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This chapter begins with the age and character of Josiah king of Judah, ( 2 Kings 22:1-2), relates his orders for repairing the temple, ( Kings 22:3-7), his attention to the book of the law, which was found, and read to him, and the effect it had upon him, ( 2 Kings 22:8-11), the command he gave to certain persons to inquire of the Lord about it, who applied to Huldah the prophetess, ( 2 Kings 22:12-14), who returned an answer by them to the king, foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, and giving the reason of it, and at the same time assuring the king it should not be in his days, ( 2 Kings 22:15-20).
Ver. 1 . Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign , etc.] And must be born when his father was but sixteen, for Amon lived but twenty four years, ( 2 Kings 21:19), and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem ; and so must die at thirty nine years of age: and his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath ; a city of the tribe of Judah, (see Gill on “ Joshua 15:39”).
Ver. 2 . And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord , etc.] In the affair of religious worship especially, as well as in other things: and walked in all the ways of David his father ; in his religious ways, in which he never departed from his God: and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left ; but kept an even, constant, path of worship and duty, according to the law of God.
Ver. 3 . And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of King Josiah , etc.] Not of his age, but of his reign, as appears from ( 2 Chronicles 34:8) nor is what follows the first remarkable act he did in a religious way; for elsewhere we read of what he did in the eighth and twelfth years of his reign, ( 2 Chronicles 34:3-7), that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the Lord ; the king’s secretary; the Septuagint version is, the scribe of the house of the Lord, and so the Vulgate Latin version; that kept the account of the expenses of the temple; with him two others were sent, ( 2 Chronicles 34:8), saying : as follows.
Ver. 4 . Go up to Hilkiah the high priest , etc.] Who had an apartment in the temple; there was an Hilkiah, a priest, in those times, who was the father of Jeremiah the prophet, ( Jeremiah 1:1,2), whom an Arabic writer takes to be the same with this; but it is not likely: that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord which the people voluntarily offered for the repairing of it; this he would have the priest take an account of, that the sum total might be known; his meaning is, that he should take it out of the chest in which it was put, and count it, that it might be known what it amounted to; (see 2 Kings 12:9,10), some understand this of melting and coining the silver thus given which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people : who were Levites, ( 2 Chronicles 34:9), either porters of the door, or rather the treasurers, as the Targum; the keepers of the vessels of the sanctuary, that had the care of them, as the Jewish commentators generally interpret it.
Ver. 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 , etc.] That were overseers of the workmen, whose names are mentioned, ( 2 Chronicles 34:12) into their hands the money was to be delivered by the high priest, when he had taken the account of it, and perhaps along with the king’s scribe, (see Kings 12:10), 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 as their wages for their work; it seems it had not been repaired from the times of Jehoash, a space of two hundred and eighteen years, according to the Jewish chronology f256 ; but Kimchi and Abarbinel make it two hundred and twenty four.
Ver. 6 . Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons , etc.] Who were employed, some in mending the woodwork, and others in repairing the stone walls and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house ; not only money was to be given them for their workmanship, but to buy timber and stone to work with.
Ver. 7 . Howbeit, there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand , etc.] No account was kept between the high priest, and the king’s scribe who delivered the money and the overseers of the workmen, who received it from them the latter were not called to any account by the former, nor any audit made of their accounts: because they dealt faithfully : they were persons of such known honour and integrity, that their fidelity was not in the least called in question, but were trusted without examining their accounts, and how they disposed of the money committed to them, (see 2 Kings 12:15).
Ver. 8 . And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe , etc.] Not at the first time of his message to him, but afterwards that he attended on him upon the same business; after the high priest had examined the temple to know what repairs it wanted, and where: I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord ; some think this was only the book of Deuteronomy, and some only some part of that; rather the whole Pentateuch, and that not a copy of it, but the very autograph of Moses, written with his own hand, as it seems from ( Chronicles 34:14). Some say he found it in the holy of holies, on the side of the ark; there it was put originally; but, indeed, had it been there, he might have found it before, and must have seen it, since, as high priest, he entered there once every year; more probably some pious predecessor of his had taken it from thence in a time of general corruption, as in the reign of Manasseh, and hid it in some private place, under a lay of stones, as Jarchi, in some hole in the wall, which upon search about repairs was found there: and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it ; and though there might be some copies of it in private hands, yet scarce; and perhaps Shaphan had never seen one, at least a perfect one, or however had never read it through, as now he did.
Ver. 9 . And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again , etc.] Of the delivery of his message to the high priest, and of what had been done upon it: and said, thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house ; meaning Hilkiah and himself, who had examined the chest in the temple, into which the money was put for the repairs of it, and had taken it out, and told it: and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord ; according to the king’s orders.
Ver. 10 . And Shaphan showed the king , etc.] Further related to him what follows: saying, Hilkiah the high priest hath delivered me a book ; but did not say what book it was: and Shaphan read it before the king ; part of it; and it is thought by Kimchi and Ben Gersom that he particularly read the reproofs and threatenings in the book of Deuteronomy; they suppose that Hilkiah read those to Shaphan, and directed him to read them to the king, that he might take into consideration a further reformation.
Ver. 11 . And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law , etc.] From whence it appears that he had never wrote out a copy of it, as the kings of Israel were ordered to do, when they came to the throne, ( Deuteronomy 17:18,19) nor had read it, at least not the whole of it; and yet it seems strange that he should be twenty six years of age, as he now was, and had proceeded far in the reformation of worship, and yet be without the book of the law, and the high priest also; it looks as if it was, as some have thought, that they had till now only some abstracts of the law, and not the whole: and perhaps the reformation hitherto carried on chiefly lay in abolishing idolatry, and not so much in restoring the ordinances of worship to their purity; for it was after this that the ordinance of the passover was ordered to be kept; and when the king observed, on hearing the law read, that it had not been kept as it should, that such severe threatenings were denounced against the transgressors of it; that he rent his clothes ; as expressive of the rending of his heart, and of his humiliation and sorrow for the sins he and his people were guilty of.
Ver. 12 . And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest , etc.] The high priest, as he is called, ( 2 Kings 22:4,8) and Ahikam the son of Shaphan ; whether the same with Shaphan the scribe, before mentioned, or another of the same name, is not certain: and Achbor the son of Michaiah ; who is called Abdon, the son of Micah, ( 2 Chronicles 34:20) and Shaphan the scribe ; who brought and read the book to the king: and Asahiah, a servant of the king’s ; that waited on him constantly: saying ; as follows.
Ver. 13 . Go ye, inquire of the Lord , etc.] Of some of his prophets, as Jeremiah, who began to prophesy in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, and had been a prophet five years, ( Jeremiah 1:1,2), for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found ; for he observed that this book threatened and foretold not only the captivity of the ten tribes, but of Judah, and of their king; and Jarchi thinks, he had a particular respect to that passage, the Lord shall bring thee and thy king , etc. ( Deuteronomy 28:36) and therefore was desirous of knowing what he and his people must do to avert those judgments: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us ; which he concluded from the threatenings denounced: because that our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according to all which is written concerning us : he clearly saw that his ancestors more remote and immediate had been very deficient in observing the laws, commands, and ordinances enjoined them in that book; and therefore feared that what was threatened would fall upon him and his people, who, he was sensible, came short of doing their duty.
Ver. 14 . So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went down to Huldah the prophetess , etc.] Such as were Miriam and Deborah; in imitation of those Satan had very early his women prophetesses, the Sibyls, so called from their being the council and oracle of God, and consulted as such on occasion, as Huldah now was; and the first of the Sibyls, according to Suidas f257 , was a Chaldean or a Persian; and some say an Hebrew; and Pausanias expressly says f258 , that with the Hebrews above Palestine was a woman prophetess, whose name was Sabba, whom some called the Babylonian, others the Egyptian Sibyl.
Aelian relates that one of them was a Jewess: the wife of Shallum, the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe ; but whether the king’s wardrobe in the palace, or the priest’s in the temple, is not certain; he is called Hasrah, ( 2 Chronicles 34:22) who is here called Harhas: now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college ; in the college of the prophets; in the house of instruction, as the Targum; the school where the young prophets were instructed and trained up; though Jarchi observes, that some interpret this “within the two walls”; Jerusalem it seems had three walls, and within the second this woman lived; there were gates in the temple, as he also observes, called the gates of Huldah f260 , but whether from her cannot be said: this place of her dwelling seems to be mentioned as a reason why these messengers went to her, because she was near, as well as well known for her prophetic spirit, prudence, and faithfulness, and not to Jeremiah, who in all probability was at Anathoth; and so also is the reason why they went not to Zephaniah, if he as yet had begun to prophesy, because he might be at a distance also: and they communed with her; upon the subject the king sent them about.
Ver. 15 . And she said unto them , etc.] The king’s messengers: thus saith the Lord God of Israel ; being immediately inspired by him, she spake in his name, as prophets did: tell the man that sent you to me ; which may seem somewhat rude and unmannerly to say of a king; but when it is considered she spake not of herself, but representing the King of kings and Lord of lords, it will be seen and judged of in another light.
Ver. 16 . Thus saith the Lord, behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of it , etc.] Destruction to the place, and captivity to the inhabitants of it: even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read ; particularly what is contained in ( Leviticus 26:14-45 Deuteronomy 28:15-68), even all the curses in it, as in ( 2 Chronicles 34:24).
Ver. 17 . Because they have forsaken me , etc.] My worship, as the Targum; his word and ordinances: and have burnt incense unto other gods ; to Baal, to the host of heaven, and other Heathen deities: that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands : their idols of wood, stone, gold, and silver, which their hands had made, to worship; than which nothing was more provoking to God: therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched ; the decree for the destruction of Jerusalem was gone forth, and not to be called back; the execution of it could not be stopped or hindered by cries, prayers, entreaties, or otherwise; this wrath of God was an emblem of the unquenchable fire of hell, ( Matthew 3:12 Mark 9:44).
Ver. 18 . But to the king of Judah, which sent you to inquire of the Lord , etc.] That is, with respect to him, or what may concern him: thus shall ye say unto him ; carry back this message to him as from the Lord he desired to inquire of: thus saith the Lord God of Israel, as touching the words which thou hast heard : read out of the law, concerning the destruction of the land, and its inhabitants therein threatened.
Ver. 19 . Because thine heart was tender , etc.] Soft like wax, and susceptible of impressions; or was “moved”, or “trembled”, as the Targum; for God has respect to such as are of contrite hearts, and tremble at his word, ( Isaiah 66:2), and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord ; external humiliation, such as in Ahab, was regarded by the Lord, much more internal and cordial humiliation is regarded by him, (see 1 Kings 21:29), when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse ; as in ( Leviticus 26:1 Deuteronomy 28:1) and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me ; as expressive of the inward contrition, sorrow, and grief of his heart: I also have heard thee, saith the Lord : his cries and prayers.
Ver. 20 . Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers , etc.] To his godly ancestors, to share with them in eternal life and happiness; otherwise it could be no peculiar favour to die in common, as his fathers did, and be buried in their sepulchres: and thou shall be gathered into thy grave in peace ; in a time of public peace and tranquillity; for though he was slain in battle with the king of Egypt, yet it was what he was personally concerned in, and it was not a public war between the two kingdoms, and his body was carried off by his servants, and was peaceably interred in the sepulchre of his ancestors, ( 2 Kings 23:29,30), as well as he died in spiritual peace, and entered into eternal peace, which is the end of the perfect and upright man, as he was, ( Psalm 37:37) but this chiefly regards his not living to be distressed with the calamities of his nation and people, as follows: and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place : he being removed first, though it came upon it in the days of his sons: and they brought the king word again ; of what Huldah the prophetess had said unto them.