New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 34:1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem-
Josiah means 'foundation of Yah'. It's unlikely this was the name Amon gave him, although a repentant Manasseh may have influenced it. However, at no point did even kings like Amon and Manasseh formally deny Yahweh. They worshipped Him, so they thought, through worshipping idols. So it is not impossible that indeed this was Josiah's birth name. And from that we can take yet another warning, to serve Yahweh with our whole hearts; and not assume that our service of the flesh is serving Him.

2Ch 34:2 He did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, and walked in the ways of David his father, and didn’t turn aside to the right hand or to the left-
And yet Josiah died in spiritual weakness and at a point of disobedience to God's word (2 Chron. 35:20-24). The rubric 'He did what was right...' is found even of kings who clearly departed from Yahweh. The truly righteous ones such as Jehoshaphat have a clause added to their summary, saying that they had followed Yahweh in their hearts. But this is lacking in the case of Josiah. We note too that he raised evil sons. And so we wonder whether the record is acknowledging the good works which he did at some points in his life, and it concludes with this too (2 Chron. 35:26). But there is a notable absence of any statement to the intent that he was judged as having a heart right with God. And the state of the heart was and is the critical indicator in God's final judgment of men. 

2Ch 34:3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father. In the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the Asherim, and the engraved images, and the molten images-
Kings places this reformation after the repair of the temple, whereas Chronicles puts it before that. However, Manasseh had repaired the temple just a few years earlier (2 Chron. 33:16) and that may be what Kings has in mind. Or the temple may have been repaired in stages. However the chronological problems are avoided if we accept a confusion in copying between "eighth" and "eighteenth" (2 Kings 22:3).

We note that Amon had revived Manasseh's images in the two years of his reign, and it seems the people worshipped them for the first 12 years of Josiah's reign. Again we have the impression that the removal of idolatry was something done by the reformist kings, but the hearts of the people were generally with the idols. And this was why they were condemned relatively soon after Josiah's time. The timing of Josiah's reformation (2 Chron. 34:3) coincides with the prophecies of Jer. 2,3; he heard them, and responded. Hence Jeremiah wept when Josiah died, remembering how as a teenager, Josiah had heard his prophecies and immediately responded to them.

2Ch 34:4 They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence. He cut down the incense altars that were on high above them. He broke in pieces the Asherim, and the engraved images, and the molten images, and made dust of them, and strewed it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them-
We note the contrast between altars being cut down "in his presence", and he himself cutting others down. We get the impression of total personal involvement and commitment, just at the age of 20. He put their dust on the graves of their worshippers who were buried near to the idols, referring maybe to the children offered to them, or to the fact that some were so devoted to idols that they gave their lives to them and were willing human sacrifices.

2Ch 34:5 He burnt the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem-
It was done specifically at Bethel (2 Kings 23:15,16). This implies he murdered the priests and burnt their hones on the altars, or it could refer to the exhuming of their bodies buried near the altars (:4) and burning their bones. This would have been seen as permanently desecrating the altars. This was done because God said that He would do this if His people broke covenant (Lev. 26:30), and Josiah is recognizing that indeed they had broken covenant and were worthy of such things. However, it would seem from :15 that Josiah was ignorant of those curses for disobedience; so it may be that he intuitively did what was written in them without specifically being aware of them. This is the spirit of Rom. 2:14.

2Ch 34:6 He did this in the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, even to Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins-
Simeonites lived in Judah (1 Chron. 4:28). But even in the ruined northern tribes, ruined because of the Assyrians, they were still worshipping idols and had not been led to repentance. Like Hezekiah, Josiah had a sense of responsibility towards the separated, spiritually weak brethren of the ten tribes. And he also knew that idolatry there would easily seep into Judah, as it had done previously. This sense of responsibility even for separated brethren is another abiding lesson for us. Assyrian power was declining, which is why Josiah was able to enter Israel and do this. It seems Josiah had a vision of a reunited kingdom, centered around Yahweh worship. This was indeed the prophetic potential, but the idolatrous hearts of the people precluded it from coming about.  

2Ch 34:7 He broke down the altars, and beat the Asherim and the engraved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel, and returned to Jerusalem-
"All the land of Israel" need not mean that every altar in all Israel was broken down, but that he went throughout "all Israel" on this mission; see on :6.

2Ch 34:8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of Yahweh his God-
"His God" could imply that he was not widely supported by the people. For as ever, their hearts soon returned to idolatry after this. For the chronological issue on when this repair occurred, see on :3. The "scribe" or historian was a senior advisor in the Hebrew court (2 Sam. 8:17; 2 Kings 18:18,37; 2 Chron. 34:8) because of the huge value attached to history in the Hebrew mind, and as reflected in the Bible being largely history. Advice on how to act was to be based upon historical, or as we would now say, "Biblical", precedent.

2Ch 34:9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest, and delivered the money that was brought into God’s house, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem-
AV "And they returned to Jerusalem". We note the generosity of the people even in the northern tribes, as well as the Israelites living in Judah ["the remnant of Israel"]. The way the various sources of income are described suggests a detailed record was made, indeed Kings says that Hilkiah took the sum. The half shekel temple tax was to be paid when a census was taken, and it seems this is what he did. 

2Ch 34:10 They delivered it into the hand of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of Yahweh. The workmen who laboured in the house of Yahweh gave it to mend and repair the house-
Chronicles was written for the encouragement of the exiles to likewise mend and repair the temple, and so they were intended to take encouragement from these men. 

2Ch 34:11 even to the carpenters and to the builders they gave it, to buy cut stone, and timber for couplings, and to make beams for the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed-
The destruction of the temple by these kings may not have been because they totally rejected Yahweh. The essence of their apostacy, as ours, was to use the things of Yahweh for idolatry, to mix paganism and the way of the flesh with Yahweh worship. So it is likely that when we read of men like Manasseh building other temples or shrines to idols in the vicinity of the temple, what happened was that they took the materials from the temple structure and used them for the idol temples. For materials like cut stone and timber were expensive and hard to source; Solomon had spent huge effort in bringing them from far away to build Yahweh's temple.

2Ch 34:12 The men did the work faithfully; and their overseers were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and others of the Levites, all who were skilful with instruments of music-
This could mean that the builders worked to the accompaniment of spiritual music. Or that musicians, not used to manual labour, worked in the rebuilding; just as apothecaries and others unused to such work laboured in rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah's time. And Chronicles was written for their encouragement.

2Ch 34:13 Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and set forward all who did the work in every kind of service. Of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters-
This is the first time we read of the "scribes" as a distinct body. Although possibly they began in the time of Hezekiah (Prov. 25:1). Whilst this was the class which so persecuted the Lord Jesus generations later, the original intention was that they would be responsible for "the writings" and perhaps interpretation of them. But for now, they were to be concerned not with academic study, but in making the word flesh through actually labour in the rebuilding work.  

2Ch 34:14 When they brought out the money that was brought into the house of Yahweh, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of Yahweh given by Moses-
All spiritual endeavour leads to the Lord inviting us deeper into that endeavour; thus it was as Barnabas and Paul went about their ministering to the Lord that they were invited to go on a missionary journey (Acts 13:2). Likewise it was as the Levites were in process of collecting funds for repairing the temple, that they found the book of the law- perhaps because they needed more space in which to store the donations, and whilst making space they found the scroll. In the process of being a deacon, faith is developed (1 Tim. 3:13). The very process of service and obedience leads to greater faith in practice.

There is an apparent parallel between money being found in the temple, and the book of the law being found (2 Kings 22:8,9). The idea is that as David often says in Ps. 119, Yahweh's law was the greatest treasure. So much so that the Chronicles record focuses so much on the book of the law being found that no direct mention is made of the money also "found"along with it until :17. Even in Kings, the discovery of the money is only mentioned in passing, as if the greatest discovery was not wealth, but God's law. And that is an abiding principle.

2Ch 34:15 Hilkiah answered Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of Yahweh. Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan-
This book was probably not the entire Pentateuch, but the curses for disobedience in Dt. 28, for Josiah's response is appropriate to someone who had just heard them read. But see on :5. Jer. 15:16 refers to this: "Your words were found, and I did eat them... [they] were to me the joy and the delight of my heart: for I am called by Your name, Yahweh". Jeremiah rejoiced in those words of judgment. And as a result, “I am called by Your name”- the language of a woman marrying and taking her husband’s name (Is. 4:1). The word of God was his “joy [and] delight”- two words used four times elsewhere in Jeremiah, and always in the context of the joy of a wedding (Jer. 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11). Jeremiah saw his prophetic task as actually a marriage to God, an inbreathing of His word and being, to the point that he could say that he personally was “full of the wrath / passion of God” (Jer. 6:11). Jeremiah's lament that the people had no joy or delight in God's word (Jer. 6:10) is the basis for this comment that when he found God's words, they were his joy.

2Ch 34:16 Shaphan carried the book to the king, and moreover brought back word to the king, saying, All that was committed to your servants, they are doing-
There appears an intentional contrast here. The book of the law contained a list of curses for disobedience, and the people had not being doing according to God's word. But the message of Shaphan is that the servants are doing all they have been commanded to do. The idea is that Josiah perceived this, and realized that all this rebuilding of the temple was not going to save them of itself. They needed to make a from the heart repentance amongst all the people, in order to truly avoid Divine judgment. And this was so relevant to the exiles, for whom Chronicles was written. Rebuilding the temple alone was not in fact what God primarily wanted. He desired their hearts. 

2Ch 34:17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of Yahweh, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers, and into the hand of the workmen-
The implication is that all was being done honestly. Whenever there was an appeal for materials, money or labour to build the tabernacle or rebuild the temple, God's people were always very responsive. But the lesson of Judah's history is that material generosity is not the same as true spirituality.

2Ch 34:18 Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest has delivered me a book. Shaphan read therein before the king-
What was read were the curses for disobedience. The harder side of the Father and the Lord Jesus should actually serve as an attraction to the serious believer. Peter knew that if it really was the Lord Jesus out there on the water, then He would bid him walk on the water to Him. Peter knew his Lord, and the sort of things He would ask men to do- the very hardest things for them in their situation. He knew how Jesus could be a demanding Lord. Jeremiah “knew that this was the word of the Lord” when he was asked to do something so humanly senseless- to buy property when he was in prison, when the land was clearly about to be overrun by the Babylonians (Jer. 31:8).  When Jeremiah had earlier found the curses for disobedience recorded in the book of the Law which had been lost, He 'ate them', those words of cursings were "the joy and rejoicing of my heart" - they so motivated him (Jer. 15:16 = 2 Chron. 34:18-21). When Ananias and Sapphira were slain by the Lord, fear came upon "as many as heard these things" .

2Ch 34:19 It happened, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he tore his clothes-
Although Josiah was personally innocent, he felt so passionately for God's people. We too need to have hearts that bleed for others, and not be solely concerned with our own standing before God. For our standing before Him involves our attitudes to others and our concern for their salvation, if we truly seek God's glory and not our own.

2Ch 34:20 The king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying-
This is the Ahikam of Jer. 26:24; 40:5. His son Gedaliah appears to have been faithful and to also have cared for Jeremiah after Jerusalem fell (Jer. 40:6).   

2Ch 34:21 Go inquire of Yahweh for me, and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found. Great is the wrath of Yahweh that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of Yahweh, to do according to all that is written in this book-
"Poured out" is "kindled" in 2 Kings; the sense was that he realized the wrath of God was kindled and was literally about to burn against them, and so repentance must be immediate with no time to lose.

2Ch 34:22 So Hilkiah, and they whom the king had commanded, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she lived in Jerusalem in the second quarter), and they spoke to her to that effect-
"The second quarter" may refer to a newer area of Jerusalem (Zeph. 1:10 RV), or as AV "the college", implying as a prophetess she had a kind of Bible study centre. "Keeper of the wardrobe" may refer to the priestly garments (cp. 2 Kings 10:22).

2Ch 34:23 She said to them, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me-
We see here and in :26 how Josiah had no direct vision from God. He was dealing all the time through the prophetic word relayed to him, and his obedience to it is the more commendable. Because it reflects his humility to God's revealed word, in a way more impressive than if these words had come directly to him. We are in his position, and should learn from him.

2Ch 34:24 Thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will bring evil on this place, and on its inhabitants, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah-
The reference to curses suggests that the scrolls discovered contained at least Dt. 28 and Dt. 27:15-26. See on :5. 

2Ch 34:25 Because they have forsaken Me, and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore is My wrath poured out on this place, and it shall not be quenched’-
God can be grieved [s.w. 'provoke to anger']. He has emotions, and His potential foreknowledge doesn't mean that these feelings are not legitimate. They are presented as occurring in human time, as responses to human behaviour. This is the degree to which He has accommodated Himself to human time-space limits, in order to fully enter relationship and experience with us. As He can limit His omnipotence, so God can limit His omniscience, in order to feel and respond along with us. 

Idolatrous Israel never consciously  tried to provoke Yahweh to anger with their apostasy; the words of the prophets must have seemed to them a gross exaggeration. But this was really how God saw it (2 Chron. 34:25).

Although "it shall not be quenched", Josiah knew God well enough to try to quench it, by getting all His people to make a from the heart commitment to Him.  Even though God had told Josiah that His wrath with His people would not be quenched, it would seem that there was still some possibility of "remedy", had the people accepted God's word in their hearts (2 Chron. 36:16). We see here His absolute eagerness for their repentance, and unwillingness that any of His people should have to perish. And that is the same God with whom we have to do.

2Ch 34:26 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of Yahweh, thus you shall tell him, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: ‘As touching the words which you have heard-
See on :23 for the significance of Josiah not receiving these words directly.

2Ch 34:27 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place, and against its inhabitants, and have humbled yourself before Me and have torn your clothes, and wept before Me; I also have heard you, says Yahweh-
We see here the mutuality between God and man; He hears the man who hears Him. We see the root of humility as being in having a heart / mind sensitive to Him. But "tender heart" is the same phrase used for being "faint hearted" in time of battle (Dt. 20:3; Is. 7:4; Jer. 51:46). It was as if Josiah saw the judgment of God coming, as if it had come, and was faint hearted before the soldiers he saw coming against him. And yet even such a tender heart can be given by God (s.w. Job 23:16), for He can also give attitudes of mind by His sovereign operation  .  

2Ch 34:28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, neither shall your eyes see all the evil that I will bring on this place, and on its inhabitants’. They brought back word to the king-
This is a similar situation to the promise to Hezekiah and Ahab (1 Kings 21:29). It is as if God judged the entire weight of sin to be such that even Josiah's reformation could only delay and not remove the judgment for it. However, if the people had all repented in their hearts, rather than passively allowing a reformer like Josiah to remove the external evidence of idolatry, then surely the outcome could have been different. See on :31.

The reality was that Josiah died in battle, not in peace (2 Chron. 35:22-24). Yet he had been promised to be gathered to his grave in peace (2 Chron. 34:28). Here we have an example of God making a statement about the future which is conditional upon human behaviour. Thus He stated that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days; but it wasn't, because they repented. There is a gap between the pronouncement and its fulfilment, and in that gap our behaviour can change the outcome. We too must waste so many potential futures. 

2Ch 34:29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem-
Josiah's idea was to bring about a reformation of the ordinary people, as in :30 we read of the people small and great being gathered. So presumably his gathering of the leaders was in order for them to bring their people with them.

2Ch 34:30 The king went up to the house of Yahweh, and all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, both great and small; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of Yahweh-
2 Kings has "prophets" for "Levites". There were clearly prophets actively operating at this time. As noted on :31, Josiah saw the only way to change the threatened judgments as getting the ordinary people to repent in their hearts. Unlike Hezekiah, he was not satisfied with simply avoiding seeing judgment come in his days. Indeed he learned from Hezekiah's mistake in that matter. See on 2 Chron. 35:7.

2Ch 34:31 The king stood in his place, and made a covenant before Yahweh, to walk after Yahweh-
Maybe a reference to Dt. 10:12,13, which perhaps was in this scroll.

And to keep His commandments, His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book-
Josiah recognizes that Judah have broken covenant with God and must be judged appropriately (see on :5,28). God was unwilling to ultimately avert the judgment upon the people because of their state of heart. And yet Josiah throws himself into trying to persuade the people to totally give themselves to covenant relationship. He realized that in the gap between the pronunciation of judgment, and it being carried out, there was the possibility of repentance and the judgment not being performed. His mentor Jeremiah had made this point in Jer. 18, and was also appealing to the people to change their hearts so that the threatened judgment wouldn't happen. This is how open God's purpose is, and Josiah and Jeremiah perceived that.

2Ch 34:32 He caused all who were found in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. The inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers-
There are a number of Old Testament examples of preaching the word after becoming aware of the depth of one's own sins. Consider Jonah preaching the second time, with the marks in his body after three days in the whale, admitting his rebellion against Yahweh, pleading with them to respond to His word. Reflect how when his head was wrapped around with seaweed, at the bottom of the sea at the absolute end of mortal life, he made a vow to God, which he then fulfilled, presumably in going back to preach to Nineveh (Jonah 2:9). His response to having confessed his sins and daring to believe in God’s forgiveness, turning again towards His temple even from underwater, was to resolve to preach to others if he was spared his life. And this he did, although as with so many of us, the pureness of his initial evangelical zeal soon flaked. Or consider Manasseh, 2 Chron. 33:16; Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 19:3 cp. 18:31; 19:2; Josiah, 2 Chron. 34:29,32; Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3:29; 4:2...

We note the specific reference to the people of Jerusalem. It seems that Josiah tried to gather together literally all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all "found" there. And yet Jerusalem particularly was to suffer in the judgments to come, and Jeremiah's prophesies at this time tend to single out Jerusalem for particular judgment for the unspirituality of the population. So again we perceive that this was all the enthusiasm of Josiah; the people's hearts weren't affected. This is the trouble with mass meetings for "revival". Reformation is essentially personal and of the heart.

2Ch 34:33 Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all who were found in Israel to serve, even to serve Yahweh their God. All his days they didn’t depart from following Yahweh, the God of their fathers
As noted above, Assyrian power was declining, and the ten tribes although living in ruins, were invited hereby to become Josiah's subjects. His vision was of a reunited kingdom of Israel and Judah, based around solid commitment to Yahweh. For a people accepted the gods of those dominant over them, and Israel were now agreeing to accept Yahweh, which was Judah's God, as theirs. But this was to be experienced only in "his days" as his son Jehoiakim let the ball drop rather dramatically. All this potential was wasted by him.   

Josiah discovered the book of the Law- and he then went on to do something about it in practice. Reflect through what he did: 

Passover kept in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:21-23) = Dt. 16:1-8; Removed asherahs (2 Kings 23:4,6,14) = Dt. 12:3; 16:21; Star worship removed (2 Kings 23:4,11) = Dt. 17:3; The ‘high places’ and cults removed (2 Kings 23:8-20) = Dt. 12; Child sacrifice ended (2 Kings 23:10) = Dt. 12:31; 18:10; The cultic stones / ‘mazzeboth’ removed (2 Kings 23:14) = Dt. 12:3; 16:22; Conjouring up the dead ended (2 Kings 23:24) = Dt. 18:11.

Do you notice from where in Deuteronomy he got those ideas? From chapters 12-18. My suggestion is that he maxed out on that part of the ‘book of the law’ which was read to him, and went and did it. The Lord in the wilderness was likewise motivated by Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 8.

In the first century, when people heard the Gospel, they were generally baptized immediately. This meant that the prison keeper was baptized in the middle of the night, amidst an earthquake… in essence, people heard the message, and responded immediately. We likewise heard of the Bible’s teaching about baptism, and we did something concrete and actual- we got wet. We went under the water. But we must ask ourselves whether we are continuing to be responsive to the word of God which we become increasingly familiar with as we read daily. Our very familiarity with it can militate against a real response. When last did you read / understand something from Scripture, and then get up and do something real, concrete and actual about it?