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2 Kings 23:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Slew all the priests - The lives of these, as corrupters of the people, were forfeited to the law.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 4-20

A parenthesis giving the earlier reforms of Josiah.

2 Kings 23:4

The priests of the second order - This is a new expression; and probably refers to the ordinary priests, called here “priests of the second order,” in contrast with the high priest, whose dignity was reviving (2 Kings 12:2 note).

The vessels - This would include the whole apparatus of worship, altars, images, dresses, utensils, etc., for Baal, etc. (2 Kings 21:3-5 notes).

The ashes of the idolatrous objects burned in the first instance in the “fields of Kidron” (i. e., in the part of the valley which lies northeast of the city, a part much broader than that between the Temple Hill and the Mount of Olives) were actually taken to Bethel, as to an accursed place, and one just beyond the borders of Judah; while those of other objects burned afterward were not carried so far, the trouble being great and the need not absolute, but were thrown into the Kidron 2 Kings 23:12, when there happened to be water to carry them away, or scattered on graves which were already unclean 2 Kings 23:6. Compare 1 Kings 15:13.

2 Kings 23:5

He put down … - or, “He caused to cease the idolatrous priests” (margin); i. e., he stopped them. The word translated “idolatrous priests” (see the margin) is a rare one, occurring only here and in marginal references. Here and in Zephaniah it is contrasted with כהן kôhên another class of high-place priests. The כהן kôhên were probably “Levitical,” the כהן kâhêm “non-Levitical priests of the highplaces.” כהן kâhêm appears to have been a foreign term, perhaps derived from the Syriac cumro, which means a priest of any kind.

Whom the kings of Judah had ordained - The consecration of non-Levitical priests by the kings of Judah (compare 1 Kings 12:31) had not been previously mentioned; but it is quite in accordance with the other proceedings of Manasseh and Amon.

The planets - See the marginal note, i. e., the “signs of the Zodiac.” Compare Job 38:32 margin. The word in the original probably means primarily “houses” or “stations,” which was the name applied by the Babylonians to their divisions of the Zodiac.

2 Kings 23:6

The ashes, being polluted and polluting, were thrown upon graves, because there no one could come into contact with them, since graves were avoided as unclean places.

2 Kings 23:7

By the house of the Lord - This did not arise from intentional desecration, but from the fact that the practices in question were a part of the idolatrous ceremonial, being regarded as pleasing to the gods, and, indeed, as positive acts of worship (compare the marginal reference).

The “women” were probably the priestesses attached to the worship of Astarte, which was intimately connected with that of the Asherah or “grove.” Among their occupations one was the weaving of coverings (literally “houses” margin) for the Asherah, which seem to have been of various colors (marginal reference).

2 Kings 23:8

Josiah removed the Levitical priests, who had officiated at the various high-places, from the scenes of their idolatries, and brought them to Jerusalem, where their conduct might be watched.

From Geba to Beer-sheba - i. e., from the extreme north to the extreme south of the kingdom of Judah. On Geba see the marginal reference note. The high-place of Beer-sheba had obtained an evil celebrity Amos 5:5; Amos 8:14.

The high places of the gates … - Render, “He brake down the high-places of the gates, both that which was at the entering in of the gate of Joshua, the governor of the city (1 Kings 22:26 note), and also that which was on a man‘s left hand at the gate of the city.” According to this, there were only two “high-places of the gates” (or idolatrous shrines erected in the city at gate-towers) at Jerusalem. The “gate of Joshua is conjectured to have been a gate in the inner wall; and the “gate of the city,” the Valley-gate (modern “Jaffa-gate”).

2 Kings 23:9

Nevertheless - Connect this verse with the first clause of 2 Kings 23:8. The priests were treated as if they had been disqualified from serving at the altar by a bodily blemish Leviticus 21:21-23. They were not secularised, but remained in the priestly order and received a maintenance from the ecclesiastical revenues. Contrast with this treatment Josiah‘s severity toward the priests of the high-places in Samaria, who were sacrificed upon their own altars 2 Kings 23:20. Probably the high-place worship in Judaea had continued in the main a worship of Yahweh with idolatrous rites, while in Samaria it had degenerated into an actual worship of other gods.

2 Kings 23:10

The word Topheth, or Topher - variously derived from toph, “a drum” or “tabour,” because the cries of the sacrificed children were drowned by the noise of such instruments; or, from a root taph or toph, meaning “to burn” - was a spot in the valley of Hinnom (marginal reference note). The later Jewish kings, Manasseh and Amon (or, perhaps, Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:3), had given it over to the Moloch priests for their worship; and here, ever since, the Moloch service had maintained its ground and flourished (marginal references).

2 Kings 23:11

The custom of dedicating a chariot and horses to the Sun is a Persian practice. There are no traces of it in Assyria; and it is extremely curious to find that it was known to the Jews as early as the reign of Manasseh. The idea of regarding the Sun as a charioteer who drove his horses daily across the sky, so familiar to the Greeks and Romans, may not improbably have been imported from Asia, and may have been at the root of the custom in question. The chariot, or chariots, of the Sun appear to have been used, chiefly if not solely, for sacred processions. They were white, and were drawn probably by white horses. The kings of Judah who gave them were Manasseh and Amon certainly; perhaps Ahaz; perhaps even earlier monarchs, as Joash and Amaziah.

In the suburbs - The expression used here פרברים parbārı̂ym is of unknown derivation and occurs nowhere else. A somewhat similar word occurs in 1 Chronicles 26:18, namely, פרבר parbār which seems to have been a place just outside the western wall of the temple, and therefore a sort of “purlieu” or “suburb.” The פרברים parbārı̂ym of this passage may mean the same place or it may signify some other “suburb” of the temple.

2 Kings 23:12

The upper chamber of Ahaz - Conjectured to be a chamber erected on the flat roof of one of the gateways which led into the temple court. It was probably built in order that its roof might be used for the worship of the host of heaven, for which house-tops were considered especially appropriate (compare the marginal references).

Brake them down from thence - Rather as in the margin, i. e., he “hasted and cast the dust into Kidron.”

2 Kings 23:13

On the position of these high-places see 1 Kings 11:7 note. As they were allowed to remain under such kings as Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, they were probably among the old high-places where Yahweh had been worshipped blamelessly, or at least without any consciousness of guilt (see 1 Kings 3:2 note). Manasseh or Amon had however restored them to the condition which they had held in the reign of Solomon, and therefore Josiah would condemn them to a special defilement.

The mount of corruption - See the margin. It is suspected that the original name was Har ham-mishcah, “mount of anointing,” and that this was changed afterward, by way of contempt, into Har ham-mashchith, “mount of corruption.”

2 Kings 23:14

The Law attached uncleanness to the “bones of men,” no less than to actual corpses Numbers 19:16. We may gather from this and other passages 2 Kings 23:20; 1 Kings 13:2, that the Jews who rejected the Law were as firm believers in the defilement as those who adhered to the Law.

2 Kings 23:15

And burned the high place - This “high place” is to be distinguished from the altar and the grove (אשׁרה 'ăshêrâh ). It may have been a shrine or tabernacle, either standing by itself or else covering the “grove” (2 Kings 23:7 note; 1 Kings 14:23 note). As it was “stamped small to powder,” it must have been made either of metal or stone.

2 Kings 23:16

To burn human bones was contrary to all the ordinary Jewish feelings with respect to the sanctity of the sepulchre, and had even been denounced as a sin of a heinous character when committed by a king of Moab Amos 2:1. Joshua did it, because justified by the divine command (marginal reference).

2 Kings 23:17

What title is that? - Rather, “What pillar is that?” The word in the original indicates a short stone pillar, which was set up either as a way-mark Jeremiah 31:21, or as a sepulchral monument Genesis 35:20; Ezekiel 39:15.

2 Kings 23:19

The cities of Samaria - The reformation which Josiah effected in Samaria, is narrated in Chronicles. It implies sovereignty to the furthest northern limits of Galilee, and is explained by the general political history of the East during his reign. Between 632-626 B.C. the Scythians ravaged the more northern countries of Armenia, Media, and Cappadocia, and found their way across Mesopotamia to Syria, and thence, made an attempt to invade Egypt. As they were neither the fated enemy of Judah, nor had any hand in bringing that enemy into the country, no mention is made of them in the Historical Books of Scripture. It is only in the prophets that we catch glimpses of the fearful sufferings of the time Zephaniah 2:4-6; Jeremiah 1:13-15; Jeremiah 6:2-5; 2 Kings 23:20

Here, as in 2 Kings 23:16, Josiah may have regarded himself as bound to act as he did (marginal reference “b”). Excepting on account of the prophecy, he would scarcely have slain the priests upon the altars.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Josiah's zeal extended to the cities of Israel within his reach. He carefully preserved the sepulchre of that man of God, who came from Judah to foretell the throwing down of Jeroboam's altar. When they had cleared the country of the old leaven of idolatry, then they applied themselves to the keeping of the feast. There was not holden such a passover in any of the foregoing reigns. The revival of a long-neglected ordinance, filled them with holy joy; and God recompensed their zeal in destroying idolatry with uncommon tokens of his presence and favour. We have reason to think that during the remainder of Josiah's reign, religion flourished.
Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 401

In the reformation that followed, the king turned his attention to the destruction of every vestige of idolatry that remained. So long had the inhabitants of the land followed the customs of the surrounding nations in bowing down to images of wood and stone, that it seemed almost beyond the power of man to remove every trace of these evils. But Josiah persevered in his effort to cleanse the land. Sternly he met idolatry by slaying “all the priests of the high places;” “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.” Verses 20, 24. PK 401.1

In the days of the rending of the kingdom, centuries before, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, in bold defiance of the God whom Israel had served, was endeavoring to turn the hearts of the people away from the services of the temple in Jerusalem to new forms of worship, he had set up an unconsecrated altar at Bethel. During the dedication of this altar, where many in years to come were to be seduced into idolatrous practices, there had suddenly appeared a man of God from Judea, with words of condemnation for the sacrilegious proceedings. He had “cried against the altar,” declaring: PK 401.2

“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. This announcement had been accompanied by a sign that the word spoken was of the Lord. PK 402.1

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 57

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7. RC 57.1

When the book of the law was found in the house of the Lord, in the time of ancient Israel, it was read before Josiah the king. And he rent his garments, and bade the men in holy office to inquire of the Lord for him, and for his people; for they had departed from the statutes of the Lord. He called together all the men of Israel, and the words of the book were read in the hearing of the congregation. The sin of the rulers and the people was pointed out, and the king stood up before them, and confessed his transgression. He manifested his repentance, and made a covenant to keep the statutes of the Lord with his whole heart. Josiah did not rest until the people did all they could to return from their backsliding, and serve the living God. RC 57.2

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