THE RECOVERY OF THE WORD OF GOD MOTIVATES REFORMATION
Iain Duguid: Josiah is another example of faithfulness expressed in temple worship cleansed of idolatry and performed in accordance with the laws of Moses and the prescriptions of David (35:4, 6, 12, 15). He can be compared with Joash (24:1–27): both became king as a child, collected funds for temple renovations, and led in covenant renewal, but, unlike Joash, Josiah remained faithful “all his days” (34:33). A closer association is with Hezekiah (29:1–32:33): in Chronicles only these two kings are said to be like David in doing “what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (29:2; 34:2), with their reigns characterized by “good deeds” (32:32; 35:26; a form of Hb. hesed, “loyalty, kindness, steadfast love”); and both narratives focus on temple renovation leading to Passover celebration involving people from the whole land. Both kings showed some flaw late in their reign: Hezekiah’s led to his “humbl[ing] himself” and the averting of wrath (32:25–26), but Josiah’s led to his death, which through consequent Egyptian control was the beginning of the road to exile (35:20–24). For Kings, Josiah is the greatest king (2 Kings 23:25), while for Chronicles the Passover celebration is the pinnacle, “kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 35:18).
August Konkel: In Chronicles, Josiah begins to seek the Lord in his eighth year, while still in his youth. His efforts to cleanse Jerusalem and Judah of idolatrous worship begin in his twelfth year, the earliest age at which he could officially carry out his duties as a king.
Frederick Mabie: The looming demise of Assyria created a power vacuum in the ancient Near East that Egypt and Babylon were eager to fill, particularly with respect to control of the land bridge known as Israel. Moreover, as a result of the weakening of the Assyrian Empire during the reign of Josiah, Judah began to experience what might be described as “pseudo-independence.” This newfound freedom likely played a significant role in the wide array of reforms enacted by Josiah in both Judah and the former territory of the northern kingdom (vv. 6-7). Josiah’s reforms took place in three periods: his eighth year (ca. 633 BC; v. 3), his twelfth year (ca. 629 BC; v. 3), and his eighteenth year (ca. 623 BC; v. 8). Note that the prophetic ministries of Zephaniah and Jeremiah likely supported the reforms enacted by Josiah.
J.A. Thompson: After a brief introduction (34:1-2) the Chronicler’s narrative is presented in five sections spread over chaps. 34-35:
a) introduction (34:1-2);
b) the removal of pagan cults form Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel (34:3-7);
c) temple repairs and the discovery of the law book (34:8-28);
d) covenant renewal (34:29-33);
e) Josiah’s Passover (35:1-19); and
f) Josiah’s death (35:20-27).
(:1-2) OPENING SUMMARY OF REIGN OF JOSIAH
A. (:1) Age and Duration of Reign
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king,
and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.”
James Barker: I read that at eight years of age, eighty percent of a person’s character is formed. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).
B. (:2) Moral Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD,
and walked in the ways of his father David
and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
Raymond Dillard: Though a number of kings are said to have followed the precedent set by their father David, only of Josiah is it said that he did not “deviate to the right or left.”
I. (:3-7) PURGE OF IDOLATRY BY YOUNG JOSIAH –
PRIORITY OF WAGING WAR AGAINST SIN
A. (:3a) Seeking the Lord at an Early Age
“For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth,
he began to seek the God of his father David;”
Steven Cole: Seek the Lord early in life if you can. Josiah was 16 when he began seeking the Lord. He was not from a godly home. He lived in an evil day. And yet he began seeking the Lord during his teen years and never turned away.
Many Christians have the erroneous notion that teenagers must go through a phase of rebellion. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where Christian parents expect their teens to rebel! Some kids feel like they’ll never be well-adjusted if they don’t sow some wild oats. That’s baloney!
I want every young person to hear this: Even if you come from a bad home and even though we live in an evil world, you can seek the Lord. You’ll never regret avoiding drugs or drinking or sexual immorality, because sin always leaves scars. I thank God that He graciously preserved me from rebelling against Him or against my parents. I think I’m fairly well-adjusted in spite of it!
B. (:3b-7) Stamping Out Idolatry Wherever It Was Found
1. (:3b-5) Beginning in Judah and Jerusalem
a. (:3b) Destroying the Images of Idols
“and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem
of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images,
and the molten images.”
b. (:4a) Destroying the Altars of False Gods
“And they tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence,
and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down;”
c. (:4b) De
secrating the Graves of Idol Worshipers
“also the Asherim, the carved images, and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.”
d. (:5) Desecrating the Bones of the Idolatrous Priests
“Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars,
and purged Judah and Jerusalem.”
J.A. Thompson: Though not explicitly stated, the Chronicler implied that Josiah executed the priests of Baal (cf. 2 Kgs 23:20) following the precedent set by Jehu (2 Kgs 10) and Jehoiada (23:17). The punishment is fitted to the crime: the priests who burned sacrifices to Baal had their own bones burned on the same altar. According to 2 Kgs 23:16 the bones of priests who had died were removed from their graves and burned.
2. (:6-7) Continuing in Outlying Territories
“And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, 7 he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel.”
Raymond Dillard: The Assyrian empire was in an advanced stage of disintegration by Josiah’s twelfth year (628 B.C.). Nineveh itself was under siege by Cyaxares and the Medes in 625 B.C. The Babylonians were newly independent, and mountain tribes from the north were raiding former Assyrian territory. During the death throes of the Assyrian empire the territories of the Northern Kingdom became a “no man’s land” (Soggin, 245). It is intrinsically probable in these circumstances that Josiah would seek to extend his control and influence into Israel (34:6), even as far as the Upper Galilee (Naphtali).
3. (:7b) Returning to Jerusalem
“Then he returned to Jerusalem.”
II. (:8-13) REPAIRS TO THE TEMPLE —
PRIORITY OF WORSHIP
A. (:8-11) Administration of Funds for Temple Repairs
Raymond Dillard: In Chronicles the discovery of the law book in the temple was one incident in the course of a larger reform, whereas in Kings it was the precipitating incident and primary motivation for the entire reform.
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler emphasizes the involvement of the whole community through the giving of funds by both Judeans and those from the prior northern kingdom tribal areas (v. 9), the skill and commitment (“faithfulness”) shown by those involved in the refurbishment process itself (cf. vv. 10-13; vv. 16-17; cf. 2Ki 22:7), and the oversight provided by the high priest and Levites (vv. 9, 12-13).
1. (:8) Directing Key Leaders to Head Up the Project
“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 an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.”
John Schultz: It sounds amazing that it took so long before Josiah’s attention became fixed upon the place that should have been the center of Yahweh worship. It wasn’t until Josiah’s eighteenth year on the throne of Judah that the temple in Jerusalem came into focus. The extent of idol worship and the fact that the country had been littered by altars dedicated to various gods, must have taken most of the king’s attention up to this time.
2. (:9) Delivery of the Collected Funds to Hilkiah the High Priest
“And they came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
3. (:10-11) Distribution of the Funds to the Workmen
“Then they gave it into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the LORD, and the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD used it to restore and repair the house. They in turn gave it to the carpenters and to the builders to buy quarried stone and timber for couplings and to make beams for the houses which the kings of Judah had let go to ruin.”
J.A. Thompson: The temple obviously needed more than a simple “cleansing.” It apparently had fallen into a state of disrepair, as indicated by the need for carpenters and stonemasons. Manasseh and Amon had seriously neglected the temple.
B. (:12-13) Administration of the Work of Temple Repairs
“And the men did the work faithfully with foremen over them to supervise: Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites of the sons of Merari, Zechariah and Meshullam of the sons of the Kohathites, and the Levites, all who were skillful with musical instruments. 13 They were also over the burden bearers, and supervised all the workmen from job to job; and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.”
Raymond Dillard: A considerable interest in the Levites, and especially the Levitical musicians, is a hallmark of the Chronicler’s history; the note that musicians would be in charge of the construction work shows just how concerned the Chronicler was to stress that the entire work was done under Levitical supervision. The use of music during a construction project is well attested from the ancient Near East (Rudolph, 323); it set the pace for the various tasks much as the ubiquitous radios on a contemporary construction site. While the Levitical musicians may have accompanied the work, the Chronicler does not specifically mention this task; he describes instead a supervisory role.
III. (:14-21) RECOVERY OF THE LOST BOOK OF THE LAW –
PRIORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD
A. (:14-18) Communication of God’s Word
1. (:14) Finding the Book of the Law
“When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD given by Moses.”
Frederick Mabie: This episode often comes as a surprise to readers who cannot imagine a scroll of the OT being “lost” in the temple. However, the foundation and walls of temples in the biblical world were commonly used as repositories for dedicatory inscriptions, administrative documents, building plans, and r
eligious texts. . .
Despite no shortage of speculation, the exact identification of this book is not possible to determine. Points of comparison can be drawn with Exodus (e.g., Ex 20-24), Leviticus (e.g., Lev 26), Numbers (e.g., Nu 9-10), and Deuteronomy (e.g., Dt 28-31). Given the content of the subsequent narrative, it is probably preferable simply to conclude that some or all of the Pentateuch was discovered at this time.
Martin Selman: It is traditionally identified with Deuteronomy, though probably not the whole book, since it was read twice in one day (2 Kgs 22:8, 10). . . One of the strongest inks with Deuteronomy is its repeated references to a Book of the Law (Deut. 28:61; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26; cf. Josh. 1:8; 8:31, 34; 23:6; 24:26). Another is the phrase all the curses written in (v. 24; in place of “everything written in”, 2 Kgs 22:16), referring to the contents of the Book of the Law in Deuteronomy 29:20, 21, 27; Josh. 8:34. Further connections with Deuteronomy include the centralizing of worship (vv. 3-7, 33; cf. Deut. 12), the centralized Passover (35:1-19; cf. Deut. 16:1-8), and above all the covenant ceremony (vv. 29-32; cf. Deut. 31:10-13). Hilkiah’s scroll was also recognized as having Moses’ authority (v. 14), just like the Book of the Law in Joshua’s day (Josh. 8:31, 34; 23:6), and there is little doubt that its antiquity increased its sense of authority.
David Guzik: According to Jeremiah 1:1-2, the prophet Jeremiah was the son of this particular priest Hilkiah. Jeremiah began his ministry during the reign of King Josiah.
2. (:15) Seeking Informed Interpretation of God’s Word
“And Hilkiah responded and said to Shaphan the scribe,
‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.’
And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.”
3. (:16-18) Communicating God’s Word to the King
“Then Shaphan brought the book to the king and reported further word to the king, saying, ‘Everything that was entrusted to your servants they are doing. 17 They have also emptied out the money which was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hands of the supervisors and the workmen. Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.’
And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.”
David Guzik: Throughout the history of God’s people, when the word of God is recovered and spread, then spiritual revival follows. It can begin as simply as it did in the days of Josiah, with one man finding and reading and believing and spreading the Book. Another example of this in history is the story of Peter Waldo and his followers, sometimes known as Waldenses. Waldo was a rich merchant who gave up his business to radically follow Jesus. He hired two priests to translate the New Testament into the common language and using this, he began to teach others. He taught in the streets or wherever he could find someone to listen. Many common people came to hear him and started to radically follow Jesus Christ. He taught them the text of the New Testament in the common language and was rebuked by church officials for doing so. He ignored the rebuke and continued to teach, eventually sending his followers out two by two into villages and market places, to teach and explain the scriptures. The scriptures were memorized by the Waldenses, and it was not unusual for their ministers to memorize the entire New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament. The word of God – when found, read, believed, and spread – has this kind of transforming power.
B. (:19-21) Conviction of God’s Word
1. (:19) Immediate Impact of the Revelation
“And it came about when the king heard the words of the law
that he tore his clothes.”
Mark Boda: The response in 34:19 is immediate (“When the king heard”) and passionate (“he tore his clothes in despair”), displaying a response typical of lament and penitence. He immediately sprang into action, giving orders to inquire at the Temple for a word from Yahweh “for me and for all the remnant of Israel and Judah” (34:21).
Steven Cole: The evening before Thanksgiving I had an interesting conversation with Jim Owen, author of the excellent book, Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word [East Gate]. He thinks that a major part of the problem in American Christianity is that we do not want to submit to authority, including the authority of Scripture that confronts our self-centered, fulfill-my-needs mentality. Thus we are abandoning the historical-grammatical-contextual approach to biblical interpretation and are accepting books in which popular authors subjectively read into the Bible the latest psychological “insights” and then claim that they are biblical. I think his analysis is correct.
2. (:20-21) Implications of the Revelation
“Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 ‘Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.’”
Frederick Mabie: Josiah’s words and actions reflect an implicit recognition of the divine nature and divine authority vested in the Book of the Law of the Lord, and hence the guilt and culpability of the people with respect to the covenant. As Paul notes, the knowledge of God’s law causes every mouth to be silenced and renders the whole world “guilty before God” (Ro 3:19) [KJV]).
Andrew Hill: The king perceives that the message of the law scroll has profound implications for both him and his subjects (“the remnant in Israel and Judah” [34:21] is another instance of the Chronicler’s emphasis on the unity of Israel). This explains Josiah’s decision to appoint envoys to seek an interpretation of the scroll and to ask for counsel in addressing the disturbing news about God’s anger revealed in the law scroll. The theme of God’s anger incited by the disloyalty of the people of Israel is prominent in 2 Chronicles (e.g., 28:9; 29:8; 32:25). The king’s reference to the sins of the “fathers” (34:21) implies some knowledge of the potential impact of the retribution principle across successive generations (cf. Ex. 20:5).
IV. (:22-28) REVELATION FROM THE P
ROPHETESS HULDAH –
PRIORITY OF WRONGDOING DESERVING GOD’S JUDGMENT
A. (:22) Solicitation of the Prophetess
“So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her regarding this.”
J.A. Thompson: Hilkiah, as was proper in such circumstances, consulted the prophetess Huldah, the wife of Shallum who was “keeper of the wardrobe.” Evidently his official role was as the temple functionary responsible for the production and maintenance of the priestly and Levitical vestments.
B. (:23-25) Severe Judgment Proclaimed
“And she said to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 24 thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. 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 My wrath will be poured out on this place, and it shall not be quenched.’”
G. Campbell Morgan: Josiah went on with the work of reformation, even when he knew that nationally it was foredoomed to failure.… She distinctly told him that there would be no true repentance on the part of the people, and therefore that judgment was inevitable. It was then that the heroic strength of Josiah manifested itself, in that he went on with his work.… No pathway of service is more difficult than that of bearing witness to God, in word and in work, in the midst of conditions which are unresponsive.
C. (:26-28a) Sparing of Josiah Due to His Humble Repentance
“But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus you will say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard,’”
1. Humbling of Josiah
“Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God, when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes, and wept before Me,”
2. Mercy of God
“I truly have heard you, declares the LORD. 28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants.”
J.A. Thompson: The promised reward was that God would spare Josiah from witnessing the disaster he would bring on Jerusalem and its people, and Josiah would be buried in peace. Huldah’s prophecy is reminiscent of Jer 18:1-11 where the prophetic promise, whether hope or judgment, is contingent upon human response by either repentance to God or the forsaking of God. Although Josiah’s reign was one marked by religious reform based on the law of Moses, he disobeyed God when he fought Neco of Egypt (2 Chr 35:20-24). Huldah’s prophecy was fulfilled, since Judah did not suffer judgment from God, i.e., exile, until after the death of Josiah.
August Konkel: The prophetic word was that Josiah would die in peace and not experience the curse of judgment that would come upon Judah (2 Chron 34:28). Josiah himself did not die in peace but was killed by the Egyptian pharaoh. A false prophecy would not have been tolerated by the Chronicler. The second half of the verse must explain the first. This place (the city) would be at peace at the death of Josiah as a reward for his faithfulness. His repentant spirit had averted disaster in his time, but the ultimate judgment of the city could not be averted. The discovery of the Torah increased Josiah’s zeal for the reform he had initiated (2 Chron 34:33). His demise at the hands of Necho was not a consequence of some failure in his life. This indicates that the Chronicler is not predictable in his assessment of retribution. Josiah dies in faithfulness and in battle, with the mercy that he does not endure the Babylonian siege.
Frederick Mabie: the remark in question relates to his burial (“you will be buried in peace”) rather than his means of death.
D. (:28b) Report Back to the King
“And they brought back word to the king.”
V. (:29-32) RESPONSE OF JOSIAH TO COMMIT TO REFORMATION —
PRIORITY OF WALKING IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD
A. (:29-30) Communication of God’s Word to the Leaders and All the People
“Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the LORD and all the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the Levites, and all the people, from the greatest to the least; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.”
B. (:31-32) Commitment to Reformation by the Entire Community
1. (:31) Covenant Renewal by the King
“Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book.”
2. (:32) Covenant Renewal by All the People
“Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”
Andrew Hill: Covenant renewal for ancient Israel was repairing or restoring a relationship with God broken because of their willful violation of the stipulations regulating the relationship. Repentance or humbling oneself is the first step in renewing a covenant relationship with God, as King David well knew (cf. Ps. 51:17).
Martin Selman: There are hints that the people needed some coercion. Josiah made them serve [i.e. “worship”] the Lord, which they did, but only as long as he lived. Nevertheless all who were in Israel complied, as exemplified above all by the ensuing Passover (35:1-19) to which representatives from north and south were presumably present (cf. 35:3).
(:33) EPILOGUE – SUMMARY OF REFO
A. Purging of Idolatry
“And Josiah removed all the abominations
from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel,”
B. Pursuit of Covenant Faithfulness
“and made all who were present in Israel to serve the LORD their God.”
C. Perseverance in Covenant Loyalty
“Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the LORD God of their fathers.”
Raymond Dillard: This verse is a summary statement and forms somewhat of an inclusio with 34:6–7.
J.A. Thompson: This verse summarizes and concludes the events of chap. 34. The covenant renewal called for pure and unadulterated monotheism for the rest of his reign. The expression “all the territories belonging to the Israelites” draws attention to the Chronicler’s belief that Israel was now one and that all in Israel would serve the Lord their God as long as Josiah lived (640-609 B.C.).
Frederick Mabie: The statement that the people “did not fail to follow the Lord” while Josiah was alive foreshadows the rapid downfall that will happen in Judah following his death (see ch. 36; cf. 12:14).