New European Commentary


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2Ch 31:1 Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, and broke in pieces the pillars, and cut down the Asherim, and broke down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned each man to his possession, into their own cities-
we see the progression. Firstly the temple had been cleansed and the idols taken out of it and broken. Then, the crowd of fired up worshippers at Passover had done the same to the idols in the streets of Jerusalem. And now the people went out into the cities of the provinces and did the same. We note the usage of the phrase "all Israel", celebrating the fact that some from the ten tribes had attended the Passover and were united with Judah in a revulsion at Ahaz's idolatry. But the language is exaggerated. For only a few from the ten tribes had attended, with the majority mocking the invitation to keep a Passover to Yahweh (2 Chron. 30:10,11). And it is unlikely that all the altars in "Ephraim and Manasseh" as well as Judah were destroyed. We don't get the impression king Hoshea of Israel joined in with this For idolatry returned to Judah very soon after this. Judah reached a new low of idolatry at the time of their next king Manasseh. The impression that "all" Israel did this is the same usage of language noted on 2 Chron. 30:11,18, whereby only a few came from Israel to the Passover, but they are called "many", relative to the wonder and significance of their coming. And likewise here, the wonder of what was done by some in breaking down the high places and idols is talked up as if it was larger than it was. But in understanding the nature of how Semitic language functions, we see no unethical exaggeration nor factual error.   

Israel were told to "throw down", "break in pieces" and "utterly destroy" the idols and altars of Canaan. There were times during their history when they obeyed this command by purging themselves from their apostasy in this. The Hebrew words used scarcely occur elsewhere, except very frequently in the context of how God "broke down", "threw down" and "destroyed" Israel at the hands of their Babylonian and Assyrian invaders as a result of their not 'breaking down' (etc.) the idols. "Throw down" in Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 is the same word in 2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 4:26; 31:28; 33:4; 39:8; 52:14; Ez. 16:39; Nah. 1:6. "Cut down" in Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 later occurs in Is. 10:33; Jer. 48;25; Lam. 2:3. So Israel faced the choice: either cut down your idols, or you will be cut down. The stone will either fall on us and destroy us, or we must fall on it and become broken men and women (Mt. 21:44). For the man untouched by the concept of living for God's glory, it's a hard choice. God will conquer sin, ultimately.

2Ch 31:2 Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites after their divisions, each man according to his service, both the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to praise in the gates of the camp of Yahweh-
This speaks of Jerusalem and especially the temple as the city of the hosts or military camp of Yahweh- as if the Angelic hosts were especially present in the temple. See on Ps. 78:60.

2Ch 31:3 He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of Yahweh-
Hezekiah was keen to lead by example, with a public, visible offering of sacrifices specifically in his name.

2Ch 31:4 Moreover he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of Yahweh-
We note this was just in Jerusalem, and we wonder whether in fact there was not so much commitment in the rest of the land. Or perhaps Hezekiah wanted the literate priests in Jerusalem to specifically make a study of the law, and to not have to worry about where their food was coming from.

2Ch 31:5 As soon as the commandment was published, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly-
See on :10. The idea is that they generously interpreted the tithe and brought all they could for the priests and Levites, far beyond the requirements of Num. 18:8,9. A theme of the Hezekiah narrative is that of living by the spirit and not the letter of the law. And this was something helpful for the exiles, whose situation precluded them from keeping the letter of the law.

2Ch 31:6 The children of Israel and Judah, who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated to Yahweh their God, and laid them by heaps-
The command for tithes to be brought had been specifically made in the context of supporting the Jerusalem priesthood (:4). This is why the people from other towns now brought their tithes to Jerusalem. We note that people from "Israel and Judah... lived in the cities of Judah". Continually in the Hezekiah narrative we get the impression of unity between the faithful in both Israel and Judah, based around a common experience of repentance, forgiveness and restoration. This was to be the pattern for the exiles. There was likewise a prophetic vision of a new people of God being formed, from both Israel and Judah, as well as repentant Gentiles. Chronicles was written for the exiles, and so it is being stressed that something like this did [briefly] happen in Hezekiah's time. It was not unthinkable nor impossible. 

2Ch 31:7 In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month-
The idea may be that these piles of food grew over those four months. But we wonder why they stopped after that; and we naturally wonder whether the enthusiasm for tithing waned. Although it may be that after that they began tithing to their local priests and Levites in their own provincial areas. But it should be noted that the grain harvest was in the third month (Pentecost), and harvest continued until the end of the fruit harvest in the seventh month (Tabernacles / ingathering). So the idea may be that they had a good harvest that year and generously tithed it to the Levites.

2Ch 31:8 When Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed Yahweh and His people Israel-
The praise of Israel for their generosity is understandable; note how again the united faithful of Israel and Judah are called "Israel", even though most of the donors were likely from Judah. A new, united Israel was being potentially formed. But why praise Yahweh for the generosity of His people? I conclude that this was because He through His Spirit had given them this desire to be generous and obedient. So again we see God's direct action upon the human heart, leading us to spirituality- if we are open to it. 

2Ch 31:9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps-
The size of the heaps was such that Hezekiah wondered why the Levites and priests hadn't used them (:10); and the answer was that they had well eaten, but there was far too much food donated. The exiles were to have a different experience with "heaps" (s.w. Hag. 2:16), and to be rebuked for not being generous with tithes and offerings.

2Ch 31:10 Azariah the chief priest, of the house of Zadok, answered him and said, Since people began to bring the offerings into the house of Yahweh, we have eaten and had enough, and have left plenty; for Yahweh has blessed His people. That which is left is this great store-
Whenever Israel were specifically asked for contributions, they always responded very generously. But their hearts were often very far from God. Ez. 20 says that Israel took the idols of Egypt with them through the Red Sea; and yet when asked to donate towards the building of the tabernacle, they responded with stellar generosity. We simply learn that generous giving is not necessarily the same as spirituality.

2Ch 31:11 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of Yahweh; and they prepared them-
These chambers around the temple court were where the holy vessels and tithes were stored (1 Chron. 28:12; 2 Chron. 31:5,11,12; Neh. 13:4-9). It could be to these rooms which the Lord Jesus alludes when He says that in God's house / temple, there are many such rooms and He will go to die on the cross to prepare them for our use, as Hezekiah prepared them here (Jn. 14:1-3). He clearly has in view the temple as a spiritual house, comprised of people not bricks. The idea is that His death achieved for us not only salvation, but eternal service as priests within God's "house", being about God's work and business for the sake of others' salvation and implementing their relationship with God. This is what eternity will be about. And it is in this life which we develop our desire to do these things, so that the Kingdom will be a time when all the frustrations and barriers to such service are removed.

2Ch 31:12 They brought in the offerings, the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully. Conaniah the Levite was ruler over them, and Shimei his brother was second-
Again we see the prominence of a Levite; for rather than a priest, a Levite was the manager of this work. Not only were the servant class exalted in God's eyes, but it seems the Levites were more committed than the priests (2 Chron. 29:34).

2Ch 31:13 Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath and Benaiah were overseers under the hand of Conaniah and Shimei his brother, by the appointment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of God’s house-
Most of these names have God's name in them or have some spiritual meaning. Yet they would all have been born in the time of Ahaz. Perhaps these are not their birth names, but names they came to have in reflection of their faith and hope in Yahweh subsequently. In total, there were 12 such overseers- again hinting at the desire to unite all 12 tribes of Israel in this new, reformed and revived kingdom.

2Ch 31:14 Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter at the east gate, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the offerings of Yahweh and the most holy things-
The freewill offerings were tithed to the Levites, but the question was always as to who got what. And so a Levite, not a priest, a humble porter or gatekeeper (Ps. 84:10), was chosen to oversee this. And the spirit of it continues in the charge to appoint the least esteemed to judge in the church (1 Cor. 6:4). 

2Ch 31:15 Under him were Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their office of trust, to give to their brothers by divisions, both to the great and small-
We too have been entrusted with the Gospel, Paul says. The Father and Son have turned over the mission of saving men to the church; and they have truly turned it over. This means that if men and women reject Him because we are the face of Jesus to them, and they don’t think much of it…then this is solely our fault. There is no indication that God will rush in and save us from the mess we have made of His work. He has delegated to us genuine authority and meaningful independence, just as the Levites were given a “trust” to do the Lord’s work (2 Chron. 31:15,18 RVmg.). He is prepared to work with us in assistance, but we are entrusted with the work (Gal. 2:7 RV)- just as a naughty pupil may be given a responsible job to do by a teacher, and the sheer wonder of having been thus entrusted makes him perform the duty reliably. This is a thought so demanding and unnerving; for we would all prefer to think that we are just insignificant pawns in a game that is being played out by God against this world, whether or not we chose to participate.

2Ch 31:16 Also under him were those who were reckoned by genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even each one who entered into the house of Yahweh, as the duty of every day required, for their service in their offices according to their divisions-
It seems another record of the priests was made, along with the schedule according to which they went up to the temple to serve; so that there would be a just distribution of the tithes amongst them all.

2Ch 31:17 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of the priests by their fathers’ houses; and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their offices by their divisions-
See on :16. Some of the tithes could only be eaten by the priests in the holy place, so it seems this was factored in to the distribution of the tithes amongst the Levites.

2Ch 31:18 and those who were reckoned by genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, their sons and their daughters, through all the congregation. In their office of trust they sanctified themselves in holiness-
As noted on :16, a list of all Levites and their children was drawn up, to ensure the fair distribution of the tithes amongst them according to the sizes of their families. We could infer that unjust distribution of tithes was a reason why the priesthood had become so dysfunctional.

2Ch 31:19 Also for the sons of Aaron the priests, who were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every city, there were men who were mentioned by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all who were reckoned by genealogy among the Levites-
The arrangements for justly sharing out the tithes, considering the number of people in each family, how many of them ate tithes in the holy place when on duty in Jerusalem etc., is described here somewhat repetitively (:16-19). It is a major emphasis. And yet after some centuries of supposed obedience to the Mosaic law, this seems the first time that this question of equal distribution of tithes amongst the Levites had been considered. It is another indication that the people were so very far from obedience to God's law, although that was the basis of their covenant relationship with Yahweh. And yet despite that disobedience, He patiently remained their God. Such was and is His earnest desire to build covenant relationship even with a people who didn't really want to respond to it.

2Ch 31:20 Hezekiah did so throughout all Judah; and he worked that which was good and right and faithful before Yahweh his God-
He did 'truth' (Heb.). To commit violence to others' persons is to live a lie (Hos. 12:1). Truth is not therefore merely a set of doctrines; it refers to an obedient life, and covenant relationship with God. The LXX uses the phrase 'to do truth', which John uses in the NT, in passages like 2 Chron. 31:20 (about Hezekiah's obedience to commandments), or in Gen. 47:29; Is. 26:10 to describe simply doing and living what is right. The fact truth must be done indicates it is not merely correct academic interpretation of doctrine.


2Ch 31:21 In every work that he began in the service of God’s house, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered-
Again, the state of the heart is the basis of God's judgment of him. The reference to the work "that he began" could hint that all this was just at the beginning of his reign; for it seems in his last 15 years he turned away from God.