Bible Commentary: 2 Chronicles 34:29-33 and Related

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2 Chronicles 34:29-33 and Related

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Purging the Land

“Josiah’s humble, obedient response to the book was and remains a model of how all people should respond to God’s revealed Word. Josiah listened to Scripture, allowed its words of truth to judge him, and humbly confessed that he had neglected God’s commands (2 Chronicles 34:18 2 Chronicles 34:18Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest has given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
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, 19). After learning more about its truths (2 Chronicles 34:21 2 Chronicles 34:21Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.
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), he shared the Scripture with others and led them in following it. He had the book read before the entire nation and led the Israelites in recommitting their lives to the Lord (2 Chronicles 34:29-31 2 Chronicles 34:29-31 [29] Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. [30] And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD. [31] And the king stood in his place, 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 his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.
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)” (“INDepth: The Book of the Law of the Lord,” Nelson Study Bible, sidebar on 2 Chronicles 34).

In 2 Kings 23:3 2 Kings 23:3And 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.
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Josiah makes his covenant standing by a pillar—or on a pillar, as it could also be translated. This is referred to as his place in 2 Chronicles 34:31 2 Chronicles 34:31And the king stood in his place, 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 his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.
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. It appears to be the coronation pillar stone mentioned in the crowning of Joash (see 2 Kings 11:14 2 Kings 11:14And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason.
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).

Josiah then essentially imposed God’s law on the people. Imposition may seem harsh, but we read in these passages that 18 years after Josiah came to the throne, there were still plenty of pagan traditions and idolatrous practices throughout Judah (2 Kings 23:4-20 2 Kings 23:4-20 [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 to Bethel. [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 to Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. [6] And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof on the graves of the children of the people. [7] And he broke down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove. [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 broke 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. [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 brothers. [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. [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. [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 broke them down from there, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. [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 built 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. [14] And he broke in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. [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 broke down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. [16] And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchers that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them on the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. [17] Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulcher of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that you have done against the altar of Bethel. [18] And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. [19] And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel. [20] And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there on the altars, and burned men’s bones on them, and returned to Jerusalem.
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). This chapter highlights again how far the nation had sunk.

According to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, although the Hebrew word translated “perverted persons” in verse 7 “denotes the ‘male shrine prostitutes,’ probably the term is used generically for prostitutes of both sexes who were employed in the heinous Canaanite fertility rites” (footnote on verse 7). Even though God forbade the practice (Deuteronomy 23:17 Deuteronomy 23:17There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
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) and reforming kings abolished it, it always came back.

The references in 2 Kings 23:8 2 Kings 23:8And 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 broke 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.
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to Geba (northern Judah) and Beersheba (southern Judah) show that high places (a generic term for worship places, not necessarily elevated) had to be rooted out everywhere. Josiah then takes steps to root out the most heinous remains of pagan worship, defiling Tophet, the place of child sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom, and removing the idolatrous objects from God’s temple: “Apparently, the references in [2 Kings 23:11-12 2 Kings 23:11-12 [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. [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 broke them down from there, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
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] are to various ceremonies involved in the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. Chariots and horses played a big part in the worship of the sun, probably because of the idea that the sun god drives across the sky in his chariot. In the literature of other nations, the sun god is pictured riding a winged chariot. Here, the horses and chariots mentioned were probably large statues, though they may have been miniature figurines used in astral worship. Rooftop shrines like those described in verse 12 were also related to this same pagan cult, which was introduced by King Ahaz” (Russell Dilday, Mastering the Old Testament, 1987, Vol. 9, p. 484). Indeed, in excavations “small horses with solar disks on their foreheads have been found both at Jerusalem and Hazor” (Nelson Study Bible note on verse 11).

Josiah started his reforms by defiling the cult places of worship and filling them with human bones (verses 14-15). Then he carried out what he had been prophesied to do by name long before in burning human bones on the pagan altar at Bethel, defiling it forever (verses 16-18; see 1 Kings 13:1-3 1 Kings 13:1-3 [1] And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. [2] And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus said the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burnt on you. [3] And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD has spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.
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). And he did likewise with the pagan altars throughout the land. It should be noted that this was done throughout even Samaria (2 Kings 23:19 2 Kings 23:19And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
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), the territory of the northern kingdom, which was recently occupied—starting about two years before the current major purge—by a major contingent of Scythians, that is, Israelites.


Supplementary Reading:Josiah—A Kingdom Returns to God”, Good News Magazine, Jan.—Feb. 1999, pp. 25-27.

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