pharaoh; yet (אך = but in order to raise it) he valued (העריך as in Lev 27:8) the land, to give the money according to Pharaoh's command; of every one according to his valuation, he exacted the silver and gold of the population of the land, to give it to Pharaoh Necho." נגשׂ, to exact tribute, is construed with a double accusative, and בּערכּו אישׁ placed first for the sake of emphasis, as an explanatory apposition to הערץ את־עם.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 23:36
Reign of Jehoiakim (cf. Ch2 36:5-8). - Jehoiakim reigned eleven years in the spirit of his ungodly forefathers (compare Kg2 23:37 with Kg2 23:32). Jeremiah represents him (Kg2 22:13.) as a bad prince, who enriched himself by the unjust oppression of his people, "whose eyes and heart were directed upon nothing but upon gain, and upon innocent blood to shed it, and upon oppression and violence to do them" (compare Kg2 24:4 and Jer 26:22-23). Josephus therefore describes him as τὴν φύσιν ἄδικος καὶ κακοῦργος, καὶ μήτε πρὸς Θεὸν ὅσιος, μήτε πρὸς ἀνθρώπους ἐπιεικής (Ant. x. 5, 2). The town of Rumah, from which his mother sprang, is not mentioned anywhere else, but it has been supposed to be identical with Aruma in the neighbourhood of Shechem (Jdg 9:41).