ADMINISTRATION OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP AND SUPPORT FOR LEADERS REQUIRES FAITHFUL FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP
John Gill: This chapter begins with the destruction of idolatrous worship, the appointment of the courses of the priests and Levites, and the royal bounty for sacrifices, 2 Chronicles 31:1, next follows the order Hezekiah gave, that the people at Jerusalem, and throughout the land, should make the proper provision for the priests and Levites, as the law directed; and which was cheerfully complied with, and the firstfruits and tithes were brought in, in great abundance, insomuch that there was enough, and plenty left, 2 Chronicles 31:4, wherefore chambers were prepared in the temple to lay it up in, and persons appointed to be the overseers of it, and to distribute it faithfully to their brethren and their families, to small and great, 2 Chronicles 31:11, and the chapter is closed in praise of the works of Hezekiah, and the success that attended him, 2 Chronicles 31:20.
Iain Duguid: Focus throughout is on well-supported and managed continuing temple ministry. The account is clearly an example for the postexilic community to emulate, especially if the laxity evident in postexilic accounts continued (Neh. 13:10–13 [contrast prior commitment; 10:32–39]; Mal. 1:8, 14; 3:8–9). The conclusion to 2 Chronicles 29–31 (31:20–21) reinforces the message that seeking the Lord and acting according to the law lead to prospering.
Andrew Hill: The cleansing and reopening of the temple brings about the restoration of the temple liturgy. This means, in turn, that the sacrificial and musical guilds of the priests and Levites must be reorganized so they can adequately service the temple liturgy. Naturally, this calls for the reinstitution of the regular tithes and offerings prescribed by the law of Moses in order to support the temple personnel. This section of the Chronicler’s report of Hezekiah’s reign addresses the reordering of Levitical corps (31:2-3) and the reestablishment of the Mosaic tithes and offerings (31:4-19).
Martin Selman: Hezekiah’s cleansing of the temple (ch. 29) and celebration of the Passover (ch. 30) enabled him to re-establish regular worship. This involved two further tasks, reorganizing the priests and Levites (v. 2) and establishing proper financial support for temple personnel and the system of offerings (vv. 4-19). The dominant emphasis of chapter 31 falls on the practical giving of the people, however. Though the king’s leadership provided an important stimulus, an effective system of worship was not possible without full popular involvement.
The apparently routine character of this chapter is deceptive, for it deals with two principles of first importance.
– The first is that worship cannot be left to the “professionals”.
– The second principle is the care needed to ensure that Israel’s worship is carried out “decently and in order”: (cf. 1 Cor. 14:40). Good planning and the implementation of adequate supporting structure provide a framework in which wholehearted and meaningful worship can take place.
Matthew Henry: We have here an account of what was done after the Passover. What was wanting in the solemnities of preparation for it before was made up in that which is better, a due improvement of it after. When the religious exercises of a Lord’s Day or a communion are finished we must not think that then the work is done. No, then the hardest part of our work begins, which is to exemplify the impressions of the ordinance upon our minds in all the instances of a holy conversation. So it was here; when all this was finished there was more to be done.
(:1) TRANSITION – SPIRITUAL WORSHIP CANNOT COEXIST WITH IDOLATRY – FURTHER REFORMATION ACTIVITIES
A. Rooting Out All Vestiges of Idolatry
“Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the Asherim, and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all.”
Raymond Dillard: Hezekiah’s reform proceeded in concentric circles from the temple (29:3–36), through the city (30:13–14), and into the surrounding territory, including portions of the North (31:1).
Peter Wallace: In the past, we have heard about how a good king destroys high places, pillars, and Asherim. Now we hear that all Israel broke down pillars, Asherim, and high places. For once, we have a faithful generation that seeks the LORD with a whole heart!
L.M. Grant: When Hezekiah had taken positive action to give God His true place of authority in the Passover feast, he rightly followed this up with the negative work of destroying the idolatrous pillars, images, high places and altars that had been introduced by earlier kings. The many people who had been present for the Passover carded out this destruction in the Cities of Judah, but also in Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh (v.1) before returning to their own property.
J. Parker: Mark the word “utterly.” It is for want of that word that so many men have failed. Many men have cut off the heads of weeds. Any man can do that. The weed is in the root, and the root is not straight down in the earth, so that it can be taken out easily; after a certain depth it ramifies, and care must be taken that we get out every fibre and filament, and having got it out, turn it upside down, and let the sun do the rest. A man has undertaken to abstain from some evil pursuit for a month: he has clipped off the top of the weed and looks just as well as anybody else, but he is not; he has still the root in him, and that must be taken out, though he be half murdered in the process.
B. Return to Home Base
“Then all the sons of Israel returned to their cities, each to his possession.”
I. (:1-10) COLLECTION OF OFFERINGS TO SUPPORT THE ADMINISTRATION OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
A. (:2-4) 3 Key Directives to Support the Administration of Spiritual Worship
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler continues to liken Hezekiah to Solomon by showing his oversight of cultic personnel (2 Chr 8:14; cf. 1 Chr 23–26). Just as D
avid and Solomon provided from their own wealth for the temple (), so also Hezekiah provides from his property. The Chronicler is 1 Chr 29:1–5; 2 Chr 9:10–11fond of showing that faithful and generous kings prompt similar generosity in the population (31:5–10; 24:8–14; 1 Chr 29:6–9).
1. (:2) Directive #1 – Organize the Leaders and Define their Worship Function
“And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites by their divisions, each according to his service, both the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister and to give thanks and to praise in the gates of the camp of the LORD.”
Iain Duguid: Restoring the “service of the house of the Lord” (29:35) meant resuming the arrangement of “divisions” of priests and Levites, each with its own responsibilities for offerings and praise. The unusual phrase “the gates of the camp of the Lord” recalls the tabernacle, thus serving as a reminder of continuity with the wilderness tradition (Num. 2:17; cf. 1 Chron. 9:18–19).
Payne: The Hebrew for Hezekiah’s assigning the priests to divisions is definite: he “appointed THE divisions of the priests.” He reestablished the twenty-four rotating courses that had been set up by David (1 Chronicles 25) to insure orderly worship.
2. (:3) Directive #2 – Set the Example for Financial Support
“He also appointed the king’s portion of his goods for the burnt offerings, namely, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the fixed festivals, as it is written in the law of the LORD.”
Mark Boda: Vs. 3 lists the many worship services that needed to be supported. Although not explicit in the Hebrew text, the list is organized by frequency of practice from daily (morning and evening burnt offerings), to weekly (Sabbath festivals), to monthly (new moon festivals), to annual (festivals) events. This list provides insight into the complex and demanding character of worship in Judah and is an essential
foundation for understanding why priestly and Levitical orders needed to “devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord” (31:4).
3. (:4) Directive #3 – Charge the People with their Responsibility to Give
“Also he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the law of the LORD.”
Raymond Dillard: Hezekiah restores the system of offerings used for the maintenance of the priests and Levites (31:4; Lev 6:14—7:36; Num 18:8–32; Deut 14:27–29; 18:1–8; 26:1–15) which had presumably been interrupted during the apostasy of Ahaz. These offerings were readily neglected by the people (Mal 3:8–12; Neh 13:10–13) and occasionally abused by the priests (1 Sam 2:12–16). Rather than describing these offerings as freeing the priests and Levites for devotion to the service of the temple, the Chronicler describes them as freeing the cultic personnel for devotion to the “law of Yahweh”; though both ways of describing the intended effect of the offerings may refer to temple duties, the Chronicler’s phraseology could reflect the growing importance of the study of the law in the post-exilic period (Williamson, 374).
Peter Wallace: Hezekiah sees his gift as an example to the rest of the congregation. Having exemplified sacrificial giving himself, he calls the people to imitate him. He will provide all the special offerings. But he calls them to provide the regular provision for the priests and Levites, so that they can devote themselves to the Law of the LORD (in other words, their duties as commanded by the law).
B. (:5-10) Generous Giving Should be the Response of God’s People
1. (:5-7) Heaps of Tithes Collected by Voluntary, Enthusiastic Giving
a. (:5) Immediate Response from the Northern Kingdom
“And as soon as the order spread, the sons of Israel provided in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of all.”
Raymond Dillard: The firstfruits of grain, wine, and oil are specifically assigned to the priests (Num 18:12–13) and the tithe to the Levites (Num 18:21). Though “honey,” actually a syrup-like product from fruits, is excluded from burnt offerings, it was nevertheless suitable for the support of the priests and was brought as part of the firstfruits (Lev 2:11–12).
b. (:6) Similar Response from Those Living in Judah
“And the sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah, also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the LORD their God, and placed them in heaps.”
Iain Duguid: While king and chief priest took leadership (vv. 10, 13), priests, Levites, and “Israel” each were actively participating through their varied responsibilities.
Frederick Mabie: Hezekiah praises the people for obediently and abundantly responding to this call of God (vv. 6-7; cf. Dt 14:22-29). In the light of their obedience and generosity, Hezekiah blesses the people (v. 8), similar to David’s (cf. 1Ch 16:2) and Solomon’s (cf. 2Ch 6:3-11) blessings. Indeed, the storage and faithful disbursement of accumulated tithes (vv. 11-18; cf. Dt 14:28-29) act as a means of appropriating God’s blessing (“so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands”; Dt 14:29). Note that tithes have also been appointed for “aliens, the fatherless, and the widows who live in your towns” (Dt 14:29).
c. (:7) Rapid Conclusion of Giving Campaign
“In the third month they began to make the heaps,
and finished them by the seventh month.”
2. (:8) Praise for the Abundance Collected
“And when Hezekiah and the rulers came and saw the heaps,
they blessed the LORD and His people Israel.”
3. (:9-10) Financial Accounting to Make Sure All Needs Are Being Met
“Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok said to him, ‘Since th
e contributions began to be brought into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat with plenty left over, for the LORD has blessed His people, and this great quantity is left over.’”
Andrew Hill: The rest of the section (31:5-19) links the regular giving of the tithes and offerings to the vitality of temple worship. The response to the king’s command to bring the firstfruits of the produce of the field and tithe of the herds and flocks is overwhelming (31:5-8). No doubt, the Chronicler understands these actions as signifying the genuineness of the people’s repentance. The offerings of grain, wine, and oil are designated for the priests (cf. Num. 18:12-13), while the Levites receive the tithe (cf. Num. 18:21). The contributions come from all Israel, including the citizens of Jerusalem as well as the residents of Judah and the Israelites from the northern tribes who have emigrated to Judah (2 Chron. 31:4, 6). The ingathering of both food stuffs and animals (31:7) lasts from the grain harvest of the third month (the Feast of Pentecost [May/June]) to the fruit and vine harvests of the seventh month (the Feast of Tabernacles [Sept/Oct]).
II. (:11-19) FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP OF THE COLLECTED OFFERINGS
Raymond Dillard: The flow of thought and the precise significance of some of the details in this section are difficult. Hezekiah arranges for the storage and oversight of the offerings to be used to support the cultic personnel. Conaniah and Shimei are assisted by ten others responsible for the storerooms in the temple, while Kore and six others arranged distribution in the outlying priests’ towns (1 Chr 6:54–60). This distinction between those living in Jerusalem and those in the outlying towns is reiterated in 31:16, 19; a distinction is also made in the basis for distribution between the priests (genealogical records) and the Levites (courses and divisions; 31:17).
Peter Wallace: The point of verses 11-16 is that the “heaps” of provision were such that they needed a whole structure for oversight and distribution.
A. (:11-12a) Secure Storage of the Offerings
“Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the LORD, and they prepared them. And they faithfully brought in the contributions and the tithes and the consecrated things;”
Frederick Mabie: In light of the “heaps” of provisions being set aside for the priests and Levites (vv. 4-8), Hezekiah orders the construction of storage areas in the temple complex. Hezekiah’s efforts are either a revamping of existing side storage areas reflected in the tripartite design of Solomon’s temple or the construction of additional storage capacity. In addition to foodstuffs as here, such storage rooms were used to store a wide variety of items needed by priests in their temple ministry. Such “side rooms” were under the charge of Levites (cf. 1Ch 23:28).
Iain Duguid: Three times the work is said to be done “faithfully” (vv. 12, 15, 18). The Hebrew term ʼemunah occurs in specific contexts in Chronicles, referring mainly to “trust (worthiness), honesty, conscientiousness” in matters of handling resources (also 34:12; 1 Chron. 9:22, 26, 31; cf. 2 Kings 12:15; 22:7; Neh. 13:13). Such a quality is an outworking of sincere, intentional commitment to God and so also is expressed in “keeping [oneself] holy” (2 Chron. 31:18). Elsewhere in Chronicles it describes Hezekiah’s activity “before the Lord his God” (v. 20) and judicial decisions “in the fear of the Lord” (19:9).
B. (:12b-19) Faithful Oversight and Distribution of the Offerings
1. (:12b-13) Faithful Oversight
“and Conaniah the Levite was the officer in charge of them and his brother Shimei was second. 13 And Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismachiah, Mahath, and Benaiah were overseers under the authority of Conaniah and Shimei his brother by the appointment of King Hezekiah, and Azariah was the chief officer of the house of God.”
2. (:14-19) Faithful Distribution
“And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the keeper of the eastern gate, was over the freewill offerings of God, to apportion the contributions for the LORD and the most holy things. 15 And under his authority were Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah in the cities of the priests, to distribute faithfully their portions to their brothers by divisions, whether great or small, 16 without regard to their genealogical enrollment, to the males from thirty years old and upward– everyone who entered the house of the LORD for his daily obligations– for their work in their duties according to their divisions; 17 as well as the priests who were enrolled genealogically according to their fathers’ households, and the Levites from twenty years old and upwards, by their duties and their divisions. 18 And the genealogical enrollment included all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, for the whole assembly, for they consecrated themselves faithfully in holiness. Also for the sons of Aaron the priests who were in the pasture lands of their cities, or in each and every city, there were men who were designated by name to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to everyone genealogically enrolled among the Levites.”
August Konkel: Administration is often perceived as tedious and thankless, but its importance and worth must not be minimized. An administrative list of the Levites appointed to the task of distribution describes how the contributions were to be apportioned (vv. 14-19). The system was complex. A great number of people were eligible for service, the majority of them living in provincial towns. Small groups of them came to Jerusalem in a rotation system for short terms of office. The division system was further complicated by the fact that all members of the tribe of Levi were entitled to portions, but there were differences between the priests and other Levites. Since all the contributions were collected in Jerusalem, the logistics of distribution were complicated, and standards of eligibility had to be clear. This required an accurate registration and clear rules of status between those who officiated and those who did not, and between those who lived in the provinces and those in Jerusalem.
John Gill: vs. 17 — for though originally they were not admitted into the tabernacle till twenty five years of age, nor to officiate till thirty, but in David’s time they were allowed at twenty years of age and upwards, 1 Chronicles 23:24.
(:20-21) EPILOGUE – SUMMARY OF HEZEKIAH’S RIGHTEOUS REIGN
A. (:20) Performance: Did What Was Good
“And thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah;
and he did what was good, right, and true before the LORD his God.” p>
B. (:21a) Motivation: Sought God Wholeheartedly
“And every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart”
Peter Wallace: Nowadays we seem to be divided between two horrible misunderstandings of this:
– one says that acting according to the law and the commandments means strict and precise observance of every jot and tittle;
– the other says that following the spirit of the law means that you can ignore the letter of the law entirely!
C. (:21b) Result: Prospered by God
J.A. Thompson: “He succeeded in everything he undertook.” Thus Hezekiah serves as prime example of the Chronicler’s “retribution theology.” We are reminded again of the parallel between Hezekiah and Solomon (7:11). Consequently he prospered in all that he did.
Ron Daniel: The key to prosperity is not in the “name it and claim it” teachings. It is in the “seek God with your whole heart, walk in the light, live righteously” teachings. That is where prosperity comes from.
Frederick Mabie: This remarkable summary statement of praise (namely, “good and right and faithful . . . in everything . . . obedience . . . sought his God . . . worked wholeheartedly . . . prospered”) closes out the Chronicler’s account of Hezekiah’s reforms and is similar to the opening statement about his reign (cf. 29:2). As such, these remarks “frame” the overwhelmingly positive events of Hezekiah’s reign (chs. 29-31) and create a literary separation between these positive events and the following narrative (ch. 32), in which Hezekiah’s imperfections surface. Hezekiah’s reign is especially marked by an intense and sustained focus on “obedience to the laws and the commands” of God (e.g., 29:15, 25; 30:12, 16; 31:3).
G. Campbell Morgan: These words reveal his purpose, his method, and the result; and form a revelation of abiding value to all who are called upon to perform Divine service in any form.
• His purpose was ‘to seek his God’; and the expression is exactly equivalent to that with which we are familiar: ‘Seek ye first His kingdom.’
• His method was that of complete devotion, ‘with all his heart.’
• The result was that of prosperity, that is, of success in the very work which was attempted.