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whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
3 For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
4 And he built altars in the house fof the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
7 And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house of which the LORD said to David, and to 'Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
8 Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
9 But they hearkened not: and "Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.
10 And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done
More particularly, (1.) He rebuilt the high places which his father had destroyed, v. 3. Thus did he trample upon the dust, and affront the memory, of his worthy father, though he knew how much he was favoured of God, and honoured of men. He concurred, it is probable, with Rab-shakeh's sentiments, (ch. 18. 22,) that Hezekiah had done ill in destroying those high places, and pretended the honour of God, and the edification and convenience of the people, in rebuilding them. This he began with, but proceeded to that which was much worse: for, (2.) He set up other gods, Baal and Ashtaroth, (which we translate a grove,) and all the host of heaven, the sun and moon, the other planets, and the constellations; these he worshipped and served, (v. 3,) gave their names to the images he made, and then did homage to them, and prayed for help from them. To these he built altars, (v. 5,) and offered sacrifices, no doubt, on these altars. (3.) He made his son pass through the fire, by which he dedicated him a votary to Moloch, in contempt of the seal of circumcision by which he had been dedicated to God. (4.) He made the devil his oracle, and, in contempt both of Urim and prophecy, he used enchantments and dealt with familiar spirits,
i Deut. 18. 10. k 2 Sam. 7. 13. 71 Kings 9. 3. m 2 Sam. 7. 10. n Prov. 29. 12. o c. 23. 26, 27. 24. 3, 4. Jer. 15. 4.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXI.
(v. 6,) like Saul. Conjurers and fortune-tellers, who pretendV. 1-9. How delightful were our meditations on the lasted, by the stars or the clouds, lucky and unlucky days, good reign! How many pleasing views had we of Zion in its glory, and bad omens, the flight of birds, or the entrails of beasts, to that is, in its purity and in its triumphs, of the king in his beauty! fortel things to come, were great men with him, his intimates, For the reference (Is. 33. 17) is to Hezekiah, and as it follows his confidants; their arts pleased his fancy, and gained his there, v. 20, Jerusalem was a quiet habitation, because a city of belief, and his councils were under their direction. (5.) We righteousness, Is. 1. 26. But now we have melancholy work find afterward, (v. 16,) that he shed innocent blood very much upon our hands, unpleasant ground to travel, and cannot but in gratification of his own passion and revenge; some, perhaps, drive heavily. How is the gold become dim, and the most fine were secretly murdered, others taken off by colour of law. Progold changed! The beauty of Jerusalem is stained, and all her bably, much of the blood he shed was theirs that opposed idolglory, all her joy, sunk and gone. These verses give such an atry, and witnessed against it, that would not bow the knee to account of this reign, as make it, in all respects, the reverse of Baal. The blood of the prophets is, in a particular manner, the last, and, in a manner, the ruin of it. charged upon Jerusalem, and it is probable that he put to death many of them. The tradition of the Jews is, that be caused the prophet Isaiah to be sawn asunder; and many think the apostle refers to that, Heb. 11. 37, where he speaks of those that had so suffered.
I. Manasseh began young. He was but 12 years old when he began to reign, (v. 1,) born when his father was about 42 years old, three years after his sickness. If he had sons before, either they were dead, or set by as unpromising. As yet, they knew of nothing bad in him, and they hoped he would prove good; but he proved very bad, and perhaps his coming to the crown so young might help to make it so, which yet will by no means excuse him, for his grandson Josiah came to it younger than he, and yet acted well. But being young, 1. He was puffed up with his honour, and proud of it; and, thinking himself very wise, because he was very great, valued himself upon his undoing what his father had done. It is too common for novices to be lifted up with pride, and so to fall into the condemnation of the devil. 2. He was easily wrought upon and drawn aside by seducers, that lay in wait to deceive. They that were enemies to Hezekiah's reformation, and retained an affection for the old idolatries, flattered him, and so gained his ear, and used his power at their pleasure. Many have been undone by coming too soon to their honours and estates.
II. He reigned long, longest of any of the kings of Judah, 55 years. This was the only very bad reign that was a long one; Joram's was but 8 years, and Ahaz's 16; as for Manasseh's, we hope that in the beginning of his reign, for some time, affairs continued to move in the course that his father left them in; and that in the latter end of his reign, after his repentance, religion got head again; and, no doubt, when things were at the worst, God had his remnant that kept their integrity. Though he reigned long, yet, some of this time, he was a prisoner in Babylon, which may well be looked upon as a drawback from these years, though they are reckoned in the number, because then he repented, and began to reform.
III. He reigned very ill. 1. He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; and which, having been well educated, he could not but know was so; (v. 2,) He wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, as if on purpose to provoke him to anger, v. 6. 2. He did after the abominations of the heathen, (v. 2,) and as did Ahab, (v. 3,) not taking warning by the destruction both of the nations of Canaan, and the house of Ahab, for their idolatry; nay, (v. 9,) he did more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed. When the holy seed degenerate, they are commonly worse than the worst of the profane.
Three things are here mentioned as aggravations of Manasseh's idolatry. [.] That he set up his images and altars in the house of the Lord, (v. 4,) in the two courts of the temple, (v. 5,) in the very house of which God had said to Solomon, Here will I put my name, v. 7. Thus he defied God to his face, and impudently affronted him with his rivals immediately under his eye, as one that was neither afraid of God's wrath, nor ashamed of his own folly and wickedness. Thus he desecrated what had been consecrated to God, and did, in effect, turn God out of his own house, and put the rebels in possession of it. Thus, when the faithful worshippers of God came to the place he had appointed for the performance of their duty to him, they found, to their great grief and terror, other gods ready to receive their offerings. God had said that here he would record his name, here he would put it for ever, and here it was, accordingly, preserved, while the idolatrous altars were kept at a distance but Manasseh, by bringing them into God's house, did what he could to alter the property, and to make the name of the God of Israel to be no more in remembrance. [2.] That hereby he put a great slight upon the word of God, and his covenant with Israel. Observe the favour he had showed to that people, in putting his name among them-the kindness he intended them, never to make them move out of that good land— and the reasonableness of his expectations from them, only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, v. 7, 8. Upon these good terms did Israel stand with God, and had as fair a prospect of being happy as any people could have: but they hearkened not, v. 9. They would not be kept close to God, either by his precepts or by his promises, both were cast behind their back. [3.] That hereby he seduced the people of God, debauched them, and drew them into idolatry, (v. 9;) he made Judah to sin, (v. 11,) as Jeroboam had made Israel to sin. His very example was enough to corrupt the generality of unthinking people, who would do as their king did, right or wrong. All that aimed at preferment, would do as the court did; and others thought it safest to comply, for fear of making their king their enemy. Thus, one way or other, the holy city became a harlot, and Manasseh made her so. Those will have a great deal to answer for, that not only are wicked themselves, but help to make others so
V. 10-18. Here is the doom of Judah and Jerusalem read, and it is a heavy doom. The prophets were sent, in the first place to teach them the knowledge of God, to remind them of their duty, and direct them in it: if they succeeded not in that, their next work was to reprove them for their sins, and to set them in view before them, that they might repent and reform, and return to their duty: if in this they prevailed not, but sinners went on frowardly, their next work was to foretel the judgments of God, that the terror of them might awaken those to repentance, who would not be made sensible of the obligations of his love, or else that the execution of them, in their season, might be a demonstration of the divine mission of the prophets that foretold them. The prophets were deputed judges to those that would not hear and receive them as teachers. We have here
I. A recital of the crime: the indictment is read, upon which the judgment is grounded, v. 11. Manasseh has done wickedly himself, though he knew better things, has even justified the
these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites? did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the liner of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, *wiping it, and turning it upside down.
14 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
15 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
16 Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood "very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith "he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
18 And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
19 Amon was twenty and two years old when he
p 1 Kings 21. 26. ver. 9. q 1 Sam. 3. 11. Jer. 19. 3. Am. 3. 2. r Is. 10. 22. 34. 11. Lam. 2 S. Am. 7. 7, 8. 81 Kings 14. 10. •he wipeth and turneth it upon the face thereof. t Ps. 89. 38, &c. Jer. 12. 7. Am. 5. 2. u Ps. 74. 1-7. v Jer.
Amorites, whose copy he wrote after, by outdoing them in impieties, and debauched the people of God, whom he has taught to sin, and forced to sin; and beside that, (though that was bad enough,) he has filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, (v. 16,) | has multiplied his murders in every corner of the city, and filled the measure of Jerusalem's blood-guiltiness (Matt. 23, 32) up to the brim, and all this, against the crown and dignity of the King of kings, the peace of his kingdom, and the statutes in these cases made and provided.
II. A prediction of the judgment God would bring upon them for this. They have done that which was evil, and therefore I am bringing evil upon them, (v. 12;) it will come, and it is not far off. The judgment should be, 1. Very terrible and amazing, the very report of it should make men's ears to tingle, (v. 12,) that is, their hearts to tremble. It should make a great noise in the world, and occasion many speculations. 2. It should be copied out (as the sins of Jerusalem had been) from Samaria, and the house of Ahab, v. 13. When God lays righteousness to the line, it shall be the line of Samaria, measuring out to Jerusalem that which had been the lot of Samaria; when he lays judgment to the plummet, it shall be the plummet of the house of Ahab, marking out for the same ruin to which that wretched family was devoted. See Is. 28. 17. Note, Those who resemble and imitate others in their sins, must expect to fare as they fared. 3. That it should be an utter destruction: I will wipe it as a man wipes a dish. This intimates, (1.) That every thing should be put into disorder, and their state subverted; they should be turned upside down, and all their foundations put out of course. (2.) That the city should be emptied of its inhabitants, which had been the filth of it, as a dish is emptied when it is wiped: they shall all be carried captive, the land shall enjoy her subbaths, and be laid by as a dish when it is wiped. See the comparison of the boiled pot, not much unlike this, Ez. 24. 1-14. (3.) That yet this should be in order to the purifying, not the destroying, of Jerusalem. The dish shall not be dropped, not broken to pieces, or melted down, but only wiped. This shall be the fruit, the taking away of the sinners first, and then of the sin. 4. That therefore they should be destroyed, because they should be deserted; (v. 14,) I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance. Justly are those that forsake God, forsaken of him; nor does he ever leave any, till they have first left him: but when God has forsaken a people, their defence is departed, and they become a prey, an easy prey, to all their enemies. Sin is spoken of here as the alpha and omega of their miseries. (1.) Old guilt came in remembrance, as that which began to fill the measure; (v. 15,) They have provoked me to anger from their conception and birth as a people, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt. The men of this generation, treading in their fathers' steps, are justly reckoned with for their fathers' sins. (2.) The guilt of blood was it that filled the measure, v. 16. Nothing has a louder cry, nor brings a sorer vengeance, than that.
This is all we have here of Manasseh; he stands convicted and condemned; but we hope in the book of Chronicles to hear of his repentance, and acceptance with God. Mean time, we must be content, in this place, to have only one intimation of
This chapter begins the story of the reign of good king Josiah, whose goodness shines the brighter, because it came just after so much wickedness, which he had the honour to reform; and just before so great a destruction, which he had not the honour to prevent. Here, after his general character, v. 1, 2, we have a particular account of the respect he paid, I. To God's house, which he repaired, v. 3-7. II. To God's book, which he was much affected with the reading of, v. 8-11. 11. To God's messengers, whom he, thereupon, consulted, v. 12-14. And by whom he received from God, an answer, threatening Jerusalem's destruction, v. 15-17, but promising favour to him, v. 18-20. Upon which he set about that glorious work of reformation, which we have an account of in the next chapter.
OSIAH was eight years old when he began to reign; and he reigned thirty and one years in
his repentance, (for so we are willing to take it,) that he was buried, it is likely by his own order, in the garden of his own house, (v. 18,) for, being truly humbled for his sins, he judged himself no more worthy to be called a son, a son of David, and therefore not worthy to have even his dead body buried in the sepulchres of his fathers. True penitents take shame to themselves, not honour; yet, having lost the credit of an innocent, the credit of a penitent was the next best he was capable of; and better it is, and more honourable, for a sinner to die repenting, and be buried in a garden, than to die impenitent, and be buried in the abbey.
V. 19-26. Here is a short account of the short and inglorious reign of Amon, the son of Manasseh. Whether Manasseh, in his blind and brutish zeal for his idols, had sacrificed his other sons; or whether, having been dedicated to his idols, they were refused by the people, so it was, that his successor was a son not born till he was 45 years old. And of him we are here told, 1. That his reign was very wicked. He forsook the God of his fathers, (v. 22,) disobeyed the commands given to his fathers, and disclaimed the covenant made with his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord, but in all the way which his father walked in, v. 20, 21. He trod in the steps of his father's idolatry, and revived that which he, in the latter end of his days, had put down. Note, Those who set bad examples, though they may repent themselves, yet cannot be sure that those whom they have drawn into sin by their example, will repent; it is often otherwise.
2. That his end was very tragical. He having rebelled against God, his own servants conspired against him, and slew him; probably, upon some personal disgust, when he had reigned but two years, v. 23. His servants, who should have guarded him, murdered him; his own house, that should have been his castle of defence, was the place of his execution. He had profaned God's house with his idols, and now God suffered his own house to be polluted with his blood. How unrighteous soever they were that did it, God was righteous who suffered it to be done.
Two things the people of the land did, by their representatives, hereupon. (1.) They did justice on the traitors that had slain the king, and put them to death; for though he was a bad king, he was their king, and it was a part of their allegiance to him, to avenge his death. Thus they cleared themselves from having any hand in the crime, and did what was incumbent on them to deter others from the like villanous practices. (2.) They did a kindness to themselves, in making Josiah his son king in his stead, whom, probably, the conspirators had a design to put by: but the people stood by him, and settled him in the throne; encouraged, it may be, by the indications he gave, even in his early days, of a good disposition. Now they made a happy change from one of the worst, to one of the best of all the kings of Judah. Once more," says God, "they shall be tried with a reformation; and if that succeed, well; if not, then after that I will cut them down." Amon was buried in the same garden where his father was, v. 26. If his fainer put himself under that humiliation, the people will put him under it.
Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.
2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
3 And it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam the scribe to the house of the LORD, saying,
4 Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the "door have gathered of the people:
5 And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
b Josh. 15. 39. c Deut. 5. 32. d c. 12. 4, &c. e Ps. 84. 10. • threshold.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXII.
V. 1-10. Concerning Josiah we are here told,
I. That he was very young, when he began to reign, (v. 1,) but eight years old. Solomon says, Wo unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child; but happy art thou, O land, when thy king is such a child. Our English Israel had once a king that was such a child, Edward VI. Josiah, being young, had not received any bad impressions from the example of his father and grandfather, but soon saw their errors, and God gave him grace to take warning by them. See Ez. 18. 14, &c.
II. That he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, v. 2. See the sovereignty of divine grace; the father passed by, and left to perish in his sin; the son a chosen vessel. See the triumphs of that grace; Josiah born of a wicked father, no good education nor good example given him, but many about him, who, no doubt, advised him to tread in his father's steps, and few that gave him any good counsel; and yet the grace of God makes him an eminent saint, cuts him off from the wild olive, and graffs him into the good olive, Rom. 11. 24. Nothing is too hard for that grace to do. He walked in a good way, and turned not aside (as some of his predecessors had done who began well) to the right hand or to the left: there are errors on both hands, but God kept him in the right way, he fell not either into superstition or profaneness.
III. That he took care for the repair of the temple. This he did in the 18th year of his reign, v. 3. Compare 2 Chr. 34. 8. He began much sooner to seek the Lord, (as appears, 2 Chr. 34. 3,) but, it is to be feared, the work of reformation went slowly on, and met with much opposition, so that he could not effect what he desired and designed, till his power was thoroughly confirmed. The consideration of the time we unavoidably lost in our minority, should quicken us, when we come to years, to act with so much the more vigour in the service of God. Having begun late, we had need work hard; he sent Shaphan the secretary of state, to Hilkiah the high priest, to take an account of the money that was collected for this use by the doorkeepers, (v. 4,) for, it seems, they took much the same way of raising the money that Joash took, ch. 12. 9. When people gave by a little at a time, the burden was insensible, and the contribution being voluntary, it was not complained of. This money, so collected, he ordered him to lay out for the repair of the temple, v. 5, 6. And now, it seems, the workmen (as in the days of Joash) acquitted themselves so well, that there was no reckoning male with them, (v. 7,) which is certainly mentioned to the praise of the workmen, that they gained such a reputation for honesty; but whether to the praise of those that employed them I know not; a man should count money, (we say,) after his own father; it had not been amiss to have reckoned with the workmen, that others also might be satisfied of their honesty.
IV. That in the repairing of the temple, the book of the law was happily found and brought to the king, v. 8, 10. Some think it was the autograph, or original manuscript, of the five books of Moses, under his own hand; others think it was only an ancient and authentic copy; most likely it was that which, by the command of Moses, was laid up in the most holy place, Deut. 31. 24, &c.
6 Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber, and hewn stone, to repair the house.. 7 Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
8 And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
10 And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard
f Deut. 31. 24. 2 Chr. 34. 14, &c. t melted. g Neh. 8. 3, 18. Jer. 36. 6, 15. that happy providence by which Hilkiah had found this book at this time, found it when he sought it not, Is. 65. 1. If the holy scriptures had not been of God, they had not been in being at this day; God's care of the bible, is a plain indication of his interest in it.
2. Whether this was the only authentic copy in being or no, it seems, the things contained in it were new, both to the king himself and to the high priest, for the king, upon the reading of it, rent his clothes. We have reason to think the command for the king's writing a copy of the law, and that for the public reading of the law every seventh year, (Deut. 17. 18.-31. 10, 11,) had neither of them been observed of a long time, and when the instituted means of keeping up religion are neglected, religion itself will soon go to decay. Yet, on the other hand, if the book of the law was lost, it seems difficult to determine what rule Josiah went by in doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and how the priests and people kept up the rites of their religion: I am apt to think that the people generally took up with abstracts of the law, like our abridgments of the statutes, which the priests, to save themselves the trouble of writing, and the people of reading, the book at large, had furnished them with; a sort of ritual, directing them in the observances of their religion, but leaving out what they thought fit, and particularly the promises and threatenings, (Lev. 26. and Deut. 28. &c.) for I observe, that those were the portions of the law which Josiah was so much affected with, (v. 13,) for those were new to him; no summaries, extracts, or collections, out of the bible, (though they may have their use,) can be effectual to convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will, like the bible itself; it was no marvel that the people were so corrupt, when the book of the law was such a scarce thing among them; where that vision is not, the people perish; they that endeavoured to debauch them, no doubt, used all the arts they could to get that book out of their hands; the church of Rome could not keep up the use of images, but by forbidding the use of the scripture.
1. It seems, this book of the law was lost and missing, either it was carelessly mislaid and neglected, thrown by into a corner, (as some throw their bibles,) by those that knew not the value of it, and forgotten there; or, it was maliciously concealed by some of the idolatrous kings, or their agents, who were restrained by the providence of God, or their own consciences, from burning and destroying it, but buried it, in hopes it would never see the light again; or, (as some think,) it was carefully laid up by some of its friends, lest it should fall into the hands of its enemies: whoever were the instruments of its preservation, we ought to acknowledge the hand of God in it; if this was the only authentic copy of the Pentateuch then in being, which had (as I may say) so narrow a turn for its life, and was so near perishing, I wonder the hearts of all good people did not tremble for that sacred treasure, as Eli's for the ark; and I am sure we now have reason to thank God, upon our knees, for VOL. I.-117
3. It was a great instance of God's favour, and a token for good to Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which Josiah had begun. It is a sign that God has mercy in store for a people, when he magnifies his law among them, and makes that honourable, and furnishes them with means for the increase of scripture knowledge: the translating of the scriptures into vulgar tongues, was the glory, strength, and joy, of the Reformation from Popery. It is observable, that they were about a good work, repairing the temple, when they found the book of the law: they that do their duty, according to their knowledge, shall have their knowledge increased; to him that has, shall be given: the book of the law was an abundant recompense for all their care and cost about the repair of the temple.
4. Hilkiah, the priest, was exceedingly pleased with the discovery; "O," says he to Shaphan, rejoice with me, for I have found the book of the law, evoŋka, ɛbonka—I have found, I have found, that jewel of inestimable value; here, carry it to the king, it is the richest jewel of his crown, read it before him; he walks in the way of David his father, and if he be like him, he will love the book of the law, and bid that welcome; that will be his delight and his counsellor."
V. 11-20. We hear no more of the repairing of the temple; no doubt, that good work went on well, but the book of the law that was found in it, occupies us now, and well it may: it is not laid up in the king's cabinet as a piece of antiquity, a rarity to be admired, but it is read before the king. Those put the truest honour upon their bibles, that study them, and converse with them, daily, feed on that bread, and walk by that light: men of honour and business must look upon an acquaintance with God's word to be their best business and honour. Now here we have,
I. The impressions which the reading of the law made upon Josiah; he rent his clothes, as one ashamed of the sin of his people, and afraid of the wrath of God; he had long thought the case of his kingdom bad, by reason of the idolatries and ( 929 )
the words of the book of the law, that he rent his | therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this clothes. place, and shall not be quenched.
12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,
18 But to the king of Judah, which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;
13 Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do "according unto all that which is written concerning us.
14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college ;) and they communed with her.
15 And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,
16 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:
17 Because they have forsaken me, and have burnt incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands;
19 Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse," and hast rent "thy clothes, and wept "before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.
A ver. 19. i 2 Chr. 34. 20, Abdon. ⚫or, Micah. & 1 Chr. 10. 14. / Ps. 76, 7. Nah. 1. 6. Rev. 6. 17. m Deut. 29. 27. n Jer. 1. 22-25. o 2 Chr. 34. 22, Tikeath. tor, Hasrah. ‡ garments, or, in the second part. p Deut. 29. impieties that had been found among them, but he never thought it so bad as he perceived it to be, by the book of the law now read to him; the rending of his clothes signified the rending of his heart for the dishonour done to God, and the ruin he saw coming upon his people.
II. The application he made to God, hereupon; Go, inquire of the Lord for me, v. 13. Inquire, 1. "What we shall do; what course we shall take to turn away God's wrath, and prevent the judgments which our sins have deserved." Convictions of sin and wrath should put us upon this inquiry, What shall we do to be saved? Wherewithal shall we come before the Lord? If ye will thus inquire, inquire quickly, before it be too late. 2. "What we may expect, and must provide for." He acknowledges, Our fathers have not hearkened to the words of this book; if this be the rule of right, certainly our fathers have been much in the wrong. Now that the commandment came, sin revived, and appeared sin; in the glass of the law, he saw the sins of his people more numerous and more heinous than he had before seen them, and more exceeding sinful. He infers hence certainly," Great is the wrath that is kindled against us; if this be the word of God, as, no doubt, it is, and he will be true to his word, as, no doubt, he will be, we are all undone; I never thought the threatenings of the law so severe, and the curses of the covenant so terrible, as now I find them to be; it is time to look about us, if these be in force against us." Note, Those who are truly apprehensive of the weight of God's wrath, cannot but be very solicitous to obtain his favour, and inquisitive how they may make their peace with him; magistrates should inquire for their people, and study how to prevent the judgments of God that they see hanging over them.
This inquiry Josiah sent, (1.) By some of his great men, who are named, v. 12, and again, v. 14. Thus he put an honour upon the oracle, by employing those of the first rank to attend it. (2.) To Huldah the prophetess, v. 14. The spirit of prophecy, that inestimable treasure, was sometimes put not only into earthen vessels, but into the weaker vessels, that the excellency of the power might be of God. Miriam had helped to lead Israel out of Egypt, Mic. 6. 4. Deborah judged them, and now Huldah instructed them in the mind of God: and her being a wife, was no prejudice at all to her being a prophetess, marriage is honourable in all. It was a mercy to Jerusalem, that when bibles were scarce, they had prophets, as that, afterward, when prophecy ceased, they had more bibles; for God never leaves himself without witness, because he will leave sinners without excuse. Jeremiah and Zephaniah prophesied at this time, yet the king's messengers made Huldah their oracle, probably, because her husband having a place at court, (for he was keeper of the wardrobe,) they had had more and longer acquaintance with her, and greater assurances of her commission than of any other; they had, it is likely, consulted her upon other occasions, and had found that the word of God in her mouth was truth. She was near, for she dwelt at Jerusalem, in a place called Mishneh, the second rank of buildings from the royal palace. The Jews say that she prophesied among the women, the court ladies, being herself one of them, who, it is probable, had their apartments in that place. Happy the court that had a prophetess within the verge of it, and knew how to value her. III. The answer he received from God to his inquiry; Huldah returned it not in the language of a courtier, Pray give my humble service to his majesty, and let him know that this
20 Behold, therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.
We have here, I. The happy continuance of the goodness of Josiah's reign, and the progress of the reformation he began; reading the law, v. 1, 2, renewing the covenant, v. 3, cleansing the temple, v. 4, and rooting out idols and idolatry, with all the relics thereof, in all places, as far as his power reached, v. 5–2); keeping a solemn passover, v. 21-23, and clearing the country of witches, v. 24, and, in all this, acting with extraordinary vigour, v. 25. 11. The unhappy conclusion of it in his untimely death, as a token of the continuance of God's wrath against Jerusalein, v. 26-30. 111. The more unhappy consequences of his death, in the bad reigns of his two sons Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim, that came after him, v. 31-37.
the unto him
all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
25, &c. Neh. 9. 26, 27. Dan. 9. 11-14. 7 1 Thes. 2. 16. TPs. 51. 17. Is. 57. 15. 81 Kings 21. 29. t Lev. 26 31, 32, u Jer. 2. 6. 44. 22. ver. 11. to Neh. 1. 4. Pa. 37. 37. Is. 57. 1, 2. Jer. 22, 10. a 2 Chr. 34. 29, &c.
is the message I have for him from the God of Israel;" but in the dialect of a prophetess speaking from Him before whom all stand upon the same level, Tell the man that sent you to me, v. 15. Even kings, though gods to us, are men to God, and shall so be dealt with, for with him there is no respect of persons.
1. She lets him know what judgments God had in store for Judah and Jerusalem; (v, 16, 17,) My wrath shall be kindled against this place; and what is hell itself, but the fire of God's wrath kindled against sinners? Observe the degree and duration of it; it is so kindled, that it shall not be quenched, the decree is gone forth, it is too late now to think of preventing it, the iniquity of Jerusalem shall not be purged with sacrifice or offering. Hell is unquenchable fire. It has reference, (1.) To their sins; "They have committed them, as it were, with design, and on purpose to provoke me to anger, it is a fire of their own kindling; they would provoke me, and, at length, I am provoked." (2.) To God's threatenings; "The evil I bring, is according to the words of the book which the king of Judah has read, the scripture is fulfilled in it; they that would not be bound by the precept, shall be bound by the penalty." God will be found no less terrible to impenitent sinners, than his word makes him to be.
2. She lets him know what mercy God has in store for him. (1.) Notice is taken of his great tenderness and concern for the glory of God, and the welfare of his kingdom; (r. 19,) Thine heart was tender. Note, God will distinguish those that distinguish themselves. The generality of the people were hardened, and their hearts unhumbled, so were the wicked kings his predecessors; but Josiah's heart was tender, he received the impressions of God's word, trembled at it, and yielded to it; he was exceedingly grieved for the dishonour done to God by the sins of his fathers, and of his people; he was afraid of the judgments of God, which he saw coming upon Jerusalem, and earnestly deprecated them: this is tenderness of heart, and thus he humbled himself before the Lord, and expressed these pious affections by rending his clothes, and weeping before God, probably, in his closet; but he that sees in secret, says it was before him, and he heard it, and put every tear of tenderness into his bottle. Note, Those that most fear God's wrath, are least likely to feel it; it should seem that those words, (Lev. 26. 32,) much affected Josiah, I will bring the land into desolation; for when he heard of the desolation and of the curse, that is, that God would forsake them, and separate them to evil, (for till it came to that they were neither desolate nor accursed.) then he rent his clothes, that went to his heart. (2.) A reprieve is granted till after his death; (v. 20,) I will gather thee to thy fathers. The saints then, no doubt, had a comfortable prospect of happiness on the other side death, else, being gathered to their fathers, would not have been so often made the matter of a promise as we find it was. Josiah could not prevail to prevent the judgment itself, but God promised him he should not live to see it, which (especially considering that he died in the midst of his days, before he was 40 years old) would have been but a small reward for his eminent piety, if there were not another world in which he should be abundantly recompensed, Heb. 11. 16. When the righteous is taken away from the evil to come, he enters into peace, Is. 57. 1,2. This is promised to Josiah here, Thou shalt go to thy grave in peace; which refers not to the manner of his death, for he was killed in a battle, but to the time of it; it was a little before the captivity in Babylon,
2 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, "both small and great: and he read in their cars all the words of the book of the covenant which was 'found in the house of the LORD.
3 And the king stood by a pillar, 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 their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book: and all the people stood to the covenant.
4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven; and he burnt them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el.
5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn * from small even unto great. 5 c. 22. 8. e c. 11. 14, 17. t caused to cease. chemarim, Hos. 10. 5. Foretold, Zeph. 1.4.
d c. 21. 3, 7. § or, twelve
that great trouble, in comparison with which the rest were as nothing, so that he might be truly said to die in peace that did not live to share in that; he died in the love and favour of God, which secure such a peace as no circumstances of dying, no, not dying in the field of war, could alter the nature of, or break in upon.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXIII.
V. 1-3. Josiah had received a message from God, that there was no preventing the ruin of Jerusalem, but that he only should deliver his own soul; yet he does not therefore sit down in despair, and resolve to do nothing for his country, because he cannot do all he would; no, he will do his duty, and then leave the event to God; a public reformation is the thing resolved on, if any thing prevent the threatened ruin, it must be that, and here we have the preparations for that reformation.
1. He summoned a general assembly of the states, the elders, the magistrates, or representatives, of Judah and Jerusalem, to meet him in the house of the Lord, with the priests and prophets, the ordinary and extraordinary ministers, that they all joining in it, it might become a national act, and so be the more likely to prevent national judgments; they were all called to attend, (v. 1, 2,) that the business might be done with the more solemnity, that they might all advise and assist in it, and that those who were against it, might be discouraged from making any opposition; parliaments are no diminution at all to the honour and power of good princes, but a great support to it.
2. Instead of making a speech to this convention, he ordered the book of the law to be read to them; nay, it should seem he read it himself, (v. 2,) as one much affected with it, and desirous that they should be so too. Josiah thinks it not below him to be a reader, any more than Solomon did to be a preacher, nay, and David himself to be a doorkeeper, in the house of God. Beside the convention of the great men, he had a congregation of the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to hear the law read it is really the interest of princes to promote the knowledge of the scriptures in their dominions. If the people be but as steadfastly resolved to obey by law, as he is to govern by law, the kingdom will be happy; all people are concerned to know the scripture, and all in authority to spread the knowledge of it.
incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burnt incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
3. Instead of proposing laws for the confirming of them in their duty, he proposed an association, by which they should all jointly engage themselves to God, v. 3. The book of the law was the book of the covenant, that if they would be to God a people, he would be to them a God; they here engage themselves to do their part, not doubting but that then God would do his. (1.) The covenant was, that they should walk after the Lord, in compliance with his will, in his ordinances and providences, should answer all his calls, and attend all his motions; that they should make conscience of all his commandments, moral, ceremonial, and judicial, and should carefully observe them with all their heart and all their soul, with all possible care and caution, sincerity, vigour, courage, and resolution, and so fulfil the conditions of this covenant, in dependence upon the promises of it. (2.) The covenanters were, the king himself in the first place, who stood by his pillar, (ch. 11. 14,) and publicly declared his consent to this covenant, to set them an example, and to assure them not only of his protection, but of his presidency, and all the furtherance his power could give them in their obedience; it is no abridgment of the liberty even of princes themselves to be in bonds to God: all the people likewise stood to the covenant, that is, they signified their consent to it, and promised to abide by it; it is of good use, with all possible solemnity, to oblige ourselves to our duty, and it is especially seasonable after notorious backslidings to sin, and decays in
6 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burnt it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. 7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove "hangings for the grove.
8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burnt incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city.
9 Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren.
signs, or, constellations. e 2 Chr. 34. 4. f 1 Kings 14. 24, 15. 12. Ez. 8.14. 16. 16. Aouses. h 1 Kings 15. 22. i Ez. 44. 10-14.1 Sam. 2. 36.
that which is good: he that bears an honest mind, does not shrink from positive engagements; fast bind, fast find.
V.4-24. We have here an account of such a reformation as we have not met with in all the history of the kings of Judah, such thorough riddance made of all the abominable things, and such foundations laid of a glorious good work; and here I cannot but wonder at two things; 1. That so many wicked things should be got in, and kept standing so long, as we find here removed. 2. That notwithstanding the removal of these wicked things, and the hopeful prospects here given of a happy settlement, yet, within a few years, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, and even this did not save it, for the generality of the people, after all, hated to be reformed. The founder melteth in vain, and therefore, reprobate silver shall men call them, Jer. 6. 29, 30.
Let us here observe,
I. What abundance of wickedness there was, and had been, in Judah and Jerusalem; one would not have believed it possible that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found as here we have an account of. Josiah had now reigned 18 years, and had himself set the people a good example, and kept up religion according to law; and yet, when he came to make inquisition for idolatry, the depth and extent of the dunghill he had to carry away, are almost incredible.
1. Even in the house of the Lord, that sacred temple which Solomon built, and dedicated to the honour, and for the worship of the God of Israel, there were found vessels, all manner of utensils, for the worship of Baal, and of the grove, (or Ashtoreth,) and of all the host of heaven, v. 4. Though Josiah had suppressed the worship of idols, yet the provisions made for that worship were all carefully preserved, even in the temple itself, to be used again, whenever the present restraint should be taken off; nay, even in the grove itself, the image of it, was yet standing in the temple, (v. 6;) some make it the image of Venus, the same with Ashtoreth.
2. Just at the entering in of the house of the Lord was a stable for horses kept (would you think it?) for a religious use; they were holy horses, given to the sun, (v. 11,) as if he needed them who rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race, (Ps. 19. 5;) or rather, they would thus represent to themselves the swiftness of his motion, which they much admired, making their religion to conform to the poetical fictions of the chariot of the sun, the follies of which, even a little philosophy, without any divinity, would have exposed and made them ashamed of. Some say that those horses were to be led forth in pomp, every morning, to meet the rising sun; others, that the worshippers of the sun rode out upon them to adore the rising sun; it should seem that they drew the chariots of the sun, which the people worshipped; strange that ever men who had the written word of God among them, should be thus vain in their imaginations! 3. Hard by the house of the Lord there were houses of the Sodomites, where all manner of lewdness and filthiness, even that which was most unnatural, was practised, and, under pretence of religion, in honour of their impure deities; corporal and spiritual whoredom went together, and the vile affections which they were given up to, were the punishment of their vain imaginations; they that dishonoured their God, were justly left thus to dishonour themselves, Rom. 1. 24, &c. There were women that wove hangings for the grove, (v. 7,) tents which encompassed the image of Venus, where the worshippers committed all manner of lewdness, and this in the house of the Lord; they did ill, that made our Father's house a house of merchandise, they did worse, that made it a den of thieves, but those did worst of all that made it (Horrendum dictu! horrible