2 Kings 23 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Kings 23)

Verse 2

[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 ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD.

Prophets — Either Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Urijah: or, the sons of the prophets. It seems he read it himself. Josiah did not think it beneath him, to be a reader, any more than Solomon did to be a preacher, and David to be even a door keeper in the house of God. All people are concerned to know the scripture, and all in authority, to spread the knowledge of it.

Verse 3

[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.

Stood — They declared their consent to it, and their concurrence with the king in that act, which possibly they did by standing up, as the king himself stood when he took it. It is of good use, with all possible solemnity, to oblige ourselves to our duty. And he that bears an honest heart, does not startle at assurances.

Verse 4

[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 burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

Second order — Either those two who were next in degree to the high-priest, and in case of sickness were to manage his work: or the heads of the twenty four courses which David had appointed.

The grove — The image of the grove: it being most frequent to call images by the names of the persons or things which they represent.

The fields — Adjoining to the brook of Kidron.

To Beth-el — To shew his abhorrence of them, and that he would not give the ashes of them a place in his kingdom: and to pollute and disgrace that place which had been the chief seat and throne of idolatry.

Verse 5

[5] And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

Priests — Heb. the Chemarim; the highest rank of priests, employed in the highest work, which was to burn incense.

Verse 6

[6] And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned 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.

The people — Of that people, those idolatrous people, as it is explained, 2 Chronicles 34:4.

Verse 7

[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.

Sodomites — Sodomy was a part of idol-worship, being done to the honour of some of their idols, and by the appointment of those impure and diabolical spirits, which were worshipped in their idols.

Hangings — Or, curtains, either to draw before the idols which were worshipped in the grove, to preserve them from defilement, or to gain more reverence for them: Or, garments for the service of the grove, for the idols or the priests belonging to them. Heb. houses, that is, either little chappels made of woven work, like those which were made of silver, Acts 19:24, within which there were some representations of their grove-idols: or rather, tents made of those curtains for the use above-mentioned.

Verse 8

[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.

Priests — Belonging to the high-places following, whether such as worshipped idols; or such as worshipped God in those forbidden places.

Defiled — By burning dead mens bones upon them, or by putting them to some other unclean use.

From Geba — The northern border of the kingdom of Judah.

Beer-sheba — The southern border, from one end to the other.

Gates — Which were erected by the gates of the city here mentioned, to the honour of their tutelary gods, whom after the manner of the heathen they owned for the protectors of their city and habitations.

The governor — This circumstance is noted to shew Josiah's great zeal and impartiality, in rooting out all monuments of idolatry, without any respects unto those great persons who were concerned in them.

Verse 9

[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.

The priest — Who worshipped the true God there.

In Jerusalem — Were not suffered to come thither to the exercise of their priestly function; as a just punishment for the corruption of God's worship, and the transgression of so plain and positive a law of God, Deuteronomy 12:11, which was much worse in them who had more knowledge to discern the will of God, and more obligations to observe it.

Did eat — Of the meal-offerings, allotted to the priests, wherein there was to be no leaven, Leviticus 2:4,5,10,11, and consequently of other provisions belonging to the priests, which are contained under this one kind. Thus their spiritual blemish puts them into the very same state which corporal blemishes brought them, Leviticus 21:17, etc. And thus he mitigates their punishment: he shuts them out from spiritual services, but allows them necessary provisions.

Verse 10

[10] And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.

Topheth — Very near Jerusalem, where was the image of Molech, to whom some sacrificed their children, burning them in the fire, others dedicated them, making them pass between two fires. It is supposed to be called Topheth, from toph, a drum; because they beat drums at the burning of the children, that their shrieks might not be heard.

Verse 11

[11] And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.

Horses — Such the eastern nations used to consecrate to the sun, to signify the swiftness of his motion.

The sun — Either, to be sacrificed to the sun: or, to draw those chariots in which the kings, or some other in their stead, went forth every morning to worship the rising sun: for both these were the customs of the Armenians and Persians, as Xenophon testifies.

Entering in — By the gate of the outward court of the temple.

Chamberlain — Or, officer, to whom the care of these horses were committed.

Suburbs — Of the temple: in certain outward buildings belonging to the temple.

Chariots — Which were made for the worship of the sun.

Verse 12

[12] And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.

The top — Upon the roof of the king's house. They were so mad upon their idols, that they were not content with all their publick high places and altars, but made others upon their house-tops, for the worship of the heavenly bodies.

Cast — To shew his detestation of them: and to abolish the very remembrance of them.

Verse 13

[13] And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.

Corruption — The mount of olives, called the mount of corruption, for the gross idolatry there practiced.

Which — Not the same individual altars; which doubtless either Solomon upon his repentance, or some other of Josiah's predecessors had taken away, but other altars built by Manasseh or Amon, which because erected by Solomon's example, and for the same use, and in the same place, are called by his name: this brand is left by the Holy Ghost upon his name and memory, as a just punishment of that abominable practice, and a mean to deter others from the like.

Abomination — The idol, so called, because it was abominable, and made them abominable to God.

Verse 14

[14] And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.

Men — Of the idolatrous priests, which he caused to be taken out of their graves, verse 18. As he carried the ashes of the images to the graves, to mingle them with dead mens bones, so he carried dead mens bones to the places where the images had been, that both ways idolatry might be rendered loathsome. Dead men and dead gods were indeed much alike, and fittest to go together.

Verse 15

[15] Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.

Beth-el — Probably this city was now under the kingdom of Judah, to which it was added by Abijah long since. And it is probable, since the ten tribes were carried away, many cities had put themselves under the protection of Judah. The golden calf, it seems, was gone; but Josiah would leave no remains of that idolatry.

Verse 16

[16] And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.

Himself — Josiah's care and zeal was so great, that he would not trust his officers with these things, but would see them done with his own eyes.

These words — Three hundred years before it was done.

Verse 20

[20] And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.

The priests — By this relation it appears, that after the departure of the king of Assyria, divers of the Israelites who had retired to other parts, and kept themselves out of the conqueror's hands, returned together with their priests to their own land, and to their old trade, worshipping idols; to whom, peradventure, they ascribed this their deliverance from that judgment which Jehovah had brought upon them.

And burnt — According to that famous prophecy, 1 Kings 13:1,2.

Verse 22

[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;

Such a passover — Celebrated with such solemn care, and great preparation, and numerous sacrifices, and universal joy of all good men; which was much the greater, because of their remembrance of the former wicked and miserable times under Manasseh, and Amon; and the good hopes they now had of the happy establishment of their nation, and the true religion; and of the prevention of God's judgments denounced against them.

Judges — Or, from the days of Samuel, the last of the judges; as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 35:18. None of the kings had taken such care to prepare themselves, the priests, and people, and accurately to observe all the rites, and diligently to purge out all uncleanness, and to renew their covenant with God. And undoubtedly God was pleased to recompense their zeal in destroying idolatry with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. All this concurred to make it such a passover as had not been, even in the days of Hezekiah.

Verse 24

[24] Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.

Images, … — Three words noting the same thing, to shew, That all the instruments and monuments of idolatry were destroyed, as God had commanded.

Spied — All that were discovered; not only such as were in the place of worship, but such as their priests or zealots had removed, and endeavoured to hide.

Verse 25

[25] And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD 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.

No king — For his diligent study in God's law, and his exact care, and unwearied industry, and fervent zeal, in rooting out idolators, and all kinds and appearances of idolatry, not only in Judah, but in Israel also; and in the establishment of the true religion in all his dominions, and in the conforming of his own life, and his peoples too, (as far as he could) to the holy law of God: though Hezekiah might excel him in some particulars.

Verse 26

[26] Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.

Notwithstanding — Because though the king was most hearty in his repentance and acceptable to God, and therefore the judgment was delayed for his time; yet the people were in general corrupt, and secretly averse from Josiah's pious reformation, as appears from the complaints of the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Zephaniah, against them: and by the following history, wherein we see, that as soon as ever Josiah was gone, his children, and the princes, and the people, suddenly and greedily returned to their former abominations.

Because — The sins of Manasseh, and for the men of his generation; who concurred with him in his idolatrous and cruel practices, are justly punished in this generation: because of God's sovereign right of punishing sinners when he sees fit: because of that publick declaration of God, that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children: and principally, because these men had never sincerely repented of their own, nor of their fathers sins.

Verse 27

[27] And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.

I said — Upon the conditions in sundry places expressed, which they broke, and therefore God justly made them to know his breach of promise.

Verse 29

[29] In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him.

The king, … — The king of Babylon, who having formerly rebelled against the Assyrian had now conquered him; as appears by the course of the sacred, and the concurrence of the prophane history; and therefore is here and elsewhere called the Assyrian, and the king of Assyria, because now he was the head of that empire.

Euphrates — Against Carchemish by Euphrates, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 35:20, which the Assyrian had taken from Pharaoh's confederates, who therefore sends forces against the Assyrian, that he might both help them, and secure himself.

Josiah went — Either to defend his own country from Pharaoh's incursions; or to assist the king of Babylon, with whom he seems to have been in league.

Slew — Gave him his death wound there; though he died not 'till he came to Jerusalem.

Seen him — When he fought with him, or in the first onset. It does not appear, that Josiah had any clear call to engage in this war; possibly he received his death wound, as a punishment of his rashness.

Verse 30

[30] And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.

Dead — Mortally wounded.

Jehoahaz — Who was younger than Jehoiakim, yet preferred by the people before the elder brother; either because Jehoiakim refused the kingdom for fear of Pharaoh, whom he knew he should hereby provoke. Or because Jehoahaz was the more stout and warlike prince; whence he is called a lion, Ezekiel 19:3.

Verse 32

[32] And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.

His fathers — His grand-parents, Manasseh, and Amon. He restored that idolatry which his father had destroyed. Jerusalem saw not a good day, after Josiah was laid in his grave; but one trouble came after another, 'till within two and twenty years it was destroyed.

Verse 33

[33] And Pharaohnechoh put him in bands at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem; and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.

In bands — Either, because he presumed to take the kingdom without his consent: or because he renewed the war against Pharaoh.

Verse 34

[34] And Pharaohnechoh made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the room of Josiah his father, and turned his name to Jehoiakim, and took Jehoahaz away: and he came to Egypt, and died there.

Jehoiakim — The giving of names was accounted an act of dominion; which therefore parents did to their children, and conquerors to their vassals or tributaries.