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2 Kings: Chapter 23

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1Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. 2The king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. 3The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.

4The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. 6He brought out the image of a Heb Asherah Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron, burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. 7He broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes that were in the house of the LORD, where the women did weaving for Asherah. 8He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer‐sheba; he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on the left at the gate of the city. 9The priests of the high places, however, did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but ate unleavened bread among their kindred. 10He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben‐hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. 11He removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of the eunuch Nathan‐melech, which was in the precincts; a Heb lacks image of then he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12The altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down from there and broke in pieces, and threw the rubble into the Wadi Kidron. 13The king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 14He broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the sacred poles, b Meaning of Heb uncertain and covered the sites with human bones.

15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin‐he pulled down that altar along with the high place. He burned the high place, crushing it to dust; he also burned the sacred pole. c Heb Asherim 16As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them on the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, d Heb Asherah when Jeroboam stood by the altar at the festival; he turned and looked up at the tomb of the man of God who had predicted these things. 17Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” The people of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18He said, “Let him rest; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19Moreover, Josiah removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the towns of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger; he did to them just as he had done at Bethel. 20He slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

21The king commanded all the people, “Keep the passover to the LORD your God as prescribed in this book of the covenant.” 22No such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, even during all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah; 23but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.

24Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, a Gk: Heb proclaimed, who had predicted these things idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of the LORD. 25Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

26Still the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. 27The LORD said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will reject this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

28Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 29In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Neco met him at Megiddo, he killed him. 30His servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo, brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. The people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah, anointed him, and made him king in place of his father.

31Jehoahaz was twenty‐three years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, just as his ancestors had done. 33Pharaoh Neco confined him at Riblah in the land of Hamath, so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and imposed tribute on the land of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 34Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away; he came to Egypt, and died there. 35Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land in order to meet Pharaoh's demand for money. He exacted the silver and the gold from the people of the land, from all according to their assessment, to give it to Pharaoh Neco.

36Jehoiakim was twenty‐five years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, just as all his ancestors had done.


a Heb Asherah

a Heb lacks image of

a Meaning of Heb uncertain

b Heb Asherim

c Heb Asherah

d Gk: Heb proclaimed, who had predicted these things

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

22.1–23.30 : Josiah (640–609 BCE).

At this crucial juncture in Judean history, when judgment has been announced and disaster is imminent, Judah acquires yet another righteous king‐Josiah, a second Moses or Joshua to match the second David (Hezekiah). Here is a king who does not turn aside to the right or to the left ( 22.2; cf. Deut 5.32; 17.20; Josh 1.7 ; etc.) from the law of Moses ( 23.25; cf. Josh 8.31–32; 23.6 ).

22.3–13 :

Josiah's initial concern is simply to repair the Temple (cf. 12.1–16 ). It is not until Shaphan returns with the book of the law that Josiah becomes worried about the state of worship in Judah (v. 11 ). The book of the law is some form of Deuteronomy (see Deut 28.61; 29.21; 30.10 ).

14–20 :

The prophet chosen by Josiah's officials for consultation was not Jeremiah, whose ministry had begun five years earlier (according to Jer 1.2 ), nor Zephaniah (Zeph 1.1 ), but Huldah, the wife of a Temple official (v. 14; cf. 10.22 ). Her words confirm those of the unnamed prophets of 21.10–15 : Disaster is imminent. Because Josiah has humbled himself before the LORD, however, he will not personally see this disaster (v. 20 ); he will die while Judah and Jerusalem still know peace, rather than the sword.

23.1–3 :

Josiah is a pious king, and Huldah's dire oracle about the future does not deflect him from the path of religious reform. The book of the law here becomes the book of the covenant, for the purpose of its public reading is to prepare the way for a renewal of the covenant between the LORD and his people, to which Deuteronomy is the supreme witness (see Deut 5.2–3; 29.1–28 ; cf. another covenant‐renewal ceremony in 2 Kings 11.12–14 , when the king also stood by the pillar).

4–25 :

Josiah now proceeds to remove all trace of apostasy from Jerusalem (cf. the aftermath of Joash's renewal of the covenant in 11.17–18 ) and Judah, and indeed from Bethel (vv. 15–20 ; cf. the prophecy of the man of God in 1 Kings 13.2 ).

7 :

The verse probably refers to the manufacture of ritual garments for worship of the goddess (cf. 10.22 ).

11 :

Nonbiblical evidence suggests a particularly close connection between horses and chariots and worship of the sun.

13 :

The Mount of Destruction is the Mount of Olives, referred to in this manner to express the authors’ distaste for the worship that was practiced there; cf. 1 Kings 11.7 .

14 :

With human bones, to defile the sanctuaries; cf. v. 16 .

21–22 :

In celebrating the passover according to the stipulations of Deuteronomy (Deut 16.1–8 , noting esp. v. 6 ), Josiah not only outstrips Hezekiah in faithfulness to God, but even David himself, for a Passover like this had not been observed since the days of the judges who judged Israel (cf. Josh 5.10–12 ).

26–30 :

Judah's fate was already settled, and Josiah's reforms changed nothing. Even Josiah himself did not come to a happy end. Unwisely attempting to prevent Egypt from going to Assyria's aid in its struggle with Babylon, he was killed at Megiddo, suffering the same ignominious exit from the stage as his apostate ancestor Ahaziah (cf. 9.27–28 ). A fuller account of Josiah's death is found in 2 Chr 35.20–24 .

23.31–25.30 : The end of Judah.

Gradually the glory of Solomon is dismantled, as imperial power passes from Assyria to Babylon; Temple and palace are destroyed, and Jerusalem's treasures are carried off to a foreign land.

23.31–35 :

Jehoahaz (609 BCE) is not a ruler acceptable to the Pharaoh of Egypt; and Pharaoh is (temporarily) Judah's new overlord, in the aftermath of Josiah's death at Megiddo. He is therefore replaced with his brother Jehoiakim (608–598).

33 :

A talent weighed about 34 kg (75 lb).

35 :

The people of the land, see 11.14n. The succession was probably irregular (cf. 1 Chr 3.15; Jer 22.11 ).

23.36–24.7 :

The Babylonians (here called Chaldeans) are the ultimate agent of divine judgment upon Judah (cf. 20.16–18 ). Nebuchadnezzar (also called Nebuchadrezzar) ruled Babylon 605–562 BCE. He subdues Egypt and comes into possession of the whole Solomonic empire, from the Wadi of Egypt to the River Euphrates (cf. 1 Kings 4.21,24; 8.65; see Map on p. 573 HB ). Jehoiakim first becomes his vassal ( 24.1 ), but then rebels.

8–17 :

His son Jehoiachin succeeds him and has to pay the price for his father's rebellion, a siege of Jerusalem and his own exile to Babylon, both in 597 BCE. He is replaced by an uncle, Mattaniah.

24.18–25.21 :

Most of ch 25 is repeated in Jer 52 with some variations. Mattaniah, like Zedekiah (597–586 BCE) is at first a loyal vassal, but eventually also rebels against the king of Babylon ( 24.20 ). The result is another siege of Jerusalem, lasting about a year and a half ( 25.1–2 ). Zedekiah's army flees when faced with a breach in the city wall, and the king flees with them, only to be overtaken near Jericho ( 25.4–5 ). The site of Israel's first military victory in their new land (Josh 6 ) thus becomes a place associated with their final defeat in it. Zedekiah is taken to Nebuchadnezzar's headquarters at Riblah in Syria, and his sons are executed, apparently to thwart dynastic hopes ( 25.6–7 ). A few weeks after the fall of Jerusalem (see 25.3, 8 ), the full vengeance of the Babylonian king is visited upon the city and the Temple is plundered. The threats of 1 Kings 9.6–9 have become reality.

25.13–17 :

A detailed description of the looted furnishings of the Temple; cf. 1 Kings 7.15–51 .

18–21 :

Execution of leading Judean officials. On the people of the land, see 11.14n.

22–26 :

A fuller version of these events is found in Jer 40–43 . Gedaliah, the grandson of Josiah's secretary Shaphan ( 23.12 ), is appointed to govern what is left, and the remnants of the scattered army (v. 5 ) gather to him at the new administrative center of Mizpah, just 12 km (7 mi) north of the ruined capital (v. 23 ). Ishmael apparently has ambitions to be the next king (he is of the royal family, v. 25 ), however, and takes it upon himself to slaughter everyone at Mizpah. The final exile of the book of Kings is a voluntary one, as the remaining people flee to Egypt (v. 26; cf. Jer 40.7–43.7 ).

23–30 :

An epilogue holds out the faint hope that the Davidic promise (see esp. 2 Sam 7.15–16 ) may even yet, after awful judgment has fallen, remain in force—that God's wrath having been poured out upon good Josiah's sons, his (admittedly wicked) grandson Jehoiachin might still produce a further “lamp in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11.36; 15.4; 2 Kings 8.19 ). Evil merodach (Amel‐marduk) ruled Babylon ca. 562–560 BCE.

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