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Amon, the son of Manasseh, succeeded him. He inherited the worst of his father's vices, and followed the ill example he had set him in the beginning of his reign. "He sacrificed unto all the carved images which his father had made, and served them." Manasseh, it seems, had failed in one part of his duty, when he suppressed idolworship-he neglected to "burn the images with fire,” as the law required, * so that his son, who knew where to find these images, made use of them again.
Amon imitated the vites, but not the repentance and reformation of his father, in consequence of which Divine vengeance pursued him, and put a speedy issue to his reign, by permitting his servants to conspire against and assassinate him. He rebelled against God, and his own subjects rebelled against him. Herein God was righteous, but they were wicked, and the conspirators were, very justly, put to death by the people.
Josiah, the son of Amon, ascended the throne at the early age of eight years. This was the prince, who was, by name, predicted to reign over Judah, about three hundred years before his birth: for "a man of God," in the presence of Jeroboam, at Bethel, made this public declaration. "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 highplaces, that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee," 2 Chron. xiii. 2.
This youthful prince gave such early tokens of a pious disposition, that the Lord took him into his immediate care, and he formed his conduct from the example of his most pious predecessors. In the eighth † year of his reign, he not only destroyed the idols and altars of Baal, but the altar at Bethel, and those that were in the highplaces, with all other things that tended to idolatry. And to shew his contempt of Bethel, where Jeroboam had set up one of the calf-idols, he sent the ashes of the idola
* Required. Deut. vii. 5.
+ Eighth. See 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.
trous things, that he had burnt, thither. And, to be satisfied in a thorough purgation of the idolatrous worship, he visited Bethel in person, where, after many expressions of zeal for the service of the true God, he not only deposed the false priests, but seeing many monuments of the dead in the mount, he ordered the bones to be taken out of them, and burnt upon one of the altars. But by the inscription, discovering the monument of the man* of God that came from Judah to declare against the altar at Bethel, he would not permit his remains to be disturbed. Josiah carried this reformation through all the cities of Samaria that were subject to the crown of Judah. And wherever he found any priests of the Levitical order, who had sacrificed to idols, he deposed them from their sacerdotal office; and sacrificed the false priests upon their own altars, and burnt their bones there. How wonderful is that Divine prescience, which sees, through ages to come, all things that shall come to pass; and what a fresh confirmation must this fulfilment of the prophecy give to the truth of Revelation, and the necessity of worshipping Jehovah
And yet, it should seem, that the people in general, imbibed but little of that zeal by which their gracious sovereign was so eminently distinguished. While Josiah was diligently engaged in restoring the true worship, the people discovered much indifference and reluctance, so that the exercise of his royal power was needful to com-" pel them. So dangerous are ill habits, and difficult to be shaken off. Of this the prophet Jeremiah † heavily complained.
This pious prince having so happily carried on the reformation in the distant parts of the kingdom, had ordered the temple at Jerusalem to be repaired and cleansed of all the remains of idolatry; and having lodged the money which the officers, by his command, had collected
Man, &c. See 1 Kings xiii. 31. 2 Kings xiii. 18. 1 Kings xiii. 11.
Jeremiah. See Chap. iii. 4, 5.
for this work, in the temple, whilst Hilkiah the highpriest was locking up the money, he found the book * of the law, which being brought to the king, and read by Shaphan the chancellor to him, he rent his robes, and immediately commanded Hilkiah, and the princes of the kingdom, to go and inquire of the Lord for him and themselves what they should do, lest God's wrath should be executed on them for the wickedness of their predecessors, who had so flagrantly disobeyed the words of the law. Upon which Hilkiah, attended with the principal ministers, went to Huldah† the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, ‡ keeper of the wardrobe, who dwelt in
* Book. This was the book of Deuteronomy, or rather the whole Pentateuch, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 14, which Moses, by the command of God, had laid up in the ark. Which book having been so neglected by Manasseh and Amon, it was looked upon as an extraordinary thing to find it in the temple. For those two impious kings had burnt or suppressed all the holy books they could meet with. So that king Josiah, as yet, had not the book of the law; for when Shaphan the chancellor read it before the king, he was so concerned that he had been ignorant of it all this while, that in grief he rent his robes: though some are of opinion, that his grief proceeded from the heavy judgments pronounced therein against the transgressors of it.
+ Huldab. She was a woman very much reverenced and esteemed for her age, wisdom, and piety; as we read of other women before, viz. Deborah, Judg. 4, and Hannah the mother of Samuel, 1. 1. c. 2. And therefore there is no ground for thinking it strange, that at a time when there were men prophets, and so eminent as Jeremiah and Zephaniah, king Josiah should send his ministers to inquire at the mouth of a woman. Besides, as St. Jerom, 1. 2, contra Pelag. well observes, God in directing them to consult a woman on so solemn and important an occasion, might do it, as a secret reprehension for their own want of sanctity; for though Jeremiah the prophet was then in being, and prophesied, yet possibly he might be at some distance from Jerusalem; (for as he observes, ch. i. v. 1, he dwelt at Anathoth, three miles from Jerusalem) and besides, as others observe, he might possibly be engaged in admonishing and instructing part of the other ten tribes; so that the king, being impatient to know what to do to avert the judgments threatened in the book of the law against the violaters of it, (as they all at that time were) took the speediest way, and, as it proved, the best, for satisfaction in this case.
Sballum. The Jews say, that this Shallum was the uncle of Jeremiah's
the college in Jerusalem and having imparted their business to her, she told them, that the evils threatened in the book of the law would soon fall on the house of Judah; but as to the king, because he had humbled himself, when he heard the judgments denounced against the people, he should die in peace, and see none of the evils which God intended to bring upon Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of it.
With this answer they returned to the king, who thereupon assembled the people, and went with them to the temple; where, when he had distinctly read to them the words of the book of the law, he entered into a covenant to observe all that was contained in it, and engaged all the people to stand to that covenant. Then he kept the passover, with such state and solemnity, as had never been observed from the days of Samuelf to that time.
These transactions, from the finding the book of the law, to the keeping the passover, were in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign; from which time to his thirty-first year, which was his last, we have no account of him,
College. That is, in the Second City, near the second wall of the city (for in those days great towns had three walls.) The Chaldee paraphrase calls this second city, a house of learning, or school; and Vatablus says, it held the second place of dignity next to the temple, and in which the prophets and doctors lived; others, that it was a school of profane learning, which is very likely at this time, when there were no books of the law in being, that they knew of.
+ Samuel. See 2 Chron. xxxv. 18.
Time. Ignorance of the will of God as revealed in the Scriptures of truth, will ever be favourable to the progress of iniquity, for if the solemn threatenings of God against sin are unknown, there is no effectual barrier to restrain men from it. It should therefore be considered as one of the distinguishing blessings of Britain, that by means of printing, a copy of the Bible may be procured by almost every individual; and were this impracticable, the public reading of the Scriptures in all the churches must preserve all, but the wilfully irreligious, from absolute ignorance of the mind and will of God.
but are referred to the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. The last act of this king was his opposing Necho king of Egypt, who marching through Josiah's country to attack Carchemish, a place belonging to the king of Babylon,* Josiah immediately marched against him. The Egyptian king hearing this, sent ambassadors to desire him to desist; for he declared he came not to invade his territories, but to do himself justice on the king of Babylon; assuring him at the same time, that what he did was by instructiont from God. But Josiah, having so far advanced with his army, would not believe the Egyptian king, for he did not know that this was of the Lord, otherwise than as king Necho told him, whom, as an invading enemy, he thought he was not bound to believe and therefore resolving to expel him, he dis
*Babylon. He is called king of Assyria, 2 Kings xxiii. 29, but that cannot be properly meant so; for at that time Assyria was under Nabopollasar, (who is called Nebuchodonosor, senior) king of Babylon, who was king of Babylon and Assyria too. Besides, Asarhaddon was the son of Sennacherib, who reigned but ten years after the defeat of his army by the angel in Judea, the last king of Assyria, properly speaking. So that it was against Nabopollasar that Pharaoh Necho went, when king Josiah opposed his passage through the country.
Instruction, &c. This, as St. Jerome says, was by word of mouth to the king of Egypt by Jeremiah the prophet, and that Josiah lost his life in that action, for not obeying the word of the Lord. This is the more probable, as the Lord had often by his prophets admonished kings who were strangers to the law.
Believe. It is not reasonable to suppose, that Necho king of Egypt being to pass with his army through king Josiah's country, Josiah not understanding his intent in this expedition, might suspect he had a design upon him; and therefore went out with an army to stop him, being unwilling to trust a foreign power in his country. But it is plain, that by this unadvised and wilful act of his, in going to fight with the king of Egypt, without any other cause than his own suspicion of that prince's invading him, though the Egyptian told him he had no design on him, and that what he did was by the advice of God, shortened his own life, and deprived himself of the benefit of that part of the divine promise by the prophetess Huldah, that he should go to his grave in peace, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 28.