2 KINGS 23
2 Kings 23:4-20 describes Josiah's activities in destroying the idols of the land. This appears to parallel 2 Chr. 34:3-7, which occurs between Josiah's 12th and 18th years.
This section in 2 Kings 23 seems to be a general summing up. The scope of the events it describes seems to be too great for just the brief period within the 18th year itself between the finding of the Law and holding of the Passover (which-in itself-would require considerable preparation and advance notice among the people).*
3 And the king [HaMelech] stood by a pillar [HaAmmud], and made a covenant [cut HaBrit ] before Yahweh, to walk after Yahweh, and to keep [be shomer mitzvot over] His commandments [edot]and His testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul [chukkot with all their lev and all their nefesh], to perform the words of this covenant [ these Divrei HaBrit] that were written in this book [Sefer]. And all the people stood to the covenant [And kol HaAm stood [under oath] to HaBrit.
With all their heart
We shall not be judged, at the judgment seat of Christ, for how much we know, or how much we have done. But we SHALL be judged for how much effort and interest and desire we have put into knowing, and how faithfully and wholeheartedly we have tried to do.
The widow's mite is equal to the rich man's abundance. The mite's value lay in the fact that it was her all. So it must be with us. Anything less than our all is a mockery and a dishonouring of God, Who freely and lovingly promises us all. But how few really respond with ALL their heart! They are His jewels among the common clay; today unknown, tomorrow, resplendent forever.
Bro Growcott - Search me O God
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 Yahweh all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
Bethel was the original center and source of the idolatry that had infected the whole land. It was here that Jeroboam had set up his calves and his rival form of worship to draw his subjects away from the Temple at Jerusalem. The prophecy that was declared to Jeroboam concerning Josiah had to do with Bethel, as we see a little later on in the chapter. Bethel therefore typified all that Josiah was endeavoring to stamp out.*
8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, 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.
To prevent the reestablishment of these places or centers of idolatrous worship, his policy was to defile them with men's bones, or to put them to unclean uses as places of refuse.*
15 Moreover the altar [mizbe'ach] that was at Bethel [Beit-El], and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat [Yarov'am ben Nevat], who made Israel [ caused Yisroel] to sin, had made, both that altar [mizbe'ach] and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small [did grind it] to powder, and burned the grove [Asherah].
Here we come to the fulfillment of the remarkable and long-standing prophecy of the man of God who was sent to Bethel to denounce Jeroboam, and who was subsequently killed by the lion. He had said:
"O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; And upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee" (1 Kings 13:2).
That was over 300 years before. It was not revealed whether Josiah was aware of the prophecy, but the time had now come for its fulfillment. At least it was known in Bethel, and doubtless when they knew of the existence of a righteous king in Judah named Josiah, they must have watched his activities with great interest.
In his taking the ashes of the images to Bethel, as we saw previously, Josiah must have had a special interest in carrying out his cleansing activities THERE, whether because of the prophecy or simply because it was the center of the false worship.
We note again from this incident that Josiah personally supervised the destroying of these idolatrous things, for he was present himself.
As he turned from the altar of Jeroboam, he noticed there were sepulchers near, and he had the bones taken from them and burned on the altar to pollute it. Then he noticed a special marker on one of the sepulchers, of such a nature as to cause him to ask what it stood for.
It was at this point that the men of the city told him that it was the grave of the prophet who had foretold these very things, so Josiah gave orders that that grave should not be disturbed. So the bones of the two prophets were left together in peace.
Josiah went through all Israel doing as he had done at Bethel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. *
16 And as Josiah [Yoshiyah ] turned himself, he spied [saw] the sepulchres [ keverim] that were there in the mount [har], and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres [atzmot out of the keverim], and burned them upon the altar [mizbe'ach], and polluted it [made it tameh], according to the Word [Devar] of Yahweh which the man of Elohim proclaimed [Ish HaElohim preached], who proclaimed these words.
During his reign, an incident occurred which formed a pointed illustration of the ways of providence. Encouraged by the comforting assurance he had received he set to work to purge the land from all the defilements of idolatry. He first convened the people and read to them the book which had moved himself so greatly, and imposed upon them a covenant that they would do all that it required of them, "with all their heart and all their soul."
He then ordered the removal of all idolatrous utensils from the precincts of the temple; deposed the idolatrous priests; demolished the buildings used in connection with the idolatrous service, burnt the idolatrous chariots; razed the idolatrous altars in the environs of Jerusalem; and desecrated in as complete a manner as he could devise, all the graves and places consecrated to the idols of the surrounding nations.
Having purged Jerusalem and its neighbourhood, he extended his attention to districts beyond. Bethel, the headquarters of the idol-worship established by Jeroboam, the first king of the Ten Tribes (now included in the jurisdiction of Judah), received an indignant visit. There was at Bethel "the altar and the high place which Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made." The hour had arrived for the fulfilment of a prophecy uttered at Bethel concerning the altar over three hundred years before the time of Josiah. The prophecy is recorded in the account of the reign of Jeroboam (1 Kings 13: 2).
"Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name: and upon thee, O altar (erected by Jeroboam) shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee."
The notable feature of the case lies here, that the fulfilment of this prophecy appeared to come about by accident. Josiah visited Bethel at the time under our notice, for the purpose of breaking down the altar and the high place erected by Jeroboam. Arrived at Bethel for the purpose, he surveys the altar, and we read that-
"As Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount."
These sepulchres contained the bones of the priests who for several generations had ministered at this altar of idolatry. But Josiah had evidently not thought of them in any way: a casual change of posture brought them under his notice, and it occurred to him to make a desecration of this idolatrous structure complete by first burning the bones of its priestly attendants on the altar before breaking it down. Accordingly-
"He sent and took the bones out of the sepulchres and burnt them upon the altar and polluted it." (23:16)
Now to what are we to attribute the thought that led Josiah in this apparently fortuitous manner to fulfil a prophecy? It was without doubt a divine impulse. Josiah's attention was divinely directed to those sepulchres "as he turned himself." But he would not be aware of the fact. He would only be conscious of a sudden thought such as we all feel occasionally - a thought, however, in harmony with his mood - a thought natural to the feelings of the moment - a thought which he would be unable to distinguish from the general zeal which inspired him against the idolatrous institutions of the land.
Ways of Providence Ch 22
21 And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto Yahweh your Elohim, as it is written in the book of this covenant.
The Great Passover
There is a great sadness about this Passover. Even the eager joyfulness and high resolve of the people is sad, for this was the end for the nation of what was at rare times (and what always could have been) a holy rejoicing in the love and goodness and fellowship of God.
God only wanted them to do what was best and happiest for themselves, as He does for us, but in willful blindness they destroyed their kingdom and brought ages of sorrow and misery upon themselves.
How sad is the picture of mankind! God said of Israel through Jeremiah at this time-
"They have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and have hewn them out broken cisterns that can hold no water."
From the words of Huldah the prophetess Josiah knew that it could not last. He knew that their long history of disobedience and idolatry had brought the final judgments very near.
Jeremiah's prophecies, now familiar in the land, right from the beginning showed that the end was now inevitable.
But Josiah still did all he possibly could to make this Passover a joyful and acceptable offering of the nation to God. We are told in v. 22-
"Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah."
The record in Chronicles is again more detailed. There we are told (2 Chr. 35) of all that Josiah did in his effort to stir up the people and make the occasion memorable. Josiah was now 26 years old, and he was clearly the moving spirit of it all (2 Chr. 35:2)-
"And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the Lord."
Then he instructed the Levites in their duties. He himself, of his own substance, contributed 30,000 sheep and 3,000 bullocks.
The singers were in their places, the porters waited at every gate, and all the arrangements that David had organized were carried out as well as they could.
The day was so full, and the number of worshippers and offerings so great, that the Levites were sanctified to help with the priest's work. The Levites prepared food for the priests, singers and porters while they worked, for none could leave his work until night came.
"There was no Passover like to that kept all the days of the judges and all the days of the kings."
22 Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah;
*Bro Growcott - Prepare your brethren
25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to Yahweh with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.
He knew his effort was hopeless-endeavoring to put spirit and life in a doomed nation, and Jeremiah, working with him, knew the same thing.
But they both knew too that their duty was clear, and their reward was sure if they discharged that duty faithfully, and that (Rom. 8:28)-
"All things-ALL things-work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to His purpose."
And they knew too that there was always, and would always be, the small faithful remnant in the land according to the election of grace-the little flock, pitifully insignificant by all human standards, for whom all the aions were made, and for whose sake they must continue to labour to the end.
In Josiah's 31st year, when he was 39, Necho, king of Egypt, came through the land to fight against Assyria. He sent ambassadors to Josiah, assuring him that he had no hostile intentions against Judah but was just passing through.
But Josiah felt called upon to resist the Egyptian army, and in the battle that followed he was mortally wounded, for he had disguised himself and joined personally in the actual battle. We are reminded of his keen personal attention and attendance at all the details of the destruction of the images and idol worship.
What was his motive, and what result did he expect in opposing the great army of Egypt? If he expected a miraculous divine deliverance, why did he not seek divine counsel before acting? Did he feel that faithfulness left him no alternative but to oppose alien trespassers in the spirit of Jonathan, knowing that the Lord could save by many or by few?
Necho claimed to have a direct command from God against Assyria-a claim that could be discounted as a self-interested fabrication, except for the strange comment of the inspired historian in (2 Chr. 35:22)-
"But Josiah hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God."
Clearly God works His will and manifests His guidance to us in many strange ways and from many directions, and we must therefore be ever alert for lessons of wisdom and warning from unexpected and unlikely sources.
It was fitting and symbolic in the wisdom of God that Josiah should give his life in conflict with his people's enemy-especially the ancient enemy and oppressor, Egypt-the type of darkness and sin. Thus in his death, as in his life, he was a type of the great king to come. The battle in which he lost his life was in the valley of Megiddo.
2 Chr. 35:25: "And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel."
The extent and intensity of the nation's mourning for this great and beloved king is evidenced by the fact that this mourning is made the great example and type of the final, latter-day mourning of Israel when they discover that all their woes have stemmed from their blind rejection and destruction of their own God-appointed Savior. Zechariah says (12:11)-
"In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon."
....They could have asked for no better leaders, but it did not last. By his royal power he obliterated all traces of idolatry, cleansed the land thoroughly and established the true worship of God.
But true righteousness cannot be legislated. It must be the product of spiritual understanding and love. Anything established by force, or fear, or any other motive, can never last.
Bro Growcott - Prepare your brethren
37 And he did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, according to all that his fathers had done.
In the 4th and 5th years of Jehoiakim, a very significant chain of events occurred-one of the great turning points of history. We are told in Jeremiah 25 that the 4th year of Jehoiakim was the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar. This, incidentally, is a very important connecting link between Scriptural and profane history. In indication of a great change in God's relationship to Judah, Jeremiah proclaims to the nation that he had now warned them for 23 years and that they had not harkened, and that consequently, the long foretold evil is about to begin. Judah has now 18 years to go.
It is at this time that the Spirit reveals through Jeremiah that the captivity by Babylon will last 70 years. And, at the same time Jeremiah is commanded to write all his prophecies in a book, and to have it read before all the people as a solemn witness. This was completed in Jehoiakim's 5th year.
The book was publicly read as commanded, and the princes who heard it immediately took the matter before the king, and began to read it to him. When two or three columns had been read, the king seized the book, cut it with a knife, and threw it into the fire.
That was the point at which the nation's doom was finally sealed. That event ranks in significance with the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. "His blood be upon us and upon our children," they cried, as the living Word was cut asunder, and he was cast into the sacrificial fire.
Jeremiah records with sadness and wonder that when the roll of God's Holy Word was divisively cut and burned,
"Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words."
They were all in it together.
At the same time, in this 5th year of Jehoiakim, which was the 2nd of Nebuchadnezzar, another event of immense importance took place, which though a long way away and under very different circumstances and surroundings, we can see was directly connected with and dependent upon this final appeal and witness by God and His official rejection by the king and the Israelitish nation.
As Israel was rejecting God, God was revealing to an alien that He was rejecting Israel-the Kingdom of God was to be cast down and the kingdom of men to be given unrestricted sway for seven times-2520 long evil years.
For it was in this fateful year, we are told, Nebuchadnezzar received his dream of the great and terrible image. He is told that it represents the kingdom of men that is to rule the world in violence, bloodshed, and lust, until God's rejected kingdom is reestablished. Measuring from this event-604 BC-it was exactly 2520 years to 1917, when the last desolator was driven out of the land.
Because of the proclamation of Jeremiah's book of prophecy, Jehoiakim sought to seize Jeremiah. But it is recorded that the LORD hid him.
He was commanded to write the book again and to add many words to it-make the judgment even greater. More evils were included, because of Jehoiakim's insolent rejection. And among them may well have been the prediction that this king, of all the long line of mostly evil kings, this one should have the crowning indignity of the burial of an ass-his body cast out to abuse and insult.
Jehoiakim doubtless felt he was quite a hero in daring to flaunt the Word of God, as is the custom of modern thought today, but "God is not mocked." The final end of the matter will show where wisdom lies.
All, who reject God's Word, will suffer the same end-the burial of an ass, or as David expresses it, "Like sheep are they laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning."
Bro Growcott - Jeremiah, prophet of judgement and glory